The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on August 25th, 2013 at 10:26 am.


Sundays are for starting up that old Minecraft server and looking at the palatial constructs you built a year ago. I missed you, golems.

  • Confessions Of A Failed Indie Game Developer: “When I say I started building a game, this isn’t strictly true – what I actually built was a graphics engine. The game design gradually formed as I was working over the first couple of months. I knew that my art skills were greatly lacking, so I had a vision of a stark first person sci-fi setting, with simple geometry, small rooms and no human characters – the game mechanic based on switching between alternate universes and changing the direction of gravity in order to solve puzzles. If this sounds a little like Portal, you’re right – that game was a huge inspiration for the project.”
  • I Hate Strong Female Characters: “What is Sherlock Holmes like?” He’s a brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, polymath genius. Adding the word “strong” to that list doesn’t seem to me to enhance it much.
  • Lots of writing about Gone Home this week, including this and this: “So you edge closer and you pick up a bottle next to the bathtub and read the label: “red right hand”. It’s hair dye. And you realize that this isn’t a game that’s interested in evoking the limited range of emotions most videogames are content to deal with, and that maybe it’s even playing with your “games literacy” which is a polite way of saying your internalization of the awful tropes that have come to dominate our understandings of what videogames are supposed to do.”
  • Edge on the making of Thomas Was Alone: “Uploaded to gaming portal Kongregate, Thomas Was Alone quickly racked up 100,000 plays. “A switch flipped for me,” says Bithell. “Even though I was working in the industry, I saw games as a closed shop. I thought you couldn’t get people to play your game if you didn’t have a massive marketing team or lots of money.” In a sudden epiphany, he realised that was wrong: “It was a fantastic mix of optimism and stupidity.””
  • Polygon on player harassment of devs: “I did my best to avoid actually reading any of it, so I’m not quite certain how bad it got,” Hepler said. “I was shown a sample of the forum posts by EA security and it included graphic threats to kill my children on their way out of school to show them that they should have been aborted at birth rather than have to have me as a mother.”
  • Digital Foundry on Titanfall tech things: “The good stuff we chose the Source Engine for – 10 years of gameplay stuff – also means that there’s 10 years of legacy audio code that has so many things that are unnecessary. It’s unbelievable, like a spaghetti-style codebase. So it got to the point where what we wanted to do was way easier than using what was there, so we started over. We’re not doing HDR audio… It’s kind of funny because it’s more like LDR audio because you’re limiting the range of what you can hear, but hey – it’s great, it’s awesome – but we have a finite time to finish the game, and we have our own sound designer who previously worked on Battlefield and Medal of Honor so he knows his way around making good-sounding games.”
  • An interview with Alan Moore.
  • A review of Gencon ’13: “This is Gen Con. Its origins lost to the mists of time, the nearly half-century-old gaming party — for that’s what it is — is probably the largest annual gathering of tabletop gamers outside Germany’s Spiel. I arrived midday on Thursday, just as Day One was getting into full swing. The Indiana Convention Center is a massive place, and, as is the habit among Actual Journalists, I wandered into it unaided by map or signpost, following the flow of musky t-shirts into the first exhibit hall I could find. The simple elegance of what greeted me there felt both surprising and inevitable at once. Because what’s special about Gen Con is that it’s about the one thing most important to the cardboard arts: playing games.”

Music this week is some Sun Araw.

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200 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    AlwaysRight says:

    The “I Hate Strong Female Characters” article seems a bit weird to me. Maybe its just me, but when I hear “Strong Female Character” I think of a well-rounded, realistic character not literally a physically strong one. I’d consider say April Ryan from The longest journey or Clem from The Walking Dead to be strong female characters.

    • phelix says:

      Same here. “female” is an adjective, so I think about “strong character”, not about “strong female”.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      Sadly I think an awful lot of people equate “strong” in that context with “can kick ass” and little or nothing else. It’s not as if I know the numbers for certain, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that was the majority view… for all the good Buffy the Vampire Slayer did, much of its influence on popular culture ended up as “Look, girls are allowed to punch people now, too!” (And Whedon arguably could have done more to mitigate that, but that’s a whole other story, I guess.)

      EDIT: Just go Google “bayonetta strong female” for some examples, and that’s off the top of my head.

      • The Random One says:

        Yeah, that’s what I think as well. Lots of people think a “strong female character” is “a female character who is strong” when in fact it is “a strong character who is female”. This is what has given rise to the Dude With Tits archetype (which may not be damaging per se, but often aren’t strong characters, either) as well as a certain lingering idea that to give your female characters any weakness is to be either a bad writer or sexist or both.

        I haven’t read the article yet, but from the snippet, to say that Sherlock Holmes doesn’t need to be strong indicates that the author hasn’t grasped this difference yet, though. We want strong characters on our stories, but they don’t need to be strong in our stories.

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      RedViv says:

      I had not thought of this before that article, but apparently “Is she STRONG?” has become some kind of box to tick just like the Bechdel test has become a sort of en passant thing to to keep in mind. Where the latter was always just meant to be a bloody start for a MINIMUM amount of decent not just there time, “strong” has indeed been switched to a literal need to pump points into the strength stat of the characters.
      And that’s obviously bullshit. Yeah sure Fox in the Transformers is “strong of mind and body” because she can fix cars, but that doesn’t make hers a “strong character” if it is not even able to pass the Sexy Lamp Test.

    • Godwhacker says:

      I think you’re missing the point. She’s saying that there should be no need to refer to ‘strong female characters’. Women are just as capable as men, so the default starting point should just be ‘female character’.

      Tacit misogyny, innit.

      • aircool says:

        Agreed. That is exactly the point.

      • Text_Fish says:

        +1

      • FriendlyNeighbourhoodMurderer says:

        But strong (not in the physical sense) carries with it a lot of associations, so I think it’s perfectly fine. This is just nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking.

        • Godwhacker says:

          OK.

        • derbefrier says:

          I agree. I mean it goes both ways. If I said a male character versus a strong male character your going to think of two different kinds of males. There are weak men ands strong men just like there are weak and strong wome so why should we assume all women or men are strong when that clearly isn’t the case. Its just bullshit is all it is.

          • The Random One says:

            Conversely if I say so-and-so is a “strong male character” you’re more likely to think that they’re a character who’s a strong person than if I say he’s a “strong lead”, because the latter makes it clearer that I’m talking about the metanarrative. Semantics, semantics.

      • tetracycloide says:

        No, it’s not the default because we are talking about characters, not people and while it would be nice if that was the default, it isn’t. We recognize this by taking note of characters that aren’t lazy, misogynist sterotypes by giving them there own label. Acknowledging the reality that writing in games is overtly misogynist is not ‘tacit misogyny,’ that’s absurd.

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        Gap Gen says:

        I suppose it comes from the point where women’s roles in stories were to be rescued by men, or be protected by them. And when a significant number of narratives are based around physical violence, it’s OK to demand equal opportunity to dish out violence.

        EDIT: “Women are just as capable as men, so the default starting point should just be ‘female character’.” Or, y’know, ‘character’.

        • Reapy says:

          It was, until loud noise was made about no strong female characters (rightfully so), so now people point out when, hey look, we don’t have weak female characters that you all complained about. I get the whole thing, eg we should call people people and not preface it with whatever race they are thing, but that is a bit wishy washy in an environment where female characters are regularly criticized for being weak.

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            Gap Gen says:

            Well, that’s the end goal we’re shooting for, so why settle for less? I’m gonna cite Game of Thrones again and say that it gets the balance between strength and personal flaws bang on for the majority of its characters. Strength and weakness aren’t an either-or choice, it’s the combination of the two that make for a basic requirement in good character writing.

      • Strabo says:

        That’s a nice sentiment, but currently “female character” means usually a weakly defined/fleshed out character, while “male character” usually means at least adequately defined. So while the ultimate goal might be that the moniker “strong” isn’t necessary any more, it currently is rather important, if only to remind writers not to do the default thing (weakly written character who is female).

        Kinda like there shouldn’t even be the need to say “gay marriage” at one point, since “marriage” per default should include gay people, but we aren’t there yet by a long shot, so it serves its purpose.

    • Bull0 says:

      Yeah, I’ve never interpreted it that way either. You either mean a strong character as in well-rounded, believable, and compelling, or you mean strong in character eg honest, dependable, self-reliant. Did people really take “Strong character” to mean “Can bench 100 situps”? What planet are they on?

      …I’ve now had a read of the article, and it’s one of those “you can’t win either way” type deals. It’s wrong to put the fact that your female character knows kung-fu front and centre because it reinforces the stereotype that most women are helpless. And here I was thinking it challenged it. Oh well

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        RedViv says:

        Some planet that apparently still divides a species into two parts equally alien to each other along the lines determined by a single chromosome.

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        Gap Gen says:

        I think there’s a mistake in assuming emotional strength, not just physical strength. There’s a difference between making a weak female support who cowers behind the hero-man, and someone with as many character flaws regardless of their sex. The trick is to write people first and gender last, unless you’re making a point about gender politics, e.g. for a ’60s piece about gender in the workplace. Actually a game where you play an Edwardian woman blowing up phone boxes could be pretty ace. A sort of stealth game with large hats and dresses instead of Christmas tree light goggles.

        • Jack Mack says:

          Well, gender does shape character. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a specific gender as a starting point for a character.

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            Gap Gen says:

            I agree that social norms like gender do play a role in shaping someone, and as I said it’s often an important thing to discuss in the setting (including modern stories) but it shouldn’t have to define the characters or make them secondary to other social groupings. For example, the women in Game of Thrones are bound socially by their gender and to some extent shaped by it, but they aren’t wholly defined by it, and often have space to escape it and have considerable agency. I don’t believe that Martin started with a charcter’s sex as the basis for their personality in any well-defined, black-and-white way. Plus, in that setting everyone is bound by social rules and hierarchy, or by the anarchy of the place’s power politics.

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            Yes, gender informs character. If you just make a bunch of characters and then label them “male” or “female” you will have written a bunch of cheap, cardboard characters, none of them “strong.”
            This debate is important, but we need to understand the real problem here stems from bad writing. A good character is complex, and their gender is a very personal and important part of their character.

          • Jack Mack says:

            Yes, you’re both right.

      • Mo6eB says:

        When I hear “Strong female character”, this is what I think of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGLnsNPQcls . But acting this way towards any male around, regardless of their Frank Buttiness.

        It brings to mind the image of a small man with a ridiculously huge car. “I may be a female character, but I’m a STRONG female character”. Like the author is overcompensating the character’s female-ness by dialing her STRONG to 11.

      • Baines says:

        The article is not really a “you can’t win either way” issue. The win is to reach a point where the “strong female character” is more than the “strong female character”.

        Mostly the article seems to call for more women in general to be present, for women to have more personality, and for more projects where the main character is a woman. The first of those (more women in general) is surprisingly important, because it shapes how the latter two are viewed.

        I think that may be where you get the idea that you cannot win either way, because without the first to give meaning, attempts at addressing the latter two can come off as over-reaction to the problem, which can be its own problem.

        • Bull0 says:

          So until female characters that are the equals of men are the norm, we aren’t allowed to write any, because that’s overreacting and counter-productive.

          I think people such as that article’s author with a cause to fight for would do well to go after the actual bigots rather than nitpick the people that are basically on-side and trying to help. It’s pretty frustrating to have to deal with.

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            Gap Gen says:

            If you’re on the side of equality, then presumably you don’t mind listening and taking on-board criticism from women, black people, non-heterosexual people, etc, who want to help you understand how to improve yourself and your approach to people around you? I agree that sometimes the tone might be a little aggressive from your point of view, but it’s important to keep an open mind and take new ideas on board. Remember that it’s not a fight if you agree with the sentiments of the author – it’s a dialogue, a chance for greater understanding of the world around you.

          • Bull0 says:

            I’m more than willing to listen, but you can’t deny the tone of the article was argumentative. Lines like this:

            “Don’t worry!” that puff piece or interview is saying when it boasts the hero’s love interest is an SFC. “Of course, normal women are weak and boring and can’t do anything worthwhile. But this one is different. She is strong! See, she roundhouses people in the face.”

            I mean, come on. How’s that dialogue? That’s one person arguing with themselves.

          • Focksbot says:

            “So until female characters that are the equals of men are the norm, we aren’t allowed to write any, because that’s overreacting and counter-productive.”

            How’d you figure that? Honestly, sometimes I think people wilfully misread any vaguely feminist post trying to work out what kind of crazy argument they can twist out of it.

            The article seems really simple to me: instead of ticking a box marked ‘strong female character’, write female characters that are genuinely unique and interesting. The complaint is that creators write male characters who are unique and interesting, and when it comes to the female characters they just decide to have them aggressively assert themselves (either physically or emotionally) and call it a day.

          • Bull0 says:

            So the central thesis is dependant on a sweeping generalisation anyway, so it’s a pretty weak starting point, but specific points such as the quote I pulled out above demonstrate pretty clearly that one of the take-home points is that writing characters that challenge stereotypes is tacitly reinforcing said stereotypes. Which I can sort of understand, but I see more as a natural byproduct than anything else, and certainly don’t think should be dissuading anyone from writing about a kickboxing princess.

          • Baines says:

            “So until female characters that are the equals of men are the norm, we aren’t allowed to write any, because that’s overreacting and counter-productive.”

            No, that wasn’t what the author was saying, nor what I was speaking about. One of the points the author made was about the lack of women in general in projects. That absence affects how we see the women that are present.

            If your movie has two female characters, one of which exists entirely so that your star can kiss her and the other exists to be the now cliche “strong female character”, isn’t that bad? It is similar to “token black guy”. But it is stronger than that, as even a legitimate “strong” female character can get that same label when there aren’t other female characters for them to be measured against. They stand out, same as people think “token black guy” when there is one African-American character in a film otherwise full of white guys (even if he isn’t one of the first to die.)

            Add some more women to a film, enough so the “strong” character doesn’t stand out as “strong female character,” but rather “female character who happens to be strong”.

            Thinking about it, while people tend to treat Joss Whedon’s Buffy as a great pro-women series, I think Firefly might actually do a better job of it, because Firefly doesn’t force the issue. With Buffy, the Slayers are all women because–well, because Whedon wanted to make a “strong female character” story/world. It comes across a bit too blunt. You get the feeling that a character like Willow isn’t just the best magic user around because she is a main character, but because she is a female main character and Whedon didn’t want a weak female main character. Compare that to Firefly, where both the male and female characters have different roles, with none really being inferior or superior in a general sense to the others. You have physically strong women, but you also have weaker women just as you have weaker men. A story can have any one (or multiple) characters stand out and it doesn’t come off as a token story because the characters feel real, and the characters feel real in part because there are enough characters to compare against. (Think what Firefly would feel like if there was only one woman, and how that one woman would be viewed. Even with the same characterization and storylines, being the only woman would tint how people viewed that character.)

    • Archonsod says:

      ” when I hear “Strong Female Character” I think of a well-rounded, realistic character not literally a physically strong one.”

      That’s pretty much what the article is complaining about, although not strong in the physical sense. Male characters get to demonstrate flaws and weaknesses while ‘strong’ female characters as a rule don’t. The strong female is usually confident, independent and quite capable of looking after themselves).

      In other words Hollywood has missed the point and simply bounced to the other extreme from Damsel in Distress. The reason Holmes is a much stronger character than He-Man is that alongside his genius, Holmes is also an emotional wreck dependent on others for support which means he’s quite often forced to overcome his own flaws alongside those of whichever villain he happens to be facing.

      I’d disagree that there’s any inequality there though. Most of the examples she’s brought up originate outside of Hollywood. The spectacle over story approach that most Hollywood films exhibit these days means you could level the same criticisms at most male characters too; certainly I can’t think of a film in recent years which wasn’t an adaption from somewhere else that included any kind of complex character, whether male or female.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        I think the problem is simply in the distinction- “strong female character”
        It’s supposed to mean a female character who is well written. But we don’t say a “strong male character” for the male counterpart, we just say a well written character. Let’s say that about female characters too.

        Soon I think we will stop seeing so much praise for games that try to have female characters doing seemingly male things, and hopefully more praise for just well written, rounded characters, even if they are extremely feminine and doing perceivably “womanish” things. The problem is that most of these characters are poorly written.

    • Text_Fish says:

      Edit: Whoops, wrong thread!

    • InternetBatman says:

      I don’t think that article was very well written. It would have been far easier to say characters that rigidly adhere to gender norms are boring, even when they’re another gender’s norms. That’s why Shepard & Ashley or Geralt & Triss are boring characters; they have nothing to offer but their masculinity.

      • Jack Mack says:

        Are you saying that Triss conforms to masculine norms? I never got that feeling at all.

        I think everything has it’s place, even rigid gender norms. It’s fine if Alice is a boring character, because Wonderland is such an interesting place that Alice becomes interesting in context. Putting a blank-slate English Girl in England is boring: having a her act in exactly the same way in a place that’s off-the-wall crazy is interesting, because it’s such a weird way to act in that context.

        • Somerled says:

          You could say the characterization of Wonderland through Alice’s perspective and reactions would be much the same if Alice were a blank-slate English boy. It may not be the same if Alice were a blank-slate English man or woman. “Child” is a kind of genderless character norm itself.

      • dE says:

        I assume (please correct me if I’m wrong) you’re refering to the videogame Geralt and Triss here? In which case I’ll have to agree, their characters are really quite boring in comparison. I always thought that the Witcher Games – while great games – never quite got the more subtle tones of their characters, especially Geralt.
        Which is no surprise as players take the role of Geralt, his decisions become their decisions, his conflicts become their conflict. But his torn character, traits and emotions don’t become those of the player. For players to be able to take Geralts role, his actual character had to take a step back. In essence, Geralt became a blank slate, not quite unlike a silent protagonist in its purpose, but not execution. He essentially became a character with no more attributes but: White hair, Anti-hero, Male.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          “Which is no surprise as players take the role of Geralt, his decisions become their decisions, his conflicts become their conflict”

          That’s because you’re not roleplaying. Don’t take that as me telling you that you’re doing it wrong, as long as you’re having fun, right? But because you are not playing the role of Geralt and forcing your personality onto his avatar, it stands to reason you are going to miss out on half the subtlety in his character.

          • InternetBatman says:

            What subtlety is this?

          • Sheng-ji says:

            He’s a cunning and utterly mercenary yet very much a pacifist who seeks peace in the world. He is a strong fighter however and is often used by those who have power over him. He loves others, like Dandelion in an entirely platonic way and while he is hardly sexless he has literally no romantic relationships that are meaningful – even those which appear to be are not to him, he just pretends to act in a way which he is expected to. Despite the mutilation he suffered in his early life, he retained more humanity than most witchers and is hurt by humanity’s lack of acceptance of him. He is racist yet hides it well, though it flavours his every thought – he hates that he is racist but still he is.

            Hardly boring, if you ask me ;)

          • dE says:

            I agree with you. I think we’re refering to the same thing, just from a different point of view. Out of curiosity, I don’t know whether you read the books or not, did you get those subtleties from the game or the books or both?

            In my opinion, hence the blank slate comment, they come from the books. You can interject them into the game, as a role and tread a certain path that would fit the role of Geralt. But I feel like the offered deviations from that path. that are all not really Geralt but instead the player, options and branching storylines really, are perhaps what put Sapkowski at unease with the games.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            I’ve never, ever read the books – I picked all this up from the games! This is entirely subjective personal interpretation though, I would expect every player to interpret Geralt slightly differently and that is why, I assume there is choice in the games – some of them seem so far out and options that Geralt would never ever choose but there is usually multiple ways to interpret the situation in a way Geralt would.

          • dE says:

            I guess I was looking in the wrong places then. With some exceptions, that’s pretty close to the books. Odd I didn’t see it.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            I have a massive amount of respect for you – both from here and elsewhere so I know you know what you’re talking about, it can only be the failing of the games – or perhaps the books are literally so amazing that they ruin the games!

            EDIT: I really want to play the Witcher again now…

          • dE says:

            I really want to play the Witcher again now…

            Right? I’ll do that and try to so with a more open mind. I wouldn’t say the books were that amazing, just the first contact I had with the Witcher. And it’s quite possible I didn’t pick up the games attempts at fleshing out the character from the environment, because I had already a premade (Wrong word, but I don’t know the correct one, prejudice? too hostile, perhaps preconceived? One of those) notion of how he would act.
            Well, good reason as any to replay the games.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      When I think of the term ‘Strong Female Character’ I always think of the type of character someone like Joss Whedon tends to come up with. Lithe petite girls who ‘because reasons’ can somehow beat up big buff men. Seems like one of those things that are very much of a certain time period and look quite silly seen from some distance in time. I’m sure there’s a tvtropes term and page for it. Not gonna go there. I was always more of an Aeon Flux person anyway…

      • InternetBatman says:

        TV tropes started as a thread on a Whedon fan forum, so there are many, many pages on Buffy.

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          DrScuttles says:

          Linking to that site will devour at least one person’s* afternoon. Click at your peril, reader.
          But at least there was also Adele DeWitt in Dollhouse. As the boss, she was authoritative, smart, conniving, affably alkie and she literally grabbed Ray Wise by the balls.

          *mine. I’m already lost to it. Help me.

          • Bull0 says:

            She was also miserable and quite remorseful about what was going on, as I recall. Definitely interesting.

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            That’s probably because he was trying to write an interesting character, not a “strong female.”
            That’s the solution, really. Just write interesting characters, regardless of gender, but feel free to use their gender as an important aspect of their character (or not). The problem doesn’t even have to be about gender, just poor writing. Gender comes into play because the cliches are born out of our society, but the solution (in entertainment) doesn’t have to be about gender at all.

            Just write actual characters, stop using pre-made ones, or else why have narrative at all?

          • Bull0 says:

            Not all stories are character studies, and not all characters are meant to be perplexing.

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            DrScuttles says:

            As an interesting tangent, Alien was written with gender-neutral characters (some sources seem to alternate between being gender neutral and entirely male, admittedly). Especially when my reading of Alien has always been heavily sexual. Whether or not you find the crew actually interesting is up for debate and it’s certainly hard to argue against it being Aliens to cement Ripley’s iconic status as a character.
            So, you’re both right basically.

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            elderman says:

            And not all stories are about men — with an optional female sidekick defined by her relationship with the hero and her rating on the double axis of hot-to-motherly/strong-to-weak. Nor are all stories in popular culture, of course, even outside of things connected with Joss Wheden, but I’m exaggerating to make a point.

            I think you and the New Statesman article are talking past each other at this point.

            She’s making a larger point that isn’t about hating any particular characters but hating the fact that they so pervasive, apparently to the exclusion of well-written female characters. There’s nothing actually wrong with strong female characters and it is cool that the princess knows kung fu, but a lot of popular culture seems to have forgotten that ‘strong female character’ is supposed to mean ‘interesting’ not just ‘capable of throwing a punch’.

            Progress doesn’t mean the activists stop trying to make things better, on the contrary, progress an encouraging sign that reads “it’s working, don’t give up”.

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            elderman says:

            @ DrScuttles, you’re not wrong about Alien, but a lot of the sexual overtones in the first movie are in the directing and production design, not in the script.

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            DrScuttles says:

            Oh, most definitely. That was all down to Ridley Scott and enabled in no small part thanks to Giger’s designs. That the original script was called “Starbeast”(!) betrays it’s… humble origins.
            There’s always been an interesting relationship between script as it exists on page and film itself.

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            elderman says:

            Yeah, you know what you’re talking about. Don’t mean to sound patronising. Sorry if I did.

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            DrScuttles says:

            Not at all! I studied film and love talking about this stuff. Alien’s always been one of my absolute favourites.

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    • rockman29 says:

      I agree with the first post here. I think the article was so pinpoint focused on one meaning of “strong female character” and a little too much so focused on that one meaning.

      I believe it acknowledged that, but still I don’t think it was beneficial to the article to be so narrowly focused.

      By the end it makes some reasonable requests for women in games/movies to be more diverse and have more fair ratio to males in these things at least.

      But still… the article’s premise is just so weird. I think it’s just disconnected from the everything underneath the article that the writer wants to bring up.

      I personally have no problem with calling a female a “strong female character.” I don’t think it’s extraordinary to call a male a “strong male lead” or “strong male supporting cast” or something either. I think it’s equally broad a term to describe a male character.

      It feels like it was attacking “strong women” to garner legitimacy or something from people who abhor women/feminists. Which seems like it’s kind of… weak. And now that I’m thinking that… I’m not really a fan of the article anymore.

  2. TimorousBeastie says:

    The Polygon article is spot on really. As a Game Designer for an online shooter, community response can indeed be incredibly demoralising. Even when it’s not direct threats against your person, any change you make will be seen by a portion of the community as crap, and they’ll be very vocal in telling you how much you suck. Even straight up additions of new features and content will get a massive amount of negative feedback as certain people instead wanted something else added.

    The first few dozen times you can brush it off, but after a couple of years coming into work to cries of how you should be fired and how everyone around you is awful at their job, you finally have to just shut yourself off from your own community. I know it’s simply the usual ‘people will only contact you when they’re unhappy’ and that our forum users only consist of around 0.5% of the player-base, but it’s still unfortunate that I now don’t want to even look at our own forums on a day to day basis.

    The weird thing is, it’s not just anonymity. These guys have hundreds of hours of playtime in their accounts. Oh how I wish sometimes company policy would allow me to delete their characters and leave a note to teach them a lesson in manners…

    • Iceman346 says:

      I’m kind of in two minds about the issue. Well, not the whole threats thing, those are never justified.

      But I fear that some companies or people might rationalize ignoring valid criticism because a small (and stupid) part of the community is using massively inappropriate language. The ME3 ending debacle comes to mind (as it is also mentioned in the article).
      I think it is both valid and necessary to tell a company when they made a messy, cheap, uninspired, bullshit laden ending for a much loved games series. Being criticized makes it more likely someone stops that from happening again and that is a good thing.

      But still, criticism may be angry and use some rude words but it should never ever include threats against the people who made the game.

      • TimorousBeastie says:

        Oh I agree, and that’s what makes it harder, since you have to force yourself to read through the utter hatred and bile in case some of the problems are valid.

        • Shuck says:

          When I first started working on MMO design, colleagues with more experience in that area told me, “Never, ever read the forums or online discussion about the games you work on.” Not just because of the bile and hatred, which is more than enough to keep one away, but precisely because the complaints are also useless. I’ve seen studies done that reinforce this. The people complaining represent an unknown percentage of the players, first of all (and usually not the majority). But what people complain about doesn’t even accurately represent the game’s weakness, even for them. An example: the publisher for one game did a survey, asking “which skill do you think needs to be changed?” We knew a few skills were just completely broken at that point – but no one picked those. Why? Because the players knew those skills were worthless, and never selected them for their characters. The skills they picked in the survey were the ones they actually used all the time but wanted to be more powerful, which was an indication that those skills didn’t need to be changed.
          So the idea that somehow games would benefit from listening to online complaints is just not true, generally speaking. Even if it were true, the abuse completely prevents that from ever happening anyways.

      • I Got Pineapples says:

        That’s actually what’s bugged me about about the Dragon Age 2 criticism, apart from the inherent awfulness of course.. Because it’s let them position themselves as brave heroes, standing up to the hordes of misogynists and homophobes who are of course the only people to criticise their game instead of acknowledging there is perhaps a reason for the degree of backlash.

        • methodology says:

          Oh god this.

          There were so many things wrong with that game and I think most people just wanted Bioware to know about their displeasure and how they could get back on track. Then they decided to cherry pick a few unstable people’s posts and hold that up as what they were facing from all over, trying to elicit sympathy and support instead of actually coming clean and taking responsibility.

          I would like to hope the overwhelming majority of comments they got were from responsible people making reasoned arguments to why they disliked aspects of the game. If that wasn’t they case then, yeah I feel for them.

          • Agnol117 says:

            It gets complicated, though, because those “few unstable people” are the ones who continue to voice their displeasure. “Normal” people played the game, didn’t like it, said as much, and moved on. The people sending the violent, hate-speech laden bile, however, are the ones who stuck around and are still spewing it two plus years later. I agree that Bioware has done all they can to cast themselves in a favorable light, but that doesn’t really erase that what they deal/dealt with was rather extreme.

        • InternetBatman says:

          Absolutely this. The horrendously, terribly bad behavior of disappointed fans led to the criticism being dismissed when much of it was valid.

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            jezcentral says:

            Really? I thought Bioware (not EA) had been pretty good about saying “Yes, the reuse was much worse than DAO”, “We buggered up the ending” or “We tried something new and didn’t execute it properly, sorry”. I guess YMMV as to how sincere they sounded.

            EA, though, definitely used the homophobe excuse when they were voted Worst Company last year.

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        Ninja Dodo says:

        Man, people *still* bitching about Mass Effect 3. I don’t know what you guys are on about. Mass Effect 3 was great.

        I came to this series late so I mostly missed all the hype and controversy, though I have to say I was very skeptical of the idea of changing the ending in response to criticism. It struck me as setting a dangerous precedent where people can just DEMAND a story is changed to their specifications. Feedback is one thing, but a story is what it is. A series can sometimes adapt as it goes along (like focusing more on characters people like), but it’s ultimately their game and they get to end it how they feel is appropriate.

        Having actually played it now I think the extended cut did make some good changes from what I understand the original was, adding closure without changing what actually happens. So kudos to Bioware for sticking to their guns on that while still listening to reasonable feedback.

        Now I played with the extended cut first time and some DLC (From Ashes & Leviathan) so your mileage may vary there, possibly also down to what choices you make… but I loved the whole thing.

    • Wut The Melon says:

      Genuine question: do you know if online death threats are punishable by law? Because I think they should be, and that ‘fans’ that go to such an extent in their complaints should not just be banned from forums but be confronted with their misbehaviour in real life (by paying a fine or whatever).

      Unfortunately with internet-related laws still in development I could imagine that there’s legally nothing wrong with threatening to kill someone’s kids because his favourite virtual gun now takes .01 seconds longer to reload.

      • Anders Wrist says:

        They are in some countries.

      • InternetBatman says:

        I’m almost positive they are as long as they are specific.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        That’s a touchy subject. The problem with laws like that it can be hard to determine what exactly is a threat over the internet. If I say into VOIP, “I’m going to find you and knife you” it is not a threat, just some FPS trash talk, but I did say, over the internet, that I will find you and knife you.

        • Mirqy says:

          ….no, that is an explicit threat. That may not have been your literal intention but it is the literal definition of your statement.

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            Exactly my point. It’s a threat, made in game about the game avatars, but would that sort of thing be victim to this law?

        • Sheng-ji says:

          That’s entirely dependant on context – are you saying it to someone you know well and in a game with a great deal of trash talk, in which case it’s not a threat, it’s just trash talk. Note, the same applies if you say this in person, say at a LAN.

          Say it to a stranger, outside of a game when everyone else is discussing gardening, then you’ve just committed a crime. Note, the same applies if you say this in a gardening club meeting.

          The delivery of the words is irrelevant, whether they be transported in the air or through wires, written or texted.

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            By “find you and knife you” I meant to imply that this was talk of circumstances in the game. Say a sniper just killed me in BF3, I’ll tell him, “I’m going to find you and knife you,” meaning I will find his sniper character and use the knife kill attack on it. It IS a threat, and (hopefully) one I will follow up on, but it is also harmless and all in good fun.

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            jrodman says:

            I think that’s a poorly worded comment. It’s almost deliberately ambiguous. Who’s “you”? Are you making a veiled threat against a player?

            I think if you were expressing annoyance and superiority it might be “I’ll kill you with the knife later, you’ll see.” which still has some ambiguity but in context it’s much more likely to mean the game. I’m doubting the original statement is one someone would make in game context unless they’re intending to threaten ambiguously.

      • elevown says:

        Yes in the UK – it should be in the USA too by the sounds of it.

        Not like just swearing – but if you threaten to kill / rape / kill their children etc – here, you tell the police, they get a knock on the door – and do 6 month or whatever it is in prison. It comes under the threatening communications act or something.

        There have been quite a few high profile cases rescently with guys threatening to rape or kill certain women who were standing up for womens rights etc and they arrested several people. Wish I could of been there to see them sentenced and laugh at them – thought they could hide behind a computer and say that sort of thing..

        • Triplanetary says:

          Yes, there are plenty of cases in the US of people being arrested for making threats over the Internet. One of the more prominent examples.

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            Then there’s the example of the kid who is facing “making terrorist threats” charges for posting in a League of Legends Facebook group.

            While the person in your linked article did deserve the charges brought against them, the kid from Texas in the League of Legends debacle is a prime example of what can happen when someone takes an off-color joke far too seriously. (the kid even wrote, “jk” and “lol” showing that he was kidding) There is a fine line, and we need to make sure to be vigilant against reporting those who do make credible and actual threats, while also respecting the free speech rights for people to make jokes or commentary that can be off-color or even upsetting to us and that is not actually threatening.

          • Apocalypse says:

            @mcgee It is called collateral damage, and frankly I am fine with it. Some innocents have to die each day for a good cause, so why not some kid from texas?

          • Phantom_Renegade says:

            @ Apocalypse
            Meanwhile, back in civilization, we do things differently. Wasn’t that long ago when we preferred ten guilty people walking free to one innocent person going to jail.

            Collateral damage is not acceptable when it comes to these sorts of things, if it ever is.

      • Shuck says:

        Sure, making threats are likely against the law (in the US and UK, certainly), but good luck getting law enforcement interested in actually pursuing it. In the US, there’s real inconsistency as to prosecutions for online threats, with many police departments having no interest whatsoever in any crimes going on online.
        The fact that in the US you can make a fraudulent call to the police in order to send armed officers expecting violence to someone’s house, a situation that can (and does) result in deaths, and go completely uninvestigated shows how uninterested law enforcement is in dealing with the situation.

    • Reefpirate says:

      The best solution to this problem I’ve heard about yet is to have people read through the crap for you. There certainly is going to be nice, valid and useful feedback out there, but I don’t think the creators/artists should be reading through the hatred to find it.

      Have some intern or low-level employee have the job of sifting through it and delivering the good bits to you. This person can be a better judge of what is relevant and won’t be at risk of taking it personally because they are removed from the actual creation of the project. And I don’t mean ‘cherry picking’, but just avoiding the completely unnecessary and irrational little tantrums that forum-dwellers tend to participate in.

    • Taidan says:

      All “official” game communities should have a policy of “All criticism of the product is fair play, but attacks on employees will result in deletions and bans.”

      It’s a sad, terrible thing, but if those communities are not effectively policed, a tiny minority of people can and will drag an entire forum down to the point where it’s no longer fit for purpose. Every time.

      • stupid_mcgee says:

        It should be “but attacks on employees will result in deletions, bans, and police action based on the severity.”

        Quite honestly, the only way a lot of the assholes that are doing this are going to learn not to do this again, to anyone else, is if they get into some kind of serious trouble for their actions. Why would they change their ways if their are no negative consequences to their deplorable actions?

        • Hahaha says:

          It’s not surprising what with your choice of name and all but you seem to be missing a MASSIVE part of the internet and that is the ability to stay anonymous. Using the “swating” above as an example it’s not that the police won’t do anything it’s that 90% of the time they can’t do anything due to having no leads.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Rich Burlew, who does Order of the Stick, said that the criticism he trusts the least is the one on his own forums. He’ll lurk other forums and find more honest appraisals of his work.

    • DeepQantas says:

      Only weird thing about that article is them listing George Lucas’s retirement as a bad thing. Clearly we need more of whatever caused that.

      Was it kittens that thawed his heart? Phantom of the Christmas Past? Oh, harassment? Hmm…

    • dE says:

      Well you can see some of that even in places like RPS. When I commented some time ago that I would take death threats from strangers seriously and respond in legal kind (as in, talk to my lawyer and depending on the severity, the police), I was called all matter of things with the nicest being that I was supposedly “very wrong in the head” and “should go into mental asylum” with touches of “don’t ruin peoples life over a joke“. So according to some RPS Commenters, death threats are very okay if you follow them up with “just a joke, haha”.

      As a former content creator for a private project myself, I’ve also had my fair share of death and violence threats. I’ve also had players stalk the living fuck out of me, insult and attack me daily – often based on my odd sexuality, succesfully crashing a relationship and several friendships (well those weren’t real friends I guess, after what happened) with lies and slander about me. The biggest mistake I had ever made was to know some of them personally. That meant the unstable parts of the community got access to my adress, phone number, identity. Deaththreats in the mailbox because I banned a cheater? Yeah, that happened. Rat poison dropped all over my lawn (I had a cat and a dog at the time and folks from the game knew that). Yeah, that happened too.

      Despite all that, I always knew it was a few maybe even one crazy person that did that, by far not all of them. Which was why I pushed on for a while. But there are limits to this. My lesson learned was to disconnect everything private from the internet. No matter how good the contact to someone was, I’d never let another internet person in my life again. No playermeetings, no skype, no teamspeak, no facebook, no linkedin. Because as proven by lunatics, some of them really go all the way and they need to be taken seriously. They are raving lunatics, bombs waiting to trigger. It’s never a joke.

      • InternetBatman says:

        What game was this (if you don’t mind me asking)?

        • dE says:

          The game was Neverwinter Nights (not the new one and not the really old one either). Several content creators had similar issues to mine, at least those I talked to.

          • InternetBatman says:

            That’s a shame. I played few NWN modules and really enjoyed them. Thank you for adding to the community, but I would quit too after that kind of behavior.

          • Morte66 says:

            If it’s any consolation, I spent hundreds of hours playing NWN and fan modules over several years. I ran a coop multiplayer group, wrote and GMd multiplyer modules, and wrote a few class/build guides.

            I wish there was another game with a toolset like it, usable by amateurs who were more interested in making adventures than becoming pseudo-professional developers.

            So, um, thanks for your bit, whatever it was.

      • WrenBoy says:

        When you say thats its never a joke do you agree with the imprisonment of the gamer stupid_mcgee referred to?

        http://www.polygon.com/2013/7/11/4515828/jailed-league-of-legends-terrorist-threat-player-released-on-bail

        And do you agree with imprisoning the joker behind the robin hood airport tweet?

        Or is it maybe sometimes a joke? Admittedly not when your lawn is being poisoned of course.

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      jrodman says:

      The polygon article is weird, to me.
      It talks about a well-recognized phenomenon where people behave differently, and less socially, online than in their in-person relations.

      I’ve run into this consistently since I started interacting online significantly in around 1993. The idea was present then. People would excuse their antisocial online actions as being unimportant because they were online. I would tell them that their actions are antisocial and the online aspect was immaterial, and that they had better shape up or get booted from the community.

      Within the communities that are relatively small, this was quite effective. People either shaped up or got booted. Later, we would find out that the people who were booted had serious behavioral problems in real life, so it wasn’t too shocking that they couldn’t shape up online.

      So I guess my thoughts are:
      * Some people are more willing than others to drop social expectations for reasonable behavior.
      * I seem to be very far in the direction of not dropping my rules of behavior, because the whole idea of excusing actions for being online never seemed reasonable to me, from my first visits to BBSes until now.
      * With peer-pressure and moderation, any stable community can be pushed to behave reasonably, and reject those who refuse to do so, achieving normal levels of pleasant/unpleasant behavior as exist in face to face comunities.
      * These are the same mechanisms which cause the same results in face to face communities.
      * The primary factors in ‘web forums’ being full of bile, are, in my guesstimation:
      * The group is too large to effectively apply peer pressure
      * There is no effective means to form smaller-group interaction, where these positive factors can occur.
      * Most online forums are under-curated, where anti-social behavior occurs with no response, leading to a race to the bottom.
      * Many participants are transient, making it difficult to establish group norms.

      Very personally, I do think it’s very *weird* that people seem to accept that being awful online is reasonable. It seems like something akin to a mental disorder like sociopathy. I guess i’m just unable to comprehend the thinking because I’ve never been anywhere near it myself.

  3. Eight Rooks says:

    I honestly don’t mean this as plain snark, but

    “And you realize that this isn’t a game that’s interested in evoking the limited range of emotions most videogames are content to deal with, and that maybe it’s even playing with your “games literacy” which is a polite way of saying your internalization of the awful tropes that have come to dominate our understandings of what videogames are supposed to do”

    …really? My thought process was more like “What the hell? Oh, it’s just a silly fakeout. A Nick Cave gag, ahahaha, I see what you did there. Cute. Okay, moving on.” I certainly didn’t think OH MY GOODNESS, THIS IS TOTALLY EXPANDING MY GAMING LEXICON IN A WAY I NEVER THOUGHT POSSIBLE or any such thing.

    It seemed like a fairly limited, slightly jarring bit of humour to me and nothing more, but then I’m still firmly convinced that people are praising Gone Home in very large part because it deals with a subject few, if any games have dealt with before (i.e. ignoring how well it deals with it), and none of these articles have done anything much to change my mind.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      It’s the exact opposite of Polygon’s article and I find it somewhat ironic both are listed on this Sunday Papers. On one hand you have devs being abused or too harshly criticized, on the other you have certain games gaining eyebrow raising recognition for things you can’t find no matter how hard you look.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      I hope you meant that as Nick Cave-style gag and do know where it’s from… right?

      • WrenBoy says:

        Ive never played the game but it seems more likely to be a nod to Nick Cave than a Roman poet, surely.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      The ‘gag’ also has nothing to do with game ‘tropes’ anyway. I’d say the bloody bathtub is much more a film ‘trope’ (fuck I hate that word). But I guess that tells you something of the narrow frame of reference these self-styled game critics have.

  4. DrMcCoy says:

    Another important article about Gone Home is this: http://kukkurovaca.tumblr.com/post/58452502084/gone-home-finally-a-story-about-an
    While I really loved Gone Home, an “universal experience” it is not.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      I’m unsure I agree about the point that fantasy can escape the lens through which we view our world, but it makes a fair point overall. Out of interest, how should Lonnie have been written differently?

    • I Got Pineapples says:

      Yeah.

      Here’s the thing.

      I liked it, I didn’t love it as much as some people, but there is something a little worrying both for what it says about Video Games and, perhaps more importantly, what it says about the people writing about the them, that no one has really poked at the fact that it is ‘Generic MFA Thesis: The Game’. up to and including an awkward framing device. It isn’t drawing on the cliches of video game storytelling but on the genres it is drawing from? It’s one turning Terry into a New England academic from ticking off all the boxes.

      It’s not that this is bad because it is a good game but the lack of acknowledgment of it’s generic literary whiteness kinda bugs me.

    • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

      A good point, which did not occur to me. Perhaps not surprisingly, being white middle class myself.

      Others have criticised GH as being simply decent in a sea of awful. One-eyed man in the land of the blind etc. My thought is that this is a step forward, which is a Good Thing. There are further Good Things that can be done, but that doesn’t neccesarily diminish GH in itself.

      It tells a story of a kind that is unusual in games, and does it well. There are still plenty of stories missing from our medium for sure, and I’ll be happy to play those games too when they turn up.

      SOME SPOILERS COMING

      An important takeaway from this should also be that even though I perhaps couldn’t completely relate (being not american, not a girl, and not homosexual) I certainly empathized with Sam and even shed a tear at the end. Part of what’s exciting about stories is taking part of other lives that are not your own. I had a novel experience and a look into a world different from my own, though there was similarities too of course. I want more good stories is all.

      • Premium User Badge

        Nogo says:

        SPOILER TRAIN

        I’m going to make the bold claim that you can sympathize with Sam better if you’re straight.

        By making Sam ‘psycho house girl’ rather than ‘that lesbian chick,’ and by removing any real consequences for her homosexuality, their relationship resembles a highly typical one of anyone getting into sex and dating for the first time. Especially if they’re straight. Because queer people don’t really get neat little first-relationships that segway perfectly into first-sexual-encounters. Hell, my own Lonnie experience was messier than theirs and I was facing virtually zero obstacles.

        Maybe that works in the games favor by making it more accessible to a wider audience, but I’m honestly starting to think it’s a major flaw that undermines a lot of what the game seems to stand for. Agree with Anna Anthropy here, game is great, but it’s major story is a little too neat for a game that’s ostensibly about the dark, tragic secrets families share. (Also makes Sam and Lonnie seem a bit silly for running away.)

        • Premium User Badge

          Gap Gen says:

          Yes, I’m unsure if it would have had to be much different if Lonnie was a bad boy male figure instead. I think if it had been messier it would have had to been longer; the conflict with her parents didn’t last all that long in terms of game time spent on it, for example.

          But yes, I agree that as a white, heterosexual male European I guess I couldn’t see the flaws in the game as much as someone closer to the characters’ situation, or someone with less inherent social privilege. Not that my life’s been a rollercoaster of free BMWs and sex parties, but I didn’t pick up much wrong with the specifics of the story.

          • Premium User Badge

            Nogo says:

            Even the parental conflict gets neutered. Literally the only consequences from her coming out is needing to keep the door open when Lonnie’s around.

            Near as I can tell they are both very much welcome in their community and incredibly free to pursue their myriad desires. What the hell are they escaping from?

        • Jack Mack says:

          *Spoilers**Spoilers**Spoilers**Spoilers**Spoilers**Spoilers**Spoilers**Spoilers**Spoilers**Spoilers*

          *Spoilers**Spoilers**Spoilers**Spoilers**Spoilers*

          uh

          *Spoilers*

          Well, the “Twist” of gone home is that nothing bad happened. There’s no tragedy, there’s no ghost, Sam hasn’t committed suicide, her parents didn’t drag her off to bible camp, the message on the answering machine doesn’t mean she was kidnapped. There is a tragedy you can eventually discover if you dig for it, but the immediate assumption that something terrible happened is deliberately subverted. Like “Aha, this was a totally normal family the whole time!” Maybe this does actually end up making it less realistic.

          The house is definitely very neat. Every story bit fits into place in the right time, and that does feel a little wrong for a house.

          • Chris D says:

            Could you perhaps edit in some extra words at the start? This is showing up in the side bar on the main page right now.

          • Jack Mack says:

            Sorry, Chris D, hope that fixes it.

          • Chris D says:

            Thanks

          • Premium User Badge

            Nogo says:

            Further Gone Home SPOILIN

            That’s entirely my point. The pacing and big reveal are completely at odds with what we’re seeing (not necessarily what we’re told, though). Her story reads like someone forced out of a community, which makes sense considering what we learn, but then you find literally no evidence of her being rejected by either her peers or parents. In the end Sam isn’t so much a person as an amalgam of fairly benign teenage experiences, and the major message and theme suffer greatly for it.

            The whole thing reads like Romeo and Juliet if, instead of being forbidden from seeing each other, Romeo just had to be out of the house by 10 on school nights.

          • Flammablezeus says:

            SPOILERS

            SPOILERS

            Nogo, you seem to have missed the part where Sam’s parents didn’t even believe Sam was gay when she told them. That alone should show you the kind of relationship they had and how her parents thought of her. All of the hints we get are an allusion to a person living a certain lifestyle, and dealing with people who can’t accept her for who she is. People who actively attempt to prevent her from living her life. You can’t think of it all as just small individual instances but rather try to see how everybody would feel in that situation and how they would live their day-to-day lives. Look at the state of mind of the father and how he thinks of things.

            Basically, you need to engage your sense of empathy for this one.

          • Premium User Badge

            Nogo says:

            Gone Home SPOILIN

            I very much noticed that because it all but hammers home what I’m saying. Her parents were literally just going to ignore it while still allowing her to indulge in it. How is that ‘actively preventing her from living her life?’ She already got into college, just wait til then and live however you want like every other person who moved out of their parents home without stealing all your families’ stuff before dramatically eloping.

            There’s just this weird divide between what we’re being told by the characters and what we actually see as consequences. It makes for a good soap opera or modern fairy tale (great even), but I would have loved characters that didn’t seem so bland and two-dimensional under scrutiny. It’s just a bit disappointing that a game meant to subvert tropes ends up reveling in some slightly different ones (ie. gay, but no one really cares. adulterous wife, but darn it we’ll make marriage work. abused son and struggling artist, but hark, possible redemption and catharsis.) The game shies away when it should be twisting the knife. Or they could have just refrained from explaining so much. Or they could have ended with a message other than “flee this dark place to flourish!”

            That said, I haven’t been this interested in discussing a game in a long time, and I really enjoyed the experience, and I’m sure all those solutions wouldn’t really work considering this had to be successful commercially, but darn it, I seem to be the only one noticing that this is tale of abuse and oppression reads more like a Disney cartoon than a real family.

      • harbinger says:

        Except it’s not a good game, the only gamey elements were walking around and looking at objects that have no relevance L.A. Noire style. The story was very mundane and told in one of the worst ways possible for an interactive medium (tape-recorder type narrative dumps like in Bioshock or Aliens vs. Predator) instead of you know… showing stuff or making it interactive.

        The only reason this is being praised is because of the “social justice” implications that game journalists go on harping about for hours.

        And before people go on mentioning Dear Esther and how that has been praised, it hasn’t universally: http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/dear-esther

        • Deadly Habit says:

          At least Dear Esther marketed itself as interactive fiction rather than a game.
          Gone Home basically lacked any gameplay and came down to white upper middle class problems: the poorly told story.
          It makes sense why they didn’t show it at PAX as it can be beaten so quickly.

    • AngoraFish says:

      Interesting article, thanks for sharing.

    • Jack Mack says:

      Great article. I love how precise it is about the point of criticism. It’s easy to get carried away slathering on negative feedback:

  5. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    So the less said about golems, the better on our server. We have a golem farm at spawn, killing a golem every six minutes, 24/7. Free iron, though.

  6. Text_Fish says:

    Confessions of a Failed Indie Game Developer is a somewhat disappointing article. He makes the brave step of acknowledging and openly discussing his failure, but the only insight he seems to offer is that he underestimated the difficulty of the task — I could look at any failed indie project and come to that conclusion. It’s good that he’s opened the discussion, but I think he could expand it more.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      He does offer some insight indirectly by means of his experience and the lessons he lists as being things he learned. I did find the article “satisfying” (quoted, because it would be otherwise an horrible thing to say).

      I’m however troubled by some of the things he says he learned. Particularly the first point; this notion that you need lots of money. And the implied idea that you can only move your project forward through crowdfunding. As the indie history (and the computer games history in general) hasn’t just started today, these notion are easily refutable by past and present evidence of great garage on an empty stomach games having been developed. But the dissemination of these ideas seems to be a trend these days. And nothing could be further from the truth that you can only publish an indie game if you have money.

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        RobF says:

        True but I wonder how much that idea is shaped by coming from a background where people give you money to make a videogame?

      • Christo4 says:

        I agree with what you said, but i think that people who only quote “you need a lot of money to go indie” without linking the whole article are wrong because the reason HE needed a lot of money was because he had 2 kids and a mortgage to pay.
        If you are alone with no responsabilities and you have no one relying on you then relying only on your savings/parents while you are building your garage game is entirely possible.

        • WrenBoy says:

          That is certainly true but he also needed a lot of money because he didnt even attempt to plan his project and seemed surprised that the money ran out before he had even started.

          A lot of the stuff he wasted time on could have been done while he was gainfully employed. What the game was going to be or familiarising himself with the tools needed for instance.

          I also thought it was odd that he viewed his failure purely from a personal perspective and didnt seem too bothered about those who backed him. I still owe you guys one game, would love to try again one day. Right.

    • Isomorph says:

      I disagree. I think there were some helpful nuggets in there. In particular, this line:
      “When I say I started building a game, this isn’t strictly true – what I actually built was a graphics engine.”

      This reminds me of a few Extra Credits videos, where they emphasize that if you’re going to make a game, make a game . I.e., focus on prototyping game mechanics, because that’s the core you’re going to build your game around. You can see how this bites the author, where he admits that the alternate universe switching mechanic wasn’t fun. Ok, so how long did he spend on the engine, trying to implement this mechanic? All that time is completely wasted.

      Yes, there is the typical “Wow, it was way more work than I thought!” stuff in there, but he also points out other snags. I read the article as: “Here’s how a game engine programmer tried and failed to make a game: he focused on the engine.” Predictable, but still interesting nonetheless.

      I have a buddy in my lab who’s described some projects he worked on with a friend. Same issue; they’re both interested in graphics, and they like playing games, but they’ve never gotten close to making a game, because they’re more interested in the technical challenges of engine coding than in prototyping game mechanics.

  7. Premium User Badge

    soulblur says:

    Has the Kickstarter Katchup stopped being a thing? I really enjoyed that. And obviously found some interesting games.

    • CobraLad says:

      Me too. Dont want RPS to turn into site with new Ubisoft game trailer a day and opinion pieces.

      • The Random One says:

        Too late for that? They’ll complain about how many bloody Ubisoft trailers there are, but by Jove they’ll post them all and with brand new snarky comment every time!

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      It’s possible it’s on holiday, I suppose. But yeah, was a nice concept.

    • Premium User Badge

      DrScuttles says:

      My first thought was that Adam’s been at Gamescom (hasn’t he?), hence no Katchup this week. But then after a quick search, it seems there hasn’t been one since the 28th of July.
      While I do like the column as a regular thing, I tend to only glance over it as seeing a list of creative failures just seems like a chattering of tears, especially on the weeks with just the one or two winners.

    • InternetBatman says:

      As a chronic backer, I enjoy it more than the Sunday papers.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      The problem with it was that it was just Kickstarter games. Maybe a better article would be “Fundraiser Mayonnaise” or something to include other crowd funding websites.

      • lordcooper says:

        I recall at least a few from Indiegogo.

        • Sparkasaurusmex says:

          Oh, nice! Perhaps the name isn’t all that accurate, then. Kickstarter is starting to mean crowdfunded the way Google now means search. I guess that isn’t a huge problem but it feels like something that should be avoided.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Indeed. This needs to come back.

    • Bobka says:

      I came here to post exactly the same thing.

      Mind, the big exciting days of Kickstarter seem to have died down, at least if media coverage is to be taken as our yardstick.

      • InternetBatman says:

        Harebrained Schemes is coming with another game in the next month. I think the gold rush might have ended, but that doesn’t mean that a continual churn of ideas isn’t there. Also, there’ll probably be another burst once Obsidian and InXile release their games. They’ll get phenomenal sales if they live up to their promises. Hell, Shadowrun mostly lived up to its promises and it got pretty good sales.

        • Bobka says:

          Oh, I definitely agree. Once the first wave of major Kickstarter games hits, people will both be reminded of the platform and will be convinced of the quality of the games it can deliver. Shadowrun Returns was a pretty good start; not mind-blowing, but definitely worth the price tag. Until then, though, I think things will remain comparatively calm.

          Personally, I can’t wait to see how the rest of the big KS games turn out, especially since I backed several of them.

  8. kopema says:

    ◾Confessions Of A Failed Indie Game Developer:

    This guy needs to worry a lot less about a few bucks of crowdfunding, and a lot more about paying back the three years of wifefunding he owes.

    The worst thing about all this is that he KNEW how incredibly much work it takes to build a game engine from scratch. And what was he even hoping to accomplish — Portal, but with crappier graphics?

    I really feel for somebody who has a great idea and a plan to get it done, but then gets bogged down in unforeseeable details. This guy knew the details before he started, but didn’t have a novel idea for what he wanted to accomplish. And he seemed to actively avoid planning anything. It’s hard to work up a bunch of sympathy.

    • AngusPrune says:

      Actually, it sounds more like “VVVVVV in 3D” than a Portal clone. But really, if we’re going to start knocking games for having derivative ideas, I think we’d be better off starting with the million FPS released every year, and then crush the dreams of everyone who thinks they have a novel take on tower defence.

      As derivative ideas go, I think we can stand a few more first person puzzlers before we get the torches and pitchforks out.

  9. Premium User Badge

    tomeoftom says:

    Beautiful music this week, Jim.

  10. Mario Figueiredo says:

    “I hate strong women” seems forced and contrived. For some (convenient?) reason there isn’t one reference to Miss Marple when discussing the qualities of Sherlock Holmes. And yet this character is used as the stage for the whole point of the article.

    The final list is particularly atrocious for its lack of clarity and how easy it becomes to over analyze or simplify it when trying to argue for any side of the camp. But the whole article is fairly unconvincing. Saying that “part of the patronising promise of the Strong Female Character is that she’s anomalous”, can as easily describe strong male characters. I don’t think the whole article makes a good case. And I’m definitely not in agreement that literature makes for a good setting, anyway. It’s one of the few areas where we can often experience women characters to their full height.

    • The Random One says:

      I mostly agree with your appraisal, although I’ll say that the anomaly in strong male characters doesn’t arise, specifically, from the fact that they’re male. No one says of Sherlock Holmes “Oh, how can a MAN be that smart? Man are supposed to be brutish and angry!”

  11. Chordian says:

    Sundays are for having an RPS article template with the words “Sundays are for” ready to type the fourth word onwards.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    “When I say I started building a game, this isn’t strictly true – what I actually built was a graphics engine.”

    It’s sort of a shame when this happens. I keep remembering Infinity, and how brilliant it looked all those years ago, and yet I never got to play with it because it wasn’t and possibly never will be a game. At the very least it could have been licensed to someone, but then I suppose I don’t know all the details of what happened with the project.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      It always baffles me when ‘turning this idea into reality’ starts with ‘doing lots of work that has been done thousands of time before already’.

      • Premium User Badge

        Gap Gen says:

        Actually, having said this, I’ve just spotted http://www.inovaestudios.com/ – which is exactly what they should do, leverage their technology (which is clearly what they’re great at) as a 3rd party tool, at the same time as pushing their game development ideas. That said, their website is unfinished so this is juat what I assume they’re doing from what it says so far. Still, very promising!

        (Note that reinventing the wheel isn’t Infinity’s problem, as they’re genuinely creating something amazing. The problem is stepping beyond that and making a product that I can use, whether it’s a game or a visualisation tool or whatever.)

  13. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    I love that the Gone Home article says “being old enough to contextualise my existence within a much broader history of humanity to realise just how small and fleeting I am” and then the oldest thing they reference is the 1970s. I’m not implying that they have no sense of human history, but I just found it amusing that it was phrased this way.

  14. lilieopeter says:

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  15. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    But I’m tending to think zombies are the perfect metaphor for culture itself. That it is dead, still shambling around looking for brains, and endlessly repeating the things it did in life. I mean, I’m sure it will only be another few years until the moviegoing public gets to learn the exciting story of how high school student Peter Parker had the transformative accident that changed him into the amazing Spider-Man … again. You know? It’s the same stories and same ideas reiterated over and over again. And if we do it in 3-D, if we do it in enough spectacular digital photography, then perhaps people won’t notice that we haven’t had a new idea in decades. Culture is just a shambling zombie that repeats what it did in life; bits of it drop off, and it doesn’t appear to notice. [Sighs hilariously] I tend to think that a good, clean head shot is the only way to work this problem out. [Laughs]

    You might not see Alan Moore eye-to-eye on certain issues, but you’ll have a hard time arguing he isn’t entertaining.

    Thanks for the link, Jim! Now I know about his latest project.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      He’s absolutely right about culture (reproduction of memes) but it doesn’t need to be so negative. The evolutionarily stable memes will stick around, the others will die off. This is natural selection, in a way.

      • qrter says:

        Well, sometimes the truth can only be depressing.

      • Premium User Badge

        Nogo says:

        Being too negative is sort of his thing.

        • Kadayi says:

          Pretty much. It’s hard envisage his ever being enthusiastic or passionate about something Vs being a miserable old sod tbh. I guess his doom and gloom diatribes play to a certain crowd, but it gets a little wearing.

    • I Got Pineapples says:

      Much in the same way an old hippy might stumble around being an old hippy at us.

      In this metaphor, Alan Moore is an old hippy.

      • Premium User Badge

        Stellar Duck says:

        He’s a wizard, not a hippy. I don’t quite see the importance of either though, for the argument he was making in the above.

        • Sparkasaurusmex says:

          but otherwise hippies and wizards are usually very important.

  16. pertusaria says:

    Two articles which I happen to have read this week, about online discussion in general but in the context of games: http://www.brainygamer.com/the_brainy_gamer/2013/06/the-games-we-deserve.html and http://www.pentadact.com/2013-02-07-how-to-be-helpful-in-an-argument/.

    I agree with the Strong Female Character article, although not with every single example it uses, as I’ve long had a problem with “feisty” and “spunky”, which are never or rarely used to describe males, but seem to be rolled out a lot of the time for female characters with minds of their own.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Absolutely this. Positive discourse is one of the most important methods of effecting change. Yelling at other people and being smug won’t help anything.

    • Consumatopia says:

      I think the second link is off base. For one thing, it’s a contradiction–it’s offering opinions and conclusions as to the right way to behave on the Internet, not perspectives or experiences. And it’s an opinion that, from my perspective, is wrong. Moreover, I actually have some social science on my side here–consider this work, which argues that the antagonistic process of argumentation actually enhances the quality of group decision making

      When one is alone or with people who hold similar views, one’s arguments will not be critically evaluated. This is when the confirmation bias is most likely to lead to poor outcomes. However, when reasoning is used in a more felicitous context, that is, in arguments among people who disagree but have a common interest in the truth, the confirmation bias contributes to an efficient form of division of cognitive labor. When a group has to solve a problem, it is much more efficient if each individual looks mostly for arguments supporting a given solution. They can then present these arguments to the group, to be tested by the other members. This method will work as long as people can be swayed by good arguments, and the results reviewed … show that this is generally the case. This joint dialogic approach is much more efficient than one where each individual on his or her own has to examine all possible solutions carefully

      This doesn’t work if everyone is on the same side, nor does it work if everyone just offers up their experience without the cognitive process of interpretation, argument, and analysis. The group needs to see the chains of logic connecting those perspectives with the participant’s conclusion–not just so that the group might reach a better conclusion, but so that we might apply those logic chains to other arguments, thus building our (uncertain) knowledge generally.

      To stop this process in the name of inclusion and comity is in fact highly exclusionary and, paradoxically, likely to incite even bigger fights. “The unexamined life is not worth living”, so if you prohibit that process of examination, you are prohibiting what has made life living to some people for thousands of years.

      Furthermore, once we leave the topic of video games and move to internet arguments over things that are more immediately significant–like social justice and violence–that article’s advice becomes even worse. Keep in mind that thare are private intelligence agencies that are paid by corporations and governments to argue specific points of view on blogs and social media. Assuming that everyone is posting in good faith is a dangerous proposition–there are people out there who are posting with the sole purpose of misleading (either as sock puppets or as agent provacateurs). Impoliteness is not the Internet’s biggest problem today.

  17. Premium User Badge

    draglikepull says:

    The thing that surprises me most about the response to Gone Home is that no one is talking about the fact that the central structure of the game is based on a plot hole big enough to drive a bus through.

    [SPOILERS UPCOMING] It seems pretty clear that the doors in the house must have been locked by Sam and that she was the one who went around hiding keys and setting up the circuituous route of clues throughout the house. She obviously intends for you to find the diary in the attic and it can only be found by collecting the key in her locker and travelling through the secret passages that you can only discover because of Sam’s notes. But why in the hell would Sam set up this elaborate game for you to play? And how did she have time to do it when she basically ran out of the house in a hurry after receiving the phone call from Lonnie?

    Also, didn’t anyone else feel pretty terrible about having gone through all of Kaitlyn’s parents’ things after finding out that they were actually just on holiday for a week? It seems like an incredible violation of their privacy to me given the mundanity of the actual situation.

    And then there was the fake ghost story element that I thought was strongly at odds with the real story and really detracted from the overall experience. The bit in the bathroom with the red hair dye was one particular bit that I thought was just awful and so totally contradictory to what the game was really trying to do. It was like they didn’t have enough confidence in the love story and felt like they had to create a fake mystery to hold the player’s attention.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      I thought the hair dye was more a joke at the expense of horror games – having the player think she’s killed herself and then see the hair dye. (Incidentally, my sister also dyes her hair red from time to time so this is something I’ve seen before, so I got it right away. But it’s a nice visual gag.)

      But yeah, the game has a healthy dose of gameyness to it in terms of laying it out as a simple puzzle. Which I was fine with as a storytelling trope, but yeah, depends how far you’re willing to suspend your disbelief.

  18. Premium User Badge

    TRS-80 says:

    All the Gone Home analysis you could want: A Collection of Criticism About Gone Home

  19. sirdavies says:

    From the Alan Moore interview:

    “[…]If you get humans to kill a thousand or 10,000 virtual enemies, and then put them in a real combat situation, it is quite likely that they will become desensitized to the idea of killing, especially with countless virtual walk-throughs. Technology is a double-edged sword bla bla bla…”

    *sighs* … and this was promoted why?

    • Bobka says:

      Of all the things said regarding this subject, I think this is the least crazy. Put people who’ve played thousands of hours of a combat situation into a real-life combat situation, and I’m sure it would have some kind of effect. That’s the whole underpinning of any kind of training, be it combat, medical, customer service, etc. – you repeatedly undergo simulated instances of the real situations you’ll encounter in order to modify your behavior when the real situation actually occurs, whether that behavior be small-motor skills of handling a weapon or decision-making skills of choosing where to look, where to go and who to shoot.

      I think the big problem is that people assume that behaviors in video games will transfer to radically different situations outside of games, like somebody who spends time killing aliens in Halo will suddenly go grab a gun and shoot kids in their school – the two situations are nothing alike audiovisually or contextually/narratively, so there’s no reason to believe the “shoot things with guns” behavior would be invoked.

      It would be like assuming that people practicing first aid on dummies will suddenly start performing CPR on random strangers when they are on public transportation, or in a restaurant. Unless one of the random strangers has passed out or had breathing difficulties, there’s no reason to assume such a thing.

      • Premium User Badge

        Gap Gen says:

        (@sirdavies) A shame, then, that the assertion is actually true: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/hope_on_the_battlefield (feel free to check up on the sources, I suppose – worth making sure this isn’t just the internet making things up, but I’ve heard it from other sources)

        • sirdavies says:

          The fact that videogames have killing in them doesn’t make them desensitizing to real life violence, and there’s nothing in that article that suggests that to be true. What the brief mention of videogames in that article is suggesting is that they promote the idea of the “natural born killer”. That’s a complete different statement and one that I would agree with, as long as the entire entertainment industry, advertising industry and news agencies were also in that bag.

          • Premium User Badge

            Gap Gen says:

            The point of the article is that training people to shoot at more realistic depictions of humans results in a higher number of people who fire their weapons at the enemy. I agree that videogames in of themselves haven’t desensitised people, but they’re an effective way of doing it. And while I’m not saying that games will cause people to murder each other, or that this desensitisation is bad in of itself, but I think it’s a bit rich to argue that games don’t desensitise you to violence at all. I mean, when was the last time you felt bad about playing a game where your role was to kill people?

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            Except that the point of video games being anything even remotely close to military-styled training is false and completely ignores military history.

            The rise in soldiers who intentionally fire at other soldiers skyrocketed after WWII, reaching a saturation point in the Vietnam War. This is largely attributed to live-fire exercises that used human-shaped targets rather than round bullseyes, live-fire exercises where they are trained to breach rooms in realistic settings, as well as an increase in active war games where they would shoot blanks or paintballs at one another. It’s not merely mental conditioning as much as it is physical conditioning to make sure that, when the time comes, they can and will pull the trigger.

            The US Military spent tons hours and money on researching and implementing procedures to increase the rate of intentional fire.

            In WWII less than 20% intentionally fired their weapons at the enemy. In Korea, this increased to 55%. In Vietnam it went up to 95% and has stayed there since.

            Korea took place 1950-1953.
            Vietnam from 1965-1973.
            The first real home video game was Computer Space in 1971, followed by Pong in 1972.

            To say that video games are causing this or leading a trend is absurd. Is playing “cops and robbers” more likely to make you commit crime? Is it more likely to make you kill someone? Why not. You pretend to shoot them as soon as they pop out, right? Furthermore, it completely ignores that physical procedures and acclimatizing of firing the weapon in a variety of situations has been shown to be one of the largest effects of repeating live-fire exercises successfully in battleground situations.

            The linked article is nothing more than the laziest of armchair psychology that makes far-reaching conclusions based on little to no actual data, and there is no data whatsoever to support the premise. To say that killing in a video game == killing in real life, or that a video game can truly and successfully desensitize someone, actually flies directly in the face of what many psychologists already know, which is that video game violence has zero effect on causing real-world violence and does not desensitize children to real-world violence.

          • Premium User Badge

            elderman says:

            The author of that article, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, M.Ed., is one of the people who has studied the psychology of learning to kill for the military. It is indeed absurd to say that absurd to say that computer games are leading the upward trend in intentional fire and also to say that “killing in a video game == killing in real life”. Lt. Col. Grossman advances no such thing in the article Gap Gen links to, which is not absurd, not armchair psychology, but the popularisation of the scientific study of human psychology by someone who knows this part of it well.

            I think you’re wrong that there are psychologists who know “that video game violence has zero effect on causing real-world violence and does not desensitize children to real-world violence”. There are psychologists who interpret the evidence in this way, for sure, but it’s not a settled issue, as far as I can tell as a non-expert, it’s a subject of active and sometimes acrimonious debate among experts.

            You may want the evidence to support your preconceived ideas, but you shouldn’t misrepresent the states of the research in the service of that desire. Nor should you make specious straw man arguments about the effects of video games of things that happened before they became widespread.

      • sirdavies says:

        Look at that statement again though, because taking cover is not what he’s talking about. He’s making the same ridiculous point that Fox news makes, and that is that fictional violence desensitizes you from real violence. Not only is that stupid as fuck, but he also has the added double standard of considering that you can blow shit up as much as you want in movies, but the point that happens in games it’s suddenly creating psychopaths. That’s an absolutely ludicrous point of view, and any gamer who has been in a violent situation irl will tell you so. Don’t think so? I dare you to find some videos of highly explicit, real life violence on the internet, watch them, come back and tell me that it was the same as playing CoD, that your stomach doesn’t feel like shit and that tonight you’ll sleep like a baby.

        • Hahaha says:

          Indeed, I think the people who like to browse ogrish etc are going to be more desensitized than gamers.

      • Nick says:

        its also probably likely that if you put someone who hasn’t played games in a real life combat situation that they will kill people because they are in a real life combat situation.

    • Premium User Badge

      elderman says:

      There’s an opinion piece in the NYTimes in which a trio or forensic psychologists talk about the preponderance of evidence about the link between violence seen in entertainment and violent behavior in the real world.

      I’ve read some of the published research. Am still hoping to find the time to comb through the literature myself, but it’s an idea that’s pretty far down the queue.

      The article’s interesting because instead of talking about media violence as a cause of real-world violence, they talk about it as a risk factor, which makes more sense to me.

      I don’t have a strong opinion about whether there’s a link. However, dismissing the idea of a link is dogmatic. It’s possible there is a link as some of the evidence indicates.

      • harbinger says:

        Except… you know, the fact that all the while video game sales were rising almost all kinds of violent crimes went down: http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/04/19/as-video-game-sales-climb-year-over-year-violent-crime-continues-to-fall/
        Or the fact that in countries where people don’t have easy access to video games, movies, music or series (among other things) have some of the highest violent crime rates in the world.

        You might as well argue that video games actually help lower violence by possibly serving as an outled for aggression based on these kind of stats.

        Anecdotally I could say that I am someone who has really enjoyed video games about killing demons and virtual people from young years, yet I am a vegetarian because I don’t want to kill animals, have abstained from armed service and even go out of my way to not kill even single insects, but bring them outside unharmed. One time having forgotten a mosquito under a glass while going on vacation I felt bad for days. There’s also a real difference between what happens with a bunch of pixels on your screen or seeing photos/videos of actual death, which make me feel uncomfortable rather quickly and I go out of my way to avoid also.

        It’s very hard for me to believe any of this research that “violent media” would lead to real world violent behavior in any way since I am of the belief that human beings capable of rational thought can distinguish between what is real and what isn’t.

        • Premium User Badge

          elderman says:

          It seems to me your belief in rational thought should extend far enough to let rational argument based on the rational investigation of social phenomena carried out by other people change the way you think about an issue like this. If it doesn’t, then I’m not convinced you really do believe in rational thought.

          From your post, I believe you’re reacting emotionally here, as if I were contradicting your beliefs by making an argument for a strong causal link between violence in entertainment and real world violence, or as if I were saying that the preponderance of the evidence suggested a link, or as if I were saying that link were strong enough to be important. I’m not saying any of these things or at least I certainly don’t mean to take any position at all on the subject.

          I am saying that all of these things are possible. Also, it seems to me that if there’s a statistical effect, it’s a good idea to think about that effect as a risk factor.

          Basing any argument on a single study is reductive. Talking about video games as a major contributing factor to national or global crime rates is absurd. Your personal experience is insufficently broad for it to enable you to generalise it to apply to any gaming population. It’s a good point that video games can serve as an outlet, and this has also been studied and is still being studied.

          • Premium User Badge

            elderman says:

            I don’t seem to be able to edit posts any more? This is really frustrating as I often make lots of typos and other mistakes. Is it just me?

          • Kadayi says:

            Steven Pinker would like a word.

          • Premium User Badge

            elderman says:

            I’ve just started The Better Angels of Our Natures, as a matter of fact. Well, I’ve read the preface and am looking forward to getting into the rest of the book. Of course, the possibility that there’s been a decline in global violence has no bearing the study of the effect of popular media on behaviour patterns. Popular media are too weak an influence. And I’ve no way of judging any bearing his approach to language acquisition might have on these studies. I’m not a psychologist.

            Maybe you can say, Kadayi. What does Steven Pinker bring to the table?

  20. GoateeGamer says:

    Just had to link to that Hepler/Fish article, didn’t you? They spend more time reacting to criticism than gamers actually provide.

    *Maximum Outrage Achievement Unlocked!*

  21. imhotep says:

    I agree about “strong women”. However I think it’s mainly a misundertanding of what “strong female character” means, and goes beyond women in particular, but is a style of characterisation that I think often runs as “Whedonesque”… I enjoy a bit of Whedon, however I think he stands for that style.

  22. Zwebbie says:

    Concerning the harassment article: I wonder how badly this is a problem in other entertainment industries. I have heard that a part of comic book fandom has a tendency to go crazy over changes too, but I wouldn’t know if actual death threats are involved. I am curious, because while the influence of ludodiegetic elements on real life has often been challenged – i.e. playing violent games may not make you violent – the ludic elements are never; that is, I wouldn’t be surprised if a medium which tells you you can always get your way if you’re clever, determined and ruthless enough breeds people who do not always gracefully resign when they face situations in which they’d like to have seen different directions taken. Playing as a warrior, engineer or adventurer is just set dressing; what you’re trained to do in every game is exploit systems for selfish reasons. Maybe that transfers to Internet behaviour.

    • ChrisGWaine says:

      Fans of a musical act called One Direction have reportedly recently been sending death threats to a singer called Ellie Goulding because she was rumored to be romantically linked with member of One Direction.

      I’m not familiar with One Direction’s oeuvre, but perhaps it also teaches people to be determined and ruthless.

    • Jack Mack says:

      I love the idea of internet trolls (and gamers) as clever, determined and ruthless rogues, exploiting systems for their own selfish gain. Very cyberpunk.

      In reality I think they’re just a hate hose that sprays indiscriminately for the joy of it.

  23. Mathonwy76 says:

    I think one of the major points of the Strong female character article is that however you choose to interpret the strong; well-written, well-rounded, physically strong… there is still a problem.

    Pepper Potts might be a “strong female character”, but Tony Stark is a “billionaire, genius, playboy, philanthropist.”

    One of those is very much open to interpretation, the other is a description. Why are so many interesting distinct characters labelled solely as strong rather than given a description when they are female? As with any generalisation there almost certainly are exceptions…

  24. Grape Flavor says:

    I thought that “Strong Female Characters” article was excellent. The writer understands that true equality is about giving female characters the same kind of depth and humanity that is given to male characters, not slapping kung fu skills and over the top aggression on the same kind of two-dimensional tokens and calling it a day.

    The prescence of the article in the Sunday Papers also gives me confidence that perphaps RPS’s take on gender issues is more sophisticated then I’d been giving them credit for. I’ve sometimes suspected them of holding the same kinds of lazy conceptions of progress that the article was criticising, and I may have been wrong and it was just a communication issue, in which case I apologize. Making negative assumptions is a long-standing issue for me online, particularly on RPS, and I’m trying to correct it as part of an effort to improve the quality of my posts.

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      elderman says:

      I like the New Statesman article, too. It articulates something I’ve been thinking for a while.

      But ‘true equality’ is when women get the same pay for the same work, the same access to education, and the same professional opportunities as men, when leaders in all parts of society are as likely to be women as men, when women around the world have the same formal legal rights as men and the same practical access to those rights, and when violence against women is systematically and consistently punished under the law.

      Symbolic equality is important, but it’s not the end goal, and I think symbolic equality will follow real world equality, not the other way around.

      And then reducing the misery and increasing the opportunities for all people, whatever their gender, is the ultimate goal.

      • Grape Flavor says:

        Well yes, of course. When I said “true equality” I meant within the specific context of fictional characterizations. I should have phrased it more clearly.

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          elderman says:

          Well, I’m trying to use the semantic distinction to make a point about the limitations of the article. Some rhetoric about gender equality may be lazy and unsophisticated, but even good rhetoric is just hot air. Real world changes are not “lazy conceptions of progress”. Anything else, like fighting over rhetorical points, is running on a treadmill: it may have good side effects, but in the end it’s not getting anywhere.

          Obviously including this response.

  25. Grape Flavor says:

    Oh, and that TitanFall piece made me chuckle with this line: “the franchise fatigue brought about by six Calls to Duty”

    Six? Not nine? (and that’s not even counting the spinoffs.) It’s surprising how many people (game journos, no less) seem to think the series began with “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare”, despite the “4” right there in the game’s title…

  26. thecat17 says:

    While I’m remote from most technology to the point that I’m kind of Amish, I have played a couple of computer games — until I realized I was being bloodied with adrenalin over something that wasn’t real. At the end of a couple of hours of very addictive play, I may have procured the necessary amount of mushrooms to save a princess, but I also wasted hours of my life that I’ll never be able to get back.

    I suppose a wizard that has the power to be automatically god-like at video games and save the princess in a couple of hours, despite having only played a couple of them, would not find them challenging enough to be worthy of their time.

    But seriously. It is disheartening that Moore seems he could not find anything of value in his limited time with an artform he’s unwilling to understand. I’d think somebody who places imagination on the highest pedestal could at least appreciate something in a Mario game, which is one of the more imaginative series that the art form has to offer.

    Even if it’s true that his time might be better spent writing things, it still comes off as Roger Ebert-like snobbery of the “video games are not art because it’s not like any of the art forms I like” variety. With an added dash of “I feel threatened by this new form of art because it somehow takes away from the ones I work in”.

    It didn’t even seem like he was bored by them, either. Which has value in itself and does not equal “wasted hours”. Boredom is bad for anybody’s physical and mental health.

    It’s even more disheartening to me because I totally agree with everything he says in that interview, when it’s not the subject of video games. There is such a high signal present that I imagine most who don’t know much about the subject will just nod along unquestioningly.