Thursday, March 17, 2011

Goodbye, Blogger. Hello, Wordpress.

Go Make Me A Sandwich has moved to Wordpress.

Okay, folks. I've had to remove 10 comments so far from the spam folder today alone. TEN. And yet it fails to remove comments that are ACTUAL SPAM. I'm sick of having to deal with this, and I'm sick of feeling like I have to check in every few hours to make sure no one's comments have been eaten. I want to reject the tyranny of internet time, so I'm moved things over to Wordpress. I apologize for the short notice, but I happened to have time today so I figured I'd get it done now.

All of the comment threads have been moved over to Wordpress as well, so please update your bookmarks accordingly.

I'm leaving comments open here through the end of the weekend, just so people don't have to change their bookmarks for the conversations they're currently following, but starting Monday morning comments will be closed here.

Other than that, nothing is changing. I plan to stick to my current posting "schedule" and format.

Once again, please update your bookmarks to

Thanks, and sorry for the inconvenience, folks!

Google Search Results: Revised

First, a Disclaimer:

As always, not a professional academic or researcher. Also, not a statistician. I'm just a fine art major who happens to really, really like spreadsheets.

Revisions explained

Okay, so I got some helpful feedback yesterday that included improvements to my search methods. So I thought I'd write a quick post updating my data as well as providing some information about traffic and such. I may or may not get to the post about the context of these terms since I went a little crazy making spreadsheets. (Call me a nerd, but I love spreadsheets. They can fix anything.)

I made a major blunder in my original post, I realized. In my searches yesterday, I was only searching and not all of its various gaming subdomains. As such, I revised my search to and this substantially affected the results. Now has subdomains for tv, movies, and comics that get much less traffic than its gaming subdomains, but I still searched those subdomains and subtracted those results from the overall total. With the numbers for all of the subdomains and forums included, this wound up altering the final outcome.

I also had some requests to add some additional terms - specifically homophobic or male-gendered slurs. I did wind up adding "fag" to my list, but "dyke" did not make the cut because of the fact that "dyke" is also a name. Specifically, Gordon Van Dyke, who is one of the big figures behind the Battlefield series, skewed the results too heavily. I also did contemplate adding "prick" to the list of terms, but I made an entirely subjective judgement that "prick" is not "as bad" as "cunt". Entirely my opinion, but I'm also trying to keep the list of terms short so I don't go completely insane running them all through Google. For the same reason, I also did not search for racial slurs, since that would cause the list to balloon beyond the point that I can gather data in an hour or two.

Lastly, my problem with Kotaku was that instead of running "" through Google, I was using "site:". That's what I get for not copying and pasting, I suppose.

The Results

So here are the raw results. (No pretty charts today. I like spreadsheets, but charts are a pain in the ass.)

Interestingly, adding Kotaku to the list didn't have any effect on the final outcome. Adding all of IGN's subdomains, however, did. In terms of raw results, IGN now comes out on top with 18 points, just barely edging out Destructoid at 17. Team Liquid's showing isn't quite as impressive, but is still pretty solid at 11.

It's worth noting that Joystiq only scored 3 points, and that Kotaku actually managed to score 0. Something I found almost as interesting is the fact that there are absolutely no results for "feminist/feminazi bitch" on Kotaku.

Now none of this gives us more than a very sketchy general picture without at least having some information about traffic patterns and context. Context we'll save for my next post. As for traffic patterns, I was able to find some super-basic traffic information for Destructoid, Kotaku, IGN, Joystiq, and Team Liquid by using Compete's free traffic search features. (It doesn't let you search subdomains.) The monthly normalized data for February for the five sites is as follows:

Sadly, data about page views is not available for free, so I can't provide that data. But unique visitors and monthly visits will still give us a pretty good picture.

In an attempt to at least half-assedly normalize the raw results, I decided to divide the unique visitors by the number of search results for each term. It doesn't really mean much in terms of where the words are coming from - staff writers? Users? Anonymous commenters? But it at least provides some sort of context as to traffic versus usage of each term. It seems counter-intuitive, but lower numbers are "bad" and higher numbers are "good":

I decided to go through these results and award points again, this time going from lowest to highest. When looking at unique visitors, this time Team Liquid came in first with 20 points, barely edging out Destructoid with 19 points. IGN, by comparison, came in a distant third with a meager 6 points.

When you divide monthly visitors by numbers of search results, results change again - but the overall picture stays the same:

By this metric, Destructoid wins with 20 points, Team Liquid places second with 16 points, and IGN once again comes in third with 6 points.

What does any of this mean?

Well, not a whole lot really. We can make sort of general statements saying that Destructoid and Team Liquid seem to have a higher per capita usage of these terms than other sites, but it's not possible to make any definitive statements about just what any of this means. Another important factor that was not possible for me to examine is the source of the comments. With the exception of Team Liquid, all of these sites employ paid writers, but they also host user blogs. As mentioned before, it's not really possible for me to discern the frequency of use by the writers versus the frequency of use by users or anonymous commenters.

So, overall these numbers aren't that useful from an academic standpoint. However, they provide a useful illustration of the fact that misogynist (as well as other forms of hate speech) language is pervasive across all major gaming sites, and that some sites are consistently more guilty of using this language than others.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Google Results - misogynist language used on major gaming sites

Rather than diving back into things here with something easy, I decided to try something I haven't done before. While browsing my Google Alerts for Jim Sterling, I had an idea inspired by the awesome troll data analysis done by blogger kirbybits in the wake of the whole dickwolves fiasco. I decided to see how many search results for common misogynist language I could get for major gaming sites. I was curious - is my growing hate for Destructoid simply because of Jim Sterling? Or is it really more misogynist than other major gaming sites?

The first thing I did was draw up a list of sites to search from: Destructoid, Kotaku, Joystiq, Team Liquid, 4chan/v/, Reddit/r/gaming, the official WoW forums, and the official StarCraft II forums. (Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that Kotaku doesn't allow Google searches. I don't know if there's a way around it, but I was feeling too lazy to find out.)

The next thing I did was draw up a list of search terms. I did this mainly using the word maps in kirbybits' troll data analysis. The searches I ran were: slut, whore, fat slut/whore, feminazi, feminist/feminazi bitch, cunt, and rape. For the two word phrases, I searched for both with "or" (eg: "fat slut" OR fat whore"). I had initially planned on including "bitch" as its own search term, but I discovered that bitch by itself was a problematic term because of it's varying uses - it wasn't possible to easily separate the verb from the noun, and so I dropped it from my list.

The results were... well.... not too surprising, but I went to the effort of making them pretty anyway using IBM's ManyEyes. Unfortunately, while ManyEyes makes things pretty, it doesn't make them terribly readable at smaller sizes - so I wound up making ugly charts in Excel. (If you'd like, you can click this link to see the visualization itself.)

Just to amuse myself, I've decided on a tournament style ranking to determine which gaming site "wins" the prize of using the most misogynist language. The "winner" will get three points for each top result, second gets two, third gets one. The site with the highest total "wins".

The search terms:

The results:

Although Destructoid didn't win every search term, they still managed to completely dominate the competition with a whopping 19 points, winning in five of the seven categories. Team Liquid, though, put in a solid showing as well with a solid 14 points - proving once again that their reputation for sexual harassment has at least some basis in reality. Joystiq managed to come in third with 5 points, just barely edging out Reddit/r/gaming/'s 4 points. And 4chan, a supposed hotbed of anonymous internet fuckwittery, barely even managed to make the list with 1 point. Better luck next time, guys.

Now to be fair, I do imagine the terms feminazi and cunt were edged in Destructoid's favor, given the recent Jim Sterling twitter fiasco in which he called twitter user Daphny a "feminazi cunt" - something for which he received a lot of backlash. But given the huge gulf between Destructoid and its nearest competitors, I feel confident in saying that Destructoid uses the most misogynist language of the group. (Which makes me regret being unable to get search data for Kotaku. Now I really want to know how they compare.)

None of this, of course, considers the context of the usages, so I'll look at that next time.

Friday, March 11, 2011

WTF: the "not enough hours in the day" edition

Okay, folks. Sorry for the radio silence. (I've been trying to check in with the comment threads since things have been pretty busy...) I got a MASSIVE video-editing project with a crazily short deadline dumped in my lap, and it's consuming almost every waking moment of my existence. Literally.

But I was feeling guilty, so here are some things that are WTF and some things that are not so WTF.

WTF the first

(images taken from this post from Spinksville)

So it seems like a lot of the new MMOs are feeling threatened by TERAs effort to have the least-clothed women in MMO Land, because I'm seeing a lot of pornular women that really up the ante from other MMO companies. Case in point, here are male and female guards from the same area in the upcoming MMO Rift. Looks like their uniforms aren't all that... um... uniform.

WTF the second

Someone was kind enough to email me this ad that they spotted for Rappelz. I was intrigued because Rappelz was the very first game I ever lambasted, and this woman is even LESS clothed than the Rappelz women of six months ago! I think I'm going to have to hunt up a bunch of new Rappelz ads and see how they compare to the old ones...

WTF the third

Lastly, I wanted to link to an article about the upcoming Tomb Raider game. A lot of people have lauded the redesign of Lara, but perhaps there is a cause for trepidation. The feature on IGN seemed very enthusiastic about the realistic death animations and describes several ways in which Lara can die, including the gem:

All of which should keep you happy if you enjoy watching bad things happening to pretty ladies.

And this is why female gamers hate IGN. Still, I'm a bit nervous now for how the new and improved Lara will fare. Here's hoping she doesn't meet with the same fate as Samus in Other M.

Thankfully, I have something to get rid of the bad taste...

Awesome the first

(Image from the Tumblr of Michael Pawlak)

I stumbled across this on Ben Paddon's blog and thought it was amazing. I think the ladies at Fat, Ugly or Slutty could probably identify with this pretty well.

Awesome the second

Last but not least, I'll link to a video that a friend sent me the link to: an episode of Extra Credits by the Escapist about female video game characters. It's long, but it's well worth watching. Also, it makes fun of Other M and Ivy, which I support.

That's it for this week folks. Things will return to normal next week.

Monday, March 7, 2011

On the word slut: a rambling response long overdue

Okay. A quick summary before I dive into what is sure to be a long and rambling post of where this is coming from. Maverynthia and tekanji left some comments taking issue with my use of the word slut in a recent post. I was on vacation at the time, but didn't want to announce that to the interwebs; instead I wrote some super-quick (less than five minutes) and admittedly defensive comments. Tekanji responded with some comments... that Blogger's spam filter promptly ate.

I didn't catch this until much, much later (again, vacation) after she'd already written a post on I restored the comments and made a clarifying post, apologies were made by all and sundry for the misunderstanding, and I promised to write the response that I wanted to write several days ago and was too braindead to do until today.

Okay. That about covers everything for our readers who weren't following things across three different threads on two different blogs. So, to jump right into it...

The original context: two different usages of the word slut in two different contexts

Okay. So in my post about TERA Online, the word slut was used in the title: "TERA: competing with Bayonetta for the sluttiest women still wearing clothes?"

The second (chronologically) instance was in my post about gamer valentines:

... It seems like they might be using this as a chance to promote Chell's new design in the upcoming release. Chell in the first game was female, yes, but definitely was not a traditionally slutty female heroine. I'm a bit worried by the decision to glam her up. Here's hoping that we don't start seeing disgusting Chell fanart pop up like we did with post-Zero Suit Samus...

I'm actually going to talk about the second instance first, since I think it needs to be addressed before I can come back to the first.

Slut the second: All female heroes are not sluts

Okay. When I started this blog, I started it in a fit of rage about all of this bullshit I'd collected about sexism in gaming while doing research about my original article over on See Page XX. I was all angry and used language that was a lot more extreme than what I use when writing posts now. I know in the past I have referred to women in images as I've examined as "cleavagey skanks" and "slut-bags". And you know what, once I settled into a routine and started getting desensitized (at least to a certain extent) to this shit that I examine on a regular basis, I re-thought my stance somewhat. I backed off on language like "skank" and "slut-bag", though I continued to use the word "slut".

Still, here's where I say mea culpa. The language "traditionally slutty female heroine" is problematic, because it implies that most or all female heroes are sluts. That's certainly not what I meant to imply. What I was referring to, badly, was the fact that the outfits and designs of most female characters in video games are... well... slutty.

But wait! That's hypocritical, isn't it? Please allow me to explain...

Here's the thing. I wish I had better language to describe these things, language that isn't loaded. But the fact remains that English is not a perfect language, and sexism is pretty hard-coded. Gender neutral insults like "asshole" are almost always less "extreme" than gendered insults like "douchebag", "cunt", or "bitch". (You could make arguments on either side for most variations on "fuck____", but that's a different argument.)

Similarly, saying that these women are "scantily clad" or calling their clothes "skimpy" doesn't really do justice to how extreme the designs of these characters are. It goes beyond just the cut of their clothing - it extends to anatomy and posing as well. Often video game women have their secondary sex characteristics distorted in ways obviously meant to titillate the intended viewer (straight men). However, would I say that all of the women in the above image are sluts? No.

Here's the thing. Slut is a loaded word with a lot of baggage, but I feel like it can be an accurate word to use when used to describe the outfits and armor worn by fictional women in gaming, because often that harmful baggage is exactly the stereotypes that the character designers want to convey to their intended male audience! The awful slut stereotype is exactly what the game companies are using to sell their product to male gamers!

Was I sloppy in my use of the word by saying "traditionally slutty female heroines"? Absolutely. But because of the fact that companies use the baggage of the slut stereotype to make money, I feel it's important to understand that the word slut does have a place in the deconstruction of character design, as long as one is careful to use the word in reference to the design and not the character herself. At the end of the day, fictional gaming women do NOT have a choice about how they present themselves to the world, and I think that's an important thing to consider. But that lack of choice still doesn't make them sluts.

I can respect that slut can come with a lot of painful and terribly personal baggage, and absolutely not do I want to condone the real-world verbal abuse of women by men who call them sluts and other similar insults. But the slut stereotype is a very real part of what I'm trying to confront here, and I hope that what I've said makes sense as a case for the considered use of the word.

Should I have been more careful? Sure. And for that I apologize.

That said, moving on...

Slut the second: the messy dividing line

Okay. Coming back to the first instance of slut - my comparison of women from TERA Online and Bayonetta. So here's the thing. Sometimes women aren't just designed to look slutty, but they're also designed in such a way as to act... um... slutty.

The women in TERA are noted for their problematic animations. The castanic (demon) women run around bent over at the waist so that you can see up their skirts (if you can actually find one). What's worse, the idle combat animation looks like it wouldn't be out of place on the floor of a club and the actual spell casting animations involve hip thrusting gyrations.

That's not to say that real women who want to dress like castanic women and go dancing should be called sluts! But again, when you consider the animations in combination with the designs, the promo material, and the entire conversation surrounding TERA Online, again the word slut does seem to apply to some extent since the harmful baggage is again intended as promotion. The creators behind TERA Online are very purposefully aiming to make their designs more sexist than any other comparable game while still not crossing the line into "adult" like Kabod Online. (Though the fact that these characters are avatars makes me think that I should have said that the castanic women ACT slutty rather than saying they ARE sluts.)

Compare with Bayonetta... a character created by a noted misogynist as his "ideal woman", again we have a character who is problematic not just for her design but for the totality of what she represents. Bayonetta's attacks involve nudity and widespread legs combined with nudity, in Kamiya's words she uses her sexuality "as a weapon", and she kills angels for crying out loud. You couldn't possibly have a stronger example of a character who represents the female sexuality = slutty = eeeeeeeeeeevil stereotype any stronger than Bayonetta.

These are all screenshots, sadly.

Now it's super rare that you have an example as extreme as Bayonetta, sure. But that extreme exists. Bayonetta is the literal embodiment of almost every negative stereotype about women's sexuality that exists in Western culture, with a healthy dose of Japanese stereotypes thrown in. I honestly don't know how to talk about a figure like Bayonetta without saying that she has been explicitly created to perpetuate slut stereotypes.

But, to state the obvious, that doesn't make all fictional game women Bayonetta - thank god. There exists a spectrum, and a lot of the time the lines aren't as clear cut as they are with Bayonetta. The vast majority of fictional women aren't sluts, and it was sloppy of me to use language that implied that I thought they were. But I stand by the title of my post about TERA, because there is a mentality among certain game designers that in order to attract attention you have to be MORE sexist than anyone else out there because vanilla misogyny isn't cutting it anymore.

tl;dr: what's the upshot?

The upshot? I was sloppy and shouldn't have used the phrase "traditionally slutty female heroines". But it's my position that the word slut still has a place in discussions about harmful stereotypes in gaming and game design, as long as a distinction is made between the design of a character and what that character actually is.

I've done a lot of soul-searching in the last few days and I feel like this is a position I can stand by. It's a messy position, sure, but sexism and misogyny are messy issues. I'm bound to screw up from time to time, but I don't want to let that fear of screwing up silence me. That said, I understand it if you don't agree with me and am happy to continue having a conversation about it. And if you decide that my views on the matter make my blog not worth your time, I'll understand that too.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

On comments: a clarification

Okay folks, I'm keeping this short and sweet. I lost most of my day to airports and being on the road (it's good to be home), so the promised responses (esp. Maverynthia and tekanji) will happen tomorrow. I'm too tired to string complex thoughts together coherently right now. I just wanted to clarify quickly about my policy toward comments.

I noticed a traffic spike because of a post that tekanji wrote on the blog. Unfortunately Blogger ate tekanji's comment and it appeared like I had deleted it. I hadn't, but I didn't catch that it had been eaten for almost an entire day since I was on vacation. I restored the comment as soon as I caught it and also left a comment over on the post on And the misunderstanding has been acknowledged and no harm, no foul. But it led me to think that I might want to publicly state my comments policy, just for clarity. So here it is.

The only comments I delete are spam - and by spam I mean shit like "great blog, if you like this you should check out these great cosplay outfits". If the comment is by a human being, no matter the content, I will never delete it.

I don't want to get into the politics of who I will and will not allow to speak, so this blog is a place where everyone can speak. I can't guarantee you'll get listened to; if you post anonymously that I'm a fat slob who needs to get a life, it's not too likely that you will. But this will always be a place where you can speak.

That being said, please be aware that Blogger's spam filter is complete shit coded by crack-addled hamsters. It never catches ACTUAL SPAM and will often eat real comments. Frequently the post will show up and then vanish on refresh, which understandably does look like me deleting comments. I check comments once or twice a day, depending on how busy I am, so I'll restore it as soon as I catch it, but it might not be right away. (Please do feel free to write emails to the Blogger staff asking them to allow us to implement 3rd party spam filters.)

Okay. I'm going to go wrap myself around a mug of tea. More coming tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Industy artist fail: Wayne Reynolds (at least he's not as bad as HTK)

[Preamble and Disclaimer: All of these can be seen at much higher resolution if you click the images. I recommend doing this. And as always, none of this is mine. All of this is copyright Wayne Reynolds and/or whichever company hired him. I don't own a thing!]

I've been meaning to write this post for quite a while now - it just kept getting put off every time I spotted more egregious stuff I wanted to post about. But Wayne Reynolds has long been a pet peeve of mine when it comes to fantasy tabletop art, and I thought it was important to highlight his artwork because he is a huge name within the fantasy art industry. I will certainly be the first to admit that skill-wise, his artistic chops far exceed my own; however, Mr. Reynolds is a perfect example of an artist using his powers for evil.

Now when I say "using his powers for evil", let's be clear. Wayne Reynolds is no HTK. Even if he has a propensity for stupidly cheesecakey women, his cheesecake women are definitely active and strong characters. Also, for the most part the only anatomy distortion that they suffer from is an over-inflation of the breasts, which is also a far cry from HTK's barely-human-looking crotch-thrusting figures.

In a way, that is actually part of my frustration with Wayne. I know that he's capable of producing totally epic, non-sexualized female characters that kick huge amounts of ass when an art director puts their foot down and insists on NO CLEAVAGE WAYNE I MEAN IT. I mean check these women out:

Totally epic, right? Any of these women would be completely badass characters for long-term play. Each of them is strong and has a real sense of character. I mean I've talked about how much I love Seelah (paladin, far right) before here. But sadly, I had to look pretty hard to find these examples. For the most part, Wayne prefers his women looking like this:


Don't get me wrong. Tiger lady is pretty badass, for sure. But, you know, does she have to have her tiger bits hanging out like that? Now, it wouldn't be so bad if Wayne had a habit of doing equally sexualized illustrations of male characters. I've long said that I wouldn't mind a line that just sexified everyone equally regardless of gender; it might not be to my personal tastes, but I could at least get behind it's existence. And Wayne does occasionally do illustrations of sexy male characters like Seltyiel:

But sadly, Seltyiel is pretty well in the minority for male characters in Wayne's art. Mostly Wayne's men tend to look like this:

...covered head to toe in armor and in poses that don't emphasize their sexy bits. (Okay, maybe not with quite that many weapons. I couldn't resist the opportunity for a bit of visual hyperbole...)

Now this isn't exactly new, and it certainly puts Wayne in good company with many other fantasy game artists. The male = fully armored & not sexualized / female = chainmail bikini and heaving bosoms paradigm has been pretty dominant in fantasy game art ever since the creation of D&D. And at least Wayne manages to draw women who look competent while thrusting their scantily clad bosoms out for the rest of the world to see, which is certainly a far cry from women in cages.

Still, it's pretty discouraging when Paizo hires Wayne to design their iconic sorceress and he comes up with this:

Wow! How distinctive from every other female mage ever! A gorgeous woman with big fake boobs and not enough clothing. I mean, come on - she's practically walking fanservice. Unless she's using body glue to hold that top in place, there's no way that top is going to confine those ta-tas once she starts dodging arrows. But then again, I suppose she could use sorcery to the same effect? Still, it seems like a waste of a spell slot...

And Seoni is far from the only example of Wayne's stereotypically slutty mages:

Okay, can the female = mage = slutty stereotype please die now and forever please? The female = mage stereotype is bad enough! God knows I get so sick of seeing female characters get railroaded into being magic-users and not being allowed to swing an honest-to-god weapon at people. But it's DOUBLY frustrating to see the mage = slutty stereotype in action, because it just reinforces the "tits or GTFO" that women in gaming get all the time.

The trap that fantasy women fall into is that if all women are mages and all mages show their tits, then clearly all women show their tits! And Wayne certainly isn't doing much to dispel that notion either. But then I think that stuff like this:

...makes Wayne's opinions on the importance of breasts in fantasy art pretty clear. Sure, none of these women are in cages, but it doesn't exactly feel very progressive to say "sure women can be adventurers" when the clear parenthetical is "as long as they show us (male gamers) their tits".

And most of these aren't even NICE tits, which is kind of bizarre given the fact that these figures are otherwise pretty undistorted. (They're all Barbie, sure, but not too distorted.) All of these women have bizarrely inflated sphere boobs that in some cases aren't even that appealing. I mean, the gnome and the hook fighter especially have boobs that just kind of freak me out - it looks like someone taped melons to their chests. How is that in any way appealing?

The only one of these women that I in any way appreciate is the fire mage; her chest is actually quite small. Still, body paint =/ clothing and gee it would be great if she HAD SOME DAMN CLOTHES.

The ones that make me the most frustrated though are the ones where the art direction was pretty obviously for a strong, FULLY-COVERED female character and Wayne gave them cleavage anyway:

I mean, Christ, Wayne. Looking at these, I hate to think of what initial drafts of Seelah might have looked like. Did you honestly think that people wouldn't notice the random cleavage? It's especially frustrating on these characters because they come SO CLOSE to being every bit as awesome as the first set and then fall flat on her face. Is there ANY reason for us to see Imrijka's (far left) hugely inflated sphere boobs? No. Does being able to see Merisiel's (middle) tits somehow make her a better, more compelling avatar? No. Does being able to see the pirate's tits AND panties make us more able to believe in her strength? Um... no.

The worst part is that I can so clearly see what these characters could have been had they not been gratuitously sexualized. Please - can't we allow strong female characters to be strong AND female and not have to show their tits to the world? Why do we have to do this? Why do we have to continue to tell women that they can only expect to be strong and competent so long as they agree to dress for the titillation of their male counterparts?

Fuck that. I want women who are badass and not sexualized:

So how about it, Wayne? You're clearly able. Now are you willing?