The Sunday Papers

I decided against linking to the justified character assassination of the Queen mum.

Sundays are for Bacon, Batman and compiling a list of interesting (mainly) game related reading from across the week for the RPS-readers’ delectation, while trying to avoid to linking some quasi-ironic piece of pop.

Failed.

71 Comments

  1. Dan Lawrence says:

    I’d like to say that the Royal Mail article was shocking.

    Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

    • Kommissar Nicko says:

      I thought the article was fascinating as well. It fits perfectly with my bedtime reading these days: “When Corporations Rule the World” by David C. Korten. Reading this made me wonder if the U.S. Postal Service is suffering the same problem. I know U.P.S. and FedEx are real competitors, so maybe not.

  2. SirKicksalot says:

    God hates Katy Perry, but SirKicksalot loves her.

    Not her music though – the most acute case of earworm I’ve ever encountered.

  3. Legionary says:

    I think the piece on representation of minorities in video games is very true. I really want to find a game where I, as a gay man, can have the main character opt to enter a gay relationship. Often there’s a relationship written in with a man but it has an arbitrary restriction based on the player’s gender.

    I don’t want to play a ‘gay character’ because I think that would be somewhat trite in its execution, but I think I should have the choice. I can choose the colour of my characters skin, and whether they’re a man or a woman, but I can’t choose who my character can fall in love with. In Neverwinter Nights 2, for instance, I knew I wanted my character to develop a relationship with Gann, a ‘Hagspawn’, because I feel relationships done properly add pathos to the story. I had to make my character female though and simply pretend that I was male. I don’t enjoy the feeling of emasculation that creates.

    Can anyone name a gay video games character that isn’t played for laugh-at-the-gay-person?

    • Vandelay says:

      Not a male gay relationship, but I certainly remember that the original Elite Force had a possible lesbian relationship. If I remember correctly, the dialogue would be the same whether you chose to be male or female. The relationship that occurred with one of the characters never really went anywhere, but it was heavily implied that the characters had a thing for each other.

      Perhaps rather tellingly, the sequel, where the relationship had become fully developed, didn’t allow the player to choose their gender.

      I can’t think of any other example off the top of my head, but I have a feeling that a lesbian relationship is far more likely than a game portraying a gay relationship. Probably because of the standard stereotype of the audience and the fantasies they are likely to have. I imagine that a game that features a lesbian relationship would be found to be funny by most of the target audience, where as game with a gay relationship would be looked down upon.

    • pedant says:

      Regarding gay characters in games, some of the prisoners in the first slam in Chronicles of Riddick were written as gay characters, might also have been a gay couple. Check out the developer commentary in-game for more details, apparently a lot of people either missed it completely to the gay dev’s surprise.

      Also didn’t Fallout 2 let you marry same sex? Shotgun marriage but still, being gay/bi was an option there.

      In other Swedish trivia sambo means “Loved one/partner you live with but not married to” in Swedish. Cause of lots of lovely confusion when you tell anglo saxons you are going home to your sambo…

    • Clovis says:

      The Sims has always allowed gay characters. For a game as popular as the Sims, I think this is pretty important. I’m not sure why Sims 2 or 3 has not become the target of some right-wing hate group. It makes being gay look completely normal! WTF?

    • James G says:

      I also tried to romance Gann with a male PC, this is despite being a straight male myself. An offhand comment made by Gann shortly after you first met him, (I think he told Safiya that she “wasn’t his type”) actually lead me to believe he was gay, rather than just didn’t have a thing for bald women. Even by the end though, I felt Gann could easily have been bisexual, I could imagine him just shrugging when discovering the gender of someone, seeing it as something entirely inconsequential.

      I never followed up any of the relationship stuff in Jade Empire, the characters didn’t strike me as interesting enough, but it is my understanding that both Sky and Silk Fox swung both ways. However, from the description of the way in which this was implemented, it sounded more like the writers had just removed an “if male then” check, which doesn’t feel quite right in a setting in which male and female roles were clearly tightly defined.

      John Walker’s game of choice, The Longest Journey, also features a couple of gay NPCs, which is just delivered completely-matter-of-factly. (The land lady)

    • Vandelay says:

      I had completely forgotten The Longest Journey. That was done fantastically well, because it was so understated. I seem to recall that it is also an older woman with a younger woman, although you never see the older woman.

    • neems says:

      Although I’m not sure if there were any relationships, I seem to recall you could do same sex ‘seductions’ in Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines (not sure where the colon goes). It was a complete non-issue, the game just didn’t give a shit either way, as is only right.

    • TeeJay says:

      “Can anyone name a gay video games character that isn’t played for laugh-at-the-gay-person?”

      Sorry to be obvious by linking to wikipedia, but here is a massive list: link to en.wikipedia.org (includes examples of both negative stereotypes & positive portrayals, npcs & playable characters)

    • luminosity says:

      I didn’t try the gay relationship, but the lesbian one in Jade Empire definitely makes reference to the fact that it is a lesbian one, and i imagine the gay one would be much the same. In a lot of ways the relationship options in that game were a lot braver than anything else Bioware have done, and I was a bit disappointed that Mass Effect was a bit toned back. Also, surprised that Obsidian didn’t do more of that, but I get the feeling a certain Mr Avellone is averse to writing relationships. In fact, iirc he wrote a piece asking people for what they wanted in relationships while making MotB, while simultaneously decrying writing them?

  4. Premium User Badge

    Tom-INH says:

  5. Gurrah says:

    The Reacharound was brilliant. Beards are awesome.

  6. bill says:

    Spaced is 10 years old? I feel old.

  7. DeepSleeper says:

    Is reviewing games without playing them something that should even remotely be encouraged?

    Also, reading the article, this “Quinns” fellow has a bad case of “IF ONLY I COULD -TALK- TO THE GANGSTER” that he ought to have looked at.

    • Persus-9 says:

      Why should you have to play a game before reviewing it? As long as you’re open about your methodology then it’s all good in my opinion. The reviewer puts themselves at greater risk of being wrong than if they’d actually played it but in some cases, like Wet, that risk isn’t very large so if the reviewer has sufficient skill and talent then they draw accurate conclusions and produce a lot of worthwhile thoughts on the topic without bothering to play the game and I think that as long as they’re up front about it so the reader can assess the situation for themselves then it’s fine. Of course a lot of people won’t be interested in reading such a thing because what a lot of people are actually interested in is the opinion of someone who has had greater access to the game than they themselves have had but that doesn’t seem like a reason not to encorrage the practice.

      The only argument I can see is that maybe it isn’t even possible and the fact it’s a review implies that the game has been viewed by the author. That would mean Quinns’ critique isn’t in fact a review at all but I don’t think that’s a very interesting reply since we’re just arguing over semantics at that point. Such a reply also presents the problem that Quinns has (at least in some senses) seen the game and almost nobody ever see all of any big game these days.

    • JKjoker says:

      im not trying to defend the method but i watched the two trailers he based his wet “review” on and they do SUCK big time, i tend to do the same thing with movies, i can pretty much watch a trailer and tell you how much it sucks, im pretty good at it, i only mess up rarely (1999’s Sleepy Hollow was my worst miss so far). Its an useful method to avoid stinkers (Dragon Age sets up my alarms louder on every trailer btw) but not something you could sell as a “review”.

      i remember being slightly interested on wet when i watched a trailer with the main chick shooting things while car-surfing at 200 kmh , but then i watched the awesomely ludicrous Just Cause 2 trailer and forgot about it, now THAT was a trailer

  8. Lewis says:

    Oddly, I just started watching Spaced again recently. It remains absolutely brilliant.

  9. Kieron Gillen says:

    DeepSleeper: Only by professionals.

    KG

  10. Mil says:

    The article on Royal Mail was interesting and very well written.

    I thought this bit at the end of the Sambo controversy article was quite revealing:

    Here in the land of video games, our battles are usually much more lowly. They are fictional, and fantastic, and ultimately unimportant. Often we have to work very hard to find meaning in such works and our experiences of them, struggling to shout above the din of conversations about politics and literature and economics and film and art to make our work appear to have even a trifle of relevance.

    Yet, when such matters are thrust upon us by happenstance, what do we do? We resist. We repudiate. “It’s just a game,” we say. “Don’t ruin my experience.”

    See how “we” is used in this fragment. In the first paragraph, “we” have to work very hard to find meaning in such works. In the second one, “we” say “It’s just a game,”. Well, it seems obvious that these are two different “we”s. The first one would seem to be those games journalists striving for greater respectability and sense of meaning to their work. The second one is much closer to the gaming community at large. Presumably both “we”s include the article’s author, but they’re not the same.

    Also, while I can sympathise with the feelings behind that yearning for respectability, too often it results in finger-wagging rants that chastise both sides of the gaming market for failing to adjust their supply/demand to some political ideal, substantiated by the flimsiest, most vacuous lit-crit style analysis of the social evils bred by such political impiety. This I find extremely annoying.

    Loving debates is one thing. Telling off people for not loving them (as the article comes close to doing there) is another.

  11. Heliosicle says:

    That god hates protesters thing had m laughing for almost and hour

    Jim, maybe contact rockstar with your ideas?

    good lot there anyway

  12. Eric says:

    Let’s face it, video games are not exactly the hotbeds of diversity (just look at the Gamasutra article on Scribblenauts’ “sambo”). I’d love to play a great game where the protagonist were homosexual or black or asian or latino. But minus dubious titles like “The Ballad of Gay Tony,” I don’t think that’s happening any time soon.

    • Vinraith says:

      There are precious few modern RPG’s where being black or latino isn’t an option, and there are an increasing number of them where being gay is an option (Fable 2, for example).

    • noom says:

      I find this whole issue of minority representation pretty moot to be honest, in all media formats. Entertainment is often held up as some kind of socio-political mirror, but I really don’t believe it’s an accurate gauge with which to measure societies prejudices and such.

      Reminds me of a passage near the start of a some book I read a while back, where the author spoke of her involvement in fighting for greater representation of minorities in film in her youth, around the mid-to-late 80s IIRC. In the end, she felt that while much headway was made, it was ultimately a shallow victory, doing little to actively counter such prejudices in society on the whole.

      Actually, I remember who it was now; Naomi Klein at the start of No Logo.

    • malkav11 says:

      The main character in Saints Row 2 can be pretty much anyone. The main character in GTA IV is a middle-aged former soldier from Eastern Europe.

      Which of these actually constitutes a Slavic character?

  13. Supertonic says:

    Agreed. Spaced is bloody brilliant.

    • Lambchops says:

      Ah, Spaced; I’ve watched it so many times and it’s still as good as the first time. The fake gunfight episode is one of my all time favourite sitcom episodes.

  14. Kadayi says:

    I particularly liked this one:-

    link to godhatesprotesters.wordpress.com

    The sheer lack of braincells and initiative to maybe go fact check something is both hilarious and deeply troubling. People will spend hours/days driving across country to go protest something, but not spend a few minutes learning that a Czar is in relation to a presidential appointment. That one woman seemed to believe that these were people that were being given land is kind of troubling.

    Also for those with a sense of humour about what constitutes Glenn Becks style of reporting: –

    link to gb1990.net

    Why won’t Glenn Beck address these foul rumours?

  15. Mman says:

    I’m not sure I get the “review the game without playing it” thing; is it supposed to point out how most game reviews are so generic and soulless you can sound legitimate just by stringing a few buzz sentences together (in which case it passed with flying colours) or is it supposed to actually be taken seriously as a review?

  16. Arathain says:

    The interview with Kate Mulgrew was fantastic. It’s wonderful to hear someone so commited to her craft talking so openly, and Tom did a great job with his questions.

  17. Lack_26 says:

    I wonder if it’s telling that I spent more time looking at the lighting and composition in those Katie West photos than the ladyfolk in them. Mind you, I do really like photography.

    Now that Royal Mail story is interesting, I really do feel sorry for some of the Posties you see around. Mind you, about 90% of my Junk mail is delivered by students straight from the local companies (my neighbourhood is a 90% student to 10% residential split (although I just technically became a student)). Probably because they’re so many people looking for part time work. Although this could happen everywhere, I cant say. I think the postie delivers about 5-10 of my daily 15-20 pieces of mail, but probably most of the bulk.

  18. Klaus says:

    The neogaf thread about the ‘sambo’ issue is idiotic. It feels like they’re saying that the issue shouldn’t be discussed, reported on, or given more than a passing glance because of their ignorance. Whether the detractors like it or not, the word ‘sambo’ combined with an image of a watermelon is going to receive some flak.

    While I believe it was an oversight, ultimately it was their fault. I’m sure they over-viewed the words to weed out the more commonly offensive ones.

  19. Pundabaya says:

    The thing about that is that I now know 4 meanings for the word ‘sambo’, and only one is a racist slur…

    Why should we allow that one to control the usage of the word in works? Aren’t the others just as valid?

    Also, the other three are in languages other than english, why should the one in english override the others?

    • Klaus says:

      Because I did not know sambo was a type of gourd before this, I can’t even find a picture of a gourd after nine pages of google images. And I have never seen a version of

      link to youtube.com

      about a gourd.

      If you wrote ‘sambo’ in the game and a wrestler or something popped out, I would not have even batted an eyelash. If this is some attempt on their part to ‘reclaim’ a contentious term, then that road is always wrought with peril. But I don’t think that’s so, I just think it’s an unfortunate oversight.

      And the company is AFAIK an American one, which means that the game was likely produced for an English speaking audience. If this were produced in Sweden and produced a “Loved one/partner you live with but not married to”, this would be even more of a non-issue than it already is to me.

  20. Gap Gen says:

    Quinns’ font is small and eye-hurty, but otherwise good stuff. I haven’t actually read it, mind, but being a professional, I know what I am talking about.

  21. Gap Gen says:

    On the point of power-hungry consoles, I worked out with a very dubious Google-based calculation that my research would, if it were using fossil fuels, cost a few transatlantic flights worth of CO2 every month. Good job the computer is in France and so uses nuclear power, eh?

  22. Lucas says:

    The Royal Mail story is scary stuff. Where are the Tristero when you need them?

  23. Jae Armstrong says:

    I started reading the Dragon Age/story as a reward interview and was immediately confronted by a bit on dwarvs and elves. Hold me. Seriously, everything I read on Bioware’s big return to fantasy makes it sound like a heroic effort in mediocracy. Instead of starting from “right, let’s design a fantasy game”, they appear to have started with “right, what are our elves going to be like?”

    Of course, this is based on pretty much nothing at all and has a 70% chance of being entirely wrong. So.

    Yeah.

    Lack_26: I’m afraid to say that that the nekkid ladies prevented me from any serious appreciation of her work.

    Okay, no, that’s not entirely true. My brain went “there is a girl taking naked pictures of herself on the internet; this will prevent any serious appreciation of her work” and that prevented me from seriously appreciating the work.

  24. lumpi says:

    The Sunday Papers continues to be the most interesting post of the week. I can see the difference between the links here and the usual posts on RPS… but some of this is simply too interesting to be buried in such a huge, random selection.

    Have you considered adding more articles like the ones mentioned to the standard weekday posting cycle? If the problem is that they aren’t originally written for RPS… how about hiring the authors as “guest-columnists”?

    • Persus-9 says:

      *how about “hiring” the authors as guest-columnists?

      Fixed.

      I think the weekly sunday papers are just fine and considering there are fewer stories published on a Sunday for pretty much all sites I think it’s nice to have a lot stuff to read otherwise Sundays would pretty much just be Eurogamer retrospective day videogame wise. *Sigh* I miss the days when Maggie Greene used to do weekend stuff for Kotaku.

  25. Matt says:

    Jim,
    Hell-a-good essay with the Ragdoll Physics article. You actually got me wondering if writing is the “purest” form of fictional entertainment due to it being (usually) the efforts of a single individual. And that was before I got to the part where you talk about collaborative efforts and how they might stymie creative development.

    It was an excellent read and thought provoking. I look forward to reading much much more like that. Especially since, as you say, more gamers are reaching points of academic (and journalistic) points of influence.

  26. We Fly Spitfires says:

    Interesting article about the Royal Mail! The UK really needs to learn from countries like Japan where things actually work properly.

    • sinister agent says:

      Royal Mail was one of the few things that was actually going very well up until relatively recently. Lately it’s pretty screwed, not least because the government want to make some money out of privatising it, and so are determined to sabotage it so they have an excuse.

    • TeeJay says:

      Japan have just privatised their postal service? Is that what you mean?

  27. Sagan says:

    The picture of the book-lady in the Crispy Gamer interview with Dr. Zeschuk really symbolized everything that is wrong with the sex in Dragon Age. How are we supposed to take him seriously as he is talking about sophisticated topics, when that picture is associated with it? And how are we supposed to take that character seriously in the game, when she walks around dressed like that?

    I wish there were either brave enough to make a porn game, or they were good enough to handle sex appropriately in a regular game.

    • Sagan says:

      Really though, I am just disappointed. Bioware is always just one step away from making brilliant games. But every single time they mess something crucial up. After reading the Kate Mulgrew interview, I really want to experience the characters now. But I’m not sure that the story will work with Morrigan dressed like that. Kate Mulgrew describes her as “innocent. She is beautiful. She is vulnerable.” How can you make such a character dress up in almost nothing? If that character is supposed to be innocent and vulnerable, then they are ruining her.
      Not to mention the disconnect that will be present when Kate thinks she is talking with a totally different character.

    • Persus-9 says:

      Shame Bioware don’t have any history of mod friendliness because really all the game is going to need to solve this problem is a more cloths mod.

  28. leeder krenon says:

    the weird thing with spaced as that normally people try and rip off stuff which proves cool or popular. no-one ever tried to rip it off (to my knowledge). probably as it was impossible.

  29. Tei says:

    JESUS AGAINST AI:

    link to flickr.com

  30. TeeJay says:

    Re. The ‘Ragdoll Metaphysics’ column from Offworld about ‘Edutainment’ etc

    Not everything made in the HL2 engine is a “game”. A flight simulator used to instruct real pilots isn’t a “game” but the same software could be made into a game with very small changes.

    A 3d world could be designed for:

    entertainment (eg games)
    education (eg training)
    art (eg ‘Dear Esther’ (?))
    commerce or communication (eg virtual houses for home-buyers/architects, shops and showrooms)
    …or it could combine some or all of these elements.

    Prof. Castronova was wondering “whether the creation of a genuinely educational MMO was possible” – massively multiplayer online ‘what’? RPG? FPS? Of course an MMO can be ‘genuinely educational’ if the criteria is simply ‘lots of people online interacting’ because it leaves things so open. Where does the “game” part come into it?

    My economics lectures weren’t ‘fun’. They weren’t a game either. The MMO format doesn’t have to be a game and it might be suitable for various things. Currently chatrooms, blogs, twitters and forums are the most popular way to coordinate mass debates online, but it might be that 3d worlds will have lots of advantages in certain situations (eg demonstrating your new product-line to your global sales force).

    Not all ‘game-like’ to ‘game-derived’ software are actually ‘games’. They might not contain any game playing or game mechanics at all. Simply having a 3d world to walk around doesn’t make something a ‘game’.

  31. DarkNoghri says:

    Moustaches equal power.

    link to drmcninja.com

  32. TeeJay says:

    Re. Video games need a more diverse cast of characters: “Unless the population of games becomes more like that of the real world, says Williams, the industry will struggle to attract customers from groups such as black, female or elderly people, who today are under-represented among both characters and players.”

    This research is a bit wierd: do they want to fill a WW2 game full of elderly/female/minority soldiers? Or maybe they mean making more games set in modern day America and using a ‘normal’ population – ie more Sims-type games? Maybe using more wars from post 1945 set in Africa/Asia/LatinAmerica? More games set in cities with high ‘minority’ populations?

    This research would have more power if they had been a lot more careful in their choice of games and/or in justifing the comments about why games *should* be more diverse: I can see why future-set sci-fi can/should be diverse, and some modern ‘civilian’/civic settings (sims/simcity/etc), but forcing make-believe diversity into historical settings or military ones is wierd.

    Using diverse actors can work well – eg when the BBC makes Robin Hood or whatever costume drama including “non-white” actors – because the audience understands that it is drama and lots of things can be changed (eg language used) to make it resonate with a modern British audience, so not to exclude ‘minority’ actors and to be ‘accessible’. However I think the line should be drawn somewhere – I can’t see a WW2 game where ‘young white male soldiers’ are replaced by ‘old non-white female soldiers’ being a good idea. It is interesting however to think about where the line actually is…

    • sinister agent says:

      “Unless the population of games becomes more like that of the real world, says Williams, the industry will struggle to attract customers from groups such as black, female or elderly people, who today are under-represented among both characters and players.”

      Sorry, but I found that whole bit to be the most patronising load of crap I’ve read for weeks. People play games because they want to play games. They decide not to because they don’t want to. Nobody in the bloody world will ever look at a game and go “Oh, the characters are white americans, while I am Nigerian. I clearly cannot play this game until someone mods in a black woman.” By all means, try some games with more gay or indian or transgener people, but do it because they’re part of the game, not because you’re trying to pander to some imaginary group of people who base their entire lives and every waking choice on their gender or complexion.

    • Pundabaya says:

      I like to think of the future:

      “We’re making a game about the SAS.”

      “Excellent! though, I’ve looked over your design docs and there’s one small problem… you don’t have any middle-aged latino lesbians in your squad… this oversight must be corrected!”

      Actually, that sounds kinda cool….

  33. Nerd Rage says:

    “All the gaming consoles in America use the same amount of electricity as San Diego.”

    Oh good, another reason for politicians to pick on gaming. Not only is it destroying our children’s minds, it’s destroying the environment! Look at how wasteful these systems are, I now introduce senate bill 1337 requiring all video gaming device manufacturers to abide by strict energy regulation controls in their products by 2015.

  34. ChampionHyena says:

    Just as an aside.

    Any time I think of Sambo, I imagine Russians breaking each others’ limbs.

    I think I play too many fighting games.

  35. Gabe says:

    Thanks Kieron, for linking to my ASCIIpOrtal interview. :-)

    Children eaten by DRM today: 9529
    Bloggers thrilled by their Sunday Papers debut: 1

  36. LearnSumfinkNew says:

    @ChampionHyena (Because reply is broke)

    Same here (Blue Mary <3) . Never knew it could be mistaken for a racist term.

  37. The Dark One says:

    This isn’t directly related to games, but it does have to do with ‘minority’ characters. Ursula K Le Guin owns.

    link to slate.com

  38. Klaus says:

    I have, more or less, given up on seeing any minority protagonists in different forms of media, or maybe I just don’t care anymore. Even though Master Chief has never taken off his helmet, to my knowledge, I believe that he’s white. When I wrote short stories in school even my protagonists were rarely minorities (or women), even though I am one… err a minority, not a lady. One of the things that bug me about this issue is that people tout games are fantasies so they don’t have to pander to real life but also argue that it is not realistic to add in old Latino women into the SAS.

    Games set in a middle age period have beautiful people with little to no physical flaws, their hair is tidy, they are not suffering from malnutrition and have the capacity to become richer than the church or the king himself. Even the womenfolk. That’s all par for the course. The minute you add in some minorities, there’s some guy who will contest that it isn’t ‘historically accurate.’ God forbid someone make a tired and stale setting more interesting by adding ‘fantasy’ to a product which is fantasy by default, even if it’s WWI or WWII. I’m sure Valkyria Chronicles would be just as interesting if they took out all the pc nonsense and just added some accuracy it.

    My problem isn’t the lack of minorities itself, it’s the excuses that allow this to persist. A writer who can not write for diversified characters is a crappy writer. Adding in Latino lesbians into the SAS isn’t going make a game where you can recover health hiding behind a bed any less realistic. For the record I’m not arguing that minorities be placed in every game. But unless the setting is specifically in some area where minorities are the majority then there will never be a ‘need’ or a ‘chance’ to add in non-token minority characters. And, as in case of The Dark One’s link (thanks for that by the way), someone can remove most of the minorities anyhow in favor of pandering to the targeted demographic.

  39. Gassalasca says:

    I’ve never heard of Spaced.
    I… I have nothing to say in my defense.

  40. Gap Gen says:

    On the representation of diversity in games, I noticed while playing through the cult level of SWAT4 for the first time that there were no children, even though there is a creche. “Huh,” I thought, “they must have avoided including children to stop the players or the perps shooting them.” Then I found the basement.

  41. Sonic Goo says:

    In my job we often find players coming up with all sorts of excuses like ‘but X also means this or that’ or ‘there are plenty of people called Hitler, I was heiling them’ etc. The answer to that is that we always go by the most commonly known meaning of the word, as that is what people will most likely be perceiving it as. In the case of Sambo, the racial meaning is the most well-known one so we’d consider it bad.

  42. Rei Onryou says:

    Really good selection there. Keep it up.