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FOSTA-SESTA

Content warning: mentions/links to data on sex trafficking, and murders of women & sex workers.

I know this site gets zero traffic, but regardless I regret that I didn’t take the energy to write about FOSTA-SESTA before FOSTA passed. FOSTA-SESTA is anti-sex-worker legislature posing as anti-trafficking legislature. It’s a bipartisan pile of shit, and the party split among the two dissenting votes in the FOSTA passage was also bipartisan. Since the passage of FOSTA, Craiglist has shut down all personals1, reddit has shut down a number of subreddits, and today Backpage was seized. I would implore anyone who gives a shit about sex workers and/or the open internet to follow Melissa Gira Grant on Twitter.

If you don’t support sex workers, frankly I don’t want you reading my blog. But if you’re here anyway, it’s worth pointing out that the absurdity laid out by FOSTA is a threat to the open web at large, which almost certainly explains why Facebook supported it. It’s not just sex workers who oppose this thing, NearlyFreeSpeech.net, the host I use for all of my sites, had a pointed and clear blog post outlining how frightening it is.

Obviously, it’s worth listening to sex workers on this matter, which nobody did. But it’s also worth listening to law enforcement, the folks who are actually trying to prevent trafficking. And, who would have guessed, law enforcement actually works with sites like Craigslist and Backpage to crack down on the truly villainous aspects of the sex trade. Idaho, just last month, for instance. Meanwhile, having outlets where sex workers can openly communicate and vet their clients saves their lives — when Craiglist opened its erotic services section, female homicide dropped by over 17 percent. That is to say that so many sex workers are routinely murdered, that helping them vet clients significantly reduces the overall female homicide rate.

This whole thing is misguided and cruel2, and I don’t really know what to do about it at this point. But listening to people who are closely following the impacts is a start. It’s a death sentence for sex workers, and a death sentence for the open web, and anyone who cares about either needs to keep abreast of the impact as it unfolds.


As Queen, I keep dying

This post might contain spoilers for the games Reigns and/or Reigns: Her Majesty.

Reigns was a game that really kind of blew my mind when it came out. I guess the idea was to sort of frame a narrative around Tinder-esque interactions, which I didn’t really grasp (Tinder seems like the polar opposite of how I wish to find a mate). To me it was just this story, played over a whole bunch of games (some of which you had to fail), each game potentially affecting future games, and all handled via this incredibly simple decision tree mechanic. For the most part, you have two decisions at any given time (swipe left or right, that’s the Tinder-y bit). It was an oddly engaging game.

Now, in Reigns, you played as a king. So if they were to make a sequel, it would only be fitting that you would play as a queen. This is Reigns: Her Majesty. I don’t really make a habit of reviewing mobile games1 on this blog, but Her Majesty is fucking phenomenal. I don’t know if Leigh Alexander was involved in the first game, but she definitely has a writing credit on this one, and it shows. Reigns was clever, but Her Majesty is ridiculously tight, smart, and progressive.

Part of my draw to the game is likely bias — you play as a woman, a woman who I deeply respect wrote the thing, and the entire game just oozes with femininity and feminism. This has always been a sticking point for me, I will become far more invested in a game where I can play as a woman vs. one where I’m stuck as a man. That’s not necessarily a knock on any given game (or unwarranted praise on any other given game), it’s just my bias. But, trying to look past that bias, this Queen’s world undeniably gives Her Majesty far more depth than its predecessor.

If you never played the first game, it’s worth briefly describing what swiping left or right accomplishes. For any given scenario, swiping either direction may raise or lower one or more of your piety, popular favor, might, or financial2 stats. If any given stat maxes out or reaches zero, you die. This is the same in Her Majesty, but there’s a much bigger struggle (at least, how I’ve played it) with the church. Part of this is that a major aspect of the plot involves astrology and the occult, and diving into that essentially requires you to defy the church. Part of it is that you’re constantly given the opportunity to flirt with all the other women in the game and I mean, how could you not!? Oh, and occasionally the Cardinal asks you to conceal your pendulous melons (or something), which… no, I dress how I want.

And this is why I think the feminine aspect really gives the game depth. Personally, I find it hard to play in a way that defies my feminist sensibilities (and, in fact, a random owl occasionally pops up to tell you how feminist you are or situate you in various fandoms3), but this is often detrimental to my score – you are, after all, ‘just’ the Queen, and in a sense must maintain your place. But beyond my personal hangups, this still adds a great depth to the game. Choices aren’t as clear-cut, and your level of control isn’t always what it seems. Layer the whole astrological woman magic icing on top, and it’s an even more impossibly complex swipe-left-or-right game than Reigns.

This complexity and my desire to be an empowered Queen means that I have been losing very quickly, very often. Which might be grating in a lesser game, but somehow losing Her Majesty usually feels pretty damned virtuous.


Discoveries

‘Timeline’ is a game that I’ve been pushing to non-gamers lately. The premise is very simple – everyone has a (public) hand of several historical events, inventions, artistic creations, discoveries, etc.; anything notable and dated. The flip-side of every card has the corresponding date. One event starts the timeline date-side up. Players must then choose one of their cards and make an educated (or not, I suppose) guess as to where it goes in the timeline relative to the other events. Place it, flip it, leave it in place if correct or pull a new card if not. Gameplay is simple, fast, and almost educational. There are a whole bunch of sets, and they can be freely mixed-and-matched.

One of these sets is ‘Science and Discoveries’. Something always felt a little off about this set, and the last time I played it, I think I figured it out. There are 110 cards in a given set, and I have (to the best of my ability) narrowed this one down to a handful of categories:

I had to make a few executive decisions so that I could neatly categorize things, and if I did this categorical exercise again right now, everything would likely be give or take a couple cards. But the heart of the matter is that the creators (rightfully) marked 22% of the cards as having been discovered (by Europeans). If my categorization is even remotely accurate, that’s 40% of the physical/corporeal ‘discovery’ cards.

Now, that ‘rightfully’ up there is important – I am glad that Asmodee opted to point out that these peoples and places were only ‘discovered’ in a very surface manner – the pygmies already knew that the pygmies existed. And this isn’t a very deep thought, hopefully it’s immediately obvious to any given American or European that their history textbooks are written with a bias and to a purpose. But I guess what fascinated me were those percentages.

This is by no means representative of a history textbook, nor the average person’s understanding of history. But I can’t imagine it’s terribly far off, either. Coming from a colonialist sort of viewpoint, a lot of our ‘big moments in history’ come from finding this or that ‘savage’ population and treating them not as humankind, but as a scientific subject. And here we have a truly trivial history game telling us that >20% of the notable achievements the creators could come up with are, in fact, just stuff we’ve decided we can claim as having discovered. Despite either it (for lack of a better phrasing) having discovered itself, or other (‘lesser’) civilizations having beaten us to the punch. I suppose there is far more important stuff to worry about right now, even in the context of colonialism, but I still find it to be an intriguing glimpse into our historical ownership.


Breaking Binaries (external)

Wonderfully written article about intersectionality catching up with feminism, particularly in the world of classical composition. What’s interesting to me is that that’s sort of the surface narrative here, but it’s really about marginalized groups trying so hard to get their voices heard, their tiny slices of power, that they forget other marginalized groups that are fighting alongside them. It’s kind of a refreshing article, as it’s not about TERFs or any sort of intentional exclusion necessarily… More the collateral damage of little wins, the ease in which we get caught up in them.

Site is behind some kind of paywall or something, so hopefully the reader hasn’t read two articles on ‘Van’ before. Not sure if that is in a month, or a year, or ever… pretty unclear. Just block cookies, I guess.


This is not crazy

Content warning: ableism.

A lot of inexplicable, or at least difficult-to-comprehend things have been happening in the world lately. My various social circles are comprised of folks in various states of befuddlement lately, and the news does not cease to surprise and disgust. Things are so far beyond reason, so infuriating, so mystifying that it can be hard to expound upon the resultant emotions and articulate them cleanly. Often, things feel nothing short of crazy, like the world has lost all sanity.

There’s a problem with this. When I was younger, it was trendy to describe the inexplicable and foolish as (apologies) retarded. Even without judging rationality or logic, the word was a simple stand-in for basic denigration. Some time around high school, it would become clear to us what we were actually saying, what the implications were. Then we had a decision to make – do we live with those implications out of some lazy dedication to our extant lexicon, or do we grow and find better and less actively harmful ways to express ourselves? Can we find the empathy to recognize how dehumanizing it is to use our differences as terms of denigration.


The Lazy He

While searching through the rule book for ‘Raptor’ (an admittedly great game by everyone’s favorite Brunos) for a bit of errata this weekend, I came across a grossly irritating footnote early on:

Note: throughout this document male pronouns are used for the sake of simplicity and readability. It should be clearly understood that in each instance, we mean to include female players as well.

This is bullshit on so many levels. The most inclusive choice would, of course, be to use the singular they. The most sorry-gaming-is-horribly-patriarchal choice would be to use female pronouns throughout1. And while I hate enforcing the gender binary, the most ‘readable’ choice would be to use male pronouns for Player A and female for Player B or vice versa. ‘Raptor’ is exclusively a two-player game, so all of the included examples rightfully include two players. Switching between two people with a shared set of pronouns is far less readable than unique pronouns for either. Ambiguity is always a potential pitfall of pronoun usage, easily avoidable when you’re dealing with two purely hypothetical humans.

Failing all of the above, however, I’d almost prefer they just used male pronouns throughout and cut out the nonsensical and condescending footnote. The footnote reads as though ‘some woman complained that we did this once and rather than adapt we’re just going to make up a bunch of excuses.’ Whose ‘simplicity’ is this for the sake of? The reader’s? Are we to assume that they are so caught up in the masculine gamer trope that a single female pronoun would cause their brains to shut down, eternally paralyzing them, rulebook still in hand? Or is it for the sake of simplicity on the part of the writers and editors, so lazy and consumed by male hegemony that they can’t even bother to do a find-and-replace on their masculine-as-default pronouns? The message put forward by the footnote is a brutally honest display of privilege: ‘we know we should be more inclusive, but we think it’s simpler not to.’ The footnote does not read as a statement of inclusiveness, rather an outright denial of it and a mockery of the very idea.