A Year in Review: Top FemHype Moments From 2015

Tomb Raider

Every so often, we like to boost the work of our utterly incredible, tireless team of volunteer contributors as a reminder of past discussions and an attempt to continue them. It can be difficult to keep track of older articles in this digital, fast-paced age, particularly with the rise of clickbait and trending hashtags. We want to make sure that readers who are new to our community get a chance to read some of our work they might not have known about, and most importantly, we want to keep talking about this industry so that it might continue to grow in a positive way. This time, you’re helping us with this endeavor!

The following are, in the esteemed estimation of everyone who is part of the FemHype crew, some of the most important articles to come out of our community. These pieces were shared more than any other work this year, and it’s important that we share them again in the hope of continuing their much-needed discussion. You clicked on and boosted these articles the most this year, so let’s make sure everyone gets a chance to read them!

None of the articles listed here are arranged in any significant order save for one detail. Of our 400+ published articles in 2015, Analysis, Health, Interviews, and RPGs were the categories that garnered the most attention. We’ve broken down your selections to suit all four, so feel free to jump to the category that suits you best. We hope all of you at home enjoy a happy and healthy new year! Let’s keep talking about games in 2016, shall we?

Analysis!

Metroid

Video Games Are Utterly Failing Trans Gamers & It’s Time We Did Something About It, Sheva

“For all of you reading, I’m preaching to the thoroughly disillusioned choir. But cis gamers have a lot to learn about it. Among our 95 cis survey takers, a solid 72% agreed that the community was moderately to very unsafe for trans gamers—aligning with what trans gamers said themselves—but when asked about what steps they take to make the space safer or more comfortable for trans folks, they fell distressingly short.

Only 52% said they regularly ask other gamers their pronouns, rather than making assumptions. Only 50% said they regularly ask trans gamers how they can best support them. While 60% claimed to speak out against transphobic slurs in the community, only 37% said they try to shield trans gamers from transphobia in the community and from transphobic in-game content.”

Coming Up Aces: The Need for Better Asexual Representation in Games, Rem

“As an asexual, Mordin’s explanation was one of those bright moments in gaming when I really clicked with a character. I recognized my asexuality in Mordin, and it was lovely. He was a complex character: not just a dedicated scientist (as he is often reduced to), but caring, curious, witty, and flawed. Such moments are disappointingly rare for asexual representation in games.

Yet despite this, Mordin and Salarians in general are still inadequate. For one, because they are almost exclusively men (the estimated ratio is that roughly 70% of asexuals are women). But also, you simply can’t escape the fact that they aren’t human. Salarian asexuality is used as a means to further distinguish them from humanity. It’s just another way of reinforcing the idea that asexuality just isn’t a part of human nature. This wouldn’t necessarily be an issue if any human characters were presented as identifiably asexual, but such is not the case.”

Top 8 Women & Girls of Color in Games Who Deserved Better, Ashe

“Daisy Fitzroy fascinated me. Luisa captured my attention every time she was on screen. Aveline de Grandpré is easily one of my favorite characters in any video game (let it be known, I will cosplay her someday). At the same time, it doesn’t escape my notice what delicate tune many developers sing: reach the bare minimum, then fall right back into that comfort zone.

It’s not good enough to write a realistic woman or girl of color only to kill them off. Or push them to the side. Or have them play cheerleader to a character who is white or a man (or both). This pattern is still more common than the alternative. Hell, it’s the nigh-constant static that fills the background of anyone who’s unlucky enough to lack access to whiteness or the patriarchy. We do not exist with conditions. This is just not good enough.”

Pick Your Poison: Character Creation & The Gender Binary, Teddie

“Of course, the gender binary isn’t just visible in character creation. One of the biggest problems I have when playing these games is the amount of gendered language that turns up (usually completely unnecessarily). I get enough of that in the real world, thank you very much. I came here to this fantasy world, this far-flung spaceship, this futuristic wasteland for escapism.

It’s especially jarring in Bioware games, which use a lot of gender-neutral language to refer to the player character (Warden, Champion, Inquisitor, Commander), to suddenly hear a ‘woman’ or ‘mistress’ being flung at me out of the blue. Even if I am playing as a girl and forgetting about trying to be me, this still hits a little close to home. The frustrating thing is that a lot of this language could be cut or tweaked into gender neutrality very easily with absolutely no loss to character or plot.”


Health!

Dark Souls

Lighting the Bonfire: ‘Dark Souls’ as an Allegory for Depression, Lindsay

To play Dark Souls is to live in a constant state of failure. My first attempt at the game had me rage quitting and it was only on my third try that I really felt like I was getting a handle on the game. Your only options are to try, die, and then try again. My character was a cleric and I hoped that she would be able to be a light in the darkness, but the further I went into the game, the more I found myself being weighed down by it.

I was in Blighttown, a sprawling maze of wooden platforms precariously placed above an underground swamp, when I realized that there was an oppressive heaviness to the area that weighed down on me. It was in Blighttown that I came to a sudden realization that the uncomfortable feeling in the back of my mind was this niggling thought that I would not be able to save everyone—or even myself. I had set out on this journey with a lofty and ambitious goal, but here I was down in the dark abyss with poison sapping my strength and mutated monstrosities seeking to tear out my heart.

Let’s Talk About Accessibility: What It’s Like to Game With a Disability, Mermaid

“The other day I was playing a game from my backlog—Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. It was great. I love the Lego games, especially the writing in Lego Batman. Plus, I’m a completionist, so having a game with lots of collectables to find just makes me warm and fuzzy. I was maybe a third of the way through the main story when Lego Brainiac captured Lego Wonder Woman (who I was playing as). The camera switches to a closeup of Wondey trying to break free while the game prompts me to tap A repeatedly. There’s really no urgency. I’m not losing health, and even if I was, this is a Lego game. Infinite lives. No doubt the game designers meant this to be a minor annoyance during a climactic boss fight. For me, it was an inescapable five-second animation loop that ended my 100% playthrough before the halfway mark.”

Shut Up and Take My Money! A Tale of a Poor Gamer, Kiva

I would still read reviews, and watch the Jimquisition and nod my head in gruff agreement while he talked about actual ethical concerns in journalism, like marketing executives trying to shove fee-to-pay features into AAA titles that already cost $60. $60.

The pawn shop wouldn’t even give me more than thirty for my laptop, which was why I’d opted to keep it. That was a lot of money in my world. $60. That was days away from the Blanchet House’s soup kitchen.”

Queering of Age: Max Caulfield’s Transition & Mine, Sloane

“It’s similar growth to what I’ve started to experience in coming out as a trans woman in numerous online circles. They’re realizations of who you are, of having to grow up quickly and start making your way in your world, of growing attached to the people around you, the people who show you kindness and help you figure out who you are even when things are unknown and make you feel uneasy.

Granted, there’s a vast difference between people who may not be cis or heterosexual compared to those who may have time powers like Max, but there’s a similar idea of the sudden necessity to grow up, even when you aren’t ready to. To have tough conversations, to face tough decisions and choices, to find out who really cares about you, who you can lean on, and discovering more and more of yourself as a person—how you treat others, how you interact, your thought processes. For me, at least, I grew twofold when I started to figure out who I was back in 2013, and far, far more since then.”


Interviews!

Life Is Strange

Hella Talk: An Interview With Ashly Burch on Chloe Price, Queerness, & ‘Life Is Strange’, Sloane

Sloane: How easy or hard was it to connect to and get into Chloe’s shoes? She’s a deep, almost tragic character, and I can’t help but wonder how it was to get into her head, so to speak.

Ashly: I relate to Chloe in many ways—I think a lot of Life Is Strange fans do. The core of Chloe is fear—fear of being abandoned again, of being alone, of not being understood. And the way she handles that fear is by not letting anyone in, by puffing up her feathers and giving a middle finger to anyone that might try to hurt her. I think many of us have that same fear. It doesn’t manifest outwardly with me the same way it does with Chloe, but I definitely feel and understand it.”

Kickin’ Rad, Super Bad: Interview With ‘Hiveswap’ UI Artist Veronica Nizama, Niamh

Niamh: You’re a prolific solo comic book artist with almost a thousand unique pieces and around twenty full-color comics to your name. How does working solo compare to working in a team as large as What Pumpkin?

Veronica: It’s great having your own schedule, it’s great writing your own stories and making your own art that others go out of their way to read or buy, but it’s also an amazing experience to work on an exciting giant project that will reach a much larger audience! I don’t think I’ll ever give up my second job in comics, but I have to admit, there is no better feeling than to see everyone’s piece of the project fuse so seamlessly, just watching everything fit and work so well together! There is a level of gratification you get working on a bigger project like this that I think is harder to achieve as a solo artist.”

Out of Character: An Interview With Twitch Streamer Kaceytron, MostlyBiscuit

MostlyBiscuit: With Kaceytron, it’s not just the cleavage factor that boosts her streams—she also plays some of the most popular games in the world (also known as “games people really want to see”) like World of Warcraft, League of Legends, and CS:GO. The dedication to her stream and her willingness to play to the popular crowd have allowed her to make a living working four days a week playing video games in front of people.

When I visited Kaceytron’s channel on Twitch for a week or two before interviewing her, I tried to work out the demographics of her viewership, but couldn’t quite get a handle on it based off of the most vocal members of her chat. She later told me she has a lot of LGBTQIA+ subscribers, but wasn’t entirely sure herself who was really watching. I came to my own conclusion: some people don’t “get” what she’s doing, some people get it and don’t like it, and a lot of people are in on it—and absolutely love it. So what does Kaceytron think of her role in the streaming world, particularly as a woman who is a gamer? I decided to ask.”

Allegra Clark: ‘Dragon Age,’ Acting, & Magical Girl Anime, Rem

AllegraOne of my hopes for gaming in general and a lot of geek media is just acknowledging that there can be so many different kinds of women. Like, we can have the same breadth and variety of female characters as we can male characters. And also, I should add characters who fall outside the binary of gender. But speaking specifically in terms of women, we can and should acknowledge that there are as many varied, flawed, sometimes-good, sometimes-bad, all-over-the-place women as there are men. And so I want to have the opportunity to play every kind of woman, because it means that they exist.

And that will be really great, that’ll be so fulfilling. And—I don’t know. I’m not satisfied with this idea that there can only be a token girl in an entire game. And that, also, you know, she has to be perfect. Or if there are one or two women, that they have to be perfect because they’re representing all of women. The moment there are more women, we [can] stop treating women as tokens and start actually treating them as characters.”


RPGs!

Dragon Age

Why Don’t Queer Butch Women Exist in Games?, Aria

“If these defenders of denying the queer butch existence had any traction to their arguments, there would be more butch characters we could turn to as examples—but there aren’t. Where is there this mystical butch bisexual or lesbian woman in video games who has perpetuated a stereotype? Where are there queer butch women at all? The absence of these types of women is not a testament to the gaming industry being uncharacteristically sensitive to queer stereotypes, it’s a testament to how female masculinity is rarely presented at all—and that, in fact, it must be overcompensated through clear heterosexuality.

Not only does this prevent diverse representations of women, it upholds standards of women made for consumption by men. Having more butch bisexual or lesbian characters would subvert those standards and create a wider landscape of women for everyone to enjoy and admire.”

Asexuality & Cole’s Humanity in the ‘Dragon Age’ Trespasser DLC, Kyra S

“At its most basic level, “What ace folks want” is not that complicated. We want what everyone else wants: recognition that we’re human and that we exist. Everything else is details. Figuring out how to navigate this is done in the same way that any other marginalized group is portrayed: hire or at least talk to members of that group and ask them to check your work. It doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to be some huge plot-altering thing, just a (human or human-equivalent) character who explicitly isn’t interested in sex and/or romance, but doesn’t make a big deal of it.

Dorian and Sera aren’t just gay, Krem isn’t just trans, Leliana isn’t just bi, and the Iron Bull isn’t just pansexual; there’s no reason why we can’t also have an asexual character who isn’t defined by their asexuality. Again, there’s no hive mind, so maybe there won’t be any consensus, but since when are people going to unanimously agree on everything?”

Angry Lesbians & White Feminism: The Problem With Sera in ‘Dragon Age’, Jillian

“Her first interaction with the Inquisitor has been criticized for being cissexist, though much of her humor is almost entirely related to genitalia and the policing of it. You get a real sense of this in the codex entry involving Josephine given the “Velissisima Ladyparts von Knucklefronts” comment. Further—because oh yes, there’s more—if you choose to bring her to the Winter Palace, Sera offers up this stunning little gem in regards to another guest attending the party.

This begs the question: why, then, was it absolutely imperative that these vile comments be added to Inquisition when it was unlikely many gamers would see it on their first—or even second—playthrough? You can’t engage Sera in a discussion about why her snide comments are completely inappropriate like you can when Dorian asserts to a Dalish Inquisitor that slavery isn’t really that bad. At least in that instance, you have the option of engaging the problematic behavior to explore where the character is coming from and how they might, in fact, be saying hurtful things.”

Bi Cassandra Mod Backlash: The Creator Speaks, Emm

“The creator of the bi Cassandra mod had their content deleted and was harassed so badly that they then deleted all of their social media accounts. I want to point out that it is in no way okay to harass someone. It is not justified. Being upset is reasonable, but being so angry that you effectively cause someone to flee from an environment that promotes equality, fairness, and community is wrong. I understand that a lot of the Dragon Age fandom was upset about this mod, but they were in no way justified to react by harassing a user from the community into leaving.”

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