Monday, September 7, 2015

Fake Geek Girls, Real Fans And Your Brain

Description: the caption "this is a gamer" is displayed over a
cartoon drawing of a woman with tied-back long hair, wearing a Triforce
T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. Next to her is a woman with loose long hair
wearing a tank top, mini-skirt and heels, captioned "This is also a gamer."
Below it reads "How you dress does not define how much of a real gamer you
are. A gamer plays video games. The concept is not that difficult, you bunch
of territorial turbo-nerds."
Writing at the Fandom MetaReader, blogger teaberryblue brings up an excellent point  that is often overlooked in think pieces about territorial men, nerd gatekeepers and so-called "fake geek girls". Some of the common defenses offered are:

  • cosplay is just as real as any other
  • women have been playing or reading or participating just aslong as men
  • women can be real, passionate fans of things men like
... etc, etc etc. And while these and many other reasons are all correct, and all true, teaberry blue points out that they leave out some very important truths, too. They write:

 "...there are women and poc and queer people who are fans and collectors and have an incredible wealth of knowledge and shouldn’t be treated like second-class citizens in fandom.
But it’s not because of that knowledge.
It’s because no one deserves to be treated badly or like they aren’t good enough just because they don’t meet your standards. 
It’s because there are no standards for being a fan. There are no real fans or fake fans. 
And even if you’re "not really" a fan?  If you really do just like the tee shirt design or thought a costume was cool and decided to wear it? There’s actually no rule against that.  You are not less of a human being for not knowing a lot about a character you dressed up as.  You are not less of a human being for not knowing the secret identity of the superhero on the keychain you bought because she kind of looked like you.

I think that's something that we need to remember. Fans shouldn't ultimately focus on rewrint a definition of "real fans" in order to accept that there are people out there we don’t think of as real fans who might actually be. We need to accept and embrace the idea that the "real fan" isn't a real thing.

Black Storm Troopers, White Washing & Spec Fiction

Description: In a still from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"
a young black man in scuffed white storm trooper armor looks
off screen in disbelief.
Wendell Bernard Britt Jr. writes for just what John Boyega's casting in the much-anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens means not just to him personally as a fan of color, but the impact representation has on speculative fiction in particular:
I’ve been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories was watching a drive-in double feature showing of Disney’s The Lion King and Star Wars: A New Hope. My ideas of right and wrong, heroism, self-sacrifice and discipline all come from these movies... 
The first character in the trailer is a harried and exhausted looking John Boyega decked out in a Stormtrooper outfit, and I did all I could do to contain my glee. When I had heard that Boyega was cast to be in the movie, I had assumed it would be in a supporting role, much like Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calrissian before him. Disney had just dropped 4.4 billion dollars on the franchise, and they only had 1:33 seconds to wow their entire fan-base. To waste those precious seconds on a bit character would be completely irresponsible. Then my brain caught up with what I was seeing. Was it possible that a black character is going to be the protagonist of Star Wars?
This leads him to wonder-- when black people make up 12 percent of the US population, and black people account for 13 percent of  all ticket sales nationwide, why are are there so few characters of color? What effect does that have on who's seen as a hero? What's the response? He goes on to explain that:
Occasionally an enterprising white writer will include black people in fantastical genres. When this happened white audiences tend to have explicitly negative reactions to them. Much like the general public’s reaction to a black person being cast as a Stormtrooper, Hunger Games fans took to Twitter outcrying the casting of Amandla Stenberg (black) as Rue (a character from the predominantly black 8th district from the books). 
For some Americans, understanding, empathizing with and even imagining a little black girl in a fantastical land was beyond possible. Not only did readers fail to register Rue’s blackness, they became upset when they were confronted with it on screen.
The entire article is an illuminating musing, both personal and professional, on what this split means to him, and is well worth a read.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Your Help: Need & Appreciated

I'm a prolific freelance writer on geek culture in general, and video games in particular, and have been since 2006. My writing has been published on, featured on the front page of, and in the magazine PC Gamer. I was also a weekly columnist for 411 Mania Games, a Featured Video Games Contributor for Associated Content (now Yahoo! Voices), and co-hosted the Geekly Weekly podcast for a year. I have also worked as social media consultant to small businesses, and my digital design work spans everything from role-playing game supplements to logo, t-shirt and poster design for professional wrestlers.

I just moved to a new apartment. I'm going to school part time and working two part-time jobs AND updating this blog.

I also like to help people! Some other things I do:
  • I co-host bi-annual charity fundraisers with The Baron Von Munchausen Society at Wicked Faire & The Steampunk World’s Fair
  • Advocate for strong anti-harassment policies and safe spaces at conventions that I attend
  • Organize public relations, media outreach, recorded an audio book & designed the website for a disabled dad’s disability non-profit initiative that is growing even more succeful
  • Assisted artists like macncheesecabra set up and sell artwork & t-shirts online
  • Consult with small businesses on SEO optimization
  • Wrote personal essays on being a male survivor of abuse
  • Created business cards for everyone from indie games designers to computer engineers
  • Ghost-written over 200 articles for Textbroker clients
And of course, there's The Code which I use to focus on marginalized voices and advocates more more inclusiveness in media fandoms and sub-cultures.
I want to keep doing this work, and working with & helping people and also be compensated for my time and effort. My ultimate dream is to be able to offer a bi-monthly podcast along with a blog updated every day of the week. I know times are rough for a lot of people, so I’ve set this campaign to pay monthly– no matter how much I do or produce, you’ll only be spending the amount you chose once and only once per month. Every dollar helps.

Click here to find out how you can become a Patron for as little as a dollar a month.

If you don't want a monthly commitment, you can send any amount you choose one time only by going through PayPal here, and you don't even need a paypal account.

Supporter Thanks For August 2015

Supporter Thanks For August 2015

Every month I say thanks to loyal patrons of The Code that are awesome enough to either  support The Code via Patreon (which you can do for as little as a dollar a month) or send any one-time amount via paypal.

Here are the awesome people I'm thanking this month:
  • Cargo, who had nothing to link to, but is a great dude! Thanks, Cargo.
  • Daphny Drucilla Delight David! Her Patreon is here and her blog pdoggyballs is on the blogroll!
  • Fluffy! Check out their stuff at!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Super Powers, Super Mom: Raising Dion Now Online

Description: A young black boy faces the camera, giggling. He closes his
eyes, then disappears with a puff of black smoke. He reappears on the other
side of the room, suddenly reappearing in front of his mother, who drops the
bag of groceries she was holding in surprise.
Many young children dream of having super powers. Many people compare parents to super heroes. So what do you do when you have to raise a child who has all the normal evergy and curiosity and fears of any other... but also a bevy of barely-controlled super powers? These issues and more are being tackled in xxxx xxxxx 's new comic book series, Raising Dion.

Raising Dion offers a novel way to look at so many issues and ideas: super humans in society, superpowers and how they affect relationships, the challenges of parenting, and race in American society.

In particular, Dion's mother tells him not to use not use any of his super powers in public addresses how society implicitly judges his as a black child and explicitly how he is judged as a super human in a comic book world. It also echoes "The Talk" that parents of color have to have with thier kids about encounters with the police. As Raising Dion's artist Jason Piperberg says in an interview at
“Traditionally in comics and really most stories, the protagonist is the one with the powers,” said Piperberg. “You see the world through the eyes of the character with all the abilities usually because they are immediately the most exciting and/or interesting person in the story.” 
... “I think a lot of people still don’t get that The Talk is a real thing that black families have to have,” said Piperberg. He admitted that initially the parallels weren’t all that clear to him either. “I think it’s really important to step out of my bubble of privilege to see what’s really going on. To discover and look at injustices that have been swept under the rug, or worse, accepted as the norm by society.”
The first issue of Raising Dion is available online to read for free.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What You Know About The Death of Point & Click Games Is Wrong

The popular narrative about the history of point and click adventure games goes a little something like this: they were invented in the mid-80s with the rise of VGA graphics and mouse-based navigation and GUIs. Seirra On-Line pioneered the genre. LucasArts was responsible for the genre's golden age, starting with Maniac Mansion and ending with the released of Grim Fandango. then the genre lay dormant for a decade and a half until Telltale games single-handedly revived and rescued the genre,bringing it back from the dead and introducing a new generation to the joys of point and click, puzzle solving and managing inventory systems.

The problem with that notion? It's completely wrong. It ignores reality? Why? Penguin King Games' David J Prokopetz points out that some of it is tied to sexism in the video game press:
The fact of the matter is that point-and-click adventure games never died.
The chronology just doesn’t add up. To pose a few obvious examples:

  • The Nancy Drew series, a point-and-click adventure franchise as old-school as they come, put out over a dozen titles during the early 00s. 
  • Funcom’s Dreamfall: The Longest Journey was enormously successful, both critically and commercially, during a period when the gaming press would have us believe the genre was almost wholly moribund. 
  • Likewise, the Dream Chronicles series managed three sequels during a period when point-and-click adventure games allegedly weren’t a thing... 
When FPSes began to dominate the young male gaming audience in the mid 90s, point-and-click adventure games saw the writing on the wall, and shifted their target audience en masse to young girls. And it worked fantastically - but as far as the gaming press was concerned, that was high treason.

Newly Discovered Pics: Victorian Women of Color

Description: Black and white photo of an unidenti-
fied black woman in Victorian era fancy dress sitting
for a photo portrait.
The website Dangerous Minds reports on some recently discovered and unearthed pictures of photographic portraits of some very elegant women of color from the Victorian era. Sadly, information on just who these women were are thin on the ground. Hopefully some historians or genealogists might be able to shed some light on the identity of these unknown and dashing people.

As Dangerous Minds reports:
Here are some photographs of Victorian women of color that date from 1860 to 1901. Unfortunately, a lot of these photographs have no names attached to the women posed in the photographs.
I’d love to know the stories behind each photo. What each woman’s life was like. Sadly, we’ll probably never know... Photos of Women of Color from this era are hard to come by, especially “family” photographs.A [few] of these photos were taken when there was still slavery in the United States.
These photos being shared online are very striking. These photographs could also give plenty of inspiration for steampunk and steamfunk fans, creators and writers. You can check out the full set of pictures here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Star Trek, Philosophy & the Kobayashi Maru

Description: Technical detail readout of  the Star Trek series'
starship & titular scenario, the Kobayashi Maru. 
In the Star Trek series, the Kobayashi Maru is both the name of a starship and a training simulation for Starfleet cadets. The scenario goes like this: trainees encounter a civilian ship calling for help, but to help the ship, you would have to choose to venture into a demilitarized zone and violate a wartime treaty. If the trainees choose to honor the treaty, the ship is at the mercy of the warlike Klingons. If you try to meet it halfway, your ship is attacked and boarded. In the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the legendary James T. Kirk was the only cadet in Starfleet history to ever beat the Kobayashi Maru scenario... and he did so by reprogramming the simulation so that is was possible to win. Forbes-- yes, the vaunted business magazine & website-- looks at how this scenario informs and reflects the philosophy of both the science fiction series as a how, and popular philosophy in general.
Is the Kobayashi Maru a good test of leadership, and of the ethical decision-making that’s a part of it? And what should we make of the fact that Kirk seems to have “beat” the test by cheating? It’s good to question whether features of a situation that we take for granted really are fixed, rather than changeable. When faced with two bad choices, it’s good to try to find a third, or fourth, or fifth possible choice that is less obvious but that might be better all around. 
I think the optimism embodied in Kirk’s rejection of no-win scenarios is the sort of thing that can motivate creative thinking about how to do a better job sharing a universe (which, really, is what ethics is about). But I don’t think that’s what the Kobayashi Maru was intended to test.

You can read the rest of the article here. What do you think, readers? Are the larger ideas about grace under pressure, no-win scenarios and the like a useful intellectual exercise, or is it a few torpedoes shy of a spread?

The Father of the Roguelike: Hack-ing the System

Gamasutura recently posted a chapter from David L. Craddick's book, "Dungeon Hacks" and it offers a tantalizing glimpse into the history, culture and the beginnings of one man's idea for a game that ended up inspiring a genre that live on to this day-- the roguelike. An excerpt:
Drawing on the eight or so hours he had spent playing Rogue at UCB, Fenlason laid groundwork in San Francisco. His intention, more or less, was to recreate Rogue as he remembered it: the dungeon layouts, the monsters, and the items. Fenlason dubbed his clone Hack for two reasons: "One definition was 'a quick [computer] hack because I don't have access to Rogue'. The other was 'hack-n-slash', a reference to one of the styles of playing Dungeons and Dragons." 
Thus the roguelike, a game clearly inspired by Rogue rather than coincidentally exhibiting similar game systems and features, was born. 
Fenlason composed a wish list of features he felt Rogue lacked, as well as those which Rogue could have implemented better. Level design, for instance, had been too simplistic; it would be more fun if players could explore dungeons that spanned more than a single screen. Monsters posed another shortcoming. There were only twenty-six, one per capital letter—far fewer than the text symbols available. More egregious was that they all attacked in the same way, making a beeline for the player instead of, say, maneuvering around for a sneak attack or standing in place—perhaps blocking a doorway—and forcing the "@" avatar to venture closer.
The entire sneak  peek is available here, and is well worth your time to read.

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