Subspace Communication: Redshirt Interview

By Adam Smith on April 19th, 2013 at 11:00 am.

Redshirt is a game about being the person who is doomed from the very moment they put their uniform on. Taking place on a space station with a crew who spend a great deal of their lives on the social network, Spacebook, it asks the player to navigate a possible quagmire of relationships and workload while trying to earn the promotions that might keep them alive. Earlier this week, I spoke to the game’s lone developer, Mitu Khandaker, and discussed dynamic personality generation, incorporating social issues into games and ranting at GDC.

Then I threatened to burn games to the ground.

RPS: Can you hear me? I accidentally sat on my head… [silence]

Khandaker: I heard you up until you sat on your head?

RPS: Headset, thankfully. I think everything is working now. Now that I’m functional, let’s talk about Redshirt! We haven’t said a great deal about the game on the site yet.

Khandaker: I’ve been unintentionally secretive about it since it was announced. When I started working on it, I thought I’d be the kind of dev who blogged everything and does all these videos, and shares everything. And then I got gripped by a sense of self-consciousness about everything that I put out there. This is such a weird game as well. If I was making a 2d platformer or something like that, I’d be a lot more confident just saying ‘here’s my game’! It’s quite a weird concept.

RPS: For those who don’t know, could you could give a quick overview of what that weird concept is?

Khandaker: Basically it’s a social simulation game, or effectively a social network simulation game. You’re a brand new arrival on a massive space station in the future, where everybody is obsessed with Spacebook. That’s how people interact on the most part and as you’re a nobody, you’re trying to make friends and climb your way up the career ladder. So you want to be friends with your boss and get on their good side. It’s all about parodying social networking culture.

RPS: Based on what I’ve seen, and it’s not a huge amount, is it a spoof full of silliness or are you making a more serious point as well?

Khandaker: I like to think that I’m being lovingly cynical about the whole thing. I’m on social networks, I use them all the time and I can’t imagine life without them. That’s kind of the point, I suppose. The other thing is that it’s a spoof of social networking but also of our sci-fi vision of our future. The usual sci-fi vision, a utopia where everything is great, but people will still be people. Self-obsessed and that kind of thing. It’s a subversion of the kind of future we see in things like Star Trek.

RPS: I’ve never been a Trekkie and I’ve never seen that much of the show, but I am geek enough to get the Redshirt reference. I’m guessing you’re reeling in sci-fi in general, not just Trek?

Khandaker: Definitely. There’s a lot of nods towards all kinds of other series. Even though the title is a reference to Trek, it’s an amalgamation of sci-fi in general.

RPS: I was a Babylon 5 person.

Khandaker: Oh, where you?

RPS: Well, I don’t know if I was a ‘Babylon 5 person’, but I did watch it.

Khandaker: I never got into it myself. It’s the one thing I didn’t get in to.

RPS: It’s a vision of the future that looks about four hundred years old now. But it did what I think DS9 did later on, with the big overarching plot that runs from beginning to end. Massive arcs. Back to the game though. Your space stations contain lots of different alien races, don’t they?

Khandaker: Yeah, that’s right. You create a character when you start a new game and there are six alien races to choose from. Each game is dynamically generated a whole station full of NPCs, each with their own personality and behaviour. The interactions that happen between you and the NPC s and the NPCs and themselves are all dynamic. Every ‘like’ that you click really matters.

RPS: That’s one of the things I was going to ask about, whether the NPCs get on with their lives in the background. A lot of games revolve so completely around the player that nothing happens without their involvement. The player is the only actor. But you have NPCs forming relationships?

Khandaker: Oh, absolutely. That was one of the things that I wanted to do from the very beginning, to look at what happens on a social network. It’s very much AI driven. That’s why developing it doesn’t get that boring, because even when I’m playing a build and developing, I get to see what happens. I’ve made this sci-fi character name generator which parodies the names from all these different series, so I like to imagine what’s actually happening between all these characters. That’s the beauty of emergent gameplay.

RPS: Emergent gameplay fits comedy very well. Humour is often found in the unexpected.

Khandaker: Definitely.

RPS: I find it fascinating when a game can simulate a world and I can sit back and watch it, without necessarily being heavily involved. I like to be on the fringes sometimes.

Khandaker: Yeah. Things happen in the game that are unexpected. One thing that I enjoyed recently…which sounds weird, to say I was enjoying my own game.

RPS: It’s probably a good sign!

Khandaker: It’s not me, it’s the code doing its own thing. My boss kept trying to subtly ask me on these holo-dates, repeatedly, and all the co-workers started hating that I was getting the attention.

RPS: That’s what it’s like working with Jim. I assume that the fact it’s done through social networking puts the player at a disadvantage in a clever sort of way, because you react to what people say publicly, on the network, rather than how they actually feel.

Khandaker: Right. You do actually arrange events and have in-person interactions, which you can see the outcome of. But for the most part, peoples’ feelings are seen through Spacebook.

RPS: Does that let you play with the hypocrisy of social networks? You go out, have a great time, get along with everyone, come home and see them tearing into you online. Status updates that do not fit with your experience of the event.

Khandaker: Yeah.

RPS: Does the game create a new crew each time, or are there built-in characters?

Khandaker: It’s a new crew each time, so all their faces and profile pictures are dynamically generated, and so are their personalities. That was one of the key things I wanted to do with the game.

RPS: Does the game do any sort of balancing or can you end up on a station completely full of bastards?

Khandaker: At this point, yes. That can happen. You just have to deal with it.

RPS: The goal of the game is to make people like you, I guess? Or is there no goal apart from playing?

Khandaker: There is an underlying narrative to the game. You have a timeframe within which you are trying, through various means, to climb your way up the career ladder, and whether you do that by working hard or not, you’re basically trying to stop being a redshirt. Obviously, being one has certain connotations. There are lots of different ways to get there – maybe save a bunch of money and buy peoples’ affections.

RPS: Can you actually train to be better at the job?

Khandaker: Oh, definitely. There are certain skills in the game that level up whenever you go to work, so you can rise through job tiers. The ultimate job in the game is to be the commander’s assistant. Not the commander, because it’s not that kind of game.

RPS: Can you die?

Khandaker: You can. The joke of the game is that if you don’t progress within the allotted time limit, that’s what happens to you. You get sent on a mission, as a redshirt.

RPS: I like the idea that actually going and doing cool space missions is just death.

Khandaker: (laughs) That’s the way it is.

RPS: It’s obvious to see the sci-fi inspirations but have you been influenced by any media about social networks?

Khandaker: I wouldn’t say I’ve been influenced by references to social networks in pop culture or anything. When I started working on the game I was reading all these articles about the way that different groups of people interact in social networks, to define how the NPCs would operate and how certain mechanics in the game would work. I’m aware that I’m giving my version of events concerning what happens in social networks otherwise. So I did my research.

You have these articles about different personality types in social networks, so I’ve endeavoured to incorporate that a little bit. It sounds awful, but I’ve been so occupied with making the game that I’ve been cut off from looking at other media. The initial point of the game, when I first pitched it to Positech, was just to have a social networking sim, without the sci-fi skin on top of it. It was Cliff Harris of Positech who suggested the sci-fi aspect, so that it’s more a commentary on our future rather than just on the way things are now. But from the get-go, the point was to try and make a game about how social networks work.

RPS: Do you think the sci-fi aspect has added much, or is it essentially a visual theme?

Khandaker: Oh, it definitely has. Before I started working on it, I had lots of these ideas in mind and it has evolved. I’m a massive sci-fi fan as well so it felt natural.

RPS: It strikes me that this kind of storytelling is something that games are ideal for. Taking a bigger story, like a space opera or a fantasy epic, and saying ‘fuck the big story, let’s look at the little guys’. In this medium, I think that works so well because the most mundane things become interesting when a player is directly involved in them. We are those little guys. Is that something you’ve thought about at all?

Khandaker: Yeah, definitely. From the start, I didn’t want to make the kind of game where you play the hero and are involved in a big, epic storyline. There is an epic storyline in the main narrative arc that I mentioned, but that’s of no consequence for you, because you’re too absorbed in gaining ‘likes’. Most games are an empowerment fantasy, right? I like to think of this as a disempowerment fantasy.

RPS: When I play something like Skyrim or the new Fallouts, I don’t save the world or anything predictable like that, I just collect things. Not ‘likes’, but herbs and stuff.

Khandaker: Exactly. I think most games try to thrust the role of hero on you whether you want it or not, but Redshirt won’t let that happen. Even if that’s what you want (laughs).

RPS: Do you have a release date?

Khandaker: I’m hoping it’ll be done in the next couple of months. I’m at the refining and polishing stage right now. For the most part it’s feature complete, but it’s definitely come along a lot and I’m looking forward to finishing!

RPS: In one of the early blogs, you talked about it being a real-time game originally. I find that hard to get my head around.

Khandaker: For about half of the development process it was real-time, so people would be updating their statuses in real-time and you’d have to react to things that happened. But it became too twitchy. People would invite you to an event, and if you missed the invite your relationship could be ruined forever.

I think, ultimately, it works better as a turn-based game. You have a certain amount of ‘actions’ to use and that adds this aspect of commentary on the way Facebook games work, you know the ones – where you have to buy actions. That’s kind of in there as a joke now. You have a certain amount of actions per day and you can buy more using the in-game currency. That’s one of the challenges – trying to comment on how social networks operate and how annoying they are, without annoying the player. I don’t know – maybe the game is really annoying (laughs)!

RPS: Did you play Little Inferno?

Khandaker: I didn’t, no.

RPS: That was a comment on those kind of issues, which some people no doubt found annoying because it actually had in-game currency tied to progression. I thought it was great.

Khandaker: I’ll look that up.

RPS: Moving away from the game for a moment – I read your GDC ‘rant’. I call it that because it was in the rants section, or something, but I’ve only read a transcript and it seemed like a well-constructed observation rather than a rant. Perhaps you were screaming and raving at the time?

Khandaker: It’s a shame you didn’t see it. I had a bunch of humorously pithy slides to go along with it. It was something that I was reluctant to rant about, which I mentioned, making it a sort of meta-rant. I didn’t think very deeply about it until a couple of years ago, when I guess I grew up and became more socially aware. I think it’s an important thing. I ultimately did it in the end because I realised it WAS important and GDC this year was fantastic for being a place in which people felt they could talk about social issues.

Gender issues were definitely at the fore at this GDC, and not just in the advocacy track, which was an amazing idea, but it felt like a theme that permeated the whole conference, which was very cool. But I wanted to say, at the same time as we need to think about these gender issues, we need to think about other aspects of identity as well.

RPS: I had somebody tell me that they were pleased we talk about those issues on RPS, but that the term ‘feminism’ can be exclusive, that we should be talking more broadly about ‘humanism’.

Khandaker: I think that’s a misunderstanding of feminism. It’s a common thing and it’s really unfortunate. The common picture of feminism in most peoples’ heads is the one perpetuated by the media and culture, of this sort of man-hating woman.

RPS: I’ve never met a feminist like that but I grew up with some lingering sense of a negative connotation to the word. Bearing in mind that my mother believed in and struggled for many of the things that I now associate with feminism, the term had taken on a strange and not entirely positive sense for her as well.

Khandaker: People don’t tend to realise that feminism is about deconstructing gender roles for men and women, because those things are harmful to all of us. Feminism works for men as much as it does for women. There was a post being shared around Facebook recently which was a wonderful list of all the things that feminism is doing that men’s rights groups try to rally for. Feminism has already been working on those things for years and years. Like not giving preference to mothers over fathers, and things like that. The public image of feminism is unfortunate but I hope there’s a growing awareness.

RPS: People talking about these things more is the first step, even if discussing it is, laughably, sometimes seen as being militant. I’d rather be labelled ‘militant’ than ‘apathetic’.

Khandaker: That’s one of the things I talked about. Everything is political, so if you want to shove things under the rug, you’re still implicitly engaged in the social constructions that exist just by nature of being in the world. The attitude of ‘not wanting to talk about it’ doesn’t help anybody. It’s going on with the status quo. It’s really important for people to question things and to actively fight against things.

RPS: There’s a danger that when things aren’t spoken about often enough, when they are brought up, people feel attacked simply because they haven’t been engaged in the conversation before. The more we talk about things, the more easily we find a ground where people become aware that they can be involved quite easily.

Khandaker: Can I plug a website I’ve been working on?

RPS: Absolutely.

Khandaker: It’s called dearada.com and it’s a website I set up with Emily Flynn-Jones, which was funded by the feminists in games initiative. It’s a place where anybody can talk about feminism and gender issues in the industry. It’s designed to be an inclusive place. We definitely want voices of all genders contributing their thoughts.

RPS: You said that there was a post doing the rounds on Facebook recently. That neatly brings us back to your game.

Khandaker: Expertly done.

RPS: Not when I spell it out like that. It’s more like a botched three-point turn now. Do you touch on any of these social issues in the game? It seems quite light-hearted but that doesn’t mean there’s no space for that.

Khandaker: When you work on a game, particularly when you’re the solo designer, your own biases definitely permeate the game and how it works. I have no doubt that my way of looking at the world is in there. So in the character creator, there’s a gender slider rather than a binary male/female option. I don’t necessarily think that slider is the be all and end all answer as to how gender works, but I think it’s a better step than you’re male or female and that’s it. Also, the default option for your ‘interested in’ is ‘all genders’. You can tick ‘male’ or ‘female’ if you want. Little things like that show my way of looking at how the world works.

There’s also commentary in that one of the alien races is basically the green-skinned ladies of sci-fi. So there’s an entire race of green/blue skinned ladies who are only allowed to wear dresses, and they’re commonly perceived as this empowered all-female race, but they’re actually just horrendously objectified by everybody else. Star Trek itself often paved the way with tackling social issues. The original series had an ethnically diverse crew, and there was the famous first televised interracial kiss between Kirk and Uhura, of course! TNG also had that episode which dealt with gender and sexuality issues, where Riker fell in love with a member of an androgynous species. So I suppose Redshirt carries on that influence in some way!

RPS: Quite a lot of social commentary then.

Khandaker: When you’re interested in social issues you can’t leave them out! (laughs)

RPS: It’s funny how that’s not just social commentary, it’s also commentary on the genre. Those tropes are so common and hard to avoid in sci-fi. It’s difficult to throw a stone and not hit some of these issues in any game. And that doesn’t mean we have to burn all those games to the ground, but we should look at it and think about it.

Khandaker: Exactly.

RPS: We should burn some games to the ground.

Khandaker: (laughs) Yes.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

Redshirt will make an appearance at Rezzed and I’ll be looking at an early build in the next couple of weeks.

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59 Comments »

  1. QuaidX says:

    Sounds a lot like Cliffski’s life sim stuff – Kudos and Democracy? What’s the deal with that?

  2. padger says:

    I love the idea of being sent in the away mission as game over.

    Aho, man. You need to knock up a side-scrolling platformer where you have to die to save the handsome Captain Berk.

    Also that thing about real-time vs turn-based is weird. Twitch based management? That would have been like a new genre.

  3. IanWharton says:

    Seems like this might be a tough game to actually demo at something like Rezzed. Sitting in a giant room full of people and screens isn’t ideal for subtle satires of Facebook and sci-fi. Is it going to have a demo?

    Also: Android version plz? (I don’t have an iPad.)

    • cliffski says:

      Indeed. But it will be on a screen next to Democracy 3, which will make redshirt look like Just cause 2 in terms of explodey show-friendliness. We will be the ‘quiet intelligent booth’ in a sea of exploding crates…

      • princec says:

        Hopefully it will back on to my booth, which will have neon explosions, mayhem, sexy ladies*, and pumping electronic music emanating from it.

        * Chaz, in a dress.

  4. BTAxis says:

    I use facebook pretty much exclusively as a sort of personalized news blog. Don’t really do anything social with it. That makes me think I’d have trouble understanding this game.

  5. mrmalodor says:

    On Spacebook everyone can see you clean.

  6. ChainsawHands says:

    It pleases me greatly that this is being developed by someone called KHAAAANdaker.

  7. Canisa says:

    A gender *slider*? Commentary on race? Consider me very much intrigued.

  8. Lambchops says:

    Despite the sci-fi wrapping and satirical bent I can’t help but feel that playing a game about Facebook will be, to use the developers own word “annoying.” It’s much the same reason I never played Little Inferno or Cow Clicker. I appreciate what these games are doing but they just aren’t for me.

    Good interview though, and worth it for the GDC rant, which was an interesting read.

    • belgand says:

      Have to agree here. I don’t use Facebook so it seems like a rather hard sell to get me interested in a game about it. The very concept seems a tad too navel-gazey for me.

      And by someone who never watched Babylon 5!?! I cannot condone giving this person money until he rectifies that grave injustice. In a just society such a crime would involve being flogged into the next town.

  9. MarcP says:

    “People don’t tend to realise that feminism is about deconstructing gender roles for men and women, because those things are harmful to all of us.”

    I’m very happy being a stereotypical man. I think my wife is happy too, although I can’t stop you from believing my perception is wrong and she’s somehow oppressed or whatever if that’s what you want to believe. I’m cool with other people rejecting traditional gender roles for themselves, too. Regardless of the values you’re defending, once you try to force your world view on others and insist your way is best for everyone, you’re evil.

    • RedViv says:

      Where in the world do you get the idea that breaking up the boundaries and roles will in the future deny anyone to be fully happy being “stereotypical” at all?
      The final goal is to be rid of the need to pin down the “stereotypical”, so no fellow human being should feel limited at all.

      • Mitu Khandaker says:

        This. :)

        It’s as simple as people being free to make whatever choices they want, without the media/society trying to actively push a set of expected behaviours on you based solely on your gender. If “who you feel most comfortable being” ends up coinciding with whatever is (currently) considered “stereotypical”? That’s totally cool, no-one is saying that is bad at all!

      • MarcP says:

        I don’t. I’m specifically questioning the idea gender roles are harmful to all of us. I know I wouldn’t be who I am without my peers pushing certain ideas of what a man is supposed to be on me, and I am happy being who I am. Would I be just as happy if I had been “free” to make different choices? Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes lacking guidelines is scary, one reason many people still turn to religion in this day and age, or adulate celebrities.

        In this context it’s moot anyway, the point being there are people out there for whom gender roles work or are at the very least not detrimental. You could argue gender roles are harmful to many of us, or even to most of us and I wouldn’t argue one bit with that statement (even though my personal feeling would be that it’s not true and you lack the data to make that claim, but just as well I also lack the data to refute that claim).

        • RedViv says:

          Nobody is arguing that enforced gender roles and stereotypes are not beneficial to some people. Quite the opposite in fact, as this is the attribute which is commonly known as privilege.
          Which, at least as far as it concerns the matters of race and gender, would in the end be eradicated. Not taken away and given to someone else – just the concept would be meaningless.

          • MarcP says:

            Not sure I get your point. Are you arguing gender roles are harmful and beneficial at the same time to some of us? I don’t think that’s relevant anyway. The quoted comment I was reacting to was gender roles are harmful to all of us. My personal feeling is gender roles aren’t harmful to me. The benefits of gender roles to me were only brought up as a point to demonstrate this “not harmful” nature of gender roles in my specific case.

          • RedViv says:

            You can not, in any way, imagine how gender roles might turn against you?

          • MarcP says:

            Honestly, I can’t. I’ll give you it could be that I lack imagination in that regard, but regardless, we’re moving on to the hypothetical here. I’ve lived all my life without gender roles being harmful to me. As of this very moment, the statement “gender roles are harmful to all of us” is currently inaccurate for me (and as a result, inaccurate, period, if we assume “all of us” to mean “everyone in the world”).

          • RedViv says:

            Well, if we can reduce it to a basic quest for better phrasing, then I suggest that “all of us” could just be meant to mean all of humanity. Not every single precise individual, necessarily, but it hurts all of humanity and keeps it from its full potential.

          • MarcP says:

            I guess you could see it that way. Obviously, I didn’t. Accuracy is important when discussing controversial topics.

            I’d still disagree with your interpretation, but likewise, the greater good for humanity as a whole is such a vague concept there’s hardly any point discussing that here (although for the sake of nobody confusing this for me saying “traditional gender roles are best for humanity”, my own ideal scenario for humankind would involve wiping men from the species. Which would kind of suck on a personal level, but hey.)

          • MarcP says:

            Wiping out.* No edit feature. :(

          • Sheng-ji says:

            All you seem to be saying is that it doesn’t affect me, so who cares. I can’t help but to think that seemingly selfish point of view stands at odds with the calm intelligent way in which you present your case. Surely if we can make it so that not only you are happy, but other people are happy as well, you could support that?

            I understand that your only problem is that of the semantics used, and that you would in all likelyhood welcome a world in which no-one is treated unfairly due to their gender, but as I pointed out below, you are happy with life defining you a role. Exactly why does that role have to be tied directly to your gender? Is it because you believe that men are better at some roles in life, women better at others?

        • Sheng-ji says:

          I don’t think it’s the idea of having a role as defined by society that is the problem, it’s the concept that these roles are made unavailable to people based on their gender.

          Let’s say society has deemed that you are to be the breadwinner, you will spend your life working 9-5 to bring home the paycheck that supports your family. Your wifes role is the homemaker, she sorts the kids out, makes your lunch to take to work, cleans and makes sure that you return to a happy environment. Both roles are crucial to modern life and compliment each other nicely.

          But what if you hated the idea of working like that, and wanted nothing more than to spend time with your family, while your wife is a career woman, who didn’t want to give up her job. Suddenly life is made much more difficult for you both, and one of the reasons it is more difficult to reverse your roles is that societies perceptions are less positive towards this role reversal. Societies perceptions are influenced greatly by the media and so if media shows men and women performing roles more equally, maybe women would feel less pressure to give up their career when they become pregnant or men would feel less pressure to bring that pay check home no matter how much stress and misery they deal with at work.

          Obviously if you have two homemakers or two career people in a relationship, compromises will need to be made, but that is between the two people. What sucks is when it is assumed the woman must compromise her career or the man must compromise being the homemaker, when stay at home dads are ignored at the school gate by the other mums, when a woman with children is made to feel like a bad mother for returning to work etc.

          It’s not the role that is the problem, it’s the automatic assumption of what you are, who you must be based solely on your gender that is. And that is what the media needs to sort out a bit more.

        • drvoke says:

          “All of us” as in, gender stereotypes can hurt men AND women, not just women, thus feminism isn’t just about aiding women at the expense of men. So, I think I see where you’re getting confused with the verbiage, though I will just put this out there that there’s at least an even chance that it’s a kind of willful “confusion”.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “I’m very happy being a stereotypical man. I think my wife is happy too, although I can’t stop you from believing my perception is wrong and she’s somehow oppressed or whatever if that’s what you want to believe.”

      Whoa there. No one is saying that’s wrong – these arguments are solely about how media reinforces those stereotypes and therefore alienates everyone else.

      To reiterate: No one talking about this stuff is saying you or your life is wrong. It’s about the media, not your choices.

      • princec says:

        As a little though experiment:

        If feminism is about the equalisation of rights and erosion of prejudices between men and women, might it not just as well be called “masculinism”? (Think, now). And so if that idea sounds preposterous for any reason at all, and I think we can find at least one reason it might, it might not take a great leap of deduction to understand why the term “feminism” is poorly understood or represented.

        I really rather like that term, “humanism”. But then we’re into a whole new world of wondering about animal exploitation and the differences between us and animals. Or rather, the similarities, which we like to gloss over and forget about.

        Maybe someone needs to come up with a new word for it.

        • Jim Rossignol says:

          Yes, the term is loaded and counter-productive. That doesn’t mean people should radically misinterpret it for no reason, though.

          • princec says:

            When it comes to the wisdom of the masses, there’s no “should”, only the observation of how they actually behave en masse; and it seems that the crowd is ugly.

        • Mitu Khandaker says:

          Well, I guess the word is feminism because it’s rooted in understanding that the way the world works is set up to make happening-to-be-male easier than happening-to-be-female (also, anyone who hasn’t already should read John Scalzi’s excellent take on this – to bring him up for a second time in these comments, but for entirely different reasons, ha!). So, the answer to that is to go “Well, let’s stop caring about people’s gender altogether, then” — which also, happily, comes with the bonus effect of also making life easier for men.

          I mean, after all, when a man does/shows interest in anything traditionally perceived “feminine” (crying? knitting? looking-after-babies?), there’s this idea that he “isn’t a real man” — which is really, a kind of misogyny, because it thinks anything “traditionally feminine” is somehow “lesser”, if that makes sense. For the record, here’s the Facebook post I referenced in the interview, which goes into this some more!

          (Also, I identify as humanist too, but for different reasons, as the word is actually already taken for other reasons, so has other connotations. A few times over, in fact.)

        • The Random One says:

          The problem with the term “humanism”, as I see it, is that it implies that either you put men on the forefront, or you put everyone equally on the forefront. That is, if you don’t think men should be getting more than everyone else, then you must think they must get at least as much as everyone else. This is a tiny, subtle form of sexism. Men are also oppressed, but women are oppresed more often and to a greater degree – why would you not put them at the forefront?

          Therefore, Jim should change his game’s name to Madam, You Are Being Hunted XOXOXOXOXO.

          Edit: Ninja’d by the dev. All I have said is pointless. Now, self immolation.

    • Llewyn says:

      It might perhaps be better expressed as “People don’t tend to realise that feminism is about deconstructing the assumption of gender roles for men and women, because that is harmful to all of us.”

      • MarcP says:

        This statement feels a lot easier to agree with, but again, I’m not sure I do. For a person who happens to fit any particular gender role, the assumption they fit that role doesn’t hurt them any. Perhaps the case could be made it hurt other people around them and as a result it’s indirectly harmful to them, but I don’t know… Seems to be stretching it a bit.

        I’m not making a case against feminism. No doubt it can be argued if something negatively affects some people and is irrelevant to others, it would be ethical to change that thing so the people who are negatively affected could get better. It’s the absoluteness of statements such as gender roles being harmful to all of us or assumption of gender roles being harmful to all of us I find hard to agree with, because it only takes one data point, one single person to make such statements inaccurate; and I feel I can be a data point here.

        • Quickpull says:

          Within any imbalanced system there are positions of disadvantage and positions of privilege. It makes complete sense that a person within a position of privilege would not see any personal benefit to changing the system. The only reason they would support changing the system is if they felt morally obligated to do so.

          As for feminism being “good for everyone”, even those in positions of privilege. It can be argued that everyone would be more free to act as they wish, even if they have no interest in actually changing their behavior. True, not a very compelling argument. It’s more a point of principle than tangible benefit.

        • The Random One says:

          The only reason you are having this argument is because you don’t like that the roles of you and your wife are being attacked.

          If there were no steoretypical gender roles, what you are doing would be as valid as anything else and you would not need to defend it.

          Therefore, the existence of gender roles is negatively affecting you right now.

  10. thegooseking says:

    I’ve got to admire someone who doesn’t find doing emergent AI boring. Yes, it’s interesting in the sense that you get to see what happens, but it’s also very hard to tell whether it’s actually working or not, because it’s unpredictable by design.

    The work I’ve been doing has been very tedious in terms of thinking it’s working and then finding out that it’s not and having to track down exactly what the problem is.

    • Mitu Khandaker says:

      Ha, I probably overstated the case for how interesting it is working on an emergent game! I certainly didn’t mean all the time, alas. But, there are definitely moments when surprising, interesting things happen, which makes the overall process *a little bit* interesting, but yes, a lot of the time it’s just tough to debug.

      (Also, while we’re on the subject, a shout-out to Luke Dicken, who gave lots of AI super-help with Redshirt!)

  11. amateurviking says:

    ‘Babylon 5 is a big pile of shit’

    • Lambchops says:

      Get out!

    • ChainsawHands says:

      Get the hell out of our galaxy!

    • elevown says:

      Get lost! – ‘In space!’

      I hope you dont claim to be any sort of sci-fi fan to claim such an amazing series, that braved and did so much more beyond what star trek ever did, was naff.

      Ofcourse if all you saw was the first few episodes or half of season one, I could see why a person might think it wasnt that special.. like judging star trek TNG on the pilot, or season 1- when it certainly got a lot better than that.

    • amateurviking says:

      I was quoting! I actually quite like Babylon 5.

      Citation (2nd one down): http://www.noisetosignal.org/2009/05/em-spaced-em-the-top-ten-scenes

      Also: watch Spaced. Your life will be demonstrably improved.

      • Lambchops says:

        One thing is for sure though, Hawk the Slayer is unequivocally, completely and utterly rubbish. So rubbish, in fact, that after watching it on telly (having spotted it after coming back from a night out) I bought it on DVD, a few beers and Hawk the Slayer works wonders to cheer me up if I’m in a grumpy mood, it’s just so unintentionally hilarious.

        Oh and Spaced sidenote – “Gone” is correctly identified as the best episode but my favourite moment in it isn’t actually the fake gunfight (which is amazing – and something we used to replicate at school), it’s the bit in the confrontation between Tim and Duane where he crack’s the “like I said, no hard feelings” gag and gives Daisy a little look that says “that was a good one wasn’t it?” and she gives him a little appreciative nod – which was a gloriously heartwarming touch amongst the hilarity.

  12. strangeloup says:

    Really interesting interview, I’ve enjoyed reading Mitu’s thoughts elsewhere and this was no exception.

    Using a social network as a game element worked really well in don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story, but I have a fundamental dislike of Facebook, Twitter etc. so I’m not sure I’d want to play a game where something like that is the main focus, even with satirical intent.

    On the other hand, satirising something with fifty squidillion users gives you a substantial potential player base, so I genuinely hope it’s a success. In any case, some of the screenshots reminded me pleasingly of the good-natured silliness in Star Control II.

  13. Baines says:

    The annoyance at Little Inferno wasn’t over its in-game currency, it was the price of the game versus its content as well as the conflict between its price-content versus the game’s message.

    On the side track to the subject of feminism, I’ve certainly met people who embody the “man-hating woman” vision of feminism. I encountered them in my college days, and they still exist.

    In college, more extreme feminism was involved with stuff like the argument that “If a man has non-consensual sex, then it is not rape, because men are dominate and cannot feel what a woman feels”, the “Look to your left, look to your right, one of you three women has been raped” presentations (the more extreme of which then go on to convince the attendees that they have been raped), or the support for rape legally cover a woman (but only a woman) saying “no” up to a year or more after the actual sexual encounter without any concern for the consequences of such a law.

    Today, it is embodied by women who trumpet the sanctity of and defend the use of terms like “mansplain”.

    You can’t even speak about gender issues in some places without being attacked, not unless you agree with what the other person is preaching. To question any details, question any apparent double standards, raise any issues, or otherwise not blindly agree gets you automatically labelled a misogynist, or as a man and thus incapable of understanding. You quickly become branded as an enemy, your points and questions are immediately ignored or dismissed without consideration, and you get otherwise attacked. If you are perceived as male, you automatically get a strike against you, and receive harsher treatment, and more readily have your opinions and concerns ignored if there is even the hint that you don’t blindly agree with what the other person is saying.

    That’s why I get upset at how Anita Sarkeesian behaves, and have warned that John Walker’s stance is coming off as a rabid blind and deaf crusade that potentially causes more harm than good. I’ve seen such approaches too many times in the past. It doesn’t win converts, it just hardens the opinions of both sides.

    • The Random One says:

      Extreme feminists with rather quaint ideas about men and rape do exist. But what you are saying is that because thousands of years ago the punishment for theft was to cut off the thieves’ hands, we should never punish thiefs at all.

  14. Deviija says:

    An awesomely self-aware and knowledgeable developer on social issues, and a game with commentary on social issues, which doesn’t default you to strict binary gender — particular default as straight (white) male — and is made with humor and sci-fi trappings through a lens on human social media obsession? Good lawd, let me throw these dollars at you. I want this game!

  15. BurningPet says:

    Damn i wish i could go to rezzed. dont know why, but out of all the indie gatherers-trade shows-conventions this one is the most appealing to me.

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