The Matter of Voice Comms and Streaming

I’ve spent many years playing online games, but I’ve never really got into the social, out-of-game side of things until recently: having found a very welcoming community in the Google+ Elite: Dangerous group, I’ve been more than usually tempted to get involved with some of the community events instigated by Frontier Developments, and the group activities of the Google+ community – particularly NULL, the sub-group originally set up as an anti-player-pirate initiative.

Plus there are the videos people are uploading to YouTube; the streamed play on Twitch.tv; the restricted multiplayer options provided by the game’s Version 1.2 ‘Wings’ release.

There’s lot of stuff going on, much of it stuff I’d like to join in with; but I feel hesitant, and perhaps it’s unfair that I do because it implies that I’m anticipating negative reactions. But even so, I think it’s time I explained what the problem is. It’s to do with the increasingly popular use of webcams and (especially) microphones to provide player-to-player communication.

After the jump (as posted on Blogger), I’m going to offer an explanation for this. It involves a somewhat personal matter that you may find relevant if you play any online games with me. You may find it completely irrelevant if you don’t – but hell, I’m putting it on the Internet, so feel free to read on anyway, if you like.

As you’ll have seen, I tend to use profile pics that represent me as one or another of my in-game characters. I like to think I’m being at least semi-honest here, in that I’m not saying they’re pictures of me: I make sure my descriptions and About sections and such say, right there, “I look nothing like my picture”. (I’m fairly sure one guy on Twitter actually thought this was a photo:

… but he assured me he’d been ‘joking’. Which is good. That’s really not me, as much as I’d love it to be.)

The truth is, with respect to my online image, to loosely paraphrase Marty McFly’s headmaster in Top Gun, “[My] ego’s profile pic’s writing cheques [my] body real-life appearance can’t cash!”

The nitty-gritty, the crux, the nub and the gist of what I’m getting at, and the reason for my reticence in using microphones and cameras is that I am of, how shall I put this, a transgender-ish persuasion. Which is to say, the woman I am today is not the woman I always was; because the woman I always was didn’t have a body or a face to go with her brain and had to spend quite a long time with her personality tucked neatly away behind a Dishonest Facade™. Hang on… ‘Façade‘. There we are. Better. Had some cedilla trouble there.

As of a few years ago, I’ve been undergoing the process of gender transition or, as some prefer to term it, gender correction, and significant progress has been made – but in certain areas I lag behind. One of these is in my voice, which, I’m very sorry to say, remains pretty damn manly.

/Stops laughing.
/Wipes eyes.

Okay. I’m fine now.

All right, maybe not ‘manly’. My voice was never particularly ‘manly’. But… ‘recognisably male’; let’s put it that way. And this is pretty embarrassing, especially when you’re talking to people who’ve never seen you.

I said that it implied negative expectations if I’m reluctant to involve myself in things that put me at risk of outing myself online as a trans person; and that is very unfair of me, since in the years I’ve been going through this process, I’ve had no negative reactions in the real world at all. Seriously. Not one. And I haven’t been holed up in the house refusing to go anywhere: I’ve carried on going to shops and public buildings, walking through streets and in parks, visiting pubs, clubs and restaurants. I’ve stayed in hotels, been in places of worship (mine and other people’s), and generally just got on with stuff. The absolute worst response I’ve had has been quite reasonable apathy.

I’ve been very lucky so far. A lot of trans people can tell far more terrifying stories than mine.

But this is the Internet: an environment built on negative reactions – so I admit, I’m hesitant. Plus, I’m conscious that the game-playing Internet has developed a certain preconception about the phenomenon of ‘Many Men Online Role-Playing Girls’. That could be (and has been) a debate in itself; but speaking personally, and perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve always valued the facility in online gaming to create a new person to occupy for a while. Pre-transition, and before I took the step of explaining things to my family, friends and colleagues, computer games gave me most of the few channels I had to express the person I was.

I’m thoroughly enjoying playing Elite. I also love playing Villagers & Heroes and EverQuest II with my wife, and a number of other multiplayer games. The point I wanted to make (finally!) is that this the reason I haven’t been first in the queue for online meet-ups and anything that involves talking to people over voice comms; it’s why I haven’t put up any videos with commentary of the things I’m doing in Elite; it’s why I don’t stream on Twitch. I would like to do these things; but to do them requires a certain degree of online openness that I haven’t felt ready for as yet – though I’ve always tried to be as open as possible about it all (within decent bounds!) offline.

So that’s that. Out. (No, not you, Spot.) If anyone wants to talk about things, ask me things, I’m here. If you want to, um, not do that, that’s fine too.

All right, as you were.

— Kate (Cmdr Cait Kryos in-game)

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