Lately I’ve been thinking about how celebrities try to create their own identitities and the push-pull created between celebs and fans, celebs and the media, and a number of other actors and groups. And as I start thinking, I realize that vocabulary will be an issue because I am thinking about actors and actresses, but also about actor-network theory, an entirely different definition. Eventually I guess I’ll need to check how others are distiguishing and if new terms have come into use. I am sooooo disconnected at the moment, academically speaking. But for now, I know what I mean.
Here is a short narrative of my deciding to look at this. I find that I can now watch all but the last season on True Blood on one of our streaming services. We had stopped having cable a few years ago, so stopped watching anything on HBO, since until very recently, they stubbornly required a cable subscription. We even more stubbornly refused to get one so… Anway, decided to catch up. Enjoyed it more than I remembered, and started to check other stuff various actors were doing because it’s summer and I finally have time for it. In researching that, I looked at lots of interviews, ComicCon panels, talk show spots, wikipedia entries, Twitter feeds, YouTube clips, fan sites, etc. As I was surveying, I was making mental comparisons to how this media landscape felt compared to the last time I was really engaged, which was at least five years ago.
So that’s all percolating in my head, and I noticed that Alexander Skarsgård is starring in the new Tarzan movie. I will pause here and say that Tarzan, as a character, and his stories, hold a special place in my heart. As a kid, I spent every summer in a rustic cabin in the Maine woods where I read all of Edgar Rice Burroughs books, repeatedly. Those books actually had a huge impact on my own identity formation, and also might be among the first to provoke my analyzing texts. I’ve always been frustrated at how far the movies have wandered from the books, and at how the modern treatments never get much beyond the origin story.
The Legend of Tarzan was released in early July and of course there is a surge of promo activities from the actors, but especially Margot Robbie and Alexander Skarsgård. Watching and reading all these guest spots and interviews, I was struck by many things, but I’ll talk about two here. First, most of the interviews cover a really narrow range of topics and if it became grindingly dull for me reading, I can’t imagine how the actors feel. More on that in another post. Second, attitudes toward celebrities parallel attitudes toward women in some the worst ways imaginable. In particular, many seem to feel that because actors and actresses are paid for a certain kind of public appearance, the audience then owns them. Or maybe better that they owe us. That they owe us attention; they owe us every detail of their lives, no matter how intimate; they owe us always looking attractive according to our standard… I hope the parallels are clear.
Sometimes watching the interviews became really painful; I just wanted to cringe at some of the questions asked by interviewers, or by fans, when they had a chance.
So, to recap: the media and, sadly, fans often act like we are entitled to intimacy, attention, attractiveness and sexuality from actors. The focus on these detracts (I think) from discussions about story, craft, etc. Do we really need to hear more than once how someone bulked up or slimmed down? I don’t think so. Harping on these tired topics is at best lazy, and often feeds into rape culture in the assumption that other people are there only for our pleasure, and that we are entitled to touch them or be somehow intimate whenever we want, rather than when they choose (for example when they perform).
I’ll be getting back to this idea later, after pisting about some other stuff.
I haven’t written a post here in about 3 years. I have thought about writing many times, but any number of things stopped me. Sometimes I was too busy. Sometimes I thought of something I wanted to write, but didn’t have the time or energy to do it justice (I thought). Sometimes, when well-meaning friends told me I was selling myself short or wasting potential by not writing, I would grow angry because I was parenting, trying to keep house, leading a Girl Scout Troop, volunteering at my children’s school… In fact it was all “volunteer” labor, and really, why should I do even more work, for free? I’d rather read, or play an MMO, in what sometimes feels like very scant free time.
However, a few things shifted in the last few months that have inclined me toward writing again. For other reasons, I’m pulling back from troop leadership, which free both time and mental energy. I also cut back on my sunscreen. I was avoiding the sun so carefully that I developed a vitamin D deficiency. Now that I’ve even gotten a little sunburned this spring, I feel amazingly better. I have more energy and my joints aren’t aching.
There have been some other changes, but those are the easiest to make clear in this fledgling post. So maybe I’m back.
The funny thing is, this is fairly close to what I am in real life, but not what I play in RPGs. 🙂
I Am A: Neutral Good Human Sorcerer (6th Level)
Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.
Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.
Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)
As I continued to play Clan Lord last year, I became a regular fixture on hunts arranged by perhaps the strongest player in the game, Mujin Kun. She had been playing almost since the inception, and could usually be found somewhere in the lands for at least eight hours a day, if not more. That devotion and consequent strength allowed her to lead groups into the hardest areas, which in turn allowed both the fighters and healers she brought along to advance quite quickly themselves. The person behind Mujin was able to maintain this intense focus on the game because he worked at business run by his family, in a position that allowed him to play during working hours, on top of the time he took outside of work.
In late August though, we learned that Mujin would be retiring, because her clicker’s family was selling the business, and the clicker behind Mujin would be obliged to find a new job. Since starting his that job, Mujin has rarely appeared, except in off hours, very briefly.
This posed a challenge for those who had hunted with her. Some areas became, if not impossible to visit, at least impossible to visit within the two-hour hunt Mujin ran. Without her strength, group had to move much more slowly. There were several other fighters who had grown strong under Mujin’s command, and if they all came, we could still get to those areas, at least sometimes. Howvever, Mujin’s retirement had a wider impact than just on our hunting group. Because Mujin was in-game so constantly, there were always some fighters and healers around as well. People checking to see who was online, would always find someone, which would make them more inclined to sign in and see about organizing something. Without Mujin, the population will far more often drop to one or two, and that rarely attracts others in to play.
On top of these effects, people miss her. Mujin had blunt sense of humor, was self-serving, but sometimes surprisingly kind. She often took pains to make sure i could join the group, even when my character was tiresomely weak, and she would have to wait and wait as I tried to hit some creature that was so strong, my only hope was mere luck. Her absence has cast a pall over the community, though people don’t often speak of it. No one wants to suggest that her loss may prove fatal, because that can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy, but there is quite worry.
Obviously I did not manage to keep up momentum, since I last wrote in February. The last year proved extraordinarily difficult on the personal front, for a number of reasons I’ll not discuss here.
During that time I was completely unable to write, and barely able to read anything that required even a little mental effort. It was rather strange, because starting in the spring, there were a number of material improvements to my circumstances, and in fact during the summer I did accomplish a certain amount in non-academic areas. However, I discovered some things about my own working habits, in particular, my need for solitude, for any sustained or focused thinking/writing. Unfortunately, solitude has been in very short supply.
My current goal is simply to figure out a workspace that has free wifi and free solitude. That is to say, I can’t afford to rent some additional space. Like never before, Woolf’s talk of the need for a room of one’s own makes sense to me.
In the mean time, I have a few posts that having buzzing around my brain for awhile, and I’ll try to wrestle them onto the screen.
Have read and commented on one book, I’ve tried to keep going in spite of discovering that parenting full time really is a full time job. I’m reading Synthetic Worlds by Castronova. So far quite interesting, and again I find reading work by another gamer really influences my reception in interesting ways. More on that eventually. 😛
I have also been trying to maintain my participation in ClanLord, for a number of reasons. I love playing, so that’s one. Of course it’s research, so that’s another. But perhaps what motivates me most is realizing that I’ve come to have an important role in the community as someone who sometimes formally organizes hunts, but also tends to provoke more spontaneous hunts as well. In a community as small as Clan Lords, this is important. My being online sometimes means one or two or even for more people are on to hunt, and once on they may get drown into subsequent hunts and start forming friendships with people they don’t normally join. During times when I’ve been unable to hunt much because of commitments “OOC” –out of character– I sometimes have noticed a drop in the population of more than just my own absence. I see this when other regular players are away as well.
Some players seem to act as nodes around which hunts arise. I hadn’t planned to become one of these, but I’m not entirely surprised. I am often the one that ends up organizing a coffee hour or some other regular set of meetings for people who share some interest or other. This has got me thinking about the role each player has in the community. Because the community is small, these are usually quite distinctive roles, as players become established, stronger, and better known by everyone else.
So I’m thinking about that as I read everything else, to see what others make of that aspect as they discuss MMO culture.
While there are quite a few books in the game studies field now, many are highly theoretical, considering whether games can be read as literature, how online games fit into network theory, what games say about human cultures, etc. There are fewer people writing about games from the perspective of an active and experienced gamer, and focusing on the games themselves. –I know this might provoke some to say what about X, Y, and Z?
I’ve read Bonnie Nardi’s excellent book on playing WoW and will likely review it here. I’ve also seen research by Tanja Sihvonen that covered her experience with the Sims and other games. If there are other similar pieces out there, please tell me!
Anyway, Tresca analyzes role-playing games into 8 types and devotes a chapter to exploring the history or each, as well as looking at how they compare in terms of:
I found this way of organizing the chapters really helpful, because it allows not only for easy comparison between game types, but also let’s me think about the games I know and consider how they would fit into this grid. For example, in Clan Lord characters face fairly high risk from wandering creatures when out hunting; the spawns in each area vary far more than they seem to in other games. But, CL has no PvP, so you need never worry about pickpockets or player-killers. So it can be high risk, but I think less stressful. 🙂
Tresca also shares his own experiences with various games to illustrate his discussion. While some might argue that including individual experience invites criticism that it’s analysis based on anecdote, I found it quite helpful. Reading these experiences gave me a much clearer idea of the kind of player Tresca is and the kinds of games he prefers and so on. That knowledge makes his analysis easier for me to interpret. Knowing his extensive background also strengthens his authority, so that if he says something is frustrating, I know he is no newbie gamer getting hung up on something we all deal with, but critiquing something that many players might find tiresome.
If you are interested in Game Studies, or are a fan of role-playing games, I recommend this book. It provides a valuable comparison of game types and games, and is an interesting read besides.
I finally feel like reading and writing again. After the stresses of last year, I was seriously burnt out, and ever since have shied away from my research, at least from reading and writing. I’ve been very absorbed in Clan Lord and some other games, and that’s not without benefit (researchwise) but I was feeling a bit worried about my lack of motivation toward academic production.
Happily, the game studies books I got for Christmas motivated me to read and that is motivating me to write. I do feel that my perspective is much richer now that I’ve been playing CL for almost two years. Plus my character has become pretty well-respected, which certainly helps my research as well, when it comes to interviewing other players. And my kids have started playing–2 girls aged 8 and 8.5. They are really enjoying themselves, and other players are spoiling them rotten sometimes. 🙂 I find playing with them fun, but also frustrating, because they still don’t really listen very well! But I look forward to how it will all develop.
Now… more reading.