March 27th, 2006

"Stay Alive" Not Likely to Spark Political Debate Among Gamers

"There are 100 million gamers in America. One in four is addicted."

Or so claims the trailers for Stay Alive, a new PG-13 horror flick about a video game that kills players in real life if they die in the game. Some question whether the film is a negative commentary on gaming culture or perhaps a metaphor on the dangers of video game violence. Thinking only of satisfying the curiosity of GamePolitics readers, I plunked down seven bucks to catch the Sunday matinee of Stay Alive.

Despite what the ads say, Stay Alive has zero to do with game addiction. If there's any message to be gleaned it's that the idea of game play affecting real life is preposterous. The film delights in the absurdity of its premise; characters continually exclaim, "this can't happen," "this is impossible," or "this is crazy". One character suggests perceptive reality and retinal memory as an explanation for the bizarre turn of events but ultimately disregards them as inconclusive theories.

For politically-aware gamers, Stay Alive is nothing to start a letter-writing campaign over but I did stumble across something else that may spark some lively discussion. If you have a Pacific Theater in your area, you may have heard of Monday Morning Mommy Movies, a program that provides weekly screenings to which parents are encouraged to bring their infants. The idea being if everyone has a baby, crying is expected and tolerated. Today's film? Spike Lee's R-rated Inside Man (oddly enough, a film that actually does frown upon video game violence).
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New GP Correspondent Goes Ballistic on Sexist Game Blog

Perhaps Kim Rom's attempt at humor was lost in the transatlantic fiber optic, but to myself and one would expect, all female gamers, the Danish blogger's rant Female gaming my ass is mightily offensive. It's hard not to take things personally when Rom (seen at left) is so brutally direct in his assessment of women gamer teams:

...the real problem with female gaming is that female gamers in general have the same ambitions as men - but they lack the dedication and the drive to fulfil those ambitions... Male gamers outshine them in every way imaginable... So, for the audience, female gaming isn't interesting at all. It's a joke. But funny thing - most of them actually do attract sponsors. Here is why:

They have vaginas. They have asses. They have tits. They have mouths. That more or less covers the 4 primary selling-points for female gaming teams.
"

For Rom, head of communications (!) for game gear makers SteelSeries and Icemat, the problem seems not so much about female gamers but about gender in general. Sure, "female gaming" is a great concept, but in reality such a biologically-determined division between male and female gamers just doesn't exist.

The blogger, who describes himself as a "solid state futurist and digital karma atheist," questions the chops of female gamers and conflates their perceived lack of skill with gender. At the same time he totally ignores social factors that dissuade women from pursuing technological expertise. By his own account, gamers should be held to mythic biological standards of competitiveness and commitment defined by men.

By holding that women gamers are sponsored solely for their physical beauty illustrates just how wrong-headed and testosterone-fueled his argument is. Had he had actually read the interview he linked with successful Danish woman gamer Vildkatten (wildcat), he might have taken note of her commitment to serious Counter-strike training.

As it stands, Rom's view is not only sexist, but also misplaced. He singles out a particular female team and assumes their identity as women (or, "camwhores," as he so callously refers to them) supersedes their gaming strategies and competitive success. By diminishing the women's online presence, participation, and performance in relation to their physiological attributes, Rom extends the discrimination of real life gender inequalities into cyberspace.

-reporting from New York City, GP correspondent M.V. Loh

GP: GP welcomes M.V. Loh - righteous indignation and all - to the fold.