Telling Stories

It should come as no surprise to most of the people who know me that I *adore* stories. Stories of all shapes and sizes and styles. Books, legends, commercials, sportscasts, excuses, smiles – stories are everywhere. And *how* they are told *makes* the story. The same tale can change to a thousand different tales when retold in different ways.

I love listening to storytellers. As much as I like listening to personal stories, though, I often find it far more interesting to listen to someone tell a story that is not from their own experience because the stories chosen and how they are told can tell you so much more about the type of person they are. Stories are magic windows into the world around us and they let us see both beyond and inside of ourselves.

My husband would tell you that I collect books, but I don’t think of it that way. I think that I collect stories and some of them just happen to be in book form.

I wanted to share this Ted Talk because I think it does a great job of talking about the magic of stories and the importance of telling and listening to stories beyond our own experiences.

Geek Girls and the Pillar Effect

This is something that I wrote on Google+ in response to this article and I felt it was worth reproducing here.

Geeks are a somewhat insulated community and while they often trot out the “I’ve been persecuted” thing (and it’s often something very real that they’ve experienced elsewhere), it’s not something they are generally dealing with inside of that insulated community.

Geeks may have been picked on in high school, looked at funny or laughed at in college, etc., but when they are together as geeks they can appreciate each other’s geekiness and generally don’t pick on each other for it. Walk around GenCon and you’ll see that for the most part, even strangers are sharing their love of whatever game or anime or science fiction series with each other, not laughing at each other for those very things.

Female geeks, however, are not afforded that same respect. They get treated like they don’t understand the most basic of things, like they couldn’t possibly appreciate the awesomeness or complexities of whatever it is they are passionate about and, often, like what they like is “cute” or somehow lesser than what “real” geeks like. Even when it isn’t so explicit, there is a distinct feeling of being a second-class citizen within the community.

Female geeks often experience the very kinds of prejudice and outsiderness inside the community that the geek community so reviles when someone outside the community does it to one of them.

How is the pillar effect that girl geeks experience substantially different than when the popular crowd is nice to the nerd in high school in order to get homework help, but never really invites him to the parties or lets him sit at their lunch table?

Update: Gen Con Wants Designs for SPA Icon!

Gen Con sent out a newsletter today that announced a contest asking for new icon designs for the SPA program! From the newsletter:

Gen Con is looking for an icon to represent its “SPA-Activities for the Better Half” program for 2011 and beyond. SPA stands for SPousal Activities and is dedicated to the “gamer widow” or “widower”. It is open to all gamers and non-gamers alike.

Submissions will be accepted starting May 24th with voting taking place onsite at Gen Con Indy. The winner will be announced after the show! Details and information about the contest can be found on our community site in the download section.

It doesn’t sound like we’ll have a new icon for this year’s convention, but they clearly heard the complaints and decided to do something about it for the future. Now hopefully some of the fantastic graphic designers and creative members of our community can come up with some good submissions! The “details and information” is in the form of a downloadable zip file and can be found in the SPA section of the Gen Con website.

WOTC Comes Out with D&D for Kids!

I have trouble with the idea that gaming is “growing up”, but it does seem like it was easier to get into it as a kid in years past than it is now. Whether that’s because rules have gotten more complicated (arguably they’ve generally gotten less complicated, if you ask me) or because companies are a lot less shy now than they used to be about including adult themes or something altogether different, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, every year I seem to encounter more and more parents at gaming conventions asking how to introduce their kids to gaming and the kids who I meet who do play seem to have trouble finding others to play with.

A few years back Wizards of the Coast hosted a session at GenCon that basically centered around asking a group of people what they thought would be good products to facilitate kid gamers – both new ones and players who already liked the activity and just needed more to work with. They got a variety of answers ranging from requests for games aimed at younger players to more modules that could be run easily for younger kids to products that took stories and worlds kids already knew and liked and brought them to the gaming table. It was a fantastic session full of great ideas. My favorite was actually the request for games and products that kids who can’t read could use (even if they require some help or a GM who can read) – which could be either younger kids or kids with disabilities or even just kids who are slow to learn to read and need a way to play that isn’t adding that extra stressor.

Wizards of the Coast didn’t do much with those ideas for a while, but they clearly didn’t forget the idea of making games for kids. They’ve had a publishing imprint that focuses on fiction for kids and teenagers for a few years now and it’s chock full of great material that could be used for gaming hooks. They even have a set of guide-like books that draw from the monster manuals and draconomicon to provide what are essentially kid-friendly field guides to the various monsters from Dungeons and Dragons. It should be obvious how this is an easy way to draw kids into the world and potentially into gaming – if they find those monsters and stories about the heroes that fight them so fascinating, maybe they’d like to try it themselves!

They finally came out with an actual honest-to-goodness gaming product for kids based on Dungeons and Dragons and on one of the fiction books from the Mirrorstone imprint. It’s a full-fledged adventure with a simplified version of fourth edition rules that’s designed for kids six and up. And best of all? It’s free. You can go to their website and download the whole thing as a PDF and be playing within minutes if you want.

So now what? Well, one adventure is awesome, but hopefully they’ll make more than that! Now that they have their simplified rules system figured out, hopefully they’ll continue to come out with adventures using it aimed at kid players. It would make a fantastic monthly feature on the website. I wouldn’t even object if they decided to actually physically publish some (perhaps a book of short adventures or a “create your own adventure” kit) and actually charged money for it, as long as the cost was reasonable. Kid players want more content just as much as adult players do and not all GMs are good at creating their own. What’s the good of getting a group of kids excited and hooked after one great adventure and then having to tell them there isn’t any more? So here’s hoping WOTC realizes this is a great opportunity to grow new and future customers and that they put some manpower and effort into producing products to service those customers now!

SPA Should Not Mean Prisoners

I’m a gamer and I’m a woman. I’m married to a gamer, too, but I’ve been gaming since long before I met my husband and got into pen and paper games playing D&D with other girls in elementary school. I’ve been going to Gen Con since, I believe, my junior or senior year in high school (1999/2000). I know a lot of other gamers. Some of their significant others game and some of them don’t. Some of those significant others are women and some are men, but there’s not actually much pattern to their gamer-ness or not. It’s a varied bunch. I enjoy Gen Con and a lot of my friends attend and enjoy it too. It’s a fun convention full of all kinds of gaming and entertainment.

But it isn’t always very friendly to women. It’s gotten dramatically better over the years. I felt out of place as a woman going ten years ago, so I can only imagine what it felt like when my friend’s mom was going thirty years ago. But every year there are more women and as more women come, the feeling of being out of place is reduced.

I was beyond thrilled a few years ago when Gen Con introduced “Activities for the Better Half” – non-gaming events aimed specifically at non-gaming significant others who came along with gamers and wanted something more amusing than walking the dealer hall for four days. The events offered vary widely and are generally a great addition to the convention. I’d love to see more of those events that are a little less specifically geared to women, since there are non-gamer guys too, but it is somewhat limited by what people want to run.

The major problem with this program is the icon used to represent it. This logo appears in the convention booklet and on the website both with the description of the program in general and with the description for each and every single event that is part of the program. It’s been the same logo since the program’s inception in 2006. You can see it portrayed above – it’s a green square (all of the icons are square) with a prison ball and chain image. I’ve hated this image from the beginning. Like a friend of mine, I complained to convention staff early on, but I was told that no one at the convention could do anything about it or even address the issue – that it was handled somewhere else by a staff that didn’t even attend the convention. I have no idea if that’s true or not and, honestly, it doesn’t matter. What prompted me to write about it now was this open letter to Gen Con about the issue and their response.

There are several problems here, but before we get to the image itself, I want to look a little at what Gen Con said in response to concern about it being raised.

Thank you all for your comments. Let’s go over some facts to set the record straight as some incorrect assumptions are being made here. Hopefully these facts will shed some light on this topic.
• Gen Con’s majority shareholders are women.
• Gen Con’s CEO is a woman and the staff is primarily made up of women.
• I picked the icon. I consider myself an independent, liberal minded woman. I picked it not because I thought it represented who or what I was or as a reflection on women, but because I thought it funny and I liked the irony. Yes it might be base, I’ll give you that, but I’m getting off point.
• The SPA icon has been around since the program began four years ago – it is not a new icon.
• Now in its fifth year, the SPA program has grown exponentially and boasts over 90 events in its offerings for 2010. Not all events are knitting or scrapbooking. The program also includes such events as wine and beer tasting, walking tours, chainmaile classes, Pilates, Irish Dancing, yoga, etc.
• SPA events are very popular with all types of people, gamers, gamer widows and widowers. A lot of the events sell-out.
• Events at Gen Con are submitted by fans for fans. While Gen Con hosts and sponsors some events, the majority are run by you. If you don’t like the offerings don’t go to that event, if you want to see something specific, host an event yourself! Simple as that.
I respect that we all have opinions, believe me I know I do … I find it ironic that the author of the open letter has his website sponsored by But I digress. I wonder if such passionate responses on such a non-starter issue might be better served on issues that really matter to women such as domestic violence, health, slavery, prostitution, the list goes on sadly.
Vanir you mentioned you were a karate instructor; it would be wonderful to have a beginning/intro to Karate class to include as part of the programming at this year’s show, SPA or otherwise. Since I’m the director of events at Gen Con you’ve come to the right spot, let me know!
Thank you all for your opinions and for calling attention to a wonderful program that Gen Con is proud to support. The process for picking the icon was not an arbitrary one; thought was put into it. It’s hard to pick one “icon” for such a diverse group of people and event types and to find one that wouldn’t be misconstrued as something else. The icon was chosen for its tongue and cheek aspect, nothing more and will remain as is for the time being.
If you want to talk to me directly about SPA or anything Event related please feel free to do so. My email address is
Jeannette LeGault
Director of Event Programming for Gen Con LLC

I appreciate that Ms. LeGault personally responded to the original open letter. That’s totally awesome. Unfortunately, I’m not so impressed with her response. She starts out by saying that Gen Con is run by women, which is not actually germane. Women can do sexist things just as easily as men can. We live in the same culture and internalize all sorts of messed up messages, many of which are horribly sexist. Being a woman is not a free pass. Then she says that she picked out the icon herself, which I totally give her credit for owning when the icon is coming under attack, and gives her reasons for picking it, but she also dismisses concerns about it in the same point. Then she changes the subject by giving a lot of information about the program itself and how popular it is, none of which was either in dispute or under attack.

After that, she really makes a mistake by picking on the author of the letter for the ad on the website where it was posted, which (like most online ads these days) wasn’t chosen by him but rather by whatever magic formula Google uses to determine what ads appear on what pages. And then she picks on him further stating that the issue is too small to be worth his time and that he should be worried about the big problems in the world (this is an arguement that all groups working to improve how disadvantaged portions of society are portrayed in culture hear all the time and it’s worthless – you can’t stop the big stuff if the small stuff is reinforcing it). Then she thanks him and basically states that the discussion is closed. This is very bad PR and probably should have been reconsidered before it was posted.

But what about the icon itself? Why do I think it matters? I think that it sends the absolute wrong message. I think that it’s a dated, misogynistic image and that Gen Con hasn’t really considered the message that their icon actually sends. The phrase “ball and chain” has been around for a long time. The internet isn’t sure how long (a Google search will reveal a wide range of answers for the earliest date of the phrase appearing from sometime in the 1600s to the mid 1800s and sources vary as to where it originated as well), but it’s a phrase that has been used for quite some time. The image the phrase evokes – the image in the icon – of an actual iron ball attached to a chain and manacle refers to a device used to inhibit the movement of prisoners.

At some point, the phrase began to be used to refer to wives as well (wives, it is not a phrase that was used to refer to men of any kind until very, very recently and that is still very rare – most dictionaries still say “wives” and not “husbands or wives”). Specifically, to nagging, annoying wives who deny or inhibit their husbands’ freedom.

This is not a pleasant image. It means that the icon is either suggesting that the significant others of gamers are somehow inhibiting their freedom and fun, which is insulting and downright mean (especially when you consider that these non-gamer partners are not only “letting” their SOs geek out for a weekend, but are also along for the ride at a con not really full of things they enjoy), or it’s suggesting that the people who attend SPA events are like prisoners, which is an unpleasant image at best and an upsetting image at worst.

Ms. LeGault suggests that coming up with an icon for this group of events was challenging because of the diverse group of people and event types involved. This may very well be true – the program does have an extremely wide variety of events. Still, they all fall under the same banner. Every program or section of events has an abbreviation as well. The abbreviation for this program of non-gaming activities is SPA. I think that’s great – it suggests that these are supposed to be fun, relaxing vacation events for people to just enjoy. Why not pick an icon that suggests “vacation”? A beach umbrella, a little person in a yoga pose, a palm tree, maybe even a sun or something. There’s got to be a better way to indicate that the events are there than to use an incredibly old-fashioned slur for a woman who makes her husband feel like a prisoner!

Because the slur is insulting both the non-gamer significant others who were nice enough to let their gamers spend a weekend pretending to be great heroes (and to come along with them) as well as to the other women at the convention who are going to be affected by it being one more example of misogyny in a place that already has some problems with sexism sometimes. So even if it’s too late to fix it this year (although I have trouble believing that the programs are already printed), it is something that is well worth fixing for next year.

Schools as a Holding Pattern

Although it’s not something that I write or talk about that much, I’m actually very interested in science. I’m interested in a lot of types of science, but what really gets my attention is science that relates to people and how they work and how they relate to the world around them. I was probably a neuroscientist in another version of this life (seriously). So it’s really no surprise that I’m a big fan of the book Nurtureshock, which looks at the science of kids and raising them and how what we’ve learned from it doesn’t actually match how we raise our kids. Example: there’s a ton of scientific evidence showing that teenagers don’t function as well in the morning and that when school starts later, they do better, but high schools continue to start at 7am all over the country just the same.

This week I came across an article that one of the authors of the book wrote for Newsweek (as part of a whole series of articles, which are great and well worth reading) back in November about some research and a book by Dr. Joe Allen. The article discusses how Allen has been looking at teenagers and their lives and has come to the conclusion that they are stuck in a holding pattern that artificially keeps them from growing up. This is fascinating, but what really rang true with me was the statements about schools:

Basically, we long ago decided that teens ought to be in school, not in the labor force. Education was their future. But the structure of schools is endlessly repetitive. “From a Martian’s perspective, high schools look virtually the same as sixth grade,” said Allen. “There’s no recognition, in the structure of school, that these are very different people with different capabilities.” Strapped to desks for 13+ years, school becomes both incredibly montonous, artificial, and cookie-cutter.

As Allen writes, “We place kids in schools together with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of other kids typically from similar economic and cultural backgrounds. We group them all within a year or so of one another in age. We equip them with similar gadgets, expose them to the same TV shows, lessons, and sports. We ask them all to take almost the exact same courses and do the exact same work and be graded relative to one another. We give them only a handful of ways in which they can meaningfully demonstrate their competencies. And then we’re surprised they have some difficulty establishing a sense of their own individuality.”

And we wonder why it’s taking so long for them to mature.

Think about that. Think about how school actually is structured. Not just how many kids are in a class and how long the day is and things like that – think about what they’re taught when and how and why. If you went to school in the U.S., how many years did you study U.S. history and how many of those years did you learn the same things over again? Did you take a foreign language? How many of the years that you took it did you learn numbers? colors? days of the week? How many times did your English teachers teach you how to write an essay or go over basic grammar? And now think about college. Did you do any of those same things again?

How many times do we really think kids need to learn about the revolutionary war? And, honestly, why did they get As in Spanish one year if they evidently didn’t learn the colors well enough to not have to learn them again the next? I realize not all those kids got As and that repetition is good and review is helpful. But how much repetition does it take before you’re just teaching them that it doesn’t actually matter enough to bother paying attention? And how much can you repeat the same material before you’re no longer “reviewing”, you’re just teaching the same thing over again?

I don’t know how to fix all this. I do know that some of it would be improved if we put kids in classes based on their skill level, as opposed to their age. Is it so vital that all the seven year olds be in the same room anyway? And by the time you get to the high school level, why is that the model at all? Colleges don’t entirely get out of this either. They are just as guilty as everyone else of the repetition problem. Just because a student learned it somewhere before they attended your college doesn’t mean they learned it any less well than they would if they learned it at your college (and this goes for everything from English Lit to Typing to Biology – mitosis is exactly the same process whether you learned it in grade school, high school, college or all three).

Maybe schools need to actually figure out what their classes teach and what they expect the students going into them to know and to not know. Once they have that information, they can start working on matching kids to the classes, and maybe even schools, that best match their educational needs and wants. And you know what? That’s a whole new set of jobs, too, since it would require a bunch of people to go through and do all that.

Too bad our society doesn’t actually value education enough to fund it. And there’s the real problem. We put our kids in holding tanks for almost twenty years that we don’t even care enough about to fund. And that’s something I really can’t even start trying to figure out a solution for because it’s something I really don’t understand. Maybe there’s a scientific study on it somewhere that will shed some light on it for me…

In Defense of Words: “Censor”

A recent School Library Journal article stated:

“Don’t expect to see Lauren Myracle’s new book Luv Ya Bunches (Abrams/Amulet, 2009) at Scholastic school book fairs this year. It’s been censored—at least for now—due to its language and homosexual content.”

This statement was thoroughly backed up:

“But Scholastic says the book, released on October 1, failed to meet its vetting process because it contains offensive language and same-sex parents of one of the main characters, Milla.”

“The company sent a letter to Myracle’s editor asking the author to omit certain words such as “geez,” “crap,” “sucks,” and “God” (as in, “oh my God”) and to alter its plotline to include a heterosexual couple.”

“Scholastic defended the move. “Authors are often given the opportunity to make changes in the books to meet the norms of the various communities that host the fairs,” adds Kyle Good, a Scholastic spokeswoman, explaining that the title will, however, be available in the Scholastic Book Club catalog.”

Scholastic responded to this article quickly. Their response gave the impression that they were having a very visceral reaction to having been called out for censoring a book:

“School Library Journal inaccurately stated that we censored the book. We review thousands of books each year and only a limited number can be carried in our channels.” – Kyle Good commenting on the SLJ article and the same comment was repeated verbatim on the Scholastic blog with pictures of their Book Club catalogs featuring the book to reinforce the statement

“Scholastic does not censor books. We review thousands of titles each year for our book clubs and book fairs, and we are committed to a review process that considers all books equally regardless of their inclusion of LGBT characters and same sex parents. In an interview with School Library Journal, Scholastic stated that we are currently carrying Luv Ya Bunches by Lauren Myracle in our school book clubs. We also said we were still reviewing the book for possible inclusion in our book fairs. Having completed our review of Luv Ya Bunches, Scholastic Book Fairs will carry the title in our spring fairs for middle school. Scholastic is proud of our long history of providing books that will appeal to the wide range of interests and reading abilities of children in the many diverse cultures and communities we serve. Luv Ya Bunches is just one example.” – On the Scholastic blog later, after much outcry arose in response to the SLJ article

The controversy over the book has been covered all over the internet, so I’m not going to go into it. Besides, as much as I wholeheartedly agree that it’s a really important issue, I don’t think that the reasons the book were censored are the most interesting part of this whole thing. I think that Scholastc’s knee-jerk reaction to a word is the most interesting part.

Scholastic repeated and vociferously claimed that they do not censor books, that they did not censor this book. But they have not countered or refuted any of the specific claims of the article, despite being repeatedly asked and given the chance to do so. Given that, it’s hard not to assume that they are, in fact, true statements concerning what occurred. And if that is the case, than Scholastic needs to dig out their dictionary (they publish several, so they must have some laying around they could check).

The word “censor” has a few meanings, but two particularly apply to how it is being used in this context. Seeing as I don’t happen to have a Scholastic dictionary on hand, I’ll provide examples of definitions from multiple other sources. The first is it’s meaning as a transitive verb.

- “to examine and expurgate” (American Heritage)
- “to examine and act upon as a censor or to delete (a word or passage of text) in one’s capacity as a censor” (
- “to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable or to suppress or delete as objectionable” (Merriam-Webster).

The second is one of the word’s meanings as a noun.

- “an authorized examiner of literature, plays or other material, who may prohibit what he considers morally or otherwise objectionable” (American Heritage)
- “an official who examines books, plays, news reports, motion pictures, radio and television programs, letters, cablegrams, etc., for the purpose of suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds” (
- “an official who examines materials (as publications or films) for objectionable matter” (Merriam-Webster).

So now that we’ve got a good definition, let’s look back at the evidence stating Scholastic was censoring Love Ya Bunches.

1. The publisher has a “review process”, which rejected Love Ya Bunches on the grounds that it had “offensive language and same-sex parents”. According to our definition, any “review process” that rejects a book on the basis of “offensive” content of any kind, whether it offends them or not, is censoring.

2. Scholastic says “authors are often given the opportunity to make changes in the books to meet the norms of the various communities that host the fairs”, which implies that they want the author to “expurgate”, “suppress”, or “delete” whatever it is that the “review process” determined needed fixing. Again, that matches our definition of “censor”.

If a censor is someone who “examines” media “for objectionable matter” (such as offensive language and same-sex parents) “in order to suppress or delete” said objectionable material (like, for example, asking the author to change it or refusing to carry it in a certain venue), then it seems that Scholastic has no leg to stand on in their claims of not censoring. In fact, it sounds like Scholastic censors everything they carry, it’s just that not everything is found to have “objectionable material”.

Words matter, and as as publishers and proponents of education Scholastic should know that. In fact, they should be among the first to stand up and defend language and encourage proper usage and respect for words. You can’t pick and choose – if you’re going to be a champion of something, you have to defend it even when you don’t like it. That means that even when you come up against a word you don’t like, if you claim to care about language the way Scholastic tries to through it’s educational publications and programs, then you have to accept and even defend it anyway.

That’s not to say that review processes and boards don’t have their place, because they do. But don’t rail against it when someone accurately calls them on being censors. Being a censor doesn’t have to be a bad thing A mom censors a TV show when she decides her three-year-old shouldn’t watch The Sopranos and changes the channel, but that doesn’t make her wrong for having done so.

Words are important and it’s worth defending them, even the ones you don’t like.

New Blog: An Ad a Day

I have a new blog! It’s called An Ad a Day and that’s what it does – it looks at one piece of marketing a day. Commercials, print ads, banner ads, anything that catches my attention for good or for ill. Check it out and feel free to comment on the ads and to send me any interesting ads you see as well (or places you think I should link to from there, since it’s blogroll is a little sad right now)!

Book Clubs for Kids

This past week I wrote a two-part article for about how to start and run a book club for kids or teenagers. I think that it turned out quite well and I wanted to point it out to my Pixiepalace readers as well! The first part (about how to get started) is here while the second part (with activity ideas and more) is here. Let me know if you have more ideas or suggestions!

OMG! Girlz Don’t Need Games or Features!

Let’s play a game! Pretend you’re a girl and you’ve decided that you want to buy a handheld gaming system. You like gaming and would really like a system that’s portable and versatile (it has to have more and better gaming options than your cell phone, anyway). Luckily for you, Sony recently came out with a special campaign and product deal aimed at girls – Girlz Play Too. This is a special website to highlight a new PSP designed with girl gamers in mind! Sounds like just what you’re looking for, right? Let’s check it out!

There are several parts to the website, which is set apart from the rest of the Sony product website and not easy to find from there (because clearly the boy part of the website needs to be kept completely unaware that this girl part even existed or the industry would collapse). To start with, there are the products themselves, which is nice since you’re here to shop. The Lilac colored PSP is only available in the “Hannah Montana PSP Entertainment Pack”, meaning you get the Hannah Montana: Rock Out the Show game and a video with three episodes from the Hannah Montana show with the system and there isn’t any way to buy a purple PSP without them. But that’s such a girly game, I certainly can’t imagine there being anyone who might not want the mediocre Hannah Montana game but still want a Lilac colored PSP, can you? Ok, so the game is cool and you’re excited about the cute color of the system, but this is a fairly major purchase so you should make sure it’s worth it before you buy.

So, you like the look of the Lilac PSP, but need a little more convincing. You probably want to be able to play more than just the Hannah Montana game, right? Not much point in buying the $200 system for only one game, anyway. So what other games are available? Well, Sony is happy to tell you! The Girlz Play Too website has a section called “Games Girlz Play”. (For some reason, “girls” is perpetually spelled with a “z” – I have no idea why, but it’s a common and annoying thing in the gaming world and seems to be a misguided attempt to seem cool to girls while really being incredibly patronizing.) Unfortunately, there are apparently only six PSP games that Sony could find in their entire PSP library that are appropriate for girls: the aforementioned Hannah Montana game, Patapon 2, LocoRoco 2, Petz Dogz Family, Ponyo Fantasy Golf and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (the movie tie-in game). No other games are listed, nor is there a link anywhere to the library of PSP games suggesting that there even might be more options.

Well, it’s starting to look like this wouldn’t be such a hot $200 investment (a library of six games, and not even six super awesome games, hardly makes it worth the price). Maybe it has other cool features, right? So you click on the tab labeled “Explore the Features of the PSP “. This page is lilac colored and draws itself out as if with pencils before resolving into photographs of a girl surrounded by PSPs doing different things. Hovering over the images one at a time tells you that your PSP can “download games, movies and more” (no details are provided), “view your photos in a cool slide show” (no idea how the photos get on the PSP in the first place), “talk to friends with Skype ” and there are some video trailers of games that play when hovered over. No details are given for any of this and, considering the pages of features listed for PSPs on the regular (for boys) site, you start to wonder if your PSP is somehow less powerful than those, because even your cell phone has a better list of features than this.

Ok, so it’s not looking good for your lilac PSP. But there are two more tabs, so maybe Sony can still convince you. It seemed like a good idea, right? The next tab is “Customize Your Very Own PSP System”. That sounds cool. If you could really design your own case for the handheld system that would be awesome! There are lots of patterns and overlay images and colors to choose from and you really can make your own design. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean anything. All you can do with it is upload it to a gallery. The real PSPs all look the same (although supposedly they come with stickers to personalize them). So, no luck there.

One more tab, one more try. The last tab says “Which game character are you?” Um… ok. It’s a quiz full of questions like “you’re planning a weekend with your friends, what sounds like the most fun?” and “when you fill out your diary, you…” At the end, you are told what game character (from the six girl games) you are most like. So, the quiz is cute, but also really stereotyped (BFFs and shopping and all that) and seems to have no point other than to suggest a game you should play (out of the only six girl games that exist in the PSP library).

Hmm… well… ok… so as cute as the lilac PSP is (and it is pretty cute), and even though you’re a girl and you do play too, it just doesn’t seem like this is going to work. I mean, why spend the $200 on a PSP which has only six games you could play and so few features when you could spend less than $150 on a cute pink or blue or red or whatever color you want Nintendo DS which has tons of games that are good for girls? The lilac was nice, but there just isn’t enough there to make it worth it! Being a girl doesn’t mean you need fewer or less awesome games and features. Maybe if Sony makes or finds more good games or includes a more widely appealing game with the system it would be worth it, but right now it feels like they’ve aimed for a very specific target and still missed the mark. Oh well, no big loss for us since right now there are other options!

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »