South Park Self

you go, girl

There is no moment when I'm happier or more myself than when I'm prowling around a classroom, such as today, refereeing a spirited discussion of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" for 20 voluble and intelligent second-years. Lovely tut: I'm still buzzing. So we were dealing in some detail with the Victorian context, and the use of supernatural symbol to explore the desires and anxieties of the age, and in particular Stevenson's presentation of the classically Victorian dichotomies of "good" and "evil" through the figure of Hyde and Jekyll's complicity with him. At which point the discussion takes this sharp right turn:

CHATTY STUDENT (musingly): It's like when you're playing Mass Effect, and you score points for good or evil choices which affect the way your character is viewed, and the direction of events.

ME (surprised and pleased, but attempting to remain suave and professional): Why, yes. *inserts well-directed contextualisation contrasting Victorian views of morality with those of our contemporary age as reflected in computer games, avoiding, with consummate self-control, the word "postmodern"*

ANOTHER, EQUALLY CHATTY STUDENT: Actually, I think the Victorian view is more like Fable. Mass Effect has a lot of grey areas and points where the moral choice is not clear-cut.

ME (trying to repress flashbacks to the last few months of Dragon Age and related rants): Valid point, that's Bioware for you. Although I think that Stevenson is actually problematising the clear-cut dichotomies of Victorian morality... *reigns in and directs resulting melee of input without mentioning Dragon Age more than five times*

I should point out that my seminar, in a somewhat interesting intensification of the usual Humanities Demographic Effect, includes nineteen young ladies, one gentleman, and me. All gaming input up to this point has come from the young ladies.

SOLE GENT (raising hand hesitantly): Um, is this actually happening? I'm in a room full of women and they all game?

A quick poll suggests that they don't all game, but, in fact, seven of the nineteen do, indeed, game quite seriously. Eight if you count me. Subsequent discussions managed to remain bizarrely on the Jekyll and Hyde topic while simultaneously haring off in the direction of doubles, masks, the Hulk, superheroes generally, TwoFace, the doppelganger effect in The Vampire Diaries, and a brief and lateral attempt to get me to commit to whether playing computer games gives free reign to your Dark Side in the same way that taking a potion and releasing Hyde does. (For the record: no).

On the slightly disconcerting side, apparently Dragon Age is determined to colonise all areas of my life, however unlikely. On the upside, the gender balance of geekdom has changed radically in the last five or six years, is all I can say. And a good thing too.
I'm sorry to give you hives. The subject line was used ironically, honest. Also, I wasn't happy with it myself, but it was late and I was tired and I couldn't think of any more apposite quote. I am happy to replace said subject line with the pithy phrase of your or anyone else's choice, if you/they can suggest anything appropriate and witty.
Oh, I never doubted the irony. But still, exposure to that phrase = hives, pure and simple. Not that I can do any better. Never have had the post title magic. (Ironic, for a professional headline writer.)
that is really excellent, on so many points: gaming girls, gender balance in classrooms, the applicability of gaming knowledge and understanding to Victorian mores... amazing, all around
It was a lovely tut, I'm still on a high from it. As, in fact, may be the Sole Gent, who was detected leaving the room with a sort of dazed grin on his face, as of one who has accidentally found Nirvana.
Literature and games
I'm the games blogger for Library Journal ( and I'd be interested in talking to you about this post, both in terms of the gender dynamics and the context/overlap of games and literature, particularly in your context as an educator. I've written occasionally on this topic ( ...

You can reach me on Twitter @LizDanforth or my own website, And yeah, Dragon Age pretty much consumes my gaming time these days as well. >.<