Game On! At the Montreal Science Center

#GameOnMtl | Game On at the Montreal Science Center |
A couple of weeks ago Rick and I took the time to finally check out the Game On exhibit at the Montreal Science Center. Neither of us knew much about the exhibit going in, except that it was focused on video games and was therefor a must see for the two of us.

Opting to make a day of it we started with at little brunch at Communion. It was our first time there and I was concerned that it was going to be crowded, but we soon realized that most people eating in a touristy area like Old Montreal are, in fact, tourists who get up at the crack of dawn to see as much of the city as they can before sundown, leaving plenty of room for us more laid back locals. The food was good and coffee was included, but I was a little disappointed in the Hollandaise sauce on my eggs Benny. And trust me, I know my eggs Benny.

Batman | Game On At The Montreal Science Center |
As soon as we entered the Montreal Science Center we were greeted by two of the biggest stars of the Montreal video game scene, namely Batman and a couple assassins from the Assassin’s Creed series, which makes sense because WB & Ubisoft are co-sponsors of the exhibit. In fact, Rick is pretty sure that the Batman statue on display is the one that used to be on display in the WB lobby.

Blinky | Game On At The Montreal Science Center |

The exhibit itself is actually way in the back of the Science Center and the floor leading to the exhibit was marked with little white dots that Rick jokingly compared to the dots from PacMan, until we noticed that Inky, Blinky, and Clyde were also present.

Computer Space | Game On At the Montreal Science Center |

Because the Game On exhibit is actually a special ticket ($22 instead of the usual $15 admission), there was actually a turnstile at the entrance to the exhibit to prevent the regular pleebs from just wandering in. However, visible from the turnstile queue was AN ORIGINAL COMPUTER SPACE ARCADE MACHINE, and I immediately started fangirling, much to Rick’s total embarrassment. For those not familiar, Computer Space is generally considered the first graphical computer game, and was in fact the first one turned into an arcade machine. Sadly the machine on display was not playable, but I was immediately impressed that the exhibit delved so deep into the origins of video games and started to feel a little better about spending the extra $6 for the exhibit. Then I turned the corner…

Vintage Arcade | Game On at the Montreal Science Center |

Look at all those arcade machines! Dozens of them, almost all in working order, representing decades of video game history. Now I knew exactly where that extra $6 went. Seriously, there were over 100 games all available to play for free! Six dollars to play hundreds of video games, many of them not even available on emulators, many of them running on the original consoles! Rick and I were in heaven.

Rick Space Invaders | Game On at The Montreal Science Center |

I got to show off my Space Invaders skills (first console game I ever played, and the only one I had access to for many a year) and Rick got to impress me by finishing a single screen of the original Donkey Kong (Steve Webbe he is not).

Donkey Kong | Game On at The Montreal Science Center |
Look at how crazy Mario looks!

Being an amateur enthusiast in video game history, it was absolutely AMAZING to get to try out so many games I’d only read about online. They even had one of those crazy Space Invaders arcade machines with the giant fiberglass alien head on top. Sadly it didn’t photograph so well, but there were lots of other crazy things to take pictures of.

Jad The Taff | Game On at the Montreal Science Center |
What the hell is a Taff?!? And what does a dessert eagle taste like?

Also, while I was gaping at all the video game history on offer, Rick managed to get the high score on the Missile Command machine! Even more impressive considering how crazy the control scheme on that thing is.

Missile Command Score | Game On at the Montreal Science Center |

On the other side of the room was a large area full of consoles and console games, with the outer rim representing early console history and then the rest organized by genre.

Rick Modern Arcade | Game On at the Montreal Science Center |

This is definitely where we spent most of our time, with Rick giddily dragging me from one childhood memory to another. For me it was an absolute thrill to get to play so many original Atari games the way they were meant to be played, since this was a console I definitely never had.

Mariko Dropzone | Game On at The Montreal Science Center |

I especially loved playing this game called Dropzone. It’s basically just another twist on the SHMUP with you controlling a little astronaut guy with a jetpack. I found the physics incredible smooth for a game that was so old, and even those I was garbage at it, there was something oddly soothing about bobbing up and down in space.

Dropzone Game Over | Game On at The Montreal Science Center |

I also really like how helpful the game over screen was.

Star Wars Arcade Cabinet | Game On at the Montreal Science Center |

We were so bummed that the original Star Wars Arcade game was out of order, because anyone who has had the chance to use one of these knows that is it one of THE BEST arcade games of all time. I don’t care that it only had vector graphics, you seriously felt like you were in an X-Wing fighting the Empire playing that game.

Giant Controller | Game On at The Montreal Science Center |

It was so neat to be able to see 40 years of video game history all in one place to really compare how things have evolved, both on the hardware and software side. You can definitely tell that ergonomics were not something taken into account until pretty recently. Seriously, how was anyone supposed to use this thing?

After the history of video games portion of the exhibit there was a very small section on game development, followed by a collection of “international” games, most of which were Japanese games, and then a great big section with lots of projectors dedicated to multiplayer games. I managed to cajole Rick into playing Just Dance with me, much to his utter embarrassment.

Mariko Oculus Rift | Game On at The Montreal Science Center |

Finally, tucked into a corner right near the exit of the exhibit was a tiny console and a long line to try the much hyped Oculus Rift. Despite going to many gaming events and having multiple opportunities to it, I had yet to experience modern virtual reality, so I joined Rick in the line. There were three short demos to choose from, but the attendant recommended the weird 360 swing demo to get the best overall experience.

Even though Rick didn’t have any problems beyond being a little disoriented, I was already starting to get motion sick in the line anticipating how ill I would be and had to whip off the headset before the demo finished. I felt better almost immediately, but I could tell that things were going to go south very quickly if I hadn’t begged off when I did.

All in all we spent close to 3 hours playing video games, so I definitely feel like we got our money’s worth. Definitely something worth checking out if you find yourselves in Montreal and love vintage video games.

Friday I’m In Love

To Kill A Reaper by BlackFiber | Friday I'm In Love | Gamerwife
To Kill A Reaper by BlackFiber available at Redbubble

Yet another peaceful week here at Gamerwife HQ (a.k.a. my apartment). I’m still feeling pretty anti-social, not out of hostility or depression, just laziness. I do seem to finally be making some decisions about my next steps in the career department. I won’t go into detail in case I change my mind again, but I will say that it involves taking things in a totally new direction. Hopefully I’ll have some good news to share in that arena soon.

I’m also getting pretty excited about the next Geek Girl Brunch Montreal event. We’re going to be doing a pre-Otakuthon coffee meet-up. It’s my first time at Otakuthon, so I’m pretty excited, even if I’m not the biggest anime fan out there. Most of the manga I read is horror themed, but hopefully I’ll still get something out of it.

The weekend will probably be another quiet one. We’ve got a family dinner on Saturday and then maybe I can convince Rick to film a video with me on Sunday.

What are you guys up to this weekend?

Link Time!

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Something else video games can teach you: personal accountability.

Mortal Kombat, A Capella style.

Could the observed cognitive benefits of gaming come at a long-term price?

Games are political. Even Sim City.

The 100 greatest video game soundtracks of all time.

New study suggests that sexist douchebags act that way because they suck at games.

Things you only do in video games.

And finally, just for fun, how many people are in space RIGHT NOW?

Geek Girl Brunch Montreal Comiccon Dim Sum Brunch

GGBMtl Comiccon Brunchettes | Comic Con Mtl 2015 |
Hello! Just wanted to let y’all know that the full blow-by-blow account of Geek Girl Brunch Montreal’s Comiccon Dim Sum Brunch is finally up on the Geek Girl Brunch website. Thanks again to officer Gina for letting up use images from her upcoming film in the recap!

Also, if you are in the Montreal area and would like to hang with us, our next event is going to be in conjunction with Otakuthon! Details are available on the Geek Girl Brunch Montreal Facebook page.

The Emotional Minefield – Online Harassment & Video Games

GTFO | The Emotional Minefield - Online Harassment & Video Games |
An image from “GTFO,” a documentary about sexism in the video game industry.

Alright, I’m going to state this, plain and simple, it is hard being a woman who enjoys video games. We experience constant, gender specific abuse, and are often told by our colleagues that this is the nature of the beast; that we are not allowed to be critical of how the video game industry operates as is because it has always existed in this space, and always will. We are told to grow a thicker skin when it comes to harassment, because “men go through the same thing.” The truth is, if you are a woman in the industry with a critical opinion, you will be the recipient of disproportional hostility, scrutiny, and criticism, likely from your male cohorts.

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) showcased recently how long reinforced cultural notions establish males as default heroes. Of the 76 titles, only 7 of those games had exclusively female protagonists. This is an astounding lack of representation, and it is an issue that affects both male and female players alike. Male players can actually benefit from playing female protagonists as it gives them the opportunity to see a game through the eyes of a female protagonist, and this allows them to challenge the all too commonplace idea that they can’t or shouldn’t identify with women, their lives, or their struggles, a skill that women are already adept at doing when having to play male characters.

For the past 30 years, video games have existed in a bubble that is almost exclusively male oriented; games are designed, marketed, and sold almost exclusively with men in mind. The consequences of this exclusive marketing are far reaching, and in the past year, through gamergate and news pieces about the abuse of women, we’ve begun to see these consequences surface.

Anyone taking a look at the video game industry can identify a sense of male entitlement for a form of entertainment that has absolutely no business being gendered at all. The simplest examples are those where we see women portrayed in hyper-sexual ways, catering to the male gaze, or we see the same tired damsel in distress trope over and over again, in which the male protagonist gets to be the rescuer. I mean, how many times has Princess Peach been kidnapped since 1985? (Pssst…the answer is 12)

FemFreq Pie Chart | The Emotional Minefield: Online Harassment & Video Games |
Infographic courtesy of Feminist Frequency

Another example of the sort of harassment women in the industry are subjected to can be seen in a video from 2012 of professional Miranda Pakozdi being harassed by her team captain Aris Bakhtanians. In the video, we see Pakozdi trying to laugh off the unending stream of harassment for about thirteen minutes before being unable to endure it any longer. Even speaking up about the issue rallied parts of the community to decry her actions rather than support her. It’s as though they thought her reaction of defusing anxiety with laughter was not normal, and that it implied consenting to offensive behavior.

superarcade tweet | The Emotional Minefield: Online Harassment & Video Games |
From Super Arcade’s Twitter

Bakhtanians said himself, “The sexual harassment is part of [the] culture. And if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community.” He proceeded to liken the community without sexual harassment to using a football in the NBA. The hostile atmosphere was enough to dissuade Pakozdi from competing in the final round of the tournament.

This kind of attitude isn’t limited to the vacuum of the professional gaming niche either. Women making an impact other aspects of nerd culture are attacked as well, usually with sexually charged or inappropriate remarks. Others who speak out are frequently targets of flash smear campaigns. “In the end I had to step away from the internet,” said Laurie Penny, a writer who had posted a piece on organized harassment, “which was a pain because I need the internet to work.”

Game developer and vocal advocate against the rising tide of online abuse and anonymous harassment, Zoe Quinn, continues to receive threats and experiences doxing almost every time she announces a public appearance. “I’ve had that conversation with Brianna and Anita,” Quinn said during an interview with Ars Technica. “Kind of, ‘Ha ha ha [sarcastic laughter], which one of us do you think is going to die first?'” Quinn has since been forced to use YubiKeys as part of a two-part authentication for all of her personal accounts to combat hackers. She has two sets, one she wears around her neck, and one embedded in her wrist.

Since the interview, Quinn has been hard at work building a support network for victims of online harassment and pushing for greater advocacy for bringing lawmakers and law enforcement into the conversation.

“The judge told me to stop posting,” Quinn said. “Just get offline. No. I’m sorry. Being told, you can’t have this entire line of work without opening yourself up to massive abuse, that’s a free speech issue. Saying I can’t make video games for a living because somebody might decide to perpetuate criminal acts against me, that’s a free speech issue. The phrase ‘in real life,’ and delineating the Internet as a magical alternate dimension… needs to go away.”

The judge’s reaction echoes the sentiment of many men in the video game community. This kind of behavior reinforces the idea that incidents like these are isolated, and only bother women who are too sensitive. It minimizes the risks associated with the online harassment of female gamers specifically. It makes light of the issue of online bullying, citing it as “not that big of a deal,” despite the fact that online harassment, threats, and bullying make up one of the most common issues that social workers are called to deal with on a day-to-day basis. And most importantly, attitudes like this fail to recognize that these insults are disproportionately targeting one gender, as a means to intimidate and maintain hegemonic power for men in the community.

GTFO Jump | The Emotional Minefield: Online Harassment & Video Games |
Another image from “GTFO.”

Online harassment, no matter the reasoning, is always about power and positioning, about putting people in their place. “I think fans harass developers for a range of reasons, but again, it is always about power and position,” said Fisk, who was featured in Bullying in the Age of Social Media. “The lack of social cues and perceived lack of consequences afforded online communication also changes the way people treat one another.”

Donna Prior served as community manager for the online game, Star Wars: The Old Republic, leading a team that was told would be using their real names as forum handles. “As any community manager will tell you,” Prior said, “the contractors and staff who hand out your disciplinary action should always be protected [with anonymity].” The community grew toxic and the imposition of the new rules and standards disturbed the hornet’s nest. As the only woman on the team, Prior still receives abusive and threatening messages five years later. The existence of this behavior is a testament to the glacial pace of cultural progress in more insular communities.

GTFO Competition | The Emotional Minefield: Online Harassment & Video Games |
Another image from “GTFO.”

The largest takeaway from this is the biggest risk to the industry: that we will lose out on the talents of people who would make fantastic games that we would all be better for playing, because they legitimately don’t want to make themselves targets. Diversity is important to bringing new insights that current leadership may not have.

“It’s something that comes up in almost every conversation with female developers,” says Jennifer Hepler, who was the senior writer on Dragon Age: Inquisition. “Overall, people seem to try to shrug it off publicly and fume privately, and younger women contemplating the field are reconsidering whether they have the stomach to handle what it currently asks of them. A lot of the best artists and storytellers (and quite a few great programmers too), tend to be sensitive people — we shouldn’t lose out on their talents because we are requiring them to be tough, battle-scarred veterans just to walk in the door.”

About the author:
Lydia Mondy is a musician from the northwest who sometimes takes a 30 minute break from feminism to enjoy a tv show.

Friday I’m In Love

Garrus Vakarian by sparkmark | Friday I'm In Love | Gamerwife
Garrus Vakarian by sparkmark available at Redbubble

I don’t know about you, but this was a pretty mellow week at Gamerwife HQ. We had a great time at the Game On exhibit over the weekend (post coming soon) & I even got to attend a special pre-Fantasia screening of Strayer’s Chronical (3 out of 5 stars).

This weekend will probably involve brunch, and maybe finally picking up the Nimona trade paperback.

Link Time!

First off, do nothing for 2 minutes. (It’s harder than it sounds).

Want to play The Last of Us for the story, but suck at video games like me? Now you can watch it as a TV show.

Contrary to popular belief, a new study finds that violent video games may make players more sympathetic.

I know where I’m staying next time I’m in Tokyo.

Forget rugged stubble guy, I want more games where you play as an animal!

Looking for a weekend project? Why not make something for your pet?

Like to laugh while you play? Here’s 7 games that are actually funny.

Fascinating: inside the world of the human cannonball.

Badass historical queen.

Wonderful essay on the beautiful and tragic weirdness of Sonic Adventure.