GDC 2015 Recap: The Rise of Women in eSports

League of Legends

Last week was the annual Games Developer Conference. GDC consists of various talks from all walks of life in game development including programming and art, and for the first time, it included a track on eSports. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard there would be an eSports track and made sure to clear my GDC schedule to spend most of the day at the Summit. I was extremely pleased to see that, amidst the talks about League of Legends design and game balancing, the Summit also included a talk titled “Growing the Participation of Women in eSports,” moderated by Lil Chen, a semi-retired Super Smash Bros. Melee player. The rest of the panel included Rachel “Seltzer” Quirico, an eSports host and Frag Doll; Heather “SapphiRe” Mumm, a competitive CSGO player and Managing Editor and journalist at ESEA; and Kim Phan, Senior Manager of eSports at Blizzard.

The panelists touched on many issues facing the lack of women in eSports, issues that are present in all aspects of gaming, but seem to be hyper displayed in the traditionally masculine world of sports. All the panelists touched on being the “token” female player in games, and that there’s a lot of pressure to live up to expectations; that, if you lose, you’re not only letting down your team, but you’re letting down women, too.

“This is what I always experience as a female player—not only do I have to play amazingly, I have to care about how I look, I have to make sure I’m friendly enough but not too friendly, all these little factors weigh in and they stop me from the best competitive player I can be,” said Rachel Quirico. Heather Mumm brought up the depressing reality that if her team lost in a competition, the loss was blamed on her for being a woman, but if her team won, it was only because the rest of her team carried her.

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‘Elegy of a Dead World’ & The Joy of Casual Gaming

Elegy of a Dead World

My husband and I go grocery shopping together. I know it’s a painful process for him—he absolutely hates the grocery store, but I do the cooking and he has to do the heavy lifting with the grocery bags. But sometimes it’s painful for him in a different way—he has to deal with his wandering wife. I don’t mean wandering as in cheating. I mean wandering as in casual, random, eyes-wide, full body movement away from the situation at hand. He turns around out of the blue and the cart is standing before him, but I’m nowhere to be seen. He’ll find me in a random aisle down, reading some new box of Hamburger Helper or a beef jerky product on an endcap I’ve never seen before.

I’m always touching things. I’m always breaking things. I’m always hitting buttons when I’m not supposed to. I’m always wandering. People try to get around the cart. I run into people because I’m not paying attention. It’s even worse in Target, so we won’t even go there. That’s painful. So what does this have to do with gaming?

I love gaming. I’ve played video games since my brother—5 years older than me—got an Atari in the ’80s for Christmas. Since then, I’ve gone through the Nintendos, Segas, PlayStations, and even computer games. As I grew up, I found that I became less and less talented at video games just as the side-scroller gave way to first-person shooters and strategy games. I found myself having to be selective about games—choosing ones I thought I would be able to play with little skill or attention span.

So, I stopped gaming and just forgot about it.

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Why the Backlash for ‘Dragon Age: Inquisition?’

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I am aware this game came out months ago. As it stands, Dragon Age: Inquisition currently holds an aggregated score of 85 on Metacritic from critics and a user score of 5.8/10. Why is this? In order to explain the strange discrepancy, I will have to take you back to December 2011 when Bioware stated that they were “checking [Skyrim] out aggressively” in order to inform their ideas for the next Dragon Age game. For some, that marked the beginning of the end.

In my opinion, the vast negativity directed at Inquisition largely comes from fans of the preceding games. Dragon Age 2 also received a huge amount of criticism from some people who loved Origins. Dragon Age: Origins has good user scores. Is it therefore a superior game? Well, I think so, yes. Still, that’s only my opinion. I personally prefer a more contained story and a more complex, considered combat system, which I believe Origins had.

The thing is, when a fan likes the particular elements of a game, they expect those elements to appear in any sequels the game might have. As a result, they have a tendency of feeling betrayed when games change and remove the features they love or add features they dislike. On the other hand, game developers are under zero obligation to churn out the same kind of thing in an effort to keep all their original fans happy.

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Are You a “Real Gamer?” How to Deal With Accusations

Sims 4

As a female gamer, I’ve had many men call me out sometimes by playing what they call “fake games.” According to some, mobile games such as Angry Birds, Flappy Bird, and Crossy Road do not fall under the “real games” category, which makes me a “fake gamer.” The strange thing is that a group of video game developers got together to create those games. Those titles and others were created using the same means Grand Theft Auto V and Call of Duty were. Some titles, such as Mass Effect, happen to have mobile games. So what makes mobile games fake? What makes them the lesser?

Short answer: nothing.

Unfortunately, this all stems from hatred toward women in gaming. As the gaming community grows, women are beginning to fill up forums and chat rooms. To be honest, I don’t know if men are afraid we will steal their jobs or if they’re simply acting very macho-y. I’ve seen various men play games such as Crossy Road and Candy Crush and not once have I heard another man yell at them, “You’re not a real gamer because that game isn’t a real game!” If that were the case, this article wouldn’t be necessary. What I do know is that this discrimination needs to come to an end.

If you’ve been accused of not being a “real gamer” or simply happen to find yourself being accused of such a thing one day, here are a few tips and tricks on how to handle these false assumptions.

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The Art of Game Design: Interviewing Trudi Castle

Source: Trudi Castle/Hinterland Studio, Inc.
Source: Trudi Castle/Hinterland Studio, Inc.

There are many elements at play when it comes to making a great game title: coding, asset design, texturing, level design, story, and gameplay design are just a few of many tasks involved. Back in the ’80s (and some might argue as early as the forties), there wasn’t much in the way of graphics design as part of the game making process—today, however, adding a solid and consistent visual style to your game is just as important as good gameplay. Unique, high-quality graphics can take an old story with overdone themes and breathe new life into it.

Source: Trudi Castle/Hinterland Studio, Inc.
Source: Trudi Castle/Hinterland Studio, Inc.

One such game that applies a fresh visual take on an old theme is The Long Dark, a wilderness survival simulation game by Hinterland Studio, Inc. Currently available for early access, The Long Dark is a moody, mysterious test of one’s mettle against the elements with an expansive open world that reveals itself slowly in clever and unexpected ways. The unique aspect of this game, and the one that might lend the most intrigue, is the stylized environments one must trudge through in order to survive.

The environment is incredibly stylized with an almost whimsical feel to it, though this hardly distracts from the deadliness of the player’s surroundings. Indeed, one can appreciate the artistry of the curl of smoke on the horizon that resembles the stroke of a fountain pen, and still find themselves flinching and frantically seeking shelter when they hear a wolf howl in the distance.

One of the people responsible for the look and feel of The Long Dark is Trudi Castle, an illustrator and concept artist who brings much to the table in terms of style and skill. Trudi was gracious enough to lend some of her time for an interview, and for more of her art-y goodness you can follow her on Twitter and Tumblr, as well!

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