Wednesday, May 20, 2015

In Defense of the Male Sex and Tower Defense

There's something about meat, fire, stone, stick, bales of hay, the wails of babes and... tower defense games.  Here's a piece I wrote about masculinity / fatherhood and TDs for Jason Louv's Ultraculture back in 2012 ( [Go read all the Ultraculture -- plenty good stuff there, including much on VR and gaming that led to Louv's other blog, YouRift.  YouRift isn't just about gaming, but there's some overlap, and lots of good thinking on virtual reality.]

Anyway, about sex and fire and tower defense, my wife knew what was up:

I was protecting virtual landscapes as a proxy for (and supplement to) the defense of my own little plot in suburban NoTex.  Building and managing archer’s nests? Nope, couldn’t get away with that on top of my own home. Stationing brigands at the corner of the street? I had neither the money to employ any, nor the necessary permits from the city to allow any garrisons on public sidewalks.

Our home was not impervious, but I made small changes to increase its defenses. I got better window locks, bought two new Mag-Instruments and stashed them tactically, had pepper spray and baseball bats and blades at hand. The back and front gates were stubborn, and I stubbornly left them that way. Leaf piles on the walk and beneath windows? A footfall is magnified by the crunch. Of course there was a deadly weapon, but it would be ungentlemanly and unwise to share its nature publicly. So my keep was defensible.

I now take it as a given that I started down the Tower Defense road for psychological reasons.  A young father, looking as I was to shore up my keep and signify 'do not enter' instead of 'welcome' to protect my young wife and our issuance, ran a sort of split-screen reality in which the real defenses and the virtual defense games fueled each others growth.  This lasted some years, and I think it did some actual psychological good; I'm not paranoid about RL intrusions, but I feel ready for emergencies of various kinds.  I'm not addicted to VR or online defense or strategy games, but my (many) hours of playing them has given me some new tools.  It may be that I allocate mental resources differently, decide on what counts as 'emergency' more efficiently, or value the growth that comes from compounding small bits of capital more that I did before -- and if that's all I've gained, well, that's plenty enough for me.

For good work on gender, gaming, and online dynamics, read danah boyd.

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