Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rape in Gamer Culture

I was playing Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn over the weekend, as I often do. It’s a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG). For those of you who are unsure what that means, it’s basically a big virtual world (usually in some sort of sci-fi/fantasy setting) where thousands of players from around the world create characters and have fun adventuring, killing monsters and finding treasure. Perhaps you’ve heard of World of Warcraft. This game is similar to that.
It was Sunday morning, and I was running a dungeon instance for some in-game currency.  This means that I was placed onto a separate server with a group of 7 other people, possibly from a number of different servers than the one I regularly play on. Once you’re in the instance, you don’t really have contact with the rest of the game and the 8 of you make up a party all fighting for a common goal, working towards defeating the boss at the end of the instance.
The party is made up of 8 players: four damage dealers, who do the bulk of the killing; two tanks, who wear heavy armor and take all the damage to save the others; and two healers, who try to keep the whole team alive. I was playing as a damage dealer. The instance we were running was familiar to all of us, and we were all just running it to get our daily allotment of in-game currency. We were trying to get through as quickly as possible.
Inevitably, one of the damage dealers makes a mistake and dies. The character’s lifeless body is in a heap on the ground. Even though the character is dead, he can still speak with the rest of the party via the chat box on the screen. He tells the healers that he died so they would have something to do (up until this point it had been a clean run and no one had died). Then he tried to make a joke.
“They raped me,” he typed.
In gamer culture, this is not uncommon. If a particular boss is giving someone a beating, it’s not unusual for the person to say that they are being raped by the boss. It always makes me uncomfortable. If someone complains about something not going their way, they are said to be “butthurt” about the topic. I hate this just as much.
But on Sunday when I was playing, and this person said that he was essentially raped to death, it didn’t stop. The rape talk continued. One of the tanks chimed in, adding more “jokes” about rape and being raped. After it went on for about 10 more minutes, I had to do something.
I had a few options: I could have turned off the chat log and ignored it. I could have dropped out of the duty. But I didn’t want to turn off my chat log because I might have missed something actually necessary for completing the dungeon (there is one fight in the instance that works best if you coordinate with your teammates, and party chat is the only way to do that). I didn’t want to drop out of the duty because then I would have missed out on the in-game currency (the only reason I was in there in the first place). So I chose option C: speak up.
“Can we please stop with all the rape talk?” I asked.
I was then told (by the original offender, referred to now as Player D) that I had too much emotion associated with the word – that “rape” was just a word and I needed to get over it.
Then I decided I needed to give a lecture. I’m paraphrasing here, but I said that our culture (meaning gamer culture in general) tends to trivialize rape, which teaches people that it’s ok to rape people. But it’s never ok.
Player D replied and said that our culture isn’t teaching people that it’s good to rape.
I replied that I wasn’t saying that people thought that rape was good, just that the way everyone talks about rape so casually was telling people that it was ok to do it and that they could get away with it. That it happens far more often than is reported. And it is never ok.
Player D had another retort for me, and again told me that I needed to take the emotion out of the word.
I decided at this time that my words were falling on deaf ears, and I said one last thing. “Just remember that you never know if someone you meet has been the victim of sexual assault. And that’s all I’m going to say about the matter.”
At that point, Player D apologized, in a half-assed way. “Sorry if I offended you,” or something like that. But he kept making jokes and snide remarks throughout the rest of the dungeon.
Final Fantasy XIV has a system in place where if you’re in a dungeon instance with other random players, after it’s concluded, you can award a player commendation to the person you felt was the MVP. Most of these points are awarded to tanks and healers because of the nature of their jobs. As a damage dealer, I rarely got any commendations. Player D was joking at the end that he probably wasn’t going to get any commendations.
I awarded my commendation to the healer who kept his mouth shut during the dungeon. I was personally awarded two commendations, which was interesting. Perhaps my message got through to people.
Even so, after the instance concluded, I went to add Player D to my blacklist (an in-game function so you never have to see messages from that person again), but he wasn’t from my server, so it wasn’t an option. I reported him for harassment, though. Square Enix, the company that makes the game, takes these reports very seriously, so I hope I taught Player D a lesson.

Here’s the thing: in gamer culture, rape talk is commonplace. The community is mostly made up of young males in their teens and twenties (though the age range is growing as the general gaming populace is aging), but I happen to know many women who play this particular game, and I know more women who play others. Women are also a growing demographic in games.
We women gamers need to take a stand. Men, you need to get involved, too. We can’t let the rape talk continue. I don’t care what Player D said back in that dungeon. I stand by what I said. The prevalence of rape talk in our culture is teaching our boys and young men that rape is normal. That it’s trivial. That it’s a part of life. That offenders can do it and get away with it. That if you are raped, it’s meaningless, and that it was probably your fault.
It’s not “just a word.” We need to stop seeing it as that, and we need to stop using it that way. It has to have meaning, emotion, feeling. Because otherwise how will anyone know how awful it really is? How will we learn if it’s just treated as a joke?
A friend of mine posted a question on Facebook the other day. She asked that if we had just one wish for the world right now, what would it be. I said mine was that I wish that no woman anywhere would ever again have to live in fear of violence or abuse.
So I beg: please, if you hear about someone casually joking about rape, say something. Speak up. Tell them that the jokes aren’t funny.  Speak up. Have a voice. Someone will listen. The more we speak up, the more people will listen. Then we can start to see change.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Why I Quit Drinking

I am the sort of person who enjoys drinking a nice cold beer now and again. Maybe I'm sitting outside, taking in a ballgame... the sun is beating down. Nothing tastes better than an ice cold beer in that situation. I believe that. There are other times when I really want a margarita, or a nice glass of wine with dinner. I could be out with friends and find myself interested in sampling a specialty cocktail on the restaurant's menu. Or maybe it's time to sample a friend's new home brew that he bottled a while back.

I like those situations. I like drinking. In general, I feel that I'm also pretty smart about it most of the time. As someone without a car, its pretty easy to find yourself in a situation where you don't have to worry about driving home. And since I've arrived in my 30s, I've noticed that it's just not as important anymore to drink as much as possible on any given occasion. I just don't see the point anymore.

Something else happened, though. I noticed something, right around the end of December last year. Every night after I had had a drink (any drink, doesn't matter what it was), I woke up in the wee hours of the morning with nasty heartburn sent straight from the fires of hell. Any heartburn that's strong enough to wake you up in the middle of the night is pretty bad, but this was easily the worst. And I take (generic) Zantac on a daily basis to prevent heartburn. I've been taking it for years, as recommended by my doctor.

Once I made the connection that drinking = heartburn, I knew I had to test the theory. So I resolved that starting on January 1 of 2013, I would quit drinking. Cold turkey.

It feels kind of cliche, making it a new year's thing. But I had to start some time, and it seemed as good as any. Besides, I also wanted to start saving money, and booze is expensive.

I was also a bit curious of how difficult it would be. I didn't believe that I was addicted to alcohol, but that was the thing - a lot of people who have an addiction aren't even aware of it. And I know there is a history of addiction in my family. I wanted to see if I could do it.

Today is July 28, 2013. I haven't had any alcohol since December.

It was around February when I realized that this whole thing wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. I had really slowed down my consumption in the last few years, and it wasn't hard to cut it out entirely. Social situations were the most difficult, when everyone around me was drinking and I was stuck with a Diet Coke. But I was succeeding. That's when I decided to put an end date on my personal prohibition. I would just say no for the rest of 2013.

One year. No alcohol. Piece of cake, right?

Yeah, not really. Sitting at a Twins game at Target Field, sun shining, and the only vendors who seem to be walking up and down the aisles are the guys with Grain Belt Nordeast. That was my favorite ballpark beer. But I'm not spending $8 for a beer that is barely worth $2, so that's something. I'm saving money.

There are other tough situations, too. It was a little depressing to realize that I wouldn't be able to continue some rituals that I observe every year. A margarita on my birthday. A "beergarita" at the State Fair. Wine on Thanksgiving, cocktails made by my dad on Christmas Eve. I'll miss those. But I can live without them. It's just for one year, after all.

I'm thinking that after this year is done, I'll be so used to not drinking that I'll just choose to go without more often than not in the future. I'd like to continue saving money.

Oh, you were wondering about the heartburn? I still get it every once in a while, but it's usually explained in some way. After drinking a lot of lemonade, for example, or after eating a lot of spicy Mexican food. I think it's safe to conclude that it was caused mainly by the drinking.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Ranting on a Song

You may or may not have heard of the British boy band One Direction, and you may or may not be familiar with their hit pop song “What Makes You Beautiful.” What follows is an in-depth analysis of that song, both musically and lyrically.

No. Scratch that. I’m too out of practice for a musical analysis and too lazy for an in-depth analysis of any kind. This will be a diatribe. A rant. Yes, I know the song has been out for a while now, but it's been stuck in my head for about a week now, so this is fresh in my mind.

I’m going to start out by saying that, hands down, this is my favorite song of the last few years. I LOVE this song. It’s catchy and adorable and super easy to sing along to. It’s fantastic. If you like the boy-band pop music genre, then this song is awesome. I want to be the girl that they’re singing about!

But today I thought about it. Do I really want to be that girl?

The very first line states, “You’re insecure.” Wait a minute. I don’t want to be that girl! I hate when I feel insecure. It’s not fun. And even though the rest of the verse refutes the girl’s perceived need for insecurity, she still feels insecure. She’s shy. She doesn’t notice when people look at her, when they notice her. Heck, some days I am this girl! But not most days. I generally feel pretty good about myself lately. And I don’t know if I want to go back to being a shy girl.

But here’s what gets me with this song… the more I listen to it, the more I realize how creepy these guys are. They’re watching you. They’re clearly attracted to you (they do get “overwhelmed” over a mere hair flip, after all). They pay enough attention to know that you don’t wear any makeup.

Listen, Liam, Harry, et. al., you’re doing it wrong. You want to be with this girl? You want her to feel as beautiful as she supposedly is? Then you need to stop stalking her and actually talk to her. She’s terrified of you. She’s looking at the ground because she’s trying to avoid eye contact. She knows very well that everyone looks at her when she walks in the room, and she hates it. Attention? That’s bad. So be careful when you approach her. Please.

All kidding aside, though, initially I loved the message in this song. It’s positive, right? You’re shy and quiet, and you’re beautiful – even if you don’t see that in yourself. But you know what? It’s not really very positive at all. This isn’t the message we need to be sending to girls. They don’t need to be encouraged to be shy and meek and quiet. I’ve struggled with dating through half my life, and I sought out advice from everywhere I could find it. And you know what was the number 1 thing I saw that was supposed to help you? Confidence. Feeling good about yourself, having good self-esteem and a high self-worth – these are the things that actually make you beautiful. Of course, that seems to have gotten me nowhere with the men-folk, but even so – I think I just haven’t met the right guys yet.

It’s disappointing to realize this about a song that I’ve loved so much. But what can I do? It’s stuck in my head and it won’t go away. I’ll continue to enjoy the song. I can’t help it. But I have thought about it, and I wanted to share that with everyone. And now I have.

Friday, March 1, 2013

New Blog!

Don't worry, I'm still keeping this one. But I also created a new one.

Check it out: Fat, Happy, and Healthy

I'm also going to try to post here more often. I'm sorry I've been so distant. What, I made 3 posts in the last year? Two? Yikes. Some blogger I am. I'm going to have to get better about that...

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Day Off

Hooray for Presidents Day!

Whenever I have a day off from work, I tend to think about all the things I want to get done. I'm going to do all the laundry, all the dishes, and clean every room in the apartment from top to bottom. I've got a whole extra day!

It's now 5:30 pm on my day off. Let's make a list of the things I've done today:

1. Slept in until 8.
2. Caught up on TV shows saved in my DVR.
3. Played Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 Platinum and reached "Tycoon" status on 3 different levels.
4. Watched 3 episodes of West Wing on Netflix.
5. Started 1 load of dishes in the dish washer.

Yeah. Not very impressive, unless you're a geek like me and impressed with my progress in a video game that's almost 10 years old. I haven't even gotten dressed.

I feel it necessary to point out that I did do ALL my laundry last weekend. So the lack of laundry today isn't as shameful as it would normally be.

But I haven't really done anything today. After this load of dishes is done, I'm going to load up the dishwasher with another load. Because there are far too many dirty dishes and they didn't all fit in the dishwasher - and I really didn't want to wash them by hand. I hate washing dishes by hand.

I'm trying to convince myself that I'm not a complete failure for my lack of accomplishment today. I needed this day off - a legitimate holiday, and not a sick day or planned vacation day. A day where I'm not stuck worrying about what's going on at work when I'm not there - because no one is there, or at least no one should be (though, knowing my coworkers, there are probably some people doing some work at home today).

But there's the other part of me, the logical side, that tells me that I'm over 30 and still stuck with the mentality of someone just out of college. I'm still thinking, "I'm an adult, I can do whatever I want." Then I wonder why I haven't evolved past this cookie-dough-for-breakfast* frame of mind. Why haven't I grown up? Why do I have such a hard time doing more than just sitting on my butt and watching Netflix and playing video games when my job is nice enough to give me a free day off to do all those things that I know need to be done?

I think there's something wrong with me, mentally, that makes me neglect my responsibility. I don't know what it is, but there's definitely something larger at work here than just flat-out laziness. I won't deny that I'm lazy, but I also think that there's a reason for it. Lazy isn't the cause, it's the symptom. But am I just making excuses for myself? I don't know. Maybe I am. Maybe I'm so lazy and know that, somewhere inside, I just refuse to let the rest of myself see it, and I make these excuses.

Either way, whatever it is, I didn't get much done today. But now it's time to feed the cat. That I will do.

*I did not actually have cookie dough for breakfast today. I had a bowl of cereal. And it wasn't even a kid cereal!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The F Word

My dad has a cute story about when I was a little girl. I came home from school one day and told him about how I heard some kids saying the "F word" on the bus. Eventually he convinces me to tell him what the word was, and I tell him.


I thought "fart" was the f-word.

Today you think it's something else. But today I'm presenting a new F-word.


Fat is the new f-word.

I don't want it to be a bad word. In fact, I think it's be best possible descriptor for my body type. I don't like saying I'm "overweight." That word implies that my weight is something other than normal. But for me, this IS normal.

In my life, I've never known what it's like to be "normal," that is - to be thin. I've been "big" my whole life. At least as long as I can remember, since it meant something. So how can thin = normal if it's something I've never experienced?

I am fat. I'm not overweight. I am obese, but I don't like that word. It's so... clinical. So technical. And it just sounds... awful. I don't like that, and I don't like thinking of myself this way.

Can we change it so that "fat" isn't a bad word? I don't want to put people in an awkward place when I say that I'm fat (because that happens - I see it on their face - they want to agree with me, but don't want to actually say it because I might get offended).

All that being said, I'm not giving up entirely on the whole losing weight thing. I'm going to try again soon (not tonight), and maybe someday I'll describe myself as something other than fat. But it's who I am right now. I can't deny that. You can't deny that. But you also can't feel bad about it. I don't need your pity - that isn't the magic calorie burner we all secretly hope it is. I need support. Take me for who I am, for what I am, for what I look like. Don't judge me, just accept me, and be my friend.

Someday, soon, I'm going to need support, acceptance, and friendship. I'm going to need walking buddies and recipe sharers.

But for now, I just need you to realize that this is who I am for the time being. I'm fat. And I'm ok with that.

Oh, one more thing - can we all agree to stop pretending like people are stupid just because they're fat? We don't eat constantly, we know what it takes, and we're not idiots. We're also not going to keel over and die next week just because we're fat. Yes, we're at a higher risk for some medical conditions, but it's not a guarantee that we're never going to see 50. People die at young ages regardless of weight. And we're sick of hearing about it, so just give it a rest, ok? We're not stupid. We're just fat.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Misery of Neil Patrick Harris

Have you read Steven King's "Misery"? Have you seen the movie? I haven't. But I know the subject matter.

See that chap in the picture up there? His name is Neil Patrick Harris. I brought him home a few weeks ago. What followed was a series of Facebook status updates about NPH locked in the TV room in my basement. To the uninformed reader, it seemed like I had kidnapped the human Neil Patrick Harris, and had him hobbled and locked in my basement.

All fun-and-games aside, I've been... a frazzled kitty-mommy in these first few weeks. While he was shut up in the TV room, I was worried about his eating habits, how he was constantly hiding. Then one day after he had free reign of the house, I couldn't find him when I got home from work. I freaked out, crying like a lunatic. He was fine, just hiding in the furnace room where I never go.

He's a lot more comfortable now. He even ventures up the stairs when he's feeling brave. Of course, he's kind of become attached to me. He meows a lot. He actually comes when I call him (sometimes he takes his time, but sometimes he comes running). He likes being petted.

He's a strange cat. He has no interest in catnip, but he has been known to chase his tail. I've seen it happen. He seems to get sad and upset when I'm not paying attention to him. It's like I got a fluffy cat-shaped puppy that knows how to use a litter box. But he does purr a lot. I like the purring.

I like having a cat. It's nice to have a pet and a companion. But it's still new. I'm still getting used to it. But I'm happy.

I'm already in love with the Neil Patrick Harris who lives in my basement.