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Game theory

Lady Vengeance returns: A roundtable about women at EVE University

Rain Coehati, hailing from the new corporation that I’m now part of, Eve University, asked about our insights into how we can productively generate more interest for female gamers within E-UNI and the game as a whole. She had recommended us to read this blog post by a fellow female capsuleer for CrazyKinux’s blog banter to guide our discussion.

I responded, in my usual wordiness, to Marta Marchesi’s post. My response is a good summary of some of the new insights into this debate that I’ve discovered into my 3rd week playing EVE Online, thus also an updated supplementary to my original post for CrazyKinux. Here is what Marta said:

“The Uni, I think we’ll agree, is a unique entity in a unique game environment to begin with, and perhaps asking this kind of question from the inside may be a bit preaching to the choir, as the people who blow through here are precisely the ones who are slightly more advanced along the social scale than the average cro-magnon web person, as opposed to the rather less hot-house cultured players the Uni doesn’t let in so often.

Yes the game itself is daunting, and indeed I wholeheartedly agree with assessments that it takes a special kind of person flat out period to play Eve over the other MMO choices. And maybe I fall into that category because I do love it, and appear to dissent with a lot of the suggestion that the lack of avatar is a big damn deal in Eve. When I started, it was DARN REFRESHING to not log in and see seven billion rather less-than-realistically armored, big busted, wide hipped, pouty lipped lingerie models swinging the weapon of choice about.


Yes some people do use gender to manipulate others for benefit, but (and no I don’t presume to speak for myself but) guys, some days we just want to be treated like, well, you. Unless we ask for it.

And that, ladies and gents, is Marta’s Quick Feminist Rant of the Day. Or something. No, I don’t claim to speak for anyone else, and yes there are probably contradictions mashed up in there. Deal with it. :p”

My response –

I had truncated the quotation from Marta’s to the main paragraphs that I wish to respond to, given my limited experience of EVE so far of less than four week’s time (and haven’t run across as much misogynistic attitude as can be feared). And, also, I’m writing paragraphs right back at ‘cha. Despite that your post doesn’t claim to speak for anyone else, I find myself agreeable to many of the points made.

I had, indeed, joined the University after some investigation that I won’t be treated too differently as a female gamer, and that all the initial shock-and-awe would be only done in harmless jest and even a bit of clever irony. And that difference could be particularly articulated as: that I am in extra need of protection, that I’m easier to manipulate, that I’m only online because I want to provoke anyone, everyone, with my mysterious feminine wiles upon the blameless massive population of men who don’t know better to fend off such seductions. That’s the contradictions of the mainstream, chest-beating hypermasculinist discourse, and I can say that I’ve experienced all of these things in games and on the internet more generally. I’m not saying that all masculine discourses are this way, however, but that there is the likelihood of this being imitated more often in some circles than in others. If anything, the first impulse I had to look into the University is the association with academia and learning, even by name and by theme, if not by form, would generate a sanctuary of kindness. And I’m happy to say that EVE University has more than delivered, since my initial hypothesis.

I really like how EVE Online is so varied in its tactics too, that results can often be unpredictable, and it has very little to do with who has the faster controller or twitch reflexes. I find it rather perturbing that, in order to gain a larger female audience, it has been suggested that the game should be made more complex, more fuzzy around the edges of the established “realism”. Good god, no. The entirety of the existing fan base won’t like it, and furthermore you wouldn’t like the women who are lured by the new oversimplification of a game as pure sensationalist, “casual” entertainment. You’ll tire of them if they can’t offer anything constructive, and you’d want to send them back like those exotic dancers at Jita, because they can only do one dance even after so long. I am making a bit of fun at the utilitarian spirit alive and well in the community, of course, by my rhetoric is this: Why bother running through this whole meaningless, idealistic exercise of dreaming up a more casual, hello-kitty theme when it’s such an overtly zero-sum gain?

I had also submitted to CrazyKinux’s blog banter in my second week with my post here.
The premise of the argument that I made here is that there is that EVE Online’s form can be reducible down to a very specific type of competition – one that is guided by an industrial military complex. Women have been absent from – perhaps even exploited by – this form of competition for most of history. But it would be absolutely false to say that women don’t have their own forms of competition that are both fun and challenging (even emotionally charged) for us. Social competition is a necessary historical prerequisite for women to access the capital involved in the military industrial complex. To explain the argument’s implications: I am not saying that this way of competing is the right or wrong way, or a better or worse way. I’m just saying that this way is more familiar. To make networks, to debate about the values and characteristics of such networks that has no direct correlation to the military, territorial basis, and to vie for the best of these networks through a value system that is based on encounters rather than use value and exchange value… these are the “subjective” trends of social competition of the feminine (the subjective is in quotations because the feminine subjectivity is often seen in opposition to the male objectivity, and disregarded from professional public discourse as such). This explains why fashion can be important to network-making, all the way to why women seek social communities (such as games) in groups more often then men.

I want to extend the above argument further. I believe that there is a subconscious ideology that says: women are meant to stay away from the competition of the military industrial complex and all the imagery that is associated with it because that’s the way we are, biologically and naturally. It has taken a lot of unraveling of assumptions and predispositions of what society-at-large has told me what I can and cannot do. I don’t think that it’s by any coincidence that the women I’ve come across in this game are all forward-thinking, and doesn’t shirk from the notion of feminism as some kind of an outdated paradigm (“all genders are equal today! It’s the 21st century!” Not.), or something associated with angry, sexually-repressed bitches. We’re really different people, each of us, but I think what is common amongst all of us is an irrepressible curiosity, especially since military-based competition typically would not come “naturally” to us. As for my curiosity, I am not saying that the military industrial complex is the best, the ultimate telos of humanity, but I want to explore both its potential creativities and its inherent problems, to better face the day.

I’ll wrap this up with an anecdotal opinion. Teamspeak is… interesting, but also very ends-driven. Why does it have to be that way? It made me aware of how much I wanted to ask about the people who wanted microwarpdrives, or a certain fitting of their ship, or certain strategies during wartime. What drew you into the game? What’s your philosophy on surplus values generated from the home planets of mortal citizens while you yourself have immortality (in reference to the Tyrannis expansion)? What do your kids think about you playing internet spaceships, do you think they’d be interested when they’re older? You sound very eloquent in your lecture, what degree do you hold? But I held back these mental questions that I would otherwise ask in forums. These are questions of curiosity, enabled by the desire to maintain networks that has no prerequisite other than the enjoyment of the encounter of ideas.

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About Darklights

I identify as an illustrator, game designer, writer, and 3D artist by trade. I'm driven by a symbiosis of passion for dance, new media, philosophy of aesthetics, cinema, creative writing and visual arts. My username? A shout-out to the tides of history that invented the camera obscura.

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