The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on September 6th, 2009 at 5:20 pm.

Sundays are for… God, this is a Long one. Anyway, Sundays are for heading to the evil South, having lunch, coming back and compiling a hefty list of splendid reading about games and similar things while trying to resist linking to one of the may things which were filling my late-night music listening last night, at least until I started playing AAAaaa(“Snip”-Ed) at 3:30am.

Failed.

.

139 Comments »

  1. Mo says:

    Dracko, I read them both prior to making my comment. I don’t think her blog post is relevant to the quality of the article. I think the article puts forth issues that are worth thinking about and she clearly did the legwork. Which is not to say I agree with it in its entirety. I don’t, but I still think it’s a well written and well researched article.

  2. Joe says:

    “but to be honest if a feminist did see Japans culture they would be seething for years and probably would be able to make numerous articles about it. You know thats true.”

    Ugh, try again and think first. Half a second’s research will, I’m sure, provide you with copious feminist writing on Japan, though I doubt you’ll bother to read it. And get off your high horse. Japan is no more or less sexist than anywhere else in the world. Seriously.

    Also, I highly recommend you watch the documentary of The Shock Doctrine, if you’re a fan of logic-challenged “progressive” propaganda. Klein’s whole thesis – drawing a connection (whether causal or illustrative is never explained) between electroshock therapy and foreign policy – is so utterly illiterate as to be laughable. When she’s not straight up lying, she’s drawing braindead connections between unrelated events (i.e. Thatcher started the Falklands war to push through monetarist policies at home) and performing character assassinations on dead thinkers (i.e. Milton Friedman, who was an academic economist, not the fucking Lord of Darkness). Nothing more than a chirpy airhead with a Cliff’s Notes on Marx and Engels. Honestly, every time she smiles I feel a nosebleed coming on.

  3. Turin Turambar says:

    “And get off your high horse. Japan is no more or less sexist than anywhere else in the world. Seriously.”

    XD XD XD

  4. Joe says:

    @ Turin

    Argument > mockery. If you’re going to diss an entire country, please back it up.

  5. Joe says:

    (I’m presuming those XDs were meant in mockery rather than agreement. Smileys can be awful hard to read.)

  6. clive dunn says:

    What a lovely treat, haven’t seen Walt Simonson work since i used to buy Thor back in the day. Love this keen eyed comment from Daily Scans…
    “For those who don’t recognize it, the narration of that Batman two-pager was the novel that Snoopy was perpetually trying to write in Peanuts. He would constantly start with the same few lines, and the version up there is the most complete I ever saw it. Brilliant!”
    That’s the most awesome factoid of the year!

  7. Kieron Gillen says:

    Joe: “whether causal or illustrative is never explained”

    Metaphor. They don’t need sign posts, though it was funny in one of my phonogram back-up strips when I did exactly that.

    (I think she lays it on a bit thick with the electroshock parallels. It’s the least interesting part of the analysis of the last 30 years of world politics. I don’t need comparison to ECT to not think – say – Chile was a good idea.)

    Regarding our beloved Maggie, I can’t believe you’ve never heard the idea that the Falklands was a shameless vote winning war. She was enormously unpopular before she went into the war, and came out of it as Her. It was talked around at the time and ever since. I mean, she wasn’t unpopular before the war because she had a funny voice. She was unpopular because of *what she did*.

    Where Klein is putting her focus is on *why* she was unpopular and putting it in the larger context of Democracy’s relationship with free markets – as in, Democracy has had to be circumvented or tricked to get any large scale free-market reforms through, because in a free vote, people pretty much always tell them to fuck off.

    That part of the case, I think she made pretty well.

    Oh – and you seriously arguing all countries are equally sexist? Even I’m not nihilistic to try that one.

    Dracko: I think you’re being unfair judging Leigh’s commentary on why she was doing something than the actual piece itself. We – by humans – are driven to do things for a load of reasons. A lot of them – and I thought you may get this one – is *total hate*.

    Chatting to Spector, I’m reminded about him talking about one of the things in Deus Ex was how he disagreed with Thief. As in, that’s not the way to do it – he believed in a maximalist approach would be better. If he’d done a post stating that Thief was wrong, you could have hung him up for that too. The theories are antagonistically opposed but the two end products are fine things in and of themselves. Thief and Deus Ex come from people who believed in different fundamentally things.

    Point being: Leigh is frustrated by what she sees as a tiny number of influences on games. To try and ferment the debate, she goes out and gets a half-dozen of really interesting people to talk about the issue. That’s totally how it should be, and whether I agree with someone or not, I’ll be in their corner. Her work is her work. Her blog is her blog.

    V. Tchitcherine: I love it when people do that sort of stuff in the comments. Go have a cigarette.

    KG

  8. CMaster says:

    On the gaming tending to be all “bang bang bang bang” – in the fictional world where I’m a game designer/studio head, I’ve long thought I’d have the rule – “there’s always another solution other than shooting someone”. It won’t always be non-violent, but I really think that almost all games need a bit more agency on the part of the player than just aligning the crosshairs.

  9. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Putting aside any bias for or against Leigh Alexander, I’m always up for reading whatever it is Tim Schafer has to say.

    And it would be nice to see more mainstream games pull primary inspiration outside of other games, TV, movies, comics, and geek media.

    On sexist Japan: Oh boy. That one’s a doozy. Let’s just say that it could be worse but it could also be so much better.

  10. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Whoops, wish I could EDIT this in:

    @CMaster There are games that do that and those games are always interesting. (Shin Megami Tensei: You can talk to the monsters!) It’d be nice to see more Deus Ex approaches to problems, less Wolfenstein. Not saying that shooting isn’t fun, mind.

  11. Turin Turambar says:

    Real comment: not every country and culture is exactly the same in planet Earth. There are tons of reasons of past culture, of history, and customs, of how society evolved that explains why every culture/country has ther own little quirks, and differences between them.

    Japan, given its history from… the past 500 years, it’s still a conservative society, where sexism it’s more prevalent than in other countries. Of course the globalization is changing that, bit a bit, but it’s something that changes slowly, with new generations. And when i say sexism, i could say discrimination against foreigners, or the importance of pride and honor, or the hardon for sacrifice, pure will, and hard work.

    It’s a different society than say… Spain, where i live. Here we are not so sexist, but still are a bit behind the times in racial discrimination (we were a totally homogenous nation a few decades ago). And hard work? what’s that?

  12. Joe says:

    @ Kieron

    “Oh – and you seriously arguing all countries are equally sexist? Even I’m not nihilistic to try that one.”

    No, I put it badly. Rather, there’s nothing specifically sinister about Japan that makes it a sinkhole of bigotry, as people seem to think. Strip away the lazy cliches about panty vending machines, and the situation with sexism has roughly the same parameters as anywhere else. In short: Japan isn’t special.

    What Klein calls subverting democracy, I call politics. There’s as much cynical vote winning on the left as on the right, and the whole strategy of exploiting a crisis to seize power is, lest we forget, textbook Marxism. At no point does Klein actually attempt to argue down “free market fundamentalism” on the basis of an honest argument: one imagines that doing so would be beyond her attention span.

  13. Dracko says:

    And her perception is laughably flawed. The fact that it’s given credence speaks poorly to games criticism and its audience.

    But that’s okay: She hates both the medium and the message, and anyone who cares to observe and interact with either too.

  14. Mil says:

    @Turin:

    Please don’t perpetuate myths about Spain being a place where people don’t work hard. Look at this graph: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Yearly_working_time_2004.jpg

    The average yearly working time in Spain is higher than Canada’s or Great Britain’s, and much higher than Germany’s, France’s, Sweden’s or the Netherlands’.

    Spain’s problem isn’t that people don’t work hard, it’s that all that work is inefficient because the retarded management culture doesn’t place any value on efficiency. Which is why the thinking qualified Spanish worker would do well to consider moving abroad, as I did.

  15. Marshall says:

    Not much relevance to sexism, but I have to say that in comparison with the subtle and sublime Alice & Kev, the Sims 3: Gordon Brown bit feels really forced and flat.

    And I’m for once, I’m pretty sure I’m not just misunderstanding British politics and/or humor. In fact, I think I’ve gotten a pretty good grasp on the latter at least.

  16. James G says:

    I think a large number of the issues I had with the first feminist analysis of Bioshock were based in my general discomfort for any such ‘readings.’ It seemed that it used a lot of apparently established symbolism* without fully considering it within context. I’m especially confused at their assigning the first person perspective ‘maleness’ as this would seem somewhat necessary to the medium. Similarly, my practical mind makes it difficult for me to accept symbolism in what to me seem to be clear game-play decisions (Ie. Keeping you isolated from Tenenbaum)

    But the biggest issue I have with the article is the reluctance to clearly separate innate ‘anti-feminist’ stuff, from the representation of such. I’d have no trouble with the argument that Rapture was a sexist place, but I don’t think this means that that attitude transfers to the game itself. (For example, I’ve seen lots of feminist praise of Mad Men.)

    In terms of a feminist analysis of computer game characters though, I’ve always felt Jahiera (particularly in BGII) would be interesting to consider. The character herself has quite an interesting dichotomy between stereotypically male and female elements, something that I can’t help feel is represented right down to her dual-class nature. However I shan’t be the one to attempt to do this, as I don’t have the toolset, and would invariably end up falling down all the same holes that can’t help but annoy me when other people try this.

    * Most of which I’m unfamiliar with, being a biologist by trade the literature analysis side of things somewhat left me behind at GCSE. In the past I’ve discovered that many of my issues with such things are mainly rooted in my misunderstanding, and no doubt some of the remaining ones are.

  17. Baris says:

    V. Tchitcherine: Thank you!

    It’s everything I was too lazy/not talented enough to express.

  18. anotherman7 says:

    The colonies? We did win, you limey prick |:<
    God knows how our right wing manages to get everyone to battle against their own self interest. The things that people say in this country are indeed surreal sometime and watching the news is a fucking trip. Oh well, I just hope I can quit smoking before I get emphysema. Also, I love these things, thanks a bunch.

  19. ars says:

    from the piece on Generation Y:

    “Mr. Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University, is the author of “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future.”"

    The sky is falling. Bleh.

  20. Will Tomas says:

    I think that Leigh Alexander’s article strikes me rather as a similar view to that held by a large number of filk critics that Jaws and Star Wars collectively destroyed creativity in Hollywood – that, essentially, by creating the idea of the blockbuster, they led the mainstream of Hollywood away from the artier areas that 1970s Hollywood had happily been exploring (and investing large amounts of money in) to an endless repetitive cycle of films only interested in explosions and cheap thrills.

    Which is, to a point, true – they did change cinema in that way, and allowed for people like Michael Bay to become exceedingly wealthy, but the point that gets somewhat ignored is that Michael Bay, Bruchheimer, and (for that matter) Cliffy B media all sell. They make bucketloads of money. Now, you can argue that this is because the majority people are undemanding and want little more from their entertainment than cheap thrills and things going bang.

    But there’s a divide here between those who only flit through various media as a diversion from their main activity in life, and those for whom those media are their main activity in life. Usain Bolt was interviewed at the recent world championships and he said that his main way of relaxing is to play Pro Evo and Call of Duty. He’s got a lot to be thinking about and working on in his day job to be caring too much about being challenged by his main source of fun. Most people are like this – they aren’t looking to be challenged.

    Point being, film critics and game critics, like Leigh, cannot help but be dissatisfied by the mainstream of their selected media because it does consume their lives and so they want more from it – they want to be challenged, and to experience new things. Usain Bolt gets that in his day job, he doesn’t need it from games. People who invest in games for their livelihood do, since unless someone is entirely without drive or intellectual interest then they will be perennially unsatisfied by it. Case in point is Mark Kermode (prominent British film critic) threatening to quit his radio show if he saw five films this year worse than Bride Wars – because at that point it wouldn’t be worth carrying on.

    All of which is an exceedingly long way of saying that I get where Leigh is coming from, and I don’t think that it means she in any way hates games or gamers, just that since she is looking for a degree of fulfillment from them, she is asking for something from them that most other people are not demanding – and so not supporting that demand with sales. Her error is perhaps in assuming that all other people should demand the same things from games as she does.

  21. Will Tomas says:

    A secondary point, about the poll she mentions from Kotaku where only 12% of people said they had ‘many’ interests away from games…

    Well if that isn’t the definition of a site, topic, and poll which would only be of interest to a very small number of videogames hobbyists, I don’t know what is.

    In other words, her blog is a bit like Shatner telling the Trekkies to ‘Get a life!’

  22. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    I liked Leigh’s hair better straightened.

  23. Baris says:

    I really wish Leigh would read this comments thread and reply to it, or at least acknowledge it.

    I wonder if semi-mainstream critics like her actually read intellectual criticism of their work and take it into account, or if years learning to ignore unintelligent hatred of their work has made it impossible for them to take criticism from laymen (is that spelt right?) seriously.

    Help me out here RPS writers: would you go to, lets say Joystiq, and actually pick through the comments there on a post related to your work? Or would you dismiss it completely and rely only on communities that have an established level of intelligence (Escapist, RPS, etc.)?

  24. Sunjammer says:

    I suppose it’s a dubious privilege to be aware of how hilariously inept Tecmo is at handling their female characters. Project Zero; Bleak, pitch-black survival horror games.. With unlockable swimsuit costumes. Every fighting game they have done features titties flying every which way. This new sixaxis blehbleh just confirms reality for me. It doesn’t shock me, but it sure is disappointing.

    The reason is of course that Tecmo are damn good developers. The NG series is absolute cream of the crop in its genre, so seeing them take huge dumps on their own work like this is just incredibly sad.

  25. Mo says:

    I agree that “normal” people don’t want to be challenged by video games (in fact, I’d go as far as saying that videogames are challenging at all is a barrier to mainstream audiences, but that’s another rant). However, I do believe that mainstream audiences would be more receptive to different forms of interaction in videogames. And I think that’s what Leigh is getting at.

    Let me put it like this: the last two *major* mainstream hits in my mind have been Guitar Hero/Rock Band, and Wii Sports. Both have zero of the “bang bang”, and both are very forgiving games. But both have a reasonable amount of depth, enough to keep us gamers entertained. We need more of that. We need less of “bang bang”.

  26. Sunjammer says:

    About Leigh’s piece; I’ll be first in line to say games today don’t “get me” the same way they used to, but i’ll also be first in line to say “hey, welcome to the mainstream”. Attacking games as a whole in this way is just another facet of the immaturity of the games media; We haven’t become aware yet of how bloody big this thing currently is.

    If you want to have a lark, go check out paperback books and their sales, then check the thematics. Kiss kiss, bang bang.

    For further lols, observe hollywood. Kiss kiss, bang bang.

    Hell, go take a look at MUSIC. Kiss kiss, bang bang.

    We love our violence, we love our romance, because we love extremes; They free us from the daily drudge.

    Saying OMG HEY LOOK TOO MANY GAMES ARE ABOUT PEWPEW strikes me as blindly ignorant. You are free to buy and play thematically richer, smaller indie titles, just as much as you can do the same for unknown, thematically richer bands, or low budget, low distro thematically richer films.

    The public at large want fast food, and that’s a fact of human existence since we were still flinging poo at one another. Whining about that is straight up geek elitism, and it makes everyone look bad.

  27. David says:

    That WSJ article, Why Gen-Y Johnny Can’t Read Nonverbal Cues, is baseless.

    The link between non-verbal comprehension and an increase in text-based communication is neither explained or supported, only assumed.

    What’s worse is the author’s claim that this assumption can’t be tested:

    Nobody knows the extent of the problem. It is too early to assess the effect of digital habits, and the tools change so quickly that research can’t keep up with them. By the time investigators design a study, secure funding, collect results and publish them, the technology has changed and the study is outdated.

    Of course you can examine non-verbal comprehension on a population of people, and to state otherwise demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of science.

  28. Leigh Alexander says:

    Yeah, I read it; choosing a response at random to address.

    “…the regurgitated influences in video games are down to games being dominated by insular nerd subculture. That’s false. That IS modern, mainstream culture.”

    That’s not my opinion. Our (gamers’) unwillingness and inability to acknowledge this — perhaps those of us passionate enough to discuss in a thread like this are too proximal to be objective — is one of my biggest frustrations, as someone who loves games.

    We can agree to disagree, then. A difference of opinion does not necessitate that one of us is wholly right while the other isn’t.

    “People looking for more intellectual depth in their entertainment are the minority.”

    With that, I agree (and I said as much in my article). I would like that to change, and that’s what motivates me to write. But even failing change, I’d rather write for an interested minority than for a majority to whom I can’t relate, so that’s what I focus on.

    But yeah, I do read the criticism of my work and pay attention to all of it, and incorporate it when it resonates with me. In this particular case, obviously if I didn’t believe in the validity of my own standpoint, I wouldn’t have accorded the attention to writing it, so generally what -I- see is a defensive rationalization from a community who simply doesn’t want to be criticized.

    Of course, it would be equally valid for someone to say the same of me here, so yeah. Agree to disagree, as I said.

    Where my eyebrows raise is when a dispute of a point I’ve made turns into an attack against me — if you believe I’m incorrect, let me be incorrect, but then why is it a personal affront to you? If I’m the sort of writer whose articles can draw virulent criticism from people who’ve never even read them, it tells me I might be onto something.

    I don’t think that as a critic I’m doing anyone a favor by embracing the cultural status quo without question. I’d rather say things people don’t like to hear than keep saying the same things, is all.

  29. Sunjammer says:

    About Tecmo/Japan-related sexism, i guess this makes me odd, but i rather mind purely sexualised women in games as less offensive than adding needless sexual overtones. DOAXBVB (great acronym) sure is creepy, but it doesn’t offend me beyond its immaturity. It’s simply too ridiculous to worry about.

    I totally applaud Japan’s relationship with sexuality in video games, which i find far more honest and down to earth than the fraidy-cat puritan west, which readily pairs brooding, troubled, “strong” women with giant titties and pretends the latter isn’t there. Yes games like Rapelay are obscene and ridiculous, but they are also nearly impossible to take seriously, being no worse than sex games produced in the west (Germany and Spain i’m looking at you). I mean christ, anyone who has ever had anything resembling a sexual relationship knows how out of this world space-age batshit insane hentai media is; It has little or nothing to do with reality, physically or otherwise.

    Feminists become more troubled by “stealthy” poor depictions of women, because they appear to sneak under the radar. Often the small things in dialog and action are indicative of much worse tendencies than a few art directors’ idealized depictions of women.

    Speaking of women, everyone should replay Freedom Force this week, because it’s bloody good and keeps women equally ridiculous to men at all times, crazy costumes and all. Party time!

  30. cowthief skank says:

    Dracko, you did make one good point: even with a lack of creativity in subject matter (ie the mainstream being predominantly about shooting) there is still a reasonable amount of creativity in execution.

    However, I am unsure how well this compares with other forms of media. Mainstream films are not predominantly about shooting; there are those romance type things, too. So action, or sop. And things with humour too. Mainstream games seem to boil down to “blow stuff up”. But then I guess we get into the argument about what constitutes genre.

    Re The Shock Doctrine: there was an article in the Independent the other day in which it was claimed that Klein had actually fallen out with the producer of the film when she saw his work. She was supposed to narrate it but did not like what he had done. Or something. I could be wrong, it is late.

  31. Will Tomas says:

    I agree with both Mo and Sunjammer’s points, but I think there is an element within this about who the audience for the Kotaku piece actually is.

    It’s the Gaming Geeks of the unfortunately-titled book mentioned by Kieron in the article. It’s people who do define themselves by the Xbox or PS3 that they own, and who thought that the across the board 7/10s for Wii Sports was not only overrating it but that the score actually mattered.

    In this case, the article is trying to make the point that that audience (the hormonal teenage boy one, let’s be honest) is being pandered to too much by developers, and that they should perhaps step outside of that comfort zone more than they do. Given the audience for Kotaku then it’s also suggesting by inference that gamers like that should also try new things out too – that the developers they like/may have heard of/may be interested in aren’t just interested by narrow choices of stuff (Blade Runner, etc.) but take wide influences and are more broadly interested in things outside of those areas too. And I think it’s hoping that the audience will too.

    This, to me, doesn’t imply hatred of gamers, merely a hope that they might find some enjoyment in unfamiliar areas. After all, Ridley Scott made Thema and Louise and Matchstick Men as well as Blade Runner and Alien…

    In other news, Kurt Vonnegut was a legend. RIP.

  32. Helm says:

    I’m always late for the commentary on the sunday papers soe I usually don’t get much in reply but I still sometimes feel compelled to state an opinion. Because these things interest me a lot. Here I go.

    In this case the article by L. Alexander: what it’s touching on is very complicated. To understand why power fantasies (male or not) fuel the mainstream of the popular arts (which they do, I think also) we’d have to understand what are the primary drives of humanity, society and the individual. That is not only difficult but uncomfortable when one inches towards the core of it. Power fantasies don’t just drive art, they drive life. What are the atavist urges and how are they served in a modern context? What are we repressing and pretending we don’t feel? What are we symbolically expressing when we blow up alien heads and what when we save the world?

    It’s a huge complicated discussion that should very well happen again and again, in the context of videogames like in any other humanist field, but surely the answer is not to tell gamers – or humans in general – to get a life. This sort of transferred self-loathing doesn’t serve to move anyone closer to their truth. Better to equip people to accept what life they have, and then understand it.

    I’m not disagreeing with her on the face of it: yes, most mainstream games serve base purposes and yes, this will keep on happening as long as it’s marketable. But I am not so sure that there should be contrarian, completely external and ideological pressures to change this because the state of the industry paints us slightly-more-intellectual-types in an unpleasant light. Videogame art (like all art) in informed, and reflective of, the society that feeds it. You do not change the art to change the society, it’s the other way around. If the themata of modern video games reflect unflatteringly on us as gamers and humans, we should be spending more time scrutinizing the reflection and less trying to find ways to warp the mirror so as to achieve some ultimately fake but more favorable persona.

  33. Dolphan says:

    @Baris: She often seems to respond to comments on her own blog. I think it would be a rather big ask to expect anyone to spend their time trawling through comments on blogs that have linked to them.

    @Dracko: For all your pontificating, you’re framing your own approach to a debate by throwing insults. It doesn’t take a genius to see that pretty much any point of view on any issue has plenty of arrogant critics (especially on the net) willing to deride it as ‘laughable’ etc. Unless you’re utterly convinced that you’re that much brighter and have that much better a line on reality than all the idiots out there who wouldn’t hesitate to scoff and pour scorn on any of your views, you might want to consider a little humility.

    I don’t particularly agree with Leigh. I think she tends to fall short on some issues because she seems to have something of a console bias, and the diversity she seems to want has always been more prevalent on PC. But I understand where her frustrations come from. A great deal of the resources, time and energy put into making games are focused on output that is, in the end, pretty childish. I’m not suggesting creative, innovative ideas aren’t found in big-budget mainstream games or anything like that (CoD4 did some excellent things with storytelling) – but the medium has a lot of potential, and games that really show that, like Ico, are comparatively rare.

    The sticking point for me is that I doubt that games really differ all that much from other media in that respect At least films, music, and comics anyway – books might be an exception, but it may just be that the ‘artier’ side gets more exposure there. By-the-numbers romances and thrillers probably make up a huge proportion of book sales, though I don’t know any figures so I could be completely wrong. Anyway, I suspect that the effect is skewed for critics. Consumers get to pick and choose. Critics can’t ignore what they don’t like in the same way. Since critics are consumers outside their own medium, its easy for them to think there’s more of a difference between their own medium and others than there actually is – which I think may have happened to Leigh in this case.

    I should make it clear that I don’t have any problem with non-’arty’ (I wish I could think of better terms here) games, books, films etc. I love blowing stuff up. Or watching stuff get blown up. But that’s entirely compatible with being frustrated about there not being more of the other stuff. And in any of those media, it’s up for debate what the proportions should be. It’s clearly subjective. It’s worth talking about. But it’s not worth pouring bile on those who disagree. If you’re not interested in considering someone else’s view, why get involved in the discussion in the first place?

  34. Dolphan says:

    Wow, lot of stuff came up while I was writing that. Kudos to Leigh for replying, even if it made the first bit of my post obsolete :p

  35. Sunjammer says:

    Leigh, i’m not impressed with the notion that merely questioning a culture is enough to incite change. I’ll bet you’ll have a hard time finding any informed “gamer” (though i hate that term passionately) willing to argue that the current mainstream games market is sufficiently varied and rich in content and subject matter. If your goal is to make a difference, then the whole article becomes almost entirely futile. We KNOW this is what the mainstream is, and we KNOW its sad that we have to dig through so much poo to find the gems. You are literally preaching to the choir. If your goal was to influence the status quo, you would necessarily need to reach out to the mainstream. Instead, you huddle up with your buddies and make inoffensive commentary that everyone can agree on.

  36. jarvoll says:

    People: the suffix -oid means “resembles but is qualitatively not”, not “small version of”. Thus, a humanoid is something that resembles a human, but is not, in fact, one. It follows then, that clive dunn ought to have used “factlet”, since the quote he posted was actually fact, merely smaller or less significant than most facts, and not “factoid”, which would imply that the quote resembled a fact, but was really not one.

  37. CaseytheBrash says:

    Why does Sleater Kinney scare you? Local band where I’m at they do ok. More of a studio band I think, which is odd for “punk.”

  38. MD says:

    If I’m the sort of writer whose articles can draw virulent criticism from people who’ve never even read them, it tells me I might be onto something.

    This sounds like a slight variation on the old ‘pissing people off = successful art/journalism/whatever’ line. Which is ridiculous. You can annoy someone just as effectively by following them around repeating everything they say, or pinching them, as you can with a cutting witticism at their expense; you can draw ire and vitriol with worthless pot-stirring just as effectively as with incisive criticism.

  39. jarvoll says:

    Also, that correlational “study” of metacritic rating and sales was irritatingly free of any statistics whatsoever. Where’s Pearson’s coefficient? There’s no point having a pretty graph and some nice ideas; one needs maths to know if one’s ideas have any merit. Of course, any half-trained scientist could look at that graph and deduce that r would be very low, but it is always necessary to know HOW low before drawing any conclusions. Thankfully, the author draws what is likely the correct conclusion (i.e. there is no relationship to speak of between MC score and sales), but not without first misleading readers with a title that implies causation, which could never be determined with a purely correlational methodology. Also, “data” is plural.

  40. Lyndon says:

    That gen y article rubbed me the wrong way. Allow me to quote from it.

    “Nobody knows the extent of the problem”

    No shit pilgrim that’s because you’re not basing this wild speculation on anything even approaching empirical evidence. You just sat down and thought “Man I hate these young people, they’re so rude, what could be causing it? Must be that new fangled social networking.”

    Cause youngsters were never rude before? Dude is a freaking English professor for heaven’s sake. If I need help decoding James Joyce novels I’ll go to him but he should really leave this sort of thing to the social sciences.

  41. Andy`` says:

    I could have completely misinterpreted Leigh’s entire article, which is highly likely at the moment… Despite all the mistakes and the controversy, the one thing I took away from Ms. Alexander’s article there was that she identified an important thing and forgot to properly stress the point: mainstream games aren’t thematically interesting enough. She praises all these games with weird styles and settings, and those that inject some social commentary, and complains about games with limited sources of inspiration. She even has Schafer talk about themes and inspirations and then gets completely sidetracked, because the easiest examples to hold up as mainstream games all happen to be digital testosterone shots, usually with shooting, and she starts talking about how that’s all getting a bit tiresome now but doesn’t appear to expand on the point further than “fewer shootybangs please”.

    Maybe if we stopped talking about them so much they would go away, but I don’t care about the power fantasies, I care about the art: so maybe we should probably start injecting those power fantasies with art (themes, style, social commentary), talk about them more than other games and sabotage the whole deal. Less rocking the boat, more poisoning the well, forcing change to happen slowly and comfortably. Maybe that’s already happening, but who am I to say, and who am I to say if anyone’s doing enough? I’m no social engineering master. No, I’m not talking about “games as art”, that’s another topic entirely.

    I also found it a bit ironic that the developer-chatsies in that article that didn’t feel fake were the ones talking about the past and the present, and anyone talking about The Future Of Gaming started to feel contrived and, somehow, wrong. These future predicting humans are also the ones apparently making derivative rubbish, and the ones with all the money to spend. Says something about their thinking maybe, or maybe it’s a huge coincidence.

  42. SteveHatesYou says:

    “That’s not my opinion. Our (gamers’) unwillingness and inability to acknowledge this — perhaps those of us passionate enough to discuss in a thread like this are too proximal to be objective — is one of my biggest frustrations, as someone who loves games.”

    I do think I’m looking at this objectively – I see the same derivation in the top-sellers of every form of entertainment. I see the same complaints about every medium. These problems are not unique to video games or to people who play them, it’s endemic in mainstream Western culture, which video games are very much a part of.

    However, other mediums are able to cheaply produce content for people with more specialized interests – for those who want something more original, who want intellectually stimulating entertainment. That’s not true in video games. We’ve only recently started to grow an independent market, and it still has a long way to go.

    “Where my eyebrows raise is when a dispute of a point I’ve made turns into an attack against me — if you believe I’m incorrect, let me be incorrect, but then why is it a personal affront to you? If I’m the sort of writer whose articles can draw virulent criticism from people who’ve never even read them, it tells me I might be onto something.”

    I’m not sure if you’re addressing me here, but you did quote my post. Nothing I wrote was intended to be a personal attack against you.

  43. drewski says:

    I ran out of ability to pay attention about halfway down the thread, but V. Tchitcherine – your post was worth reading that far by itself, never mind the articles.

  44. shitflap says:

    I’m really quite saddened by the fact that there were not more comments on “The Shock Doctirine”, I found it to be an incredibly facinating documentary, especially seeing how international free market economics is not in my interests. The “Shock” part probably should have been left to be dealt with in a more heavy-handed way in the book, Americans who read seem to love that kind of stuff, or at least need some kind of underlying theme shoved down their throats every few minutes. ^^
    My hat off to you, Mr Gillen for bringing this to my attention.

  45. Leigh Alexander says:

    @Dolphan — your assertion of a console bias on my part is fair, although I think it’s my right to specialize in some platforms and not others. I’ll admit, though, that I’m sometimes guilty of generalizing when I ought to specify.

    @Sunjammer — if I were preaching to the choir, then everyone would just be nodding along with me, not arguing. Also, who are these buddies with whom I huddle up? It’d be great if I had some people like that to take some of these arrows for me.

    Still, though, the bit about making inoffensive commentary that everyone can agree on? One of, if not the largest of my weaknesses as a writer. You’re right; I’m workin’ on it.

    @MD who decides between incisive criticism and worthless pot-stirring? Genuine question.

    I am still not sure whether your collective responses indicate that I’m being perceived as impotently agreeable — “preaching to the choir” — or whether you think I’ve been ignorantly divisive, but I’m happy to get your feedback. It’s really refreshing to have people challenge me, because too often a lot of my readership lets me squeak by on personal goodwill. I appreciate it.

    Exce-e-e-pt —

    @Dracko — “hates both the medium and the message” ? To borrow your word, that assertion is “laughable.” I love games and everyone in and around them, except for, to be blunt, people like you who are so unhealthfully attached as to become unhinged and personally affronted over articles about video games. When I say “get a life,” I’m talking to you.

    Yeah, your sort, I do hate, honestly, and if there is resentment between the lines of my work, it’s the cringing in me, the spiritual curling-away that I feel knowing that no matter how hard I work — work I do out of love and fellowship, believe it or not — there will be people like you leaving the sort of comment more appropriately directed toward someone who’d threatened your family.

    I must take care every day to remember that your sort is an outlier, and not the whole of the community I believe in.

  46. David says:

    @Leigh

    “I am still not sure whether your collective responses indicate that I’m being perceived as impotently agreeable — “preaching to the choir” — or whether you think I’ve been ignorantly divisive, but I’m happy to get your feedback.”

    I get the impression that the reaction to your agreeable-ness stems from the Kotaku piece, while the anger and defensiveness is a reaction to the SVG piece about your reasons for writing it (“We need a freakin’ life, guys!”).

    Rightly or wrongly, I don’t think it’s surprising that people would connect (and perhaps draw different conclusions) based on the relationship of these two articles.

  47. Leigh Alexander says:

    @David — oh, I see. It’s funny; I wasn’t aware at the time I jotted out the blog post that the tone was as hostile as it seems to be in hindsight.

  48. Krondonian says:

    Like shitflap (never envisioned writing that before), I don’t know a damn thing about economics. The whole shock treatment angle seemed a bit over-the-top, but the privatisation of the military in America it highlights is just crazy. Thanks for that one.

    On the topic of mainstream games’ lack of creativity and general bang banginess, I think about Valve. Leigh’s article mentions Portal, quite rightly, as an exception to the general feeling of the article. Yet look at Team Fortress 2 and it’s incredibly refreshing visual art style* or Half-Life 2′s advancement of realistic characterisation. This is from a fabulously successful company. The recently linked video where Gabe talks to some deaf folk and talks about getting signing in a future Half-Life further increases my respect for the company as leaders in the advancement of games as a medium. Now of course there are others beside, but they’re one strong argument for mainstream innovation and creativity.

  49. Krondonian says:

    Um, it’s late. The first paragraph is referring to the Shock Doctrine and the * after TF2 was juts going to point out that I know the influence of TF2′s characters was from 50′s (I think) illustration, so that may well play into Leigh’s point.

  50. Vinraith says:

    I’ve never thought about it before, but pieces like Leigh’s make me sincerely wonder how unusual I am in what I’m looking for from computer games. I don’t really care about diversity of influence or quality of story telling in games, because I don’t associate them with other forms of media. I grew up on board games, war games, pen and paper role-playing, miniatures games and the like. What I want out of my PC games is that experience, absent the need to find a group of people to play with.

    Frankly, I’ve always been of the opinion that games are lousy story telling devices, because the more story they tell the less they’re a game. Pre-planned plot precludes player choice, and I’m far more interested in a sense of freedom, meaningful decision making, and the ability to create my own story than I am in living someone else’s story. That’s what movies and books are for, to my thinking. Games are about interactivity.