The Sunday Papers

Regular like clockwork.

Sundays are for watching roller derby and wondering why someone designed a sport that was like NASCAR but with people instead of cars. Sundays are for reviewing the best (mostly) games related writing from (mostly) the past week.

  • Critical Proximity was a conference about games criticism which took place the Sunday before GDC. Alan Williamson from Five Out Of Ten Magazine produced a video for the event on an important subject: why magazines are better than these newfangled webpages. It’s a romantic, cheerful call to arms for maintaining, and more importantly pushing, the old format further. I tend to agree, and continue to idly consider doing something about it. But probably I’ll just eat another packet of crisps and order some of Alan’s work online.
  • Long-time game journalist Richard Cobbett has launched a Patreon campaign to fund more of his particular style of videos and articles. Richard knows more about more games than anyone else I know, and with his Crap Shoot column every week at PC Gamer, he regularly produces funny, informative and surprising features. Worth a look.
  • PC Gamer launch a new weekly (?) column in which they do what they do best, and write straightforwardly and entertainingly about Things That Happened When Playing A Game. The first is Tom Senior playing Planetary Annihilation, the alpha strategy games from the former makers of Total Annihilation. “Soon I have a few orbital fighters and an orbital constructor bot sailing over my base and bumping into the camera every now and then. The orbital constructor builds a battle station — a slow moving, unstoppable octagon with lots of mounted lasers. Back on the as-yet-unnamed planet that shall henceforth be known as Robotron, I’ve built a space bus to carry one lucky unit to the final frontier. One of my flying builders is chosen for the grand journey. Once the it’s safely on board I right click on the moon and watch the bus take a spiraling route out of Robotron’s atmosphere. The bus quickly reaches the planetoid and the builder disembarks in a slow, lingering spiral, like a sycamore bud falling from a metal leaf.”
  • Wesley Yin-Poole writes about the uncertain future of Rare. “”I still feel a bit sad with you guys for the article you wrote about Rare being dead,” Craig Duncan, the boss of the Microsoft-owned Kinect Sports developer, says at the beginning of our interview, not in an abrasive, confrontational way, but in a genuine, heartfelt way. I listen and believe it did make him sad. No doubt it saddened a few here.” I’m still sad.
  • From the same Where Did It Go Wrong department, Sam Byford at The Verge visited BitSummit and asks, Japan used to rule video games, so what happened? More importantly, how might the rise of indie development help the industry overcome its struggles? “Western games have never been popular in Japan, and as the rise of the console FPS further alienated Japanese consumers, local developers prioritized their home market even more than in the past. “I think most Japanese publishers and developers have realized that, instead of trying to mimic what’s popular outside Japan, they should make what they understand culturally and what they can do best,” says Yoshida. This is sensible, of course, and can even lead to unpredictable Western successes like From Software’s unforgiving action RPGs Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls.”
  • Three Lane Highway is Chris Thursten and PC Gamer’s regular Dota column. This week, to mark the release of Free To Play, published an old feature from the magazine about The International 3, the previous Valve-hosted Dota 2 tournament. “In Benaroya Hall that love takes the form of a pair of pounding monosyllables: “Nah vee! Nah vee!” The only other teams that receive the same support are Dignitas and TeamLiquid, Americans and the de facto home side – and in their case, the chant is “USA! USA!” Na’Vi are what the crowd would want from an American team: they are confident, independent, and comfortably exceptional. Something of the generational quality of e-sports is expressed in the sound of a thousand Americans bellowing their support for young people whose parents grew up in the former Soviet Union.” Strong stuff.
  • Indie dev provocateur Cliff Harris’ took to his blog to talk about unplayed games. Mainly, the manner in which sales incentivize people to buy games they never have the time to play, and the manner in which that harms developers and the marketplace. I’m not sure it harms players though. “We don’t play beyond the first 10%. There is not a single game in my steam collection I’ve finished. Not ONE. And I almost always buy full price. There are many games I’ve played for under 30 minutes, some for under 10 minutes. They may have wonderful endings, who cares? I have another X games sat there I can experience the opening level of instead. And yet… gamers insist on 50 hours of gameplay. Cue 49 hours of back-tracking and filler, because game devs KNOW that 90%+ of buyers will never see the game ending anyway…”. Another key quote: “We are no longer selling products, we are selling discounts.”
  • Lots of good stuff came out of GDC this week, obviously. Many of the talks haven’t yet found their way to the internet, but there are a few write-ups here and there. Polygon cover Katsuya Eguchi discussing the making of Animal Crossing: New Leaf, crediting team diversity in part with the series continued success. “”With Animal Crossing: City Folk, it was clear the series had challenges we needed to overcome,” she said. They looked closely at series fatigue and long-held gameplay conventions that the team felt reluctant to change after the success of Animal Crossing: Wild World for Nintendo DS. Rather than just adding new animals, new furniture and other new content, Nintendo EAD needed to rethink the core of Animal Crossing and “what players found enjoyment in and kept them coming back for long stretches of time.”‘
  • Relatedly, BioWare Montreal’s Manveer Heir made a passionate plea for videogames to be braver in their treatment of prejudice. “If we want to start making games that tackle race, gender and sexual orientation and everything else in positive ways instead of falling into stereotypical, problematic ways then we have to step our collective games up. This, to me, is one of the biggest areas of growth in this industry. It’s where I see so much promise. But I’ll be honest – I think we’re going to make a lot of missteps along the way but I don’t think that means the path is wrong. It just means we need to watch where we’re going and try harder.”
  • Our own Cassandra Khaw pops up on the Daily Dot to examine whether the Dota 2 workshop suffers from favoritism. Accusations like these always appear in small communities where some people succeed more than others, which isn’t to say there isn’t some truth in it either. “The free-to-play game’s Workshop, which is a part of Dota 2’s community hub on Steam, allows 3D modellers the opportunity to publicly display their designs to the community. From here, if they get enough votes and attention, they might eventually make it onto the official Valve store. And while it sounds like a utopian mergence of fandom and profit, some are artists increasingly unhappy with the Workshop. They claim it’s being ruined by favoritism.”
  • Film critic Scott Tobias writes about the Veronica Mars movie, and the manner in which the distinction between film and television, and audience and producer, are being blurred by shifts in technology, distribution and funding models. This is interesting because i) I like Veronica Mars and haven’t seen the film yet and ii) because it’s exactly the same transition that videogames are in the middle of.
  • Music this week is Japanoise band Boredoms and their album Super Ae, on YouTube and Spotify. Why would you ever listen to anything else?


  1. LordOfPain says:

    Richard Cobbett must be the games journalist I have most respect for. I’ve never read anything of his that I thought was rubbish. And I doubt that’s blind luck. (And I mean this merely as a compliment to him, not a remark against other games journalists).

  2. guygodbois00 says:

    ” Richard knows more about more games than anyone else I know”. You should broaden the circle of your friends and acquaintances, Mr Smith. But, indeed, Mr Cobbett can write a mean article and I do appreciate his Crap Shoot. Best of luck to him in his Patreon endeavor (to persevere).

    • qrter says:

      He does seem to know rather a lot about obscure PC titles from yore, more than I’ve seen any other games journalist exhibit.

      • subedii says:

        Yeah it’s been a long time since I’ve seen another guy talk in-depth about the Ultima games. And I agree with a lot ( though not necessarily everything) of what he has to say about Adventure games.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      When I was a regular visitor at PC Gamer I remember there was that one commenter who had the most vitriolic, “he kicked my dog” level of irrational hatred of Cobbett and everything he wrote. He was always one of the first commenters to come up on a new crapshoot … can’t remember his name now. Just the wibble hat-stand amount he hated him was hilarious, even if utterly undeserved.

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        Good old Wade. Or was it Wabe? Something like that, anyway.

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          Hi Richard, yeah that seems to ring a bell. It used to make me laugh because it was just so random. Glad to see it didn’t put you off ;)

          EDIT: Sadly it seems his little heaps of love have been swept into an electronic gutter somewhere on the PC Gamer servers. Only his shadow remains!

      • Shooop says:

        I swear the PC Gamer comments are as bad as RPS’s forum. It’s like a runoff of YouTube comments for some articles.

    • Premium User Badge

      Graham Smith says:

      Sorry, I already know everyone.

  3. dangermouse76 says:

    I think one of the great benefits of easier cheaper access to game engines will be the rise of indie / mid tear ( debatable phraseology I know ) gaming. In fact the rise of gaming in general. I – through my blooded by broken wine glass foot – see a new golden age of gaming. Like how digital photography and easier editing tools have widened the creative pool of image makers both film and still. Widen the entry level to any medium and see it tackle a broader range of ideas and issues more often.
    Everyone wins in the end.

    As the great Mr Pratchett would say we live in interesting times ( in a good way ).
    And as he may also of said: “Death: “THERE ARE BETTER THINGS IN THE WORLD THAN ALCOHOL, ALBERT.”
    Albert: “Oh, yes, sir. But alcohol sort of compensates for not getting them.”

  4. Shieldmaiden says:

    I just can’t agree with Cliffski, or any of the other people who rail against the big discounts in digital sales. All the evidence I’ve seen states that developers are making a lot more money through these sales. It’s the big advantage of digital goods and it shows that it’s working as intended.

    From a personal point of view, sales and bundles have kept me in games through a long period of very low income. Instead of simply going without, borrowing from friends (pretty much impossible as a PC gamer) or engaging in piracy, I was able to pay the asking price for games I wanted. As a result, the industry saw a lot more of money that it would have done otherwise. At the same time, it hasn’t prevented me from paying full price for games when I’ve been able to afford to. I’ve bought two brand new games this year, Banner Saga and South Park, and the last one before that was Skyrim.

    Funnily enough, Skyrim has provided me with hundreds of hours of entertainment and the other two consumed my gaming time exclusively until I’d completed them. Not because I felt compelled to because of the price, but because I really enjoyed them. Sometimes I do the same with games I’ve bought in a sale, sometimes I don’t. While Cliffski talks about games being devalued, I see not feeling obliged to complete a shitty game (or a good game that turns shitty due to repetitive filler) because it’s cost me £30-40 and I have nothing else to play.

    That’s not to say that some publishers don’t take the piss. A friend of mine felt really burnt by Civ 5 because he’d pre-ordered it for a scant discount months before release, and it was apparently steeply discounted only a couple of months after launch. That kind of thing is just going to make people wait for a sale rather than buy at full price.

    • qrter says:

      The idea that people spend less time on games they bought at discount also works the other way – people may force themselves to like a game they bought at full price.

      You could also say that buying all your games at discount is actually a great leveler – you remove the whole economic equation, and can really judge a game on its own merits. If it isn’t fun enough, I stop playing. One of the games I’ve spent the most time on in the last year, has been a little game I bought in a GamersGate bundle for a couple of euros.

      • MattM says:

        Picking up games at a discount and having a huge backlog really does make it easy to cut loose a game that isn’t doing it for me. However, even if a game only cost a dollar, that doesn’t stop me from going deep with it if I like it enough. I end up beating about 65% of games that I start, and that seems like a pretty good percentage.
        The backlog also makes it much easier to avoid completionist syndrome. I used to feel compelled to beat every game 100% and on the hardest difficulty. In game where I had primary enjoyed the story or puzzles getting 100% often was a slog and then I felt guilty when I abandoned the game out of apathy (very silly behavior in retrospect). Now when I beat a game, I judge how fun a replay might be vs starting a new game. Replaying XCOM on I/I was great but I can skip hunting down every last audiolog in Bioshock

    • Viroso says:

      Yep. Also, maybe I’m biased here, but for me people complaining about stuff like this always seem to bring up something like “I buy full price games that I don’t play”, as in, they’re people who seem to have enough money for frivolous buying, not much control over their frivolous buying, and then feel guilty about it and blame on games.

      Look, I have 240 games on my Steam account and I haven’t played a bit less than a half of them, so it isn’t like I play everything I buy. But also doesn’t mean I regret buying the games. Probably 90% of the unplayed games were bundled games I never particularly wanted anyway.

    • captain nemo says:

      If no-one ever completed any game, there would be zero complaints about end-of-game-bosses and story-arc-climaxes.
      Obviously this is not the case.
      The guy is a plonker.

      • Taear says:

        No need to be hyperbolic about it – he’s saying that a LOT of customers don’t complete the whole game. Which is true, just read any gaming forum.

        • MartinWisse says:

          Which has always been the case anyway and I remember buying a lot of “bundles” and deeply discounted games back in the nineties too: we called them compilation cdroms.

      • MattM says:

        I hear the “less than half of people complete short games, therefore even 7 hours is too long of a game” argument frequently. But I think there are some big holes in that argument. The completion rate doesn’t drop that sharply as game length increases. 20 hour games have about the same completion rate as 6 hour ones. I do notice that really long (50h+ games) tend to have low completion rates When a game has checkpoint achievements then I usually see most people dropping out early. In 10-25 h games, if someone makes it to the half-way point then their odds of completing the game are fairly high, about 65%. Some people quit because games are too long but I think many people try a game out for a while and decide that it isn’t for them. Dramatically shortening the game might increase completion rates but the players might just find that they had completed a mediocre experience instead of playing half-way through a mediocre experience.
        If a person only beats about 40% of their games I think they would still be pretty bugged if the games they did like enough to beat felt cut short to save budget.

      • HadToLogin says:

        But there are TONS of people who buy then don’t play games. Just wander into Steam Achievements.
        While yes, you can’t get achievements in offline mode (at least for some games, some allow it), PayDay 2 is kinda hard game to play offline. Turns out, over 30% of people who borrow PayDay 2 from Valve never put mask on! And you can’t play it without putting mask on.

        With free L4D2 over Xmas those stats went a little crazy, but before it, something around 50% of players had achievement for finishing first campaign, now it’s barely 32%. Most achieved one is “kill Spitter before she spits”, by 50% of players.

        In Skyrim, 10% of gamers didn’t finish first quest.

        In Mortal Kombat 9 Komplete, not even 50% of players made Fatality.

        In Deus Ex Human Revolution, 20% of people didn’t made a knockdown, and there’s 30% of people who didn’t done that in Directors Cut.

        In Portal 2, over 30% of players didn’t met GlaDoS.

        Deadpool has achievements just for starting game, and it was achieved by not-even-90% of gamers.

        You get those achievements in first hour of playing (well, maybe not L4D2 finish-campie, as you can go play Versus from start, which is stupid, but you can). And can Steam Offline be an explanation for those %?

        Ps.: Notice how those aren’t “bundle” games, where those % could get even more strange, as myself have TONS of bundle games I’m never ever intending to start.

    • dE says:

      Without low prices I would never touch games that are merely okay or decent. Not out of spite but simply because I ain’t made out of money. I generally go by the idea that if I even have the slightest doubt about a game, I will not buy it, until it has reached a price point, at which I feel alright with considering the money spent a net loss, in the case the game is not to my tastes.
      And you know what? I’ve found several great games this way, games I’ve enjoyed a lot. Games I absolutely would not have played otherwise. In short, this has added a lot of value to my gaming experience and I can appreciate less than perfect games too.

      That some Developers would rather I do not try their game at all and they see not a single cent from me, is a rather curious concept to me. I don’t quite see how that amounts to more value for anyone involved. In my opinion sales work not because they show a discount sign, but because they allow less rich and fortunate people to enjoy games too. The sheer mass of purchases are from people that simply can’t afford to take the risk on a more steeply priced game.

      • Taear says:

        The idea is though that perhaps they would have bought it for full price but games get discounted so often they’re now going to wait for a sale. I do know a lot of people that do this and I don’t really blame them for it.
        I guess the question is do enough people buy it when it is discounted that wouldn’t have got it at all otherwise to make up for those who WOULD have spent the full cost?

        I know I feel pretty miffed that Bioshock Infinite was for sale really quickly after I bought it for full price.

        • dE says:

          The idea is though that perhaps they would have bought it for full price

          To me, that argument comes from wealthy people that can afford to blow 50€ on a new release. They still do, they even pre-order games. So much that Pre-Order has turned into an entire problem of its own. Also if you look at the charts for games, they all have a massive spike at release. People are buying games at full price. A whole lot of them.
          But here’s the thing: Not a whole lot of countries have high enough wages to sustain a 50€ release model to begin with. And even in the countries that do, not everyone can afford it either. Poverty is a very real problem in western countries too. The sales allow those to take part in gaming and if you look at it statistically, there are a whole lot of people that are not wealthy.

          • The Random One says:

            Yes, precisely. The people who say that, if not for sales, those people would have bought it at full price, never stop to imagine that maybe, if not for sales, those people wouldn’t have bought the game at all. This is especially true for people who literally cannot afford to buy the game at their release price (or can, but that’ll be their gaming budget for the month/semester/year, so it’d be better to buy ten indie games on sale rather than one big thing that might turn out to be a turd).

            I buy games at full price all the time. I bought Anodyne and Tower of Guns and Don’t Starve and I’m going to buy Consortium because they felt like games I really liked and I wanted to play they soon and give a lot of money to the creators. If I buy a game at a sale, it isn’t because I’m cheap and poor and won’t part with my money – it’s because the game didn’t strike my fancy, and while I may be willing to give only two bucks for the game you sell for fifteen, that’s two bucks you wouldn’t have made otherwise.

        • MartinWisse says:

          Bioshock Infinite went on sale rather quickly because it turned out to be mostly shite and hence people weren’t buying it full price anymore. That seems to be the case with a lot of A titles that drop in price quickly…

    • welverin says:

      I find these rants ridiculous myself, there have been plenty of things I only picked up because they were stupid cheap that I ended up liking, and even liking a whole lot.

      Singularity and Metro 2033 being ones that come to mind immediately. After finishing Singularity I felt disappointed because I knew it didn’t do well enough to justify a sequel, and I liked Metro so much that Last Light became one of my most anticipated games once it was announced.

      I suspect the anti sale crow have a knee jerk dislike for the practice and just throw out reasons it’s bad without really analyze honestly.

    • Lemming says:

      I certainly have games I’ve never played, but it has just as much to do with me wanting to support a game I think aught to do well, as much as whether there’s something in a sale I wouldn’t normally bother with.

      Often there’s overlap, but of the former quite often they are games I just can’t really be arsed to play but I want the developer to stay in the black so they can continue to innovate, or that particular genre stays afloat.

      • Geebs says:

        Exactly, buying games as patronage; I do it too. It’s like kickstarting a game, only the game has actually been made already and won’t spend the next three years in Early Access hell.

    • malkav11 says:

      The sale culture 1) got me to actually buy games digitally (Steam’s prices in the early days were ridiculously out of sync with retail), 2) got me to stop pirating games because there’s no longer any conflict between my budget and buying pretty much anything I might want to play and at this point I have so many legitimately owned games there’s no incentive to add something else that has none of the perks of said ownership, 3) has introduced me to so many genres and franchises that I would never have touched at full price (the Humble Bundle Pinball FX2 sale is the only reason I even considered that game and it turns out I love it to death), and 4) is the main reason I own some of Cliffski’s games at all – nothing against the man, but his output has tended to be pretty orthogonal to my interests.

      I am certainly not seeing the downsides for me or for developers. They get my money, and I get a ton of great gaming. Sure, I often don’t finish and/or start those games, but that has always been the case. It’s just not how I operate.

    • Baines says:

      All the evidence I’ve seen states that developers are making a lot more money through these sales.

      One (though certainly not the only) issue is that the same game can make more money priced at $10 but sold at 75% off than it will make at $2.50 but never put on sale. Both situations ask consumers to pay $2.50, but people will increasingly on Steam hold off on buying even a $2.50 full price game, on the assumption that it will go on sale sooner or later. At the same time, people feel the 75% off $10 price is a bargain. We’ve reached a point where it is not just better to price high and trick consumers into thinking that they are getting a bargain, but where you can actually be hurting your sales to price “fair” without allowing for sales.

      You can even look at attitudes towards Steam sales for signs of issues. At one time, 50% to 66% off was a bargain that you’d snap up. Now people wait for 75% off. Over the holidays, you see people holding off even on 75% off, hoping for 80% or higher on a special sale.

      Bundles have made it even worse, particularly after you see a few games that you already own end up in bundles. You could get 5-10 games for less than you paid for a single game on sale. Bundles also inflate game libraries, which helps shorten attention spans and lower incentives to buy single games in the future.

      I’m not saying sales are all death and destruction, but they can lead to negative effects for everyone. (Of course having no sales at all also can lead to negative effects.)

      • aepervius says:

        i am one of those wwhich wait for those 75% off for many game. It is simple really. If a game feels it is merely average or even mediocre (think the new Thief for example) then I will wait for a 50 to 75% off. If it does not happen then I will not buy a mediocre 40$ game. But I would at 10$. If it looks like a good or excellent game (youtube gameplay , review, user feedback, my colleague enjoyment of it , critics) then i will ponny up to 60$.

    • Mman says:

      Honestly the quote in the newposts has such giant holes in it it’s kind of turned me off from reading the rest of the article. Firstly, 50+ hour games are a myth outside of RPGs and one or two outliers; even the most filler-packed open-worlds I’ve played I’ve managed to 100% in around 40 hours (yes I’ve since realised this was a dumb idea), even most RPGs can be finished in much less than 50 hours if you mainly follow the main quest. “49 hours of backtracking and filler” also seems like pure sour-grapes from someone who plays less than an hour of most games; I can think of very few games where the first hour is the best, and those are inherently pretty bad games (ones that are less than an hour to finish aside).

  5. soulblur says:

    Re: not finishing games and discounting. I think I’m becoming an unusual gamer, in that when I play PC games, I tend to really hammer them. 500 hours on EU4, 350 in CK2. Finished Alpha Protocol recently, having just bought it. Good game – I’m surprised it didn’t get more traction when it came out. Finished the Mass Effect series a few times. IOS gaming is a different story, but I definitely look for quality games that I can invest in and can invest in the whole experience, not just the opening, when I purchase games.

    Am I so unusual?

    • subedii says:

      You’re not. I do similar. And as qrter below puts rather succinctly, he keeps saying “We” when he should be saying “I”.

      I don’t care that he doesn’t finish any of the games he buys. I do, and particularly the ones I buy on release. Seriously, if it’s a game that I’m hyped enough about that I want it straight away, why the heck would I then just plain leave it? I bought MGS: Rising as soon as it was available, finished it (2 or 3 times actually). Company of Heroes 2, Darksiders 2, Shadow Warrior, Bioshock Infinite (and I was disappointed with that one)…

      Recently finished The Walking Dead after a long hiatus, but that was primarily because a save-game bug kept forcing me to restart.

    • karthink says:

      Aside: You owe it to yourself to play through Alpha Protocol again, maybe an year from now. Make different choices, complete missions in a different order. Completely different game.

      I think it’s futile for developers to consider implementing expansive choice and consequences when most people don’t even finish the game once, and the ones who do walk away never knowing how different things could have turned out. Alpha Protocol showed us this, although the channel was muddied by bugs and some awful mechanics.

      • subedii says:

        Yeah Alpha Protocol was awesome. A little flawed, but awesome.

      • malkav11 says:

        I’ll usually finish short games, so I think the issue is trying to combine meaningful choice and consequence with the theoretically expected 50-hour playtime. Which, incidentally, I for one don’t expect or want.

      • Josh W says:

        I love the idea of alternative playthroughs, but I also like the idea of a game experience customised for my preferred choices, especially if I play through it and then chat to friends about what happened in my version. That way I get a taste of the diverse possibilities, and get the personal side of things.

        On the other hand, I’ve played the first few missions of deus ex more than I’ve played quite a few other games!

  6. qrter says:

    I wish Cliff Harris didn’t do that thing where he constantly writes “we” but he actually means “I”.

    • Henson says:

      That’s certainly a problem in the pullquote. As it stands, it reads, “I personally haven’t finished any games on my Steam list, yet other people want games with over 50 hours playtime”. Whereas I, personally, have very few games on my Steam list I haven’t finished. Different strokes for different folks.

      His blog post does hits some issues that I think are worth considering (though ones I have heard other people address before), like devaluing games or making how Steam’s front page has a lot of power, but I also disagree with the importance of other issues he brings up, like how people aren’t all playing the same game (they aren’t? and if so, so what?), or how sales are a step away from quality (even quality games will go on sale, and we ALWAYS are biased towards cool-looking marketing, regardless of price).

      • Rich says:

        …which is why he only makes games that are fun for about five minutes.

      • dE says:

        He’s a bit of an odd one. He feels quite passionate about certain things, which is actually a bonus, but also makes him completely shoot down arguments that actually hold merit, because that would mean changing his stance a little. And when he does that, he really loves to lump people together with his favorite enemy, Software Pirates.

        I’ve had a run in with him a few months back here in the comment section, I don’t remember all the details but the discussion boiled down to the availability of credit cards. He holds the firm believe that everyone has easy access to a credit card. When it was pointed out to him that in fact not everyone has easy Credit Card Access, he insisted he had done his research and everyone saying otherwise were just “spreading FUD” as an advocacy for piracy. He used several more rather colorful words. He was hellbent on the idea that the sole reason I could possibly disagree with him, was because I was -surely – this hardcore pirate justifying downloading his games.

        There was a special irony in that I had gifted, read – paid fucking money out of my pockets – GSB on Steam to several friends just a week prior to that. As well as buying the latest DLC for myself. Friends that had no fucking credit card, for further mockery.

        • qrter says:

          That’s disappointing. Especially since credit cards are a bit of a pet peeve of mine – the credit card industry basically exists on the premise that people will rack up large amounts of debt, that’s where the money is made. They’re set up as traps, and I refuse to use them anymore.

          So it always annoys me when vendors only offer Paypal (another horrible company to avoid like the plague) and credit cards as payment options. Not so much for small indies, ofcourse, but something like GOG needs to up its payment option game.

          • malkav11 says:

            I personally just use a debit card, but they’re still issued by the credit card companies so I know the shitty stuff the credit card companies build into their contracts with vendors end up applying even so. :(

        • JamesTheNumberless says:

          It’s true in the UK, France, Sweden, the US, and probably lots of other countries that I don’t know about, that practically everyone has a card (debit or credit) that they can use online and internationally. The debit card issued by your bank is usually either a visa or mastercard.

          However, in many other countries, including Germany and Austria it’s more normal to have a debit card issued by your bank that works when you go shopping and for taking out cash from ATMs, but doesn’t work online and won’t work if you go abroad.

          For this you usually have to get an actual credit card with all the monthly bills, interest rates, etc which that implies. Moreover, there is often a monthly fee for credit card accounts! So for many people there are more inhibiting factors involved when deciding if it’s worth getting a card that works online.

          This is why it’s important to accept bank transfers, mobile payments, and payments from digital wallets that can be topped up via other methods. Cliff “all my games are shallow and boring but my website looks slick” Cliffski probably just doesn’t see the extra effort being worth the reward, not does he care about foreigners playing his games. He likely assumes the only people who don’t have credit cards are in some sort of financial trouble and probably shouldn’t be spending money on games anyway.

          • Jambe says:

            For an American perspective:

            2011 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households (pdf):

            “8.2 percent of US households are unbanked. This represents 1 in 12 households in the nation, or nearly 10 million in total. Approximately 17 million adults live in unbanked households.”

            Five percent of the population, you say? And their uncounted children? They’re just the dregs, clearly.

            I could give many anecdotes about paying on behalf of those who lack the banking services to do so themselves, but I think the hard stats provide starker insight into the magnitude of the issue.

            For further reading:

            link to

          • pepperfez says:

            Once again, I call for a public credit option: Fully functional, no-fee credit cards with a limit of, say, $1000, issued to every citizen at age 21. If you max it out and fail to repay on time, you just don’t get to use it any more. Debt is forgiven on a rolling 5 year basis, but for the majority of people the convenience of a hassle-free credit card is worth more than ~$200/year. If not, it’s money pumped directly into the economy. For-profit companies would still have a niche with the many people who need more than $1000 of credit per month, but would have to work harder to satisfy their customers.

          • The Random One says:

            Wait, there aren’t monthly payments for credit cards on the US, UK, France and Sweden? I’m in Brazil and credit cards are like you describe (combinations credit/debit cards unless you specifically request otherwise) but I do pay a monthly free for a credit card. My nation is swindling me!

          • malkav11 says:

            Some (not all) US credit cards have an annual fee, but I’ve never heard of one having a monthly fee.

      • Josh W says:

        It’s true that low pricing allows impulse purchasing to be possible, (for a subset of people who’s disposable income is a sufficient multiple of that price), and that having a variety of games can stop you playing games that are rewarding but have a harsh difficulty curve (many people with more choices in games choose not to be miserable for greater reward).

        On the other hand, it also allows people with smaller disposable incomes to make reasoned purchases that were previously out of their reach (for example, waiting for specific games to go down in price means you’ve researched and decided you already like it, you’re just waiting for our unofficial stochastic dutch auction system to deliver it at a price you find acceptable). If you use this system wisely, and you have a few free hobbies you can switch too, like switching to tabletop rpgs or old good boardgames or deep multiplayer games with friends then you just end up playing good games and affording them.

        And people will still play games that have difficulty curves that make them miserable, if there’s social dynamics that show them the rewards, or even if just that there’s a hidden depth they haven’t met yet (flappy bird is a particularly obvious recent example). These games can be cheap, even free, and people will slog their way through them for the challenge itself.

        Games are good, and if people stop playing them for cost justification and start playing them purely because they enjoy them, then we’re making progress!

    • aoanla says:

      Indeed, on checking my Steam account, I have only 110 games on it, and I only have that many because of Humble Bundles, rather than sales in general. (I’m never going to play Amnesia, ever, cause I am a big wuss, but it’s sitting in my library courtesy of whatever Humble Bundle had it in.)

      Unlike cliffski, I think I can break down games in the list into a few categories (some of which he’s not thought of):

      1) Games that I’ve completed.
      1a) Games I bought for the first time on Steam and played to completion (Portal, Portal2, Half-Life 2+Episodes, Antichamber, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, etc ) Yes, I got most of these on sale, but I did complete them (sorry, cliffski!)
      1b)This includes games I already owned but bought again discounted on Steam for the convenience of not having to find my CDs: the Doom games, the Quake games, the Unreal and UT games, the X-COM games. In all those cases, buying them again on a Steam sale actually meant that the publisher earned more money from me, since I was prepared to spend a relatively small sum on format shifting.)

      2) Games I’ve played a bit of but not completed.
      2a) Games I made a punt on (because they were on sale, or in a Humble Bundle) but definitely wouldn’t have risked full price, and subsequently discovered that I disliked. And Yet It Moves is a good example of this, probably played it less than an hour.
      2b) Games I intended to buy and did enjoy for a bit, but just stopped playing before the end (Mass Effect, Dishonoured, Bioshock). Generally, I’ve become less inclined to put up with a game stopping being interesting to me, and I’ll put down a game if it gets boring. (This is possibly an effect of cliffski’s “Developers making 50 hours of filler ’cause no-one finishes them” vicious circle argument.) Nevertheless, most of these had a hefty time investment from me, certainly more than 50% of the game play time.
      3) Games I got because I intend to play them at some time.
      4) Games I got as part of a bundle that I don’t intend to play.

      I’ve not noticed that the ratio of class 1 to class 2 has changed a lot since sales became more regular. Nor have I particularly noticed a change in 2 v 3, other than that I have less free time now than I did in the halcyon days of being a student, so I am slower to get around to playing games I own.
      The only notable thing I can see is that class 4 is slowly swelling thanks to Humble Bundles having somewhat odd combinations of games sometimes, but that doesn’t really fit into cliffski’s argument at all…

      • slerbal says:

        That pretty much sums up my experience as well with the 512 games Steam tells me I have + the 30 or so I have on GOG. I have played about 70% of them, completed less than 20%.

        Just like you I just stopped when playing Dishonoured, Deus Ex: HR and Mass Effect 2 (as examples). I feel n need to push on with a game if it doesn’t hold me.

        I would add a fifth class to your list:
        5) Games I bought purely to get the soundtrack – I adore game OSTs and I’ve bought a lot of bundles purely for the music, rather than the games. If you include “Games I have enjoyed listening to the music for but never played” in my ‘played’ section the total jumps to over 90%.

        I bought Bastion purely for the music, as the game itself has never grabbed me (no complaint against the game – it just was not for me).

        I have also played over 100 hours of over 100 games in my list – many of which I had played to completion several times before acquiring them again on Steam or GOG.

        I buy what I can afford, play as many as I can but don’t feel compelled to complete a game if I don’t like it.

        • aoanla says:

          Ah, yes, “Games I bought entirely/mostly for the Soundtrack” is something I missed off. Bastion’s the archetypical example of that for me, too.

    • Premium User Badge

      zapatapon says:

      This. I am annoyed by the condescending, moralizing discourse on how I am being played by sales, tricked out of my money and cheapening the general value of games through this process. I define myself squarely as a hoarder and bargain hunter, and I don’t need advice on how to spend my money, thank you Cliff. Is it such a monstrous, unethical and antisocial perversion to get my endorphin rush from snapping a bargain and possessing a large library games, many of which I am fully aware I won’t play? But in the mean time, I also do play games, mind you, and don’t hesitate to drop those that bore me, and along the way came across many unexpected, excellent surprises. As far as being psychologically tricked, compare that to feeling compelled to finish a mediocre game you’ve paid full price. I actually generally only buy games on which I’ve read at least something positive (generally on RPS), and am generally happy to throw 5x times more money at indie developers as I would without sales or bundles.

      Oooh, but doing so reduces the global quality of games, drowning quality games into a sea of poorly crafted, lowest common-denominator crap! Because now I have become intellectually lazy and pick games which only might possibly be good, instead of games whose quality I am absolutely 100% sure of, if I had to pay full price — certitude that could only be acquired through due “research”, scanning every possible opinion piece on the web and watching every Let’s Play before making that important buying decision… Seriously?

    • TheBuff1 says:

      I lost all respect for ‘Cliffski’ after he had a Twitter meltdown and used the word ‘retard’ in reply to reading John Walker’s post “Why Games Should Enter The Public Domain”. I was already starting to get dubious with him after reading about his views on company execs and CEOs (basically they deserve their hugely inflated wages and he is surprised that there are not more CEO suicides!! – because the poorly paid do not work hard nor have their own pressures…) but how he reacted to John’s post on Twitter was appalling. He’s entitled to his opinion of course just like I’m entitled to to stop following him on Twitter, uninstall his games on Steam and no longer will buy anything that he touches – which is a slight shame as I was going to get Democracy 3.

      • Viceroy Choy says:

        Also resolved to not buy any more of Cliffski’s products after that and his refusal to apologize for using “retard” in a pejorative way until everyone other than John told him that it would probably be a good idea.

      • Nogo says:

        Just checked that out and yeesh.

        Whenever he shows up here I was always surprised how a seeming professional came off as Angry Internet Man Who Worships His Own Shadow, but apparently he can’t even feign being one of us mere mortals now. Must be easier to blame pirates over his own droll ideas for the lack of success and respect he’s no doubt assured himself he’s worth.

        Enjoy suffocating up your own ass, cliffski.

  7. dangermouse76 says:

    I have recently started going through my 148 steam library ( of which now about 15 are complete ). I bought loads of games when they were cheap and also at full price. And not played most of them, but having set my self the goal to get through them have picked one up a week and played it through, alphabetically.

    Some games I purchased I now realise I don’t enjoy at all – assassins creed – and did not complete them; others – Deus Ex Directors cut- I am playing at the moment and loving. The fact is I bought them because I could afford them; and could afford in some cases to buy them and find I don’t like their play style.

    But I have ended up playing games I would not otherwise, And yet it moves / Atom zombie smasher / Brothers a tale of 2 sons, and many more. And that has widened the type of game I am likely to purchase in the future, sale or not.

    My point is I guess, sales worked to expand my gaming horizons and increase the likely-hood of further purchases I may not of considered. So sales ( for me ) allowed me to spend money I could afford to loose on the gamble a game may be either entertaining or entertaining in a way that is new to me.

    That seems like a win all round given I have other things I could spend that money on.

    • RedViv says:

      I am on game 41 of my journey through ~150 mostly unplayed Steam Sale games. So far it has been very fun, and there are definitely games in there I might have never checked out at all.

      • dangermouse76 says:

        Totally, Beyond good and evil was great. Gonna hit some multi-player games soon as well, so that will be interesting. I am doing the multi-player games out of order, I think CSGO is going to hand my ass to me.

        • subedii says:

          Maybe not as much as you think.

          Haven’t played it in a while, but last I was on, CS:GO had a pretty decent matchmaking system. All things working out you should start levelling out at a 50/50 Win/Loss ratio as the system ascertains how good you are.

          Personally I found it a big help, makes things WAY more easy on the less able players (like me) than having to go through a streak of wipeouts seemingly without end (CS as it was before basically).

          • dangermouse76 says:

            That’s good to know. I get put off some games BF3/4 for instance gets to a point where I cant make any headway against the experts.

  8. Phier says:

    Relatedly, BioWare Montreal’s Manveer Heir made a passionate plea for videogames to be braver in their treatment of prejudice.

    Uggh, great, nothing I love more than being preached to in real life is being preached to in video games. Its one thing to include it because its fits the story, but its completely another to force it into the story just to include it. No, just no please.

    • GameCat says:

      I have exactly the same problem with “omg you should include male/female/gay/lesbian/LGBT/black/asian/eskimo/midget characters in your game because they are X% of overall world’s population and it’s just wrong to not have ALL of them”.

      • SuicideKing says:

        I don’t think anyone’s saying you should have all of them. But I think most people are now tired of all male characters, because even a fictitious world becomes much more believable when you have more than a standard American soldier with an African-American sergeant.

        Even something as simple as Borderlands 2 recognizing that a man can have a husband and a woman can have a wife in an random back-story related dialogue goes a long way.

        Or the fact that in FreeSpace games, you have a pretty equal mix of male and female pilots, and some ship captains or squad leaders are female as well. I believe even one of the Admirals or Rear Admirals were women too, not sure. Anyway, it seems natural. As opposed to Arma 3, which would suggest that all Altis and Stratis inhabitants are male.

        This attitude of tolerance and inclusion gets passed on to their communities, and again I’d point to the FS2 SCP community. Everyone’s civil and well behaved, and the campaigns they make have a healthy representation of different sexes and involve more complex thought processes with regards to personal interaction.

        Best example i can think of are the Blue Planet campaigns, especially War In Heaven (female protagonist, and her story).

        • Phier says:

          If anything minorities are over represented in the CODish games out there compared to actual statistics these days. The average gamer is still a white male in the US between the ages of old enough to hold a controller to 45. If you want me to identify with a character isn’t not going to be a Asian transexual drag queen.

          This doesn’t mean I want all my games to be white bread, but I don’t want to feel forced into it either. While I find the “female armor” syndrome laughably sexist pandering to the above target audience, I don’t want to be taught a lesson in diversity when I’m just there to kill aliens and save the planet.

          • DiamondDog says:

            “I don’t want to be taught a lesson in diversity when I’m just there to kill aliens and save the planet.”

            Well, tough shit. Things are changing with or without your consent.

          • Gap Gen says:

            Note that few of the players are soldiers either, and yet they have no trouble identifying with frontline troops in that setting. Fiction often takes place in environments that the audience isn’t familiar with, and that’s great. Like you say, you’re there to shoot aliens, not fill out forms and eat cereal.

          • pepperfez says:

            Asian transexual drag queen
            Fuck this line. The idea that there’s some slippery slope from not insisting on every character being a straight white dude to every character being a collection of tokenisms is just dumb and terrible.

            Note that this isn’t an attack on you, just that particular argument-shaped thing. It makes me furious every time.

          • Dances to Podcasts says:

            So you want to see certain people in games because it appeals to the certain people who play so that only these certain people will want to play and then demand to see these certain people in games? Seems kinda… circular.

          • JamesTheNumberless says:

            Circular is a good word for it, “incestuous” and “masturbatory” are even better words.

          • Jac says:

            Agreed I’d give circular a 5/10. Masturbatory is definitely an 8/10 word on my mind and holds an 83 aggregated score on wordcritic. However if you actually meant it was a better word in the context of the argument then no. No it isn’t a better word.

          • The Random One says:

            The proper word is “cycle”.

            Case 1: Games only have straight white American males as protagonists. Because of that, players are mostly straight white American males, and those who aren’t conform to this norm. The next generation of players are mostly straight white American males and those that aren’t think they should play to this demographic.

            Case 2: Games have a large variety of different people as protagonists. People of all genders, colours, sexual orientation and cultural backgrounds can find a game they enjoy. They feel welcome and some of them decide to make games. The next generation of players are of varied genders, colours, sexual orientations and cultural backgrounds and make games that speak to even more people.

            Case 1 is a vicious cycle.
            Case 2 is a virtuous cycle.
            A virtuous cycle is usually better.

          • Josh W says:

            The real question though, is whether cycles are better than masturbation. Cycles get you places, which is seriously in their favour, but masturbation beats them solidly in terms of environmental sustainability, almost no tools required.

            Personally I’m actually going to vote in favour of cycles, they are just far more versatile.

      • Gap Gen says:

        I agree that not all media has to address all issues. But yeah, it’s hardly preachy not to marginalise half the population. Then you have the issue of when your setting does bump up against settings with things like slavery or bigotry in the real world – plenty of games succeed while not openly addressing them (Empire: Total War is one that comes to mind), but it does sometimes grate.

    • RedViv says:

      Since when is treating representations of people like they should actually be representing people “being preachy” again? Was that decided at the last conference of the ‘We All Need To Be Bonkers’ club?

      • Phier says:

        I’m just here to kick ass and chew bubble gum, not try to solve societies issues by pressing X.

        • RedViv says:

          And a rounded characterisation of the folks in the narrative distracts you from that how again?

          • Gap Gen says:

            Yes, there’s a difference between addressing issues and just cosmetically being inclusive. I don’t see how making 50% of characters female is preachy. Largely because it isn’t in any way.

          • TWChristine says:

            From what I can gather, their argument (I use that term very loosely) boils down to “Now, I don’t think every character has to be white/male..but I don’t want to play a character that isn’t white/male.”

          • Shieldmaiden says:

            The argument I usually see is “This kind of thing shouldn’t matter, there’s no need to make a fuss about it, so let’s make the characters white and male because that’s normal.”

          • c-Row says:

            “Rounded characterization” usually means “not allowing any negative opinions towards other groups” these days, though. When was the last time a game in a modern game setting featured an openly homophobic or racist (N)PC?

          • pepperfez says:

            @c-Row: Open racism and homophobia are big-time cultural missteps today, so of course they’re not going in games. But misogynist characters? Grand Theft Autos’ random trans* jokes? It’s not like the tumblr police have a death grip on games right now.

          • Lemming says:

            I may be giving Phier more credit than he deserves, but perhaps its about a worry that a game will be hampered because they felt a need to include that stuff. I mean, if covering all your prejudicial bases to appear from inclusive, rather than being a genuine foundation of the story means x amount of hours less game…is it worth it?

          • ffordesoon says:


            I agree with you, actually. I mean, there are exceptions, but in general, you don’t see it. And that is something that does annoy me, because part of confronting prejudice is not running away from it. Or, as more “controversial” games do, putting it in the mouth of cartoon bad guys.

            I’m as aware as anyone of the problematic aspects of that stance, and you never want to trigger anybody. I even agree with the argument that people who are discriminated against in life should have plenty of safe spaces to go to in entertainmant. At the same time, the practice of sweeping real-life prejudice under the rug throughout the entire medium is a bad idea. We have to be able to stare evil in the face and spit at it.

            A good example of how powerful addressing this in an interactive medium can be is actually Anna Anthropy’s Dys4ia. Because the player character is Anna, the experience of being called a “man” by people who don’t even mean it as an insult is legitimately infuriating. But it’s the kind of infuriating that allows me to empathize in a visceral way with someone who is not me and not like me.

            I’ve often said that a first-person game where you played as a woman walking home who gets stared at the way most women walking home are stared at would be a horror game on the level of Silent Hill. But there should be a game like that, because if it’s done well, those who play it will be suddenly, violently thrust into the role of the victim, and they will come out of it knowing in some small way what it’s like.

          • Shieldmaiden says:

            I don’t think anyone is suggesting that developers go through some kind of Barney the Dinosaur-level diversity check list every time they make a game. It’s more a case of developers having a bit more self-awareness at the character design stage. If a given character’s ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or whatever aren’t central to their characterisation, just don’t make them white, male and straight by default. Sure, those elements are hugely important to any given person, but it doesn’t have to be a big deal in the context of the game.

            For example, let’s look at Sergeant Steve in Generic Manshoot 5. Sergeant Steve is a gruff NCO with a heart of gold, AKA Template #14 from the Bumper Book of War Movie Cliche. Currently, Sergeant Steve’s squad has all the diversity of the Tory party leadership, so let’s inject a bit of diversity and make Sergeant Steve gay. How do we do that? Isn’t it going to be a monumental task? Not at all. See that reference to Sergeant Steve’s wife, Mary? The one mention to his personal life in the entire game? Change it to his husband, Marv.

            Job’s a good ‘un.*

            *Apart from the essential crotchless leather chaps, but let the art department worry about that kind of crap. ;)

          • joa says:

            You’re not asking for rounded characterisation in the narrative or whatever, you’re asking for characters who look and act according to your view of the world (or worse, your vision of what the world should be like). There are about a billion ways that game designers and writers could make stories about women that your crowd would not like one bit.

            You think that people are arguing against you because we are sexists/racists/homophobes or whatever, but in fact a lot of people are arguing against you because we don’t want your sterilized politically correct view of the world, because it will result in games being dumbed down even more than they are — with everyone being too scared to talk about sex or race or homosexuality in the “wrong” way.

          • pepperfez says:

            @joa: I’m not really sure who you’re addressing, but I’m pretty sure you’re wrong. It’s impossible for games to get more sterile and dumbed-down in their treatment of race/gender than they already are – there’s just no treatment at all. And I’m not sure what that even has to do with getting more diverse casts in games, which doesn’t dictate any political slant at all. Unless, of course, your preferred political stance is to deny the very existence of non-white, non-male people, in which case please leave.

          • Faxanadu says:

            I don’t want my game dev spending time thinking about diversity in his game because you told him so.

            I want him to make me a game. If he wants to add diversity, then of course he can do so.

            But please don’t pressure my dev into doing what he doesn’t want to do.

            If you do, it feels like you’re asking for him to make a statement. I don’t think it’s fair to ask him that. Hoping, wishing him to do that, telling you’d like it, sure. But don’t ask. Don’t make him say yes or no.

          • Shieldmaiden says:

            This is exactly the problem I referred to up there somewhere. How is making a character female, or gay, or non-white a statement? Unless you are a completely blinkered, bigoted arsehole, the only statement being made is “I am aware that there are people on this planet who aren’t identical to me and they might like stuff that I create too.”

            I like to have faith in people. I believe that, by and large, the average white, straight guy working in a creative industry who creates white, straight, male characters isn’t doing it because he’s prejudiced. He’s doing it because he lives in a society that treats white, straight and male as the default and if someone politely points it out and asks him to try and change things up a bit, he’ll take that into consideration.

            So, I’m sorry, but no. I won’t stop asking people to make things better, because that’s how things do get better.

          • Faxanadu says:

            That’s not a statement, but if you ask him to do so, because wanting diversity or whatever the cause, and he does it, then he’s making it as a statement, not because he thought it fit the game… I think.

            It’s a fine like between asking and pressuring. I think that line is constantly being trampled on. That’s why I’m generally cringing every time someone mentions “we should have more diversity in blah blah”. The nice polite asking turns quickly into accusations.

          • Shieldmaiden says:

            What you’re saying about things “fitting the game” is kinda the point. For most characters in games, their gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation just aren’t a big deal, even in quite story-heavy games. And because most of the people making the games are straight, white men, they default to straight, white male characters, even when there is no good reason to. Changing things up isn’t going to make a game any better, but it’s not going to make it any worse and it is going to make it more inclusive.

            I do know what you mean about some people getting unnecessarily angry or demanding though. It’s part of the reason why I think maintaining civil discourse is so important, because it’s too easy for loud extremists to take over the conversation in any subject.

          • Faxanadu says:

            Mmmh. *Noms salad*

            They make the headlines too. *burbs*

          • c-Row says:

            @ffordesoon Thanks for finding the right words to explain what I meant in my initial statement.

          • joa says:

            pepperfez, I was addressing RedViv and a couple of the other people with similar points of views. But anyway my point is that even if you have a diverse cast of people in a game, that won’t stop the tumblr crowd from finding some problem with it. You can see that with a lot of movies and books that have a large number of developed female characters, even in books, films and TV shows that are completely female focused! Feminist and social justice people are still all over them pointing out things they find “problematic”.

            And that’s why people don’t take the claim that all you want is diversity at face value – because social justice people aren’t simply asking for diversity; they are asking for diversity AND for a world that strictly follows their politically correct stances when it comes to what the characters say and do. They want everyone else to adopt their view of the world and their perspective as THE correct perspective. And that’s what many of the people disagreeing with you are objecting to.

          • pepperfez says:

            I’m as annoyed as anyone at progressive bullying, but it also annoys me to see the very worst of yourfaveisproblematic held up as identical to asking for more diverse casts in video games. Sure, there will be people who treat every discussion of social issues as an opportunity to feel smugly superior, but THAT ISN’T EVERYONE TALKING ABOUT REPRESENTATION IN GAMES. So when you respond to people here by complaining about other people elsewhere, it’s like, what can we do? Is there any way you could be convinced that I’m just sick of being a white dude in games as well as real life? No message, no change in gameplay, no bell hooks, just a few ladies and different-colored dudes shooting and robbing and flying around in space.

          • Wisq says:

            I don’t want my game dev spending time thinking about diversity in his game because you told him so.

            I want him to make me a game. If he wants to add diversity, then of course he can do so.

            But please don’t pressure my dev into doing what he doesn’t want to do.

            Do you actually run a game development company? Because if so, then you are of course free to tell “your” game dev(s) what they should or should not do (and they’re free to vote with their jobs).

            But if you’re referring to it in the general sense of “a developer that makes a game that I play”, then I’m sorry to have to to tell you that you’re coming across as a bit of an entitled arse. You’re suggesting that they make games for you and you alone, and that they shouldn’t listen to criticism from anyone else.

            Do you say this to every game critic who doesn’t like something about your game and suggests something they could do better next time / in a future patch? You might want to not do that.

          • Faxanadu says:

            @Wisq yeah, okay, I’ll stop being entitled about letting my dev do what he wants (which means I’ll let my dev do what he wants) and the diversity-people will stop expressing their entitlement towards diversity. *pptffshthth*

            Can you hear that? That is the sound of a thousand entitled arses coming your way. They’re right behind you.

            This is to say, that while critique is fine, this is a topic where the way it’s presented is 9/10 times from the gutter. Not on RPS though, yay! *<:3

          • Wisq says:

            No, what I hear is the typical response of most gamers when faced with complaints that their hobby might be racist/sexist/homophobic/etc.: They just want to shut down the discussion and pretend everything is just fine and could we all please just stop talking about this.

            See also: Accepting the Isms

          • Faxanadu says:


            What do you expect when one of the most popular ways of pushing the diversity agenda has been bans and censorship.

            Fighting fire with fire.

          • Wisq says:

            Please point me to a single game, movie, show, or book that has been banned or censored anywhere in the West (NA+EU) solely because the protagonist was straight, white, and/or male (alone or in any combination).

          • Faxanadu says:

            I can point out none, thank God for that – and I credit solely not giving in to the nonsense.

            While in real life, the diversity agenda has banned hundreds of things. Just last month in my country they banned some candies because they were racist. Before that a combination of coloring in clothes. Each thing more insane than the last.

            Video: Acknowledge sexism etc. all you want, so long as anyone can still buy the naked Torso in Left 4 dead. You aren’t gonna take anything away, right? Right…

          • Wisq says:

            I take it you’re referring to the licorice candies that Haribo stopped selling (note: not “banned”) in January? Because Haribo decided that enough people were bothered by them that they shouldn’t sell them.

            And I guess that means that when publishers refuse to publish games with female protagonists because “they won’t sell”, then we could also say that straight white male culture has “banned” female PCs in games. Because, you know, deciding not to sell something is the same as banning it now!

            Funny how muddying the terminology can cut both ways.

          • Faxanadu says:

            No, not that case, a local one but pretty much identical, and yes, I did muddy “ban” because in effect it’s the same damn thing. You just muddied “stop selling” with “they won’t sell” – they didn’t stop making them because they didn’t sell. They stopped because they were pressured to do so. Because otherwise their whole company gets trashed for being “evil” and whatnot. I liked the comparison you made though, very nice. :)

          • pepperfez says:

            Okay, I see the Haribo candies (discontinued in response to customer complaints), but what’s the story on the racist “combination of coloring in clothes”? I am unable to figure out what that’s referring to.

          • Faxanadu says:

            @pepperfez something about blue and black presented some way being some ancient nationalistic group icon blah blah.

          • joa says:

            Well pepperfez I am totally willing to accept that you are not one of these people I’m criticizing. However I don’t think that people like you make up the majority of the group calling for diversity. Most of time I have seen calls for diversity it’s like a dog whistle for a more simplistic morality and politically correct narratives/characters. I’m in favour of diversity AND a wide range of expression by writers and designers, according to their own beliefs and values.

          • pepperfez says:

            @Faxanadu: Surprisingly unhelpful! I’m genuinely curious now.
            @joa: It’s probably largely a matter of where you’re looking, and (as in most things) the loudest voices are often the worst, but I’m reasonably confident that the eternally unsatisfied leftier-than-thou trolls are significantly outnumbered by regular people who just want to play games that look less homogeneous. Look at these comments, for instance.

          • Faxanadu says:

            @pepperfez I can’t remember the exact name and google just gives me clothing advice. There’s plenty of examples though. Last Christmas we were debating pastries being nazi symbols. The bottom line for me is this:

            The diversity agenda is dumb enough to crusade against racist candies. Therefore I give ZERO leeway to them when it comes to games – they just can’t be trusted to be reasonable. That is a huge shame for people with legit critique, but even worse would be, well, “banning candy”.

          • pepperfez says:

            Ah, your bottom line is hysterical nonsense. Fair enough. I think that’s a deeply silly and counterproductive stance, not least because you’re allying yourself with literal neo-nazis against people who want to play as women in video games, but…godspeed, I guess.

          • Faxanadu says:

            My hysterical nonsense is real events from real life.

            Your hysterical nonsense is “this dude wasn’t a girl”.

            You, sir, claim the mantle of Hysterical Nonsense.

          • The Random One says:

            Faxanadu, you are essentially saying “I have a zero tolerance policy for this things, because of these two things I’ve heard about but clearly didn’t pay enough attention to understand them well enough that I’m able to retell them to someone who’s not familiar with them already.” You are making yourself sound silly.

            If you want an actual response to your argument, here it is: If you equal a company making something including a nonwhite or nonmale character to be censorship, since it means that the designers created a character that they didn’t want to create or changed a character from the way they intended to, them it’s impossible to tell how many times the straight white male paradigm has changed a female or gay character into a male one, therefore changing them. Example 1: Remember Me’s devs said that the fact that their main character was female would make devs refuse their game. While they released their game with that protagonist, we don’t know how many devs agreed to change and turned their female protagonists male, or booted them to secondary character. Example 2: Play Costume Quest’s Amnesia Fortnight prototype. You’ll notice that there’s a very clear sense that the girl is the main character there, while in the final game the main character is one of the boys. These are of course very weak examples, but since there’s no demonic publisher to spring forth from the ground and shout about how he hates women, there’s no way to know anything with greater specificiety until somone decides to put their job on the line.

            tl;dr: Pushing for diversity isn’t asking creators to censor themselves so they create nonwhite nonmale characters, it’s asking that they don’t censor themselves so they only create white male characters.

          • Faxanadu says:

            @The Random One
            “These are of course very weak examples” -yeah, just like mine. Look now, “zero tolerance policy for this things, because of these two things I’ve heard” – it’s not two. It’s a BILLION. It’s practically culture in Europe, in all of our policies. I can’t create a cohesive view of it in RPS comments section. I have no english news links. The silliness with the candies, the clothes and the christmas buns, they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Oh btw, it’s snowing today. I sure hope we won’t be discriminative because of plowing big roads before small ones, like last time.

            As for your entire second chapter: =______= -we already went through that above.
            “Pushing for diversity isn’t asking creators to censor themselves” -no it’s not, until you push hard enough. That is all I’m saying.

          • Gap Gen says:

            It is pretty funny how people often can’t tell the difference between censorship and public pressure. Like somehow it’s only free speech if I agree with you.

    • Wisq says:

      Its one thing to include it because its fits the story, but its completely another to force it into the story just to include it.

      The problem is, when straight white men write stories, they typically write stories about … straight white men. That’s who they are, that’s who they hang out with (often due to racism/prejudice/etc. itself[1]), that’s who they know, and so that’s the default character for them.

      If they need a “gangsta”, or a “tribal warrior” archetype, or some other random black-guy archetype they’ve seen in every movie they ever watched growing up, they add a black guy. If they need a love interest, or a damsel in distress, or a medic/nurse, or a hot killer robot or whatever, they add a (typically white) woman. And so on and so forth, for every minority. Pick the character you need, then pick the race/gender/ethnicity that matches that. The result being that their title adds to the growing list of (unrealistic, unrepresentative) movies / games / media that will then help influence someone else to do the exact same thing later on.

      I was thinking to myself the other night about sexism in Starcraft (mainly 2). The only female units are medics and medivacs (typical “women in health care” trope), Ghosts (typical “agile stealth women” trope), and Kerrigan (who fills three roles — agile stealth Ghost, hot alien chick, and damsel in distress). And yet, could I really call Starcraft 2 “sexist”, when it only reflects the sexism in most other media, and in our everyday lives?

      What I could really critique it for is, it refuses to push any boundaries whatsoever. And that’s not in defense of it. How hard would it be to give every unit a percent chance of being male or female, black or white, etc.? Sure, you’d have a little extra budget because you’d need to do some more voice recording and more modelling — but the units don’t have a ton of lines, and the models all wear heavy armour so they can be basically palette swaps. It’s eminently doable, and for a tiny fraction of the total game budget. You’d even get the PR boost of being the first RTS game to do that (AFAIK), and you could feel good about making a game that promotes diversity.

      But, frankly, that’s something I would never expect from Blizzard. Because Blizzard is ActiBlizzard, and ActiBlizzard is run by Bobby Kotick, and Kotick cares about squeezing as much profit as possible out of ActiBlizzard’s games, not about diversity. And adding non-archetypal non-white non-male characters to Starcraft 2 would not only cost a bit of extra money, but might even turn away some of the more small-minded of their audience, and silly things like “realistic diversity” are definitely not worth a few percentage points worth of profit.

      And so, the cycle continues.

      Diversity and eschewing prejudice is not “preaching” to people. Preaching would be if the game stopped to explain why they strive for a gender balance in the military, or if they had historical files saying how horribly racist those old 21st century humans were, or etc. Representing is when they do those things quietly, without making a point of it. They make it normal to see a woman in a combat role, or a black person who is neither a criminal nor a warrior, or a Jew who isn’t trying to horde everyone’s money, or a Muslim who isn’t trying to blow everyone up, or a non-flamboyant gay man / non-butch lesbian woman. Because these are the people we walk past in the street every day, often without even knowing, and it’s unrealistic and unfair to only call them in when we need them to play a ridiculously stereotyped role.

      [1]: edit: by which I mean subtle biases and the tendency towards societal segregation, not outright blatant *isms

      • Shieldmaiden says:

        Well said, thank you.

      • Faxanadu says:

        “when straight white men write stories, they typically write stories about … straight white men. That’s who they are, that’s who they hang out with (often due to racism/prejudice/etc.”

        That sounds a bit hateful, don’t you think?

        • Wisq says:

          Only if you blame them for it. I don’t. I just think that when you grow up with subtle prejudice everywhere, you tend to exude subtle prejudice everywhere in turn, unless you specifically recognise and combat it.

          • Faxanadu says:

            No I mean it sounds hateful because you’d say people do those things because they’re “often racist” which is a pretty extreme thing to say, thus I thought you were being hateful and exaggerating because of it.

            Then again I don’t know how it is where you’re from, I live in Europe and by default people aren’t racist or whatever. I didn’t even pay attention to people being black before someone told me I shouldn’t pay attention to people being black.

          • pepperfez says:

            See, the issue is that it’s not actually an extreme thing to say. Being racist is not identical with being an exterminationist white supremacist or whatever, it just means you make judgments based on race when we really shouldn’t. And that, in most of the Anglophone world at least, is just a function of the society we live in. So when complaints of racism receive indignant responses, it’s pretty frustrating: Nobody’s calling you a monster! Or calling anyone a monster!

          • Wisq says:

            It also goes well beyond the individual’s own biases, and onto society’s biases as well.

            For example: I work in high tech as a programmer. Our field is predominantly staffed by white men. Even the most highly equal-opportunity companies are still mostly white men. Working there, most of your co-workers are going to be white men. You’re more likely to be friends with other technically-inclined people, and most of them are going to be white, too. Our industry may be racist and sexist (and there’s been a lot of talk about the sexist part recently), but I wouldn’t go and say the typical programmer is racist or sexist just for working and living within it.

            The same goes for social/financial classes. I think it’s fair to say that the North American middle and upper classes are predominantly white, and video game devs are usually middle class or higher, and people tend to hang out with other people in their same class — so in NA, game devs would tend to be white, and would tend to hang out with other white people, and this is where a lot of our games come from.

            None of what I said was meant to suggest that the video game devs are themselves racist and so that’s why they make racist games, which would be rather silly and redundant anyway. But we live within and are a product of our societies, no matter our own personal biases.

          • Faxanadu says:

            “So when complaints of racism receive indignant responses, it’s pretty frustrating: Nobody’s calling you a monster!”

            Again, I don’t know where you’re hailing from, but in Europe (and in my opinion, the entire world) saying someone is racist is synonymous to “bad person”, “wrong” and “evil”. There’s no level of acceptable racism whatsoever. And yeah, it doesn’t make discussion easy, so you can believe it is equally frustrating on both sides.

          • pepperfez says:

            So this is an issue in the US as well, but the people saying that “being racist” means “being a monster” are largely racist people looking to avoid getting called on it. It goes like this: 1) Conservative politician says blacks (more likely, “inner city poor”) have no work ethic or family values. 2) Liberal critic points out that that’s a really racist thing to say. 3) Conservative reacts with outrage, says he’s just been accused of burning a cross in someone’s yard, lynching civil rights workers, being Literal Hitler. 4) Commentators discuss whether liberal critic is “race baiting” or just overreacting, racist politician continues saying racist stuff.
            So excessive concern about being called racist always makes me suspicious, maybe unfairly so. But I really think it’s much less of a problem for well-meaning white people than it’s made out to be.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            @Faxanadu: “I live in Europe and by default people aren’t racist or whatever”

            I’m sorry, are you joking? Let me ask you, how do you feel about gypsies? I’m sure you’ll tell us all about how much you love them but most of Europe discriminates against Romany people. Ever been to a football game, you know, that national sport of most of Europe and heard what the crowd chant at black players? There have been more people banned from football stadiums in the last 5 years for nazi salutes in Europe than have been banned for fighting. Scary stuff, but they aren’t the worst. Go buy the Daily Mail in Britain for a week and count the incidences of xenbophobia and hatred against non British, I guarantee you that this paper, historically created to be the official paper of the British Nazi party, one of the best selling papers in Europe will shock you in just how much hatred it manages to cram in and the underhand tricks it uses to make statements of opinion sound, to the casual reader, like fact in order to spread more fear against, well anyone who isn’t carcasian upper middle class.

            I do understand what you are saying, I really do, but I fundamentally disagree with it. We all have an identity, right? You are hearing people ask for their identities to be represented in gaming too and your answer is “Don’t tell devs what to do”. Are you trying to suppress other people from expressing an opinion or criticism that doesn’t match your own? It does seem like you are. People criticise games for many reasons, not being able to identify with characters in the game is but one. Do you wish for people to stop criticising for other reasons too, how about the criticisms levelled at Dungeon Keeper Mobile for being an exploitative cynical cash in of a beloved franchise? Surely the devs should be allowed to make their game without worrying about having to treat their customers fairly, right? Any criticism may cause a dev to change his next game so if you are not expressing a desire for a blanket ban on criticising game devs then you really have to justify why you have chosen race and gender in particular because right now, you seem a little bit too defensive about these issues. Maybe you could tell us exactly what issues you want to allow other people to criticise games about and which they, in your opinion, should not be allowed to, it may help shed light on exactly what is going on in that mind of yours. And if I may ask a question – given that you have spent many hours patrolling this forum, this is obviously an important topic for you. As others have pointed out, the colour of a characters skin or the gender of an unimportant spouse in a game does not need to change anything about the game except for the colour of that characters skin or the sprite that you release from the cage as the credits roll, the type of changes that could make games more inclusive. So exactly why are you so motivated about in resisting this? Would you not still enjoy a “rescue the princess game” if your male character was rescuing a prince whom he is in love with?

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            Sheng-ji, masterfully said.

            Faxanadu. the problem with what you’re proposing is this: It is simply not true.

            Your argument that you don’t want devs to be forced into adding gay or trans characters is fallacious. If you knew a single damn thing about BioWare, then you would know that they have had gay romances in their games for a long time. The first gay male romance, IIRC, goes back to Jade Empire on the original XBox. Before that, gay romances were female-only, but they were most certainly there.

            The other problem is that if someone does make a trans-gender character the lead, people like you will automatically assume this was or is being forced even if it’s not. It’s the knee-jerk response where everywhere that features minority representation is somehow “forcing” this upon people, instead of actually just being prominently representative of a minority perspective. If someone makes a game from a black, urban, Muslim female’s perspective, that’s not a negative. That’s exposing you to viewpoints and perspectives outside of your own.

            Your sense of reality is merely perception, not actual reality. There’s not some overlord of Political Correctness going around and dictating that these artists and story-writers can’t make games centered around white-male power-fantasies. If that was the case, a vast majority of the games would not be the way they are.

            You trot out nonsense like, “But please don’t pressure my dev into doing what he doesn’t want to do.” Which shows that you have no clue about what actually goes on. The truth is that most often devs don’t get to put stuff in because it’s deemed to be too charged.

            Former Black Isle devs have talked about how they couldn’t have gay romances with males in Baldur’s Gate 2 because Atari was worried about backlash. But, for some reason, Atari would allow gay female romances. And that was hardly the first time something like that has happened. Publishers have been yanking content like that for years, worried that people would get upset if there were openly gay characters or that the predominantly male-driven video game audiences wouldn’t connect with a female protagonist.

            What you’re asserting, by and large, isn’t true. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. There may be some cases where what you’re alleging has happened, but it is an extreme outlier.

        • Josh W says:

          Change “often” to “sometimes” and I think you’ll solve most of the problem with that phrase. Because loads of people hang out only with similar people because they live in small towns where there’s only so much diversity possible in the population. If they then go on to do hobbies that self select for people who’ve done them before, then they can continue to bring those differences of community into a different space.

          And even prejudicial ignorance can come not from previous prejudice, or from intentional conditioning towards racism, but from meeting one or two people who are different from you in a particular way and over-generalising. I know a lovely old man who was a little suspicious of sikhs, because he met 2 people who were sikhs and treated him rudely, and so he thought it might be a shared trait. He was totally wrong, but he felt he was a good judge of character, and so we’d have to get him to meet any of the millions of polite sikhs there are before he would see that he was wrong.

          Loads and loads of prejudice and social division can be spontaneously generated by incomplete experience and stubbornness. In fact, loads of resistance to perfectly sensible things comes from the same place, “I’m from a little town where none of this a problem, but you weird city or academic people talk about this all the time, you must be out of your minds.”

          Some people have habits that lead to limited circles of experience, and an even smaller group of those people dislike people with a broader circle of experience telling them they don’t know what they are talking about, and resist it on principle. And an overlapping group are actually ideologically racist.

          The problem is when people who have a city, locally diverse or academic background conflate all of these categories.

          Edit- As the original post now has an edited note, I’ll add one of my own as well; you caught it, no disagreement from me there at all.

      • joa says:

        This is exactly what I have a problem with. I’m all for diversity but not if that just means inserting women or gay men or whatever into the straight white male role. Instead of just randomly having a woman being a soldier – why not examine why women may not want to be in combat roles? Instead of making the gay man totally non-flamboyant, why not explore why a gay man may identify more with that kind of flamboyant stuff than with typical straight guy things? Same with a butch lesbian woman.

        Turning everyone’s personalities into amorphous politically correct blobs is just crap. Like we’re so into busting stereotypes everyone just acts like a straight white guy – the fuck is that shit?

        • pepperfez says:

          It’s not like the straight white guys in games really act like straight white guys, though – they act like videogame characters, which are totally unlike any actually existing human demographic. So given that, why not make videogame characters with various superficial attributes? That doesn’t take anything away from the status quo.

          • joa says:

            I don’t know – video game characters are often very bland but they still inhabit somewhat recognizable roles. The gruff marine with his band of buddies is a male role — it is meaningful that these guys are men — their interactions and their motivations are fundamentally male in nature, even if they might be stereotypes we’ve seen a million times already and are thus boring.

            If you simply replace one of these guys with a chick and she’s got exactly the same dialog and so on, then you lose a layer of meaning there. Why is she just acting like one of the guys? Why do the other guys just treat her like one of the guys? How does she feel about that? If the characters are to be convincing these questions need to be addressed – likely the character needs to be rewritten and other characters’ relationships with her need to be changed too. So games that are diverse need to actually look at sex and race and how that divides people.

          • pepperfez says:

            I guess I just disagree with that. Hell, there are at this moment actual, literal women with assault rifles and body armor conducting actual, literal manshoot operations alongside men. Sure there’s conversation to be had about the gender dynamics of that situation, but not while the shooting is going on and most likely not by the participants.

          • joa says:

            Right but most characterisation is not going on while the characters are shooting people. When the soldiers are not in a direct firefight or whatever, the way they interact together is going to be different based on their gender (and of course like a billion other things). But gender is a very big divider for people, the way they act and the way they relate to each other. It’s like you say – gender dynamics. If the way the characters are written completely ignores gender dynamics it’s going to come off unconvincing and the characters are going to seem flat.

            The way I interact with my female friends is quite a bit different to how I interact with my male friends. If you “replayed” a scene of a bunch of friends hanging out and started swapping people’s genders at random, the whole thing would come off really weird. I think if writing is to be effective it has to capture this, it has to recognise gender, sex, race, sexual orientation and so on and how that actually changes the way people behave.

          • pepperfez says:

            I don”t know, don’t you ever hang out with women and not care about or even much notice gender differences at all?

            Alternatively, a huge number of games take place in totally unrealistic worlds where most of our preexisting knowledge about the world is wrong. Why must the finer points of gender norms be ever constant?

            Either way, I just don’t see this as an onerous burden inflicted on developers. Women aren’t so alien that giving them believable roles will suck up a studio’s resources.

          • The Random One says:

            @joa: I think you’re taking your own personal stance and applying it to everyone, erroneously. I assure you that I treat my female friends the same way I treat my male friends.

      • bigjig says:

        “That’s who they are, that’s who they hang out with (often due to racism/prejudice/etc. itself[1]), that’s who they know, and so that’s the default character for them.”

        You do realize that black people mostly hang out with black people, Asians with Asians, latinos with latinos etc. etc., right? But no apparently only white people are the racist ones.. Seriously, fuck you.

        • Wisq says:

          One: Read the note at the end (which I know existed when you replied, because you quoted the reference to it). Also read the discussion above if that’s still not clear enough.

          Two: If video game devs were primarily black people, I would be talking about how black people primarily hang out with black people. They aren’t, so I’m not. But hey, thanks for supporting my post by agreeing with me that people tend to hang out with people of their own race.

          • pepperfez says:


    • weary ghoul says:

      Eh, depends how it’s done. If it’s done naturally and thoughtfully and makes the game better for it then I think more diversity in the pretty un-diverse AAA video game landscape is a very good thing. I don’t know about you but I find grizzled white male soldier guy pretty boring at this point. It’s not that that trope needs to be banned or anything, but giving us more variety would be welcome. And if that helps video gaming expand its demographic then that’s awesome. Video games are cool and we should help more people discover that. They don’t have to be this niche thing for only a certain audience.

      If it’s just tokenism and sitting you down for a Very Special Episode Level where they deliver a lesson in a ham-fisted way, then yeah, that can probably go die in a fire. It’s not that the message is wrong necessarily, it’s just that most video games are played for entertainment. That’s what most players are paying money for. If they set entertainment off to the side to lecture you about a sociopolitical topic then a lot of people are going to feel tricked and I can’t really blame them.

      • pepperfez says:

        But that last paragraph is unnecessary because nobody is asking for that. The stereotype of humorless social justice warriors who hate fun and only care about lectures is the very strawest of persons.

        • weary ghoul says:

          I don’t think that there are literally NO people like that. Many stereotypes begin with a little grain of truth somewhere. There are always some obnoxious and unreasonable people within any large group.

          But you are right that it is a very common strawman argument to take such people and claim they are emblematic of the whole thing.

          • pepperfez says:

            Yeah, for clarity I should have said there are no people in these comments arguing that.

    • HadToLogin says:

      Just look how bad it’s made in Skyrim. You play as Dark Elf? Stormcloaks hate every Dark Elf, but for you they will make an exception and let you talk with their king fully armed and armored (even if you just run away from Helgen with Imperial help).
      Khajiits are not trustworthy and are considered thieves, right?. Unless they are Player Character, then everyone is at least neutral towards you (even from very start).
      If you allow more then one gender/race/whatever, please make game notice it. Maybe like in Fallout 2, where female character can get Vic cheaper (one example of many where being male or female had cosmetic or more big impact), or as GTA Online, where it’s like every male is “flirting” with your female-character (and one could say this was made in wrong way, unless that was their plan – showing people other side of the fence – my friend stopped playing it because he couldn’t stand all those NPCs flirting with him). And preferably not only like in Mass Effect, where only difference is your ability to either make Garrus or Tali fall for you and that’s it (I know it’s kinda similar to GTAO example, but difference is that GTAO world reacts to your character, in Mass Effect nobody cares about your character outside of few lines in dialogs).

    • rhubarb says:

      Games that have only white, male, “normal” protagonists are preaching. They are telling everyone in the world that this is the person you should want to be, and anything else is a (probably lesser) variation on the original. Nobody wants to be preached to, why should you be the only one who avoids it?

      • Wisq says:

        rhubarb wins this thread.

      • joa says:

        Rubbish. The accusation of preaching comes from the fact that ham-fisted attempts at dealing with diversity and prejudice often end up reducing everything to a very simple black and white morality.
        The straight white male protagonist video games you’re talking about get to avoid this preachiness by not dealing with these topics — they just default to a shallow depiction of the world close to how it is. An interesting game (or whatever) that deals with diversity and prejudice would explore why it is the way it is, and the effects of that.
        A boring and preachy game is one that tells you ‘this is how it should be – any other view is wrong’. You have to let people come to their own conclusions.

        • pepperfez says:

          I think that’s a misconception born of overexposure: Games don’t come particularly close to the world how it really is. For instance, in many games there are colossal alien monsters and magic.
          Anyway, dealing with prejudice and social exclusion isn’t what I’m talking about, or I think what many people here are talking about. We just want developers to reconsider the white male default. no soul searching needed.

          • HadToLogin says:

            In so many books (eg. Pratchett) or movies (zombie flicks, District 8) you have monsters, magic, aliens and everybody and their mothers agree they are perfect mirrors for our world – don’t see why games couldn’t be.

          • Stellar Duck says:

            Pratchett often deals with gender roles and racism though. Monstrous Regiment, Equal Rites, Snuff, Thud!, Unseen Academicals and so on. Aside from that he also spend a lot of time examining power structures in society, socio economical differences, revolutions, traditions versus progress, free speech and more.

            His books can be called mirrors of our world because they actually deal with the same issues we have while also having magic and fairies. In fact he uses the fantasy trappings to do that. Trolls and dwarfs, female wizards, goblins, orcs and so on. That’s his tools for examining how we treat each other as human beings.

            Not disagreeing with you, by the way. Just wanted to expand your point, HadToLogin.

        • The Random One says:

          I’d say a good number of games in which a big macho straight white protagonist punches everyone in the face while being completely unable to have any feelings is in fact saying “this is how it should be – any other view is wrong”, by presenting a single view and structuring their story so that any other view you might think of is nonexistent.

          The difference, of course, is that those games reinforce a common view, while games that go against that are trying to raise awaraness of a point of view that’s struggling to be seen as legitimate.

  9. SuicideKing says:

    I don’t have a ton of games in my library (maybe 20 or so), but the only ones that i’ve spent less than 5 hours playing so far are Gunpoint, Dyad and Brothers.

    Other than that, I didn’t play Dota and TF2 (they’re technically in my library (not installed) but i just wanted to try TF2 out and i’m not sure why Dota is there), and i don’t think i have more than 5 hours of Tomb Raider Underworld. Didn’t play much of War Thunder either, but that’s not on Steam.

    Otherwise, played the crap out of Mass Effect 1,2 , Borderlands 2, FC3, CoD:MW2, Arma 3, Total War Rome II, FreeSpace 2, Halo, Mark of the Ninja, Portal 2, etc. with anywhere between 20 to 100 hours in each game. Probably well over 200 for Halo and FS2. Also Age of Empires I and II.

    So i don’t know what that dude’s trying to say. If it weren’t for discounts or cheaper retail copies, i wouldn’t have bothered with a lot of games.

    EDIT: I think it’s worth mentioning that i’ve completed and replayed at least 80% of the games i own.

    • welverin says:

      DOTA2 is free, and Steam has a tendency to just slip free stuff in there occasionally.

      • slerbal says:

        I really hate that – I have less than zero interest in DOTA2, Team Fortress 2 or any other free-to-play games. I wish they were not in my library unless I actually played the damned things.

        (Not a comment on the games, just on my personal desire to play them!)

        • Wisq says:

          I also have a ton of games I’d love to get out of my library list, or at least hide by default. Mostly things that came with bundles, where the bundle price made sense for the things I wanted, but also came with a bunch of things I would never play (except maybe to laugh at them).

          So yeah. Join the long list of people who wish Steam would let us remove things from our library. :)

          • Jalan says:

            Bad Rats, GOTYAY

            I guess I’ll have to buy it when it goes on sale or something, just to see what has all the kids in an uproar these days. Must be the super next-gen graphics.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Yeah, a “hide from library” option is one of those things it’s baffling that Valve have continued to go so many years without implementing.

            And “install or favourite everything else” is silly.

          • HadToLogin says:

            You can always make new category in Steam and put them there.
            Like I do with games 100% achieved or games I bought in bundles and won’t ever touch (or touch again).

  10. welverin says:

    i) I like Veronica Mars and haven’t seen the film yet

    Well, what are you waiting for? Get on it already, it’s good and there are heap loads of ways to do it digitally.

    Maybe you’re even lucky enough to have a theater nearby to see it on a big screen, which i was not.

  11. smokiespliff says:

    Thanks for the links Graham, good job. Sunday morning hangovers are always a bit easier :)

    I kinda miss Jim’s music tho…

  12. Gap Gen says:

    How are people finding PA these days? I bounced off an early alpha; too hard to figure out where everything is and micro/macro at the same time on several spheres at once. Curious to see if that’s changed.

    • subedii says:

      Better now.

      The option to pole-lock the camera is a big help (basically you rotate around the planet, but your screen is always oriented with the North pole being at the top).

      There’s also a ‘minimap’ which is actually a picture-in-picture mode. You mouse over it and you can do all the regular things that you can do with the “main” map (change the view, issue orders etc.), which can be useful for keeping tabs on things. You can also click the corner button to “swap” views, so the minimap becomes the main and vice-versa.

      Also, when you get a notification (something under attack, structure completed etc.), mousing over the notification message brings up another P-in-P window showing what you got the notification for. Pretty handy.

      That said, I think there are still improvements that could be made to overall readability and awareness. But it’s made some good headway so far. I would also recommend learning the commands to set camera bookmarks so that you can instantly zoom between planets and other specific locations when necessary.

      Finally: if you’re playing the AI, play it on Easy, at least until you get used to everything. Seriously, it it NOT playing around.

  13. TreuloseTomate says:

    I don’t get the mindset of buying games (at full price) and not finish them, or even worse, just play 10 minutes then uninstall. Maybe it’s because I’m not rich, but if I buy a game, I want to see the ending – maybe even more – unless it turns out to be really bad. I don’t think there are only bad games in Cliff’s steam library…

    • Wisq says:

      There’s an old adage (dunno source) that when we’re young, we have plenty of time and not enough money; and that as we get older, we end up with plenty of money and not enough time. (Up until retirement, at least.)

      Games are worth a lot more to people when they can’t afford a lot of games (so each game is precious), and yet have a lot of time to kill (so each game needs to last a while). I’ve experienced this twice: As a kid, and when I was between jobs. Both times, I ended up playing some games I probably wouldn’t have played in hindsight — particularly some pretty crappy MMOs, during the latter.

      The between-jobs part was particularly enlightening, because by the end, I had started pirating games (sadface) due to lack of cash. And it was actually rather amazing to me how much less value I put on those pirated games than the ones I bought. I could throw them away in an instant if they weren’t to my liking, or fire up some heavy duty hacking and just breeze through them to see the story, etc. (I think “you get what you pay for” has a second meaning, which is that we can extract more perceived value out of something that we paid a lot for.)

      These days, I have plenty of cash to buy games, and not enough time to play them. I also have lots of biases — particularly, older games that I felt did things “right”, which makes it hard when I see a more modern game do it “wrong”. And finally, I also have a soft spot in my heart for indie game developers (who I feel are the real future of the games industry, not this unsustainable AAA stuff) and want to support them.

      So I end up buying a lot of indie bundles just to play a game or two, or buying a multiplayer game just to play a few rounds with my friends at a LAN party, or doing Kickstarters and Early Access even for things I don’t plan on playing until they’re done, if they ever get done. I’ve even bought entire publisher bundles when they came with enough games to make them worthwhile, with the result that I’ve ended up with a lot of pretty crappy back-catalogue titles on my Steam list.

      And this is how I ended up with ~500 games on my Steam list — and how, when someone recommends a title and I go to buy it on Steam, more often than not, I discover that I already own it (to my amusement). I couldn’t say offhand how many I’ve actually played or finished, but I know there are a lot I’ve never touched, or never played more than a few minutes. But so long as I keep getting the games I want, I don’t mind throwing a wide net and catching a few more than I need.

  14. Rizlar says:

    Manveer Heir has it right. We need more representation of different people in all media. I don’t even care if the games contain deep social insight, but we really need more diverse casts.

    Was thinking about this just the other day, when there was a news article about skin-whitening products being sold in the UK. It’s no wonder people have a fucked up self-image when they are surrounded by media that almost exclusively focuses on white characters. Not just games but film, tv, publishing are all responsible. They are probably all pro-diversity in principle, but the default setting is still ‘white male’ and it requires conscious effort to make anything different.

    Like the little girl picking out the white Barbie as the ‘good’ one, or the student at Oxford being asked if he sells cocaine because of his skin. We need more representation of different people.

    The last game I played with a largely black cast was Patapon and that is not even a joke.

    • pepperfez says:

      And the worst part is that more diverse casts cost nothing at all. Like, as much as Whiteman Hatetroll likes to say “lol black eskimos where does it end,” just making your gruff shooting dude have non-White features requires…one facial model, just like you were going to make anyway. You’ve got a big guy and a small guy, why not a big guy and a lady? It’s just so easy.

    • SuddenSight says:

      I would actually take your argument further. We need more diverse casts and *less* moral hammering about diversity (in-game, that is).

      The way most games (especially big AAA games) deal with moral quandaries is horribly ham-fisted. I can’t fault them for trying, but if every minority character comes with a morality sub-plot it becomes almost as annoying as not having the character at all.

      And honestly, how many AAA games would change in the slightest if you swapped out the white male lead with a black female (or anything else)? I’m talking about games like Deus Ex, Assassin’s Creed (surely there are female ancestors too), Call of Duty, and the Last of Us. You could easily rewrite any of those games to have a lead with a different gender/race/sexuality without even changing the main storyline in the slightest. It would be nice to see developers try a little more variety – it would help their game stand out too! For example: Faith from Mirror’s Edge is easily recognizable, even though her characterization in-game is rather slight.

      • Wulfram says:

        Well, Assassin’s Creed did have Aveline in Liberation

      • Wisq says:

        I think my favourite game to date that “dealt with” diversity in a non-ham-fisted way was Borderlands 2. The protagonists were diverse; between the two games (with DLC), there were three white men, one black, two Hispanic, three (white) women, and an unknown/robot/alien/something; the only possible criticism there would be a lack of minority women. The women were powerful and could hold their own, and one was huge and not ashamed of it whatsoever. There were, on one occasion each, a casual reference to a man’s husband and to a women’s wife, with nothing made of it beyond that. One mission had a clan war between a group of rednecks and a group of Irish, with both sides resorting to equally brutal strikes and you having to choose one in the end, with zero favouritism shown to either side.

        Possibly the most “direct” approach was when a mission had you (inadvertently, via following intentional orders) take out a blatantly (and comically) misogynist town member with a large artillery cannon. And even there, it was presented mainly as comedy and a side-effect of the mision, where the woman town leader was trying to protect the town by constructing a shield and the offending member was just being a general unappreciative jackass on the radio (in an increasingly over-the-top way).

        All this from a studio based in Texas, which (to my admittedly foreign understanding) is not hugely progressive as U.S. states go. And yet, when I compare them to, say, BioWare — based out of Canada, which (in my limited experience) tends to be fairly progressive on matters of diversity — all of BioWare’s attempts at any sort of social commentary tend to be utterly ham-fisted, preachy, often verging on cringe-worthy. (That’s on top of their ridiculous idea of “romance”, which actually does more harm by encouraging the gross “if I’m nice to them they are required to have sex with me” PUA mentality than any benefit they might create by their inclusion of gay “romance” options.)

        I guess what I’m saying is, BioWare is stuck in the old Star Trek ways, where all social commentary must be a blatant and preachy lesson on some issue that mirrors our own reality. Whereas Borderlands 2 is much more of a modern series like, say, Continuum (where they feel free to casually drop in a reference to a woman’s wife) or Firefly (where they acknowledge that a future sci-fi culture is just as likely to be Chinese as it is American).

        Ultimately, both appoaches have their merits, but I think we’ve reached a point where people are tired of being preached at, and the more subtle “diversity by example” approach is called for, instead.

        (In fact, it could be perhaps argued that even ST:TOS’s “diversity by example” had more of an impact than their actual direct preaching attempts.)

    • Geebs says:

      Not to prevent you from expressing your white guilt or anything, but skin lightening creams (while they make me feel extremely pissed off for reasons beyond the cultural) are not your fault, not white people’s fault for existing and not the fault of video games. They’ve been around a lot longer than that.

      I’m all in favour of inclusiveness, though; especially when it is done well enough to fly under the radar of, and hopefully modify the opinions of, people who would otherwise object on the basis of bad principles.

      • pepperfez says:

        I’m largely in agreement on diversity in games being best when it’s low-key, but I honestly don’t think anyone should be concerned about the reactions of the internet rage addicts offended by the existence of estrogen and melanin. If they don’t mind, fine. If they do, to hell with ’em. Start making games for the majority of sensible people instead.

    • therighttoarmbears says:

      I rather agree with you. I’ve recently (for various personal reasons that I never would have anticipated as a younger man) found myself wondering about the difficulties of growing up in a minority. Do you know how hard it is to find a kids’ movie (that’s actually really, really good) with strong minority role-model major characters? It’s bloody hard. For the last few days I’ve been looking at all my favorite movies (side note: I realize movies are not games, it’s just been a striking realization for me and I’m letting it out on the internet, oops) and they’re all about white people. Which suddenly makes me sad. Anybody got good suggestions? Looking for “Up” and Pixar caliber stuff, ya know?

      • SnoozeFest says:

        Not on the same quality level as “Up”, but I quite enjoyed The Princess and the Frog when it was on TV; saying that I have no kids so didn’t feel the need to really analyse it very deeply to make sure it has no subliminal “Disney princess” messages.

  15. wu wei says:

    Forget Rare, I still miss Ultimate Play the Game. The saga of Sabreman has never been completed.

    [Rare have] been rumoured for several years to be developing a racing game based on the Ultimate/Rare universe titled Sabreman Stampede.

    I take it all back, let them die.

  16. derbefrier says:

    So I have a couple hundred games in my steam library. There are quite a few that I haven’t played for an hour and probably a couple i haven’t even installed. The ones haven’t installed are from bundles i bought for other games and the ones I only played an hour or less just were not good enough to keep me playing any longer. I hate to break to these people but with so many games out there your game better be good or it not gonna last long on my harddrive. I have a decent amount of disposable income. This isnt the 90s anymore were i only might get 2 or 3 games a year( birthday, Christmas, and a random purchase). Also If you show me your full hand in 30 minutes. It better be the best damn 30 minutes of my life or I will move on to something else. A lot of games I play I tend to get bored with quickly. The story is usually not engaging, the mechanics while maybe done well have been done a billion times before which leaves me feeling like generic indie platform game number 10475 or generic first person shooter 6849 is just that, generic. so here’s the thing. If i am playing your game and 30 minutes in I feel like I have already seen everything the game has to offer, you are doing something wrong. this may not be the most eloquent want to put it but its the truth, at least from my perspective.

  17. Lemming says:

    Am I the only one annoyed that the PC Gamer PA article keeps talking about things being ‘like SupCom’ and not TA?

    • BadBannana says:

      That’s because the guy who made the AI for Planetary Ann….Ana…thingy, was also the AI manager for Supreme Commander

    • LionsPhil says:

      Eh, at least in this instance it’s a fair lineage. I know some people prefer TA to SupComm, but I haven’t seen many who consider it a gross betrayal of its principles or anything; it was a pretty reasonable newer-and-bigger version of it.

      • Lemming says:

        Well my point being PA’s pitch was based on the premise that SupCom lost something that TA created. It’s meant to be a modern continuation of TA’s lineage despite SupCom, not because of it. Yes there are team members who worked on both, but TA is the driving force here, rather than SupCom.

  18. gwathdring says:

    Magazines are great, but I don’t agree that they’re *better* than websites. Anything you can do with a digital magazine you can do with a website.

    All the things that make magazines better as far as I can tell are possible in a digital medium–digital mediums can provide for expression, artistry, care, weekly/monthly/what-have-you magazine-style publications, subscriptions, incorporation such that creators are paid from under the umbrella of the website/publication rather than individually, innovative page design (hell, the possibilities here vastly outweigh the possibilities of physical paper of a fixed sized even though there are many many cool things you can do with paper that aren’t as cool in digital form), and on and on. And all of this can be done within the context of a website.

    That said, if you don’t take joy from creating in digital mediums, that’s fine. Not every artist likes (or even knows how to use) all canvases. But it seems weird to me to suggest that websites as a medium are the problem. Websites as a medium are incredibly flexible–far more so than a printed page. And if we’re talking about *digital* magazines versus conventional websites to begin with, the sentiment still doesn’t makes sense to me because, again, almost anything you can do with a digital magazine you can do with a website unless you get really fast-and-loose with your definition of magazine which would make the whole passionate plea for the comeback of magazines somewhat farcical especially given the closing statement about not wanting them to evolve and mutate (though how the metaphor of strapping a jetpack to something doesn’t provide it with all of the practical accouterments of evolution and mutation to an extreme degree is beyond me–unless we assume it cannot or does not learn how to use the jetpack in which case we’re back to the sentiment being somewhat farcical :P)

    I totally dig wanting to take the cool elements of subscription-based mediums like magazines and bring them into the digital world properly rather than half-heartedly. And maybe that’s exactly what the video is on about and it just used an inherently confusing lexicon by switching between referring to analog magazines and digital magazines without explicitly distinguishing between them and WITH somewhat universal criticism of digital and web-based forms.

    In any case I don’t see why periodicals that do all the things the video says magazines do better than websites can’t be web-based just as easily as they can be downloadable/printable and I don’t see why something needs to be a periodical to meet many of those criteria not explicitly related to the periodic nature.

    • Wisq says:

      Yeah, except for the tactile aspect and being harder to pass around freely amongst non-subscribers (i.e. “pirate”), I can’t really see much of a benefit of a print magazine over, say, a PDF.

  19. Wulfram says:

    Cheap games add value to the PC as a platform. And makes picking up an indie from some guys you’ve never heard of a safer bet,

    Though I do worry that the focus on big discounts at sales specifically creates a perverse incentive to keep the base price high. 75% of £20 looks better than 50% off £10

    And I do think there might be an argument for holding off on sales longer, but as a consumer that’s not really my business.

  20. Alabaster Crippens says:

    Because sometimes I need to listen to the Boredom’s album Visioncreationnewsun.

  21. Edgar the Peaceful says:

    I’d just to say how chuffed I am that Graham’s writing plenty for RPS. I very much like his dry, deadpan and unfussy wordage. Hurrah.

  22. Tams80 says:

    How people view sales probably to a large extent stems down to their circumstances. How much money they have, how much time they have to play games, how easily they can go about playing those games etc. I don’t think ‘morals’ play that much of a role.

    I’ve gone off sales. It’s not that I don’t like paying less; I do. It’s because I often don’t end up playing the games I buy in sales. They are often cheap enough that I forget about them, just like I might forget to drink a cheap coffee. This annoys me mainly from a financial stand point. I paid (to me an insignificant amount) of money for something, but I’m not using it. It’s still a waste of money. Further I’m not even bothering to appreciate the work that went into the game. Now I tend to pay whatever the price at the time I want a game is at and play it then and there. Then again I did just spend £600 on a board game and am more than happy with Nintendo’s game prices.

    While sales do bring money to a developer, I can’t help but feel they ‘devalue’ the games as a whole. I think quite a few people come to expect games to be cheap, when they aren’t to produce. From a non financial point of view it also ‘devalues’ games artistically, as they become almost ‘throw-away-able). However on the flip side there are bad games that sales help lessen the impact of. In the end I just don’t see the current sales culture as sustainable.

  23. eclipse mattaru says:

    Here’s a quick solution for Cliff Harris’ dilemma: Make better games. It’s as simple as that.

    If a game doesn’t grab my attention, I’ll stop playing it and move on to something better. Period. On the other hand, I just bought some bundle or another and Guacamelee! came in the package. I didn’t even know what that game was about, I had never heard of it. I gave it a quick test drive because why not, and I ended not playing anything else for a couple weeks. I finished it, I’m going back to hunt down secrets and such, and I’ve been feverishly recommending it to everyone I know like a deranged maniac.

    Unless Dark Souls 2 blows my socks all the way to the sun, Guacamelee! is gonna be my goty for 2014, hands down. And it was all thanks to a sale.

    So there.

  24. RPSRSVP says:

    I thought this was an article worthy of a a Sunday Papers column so I’m sharing:
    link to

    For those traumatized by critique my … links, I assure it’s perfectly safe. It’s an article about game telemetry, amazing how detailed the info is.

  25. harshit2014 says:

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  26. Josh W says:

    Rare, dead and loving it.

    The fact that they are forced into following “where the industry is going” means they will always be strategically at the back of the pack. The games will be well implemented versions of not very original ideas. If you want to make interesting and daring games, you can’t just try to forward project the current arc of the industry, because you’ll just be making the games everyone else has thought of, but only you were in the position to make.

    In contrast, interesting games have a sense of the unknown in them, you can’t OK them on the level of an idea, you have to try them and see if you have something that is holding together.

    In actual creativity, there’s a moment before the keystone of the arch goes in, where the game may not play well, you can think it will, but there might not be an easy way to prove you’re right about that. Once you have that first prototype that’s fun, you can breath a sigh of relief, then go on to develop on it, or find it’s not as good as you thought, tweak it, or do other stuff. Only in actually trying out prototypes can you have an idea if something is a good game, the game has to tell you, and you have to see how many other playtesters agree.

    This is not a novel suggestion I’m making, loads of game studios start with a load of prototypes then see what ones gain traction, some even do it in terms of releasing their prototypes super early and seeing which ones get bought. This isn’t the only part of creative design either, but if you are actually pushing for new ground, you will depend on play, not market predictions, to guide your direction, because the market predictions relate to the situation before you created something brand new.