Some comments: Fantasy Armor and Lady Bits etc

In my last post (I am no warrior . . .) I wrote about my observations of on-line role-playing games. One reader, Skadhu from Microfishing In The World Pool, had some interesting comments in response to what I said. Here is an edited version of that response.

I had made the comment that “I think there is a huge danger in spending too much time in a virtual world, and not paying attention to what is going on in the real one. Maybe in moderation gaming can be a form of escapism, but I wonder whether the aggressive/violent nature of these games is making us (the usually gentle souls) more aggressive in real life?” to which Skadhu responds:

First, the critique of virtual worlds as escapist is valid BUT applies to just about everything else people do as well. People escape into books instead of paying attention to what’s going on around them. Or stamp collecting. Or whatever. Lots of people who don’t play video games and for that matter aren’t obsessive about any activities manage to ignore things they don’t want to think about. I don’t think the issue should be framed as a problem with video games, but as a problem with finding balance in one’s life, whether it’s balance between fantasy and reality, or a balance between serious and fun, or a balance between your favourite activity and everything else.

Also, there are lots of story-based games that don’t involve gore and killing. One of the earliest and most well-known is the “Myst” series, which is essentially incredibly complex puzzles strung together with an intriguing storyline and beautiful graphics. I also just read today about one called “Portal” which I thought sounded interesting:

A couple of games I would recommend (click on links to go to site):

Machinarium: the makers, Amanita Designs, have some games you can play on-line through their website to get a taste for their approach.

Sword and Sworcery: there is some whacking of wolves/monsters in this, but it’s definitely not gory—and it’s quirky, very different from other games I’ve seen.

An image taken from the game Machinarium. Check out the cat at the bottom of the image! Image source: Wallpaper from

Skadhu also addressed my observation re: the skimpy outfits that the female characters in these games wear (see point #1 of I am no warrior . . .), posting:

Thank you to Skadhu for allowing me to post this edited version of their comment.

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14 Comments on “Some comments: Fantasy Armor and Lady Bits etc”

  1. February 7, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    I think she’s so spot on- whenever something takes over one’s life, no matter what it is, to the exclusion of all “normal” social interactions, it needs to be investigated. Nice balance.

    • February 7, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

      Yes, I also thought it was a very good comment. I actually hadn’t thought of it in those terms.

  2. February 7, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    This is so interesting, especially as the debate seems to be happening in a somewhat unusual place! I suddenly realise that most of the blogs I follow are written by women, and while I’m sure that loads of us do play computer games we’re SO GOOD with the balance thing that it hardly ever gets mentioned.
    For my penny’s worth I can fully recommend Machinarium too, it’s a very special little game and just perfect for people who don’t wish to escape into a world of fighting and explosions.
    Also definitely worth a look if you can handle the gore is Bioshock, a first person shooter praised for its storyline and atmosphere: “It has been noted that the combination of the game’s elements “straddles so many entertainment art forms so expertly that it’s the best demonstration yet how flexible this medium can be. It’s no longer just another shooter wrapped up in a pretty game engine, but a story that exists and unfolds inside the most convincing and elaborate and artistic game world ever conceived.”” (from
    The idea of games becoming bigger than film is an interesting one, as interactive media can be so much more immersive and of course they don’t all have to look like something a 16-year-old boy dreamed up. I very much agree with Skadhu that the issue with escapism is bigger than playing too much computer game, and surely we all need to escape sometimes. My brothers used to bang a tennis ball hard against the garage door when they needed to let off steam, now they destroy a monster. I’m not sure that our propensity for violence changes, on the whole.
    Thanks also to Skadhu for the Sword & Sorcery heads up, it certainly looks enticing and I’m definitely going to investigate further!

    • February 7, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

      I am quite surprised by which readers have commented on these “games posts” . . . Interesting that you find Machinarium good too. Or maybe not – think you and Skadhu are both artists?

      I’ve been playing computer games for all of 4 weeks now, and although I have learned a lot (and don’t get killed quite as often!), it still doesn’t really relax me like being outdoors in nature does. Which is probably also what fishing or participating in sports is all about too.

      Will have to check out BioShock.

  3. February 7, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    Skadhu couldn’t be more accurate. We all escape, and we are all inclined to exploit our favorite forms of escapism.

    • February 7, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

      Hi Kathy! I’d guess one of your favourite forms of escapism is your artwork? Can imagine when you’re busy being creative, you get completely absorbed in what you’re doing.

  4. February 7, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    I thought of more to add to this discussion….

    First, yes, I’m an illustrator and graphic designer, so some of my appreciation for games (especially beautiful ones like Machinarium) relates to how they are executed visually. And in response to one of your comments, Lisa, I personally am certainly as absorbed when I do art as when I play games!

    I think that one thing that often gets overlooked in gaming is the level of creativity involved on the part of players. Games harness this in different ways. Sometimes it’s just strategy—how do I kill this opponent? But often it’s more complicated, and as games get more sophisticated the creative aspects are developing more as well. Players can create things and interact with both the game and each other in more and more interesting ways.

    For example, I mentioned in my original comment that I spent a lot of time in Second Life. This is really a platform rather than a game; you enter with an avatar and can explore the world and meet other people who are also exploring, so it’s a very social environment. The software also provides building and scripting tools, which you can use to create your own environment—anything you can imagine—and if you “own land” there (i.e. rent server space) whatever you have created and displayed is persistant and is there for others to explore whether you are online or not. For me, the ability to give imagination form is the most compelling thing about SL.

    One of the things that I used to do in SL was play fantasy Lord of the Rings-style Role-Playing Games. These were entirely created by the players: a group of “Admin” would develop storylines and provide props and set up “events” relevant to the storyline. The players would develop characters and interact based on the personalities of the characters, which would be set according to traditional role-playing guidelines. Essentially it came down to being themed improv theatre—there was an overall structure provided by the storyline, but you never knew exactly what invididual players were going to do (and if they did something unexpected, you’d have to adjust). I loved the creativity of this, and the give and take of the interactions between good players.

    The RP was high-fantasy themed, so there was a lot of fighting with swords and bows and arrows and so on, using scripted weapons that registered hits and damage. Which brings me to the last thing: violence. I specifically didn’t comment on this originally, as it’s more contentious than some other issues. There are lots of concerns about violence in gaming. I don’t know what research shows about this—I suspect some shows that it increases real-world violence, and some shows that there is no effect at all. I can only speak from my own experience.

    No matter what game I’ve been playing, I’ve never had any confusion as to what was game and what was reality. I’ve always been aware of being in a game, and separating that from real life.

    When killing monsters in Diablo, my goal is to get from here to there and meet this objective, the problem that needs to be solved is removing the things that stop me from doing so, ithe strategy is how to get there. The whole thing in my mind is very clearly task-based and I don’t think about the actions as violence, any more than I do when playing one of those games where you have to click on objects to make them disappear as quickly as possible.

    Similarly, when role-playing in SL, no matter how in character I was, I always felt that when manipulating my avatar and speaking through it I was directing an actor. The fights were staged, not real violence.

    I don’t think that anything in playing violent games has affected my real-world behaviour. They are very separate things and I think about them very differently.

    And I think that’s the key, just as it is when you worry about games being dangerous because they’re escapist and people get obsessed with them. Yes, it can happen. But I think most players have a very clear distinction between fantasy and reality, and I doubt there’s much spillover. It’s when the balance is off that there can be problems.

    • February 8, 2012 at 7:35 am #

      Another very interesting comment! I should have asked whether you wanted to do a guest post on the subject of computer games and fantasy versus reality. Maybe you would still like to . . . using this comment? I’m not sure how many people go back to read the post comments.

      Thanks for answering Jackie’s comment – feel free to do so if there are more comments on this post. It’s essentially yours. 🙂

  5. Jackie Cangro
    February 7, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

    Great points, Skadhu! We can run away from reality using many different methods. We shouldn’t point to gaming as the only source.
    And thank you for pointing out that there are games without violence. The Machinarium screen shot is beautiful. That might be one that even a non-gamer like myself would be willing to try.

  6. February 8, 2012 at 12:12 am #

    Jackie, Machinarium is essentially a series of puzzles that you have to solve in order to get from one scene to the next, linked together by a storyline. It requires good problem solving skills—first you have to figure out what the problem is, look around, interact with things, collect things, put things together and use them in different ways… Lots of fun.

  7. February 8, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    i’ll wager that books educate more than virtual reality games. to make use of a book one must know how to read…understand language – which is a sign of intelligence, and one that is diminished sharply by these games. continue…

    • February 8, 2012 at 8:22 am #

      Hi Tony! I do get your point. Not being a “real” gamer myself, I also think kids should spend more time reading instead of playing computer games. Having said that, I personally know two young guys who grew up playing a lot of games, who are doing extremely well academically and have good social skills. So it probably depends on the individual and whether they lead a well-rounded life i.e. also playing sports, reading and socializing in the real world.

      I also understand Skadhu’s point about the level of creativity in some of these computer games, and how they inspire creativity and thought in the players. The better games (i.e. those that do not involve just going out and “killing” things) do have something to offer.

  8. February 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    I do have a comment on the comparison of books to games (reading is my favourite pastime) but will have to respond later… off to catch a ferry.

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