Miss Video Game

Miss Video Game

imageTatiana is a gamer. She plays videogames less than three hours per week - mainly Tetris and Snake on her cell phone. Her major life goal is to finish school and she feels that the perception of girl gamers is currently spot-on. She's 23 years old and lives in Germany. She also, as you can see for yourself, has an enormous rack.

Tatiana is a contestant for Miss Video Game, a web-based popularity contest which aims to "assist in the proliferation of females in gaming genres of all types and to help raise awareness of the female gaming audience among game publishers and advertisers. To make the gaming industry take women gamers seriously and to treat them with respect as equals." Emphasis mine.

Browsing through the list of MVG contestants is a vicarious thrill not unlike spending a few hours on Myspace or one of a dozen online dating sites. The pictures themselves are often quite alluring, and even those contestants without Tatiana's considerable assets provide one a look at a side of feminine gaming that's been sadly lacking in the high-gloss, ad-sponsored portrayals of late. Do we need an online photo gallery to reassure us that most girl gamers don't look like Frag Dolls or share Morgan Webb's taste in clothes (of lack thereof)? Of course not, but it's nice to see a little reality once-in-awhile. If only to be reassured that it's still there.

Take Becky for example. We can't see much of her face from her photo, but her enthusiasm is apparent (as is her awesome red hair). Raquel "mostly an RPG girl" is likewise obscured, but clad in Link-eque green complete with ears, she offers a fairly clear picture of herself nonetheless. And then there's Jenny, a fan of Mike Tyson's Punch Out who's "I HEART LESS THAN THREE GEEKS" T-shirt made me fall in love at first sight.

These contestants and many others like them, show gamer girls as they really are, not as how we think they should be. What then to make of entrants like Tatiana, who would fail to meet even the most lenient requirements for being called a gamer by anyone not trying to sell you something? According to the MVG website, there will be a period of online voting, after which four finalists will be flown to Montreal for the final judging (you can apply to be a judge by showing up with chicks), but just who will do the judging, and what standards will be applied is still a bit nebulous.

My advice to Miss Video Game wannabes: Brush up on the "world peace" speech and try very hard to find a flattering bathing suit. I don't think they're going for brains here, but one can always hope.

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My first thought about this is "What qualifies someone to call themself as a gamer?" Time played? Skill? Which games qualify (can a chess geek be a gamer. What about a MMO immigrant, who has no life outside thier chosen game)?

My opinion: thier catergories of 0-3, 3-5, 5-8, 8-15, and 15+ suck. How many boys could call themselves a gamer, and be called a gamer by thier freinds, at 5 hours a week (less than 1 hour a day). Even half-hearted gamer guys I know play an hour a day, minimum, every day of the week: 7 hours minimum. I'm not much of a gamer (I'm mostly interested in designing games, and play to find out what works, what doesn't, and what's fun), and I play easily 15 hours a week, even while fighting off two brothers, who use the computers as much as I do. I know other males (high school and college) who do not call themselves gamers, and still fall in the 8-15 range. And 0-3 qualifies a girl?

I say any entrant who enters 0-3 hours a week be made to spend an entire weekend at a game-related convention, and prove she can keep up with the rest of us for three days, both in energy, and fun.

The argument for what qualifies someone as a gamer is not going to end any time soon, but I would agree that this "Miss Video Game" pageant is not exactly setting the bar high for these girls.

I wrote a whole blog post about this, but I fervently believe (or want to believe) that whether you are qualified to call yourself a gamer has to do with how much money you spend on gaming, NOT how much you actually play the games. Purchase is participation, baby!

Archon:
I wrote a whole blog post about this, but I fervently believe (or want to believe) that whether you are qualified to call yourself a gamer has to do with how much money you spend on gaming, NOT how much you actually play the games. Purchase is participation, baby!

So, are you less of a gamer for renting 10 games (and playing them) per month through GameFly than someone buying 2 (and not playing them) per month at EB?

If so, I am the gamiest gamer alive.

Also: Screw it. If we're up for equality in gamer representation, then it's time we spearheaded the Mr. Gamer Initiative.

Landslide:
Also: Screw it. If we're up for equality in gamer representation, then it's time we spearheaded the Mr. Gamer Initiative.

Um ... yeah. Get to work on that, Jon. You're the only man for the job ;)

Landslide:

Archon:
I wrote a whole blog post about this, but I fervently believe (or want to believe) that whether you are qualified to call yourself a gamer has to do with how much money you spend on gaming, NOT how much you actually play the games. Purchase is participation, baby!

So, are you less of a gamer for renting 10 games (and playing them) per month through GameFly than someone buying 2 (and not playing them) per month at EB?

If so, I am the gamiest gamer alive.

Also: Screw it. If we're up for equality in gamer representation, then it's time we spearheaded the Mr. Gamer Initiative.

I second that motion... with a vengeance!

I heartliy disagree with the "Money makes the gamer" opinion. I will not play any game with a subscription fee, and rarely pay more that $20 for a computer game (although the several hundred I've spent on D&D might contradict this), and yet I will argue that I am a gamer all the way. In my area, there are 3 gaming conventions (not computer games, but oh, well. They're still 72+ hours of gaming), and for the pst 2 years, I've been to all three, but spent less than $200 all told (mostly because I register early and run games to reduce costs). I'm a student, so I don't have thousands of dollars to spend on games (I barely have hundreds of discretional spending dollars), but I make up for that by putting the time in: I run a game at a convention two or three times a year; I teach a game design/playtesting class at a local high school; I play 15 hours a week, as previously mentioned. Does this make me less than the rich boy who spends $100 a month to stay subscribed to the 5 MMOs he plays once a week, for an hour or two; in addition to the thousands he spent buying the best stuff off ebay (or whatever auction site the games tolerate)? I say no.

You are a gamer if you say you are, and you understand generally what sort of concept the term is talking about. Otherwise you are a person who plays video games. Whether you are a gamer is not something you'd use as a qualifier in this case, but rather to what extent. Ever heard of the No True Scotsman fallacy? Don't commit it.

OK, the No True Scotsman falacy has been logged in the debate. However, the question remains, as gamers, what standard do we wish to hold our members to, in an attempt to sort out posers, wannabes, and the like from the rest of us. To take a case in point: Tatiana, whom I would be reluctant (at best) to introduce her as a friend in a gaming group, except as a boost to my male ego to be a friend of a "beautiful" (she doesn't actually fit my idea of beauty, but that's another discussion) female.

So, perhaps the question I should have asked is "To what standard should we hold the faces of gaming?" and again, my answer is 3 hours a week is not enough.

ZacQuickSilver:

So, perhaps the question I should have asked is "To what standard should we hold the faces of gaming?" and again, my answer is 3 hours a week is not enough.

I dont think you can judge it purely on a basis of time spent playing. I usually dont get to spend even 3 hours a week playing games. If I'm lucky I'll get a few songs of guitar hero in at night and then maybe an hour or two of whatever single player adventure I'm working on over the weekend. Thats if I'm lucky. I'm a busy person and I just dont get much free time.

That said, I have piles of video games (well over 100) in my cupboard spanning across 5 consoles from the last 15 years, most of which have been played through to completion or at least very close. I have a $7000 home theatre that I bought primarily for gaming and I've had a wii pre-ordered for several months purely so that I can lock myself in a room and play zelda constantly over my christmas break.

Would you call me a gamer? I'm gonna say yes. Even though I average maybe 1 - 2 hours a week of gaming? Why not?

Alright, I'm clearly getting a lot of heat (no flames yet: Thank you) about my statements. However, I'm not hearing a lot of counter-thoughts (except Archon's, whose opinion I am working on concidering). And so, I am doing what I always do: challenging all of you to give me new thoughts. My opinion is based on what I have seen: primarily High school and college kids, plus a few adults, who spend fairly little money playing games, but put a lot of time in. I'm clear I'm biased, but I haven't seen anything here to counter my bias, so until I do, I'm sticking by it.

To say all of that again in breif: If you wnat to say I'm wrong, give me something closer to right.

I'll propose a definition, then, since we're looking for a new meaning for "Gamer." A connoisseur of interactive media. One who, with their knowledge of, experience with, and taste for games, can identify their meaningful subtleties, characterize them, and who have an appreciation for inventiveness and novelty in their design (even if this means just the next big thing), whether or not they have the skills needed to imitate the developers.

If we're looking for someone to be the face of gaming, they should be this to some degree and fairly charismatic. Friendly, sociable, not afraid of public speaking, non-ugly, bathes regularly, either knows something about clothing or listens to someone who does.

I think bill pretty much has it there. How one comes to being like this can come in many forms, whether it be from playing many hours a day or from spending a whole pile of money and coming to grips with what was a worthy purchase and what was a complete waste, but I'm sure we all would consider ourselves to "know a bit about games". We are the people that generally know what day a game is coming out, rather than picking it up when we stumble across it in the store. We are the people that purposefully will pay full price for something great or wait for it to be much cheaper when there is nothing else to play.

He is also right about what we should be looking for in a face of gaming. The only problem is that when you get it, your not happy with it.
The hosts on G4 match your description pretty much, but can anyone honestly say they want those guys representing them?

Then you gotta ask yourselves what exactly you want the "face of gaming" to be doing? Reggie and Peter Moore seem to fit the bill reasonably, and they seem to fit into the "face of gaming" role fairly well. Would you prefer corporate spin doctors or teeny bopper tv stars?
Or we could go for someone like Will Wright or Warren Spector. But what exactly would those guys do as anything other than game developers?

My point (that I'm working up to, slowly) is that we are never gonna be completely happy with what we are given as far as public image goes and it really shouldn't matter. So there is a miss video game award and half the chicks aren't really gamers. so what? if they had a Mr video game award you can bet your bottom dollar that half the contestants would be poster boys that just say they play GTA to be part of the "cool crowd".

Enjoy the fact that there are some pretty girls that would still talk to you if you told them you were a gamer and then ignore it in the same way you ignore all the tripe video game awards that pop culture media outlets like to give out.

Wait, so the best way "To make the gaming industry take women gamers seriously and to treat them with respect as equals" is to hold a beauty contest? This is so inane it leaves me speechless. Speaking as a girl gamer I think this whole "women DO game" issue is tired to the point of exhaustion. Yes, we know that women game now, and we can bet that most of these contestants wouldn't know what the word leet (or 133t :)) means.

On the topic of how many hours a week makes you a gamer, I don't think that's fair. Case in point: About 2 years ago I was able to game upwards of 25+ hours a week. My real life commitments were not such that they took much attention, nor time. Now however my real life commitments are significantly increased, and has severely affected my gaming hours. Thus I will go weeks without gaming sometimes. When I get an hour to myself I'm often too tired to play. Does this mean that I'm not a gamer, a serious or hardcore gamer? If so, then that's sad, for the passion for gaming has not left merely the opportunity.

Bongo, I think you've got a definition I can more than just live with. I'll consider it as my working definintion until I think of some effective critique of it.

Goof, you mentioned Will Wright; I think he would be an awesome spokesman for gaming (or at least game design), in the same way that Will Shortz is a puzzle spokesman (he's got his own segment on NPR, he edits the NYT crossword, and is a face a lot of ordanary-ish people can assosiate with puzzles). However, what I'm really looking for in an Einstein-type person, who can, in his or her own way, bring gaming to a respectable, if weird, standing in popular culture (I have no issue with wierdness), preferably in such a way that more females are involved.

Obviously, the whole debate about defining a gamer and finding a respectable spokesman for gaming should be completely separate. Beyond that, I think Myan hits the real important aspect of Fletcher's original post squarely on the head. It's perhaps a little terrifying that everyone chose to ignore the gender implications of said contest, and what it says about gaming culture.

Either way, I agree that Bill's definition provides the best starting point in moving toward a definition of gamer. Like a lot of the previous commentors, my actual free time that I'm able to dedicate toward gaming has diminished over the last two years. That being said, the time I dedicate to reading about games (through boards, blogs and magazines) has drastically increased. The real key, for me, in differentiating a gamer from a non-gamer, is a knowledge of games, and, as Bill says, and understanding of their subtleties.

In a lot of ways, my personal definition is pretty simple. Gamers need to be able to answer one major question: What are your five most recently played games, and why did you choose to play them? The first part of the question isn't really that important, but the complexity and specificity deployed in answering the second part should demonstrate a level of thought beyond simply: "It looked fun," or "The graphics were sweet." There's a lot of folks out there who play hours of Madden or Halo, or other very genre specific games, but I wouldn't necessarily consider them gamers. That might rub some folks the wrong way, but there's a level of engagement that I feel is necessary that time doesn't really account for.

As for finding a spokesman, I think the Will Shortz type person is much better than the Einstein-like character Zac is looking for. In the end, Einstein wasn't really a spokesman for physics (science in general, maybe). He was a celebrity because of his eccentricity and intelligence. I wasn't alive when Einstein was doing his thing, as I would imagine, most of us weren't, so it's hard to say that he brought physics into pop culture as Zac implies an Einstein-like gamer would do for games. Reading interviews with Will Wright, I'm pretty convinced that he already is that guy we all are looking for. (See: his guest editor-ship and cover appearance at Wired). He's engaging, charismatic, interesting, but most importantly, he's intellectual about the pursuit of games. He displays a level of thought that others (especially non-game players) couldn't possibly ignore or marginalize.

So I've already started to ramble, but I just wanted to respond to Myan's comments, because, like her, I was a little perturbed that a group who wishes "To make the gaming industry take women gamers seriously and to treat them with respect as equals" chose to do so by setting up a beauty contest. In all honesty, the only way that the INDUSTRY will take girl gamers seriously is if they (women) let their wallets do their talking. Developers and publishers will go where the money is, and if you take a look at the statistics and bring in all the data about casual gamers, well, I don't think there's any need to do any crass publicity mongering stunts like this. Any executive who tried to imply that girls don't play games, is only hurting his company. There's a market, and from what I've seen, it's being met on some levels and not being met on others. Someone is going to tap into that and make bank, it's just a matter of time. But starting a contest where girl "gamers" take alluring pictures of themselves with their cell-phones and post them to a website isn't exactly going to raise the bar on the discussions about gender identity in gaming.

Sorry, for the excessive length, there's just a lot of good discussion I wanted to chime in on.

Actually I doubt there is a real debate about what constitutes a gamer. Give me a break people, you know one when you see one. And no, playing Tetris on your cellphone does not make you a gamer.

I was never a big fan of pageant type things anyway, so this doesn't endear me anymore. I'm a girl and I play video games. Does that make me a gamer? I like to think so but I'm not going to debate with anyone about it. In addition to considering myself a gamer, I am also a feminist and a contest like this one makes me cringe.

I definitely agree with Bongo's definition but there's always going to be room for debate. A pretty picture does not a gamer make, obviously. I tend to think of gaming as more of a passion than something someone can just "qualify" for by X amount of hours or money spent. It's not a definition but it's a start. I like to consider myself a gamer and my significant other would definitely agree I'm sure. Whether anyone else cares is irrelevant to me, but I know I love lots of games for many reasons and I'm not going to join a contest to make myself feel more like a gamer.

luminousshadow11:
I was never a big fan of pageant type things anyway, so this doesn't endear me anymore. I'm a girl and I play video games. Does that make me a gamer? I like to think so but I'm not going to debate with anyone about it. In addition to considering myself a gamer, I am also a feminist and a contest like this one makes me cringe.

I agree. A gamer is a gamer is a gamer; besides that, a concept like this is rather insulting.

 

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