For the longest time, I haven't really known what to make of Anita Sarkeesian. My first introduction to her work was the infamous Tropes vs. Women Youtube series. While offering some interesting criticisms of video games, it seemed to serve no purpose other than shitting on gamers and developers alike. However, I later heard her speak candidly on an episode of the Idle Thumbs podcast, and found it hard to reconcile that this was the same woman who so many claimed wanted to destroy gaming. Last month, Sarkeesian gave a lecture at the NYU Game Center where she talked about some of the changes she wants to see developers make with regards to the representation of female characters. Stephen Totilo of Kotaku attended this lecture, and wrote about what he saw and heard there. After reading that article myself, I'm finding it more difficult to say that I support her goals for the video game industry. The heart of her discussion was "8 Things Devs Can Do To Make Games Less Shitty For Women", and the list is quite honestly not that big of a deal.Avoid the Smurfette principle (don't have just one female character in an ensemble cast, let alone one whose personality is more or less "girl" or "woman")."Lingerie is not armor" (Dress female characters as something other than sex objects).Have female characters of various body types.Don't over-emphasize female characters' rear ends, not any more than you would the average male character's.Include more female characters of color.Animate female characters to move the way normal women, soldiers or athletes would move.Record female character voiceover so that pain sounds painful, not orgasmic.Include female enemies, but don't sexualize those enemies. Admittedly from a developer perspective, these changes would likely be a lot of extra work, particularly #3 and #6. Gamers, however, may not notice much of a difference at all, especially since these changes are largely cosmetic and wouldn't affect core gameplay.
I agree with you Sekani. I took a quick look at the document myself and did not even really need to go past the "Materials" section to understand the basics of what they are trying to do. While I agree with the fact that we should analyze sexism in video games and how we might deal with it, I do not agree with HOW the people on either side are handling the issue. It seems like wherever I look for information on this topic there are two sides and people can only be on either side. Why can we not just sit down and calmly discuss something like this without threats or insults? Has it gone to the point where we, as a society, are not even capable of doing such anymore? If we are, then when will we get to that point again? People wonder why I don't pay attention to the news much anymore. They wonder why I am so out of the loop when it comes to these issues coming up. Stuff like this is why. I do not want to participate in the discussion anymore, at least, not until people calm down and are ready for a mature conversation.
2015 is only a little over a week old, but it still feels like nothing's changed but the calendar. Same job, same house, same car, same weather... oh, and the same games, too. I somehow managed to not purchase ANYTHING during the Steam Winter Sale, so I've got nothing shiny and new there even. I guess that's not so bad. I've got plenty to occupy me in the meantime. For starters, I just got into South Park: The Stick of Truth. Yes, I know this game is nearly a year old as of now, but it's new to me, damn it. It's also a game that I can appreciate a lot more now that I've been catching up on South Park episodes on Hulu. You don't need to be fluent in South Park lore to be able to enjoy the game, but it helps to pick up all the little nods to different episodes and events.
The year 2014 will likely not be remembered for any great games in particular. Sure, there were plenty of them, primarily from the indie scene and Nintendo, but other events and issues made more than enough noise to drown out those few cheers. To start, the next console generation has arrived with a whimper. I mean, both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have sold faster than any console previously, but what are they all playing on those shiny new machines? The PS4's marquee title at this point is the multi-platform Destiny, which has proven largely underwhelming if the buzz is to be believed. As for the Xbox One, they've gotten Titanfall and Sunset Overdrive. The former has been a disappointment also, but the latter... well, we'll see next year. This year has also undermined the competence of triple-A development teams. While indie studios gave us technically inferior but creatively superior gems like Shovel Knight and Transistor, big-budget titles were shipped with bugs ranging from amusing to game-breaking, relying on consumer generosity and day-one patches to meet deadlines. The Crew, Halo: Master Chief Collection, Assassin's Creed: Unity, and more were launched in largely unplayable states.
Not quite sure exactly when it happened, but somewhere along the path of Silicon Valley savants creating bullshit terms for stuff we've been doing our whole lives, everything we do on the internet became referred to as "content". What we watch on Netflix, listen to on Spotify, look at on Pinterest, or read on Reddit, it's all content created for our consumption. A lot of this content is stuff we want to share, so we show it to our friends on social media. And they show it to their friends and acquaintances. And so on, and so on. By the time it reaches most of the part of the internet who cares, we've forgotten where it came from. When we see an image meme popping up in a forum thread--you know, one of those pictures you've seen about a billion times but with different accompanying text each time--we all laugh or groan, but we get the joke. We recognize that image, we're familiar with it, but do we ever think about where it comes from? I mean sure, we all want to praise or hate on J.J. Abrams because we all know and recognize that he's largely responsible for the creative direction of the two most recent Star Trek films. But do we care as much about the person who originally gave us that drunk baby picture? I'd argue that over time, one has brought us content consumers a bit more entertainment than the other, and yet we never stop to think that someone actually took that picture and shared it with the rest of the world. That photographer will be unknown to most of us forever.
I had planned to write about GamerGate before. Many times, in fact. But every time I start putting the figurative pen to the paper, I get tired and depressed. This isn't fun anymore. It's just a downward spiral of hate as each side races to exceed the lowest common denominator in search of some twisted form of justice. What's the fucking point of it all? Oh, that's right, ethics in games journalism. I mean, God forbid a game get scored a 9 when it really only deserved a 5. Stop the fucking presses, nuke the games journos from orbit, this is a travesty that can't be tolerated! Really? Really?! What sane person even fucking cares this much? Am I the only person on the planet who doesn't act like a fucking number next to a game on a website is the end all be all of everything in the world? I mean, we live in a world where we can demo or try out just about every game in existence, and when we don't have time to try out every game, we all have friends and social circles we can ask and get recommendations from. I mean, why does anyone give that much of a fuck what TotalBiscuit or Greg Miller or Ben Kuchera thinks? Do their opinions matter so much that we need some sort of fucking ethical bill of rights to make sure they're not biased or something? Let's be real though, even if you DO care that much for some reason, the reality is that the system has been tainted since the days of Nintendo Power. Figures that everyone decided to get all butthurt about it this one particular time, even though--oh wait, NOTHING HAPPENED. There were some bullshit allegations cause some douchebag ex-boyfriend wrote a tell-all blog filled with nonsense for all we know, and even when people looked into it there was no proof of anything inappropriate, but fuck the facts, Zoe Quinn has to put on trial for journalistic... something. Yes, Zoe Quinn, not the Kotaku writer she was allegedly involved with because no one remembers his name.
I once said that Apple Pay may be the best thing that ever happened to Google Wallet. While users of high-end Android devices have had the ability to make NFC payments for something like four years now, retailer support for the technology has been quite lacking. Prior to this summer, about the only place where I could've used it at all was at the neighborhood McDonald's. Now, thanks in part both to Apple's adoption of NFC technology and to the security-focused upgrade to chip-and-pin payment terminals, I've noticed an exponential increase in the number of places that allow me to pay by tapping my phone on the counter instead of swiping a card. Unfortunately, it looks like that number will actually be dropping again fairly rapidly. While it's very popular with banks (my own bank, Wells Fargo, sent me many ecstatic notices and emails), retailer support is lacking. Despite the proliferation of NFC terminals, Walmart, Petco, and many other retailers are actually still not supporting Apple Pay. Instead, they're putting their support behind a competing NFC payment technology, CurrentC. And to make sure that the "Apple Pay is not welcome here" message is clear, CVS and Rite Aid have become the first of these retailers to disable NFC completely. This means not only is Apple Pay blocked, but alternative methods like Softcard and Google Wallet won't work either. What the fuck, right? Why are us tech-savvy consumers being bamboozled by the establishment this time?
It's more than amusing to see how my gaming habits have changed as I've made the transition from bored teenager into responsible adult. Gone are the days when I could finish a full-length title in a weekend, the days when I could spend weeks honing my skills to beat the next-door neighbor at Street Fighter II Turbo, the days when I would save up cash to buy the next game on my wishlist since it wouldn't come out for another four months. The requirements on my time have increased dramatically. At the same time, the gaming industry seems to have changed a bit as well, and it offers experiences that seem to be tailored to those of us who grew up in the NES era but can no longer devote the same attention to the medium that we used to. In a paradigm shift that I never would have imagined myself making just two years ago, my smartphone has become my primary gaming console. The kinds of titles range from thirty-second time wasters like Flappy Bird to full length experiences like Final Fantasy, from word games and puzzlers to shooters and racers, from freemium and dollar-store prices to $30 epics. Basically, there's something for everyone. Myself, I've been mostly attracted to the growing niche of puzzle CCGs (collectible "card" games). The simple fun and strategy of a puzzle game combined with the addictive nature of collecting stuff is recipe that can easily draw me in for hours, days, weeks, and months on end. There are two such games that I play regularly at the moment. The first is Spirit Stones, a game from a Korean developer that I got into mostly because of the card artwork. Now, if you're not into the scantily-clad anime chick thing you might want to steer clear of this title. If that's not an issue you'll find a unique puzzle strategy title with multiple play modes and a decent amount of depth from the skill system. On the negative side, there's a ton of Engrish to deal with, the game is prone to random crashes and/or disconnects for no reason, and you'll definitely feel the pressure to spend money on gems to get some of the more powerful cards. Still, for all its faults, I wasn't able to put it down for more than a day at a time until I stumbled across another game.
Unless you religiously follow video game news websites, you probably have no clue what's up with the #GamerGate hashtag currently proliferating through social media right now. I did some research and investigation, and the more I found out about the controversy, the more convinced I am that everyone involved in the world of video game journalism, whether reader or author, is out of their damned minds. It all started with the allegations that Zoe Quinn, developer of the recently released-on-Steam game Depression Quest, inappropriately gained preferential coverage of said game by being romantically involved with Kotaku writer Nathan Grayson. With the critically acclaimed game receiving abysmal ratings from gamers, it seemed obvious to some that there was a violation of ethics involved. Quinn was then the target of a sizable dose of internet rage, which went so far as death threats severe enough that she ended up having to leave her home for a few days. At roughly the same time, Anita Sarkeesian, who had just released the latest chapter of her Tropes vs. Women series, was also the victim of a deplorable level of harassment and death threats. The two incidents were discussed together in gaming media as a reprimand to the critics of these two women for their misogyny.
While browsing Netflix the other night looking for a decent date night movie to watch, the title Video Game High School caught my attention. The premise is that video games have become the most popular competitive sport on the planet, and so talented gamers come to this fictional school to hone their skills, while dealing with most of the typical high school comedy tropes. The idea that competitive gaming would somehow surpass, say, the NFL or World Cup soccer in popularity sounds a bit ridiculous right now. Still, tens of millions of spectators tune in to Twitch channels and other live streams to see fighting game tournaments like Evo and MOBA tournaments like The International. A tournament for League of Legends last year sold out the Staples Center in Los Angeles in an hour. The numbers (and prize pools) don't lie, competitive gaming is a thing and it's taking off. I guess then that it's only a matter of time before a real-life video game high school comes into being. Robert Morris University in Illinois may have come close, after the news broke this week that they'll be giving out 30 athletic scholarships--some as much as $19,000--to recruit professional League of Legends players. While there are plenty of other, stupider ways to get college money, the nature of this as an athletic scholarship is causing a little bit of "jock rage". Even competitive gaming's more popular moniker of "e-sports" invites the inevitable comparisons between video games and proper sports like baseball. Regardless of whether you think an e-sports scholarship is a good idea, that jock rage I was talking about earlier has led to some damaging misconceptions about gamers. After listening to a podcast where the news was discussed, I was surprised to hear that gamers are still viewed largely as fat, antisocial basement dwellers. These stereotypes are some of the most damaging obstacles to the legitimacy of competitive gaming, and I want to address a couple of them.