Beta Public

Beta PublicOn Friday the fairy lights and armchairs of the Camden People’s Theatre in London played host to my friend Alice O’Connor, our vodka/blackcurrant potion mixed in a tonic water bottle, and me for an event called Beta Public.

We were also accompanied by a host of creative people, in person and not. It was a pleasure to be asked by Pat Ashe to read something I’d written, project Sacrilege on the wall, and listen to the talks.

In particular, Alice’s knowledge of readme.txt files is always enchanting, and she gave a tour of some of her favourite mods that feature women – some slightly sexist, some not so much. The games of Christine Love, Anna Anthropy, Mattie Brice and The Fullbright Company (in the guise of recently released game Gone Home) were playable in other spaces in the theatre. People quietly played games alongside glasses of wine, playing through some of the most interesting feminist works games have produced recently.

But the performance that stuck in mind was Lucy Hutson’s. Lucy gently coaxed us through the stifling gender constraints of virtual worlds. Having a preconception of our virtual gaming worlds as being more freeing, perhaps more understanding, or even more malleable than our meatspace, Lucy described disappointment at Second Life’s determination to put avatars in a defined genderbox. You have to choose a predefined ‘male’ or ‘female’ avatar; even on an island Lucy found was supposed to be for ‘transsexuals’ (according to the somewhat problematic label), no one was to be found there, although there were tshirts your avatar could take – but only for male or female character models. Lucy signed up for and found that the picture where Lucy wore facial hair meant that the profile was flagged for removal because it wasn’t being ‘truthful’. When Lucy complained it was reinstated. However, the most understanding online world, bizarrely, that Lucy found, was on Grindr. After Lucy explaining about being a trans man, three men asked Lucy for hookups. Grindr, it turns out, is more understanding of gender issues than Second Life – Second Life, a place where we’re all meant to live out a virtual life we never get to have in reality.

I feel… frustrated about that, on behalf of videogames. We aren’t really doing enough to cater to everyone.

After Beta Public we went to the pub and new London resident and maker of Super Hexagon Terry Cavanagh passed me his phone and said ‘Twitter Roulette!’. I promptly almost ended his career. I’m really sorry Terry. If it’s any consolation I was very drunk, although apparently not too drunk to be convincing.

Castles In The Sky is a story book game I wrote about on Rock Paper Shotgun. I can’t say enough to praise it.

Me and Elizabeth made a Halloween comic about Umbrella Corp.

I am documenting my first playthrough of Half-Life for Rock Paper Shotgun. (I made terrible videos. Here is one of them.)

I also did a Typing of the Dead: Overkill review, where I feel bad for Tarantino, but somehow manage to open with a ‘The Year Of Luigi’ reference.

Until Super Septagon is announced, I’m in hiding.