Quick Update

A while ago, I stopped blogging regularly due to a few of life’s circumstances, but my return has been in the works for a bit. I will be moving the blog over to my website very soon (a process delayed by fracturing an ankle in mid summer) and continuing the pondering in blog form.

During my absence, I’ve written a post here or there over at my Tumblr account, which is a bit of an experiment. That’s over at modernscribe.tumblr.com.

New York Made History Last Night

I think, no matter where you stand on the political or religious spectrum, it’s likely that most us have loved ones–family and friends–who are LGBT. The way I see it, by accident of birth, I have legal rights when it comes to love (that basic of tricky, wonderful, painful, enlightening, maddening things) that some of my fellow New Yorkers were denied until last night. Religious groups got extra protections to make sure that they may still run their organizations according to their faiths, and New Yorkers became more equal. There will be more jobs here due to this legislation. We will welcome more tourists. All New Yorkers will benefit somehow. And all it took was bipartisan leadership, state senators listening to what constituents wanted in the state, and careful deliberation. It’s easy to be jaded with the political system sometimes. And other times, it actually works.

“No Girls Allowed” – Chicken or the Egg?

I wanted to comment on the recent piece “No Girls Allowed” by Lydia Heitman over at Kotaku. Heitman is a woman working in gaming PR. Her take on the PR side of the business in light of the sexism that still goes on made some refreshing points. For all the insistence that gaming is male-dominated and that’s where companies should focus their marketing, it becomes a chicken and egg question. Do women not play as much in certain categories because they’re uninterested or do they not play as much in those genres because they feel unwelcome or are simply not marketed to?

That holds true for recent controversies over not just Duke Nukem Forever, but Brink, which touted its extensive character customization options but featured no female character models at all, supposedly because including them would’ve half-assed the development on all customization options. The message there was simply, “You’re not worth it to us”. Unfortunately, not all signs of being unwelcome are so blatant nor communicated with gamers at large.

There are also focus groups for which women are never even considered for invitation. I understand that there are target demographics for different games, and the audience is not necessarily the same for Hello Kitty Online as for Age of Conan (though in my case, they are). But as far apart as those extreme examples are, they are just that: extremes. Somewhere in the middle, there are many games and potential game ideas that could have much wider appeal than people think at the concept and marketing stages. Developers and publishers are throwing away potential money by ignoring the needs of customers and potential customers. Blatantly saying female avatars aren’t worth the development sink is a slap in the face. It turns me off to anything developed by Splash Damage. Brilliant marketing work there, isn’t it? Any company that says to me, you are not worth even considering isn’t worth considering when it comes to where I send my money.

The default marketing target is usually a young, white male customer. According to the EGSA, the average gamer is now 37 years old, and women comprise over 40% of the audience. There is still a sense of elitism and an insistence on looking down on those one might not consider “real” gamers among pockets of the community at large. If that’s the case when the audience numbers are actually heading toward parity,  when most developers are still overwhelmingly white and male, perhaps there are remants of similar biases among them. The example Heitman uses about the party illustrates that facet of things well.

My sister is seven years old. Whatever she chooses to play shold be open to her, with devs and community willing to listen and respond positively to their female audience members. But the issue is not just applicable to current customers. Games are art to me, but they are also a busess. Part of running a successful business is drawing more customers into the fold. And as Heitman’s piece and examples like Brink illustrate, there are still a lot of blocks to that, whether because those in charge of marketing the games can’t wrap their head around women’s interest in their titles, lingering culture issues, or both. On a somewhat brighter note, most girls now grow up playing games, so the importance of acceptance by devs and by gamers is hopefully something that will be less of an issue in years to come.

On the Pulled Yoplait Ad

General Mills pulled a commercial for Yoplait yogurt because it was potentially triggering to those with eating disorders

The ad in question:

I felt it was reflective of a bad relationship with food, but unfortunately one that many women are familiar with. Eating, that very thing involved in our sustenance, becomes something that we judge our worth on because of social pressures. We bargain with ourselves like the woman in the commercial, and for some people, that can lead into dangerous territory. The thing is, there is no “bad” food if it fits into an overall healthy eating plan. So if she wanted the cheesecake, she should’ve eaten a reasonable sized slice and enjoyed it. No matter how many chemical flavoring agents you dump into an artificially sweetened yogurt, it will never be cheesecake. It may taste vaguely of cheesecake, but when you are craving cheesecake, flavor is but one element to consider.

Now, I say “women” here, but I am aware of the men who are also dealing with disordered eating (often more secretly). This ad, however, is squarely aimed at women (as is almost all yogurt marketing). Promoting lower calorie and healthier food choices is a good thing, but doing it like this is not. Just a bad message for some (obsessive thinking) and  it’s responsible of the company to pull it.

Cover Girl Lip Perfection Review

My very first real lipstick as a teen was from Cover Girl. The shade was called Toasted Almond, and was a brownish-red that was typical of what I wore throughout high school. I received samples of this product from BzzAgent. I was really glad to be able to try Lip Perfection. I had seen it in the store, but my previous experiences with drugstore lipsticks have been mixed. A lot of the time, they’re not very evenly pigmented or don’t last very long. Also, given how these came out in the winter, when I am constantly fighting a battle with my lips over how chapped they can get, the promise of softer, smoother lips and an emollient formula were attractive.

My first reaction when I opened the cap is these lipsticks smell like those gummy blackberry and raspberry candies. If you’re not familiar with them, expect a slightly floral fruity scent. It’s pretty pleasant to me, but dissipates with some wear. The first one I applied was Hot, since red lipstick is my thing.

The formula is really creamy and it feels light on the lips for having such a moisture-rich formula. But best of all, given the texture, it’s very pigmented. Gone are the days of drugstore lipsticks playing it safe with a limited color palette. Lip Perfection comes in 44 different shades, and there’s something for every taste.

When I applied to the campaign, I chose the color Hot as the one I wanted to try the most. Hot is a gorgeous, classic red. It’s bordering warm and cool, which means it will flatter a lot of skin tones. This is a boon for those who can’t seem to find their perfect red. I’m a firm believer in the notion that there is a perfect red lipstick for everyone; it’s simply a matter of finding it (and being confident enough to wear it). Hot is a go-to color, and it has become one of my all-time favorite red lipsticks. This is no easy feat, considering I am a red lipstick addict. This is just that pretty and complete a package. Kudos to Pat McGrath for overseeing these new lines.

While I thought I was only getting one color from BzzAgent, Hot, I opened my kit pleasantly surprised to find a second color. Spellbound is a fuchsia hot pink that really delivers on the bright front. It’s definitely for the bold spirit in you, but the color itself is actually very wearable. If you’re not used to such bright lips (psst, it’s a Spring trend this year!), you can always blot it down or put clear gloss over it. For those of us who do like a bold mouth, this color only needs a slick of liner and some blended blush to look amazing.

As someone whose skin tone is sometimes hard to match, I used to be afraid of hot pinks because so many of them are too blue toned to suit me. Spellbound does have blue tones to it, but it’s not overly cool, so if you’re on the fence about it, I’d say to give it a try. Just shop somewhere with a good cosmetics return policy, like Rite Aid or Walgreens.

I’m not sure if my lips were truly softer as the cold air does a number on them each year, but in general while I wear this formula, my lips feel quite nice. I get about four hours or so of wear out of an application before touchups, and it doesn’t fade completely or leave rings of color around my lips with the centers extremely faded like other formulas can. The one major downside to this lipstick is it stains your lips. While this is great when it comes to fading evenly, the color itself can be hard to remove. While most of it will fade in a day or so, a tiny dry spot of skin on my lip was stained by Spellbound for three days. None of my makeup removers would take it off! These removers will usually dissolve the most waterproof of anything. I have only tested these two bold colors, so less pigmented or lighter shades might be more easily removable.

That said, Lip Perfection is a great product overall and value. If you’re used to disappointment from drugstore lipcolor, do take a look at this line. I’m pretty excited about drugstore makeup recently with some of the new products from Wet & Wild and Cover Girl. Having higher quality, longer lasting cosmetics within budget reach is definitely a plus for anyone who loves beauty products. I plan on purchasing more colors and see if my quest for the perfect nude still eludes me.


Cover Girl Lip Perfection Lipstick

Pigmentation: 4.5/5

Durability 4/5

Value 5/5

Would repurchase? Yes

News Media Quick to Implicate Games Again

While reading the news yesterday, this headline caught my eye:

Anthony Maldonado, 9, stabbed to death over video game while visiting family in Harlem

Being a longtime gamer and someone who is wary of the often misguided media sensationalism with regards to video games, I read the story with a careful eye.

The headline and the grandmother’s quote about the boy being killed “over a video game” are irresponsibly misleading, most likely incorrect, and say nothing about the actual root of the problem – which is the lack of responsibility in leaving a child alone with someone known to possibly be violent.

Unfortunately, a lot of people will see “video games” and “murder” in the same story like this and develop or allow their negative views of gaming to be reinforced. I realize that the source the highest of journalistic respectability, but it’s still extremely sloppy reporting.

The information that the young murdered boy was left in an apartment with an older man who, quotes from family imply, was known to
have behavioral problems, is buried way down in the article.

“He was a friend. I can’t believe this happened,” Carlos Juela said. “He doesn’t act right on the street but he always minded his manners in the house.”

If this 25-year old man had a violent or problematic history, what was he doing left alone with a child? Even bringing in the games is completely incidental, but the paper hypes and inflates the role such that one could be fooled, if not reading carefully, that gaming played some role. Also buried in the article — all the way at the bottom — is a positive quote about the child and how he loved his PlayStation. The article itself isn’t negative, but the headline irked me because it’s not only unnecessary, but misleading. Sometimes reporters don’t write the headlines for their pieces, so the fault may lie with the copywriters who might not have read the story in full.

My condolences to the family of little Anthony.

Happy New Year!

There’s still some dust that needs to be settled, but that will come together soon. I had to delay for about a month since December was a productive month, and I planted some seeds that I anticipate will bring a nice harvest this year to work with for me. Fingers crossed, of course.

A quick item of note:

I recently made my debut as a contributor to MMORPG.com with a look at recent developments in Final Fantasy XI.

Welcome 2010!

Happy New Year, and welcome to the overhauled and relaunched blog. There’s still some dust that needs to be settled, but that will come together soon. I had to delay for about a month since December was a productive month, and I planted some seeds that I anticipate will bring a nice harvest in 2010 to work with for me. fingers crossed, of course.

Just a couple of quick items of note:

I recently made my debut as a contributor to MMORPG.com with a look at recent developments in Final Fantasy XI.


Why Not “Imagine” Non-stereotypical Games Instead?

Member of the FragDolls and Ubisoft employee Valkyrie posted a rant on her blog regarding the reception of the company’s Imagine series of games, which are aimed at young girls. What follows are my comments on the matter that I posted as a part of the discussion happening over there.

And lets not forget that before these games are even produced the companies set up focus groups to find out exactly what their target audience wants in a game. So it’s not like these companies are pushing these games on girls; they’re creating a game based off the little girls wants, feedback/suggestions.

A few of these games are localized versions of games that have already come out elsewhere. And also, one point that this argument doesn’t address, is one brought up by Alice Taylor over at Wonderland Blog:

Research is a funny thing. If you say to someone, what’s your favourite food, they’ll list three things they love. If you then say, you didn’t list chocolate cake, don’t you like chocolate cake? They’ll say, oh SURE! I love chocolate cake! I just didn’t realise you were asking about chocolate cake.

I’m curious just what these focus groups are like. Are they suggestive, or do they let girls just name what they like? I used to say things like lawyer, pediatrician, and president when I was little and asked about careers. Where’s Imagine:President?

As a woman who got into gaming very early (around 3-4) and loves playing to this very day, it’s almost a slap in the face to even try with these games. They’re so stereotypical. Where’s our Imagine:Science Teacher? Imagine:Archaeologist? Imagine:Lawyer? And whatever happened to just making good games, games that will appeal to those who are interested in the genre they represent, games with good stories, strong characters, or just overall well-made games? Why should there even be an artificially created “need” to plum this niche other than pure $$$? Telling people to blame society is a cop out. Sure, these stereotypes are a product of society, but there’s no need to reinforce them. It’s the same whether it’s Imagine: Babyz or the toy mop and vacuum set that my cousin received as a gift.

The problem is with society, but we are free to speak out on the things we feel might be contributing to the problem. Why artificially separate and  [i]other[/i] young girls by basically saying these games are for you and by doing so, sending the implicit message that ‘these other games are not’?

After all, we did just fine finding our love for gaming without everything being cherry-picked and separated out.

The Alice Taylor blog I was referring to is located here.

As the FragDolls are Ubisoft employees, I don’t think it’s really allowed for them to speak badly of their company’s games, so I doubt that a truly honest discussion can take place over these Imagine titles they had to shill at GameX.

But I’m willing to be proven wrong. While I don’t doubt that playing a game that caters to a girl’s interests (or a boy’s, for that matter) can be a segue into gaming for life, but the question is how do these Imagine games reflect those interests? Is it a checklist, are they suggested to the girls in the groups, is it the matter of the neglected chocolate cake? And if they do such a good job as they claim, why are the subjects they cover so narrow and stereotypical in scope?

All this said, I don’t think that games aimed at girls or boys specifically are necessarily bad. However, being well-made and progressive, without falling into the pit of stereotypes would help. HerInteractive tends to do a good job. I also fully understand that video games are a product, and that they need to sell. And in a world where so many are safe bets and sequels, I know it’s a lot to ask, but I believe good games that don’t stereotype and appeal to young kids are possible.


Sony’s Marketing Dept. Gets it Right in PS3 Ad

At the gym last night, I settled onto the elliptical with a magazine from the community rack. I’m not a regular People Magazine reader, but as I was flipping through this issue from late September, I saw a PS3 ad. The ad features a teen boy who looks to be enjoying himself and a middle-aged woman as his mother next to him, also looking to be enjoying herself. Both had controllers in their hands and looked to be having fun playing.

The tagline that accompanied the ad referred to the recent price drop but also served to be really inclusive. Unfortunately, I don’t recall the exact content, but I believe it was something about the PS3 being at a price that suits everyone.

People‘s demographics skew very female, and range through various age groups, so this was a pleasant surprise. To see gaming not only marketed as something women of any age do, but without the usual attention being called to her as a female playing games. (See the PSP’s recent lavender release with its ill-considered “Girlz Play Too!” tagline and obvious lineup of Hannah Montana and other similar games). Surely there would be some sort of division in the games, right?

Nope. The game selection at the bottom wasn’t even divided into obvious gender targets like so many other ads are. The games were titles like Batman: Arkham Asylum and others. Not a puzzle game or fitness coaching game in sight.

Even though that lavender PSP stuff is still fresh in our minds, kudos to Sony’s marketing department for this great ad!