The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on March 6th, 2011 at 2:11 pm.

Delightful Fiance says YOU BETTER NOT BE DOING THIS NEXT WEEK.

Don’t call it a comeback. Please don’t. Basically, Jim’s Sunday Papering has been scuppered by the fact someone’s apparently stole his laptop. Some people really need drills in their eyes, eh? Which leaves me to dust off the old WordPress login and compile a list of the fine (mostly) games related reading from across the week, while trying to link to some Jim-esque ambient noise rather than some girls singing in half-harmony about fanzines and blu-tack. Go!

  • I haven’t chewed over this one properly – it just arrived in the inbox this morning, courtesy of James Andrewartha – but Jonathan McCalmont’s piece “Seeing Like A State: Why Strategy Games Make Us Think and Behave Like Brutal Psychopaths” strikes me as provocative and powerful. When people tie games onto the theoretical-political stage it can seem awkward, but this seems both useful and necessary. Good stuff.
  • And the game which made me aware of me slipping into monstrous tyranny most pointedly gets its release. Fate of the World kind of just dropped somewhat surprisingly, but Denby was on point over at Beefjack with an enormous two-part interview. Their site’s down right now, but worth saving for when it’s back up and active.
  • This impressed me. You may remember a School-Shooter-mod doing the rounds. Well, The Escapist interviews its creator who methodically explains why he did it. Which is cold as hell, to the point of sociopathy. Well worth reading just for the mental work out. Essentially, it’s because videogames are fun and mean nothing. Nothing means anything in games. It’s just a game. Of course, what he doesn’t realise (or rather does, and doesn’t care – fundamentally, he’s either a bit thick or a troll/agent provacteur) is that by making a game that so carefully says games don’t mean anything… well, that’s showing how expressive games can be. He showing that games totally express a message by creating something which just argues that the medium is inherently nihilistic. That’s a statement too.
  • Probably the biggest piece I’ve seen on Dickwolves, in The Boston Phoenix. It’s slanted a little one way – one paraphrase strikes me as particularly unfair – but does lay out all the information and how far it’s gone beyond the (defendable) initial comic. It’s an open shame that Penny Arcade – who I like a lot – went the way they did with this. While RPS avoids them, I’m fine with defending a cartoonist making a joke involving rape. But a cartoonist openly mocking rape victims getting offended is, to say the least incredibly insensitive and it’s no surprise that without a real apology, this one is going to hang over Penny Arcade for a long time. Which when Penny Arcade has done as many enormously positive things in the world of gaming, is a real fucking shame.
  • Sinister Design has a crack at the nuts-and-bolts semantics of one of gaming’s more awkward phrases. What does an RPG actually consist of at an atomic level? It’s a methodical approach – so that some of the earlier points that are rejected are a little obvious – but that all adds to its final position.
  • Frustratingly, I haven’t listened to this yet. GAMBIT are doing a series of podcasts about the history of looking glass, interviewing the main players. The first one’s up, and is with writer/designer Austin Grossman.
  • Tom Bissell and Simon Ferrari go head to head to talk games criticism.
  • John Simpson recalls his experiences on Gadaffi. Lots of interesting writing around the Libyan situation, but this one stuck with me.
  • I stuck this Werner Herzog profile-interview in the Sunday Papers document so Jim could read it. But fuck it, you can too. This is just plain fun. Hail Herzog!
  • And Walker forwarded me the most popular autocorrects in 2011 this morning, which left me with tears on my face and trying to actually say the best ones aloud to delightful fiancée when she was in the bath. And breaking down cackling..
  • God, Simon Sweeping The Nation knows me. He pointed Pris at me, as the sneery trashy-girl pop which always works for me (The Blonde –> Kenickie lineage). Their smarter lovelorn side is shown with Crying After Kennedy , but my The Waitresses/Slits/Shampoo clever-dumbness of Blu-Tack Baby is the one I’ve got on repeat. No prizes for pinpointing the immortal bit with the spoken word exchange and the doo-doos and the “Oooh-fuck”.

Failed.

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196 Comments »

  1. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    Thanks for stepping in to save the Sunday Papers, Kieron.

    And for Jim’s laptop, I can only say: What a shame.

  2. John Walker says:

    It’s a comeback!

    • pupsikaso says:

      What is this, I don’t even

    • Robert says:

      I don’t think anyone can deny that ‘Kieron the comeback kid’ has a nice ring to it.

    • Nova says:

      Jim’s Laptop has been stolen and now Kieron is back.

      Coincidence?

    • Starky says:

      “Kieron the comeback kid”? Sounds more like a description of his sex life.

    • alice says:

      You had better watch out Walker, Kieron’s momma said to knock you out.

  3. fearian says:

    After reading the articles I could honestly imagine Herzog as a middle eastern dictator and Gadaffi as an insane film maker.

  4. Sunjumper says:

    Damn when I got up this morning I woke up in the wrong year.
    I hate it when this happens.

  5. outoffeelinsobad says:

    Herzog win!

  6. sexyresults says:

    it feels so right

  7. BobsLawnService says:

    COuld it be that gamers behave like tyrants in games because they are just games, have no real world implications and behaving like a tyrant is generally an effective strategy for winning them? That article is just another attempt to add a hidden level of meaning to something which has none. I’m a tyrant in Civ 5 for the same reason I shoot people in the face in an FPS.

    It’s part of the same coin that has “Bulletstorm doesn’t cause rape” on one side.

    • Sunjumper says:

      I think the article had some pretty interesting points to make. The more intriguing one was less the why even the most liberal individual tends to turn into a tyranical monster in strategy games but rather why people in the real world tend to fall back into similar kinds of behaviours as shown by the gamers.
      And imporant difference between the links of action games and reality and strategy games and reality is that if you were to shoot, stab or chainsaw a person in reality you would have to do it yourslef and do it to a real human right there in front of you, while the difference of forcing the poor into slave labour to make your state run more effectively in a game and doing it from your comfortable office far away from the unwashed masses is far smaller.

      Also using the ‘it’s just a game’ argument is a bit naivé in my opinion. By the same logic you could say that every work of fiction and even non-fiction if you just passively consume it has no impact on you whatsoever because it is ‘just a movie’, ‘just a book’, ‘just a song’, ‘just something you heard your parents tell you’, ‘just a scientific paper’ etc…
      Which ties in perfectly with the point made about the School-Shooter mod.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      “The more intriguing one was less the why even the most liberal individual tends to turn into a tyranical monster in strategy games but rather why people in the real world tend to fall back into similar kinds of behaviours as shown by the gamers.”

      I think this is a bit backwards. You can’t take the effect and make it the cause. It is the game design which mirrors the behaviour of tyrants and gamers just play according to the rules and design of the game.

      I think the author of that article is trying to pull a Milgram/Stanford Prison Experiment on games and I think that they are wrong.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      Surely then the question is why is being a brutal tyrant always the optimal strategy for winning at strategy games? Why is it that you win at Civilisation when you wipe out all other nations rather than when you: Can comfortably feed, clothe, house and educate the entire population of the planet, you’ve cured most major diseases, global life expectancy is over 100, infant mortality is under 0.1% and world peace has been declared?

    • BobsLawnService says:

      Also in response to the School Shooter mod – sometimes a game is just a game even if it is incredibly tasteless and we run the risk of over-analysing these things. In this particular case I’m not sure whether the mod maker is being willfully obtuse or whether he really means what he says but I think Keiron may be over-analysing it a bit as well.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      “Surely then the question is why is being a brutal tyrant always the optimal strategy for winning at strategy games? Why is it that you win at Civilisation when you wipe out all other nations rather than when you: Can comfortably feed, clothe, house and educate the entire population of the planet, you’ve cured most major diseases, global life expectancy is over 100, infant mortality is under 0.1% and world peace has been declared?”

      I think it is because throughout most of the history of the human race conquest and tyranny has generally been the path towards expansion and the health of an empire. Strategy games tend to mirror this although most of then these days give the option of other victory conditions (Science, cultural, diplomatic, etc.)

      Having mentioned the above I still think that you can’t read too much into the fact that a lot of people still tend to choose the military paths to victory. Unlike an experiment in which real humans are being used (Milgram/Stanford prison experiments) us gamers know the difference betwen killing 1′s and 0′s and real life humans.

      Granted that is a generalization.

    • Caleb367 says:

      Fun fact: old timer here. Played almost all the “oh my god it’s the devil’s work” games from day one, including Doom, Postal, Mortal Kombat, Grand Theft Auto series, and so on.
      I’m also an old fan of strategy games, like Civilization or Master of Orion.
      And you know what?
      More often than not, I find myself in trouble, ’cause i keep playing ultra-pacifist. Even in Total War games, and I admit that’s pretty dumb, neglect the army in a game called Total WAR.

      Another non-related fun fact: I’ve read that Fox actually managed to win a lawsuit by claiming the second amendment gives them the constitutional right to lie and spread bullshit around. Freedom of speech and whatnot.

      I WISH i was kidding.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      My playstyle in Civilization generally mirrors history. Early on I go expansionist and go war heavy, towards the 1800′s I consolodate and push towards a technological victory. I also don’t ever adopt slavery but I’m weird like that. Oh, and in RPG’s I can’t bring myself to be an asshole.

    • Archonsod says:

      “Why is it that you win at Civilisation when you wipe out all other nations rather than when you: Can comfortably feed, clothe, house and educate the entire population of the planet, you’ve cured most major diseases, global life expectancy is over 100, infant mortality is under 0.1% and world peace has been declared?”

      You can. There’s also the technology, cultural and diplomatic victories.

      Civ is a poor example because it doesn’t much model any kind of human factor beyond an abstract happiness value which is caused by overcrowding and alleviated by building temples.
      Tropico would’ve been a better example.

    • Alaphic says:

      Interestingly enough, I seem to take exactly the opposite course in such games… I rarely work toward making a large military in the civ games, instead focusing on city building and technological advancement.

      Perhaps all of you are just fucked up little Napoleans, then? :-p

    • Jinnigan says:

      Sorry, but I have to come out and say that I think the “seeing like a state” essay is utter, utter trash. The article seems more like ideas based off a freshman student’s first time smoking marijuana than a well-researched, well-thought-out piece of research and journalism. McCalmont makes extraordinary claims, provides little (and what evidence does exist is cherry-picked), and has gaping holes in his knowledge of the kind of analyses which already exist.

      Here a small example of the kind of unsupported statements which the author constantly makes: “If we consider the warren-like chaos of a medieval city we will note that its streets, though difficult to represent on a map, make perfect sense to the people who live on them. [...] It is not until the advent of the modern nation state, with its desire for central planning and centralised military security, that all of these human concerns are replaced by the god-like needs and perceptions of the state.” If I’m reading this right, McCalmont is arguing that ‘ye baroque cities of olde’ make perfect sense to it’s inhabitants, while modern cities are centralisized and difficult and make no sense to navigate. But a quick glance at the history section of Urban Planning gives us an incredible of “medieval cities” which were planned, gridlike, or centralised, dating back to the Greeks and Romans. Are these the advent of the modern nation states which McCalmont is railing against?

      Moving on, McCalmont has an absurdly simple reading of history. “The history of the Twentieth Century is the history of the state forming its own realities,” McCalmont says. He then lists Mao’s Great Leap Forward, social restructuring processes known as Villagization, and the Khmer Rouge’s massive killings as evidence of schemes “implemented on the basis of sound scientific thinking and complete indifference to human suffering.” McCalmont thinks that these deaths and famines were solely the result of a high-in-the-sky leader looking at numbers which didn’t accurately reflect reality. Seeing such complex events through such a simple lens, with no supporting arguments, makes me think the man knows almost nothing about these events. While I can’t speak on villagization, I would argue that the Great Leap Forward and the Khmer Rouge’s massacres were fully aware and actively in pursuit of human suffering, considering it’s purposefully violent and anti-bourgeoisie underpinnings, and the political ends the suffering was working towards.

      McCalmont then goes on to proclaim Modern Man as “paralysed by choice,” trying to work out “who we are, what we should do and what it all means.” While it’s always tempting to make sweeping generalizations about the current state of humanity, such generalizations seem to read more like projections of personal insecurities and problems rather than any well-researched statements. Speaking of how irony and cynicism have destroyed this modern generation of Men strikes me as another case of looking back with rose-colored glasses. Did non-modern man really live with sentimentality, with a full awareness of what life meant, and what one should aspire to? Is ennui and apathy something that only began with modernism and industralism? The very etymology of such words would suggest otherwise.

      As the author moves on to discussions of the state and the role of politicians within them, he seems fully caught up in his own image of the state as a singular entity, ignoring the decades of discussion and argument around the nature of the state. For example, McCalmont offers an interpretation of the “Groupthink displayed in the run-up to the Iraq War was not an administrative failure but an act of spiritual communion.” Very interesting, McCalmont! Unfortunately, this ignores the widest (and in my opinion, most valid) reading of the Iraq War – as an administrative success. Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine (2007) argues that 9/11 was an opportunity seized upon by neoliberal elements in Washington to undertake their invasion of Iraq, something they had been wanting for a long time. While the political nature of the Iraq War may be tangential to McCalmont’s point, the fact that he is ignorant of such a key piece of criticism and framework speaks volumes on his familiarity with political analysis and criticism.

      Finally, academic and sociological criticisms aside, I would like to talk about the videogame side of things. McCalmont speaks only of a few games, all of which offer War as a primary method of gameplay, and all of which offer a similar high-in-the-sky perspective. Of course it seems all games are about efficiency and brutality, if those are the only ones you talk about! But the author curiously ignores the case of postitive games, games which are all about making our little computer people happy. While not as popular in recent years, games like Settlers, Simcity, Caesar, and others do exactly what the author thinks games don’t do: encourage players to think about and care about the quality of life of their virtual citizens.

      All that being said, I do think the author is getting at some basically interesting issues. But the author’s unfamiliarity with the mass complexity of issues he is trying to tackle, combined with his sloppy and unrigorous writing, makes me want to throw it out the window.

    • gwathdring says:

      Well said Jinnigan.

    • nemryn says:

      Caleb: Wait, the second amendment??
      what
      how does that even

    • Archonsod says:

      “But a quick glance at the history section of Urban Planning gives us an incredible of “medieval cities” which were planned, gridlike, or centralised, dating back to the Greeks and Romans. Are these the advent of the modern nation states which McCalmont is railing against?”

      To be fair though the Romans built in gridlike towns for military defence, so while it’s not a modern invention it’s the same principles at work. In fact, I’d say the problem with his argument is it’s outdated in that respect; certainly since the industrial revolution town planning has been influenced more by the needs of private commerce rather than the state.

      I think his choice of games pretty much renders his argument moot though. As you point out, there are ample games which make the quality of life paramount, or at least focus on it as a major part of the gameplay. It renders his entire question somewhat invalid; the answer to the question he poses in this case is “because that’s the point of the game”. It’s somewhat like asking why games turn people into sociopath criminals and refusing to consider anything outside the GTA series.

    • Consumatopia says:

      Yeah, Jinnigan you had a lot of good points but pointing to Greek and Roman grids as a counter-example is rubbish. Grids have always had ideological/spiritual significance. Pointing to Pythagorean Greece and the Roman Empire only confirms that.

      Regarding villigization/Mao/Khmer Rouge/etc., McCalmont was summarizing what James C. Scott was talking about in Seeing Like a State. Don’t complain that McCalmont didn’t give you enough evidence, go read Scott’s book.

      “Did non-modern man really live with sentimentality, with a full awareness of what life meant, and what one should aspire to?” I think McCalmont’s point is that premodern man was TOLD what life meant and forced to accept it uncritically. That’s still a debatable point, of course.

      That said, I’m not sure I was any more convinced than you were of the author’s final conclusions by the time I got to the end of the piece.

    • cummerbund jackson says:

      After a lifetime of playing various Civ versions + other city / nation management sims, I’ve actually found I usually take a different approach than what most real-life autocracies do.

      Take Tropico for example. While I sometimes do evil things in the game like assassinate political rivals or send them to prison for re-education, overall its a much more enjoyable game if you try to make life good for your people, at least economically. The game has an option to be terribly corrupt and send money away to your own personal overseas bank account, but this is boring as the account is just some number on the screen and doesn’t actually provide any gameplay benefits. Definitely much more fun to take the huge budget surpluses from those offshore oil deposits and build a complicated and attractive infrastructure that ultimately ends up with most of my very well-educated population living in the higher-end apartment buildings and condos. To be sure, I amuse myself by building tons of statues dedicated to the greatness of El Presidente, but there’s more than enough left over to make quality health care and education free to everyone.

      And it makes me wonder what goes on in the mind of the typical, painfully rich dictator. For example, thinking of Mubarak with his rumored 50-70 billion in various accounts. I can understand the impulse to squirrel a little away, but once you’ve got the 1 or 2 billion, it’s really pointless to accumulate any more personally. If you have the power and money to remake a country, build cities of sparkling towers and high speed trains, give free education through the college level and beyond, or even start the first Arab space program, why not? You’ll make most of the people happy, have low unemployment, make your nation part of the first world, and have a lot more fun than you would by doing nothing other than chuckling evilly at your latest bank statements. There’s still plenty of money left over to throw decadent parties and do two chicks at the same time.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      Jinnigan, you said “neoliberal”. I think you meant “neoconservative”. Unless you believe laissez-faire economists were behind the war in Iraq.

    • Consumatopia says:

      @cummerbund jackson, wow, Tropico is a really interesting example. Your experience sounds really familiar to me. I never had much fun messing around with the police state-ish options, even though when I bought the game I kind of expected that to be a blast (which rules out the possibility that I was too scrupulous to use them).

      It might be that the Tropico just didn’t spend enough time developing the “police state” experience. Or it might be that running a police state is actually just kind of boring and annoying. Which is very plausible. We imagine generals finding glory and spies finding glamour, but nobody glamorizes or glorifies the secret police.

      OTOH, now that I think about it there aren’t really all that many video games that focus on the regular kind of police. Which is strange–television freaking loves cop shows. Why don’t video games share that love? I guess detective work just ends up translating into lame-ass point and click adventure games. I remember that Serial Killer Roguelike hoax which looked like a lot of fun. I wonder if a Police Detective Roguelike would make sense?

      Someone should probably email McCalmont and ask him about Tropico ;) .

    • Ed123 says:

      thebigJ_A: I doubt it’s a mistake. The Shock Doctrine both explicitly and implicitly conflates the two at various points so presumably Jinnigan has taken the same view.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      I laughed at how the author of that piece explicitly labels treating people like worthless numbers, abusing them endlessly, and generally being a cruel, autocratic, violent, murderous dickhead as the, quote, “conservative” view. And being a decent human being is apparently an exclusively “liberal” view.

      I’m not a conservative but even I find that classification incredibly bigoted and self-serving. In fact I find the whole manner he rapidly turned an ostensibly “gaming” piece into a self-righteous leftist soapbox, borderline disturbing.

      Is there nothing people will not twist and use for ideological ends?

  8. Vandalbarg says:

    That seeing like a state article is one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. They even quote John Gray!

  9. bill says:

    Yay! Failure has returned! I missed it!

    • Will Tomas says:

      I missed it too. Hooray!

    • Schmitzkater says:

      I don’t know a lot of those (mostly British) girlypop-bands, but after not having Kieron point them out to us every week, I realized just how much I actually love them.

      Where would I go about finding a repository of pointers for where to find this music by any chance?

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      You know, I found something was missing in my life when Kieron Gillen left.

      I never thought it was trashy euro pop.

  10. TomSmizzle says:

    Hooray for girly pop songs!

  11. bill says:

    Am I the only one who read the “what is an RPG?” article’s example of a non-rpg story and thought it sounded like a much more interesting idea than any RPG i’ve seen in years?
    Then again, I liked Yahtzee’s idea of an RPG where your character gets weaker.

    The comments make some interesting points too…

    • duffers says:

      Darklands had this, right from the get go. It acted accordingly too, with elderly members of the group being more frail and lacking strength and youthful characters making rash and unwise decisions. Very progressive feautures even now.

    • Josh W says:

      Interestingly, the “slowly degrade” game story actually fits that rpg definition if you get to choose what your character holds on to. In fact I have a feeling that some games have already been made in tabletop form based around that set of themes!

  12. Muddy Water says:

    Oh wow, I was vaguely aware of the Dickwolves saga, but I did not know the Penny Arcade guys were such massive tools about it. Funniest thing is that, if nothing else, the whole episode has proven that the Internet Fuckwad Theory really is 100% true.

    • Starky says:

      I don’t read penny arcade (except very casually) nor care about it, but that story is incredibly biased – the penny Arcade guys made some mistakes to be sure, but the outrage has been WAY out of all proportion as to be ridiculous.

      And of course internet media lap this kind of controversy up, and any good story needs a bad guy.

      For example quite a few times in that story he describes what the PA guys said without quoting them, but if you read the actual quote (a few of which are linked in the comments of the story) you see it was no where near as bad as that journalist tries to make it seem. For example the “banned from penny arcade expo” bit – the actual quote mentions nothing about banning anyone from future events at all.

      This whole issue is stupid – a few genuinely upset people drowned out by a swath of internet “offended on behalf of” idiots (just looking for a cause, any cause) on one side. And a just as many drooling childish man-children trying to be as offensive as possible (the actual dickwads of this whole situation) on the other.

      The comic was fine, the joke was fine – the reaction from the PA guys was understandable but a mistake nonetheless, and they took way too long to denounce those dickwads trying to mock rape victims.
      Again though the other side wasn’t really any more mature or sensible in handling it – no comedian or artist is going to look at a situation dispassionately or try to look at the broader context when 90% of the finger pointers are just ranting “ban this sick filth” at them.

      I’d wager if the people who were genuinely upset and the creators of PA could have sat in a room and talked this would never have been an issue.
      Instead you have dickwads supporting rape and PA (or thinking they are) and the moral outrage brigade on the other shouting and screaming like toddlers throwing a tantrum the natural response to that from ANY reasonable person is to utterly cut themselves off from it and ignore the whole thing – trying to engage with that meaningfully is like pissing into the wind.

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      I dont read the comic, but I dont think their “apology” comic is in anyway bad. They are defending it against people who get offended at the mention of the word, or in this case, people asking that there be a PTSD warning for rape victims.
      Surely such a warning reminds such a person they are a victim, thus being useless?
      As expressed in the article, its part of a gamers vocabulary. How do they not expect it? In the same way you expect the comic to talk about violence, be it gun violence, swords, grenads, whatever.
      Should they put a PTSD warning for people who have been mugged at gun point? Soliders who have been killed by grenades (Im sure they have comics about grenades, a FPS staple)?

      Would you read a gaming comic and expect to come across these things?
      I wouldnt think so.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I thought PA response was fine. Saying that they were mocking offended rape victims seems ridiculous. I didn’t read it as that at all to be honest.

      The craziest thing is, I didn’t think it was even a particularly shocking joke. So I just can’t really care about this absolute non-story.

    • RadioactiveMan says:

      I agree very much with Starky. Well written!

      I thought the original PA strip was quite funny, and I think I understand PA’s rationale in responding to the controversy the way they did. I think it is unfortunate that PA had to come out and say “we are not responsible for these guys, and cannot control them”. That should have been implicitly understood from the beginning. This is a common problem with internet communities- There should be a better understanding that there are some pretty terrible people out there on the internet, and that no-one else in the community (even the community organizers) is responsible for their actions.

      I thought the article got better as it moved away from the Dickwolves incident. The discussion about the adolescent culture in online gaming is a more interesting issue, I think, and should be addressed more often. The pervasiveness of rudeness, insensitivity, and hostility (mostly among male pre-teens and teens) is pretty disturbing. The online gaming scene, particularly in alot of FPS, can be pretty grim when viewed in context with other aspects of modern western culture (such as poor parenting, excessive medication, and social maladjustion). Its bizarrely fascinating to watch a kill-streak or speed-run video on YouTube and see the player teabagging enemies with no more acknowledgement than when they reload their weapon.

    • cjlr says:

      Amen, starky

    • Negativeland says:

      The only thing Gabe & Tycho are guilty of, is thinking that people are, deep down, decent and rational beings. If there’s one thing that this saga has shown, it’s that utter arseholes and complete wastes of flesh sometimes get raped too. All the so-called “press”, clearly enjoying wallowing in the manufactured controversy are no better. Rape is a serious issue, and this bullshit sensationalism does no one any favors, except these cynical pieces-of-shit offenderati.

    • Negativeland says:

      @Hoaxfish: Clearly he’s a rapist and an all around perv. With him being male and all.
      Also, Rape Culture!

    • Terraval says:

      @Peter Radiator Full Pig

      Penny Arcade is notorious for joking about everything and anything they want to, so yes I think it’s fair to say if you’re easily offended then reading PA is going to piss you off and you should expect nothing less.

      Also have there been any real, journal published evidence trigger warnings do anything whatsoever?

    • Jumwa says:

      The article wasn’t a very well written one, but they made some good points that I myself recently came to the same conclusion of last time RPS linked a story on the issue that caused me to investigate.

      There are more objective timelines of events out there, but the lack of ‘spin’–or whatever you wish to call it–didn’t prevent me from being disgusted with PA’s behaviour and ending my visits to their site.

      I defended the initial comic, saw nothing wrong with it–not that an apology for offending someone with a perfectly acceptable comic would’ve been out of line either–even the second one, but their behaviour after that was just purposely antagonistic towards not only their opponents, but rape victims.

      Glad to see RPS take on it, no matter how briefly stated.

    • JackShandy says:

      The first response to the dickwolves comic came from a small amount of emails and a feminist website no-one had ever heard of. By posting a reaction comic on their site, Penny Arcade made sure everyone who read the comic was aware of the issue, where previously I’m sure many of them couldn’t care less. Then, by making a “Team Dickwolves” shirt, it seems like they forced everyone to get off the fence and form an opinion about the issue one way or the other – creating sides of “For Penny Arcade”, Vs. “Against Rape Jokes” when previously everyone could’ve just sat down and had a nice chat about offending people on the internet. I’m not sure what they were thinking, but it seems like they wanted to get everyone on their side against people who were offended at the joke.

      Blaming the controversy on reactionaries eager to take PA down a peg, is disingenuous. This wasn’t created by offended internet men who wouldn’t shut up – It’s Penny Arcade that wouldn’t let the issue lie down. They lit the fire, they fanned the flames.

      EDIT: Oh. my opinion has been ninja’d. By Kieron Gillen. Oh.

    • bildo says:

      Silliest quote of the Sunday Papers, “Penny Arcade has gone out of their way to make sure that the floor of PAX East is no longer a safe space for me.”

      Lol what a joke – because a man wearing a dickwolf shirt or anything related, means they have intent to rape or harass. The murder rate in my local city is high (compared to national average) and clearly it’s not always a safe place for me or others. Most of the murders are committed by minorities, but I don’t go running scared each time I see a guy decked out in ice or a lowrider. As a matter of fact, if you say that you’re afraid to walk around during the day because of minorities you’re often labeled a biggot or racist. Hell, I know some people who have been stabbed for no reason other than walking in the wrong part of town who aren’t this afraid (He walks past the place he was stabbed on a weekly basis).

      Also the Internet Fuckwad Theory dosen’t apply to Penny Arcade…they are clearly not anonymous.

      TL;DR – People who have been traumatized have good reason to be frightened, but people need to think twice before listening to everything they say as they just may be delusional.

    • gwathdring says:

      Ok … I posted this twice WAY earlier and it seems not to want to show up … here we go again ….

      Starky: Given the harassment of some individuals who were offended by the comic on twitter and such, I’d say those defensive idiots searching for a cause are on both sides, not just against Penny Arcade.

      I’m not invested enough in the issue to really have much of a right to say how things should have happened, but as that puts me about where Starky is, I guess I’ll add my two cents. I came into contact with the Dickwolves comics through previous articles on the Sunday Papers. I then went through the comics, and various blogs and articles about the issue.

      My first response was that the whole issue was blown out of proportion by both sides.

      My second response was that a lot of the people who were offended, even if they had reason to be offended by the comic, had enjoyed preceding comics that were probably just as offensive to other people. It sort of reminds me of when that guy left Southpark over Scientology cracks: even if it had been understandable for him to be offended by material in one of the episodes, he’d been a part of so many things that were just as offensive to other people that it’s not fair to get annoyed at the writers and creators no matter how incensed he was at the material itself. How are they supposed to draw the line personally for one individual when they touch on so many offensive subjects? At the same time, readers/viewers with no personal attachment to the offensive jokes might not realize how hurtful they can be until they strike close to home, in which case I can also understand suddenly realizing you don’t want anything to do with offensive comedy and leaving when you finally understand how and where that comedy can actually hurt. Viewers and readers sometimes make mistakes too, and maybe they’ve changed their mind in retrospect and just want to get out. So I don’t want to throw around pointless words like hypocrisy, double and standard. It’s more complicated than that, for both the authors of content and their audience.

      For the above and other reasons, I appreciated Penny Arcade’s general sentiment: we write comics that are occasionally offensive, have joked about rape before, and don’t see why this one comic should cause more of a fuss than other comics; if you don’t find it funny, then lets leave it at that and get along–or just stop reading because we’re fine with that too. But I was confused as to why they didn’t attach a sympathetic “I’m sorry” to the rest of their response. Surely they can understand both sides outlined above? The followup comic that went along with their quote most similar to my summary of their general response was just plain rude. We hate rapers, think rape is bad, and feel that if this comic caused you to be a raper, you should feel ashamed of yourself. Something like that … it made me care a lot less about their side of things even if I lean towards their side in this and similar controversies. Not everyone knew about the feminist blog’s response to the initial comic, and as such plenty of people reading the second comic didn’t have the context of potentially unfair lashes at PA through which to view the flippant remarks in the second comic. It could easily be seen as insensitive both with and without proper context …. It just seems like, if your response isn’t aimed at working with the people who were offended, you might as well not respond and get on with things rather than blow raspberries at them in the rear view mirror.

    • trjp says:

      I think it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that people like PA are the more visible representatives of the way people behave online – and the way most people behave online would not stand scrutiny.

      The original cartoon was funny – anyone offended by it simply didn’t understand it (and seem to be the sort of people who actively seek-out things to be offended by).

      The follow-up cartoon is funny when seen as lampooning the stupidity of the people mentioned above.

      Upto this point, no foul IMO

      The T Shirts – perhaps not such a brilliant idea BUT I have a T Shirt they did with a Fruit Fucker 2000 on it, this is a robot which fucks fruit (consent does not seem to factor into this fucking) so we’re in familiar territory at least…

      What happened after that was a failure of the ‘fans’ of either side to develop a perspective or apply common sense. Death threats being thrown around (by both parties) just shows the level of ignorance and lack of perspective which pervades out society from top to bottom.

      I don’t think you can actually blame the main parties on either side for the fact they are liked by fuckwits…

    • Khalan says:

      Was reading through the Penny Arcade archives and thought this might be relevant…
      http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2005/1/7/

  13. Cinnamon says:

    Choice and Consequence is not a defining feature unique to the RPG. Other games often force you to make decisions with much broader and more sophisticated consequences. Actually, I would say that terms like “choice and consequence” or reactivity are just ways of viewing certain Simulation gameplay elements meaning that they can be seen at a character story level clearer in purer Sim games like The Sims or Real Lives. Compared to a game with a more detailed simulation model most computer RPGs fake reactivity with pretty simple flow chart based gameplay which is only rewarding due to things like writing and other narrative elements.

    In the end, the approach of breaking the structure of an RPG into atoms then seeing what is “unique” is flawed since there is no unique or magical quality to the RPG genre. It is only a collection of elements that is greater, or often less, than the sum of the parts but gives the impression of being an RPG like a collection of coloured dots could give the impression of being a sunflower when all of the unique elements could just as easily be rearranged to be a picture of the sun.

    • Arathain says:

      Yeah, it was an interesting article, and I enjoyed reading it, but I’m not sure formal definitions of something that is pretty loose are possible, even if the attempt is worthy.

      I think of RPG as a term that encompasses a series of often-overlapping feature sets, most of which are historically derived, either from non-videogaming sources, or from elements that attached themselves early on.

      I thought the game idea of the gradually weakening village alchemist trying to cure everyone before it’s too late was excellent though. I very practical application of Yahtzee’s thinkings.

    • bob_d says:

      Yeah, it’s extremely problematic to try to define RPGs because the genre has grown to include games that share nothing in common with each other that isn’t also shared by other genres. I often read that what defines an RPG is “item management” which is just completely perverse, but it also is, unfortunately, true in a sense.

    • Archonsod says:

      The problem is his dismissal of “playing a role”. When defining an RPG we’re not using “a game in which you play a role” in the sense of any game in which you’re given a role; it’s the focus of an RPG. In much the same way as one would say “A game in which you shoot things” is the focus of an FPS.

    • Cinnamon says:

      FPS is a very different sort of acronym to RPG in that is pretty straight forward and not lost in the mists of obscurity. The Roles in RPGs were actually a different name for what we now call character classes and it was implied that you were playing some sort of tabletop strategy game. So you could call what was originally the RPG now a CCBTBS or character class based turn based strategy and describe it more accurately. He is right to say that the player just having a role in the game is such a broad cover all concept that it can be applied to almost every game.
      But a sort of amateur acting has been given such a legendary role in the genre that it seems to have some sort of special attachment to the genre even if it doesn’t feature nearly as much or is as particular to the genre as people might expect. It’s a different way that people choose to interpret the term RPG which is something that can’t be done with a description like FPS. Imagine an article from the future that says that while shooting from the first person perspective was once an important part of the FPS genre these days it is such a minor part that it hardly defines the genre at all compared to romancing aliens and hiding behind crates in third person and casting magic spells.

  14. NR says:

    That article on the School Shooter mod is genuinely one of the nastiest things I’ve read. There are some things that you just can’t trivialise and argue away, and that mod just goes past all acceptable boundaries with such callous frivolity it’s absurd.

    • Harbour Master says:

      I kept thinking: WHY?
      It seems like he hates anyone who takes games seriously, thinks games are generally dumb and believes games cause harm. It was like he was deliberately setting himself up to be hated by anyone who likes games, like an forum troll, but going the full distance. There’s a bizarre contradiction in his position – games are shit and dumb, yo, so I’m going to waste my goddamn time writing one that you’re all going to hate me for.

      It’s almost like he’s a plant for one of those anti-games lobbyists.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      I think it is a combination of trolling and not seeing the issues facing games in terms of black and white.

      1. He thinks that games can just be games.
      2. He has reservations about ultra-violent games being available to children.
      3. He thinks that insane people may just gain inspiration from games like this because they are already insane and insane people do insane things and don’t approach things like violent game rationally.

      I didn’t see it as being overly contradictory.

      I do think that there may be a bit more to this particular mod that what he is letting on and I do believe he is being a bit disengenious though.

    • Xercies says:

      I don’t know if I believe all entirly what he is saying there he truly believes…it kind of smells like an artist going against his opinion to get more publicity but truly underneath he does have a message in his art.

    • Arathain says:

      There is an existing Internet denizen archetype that he seems to conform to pretty well- nothing (in particular, nothing digital) can or should be taken seriously. Those who do so should be deliberately disturbed and offended until they cast off their mistaken naivete, or their foolish overreactions can be roundly mocked.

      I tend to see this as a pseudo-philosophical screen over sociopathy. The guy’s smart, thoughtful, and has some rational views. However, he has no human feelings for anyone he doesn’t personally know, and doesn’t really understand why anyone else should.

    • sexyresults says:

      Hes part idiot part attention seeker imo

    • Zwebbie says:

      NR: Remind me again, what’s the difference between the School Shooter Mod and, say, Half-life? Is killing only right when the enemies fight back? Only when they’re ugly? Only when they started it? Seems to me like any shooter sees games as ‘just games’, where it’s no problem that violence is the answer to everything, this mod just goes a bit further.

    • bob_d says:

      @Arathain: I’d more or less agree with that assessment, although I don’t think he’s actually smart. He’s had time to come up with justifications and that’s the best he could do.

    • JackShandy says:

      What’s that oscar Wilde quote? Ah, found it:

      “There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are either well written or badly written. That is all.”

      I thought it was a shame that the reporter was so over-eager to decry the game and label in monstrous, from the very start of the interview. “Not only morally reprehensible but also dangerous to the industry as a whole”? Forgive me if my own moral compass sees no problem in making a game that kills large numbers of imaginary people.

      The man himself seems to be trying to set himself up as Batman. “Gamers are a generally misguided, highly reactionary lot.” And so he made a game that would prey on their midguided, reactionary fears.

    • Gpig says:

      I think you should take it as the satire that it is. The video on the mod site is just him shooting the default npcs with the default hl2 shotgun and smg. So no, they’re not making a game; they just made a map. You can find it childish but I think some of it hits home. It’s essentially (if it were made) just a popular thing people like to do in GTA (mow down civilians and gang members until the police show up) set in a school. I really liked the line on the moddb page: “The possibilities are endless, you are free to do whatever you want. As long as it involves shooting people.”

      The stunt is just addressing that we make games about recent and current wars and games where you can kill unarmed people. Not only that, they go on to win game of the year awards almost every year (Haven’t GTA4 and Modern Warfare series been racking up the accolades?). It’s pretty fucked up that we do it, but instead of thinking about that I’ll just think this guy is probably a sociopath and an idiot. What’s next? A suggestion that we eat poor people?

      Also, you have to admit some parts of that interview were funny: “It made me realize that games which try to convey some larger message – or which specifically try to “educate the player” – are almost always fucking garbage. That’s why we’re working like dogs on this game, in order to make sure this game doesn’t suck as much as the last couple of school shooting games.”

  15. AndrewC says:

    Much love to Jim.

  16. Teddy Leach says:

    I’m going to catch so much flak for this, but I’m actually in favour of the School Shooter mod. Maybe ‘in favour’ is too strong, but it certainly doesn’t bother or outrage me.

  17. gerafin says:

    Who the hell is this Keeron guy?

  18. James G says:

    Damn You Autocorrect is one of those things that is far funnier than it has any right to be. It sounds like the kind of thing I might expect to smirk at, the occasional giggle escaping my lips, but for some reason I end up having to navigate away from it after a couple of minutes to avoid asphyxiation.

    Meanwhile I’m not sure if its a case of the Android autocorrect being less malicious, me being better on the keyboard, or catching errors before they go out, but rarely produce any of my own. Only one I can think of is wishing my mum have fun in Cardiac, rather than Cardiff. People who aren’t fans of Cardiff can feel free to make their own jokes.

    • McDan says:

      I laughed so hard I found a bag of milky ways.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      Oddly enough today I was trying to write “dystopia” on twitter (describing blade runner) and my phone wanted to change it to “utopia”.

      Damned sinister if you ask me…

  19. Longrat says:

    Man, that whole dickwolves dabacle was so blown out of proportion. Both sides were equally immature. The offended side just replied reflexively to the mention of the word RAPE, even, if taken into context, there was no actual mocking of rape victims, while the defensive side just blew it off instead of manning up and saying flat out that they’re sorry.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      Well, they didn’t have anything to be sorry about. Until the t-shirts. Then they just got childish.

    • Wilson says:

      I just don’t understand like they reacted the way they did. If you look back, there was some controversy apparently about a comic about used games. It seems some people were offended by that, and in response Penny Arcade had a measured response and posted some of their opinions up: http://www.penny-arcade.com/2010/8/25/

      Obviously it’s not directly comparable, but it’s just odd how they reacted. They didn’t have to issue a grovelling apology, but they could have said they were a little surprised and maybe even hurt at the reaction to the first comic. It would have put them in a far more sympathetic light than all the sarcasm. I would hope they would extend a little courtesy to anyone who complains about a sensitive topic – it doesn’t cost them anything…

    • Longrat says:

      My thoughts exactly. It’s better to swallow your pride and apologize for something, ridiculous though it may be, than to not do that and make things worse, which is what they did.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I can completely understand their response. It’s the internet, grow some fucking balls I say. They have a right to say whatever they want regardless of whether it offends anyone don’t they?

      I think it was an attempt at a typical South Park ‘fuck you’ response to the people being offended. Thing is, people don’t like Scientologists and crazy people, but funnily enough there is a lot of sympathy for rape victims.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      What really gets me about the dickwolves story is the people who say “this is the internet” or “this is how Penny Arcade always is”. The comic took the time to paint a picture of a world of institutionalised abuse, with slaves who knew nothing but violence, toil and rape. That’s pretty graphic. Yes, you can derive humour from that, but you’re on 4chan’s level there, and what does 4chan have? A pop-up disclaimer telling you you’re leaving civilisation and better be ready for it.

    • kwyjibo says:

      I don’t follow Penny Arcade, it’s dull and there are more jokes to be found on BBC3. But this dickwolves thing is just a farce and I’m on the PA’s side. The whole trigger warning argument is absolute bullshit – the internet doesn’t need disclaimers, you have no right to be not offended – it’s the same argument we put to the islamists. Free speech is a heck of a lot more important than anything those who opposed this stand for, and I’m afraid that this episode will have nothing but a chilling effect.

      And yeah, the most disappointing thing about this is that PA felt that they needed to defend themselves as if the critics had any sort of point whatsoever, as if that comic somehow made light of rape and contributed to a “rape culture”. Fuck you would have been the right response.

  20. Mil says:

    Probably the biggest piece I’ve seen on Dickwolves, in The Boston Phoenix. It’s slanted a little one way

    It’s slanted “a little”? The first two paragraphs describe Penny Arcade’s “Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory”, and the third is this:

    None of us knew that Krahulik and Holkins had just described their future trajectory.

    It then continues in that vein. This is not being “a little slanted”. This is showcasing one side of the controversy and ignoring the other, while not even bothering to hide it. This is Fox News-level “journalism”. How any journalist with the slightest modicum of journalistic ethics can endorse this sort of reporting is beyond me.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      Blatant bias, in other words.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      I’m fine with opinionated journalism as long as it’s not lying about the facts and that it makes it clear that it’s a feature piece. Its slanting is clear.

      KG

    • toastmodernist says:

      They’re called opinion pieces or op-eds and they’re perfectly fine when, as above, they don’t lie about things.

    • Mil says:

      By the way, the side opposing Penny Arcade appears fond of saying that PA “mocked rape victims”. As far as I can see what actually happened was that they mocked the people angrily demanding that they apologise, and then those people said “You dare mock us? We represent the rape victims! You are mocking rape victims, you monster!” This is like the oldest trick in the authoritarian politics book to suppress dissent. “You criticise the politburo? You must be a fascist counter-revolutionary!” “You laugh at George W. Bush? Why do you hate America, son?”

    • MikoSquiz says:

      I believe the term is “hit piece”.

    • toastmodernist says:

      Some peope are idiots. A lot of them don’t seem to exist until the dickwolves thing comes up. Then they like to take over the internet. I wish they’d go away again.

    • Mil says:

      I’m fine with opinionated journalism as long as it’s not lying about the facts and that it makes it clear that it’s a feature piece. Its slanting is clear.

      Why present it as a factual piece with only “a little slant” then?

    • Dolphan says:

      Mil, several of the people complaining were rape survivors. Some of the abuse they received (from people on the bandwagon, not necessarily from the PA guys themselves – which isn’t to say they haven’t behaved pathetically themselves) was utterly sickening.

    • Mil says:

      @toastmodernist:

      It’s funny how stupid people get when they disagree with you eh? Tolerance is hard, let’s go shopping.

    • toastmodernist says:

      @Mil

      Not just talking about people who i’m on the ‘other side’ of here and it was more a worry about how the conversation would turn than anything already said. But, aye tolerance is hard when you’ve tried to have this discussion in numerous other videogame forums you used to read before all the misogynists crawled out the woodwork and made the sites p. inhospitable.

      Shopping sounds good.

    • Longrat says:

      @Kieron
      There’s subjective views and there’s just flat out twisting words.

      “He wrote that anyone who asked for a refund would receive one. But they would also be added to a list that would ban them from ever registering for a PAX again.”

      It’s cute that you’re immature enough to try to spin their words into the most negative concept imaginable, but here’s the real quote:

      “My response to them is: don’t come. Just don’t do it. In fact give me your name and I’ll refund your money if you already bought a ticket. I’ll even put you on a list so that if, in a moment of weakness you try to by [sic] a ticket we can cancel the order.”

      My suggestion to you: stop talking about this. People do not care. Comments towards you and others who’ve been regurgitating the same tired lines as you are only given in passing; as a form of self-entertainment throughout the day by adding fuel to a pointless fire. Writing a 10-page article summating why you’ve decided to stop reading PA (plummeting their readership from 3.5 million all the way down to 3.5 million) does nothing at all.

      Read more: http://thephoenix.com/boston/life/116456-gaming-rape-culture-and-how-i-stopped-reading-pe/#ixzz1FpwQNLRL

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Longrat: the aforementioned unfair paraphrasing.

      KG

    • BobsLawnService says:

      Having read the ten page article I have to say that Gabe and Tycho were somewhat insensitive but I wouldn’t say they were mocking rape victims. I thought that strip was supposed to be more tongue in cheek (In typical Penny Arcade fashion) than openly mocking.

      Maybe the internet would be a better place if people didn’t always assume the worst and go off on angry rampages.

      Having said that Gabe and Tycho could probably have handled it a bit better since it is an understandably emotive topic.

    • mondomau says:

      “Mil, several of the people complaining were rape survivors. Some of the abuse they received (from people on the bandwagon, not necessarily from the PA guys themselves – which isn’t to say they haven’t behaved pathetically themselves) was utterly sickening.”

      A.) there were some pretty fucking abhorrent things said on both sides of the debate

      B.) the behaviour of a separate, small group of dickheads that do not in anyway represent the feelings of the Cartoonists should be reported as such, not spun to imply it was some orchestrated offensive.

      So basically, I’m saying is your point is pretty irrelevant.

    • Unaco says:

      Is this thing still going on? I happen to be a man, who is part English, part Irish, and part Scottish, and I have walked into many a bar in my lifetime. But am I outraged daily? (the answer is yes, but only because I read the Daily Mail).

      The original strip did not mock rape victims, or make light of rape itself. In fact, if they had made light of, or made any less out of, rape, the strip would have lost its desired meaning. The joke was not rape… Rape was the terrible, terrible thing that the ‘Hero’ refused to rescue the slave from, because the joke was that ‘heroism’ in video games is something artificial and proscribed. If they had made light of, or diminished the severity of rape, then the falseness of the hero’s heroism would not have been as evident.

      PA had nothing to apologise for… and those expressing outrage either misunderstood the strip, or are displaying faux outrage because… well, because they’re human and they didn’t have a TeaParty Rally/Student Protest/Quoran burning/Soldiers funeral to attend/picket that day. I don’t care how either side acted after that, how each responded to each other and the like… there was nothing offensive in the original action (the strip) and the whole sad, sorry affair should have ended then and there.

      Ignoring the fallout from this clusterf*ck of egos and poor comprehension… the original strip did actually make me think a little about heroism… specifically, Morrowind, and the slaver camps you could come across there… each would have a few caged Argonians, who could be released for a reward of precisely nothing. There was no feedback, no quest for them or anything like that. Just an opportunity to be a hero in your own mind, but not have it shouted about or have a little box ticked. Was quite refreshing actually.

    • D says:

      Unaco hits it on the head IMO. Anyone who was offended initially should have the joke explained to them – and end of story with that. I can however totally understand the resulting outrage at the moronic sloganed t-shirts, and can’t fathom how two intelligent guys can blunder so badly.

      In related news, the story made me review my list of articles to read, and this one from a victimized person is quite good: http://www.utne.com/print-article.aspx?id=10004 (referenced from Rory Millers excellent book, Meditations on Violence). Thought I would share it.

    • gwathdring says:

      @ D I appreciate your comment. That piece was quite moving and well written.

      Though while I want agree with you, Unaco, for the most part as your comment makes a lot of sense in context of the comic and is how I thought about it on first read through … but at the same time, offending people isn’t about doing something wrong. You can’t dismiss people’s genuine emotional discomfort by saying “Rationally speaking, the comic is not in fact offending you, so don’t be offended.”

      People don’t work that way. I can understand the writers feeling besieged as they obviously thought their comic wasn’t anything new or different. But for some reason, to some of their readers, it was new and different. That’s something they should have tried to deal with whether or not the broader view of the issue is blown out of proportion. Instead they wrote a flippant comic that dismissed and insulted people who were genuinely offended and which in my opinion was also more lighthearted and unconcerned about rape related issues than the first comic.

      P.S. I also suppose that in the first comic it is not the usage of rape so much as the usage of dickwolves that turn rape into a joke. It’s the absurd aspect that prevents rape from being the more basic horror you describe in your version of the comic. Just something to think about.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      @Unaco

      Actually, the game secretly keeps track of whether you free slaves. If you free enough (I think it’s 5 or 6), the conversation option “Twin Lamps” appears. They’re a secret abolitionist society. If you free a whole bunch more, you can actually join them (not officially) and they give you some quests.

      I found this out by accident. It was one of the few times a game made me actually feel like a hero. I had freed every slave I found even though there didn’t seem to be any reward, simply because it was the right thing to do. To suddenly be recognized for my deeds many hours of gameplay later, and to be invited to help stop the thing I had acted against of my own accord… how many games have done something like that?

      Morrowind was awesome. Here’s hoping Skyrim lives up.

    • Gormongous says:

      Looking at all the furor over the Dickwolves fiasco, I can’t help but wonder if my father didn’t raise me different than most people. He taught me that sometimes you apologize, even though you know you’re right, because it costs nothing and it makes the world a better place.

  21. Lambchops says:

    Is Doctor Who back on soon then?

    Cheers, for the autocorrect thing. Very amusing.

  22. Mark says:

    Here’s an interesting article about something that went down at GDC. (Cached version; the OG caved in under the weight of so many hits.)

    Basically, guy goes into a session about social gaming. The hosts set up a little game to determine who gets to talk at around half-time. Guy creatively interprets the rules of the game (arguable) to win. Panel and attendees initially do not take kindly to his understanding of the rules. Guy loses the game and Jane McGonigal wins; although, guy does get a little time to do his rant.

    The actual source tells it a lot better than I do.

    http://www.untoldentertainment.com.nyud.net/blog/2011/03/05/holding-the-bag-how-i-gamed-gdcs-top-social-game-developers/

    • the_rara_avis says:

      That was interesting. So social gaming mavens don’t appreciate it when their rules are broken by good ole’ social engineering? I had no idea that little world was so tight-knit.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      That was a great read and I find myswlf agreeing with just about everything Ryan Creighton said.

      So yeah – Me too.

    • Consumatopia says:

      EDIT: Sorry, didn’t mean to reply to this.
      EDIT2: Wait, yes I do, that was awesome!

    • Noc says:

      [Man, my reply went to the wrong place! Whoops.]

  23. Mil says:

    @Dolphan:

    Then criticise the abuse-givers. Nobody here is going to defend them. But ascribing anything they did to PA is pure guilt-by-association.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      The second cartoon’s the problem. It’s mocking people who are offended by the first and don’t find rape-humour funny (i.e. a group that includes for-some-reasons-famously-touchy-about-rape Rape Survivors).

      KG

    • Mil says:

      It’s mocking people who are offended by the first and don’t find rape-humour funny (i.e. a group that includes for-some-reasons-famously-touchy-about-rape Rape Survivors).

      That’s pure interpretation. As I said in an earlier comment, I think it was mocking those who angrily demanded an apology. Bringing rape survivors into this is just an attempt to put that side above disagreement.

      Quite frankly, this campaign to have Penny Arcade retract their joke reminds me so much of Daily Mail’s moral outrages. The only difference is the politics of those involved. How is this any different from the controversy over Brass Eye’s Paedophilia special?

    • Unaco says:

      That strip is not mocking those “who are offended by the first and don’t find rape-humour funny”. It is mocking those that expressed faux outrage and tried to twist the meaning and intention of the original strip.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Because Brass Eye’s pedophilia special was a satire aimed at knee-jerk media-outrage, obv. It’s nothing like this. A better comparison would be the backlash against some of Boyle’s gags. And really? Boyle’s never said his critics are wrong to be offended, unless I’ve missed it. It’s their right to be offended. And it’s his right to make the gag anyway.

      Your “interpretation” is disingenuous. Who are we laughing at in that comic? We’re laughing at people who are upset with the strip for being stupid enough to think they were arguing in favour of rape. When the people angry with the original script include Rape-survivors what do you think that is happening?

      And honestly. if you’re a comedian who does a rape gag, you know there’s some people are going to be offended by that. You just make your choice that comedy rates higher than an individual’s feelings. Penny Arcade knows this, surely?

      Really, they had nothing to apologise about and now, by being so fucking defensive, they do.

      KG

    • Unaco says:

      “Really, they had nothing to apologise about and now, by being so fucking defensive, they do.”

      So… they had nothing to apologise for. They did not apologise. They defended themselves. Now they need to apologise? I find your lack of logic offensive (whether you actually lack logic, or that is just my interpretation). I demand an apology.

    • Wilson says:

      @Unaco – They could have kept quiet, but they instead stirred emotions with their responses, which was unnecessary. That’s what they should apologize for now, if I get Kieron’s meaning. It’s pretty much how I feel in any case.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Defensive isn’t the same thing as Defending yourself.

      EDIT: As Wilson sez.

      KG

    • Unaco says:

      “They could have kept quiet, but they instead stirred emotions with their responses, which was unnecessary. That’s what they should apologize for now, if I get Kieron’s meaning.”
      What about the people who accused them of supporting/promoting/making light of Rape and victims of Rape? Should those people not also apologise, as what they did was false and unnecessary?
      As for them being defensive… they had nothing to apologise for. People who were offended by them had no reason to be offended, unless they misinterpreted the strip and its meaning. People attacked them, unjustly… they were defensive. I don’t see anything wrong with that… I’d do the same.

      Edit… I don’t see why they should apologise for doing nothing wrong.

    • mondomau says:

      Mil, exactly – The second cartoon is, quite frankly a fair jab, *considering the general content and tone of PA*. If people don’t want to be offended, they should be reading something else. I personally feel there is way too much of this kind of behaviour at the moment (Daily mail syndrome, if you like), where individuals that were content to laugh along with everyone else at jokes made in poor taste are suddenly baying for blood because the comedy bandwagon rolled over a personal sore spot. It’s happened to a lot of stand up comedians lately as well.
      Now, I’m not saying it wasn’t a dumb move by Krahulik and Holkins – risking alienating their touchier fans and giving themselves a bad rap due to all the willful misinterpretation it could (and did) attract is not a great business move. Additionally, as some of the most influential people in the Gaming and webcomics industry, there’s even an argument that they had a responsibility to avoid the fall out that followed by simply down-playing the incident.
      The problem is that many groups/individuals (including the author of that ‘article’) are, intentionally or otherwise, blurring the line between PA defending their well established ‘near the mark’ humour and the brain dead forumites that mistakenly believe they are somehow defending free speech by mocking those that have suffered.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I think Keiron completely misinterpreted that cartoon. I also read it as aimed at people who got abusively angry at them. It had nothing to do with offending anyone. It’s interpretations such as Keiron’s that prolonged this whole ridiculous saga.

      And no, I feel absolutely no apology is necessary. To the point where I would say apologising is counter productive and would/did make them look rather pathetic.

      Jokes offend people, who cares? Plenty of things offend me all the time, but I don’t take it out on others.

    • Dominic White says:

      Yeah, while I think that PA’s reaction was several notches too vitriolic, that strip was clearly aimed at the people that (no joke) claimed that the Dickwolves strip was ‘fostering rape culture’, despite the entire point of it being that rape is terrible and that videogame heroes will turn a blind eye to most suffering if there isn’t a quest reward for it.

      I’m not a big fan of PA, I only occasionally give it a look, but holy shit has this incident just opened the floodgates for people with an axe to grind. 90% of the accusations against them seem based in personal grudges rather than anything reasonable.

    • Will Tomas says:

      This whole thing could have been sorted if Penny Arcade had just say ‘hey, guys, we didn’t mean it the way some of you took it, but if you were offended, our bad, and sorry.’ I think that much of the problem is the reaction of their fanboys who took anyone saying the joke was potentially offensive as a direct attack on their pet website, which led to them doing the actually horrible thing of attacking rape victims over their reactions in the typically beyond-the-pale internet abuse that gets kicked up by petty insecure people being overly defensive. Penny Arcade’s problem is their second cartoon put them on the side of the utter knobs they stirred up.

    • toastmodernist says:

      @DrGonzo

      Don’t really know how it’s so easy to completely ignore this over and over but ~98% of the issue had nothing at all to do with the original joke.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      “The problem is that many groups/individuals (including the author of that ‘article’) are, intentionally or otherwise, blurring the line between PA defending their well established ‘near the mark’ humour and the brain dead forumites that mistakenly believe they are somehow defending free speech by mocking those that have suffered.”

      One thing I haven’t mentioned, as it’s a whole other can of worms, is this side of it. You have a community this large. You know how bad the worst of them get. You put a spotlight on this debate, you send a pack of dogs their way. You know this. So unless it’s really worth it, you don’t. It’s a With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility thing.

      (Even me, as a really minor comic writer, are careful about when I link to someone who’s down on me. Generally speaking, I don’t do it, because I know it’s got a chance of creating an enormous amount of hassle for someone who just didn’t like me.)

      The bloggers were only a tiny thing before they put them on center-stage, merging all the complaints into an easy straw-man position, and so igniting the easily ignitable in their fanbase. That’s the worst side-effect of the over defensiveness – that them feeling the need to defend themselves overruled all concerns and lead to this whole mess.

      KG

    • Om says:

      Who do you want us to kill Kieron?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Don’t worry. I prefer to have my murdering done by professionals.

      Also, Quinns.

      KG

    • James says:

      “Really, they had nothing to apologize about and now, by being so fucking defensive, they do.”

      I always find it entertaining when one human declares when another human needs to do something. I think that sums up why this whole thing is so stupid.

    • Consumatopia says:

      where individuals that were content to laugh along with everyone else at jokes made in poor taste are suddenly baying for blood because the comedy bandwagon rolled over a personal sore spot.

      There’s something to this, but it goes both ways–some comedy bandwagons seems a lot more likely to make jokes at some people’s expense than others.

      Some comedians really do go after every target. If it’s in the newspaper, South Park has gone at it. I saw an Onion News Network video that made a joke about child soldiers. But I don’t think I can imagine a Penny Arcade comic about child soldiers (though if you think about, it would be pretty easy to write one–think how many kids are the protagonists of video games.)

      Rape is an ongoing reign of terror faced by women globally. When we’re mocking tragedy, we ask “too soon?”, but someone is probably being raped while you read this. I’m not too upset about the original joke. But, hey, if you’re going to be making rape jokes, why not throw in some racial epithets while you’re at it? South Park would. I doubt Penny Arcade would.

      It wasn’t a completely out of line joke, but it’s not completely out of line to complain about it either. And the way they acted afterwards was ridiculous.

    • gwathdring says:

      @Consumatopia

      Thank you. Well said.

      @James:

      That is a rather inane way of dismissing the argument. Taking Plato’s approach, I would suggest there are many instances in which it is perfectly reasonable to instruct people to behave in a certain way and would provide such examples as being a parent and a teacher. I would also be banging on about philosophy without much cause to do so and do so by asking a lot of questions. In short: …. what one Earth is that supposed to mean?

      @ Will:
      I agree. Whether or not they did anything “wrong,” it’s so easy to understand how someone could be offended, mistakenly or not, and thus it seems like it would have been a simple matter to apologize (not for the comic, but the way it made people feel) and get on with things.

    • James says:

      @gwathdring
      Instruction is different (I’d argue) than a declaration of another person’s need, especially when it’s a situation concerning someone being offended by a communication. I find it entertaining because it reminds me that there are no actual authorities in life, but an almost infinite supply of those who think they are worthy of being an authority (to whatever degree).

    • JackShandy says:

      I hear ya, james! Why, just the other day my boss declared I needed to go to work. Then my wife declared that I needed to feed my newborn child. Then the whole damn town started demanding I apologise for running over the kindergarten! Hoo hoo hoo, I didn’t stop laughing until I was halfway to fiji. Nobody’s got authority over you but Y-O-U and the devil, james, and don’t you ever let anybody tell you otherwise!

    • James says:

      @JackShandy

      Did you have a point somewhere in there? I’m sure I must have missed some subtlety, as I’m not very clever.

    • JackShandy says:

      If you must break me out of character:
      Part of society and the civilized world is the fundamental assumption that every person will take account of the needs of others. That includes apologizing if you’ve offended someone, as well as quite a lot of doing what people tell you to. Never taking any account of others would lead to a man such as the one I acted as above – we’d call them a lunatic.

      So, just because we’re on the internet and will never actually meet the people we’re interacting with in person, or have to deal with their offended repercussions, there’s an idea that you no longer need to take account of them. Which is ridiculous.

      Urgh. Now I just feel too serious. I might have to eat some jelly or something.

      P.S. I’m sure you’re a very intelligent person in your own right and I’m sorry if anything I said seemed to insinuate otherwise.

    • James says:

      @JackShandy

      No offense taken, I love you pal.

      There’s a pretty big assumption in your argument, which you thankfully pointed out as such. Beyond that, there’s your initial assumption that what you describe is actually a “part of society and the civilized world”, and since you are no more or less qualified to make that claim than anyone else, it lacks actual authority. I don’t fundamentally disagree with you in general, far from it, but my opinion does not lend any more authority to the argument than yours does, only a bit more consensus (which history clearly shows does not always coincide with social responsibility).

      It seems to me that you’re taking the idea of practical social responsibility and equating it to authoritative guidance, but I don’t think that follows. Empathy and mirror neurons do not prove that there is a right or wrong way to handle disputes (that must subsequently be taught to others), only that there will be a general concern about how they are handled.

      In short, opinions may vary.

    • Ultimanecat says:

      I’m all for taking responsibility for things you do unwittingly – like offend people. But I also think others have a responsibility to modulate their response if it’s clear they’re not dealing with a intentionally provocative statement.

      The problem here is that human interaction goes both ways. The opening salvo against PA was two-headed: rape survivors stating that the mention of rape “triggers” emotional responses in them, and the accusation that jokes involving rape trivialize it and promote “rape culture”.

      I just can’t see their response comic being aimed at the former. Besides pointlessly insulting rape survivors (which, despite opinions otherwise, I do believe the PA guys are above doing), the comic also actually doesn’t make sense if read that way. Now, if rape survivors want to hitch one wagon to another, they should probably understand that reasonably smart people can tease out that they are separate accusations, with one appealing to emotion and people’s better nature, and the other being a purely academic argument that people don’t have to accept. More appropriately, you can’t hide behind the fact that you are a rape survivor to keep others from addressing a rape culture accusation.

      The real weird part of all of this is that the feminists who reacted to the first comic are basically arguing that words can have a contextual effect with individuals beyond their simple and intended meaning, and that we should be aware of that and hopefully seek to avoid it. And then, they toss out a term like “rape culture” along with a wholesale denial of the need to explain it or be responsible if the accusation thereof causes offense.

    • James says:

      @Ultimanecat

      I like the way you put that, well done.

    • Noc says:

      Honestly? I don’t even think it was the response comic that made this A Thing. At that point, they could have said “Screw it” and figured that yeah, they riled some idiots up, but they’d said their piece in response and could move on without any injury to their pride and that the whole this was bullshit anyways and there was no reason to get further involved in it. It would have become a minor sore point for gamer-types like myself who are bothered by this sort of thing, but it’s the sort of minor, knee-jerk snark that’s par the course for people at large. It’s not the first time they’ve ticked people off, after all, and those didn’t all turn into Things.

      Matters would have blown over, business as usual would have resumed, and given time and cooler tempers the PA folks might even have eventually been like “Man, we were kind of douchebags” and offered a belated apology. Even if they didn’t, we wouldn’t still be talking about this now.

      Instead? They made a t-shirt commemorating the incident. And then snarked about it, and countersnarked when people objected, then got all snide and pissy when people being all “Dude, NOT COOL” threatened to pull out of PAX if they kept it on sale. This is the point where it became A Thing. It’s not A Big Deal because they made a joke in poor taste, or because they reflexively got defensive when people objected. It’s become the clusterfuck we’re still arguing about now because they kept running with it, essentially trying to deal with this the same way they’d dealt with Jack Thompson before. Only, you know, instead of being a lone barely coherent crackpot, their current opponents are intelligent folks who actually really have a point (especially now, even if they didn’t object to start with) and who make up a nontrivial fraction of the gaming community instead of being alien and hostile to it.

      And it’s a particular issue ’cause of PAX, which they’ve been pitching since forever as a big friendly inclusive environment that stands counter to the spiteful “lol noobfag” sort of gamer stereotype. And which is looking to be suddenly rather hostile to rape victims. There’s a “Team Rape” on Twitter organizing Dickwolf shirt flashmobs, for god’s sake, and some quick checking around can’t find anything by the PA folks telling them to knock it off. Even some message of “Okay, we still don’t think we did anything wrong…but guys? This shit isn’t helping,” would go a long way towards reassuring everybody that they aren’t actually the douchebags this is making them all look like.

      But they haven’t, at least as far as I know. So all the :< continues.

      [Edit: Some poking around finds a couple of references to statements here and there, which I'm trying to track down properly? I haven't been *following* this all that closely, so my information is perhaps a bit out of date, and I may very well amend my :< if they've been more actively responsible and I've just missed it.]

    • Consumatopia says:

      @James, I have a rule of thumb. If you have to resort to absolute relativism to defend something, that something probably isn’t good.

    • Corporate Dog says:

      @Noc: Here you go. This is Gabe, having received a death threat directed towards his family, telling both sides to knock it off:
      http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/sweep/anti-dickwolves-protesters-threaten-family-of-penny-arcade-writer/30-77066/

      I think this has really gone too far. We have people on both sides of this ridiculous argument making death threats and worse. Kara was certainly upset to see someone mention on Twitter last night that it would be funny to come to my house and murder my wife and children. I know there are people who see themselves as being on our side that have made equally disgusting comments in the other direction. I want to make it very clear that I do not approve of this kind of bullshit.

      And Tycho as well:

      Apparently, there are people who imagine they’re doing us some kind of a favor being jackasses and saying terrible things to critics of the site. Well, I’m a big boy, and I can handle my own shit. If you’re a reader, and not somebody just out for a scrap, if you love me at all you’ll put an end to that kind of bullshit.

    • Consumatopia says:

      @Ultimanecat, the response comic’s implication that everyone who objects to PA is accusing them of directly causing rape, FOX/Bulletstorm-style, doesn’t make sense to either half of the feminist argument.

      I suspect that if you just ask someone off the street “hey, does it make sense to avoid telling jokes about rape because it trivializes rape?”, most people would say that makes sense.

      The “rape culture” concept is pretty simple. A culture that trivializes rape affects the way men deal with their partners. And the way people are treated by authorities after they’ve been raped.

      A joke is a joke, fine, fine. But don’t play dumb.

    • Ultimanecat says:

      @Noc
      PA did officially address people making threats or rude comments, and basically said that’s the sort of support they don’t want or need.
      I’m not sure it’s really still “going”. PA has officially disengaged from the debate – Mike said that once threats against his family were involved he had had enough, and Jerry basically said that there is no way to have a rational conversation about the issue because the sides are coming from irreconcilable starting positions. No apology was ever made, and it’s unlikely one ever will be made at this point (perhaps as a subtle jab, Mike recently pointed out that PAX is still selling out of tickets despite being in ever larger venues).
      We’ll likely never know now, but I’m firmly of the opinion that Mike and Jerry were convinced they were (originally) dealing with nutjobs. The blog that originally criticized the comic is, in many ways, similar to a 4chan for feminist issues – Mike attempted to comment there and point out what he thought was hypocrisy, and instead of arguing they pounced on him and told him he wasn’t welcome. Actually, according to their comment policy, you simply are not allowed to post if you don’t accept their brand of feminism.
      I’m sure after that the PA guys figured they were once again being randomly targeted by implacable extremists and the idea for the t-shirt arose out of that. Unfortunately, like 4chan, beyond the core members of the blog is an extended periphery who may not ascribe part and parcel to everything that occurs there but nevertheless are extremely sympathetic. Add to this what I alluded to above – that picking on rape survivors, even if they are being unreasonable, still is unfortunately picking on rape survivors – and you get an instant shitstorm.

      Edit: @Consumertopia

      By the same token, accusing a person on the street of supporting rape culture without explaining the concept is a good way to ensure a poor reaction. I know that before this, I didn’t know what it was and would want absolutely nothing to do with someone who foisted an accusation of it upon me.

      Their response comic appears to be addressed to an argument they perceived to have been aimed against them saying that their comic caused rape. The comic seems to be pointing out the absurdity of that accusation. Assuming Mike and Jerry aren’t dumb, the best we can figure from the outside is that either someone actually said that to them verbatim, or they were addressing an accusation of supporting rape culture, and didn’t have it adequately explained to them or simply disagreed entirely.

    • Consumatopia says:

      @Noc, you can always consult the dickwolves timeline. They did tell their fans to cool it. They took far too long to do this.

      @Ultimanecat, note that the timeline contains a link to Mike making fun of “trigger warnings”, so your “two headed” argument falls apart. Also of note is that Mike tried to comment on Shakesville after the response comic mocking them was published. If you’re going to go nuts after people are rude to you in an internet comment thread after you just published a comic mocking them, that’s on you. What seems to have set them off to create that response comic was the the original complaint–the response comic showed up the day after that was posted.

      And you know–while I think the original comic was defensible, I also think the original complaint was reasonable.

      When I have a sense of humor, it is a little offbeat. I have liked, for example, Penny Arcade’s comics about the numerous times they’ve killed each other. I have a dark sense of humor, and I’ll admit it.

      But unlike Gabe killing Tycho so he doesn’t have to share a video game, a slave being raped is a real thing that happens in the world every day. I don’t find this “joke” funny because, unlike characters cartoonishly killing each other repeatedly and coming back to life, just as in video games, rape isn’t a central feature of (most) games—at least in the actual gameplay, totally aside from the language used by players.

      The problem is, I just don’t find rape funny. Because rape survivors exist among us, and after being victimized by rapists, they are revictimized by a society that treats even real rape like a joke, forced to live in a culture that actually has a lot of rape jokes, including those about rape victims being actively denied justice for no other reason than because people don’t take rape seriously. I don’t find rape funny because rape victims are often doubted, mocked, and insulted openly.

      I’m not saying you have to agree with what she said, but the idea that this is so far beyond the pale that well-of-course we should expected PA to totally flip out so this is kind of everyone’s fault and this is just feminist 4chan–no, that’s crap.

      The phrase “rape culture” is one of the tags of the post. It’s nowhere in the body.

      Nobody likes to be told that they’re participating in rape culture. Nobody likes to be told they’re racist. Doesn’t mean that racism and rape culture are imaginary.

    • Dinger says:

      Okay, can’t resist:

      You put a spotlight on this debate, you send a pack of dogs their way.

      So, Kieron, what you’re saying is that the Penny Arcade folks singled out someone for being provocative, and used their socially superior status to sanction violence against them? And their latest response is to tell the victim to “man up”?

    • Noc says:

      I was aware of the posts they’d made following the threat to Gabe’s family, but I was filing those away as “not really counting.” The meat of the response was a horrified reaction to someone on the other side Crossing A Line, an admonition that everyone needs to chill out, and a token mention buried in the rest of the message that folks need to stop being jackasses on their behalf too. Aaaaand an assertion that they’re washing their hands of the whole mess and are done dealing with it because the other guys escalated too far.

      They didn’t say anything when the complaining bloggers were getting death/rape threats since Day One, and — as far as I know — haven’t said anything about it since. As an attempt to rein in their “supporters,” it was a pretty flimsy one, especially since, you know, the post was about them withdrawing from the “dialog” on account of anti-PA harassment.

      They did a thing, then when people got annoyed kept doing the thing out of stubbornness until it turned into A Big Deal, did jack-all to keep their fans from harassing folks in support, then decided they didn’t want to be involved anymore when they got a taste of some of the shit the other side had been getting all along. So they posted a thing saying everyone should stop and — as far as I can find — stopped worrying about it, essentially washing their hands of the whole deal without actually cleaning up the mess they’d left on the floor.

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      I agree with KG.

  24. frenz0rz says:

    Oh lord, that autocorrect list had me in stitches. Im still reeling from it and repeatedly giggling to myself.

    “Sprinkled with salt and freshly ground black people”, hahahahahaha oh god it hurts

    • James says:

      “WTF beth? I’m in a meeting. Human beef? Are you high?”

      Classic.

  25. Vandelay says:

    The interview with the mod maker of ‘School Shooter: North American Tour 2012′ was an interesting and at times unsettling read, but I couldn’t help myself nodding in agreement with many of the things he said.

    Excluding the whole thing about games being purely nothing more than fun and that people play GTA mainly to mow down the defenceless, he makes a lot of sense when talking about rating systems, media portrayal of atrocities and the troubled people that commit them. There is definitely some nasty, unpleasant things said in the interview, but I wouldn’t say the guy was a complete sociopath. I think a combination of the Agent Provacteur and a bit thick that you suggest is most likely.

  26. Cooper says:

    I skipped to the end.

    Any band named after a BladeRunner character is a win.

    When the synth kicks in on Breaking Hearts and GIving up, me knees went weak.

  27. Spoon says:

    I feel like the term RPG should be dropped completely. It has been used to describe so many different types of games and means so many different things to different people that it fails at its job of being a genre descriptor. It’s to the point where saying “this is an RPG” is basically saying “this is a game”. I suppose if we did that, it would be harder for devs to tout their latest genre-bending masterpiece though, eh?

  28. Freud says:

    I really like Herzog. Loved the documentary My Best Friend about his relationship with the unique actor Klaus Kinski.

  29. Nick says:

    That freshly ground black people thing was a misprint in an.. uh.. Australian cookbook iirc, reported on last year (?) thus likely faked. Still amusing.

  30. Om says:

    McCalmont’s piece was interesting but badly flawed by taking an exceptionally detached (or ‘realist’ if you want) view of society. There is something to the idea that in strategy games we are taking on the role of some impersonal state but attempting to carry this over to the real-world does not convince. We know that the images on the screen are little bytes of data but then we as players are not burdened with the little matter of society. In contrast the real-world politicians and bureaucrats are not impersonal actors inflicting their will on the passive masses. Instead of being some isolated Leviathan we find ordinary people acting according to events, their milieu, the interests of broader (sections of) society, etc, etc. The sad truth is that the atrocities listed (China, Cambodia, etc) were not the product of ignorant/uncaring “state officials” but were rooted in much deeper and nuanced social explosions.

    Now games can try to capture this but its difficult. Paradox games have probably come closest (with the elections in Vicky or the EU stability mechanisms) but always through abstraction. Its difficult to convince me that I am a 15th C French monarch who should be largely concerned with whoring when I know all the rules and a timeframe of centuries

    • Ex Lion Tamer says:

      @Om: Agreed – McCalmont is making a highly ideological argument that he presents as solely descriptive. How would his theory account for the sociopolitical systems in leftist democracies, which are so obviously concerned with values beyond ‘efficiency’ and maximizing outcomes (in the sense a realist would understand it)? Now, he could counter by saying that Sweden is afforded unusual opportunities by virtue of its resource wealth, but then his theory would need to be weakened to suggesting the governance of resource-poor states imparts the perspective he describes. Which I think would be a more interesting explanation for our behavior in strategy games, anyway – we start too resource-poor to do anything other than maximize the efficiency of each action, and the games have been designed to make rapid resource acquisition (usually through combat) the most efficient path. There would be excellent game design arguments against starting a player in too strong a position, but it would be an interesting way to tackle this issue.

    • Archonsod says:

      The fact we’re aware it’s just pixels and data is a good point. But I think his idea has merit along those same lines. Fundamentally, as humans our empathy tends to be limited only when we can perceive the subject as a living thing. Whenever the subject becomes objectivised then it fails.
      The problem he’s driving at is that same indifference we have to pixels and data would also apply when the people were simply statistical data on a spreadsheet. It’s easy to empathise with the needs and desires of thirty people, it’s impossible to do so with three hundred million.

  31. Xercies says:

    Werner Herzog is great and I loved the ending of that piece, one of the reasons I want to be a filmaker is to put a boat on that mountain. I really should watch more of his movies. I haven’t gotten around to him yet!

    The first one was quite interesting but i lost the point he was trying to make halfway through…was there much of a point?

  32. noobnob says:

    My only worry with the School Shooter mod is that it’s probably going to suck, gameplay wise. For some reason, tasteless game themes are frequently associated with poor gameplay. It’s as if the developers are wholly focused into making their game as inflammatory and “authentic” as possible and rely on that to sell their game.

    Yes, the developer states in the interview that their objective is to make a fun game, but looking at their features list on the moddb page, I don’t see this happening.

    • EthZee says:

      I’d agree with this. For all its positives, the Source engine as used by Half Life 2 et al is not the most entertaining engine for plain manshoots. And if you’re shooting people who are incapable of fighting back then yeah, I couldn’t see it as being anything other than dull.

      There’s good reasons that killing people in some games works. For GTA4, for example, the RAGE/Euphoria physics is a major part; people staggering around, clutched stomachs, falling over themselves, hands weakly grabbing onto the passenger door as you clip them in a station wagon, etc etc. Even then, it’s more fun to do it to targets that fight back then just civilians, unless some idiot in a four-by-four dents the fender on your sports car (in which case standard procedure is to wail on them and their stupid pickup with a baseball bat).
      Prototype, the other game I can think of that makes killing people entertaining (there really aren’t many), works because of the over-the-top gore and the excess. A lot of the time you can’t even jump without squashing someone bloodily beneath your feet; if you actually put your mind to mass slaughter then the game proudly gives you feedback, be it in the trails of gore left in your wake as you drive through a crowded thoroughfare in an APC, or the clouds of blood and bisected humans created by a rapid 360 flick with a long chitinous whip whilst stood in a crowd.
      Half Life 2, on the other hand… you shoot mans, they fall over. Nothing special; the Source engine can be very ‘sparse’ feeling with guns and shooting in this regard.

      If this mod isn’t going to try and tell a message to people playing it (I mean, there’s plenty that could be said to the people who would play it), and it’s not even going to be fun, then it’s not even worth the controversy or attention. Ignore the fuck out of it.

  33. Arathain says:

    Some great articles in there. Thanks for pulling it together, Kieron.

    I loved ‘Seeing Like a State’. It’s great to read an article that well written that uses games to talk about something so huge, and so current.

    The exchange between Tom Bissell and Simon Ferrari had a metric ton of good, meaty thought-food, that I will hopefully go back to later to digest more of. I am very glad gaming can count on folks like to these to write games and write about games. It’s great to see academic schools of thought producing such substance.

  34. patricij says:

    blah, blah, blah…haters gonna hate and all that

  35. Ultra Superior says:

    I don’t like penny arcade, because I don’t find their attempts at jokes funny – it’s mild humour with too obvious –

    “*wink*wink* you know the point of this joke cause you are GAAAMER *wink* *wink*”

    Watching their self-adoring show on GT – I was surprised how pathetic, ugly and stupid they are on personal level. Two retarded nerds relishing in pathos, … terrible.

    Dickwolves…well, let’s say it was one of their better jokes….

  36. Weylund The Second says:

    @kobzon: You need to go talk to kids who have to live in hospitals. I’m not sure where you get the idea that they’re protected. You try spending a few months hooked up to machines, unable to do anything but lie in bed or play in playrooms that smell like cancer. And the parents of those kids often lose their jobs or have to cut back significantly if they want to spend time with them… by the time you’re six months into a treatment you don’t have money to buy your kid something to take his mind off the painful things that are happening to him every day. It’s a brutal, brutal cycle. Child’s Play is amazing.

  37. Bahumat says:

    “As the philosopher John Gray argues in Straw Dogs (2002) “truth has no systematic evolutionary advantage over error”. Evolution does not select for a mystical ability to see the world on its own terms, instead it selects for an ability to perceive and react to those factors that are likely to directly impact the organism’s ability to survive and reproduce. Our field of vision is sharp but extremely narrow and we are just as individually blind to the economic efficiency of our society and the ‘smoothness’ of our inter-group dynamics as dogs are to how fashionably we are dressed and plants are to whether or not a particular female cat is in season. There was never any evolutionary advantage in being able to directly perceive reality and so our perception of it is censored by in the best interests of our genes.” (from the “Seeing Like a State” article.)

    I like that RPS is the site I can come to on a lazy sunday morning, and be introduced to articles that examine videogames in the light of evolutionary benefit.

  38. MadMatty says:

    haha the Dickwolves-
    forgive me lads, but i watch Michael Swaim.

  39. BobsLawnService says:

    Kobzon I’m inclined to agree with everything you’ve said about PA except for the Child’s Play jab. It’s a good charity and little things like having a PSP to keep your mind off death make a difference to these kids.

  40. Fumarole says:

    From the strategy/psychopaths article:

    There was never any evolutionary advantage in being able to directly perceive reality and so our perception of it is censored…

    Wise words.

  41. strange headache says:

    Bam. Paper job!

  42. BobsLawnService says:

    Nevermind.

  43. Xercies says:

    Clearly the Penny Arcade boys have nothing against Charlie Sheen in offending everyone.

  44. sendmark says:

    WTS one laptop:
    - Patrick McGoohan desktop wallpaper (preloaded)
    - Pink glitter casing
    - 500 gigabytes of German ambient-techno

    • Ex Lion Tamer says:

      Indeed. Maybe a bit of Canadian (Loscil) and American/Belgian (Stars of the Lid) too.

  45. FunkyBadger3 says:

    Seemed that the journalist completely failed to outwit the School Shooting Spree guy.

  46. sebmojo says:

    Lol nice troll dude

  47. Lewis Denby says:

    Just to clarify, the Red Redemption interview was Matt’s, not mine. Poor bugger spent the best part of two months transcribing that hour of talking.

  48. Dozer says:

    “What does an RPG actually consist of at an atomic level?”

    Anyone else read that as ‘What does a Rocket-Propelled Grenade actually consist of at an atomic level?’?

    DAMN YOU HTMLTAGS

  49. dethtoll says:

    God damn it. I was hoping I wouldn’t see anyone more of an asshole than Pawnstick the School Shooter guy today but you just had to one-up him didn’t you, kobzon?

  50. Hatsworth says:

    I now know the other half to this: