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Rebecca

For the Love of Gaming – Skill vs Will

I grew up on video games. My brother is six years older than I am, so by the time I was born he was playing video games and I was watching him. When I was in elementary school he got a second controller for his Xbox and taught me to play Halo with him. Although a seedless watermelon would’ve made a better co-op partner than me, my brother and I always had a great time playing together. He was a patient teacher who found my terrible aim intensely amusing and I was a clumsy, starry-eyed child playing her first shooter. Over the years we’ve improved as gamers, but our relative skill levels have stayed the same. Basically, my brother is a good gamer and I am not.

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Uhh… that’s the bad guy, isn’t it..?

The other day I fired up the notoriously difficult Dark Souls 2 for the first time in months. I’d put it down because I’d gotten stuck on my first practice mini-boss and I was getting tired of dying. I had hoped that with a level-head, free of frustration I’d be able to tackle the boss, advance in the game, and reinstate my worth as a gamer. Then as soon as the game loaded I launched myself off a cliff into deadly waters. All I’d done was test out the controls.

That’s just one example of my failures as a gamer. The real proof is in the stats. I finished Transistor in ten hours when the average completion time was six. It took me sixteen hours to complete the main campaign in South Park: The Stick of Truth when it took most people eleven, and even a short indie game named Fingerbones took me fifty minutes to finish when it was meant to be done in fifteen.

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Like… this is my life.

There are several traits about my playstyle that don’t lend themselves well to efficient gaming. First off I am a very impatient person, and that usually means looking for shortcuts that are liable to get me killed. I have the bad habit of wasting time looking for ways to cut corners, and it hardly ever works out in my favor. Also I am not a very perceptive person when it comes to my environment, which is a character flaw in real life that transfers to games. My abysmal sense of direction gets me lost in large, open environments, and my lack of awareness leads to me missing important items as I play. For example, I play a hide-and-seek type game called Dead Realm, and whenever I’m the seeker I can never find a single player. Then we have what is arguably my biggest flaw as a gamer.

I am a terrible shot. I can’t aim worth a dime, and I don’t know why. Maybe my reflexes aren’t sharp enough, maybe my hands are unsteady, or maybe I’m too easily startled. Whatever the reason, I can’t shoot, which puts me at a great disadvantage while playing most games. My shooting style basically consists of me sprinting past enemies with my gun out while screaming “I’m being shot at!” and it isn’t pretty.

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I am basically a real-life Stormtrooper

So yeah, I’m not a very gifted gamer, and I really can’t see that changing anytime soon. I just don’t have any natural talent for it. What I do have going for me is a lot of love for videogames. I remember the first game I ever played without my brother, a game that I played just for me. It was Soul Calibur 2, and I played as Cassandra and button mashed my way through every fight. I was six years old and no one would have ever said I was a skilled player, but I adored the game and cheered my little head off every time Cassandra landed a kick on her opponent. Thirteen years later and Cassandra is still my fighter of choice. You won’t see me in any tournaments, but if I were going to stop loving a game just because I never got good at it I’d hate every game I’ve played.

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Marvel at the amazing graphics!

And that’s the thing, as bad as I am at videogames, I love playing them. I might have to play games on easy mode, but I could never give up on gaming altogether. I keep playing games because I have fun playing them even after the fiftieth time I’ve died. Some people might turn their nose up at me, but at least my friends still let me join in on their games. And really, I’m not a good co-op partner. I played Left for Dead 2 and accidentally shot a teammate more times than I could count. On Halloween, my friends and I played Eternal Darkness and when the controller was passed to me, I was killed by a weak enemy. I’d forgotten to save, and my friend had to take the controller back and redo a whole level’s worth of progress. Later my boyfriend watched as I used his PC to turn Just Cause 3 into Face-Planting Simulator. I swear I had a more flattering point to make somewhere around here.

Oh right, why I still play even though I’m terrible. Games are, at their core, not just meant to be played but also meant to be enjoyed. I might suck at games, but boy do I enjoy them. As long as I am enjoying a game, it shouldn’t matter how badly I play it. When I shot my teammate, she told me it was no big deal. My boyfriend actually enjoyed watching me drive into flower beds to frolic, and he supported my decision to jump off of cliffs like a flying squirrel instead of following the main storyline. Yeah, I’m bad at most of the games I play, and yeah I’ll probably never be a “good” gamer, but I really don’t mind. I might not have the skills, but there is something I do have.

I have fun. And that’s what really matters.


 

Rebecca2Rebecca is the daughter of two Mexican immigrants who lovingly support her nerdier hobbies. She is a cosplayer, con-goer, anime lover and lifelong writer who’s had several short pieces of fiction and poetry published under her very long name. She has also recently finished writing her first novel, a young adult adventure book with LGBT characters. She is a new college student and is currently majoring in biomedical engineering.

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Difficult Conversations: Nerd Culture and Sexual Harassment

At their core, pop culture conventions are meant to be lighthearted, fun events where people with similar interests can meet like-minded people and embrace their nerdy sides. I can honestly say that on a good convention day, I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else. But conventions and the culture surrounding them have an ugly dark side, one that terrorizes women and men alike and thrives off of sexism. Cosplayers are groped, con-goers are attacked, and people are stalked, screamed at, and flamed. There’s an elephant out on the convention floor, and its sexual harassment.

Who’s your favorite female video character? What about your top ten favorites? How many of those female characters display ludicrous amounts of cleavage, ass, or legs?

The answer is gonna be 'most of them.'
The answer is gonna be ‘most of them.’

Now, look up some cosplays of those characters, and read the comments. Take a shot every time you read a comment vilifying the cosplayer for wearing that same outfit. Finish your drink if you see “Slut” or “Whore”. Annnd now you’re dead.

On the con floor, many female cosplayers are cat-called, groped, and generally meant to feel unwelcome. Even outside conventions, cosplayers who choose to make replicas of the sexy costumes of their favorite characters face vitriol and gross harassment. On social media, female cosplayers are accused of being attention or actual whores for daring to show cleavage accurate to a character’s design. A design meant to pander to males in the first place. And even though women face the brunt of the problem, it’s not just men who are harassers. While less known, there are reports of ladies acting inappropriately with male cosplayers as well.

These guys could probably tell you all about it.
These guys could probably tell you all about it.

And if you’re thinking, ‘well why would they wear such revealing outfits they don’t want attention?’ ask yourself this. What sort of attention are cosplayers looking for?

There’s a lot I love about wearing a costume to a convention. I love seeing people’s eyes light up when they spot their favorite character, I love when people ask my permission to take pictures of a cosplay I’m proud of, I love when people high-five me and I admit, I do enjoy the compliments I get on my look. These are the forms of attention I hope for when I cosplay.When I’m getting ready for a con I put on my cosplay and I think ‘I hope other people enjoy this!’ I don’t put on my cosplay and think, ‘gee, I sure hope this gets people to violate me.’

Sexual harassment isn’t just limited to cosplayers either. Five years ago I was molested at a convention. It was my first big convention, and I’d changed out of my cosplay back into street clothes to go to a dance the con held. He was handsome, confident, and grown up, and I was fourteen, naïve and too young to understand the way he’d looked at me – too young to know that grown men don’t ask little girls to ‘dance’ with them. My story was not as isolated incident either, and I’ve heard many similar stories of young girls at conventions being taken advantage of by predators.

Where is this for conventions??
Where is this for conventions??

Three years after the incident I returned to the convention where I’d been assaulted, and almost as soon as I walked in my attention was caught by a booth run by young women who seemed to be handing out little decks of cards.

“We’re trying to raise awareness and help stop sexual harassment of cosplayers and con-goers.” One of the girls told me, energized, but gentle too. “Have you ever experienced sexual harassment at a convention?”

I bowed my head and mumbled yes, and the woman handed me a deck of colorful laminated cards. “Take these.” She said. I read the cards over.

“What you just did was harassment.” The red card said. “You have grossly stepped over the boundary of acceptable social communication.”

The yellow card was somewhat kinder. “What you just did was harassment.” It read. “Maybe you didn’t realize. In the future, think harder about the way your actions may be perceived.”

The only card I hoped I had to use was the green one. “You stepped in to help stop harassment.” It read. “Thank you.”

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It brought me back to the people I saw four years ago; the people who saw me. What I remembered most about that horrible day wasn’t his hands tangled up in the hair hanging at my hips, but the people who looked at us and laughed as they passed me by, as if my gross violation were just an inside joke between them and the convention.

And maybe it was, at least at the time. But I truly believe that things are changing now. Sexual harassment is still a far-too-common problem in convention and cosplay culture, but the difference is that by now, people have noticed. Sexual harassment at conventions is no longer the shameful secret it once was. More articles are being written, more videos being filmed, more booths run, more outrage and cries for change. People are infinitely more aware of the fact that sexual harassment is a problem at conventions, and with that awareness comes change.

So simple, but you have no idea what a difference it can make.
So simple, but you have no idea what a difference it can make.

I don’t know if I’ll ever feel safe enough to go to a convention by myself again, but at least I can say that with the increased awareness of sexual harassment, conventions feel like places to have fun again. That booth that gave me hope last year wasn’t tucked into a dark corner, but set up so it would be impossible to ignore, and that alone displays a huge shift in the way sexual harassment is approached now. Sexual harassment is no longer an issue con-goers snicker at, and if we continue to call attention to the issue, then perhaps those who thrived under the shadow of shame and ignorance will find that they no longer have the cover they need to hide their wrongs.

I would love to see situations where I’d be able to use that green card those amazing women gave me, and I would like to personally ask any fellow con-goers reading this article to keep an eye out for harassment. Stopping sexual harassment can be as easy as stepping in and asking what’s going on, and the worst that could happen is that it was a misunderstanding and everyone is fine. Don’t be afraid to speak out and up! You may just become someone’s real-life hero.


Rebecca2Rebecca is the daughter of two Mexican immigrants who lovingly support her nerdier hobbies. She is a cosplayer, con-goer, anime lover and lifelong writer who’s had several short pieces of fiction and poetry published under her very long name. She has also recently finished writing her first novel, a young adult adventure book with LGBT characters. She is a new college student and is currently majoring in biomedical engineering.

Our Patron Saint: Ellen Ripley

It’s official, Alien 5 is happening. The fifth movie in the Alien series, starring Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, has been confirmed by director Neill Blomkamp. As we wait for this new addition to one of the greatest science fiction movie series of all time, I thought it only appropriate to reflect on what truly made this series stand out: its protagonist. The intelligent, determined and heroic Ellen Ripley was a character that broke the mold and, to this day, stands out as one of the greatest female film protagonists of all time.

She is serious, and she will set you on fire if she has to.
She is serious, and she will set you on fire if she has to.

Ripley stands out as a character who isn’t just in conflict with the inhuman enemy, but also with the people around her. In the first film, she is forced to stand up for herself as crew-mates Ash (who has sinister intentions) and Dallas make decisions that jeopardize her and the crew’s safety. When Ash breaks quarantine rules, Ripley does not just let it slide, but confronts him and lets him know in no uncertain terms that she is his superior officer and that he made a big mistake in going against her orders. It comes up again later in the movie when Ash is revealed as a traitor and Ripley has to defend herself and the crew against him in addition to the aliens.

If only these poor bastards had listened to Ripley from the start!
If only these poor bastards had listened to Ripley from the start!

In the second film, Ripley is under fire by her bosses, as they don’t believe her retelling of the horrifying events that led to the death of Nostromo’s crew. Burke, her false friend, encourages her to go along with what the higher ups are saying, but she never shows any signs of backing down and outright insults her superiors when they are attempting to say that she imagined the ordeal. “Did IQ’s drop sharply while I was away?” One cannot help but want to cheer for her, although we know she’s going to pay for the quip.

You tell ’em, Ripley!

Later, she promises the weaselly Burke that he will pay for his deceptions, and when he tells her he had thought she would understand and expected more from her, she tells him that she is happy to disappoint him and fully intends to go through on her promise to pin him to the wall.

Do people never learn to not mess with this lady?
Do people never learn to not mess with this lady?

In the third movie this conflict is taken to its logical extreme, when Ripley is forced to live in a penal colony full of woman-hating rapists and murderers. She has few friends in the colony, as most of the people there either want to assault her or leave her for dead.“You don’t want to know me, lady,” one man tells her, “I’m a murderer and rapist of women.” She in turn muses that if that’s the case, she must make him very nervous. Ripley was one of the highest ranking officers of the ship Nostromo, and she does not take any crap from anyone, human or not.

This was probably more pleasant than dealing with those jerks.
This was probably more pleasant than dealing with those jerks.

Finally, all you really need to know about Alien: Resurrection is that this happened –

Fun fact: this is completely unedited. She made that shot on the first try.
Fun fact: this is completely unedited. She made that shot on the first try.

Sure, everyone knows that Ripley is a total badass. Some of her feats include blasting an alien out of the airlock,

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…getting into what is basically a robotic exoskeleton and going mano-a-mano with the mother alien,

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…setting an alien nest on fire with a flamethrower,

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…saving a group of marines (driving right through a sheet of metal to do so),

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and committing suicide by fire so that the alien she’s carrying will die with her.

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Maintaining a healthy level of badassery the entire time.

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She’s an indisputable action star, but it isn’t just her feats of strength in battle that make her character so memorable, it’s as much her softer actions that give us a glimpse into her personality and heart.

The biggest example of this would be her tender interactions with other characters. It is established early on in the sequel that Ripley had a daughter who grew old and died while Ripley spent fifty seven years in hypersleep. Ripley, who hadn’t shed a tear throughout any of her near death experiences or her violent nightmares, breaks down when she learns of her daughter’s death. “I promised her I’d be home for her birthday,” she says through her tears, “Her eleventh birthday.”

:(
😦

Later on in the sequel Ripley meets Newt, a little girl whose entire community was slaughtered by the aliens. When Ripley sees Newt, she’s a filthy, mute little girl with dirty hair and a mess on her face. Ripley gently wipes her face and feeds her, and the girl who’d been silent speaks again, most likely for the first time since her family had died. Ripley protects Newt, but more than that, she loves her like a mother would. She lays down with Newt when it’s night time and the girl is scared, and promises she won’t leave her. The two share a bonding moment where both are able to smile and laugh with each other although they are in a frightening situation, and Ripley’s loving side shines through. In the end of the movie when it seems as though Newt may be dead, Ripley falls to the ground crying, too devastated to keep moving. It is only when she hears Newt screaming that she gets up, immediately going back into the role of protector, rescuing Newt in a truly heroic sequence that includes setting everything on fire and grappling with the queen alien while in a robotic looking lift suit. By the end of the movie Newt is calling her mommy, and it makes her death in the third movie all the more devastating and unfair.

All of the feels!
All of the feels!

And then there’s the ship’s cat Jones, the other survivor of Nostromo. Yes, Ripley the badass survivor isn’t just a mother, but a cat lover too! Those moments where Ripley cuddles with a cat or jokes around with her teammates just show that the best heroes are human, not stone cold fighting machines.

And they love her back!
And they love her back!

Ellen Ripley is not special just because she is a female hero, she’s special because she’s a beautifully written, dynamic female hero, with strengths and flaws. Unfortunately we will have to wait for Ripley’s return until after the release of a different Alien film, Prometheus 2, but as long as Ripley is returning, fans of the series can rest easy and leave the franchise in her capable hands.

“This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.”

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Rebecca2Rebecca is the daughter of two Mexican immigrants who lovingly support her nerdier hobbies. She is a cosplayer, con-goer, anime lover and lifelong writer who’s had several short pieces of fiction and poetry published under her very long name. She has also recently finished writing her first novel, a young adult adventure book with LGBT characters. She is a new college student and is currently majoring in biomedical engineering.

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