After a long hiatus, welcome back to Geek Studies. Work took a bigger bite out of my blogging time than I ever expected these last several months, but I guess that’s what happens when you join the QA team of a major video game in the final stretch of its development cycle. Now that I’ve got some time to write again, I figured I’d start by drawing your attention to a few things.
BioShock Infinite: This was my first experience working on a AAA video game. It comes out tomorrow. Clearly I’m biased when I say that it’s amazing, but reviewers seem to like it too. I’m moving on to other projects now that my work with Irrational Games is done, but I’m proud to have worked with such a great team on such an excellent game.
Tropes vs. Women in Games: This is the first in a series of videos examining how women are typically portrayed in video games. If you’re already highly educated and deeply familiar with the history of games, it may seem like a refresher to you. (I learned that Donkey Kong was supposed to be a Popeye game and Star Fox Adventures wasn’t originally about Starfox, though much of the rest of this was already known to me.) Still, this is an excellent introduction to the subject for newer viewers, with some great examples of why gender issues need to be at the forefront of our discussions of games. I really wish this series had existed back when I was teaching “Images of Women in the Media” at a women’s college.
Why Geek Matters: An awfully long time ago, somebody at Forbes wrote a forgettable piece on her frustrations about “fake geek girls.” Over at her own blog, Leigh Alexander wrote a response not just tearing the piece apart, but also arguing more generally that it’s kind of pathetic how self-identified geeks react with hostility to “the normalization of geekdom.” Leigh’s on to something there, but I don’t think we need to discount the value of identifying oneself as a geek in order to recognize and work out problems in geek cultures. And that’s where Gus Mastrapa’s Pretension +1 column comes in. Yeah, this whole exchange is from a whole year ago, but I still felt like it was worth a link for explaining some things that I suspect so many are feeling: “Geekdom is a culture of knowledge and curiosity, of obsessive interest in the arcane. [...] But Leigh is right about another thing, too. We cannot live on being geeks alone. The chameleon in me learned that being well versed in many cultures is not only good for survival, but it also makes you a more well-rounded person.”
Confronting Geek Shame: Along similar lines, I want to draw your attention to Natasha Lewis Harrington’s writings on geekdom and Magic: The Gathering over at Gathering Magic. She’s been doing some great stuff over there for a while, but if you missed her piece on “Confronting Geek Shame” awhile back, it’s worth a look (and, um, not just because she cites me in it). As with Gus’s piece above, it helps illustrate the point of how we are shaped by what happens early in our lives, but we can use that to define ourselves rather than letting it define us.
Hipster, Please!: And finally, I want to give a special shout-out to Z. at Hipster, Please! on the occasion of The Living Bookend, a “better end point, temporary as it may be” for his nerd music podcast, Radio Free Hipster. If you read my dissertation, you know that Z. was instrumental in helping me navigate certain corners of the geek world. And if you know me personally, you might know that Radio Free Hipster has introduced me to music I love, geekified my Christmases, and brought me cheer on my crummiest days. I don’t eulogize projects on indefinite hiatus (said the guy who hadn’t blogged since July), but it seemed like a good time to point out that this podcast has quite the back catalog worth trawling through.