The Pipwick Papers

Sometimes the regular Sunday Papers boy is unable to make his rounds for whatever reason and the THUNK of a rolled up digital news roundup hitting your screen never happens.

Here, instead, is the Pipwick Papers. It isn’t games-focused but it is still a selection box of reading material. Think of me as that creepy Milk Tray dude, wandering in and leaving a bunch of hyperlinks on your pillow.

  • Ria Jenkins in The Guardian on criticism being treated as censorship. This is a quote from academic Thryn Henderson as part of the piece:
  • “The games industry [has been] insular for so long that there’s been a lot of gravitating towards the same goals and ideals,” she says. “The attempt to discuss or deconstruct that now is seen as censorship – because people infer from that new discussion that they aren’t allowed to like those things anymore.”

  • Game of Thrones got its Season 5 trailer on – to the smooth sounds of Bowie’s Heroes as covered by TV On The Radio
  • Phil Plait gives an update on a cosmic inflation discovery he wrote about on his Bad Astronomy column over on Slate. You don’t need to know what cosmic inflation is (although he gives a good entry-level explanation) – what I found interesting was what he was saying about scientific announcements and reporting. Specifically this tidbit about FTL neutrinos which I’d not heard of before:
  • “I’m remembering the faster-than-light neutrino announcement, when the scientists said, basically, “Look, we’ve investigated this as much as we can, and we know it sounds crazy, but our results seem to say that FTL particles are possible. What did we miss?” They were very skeptical, and were asking for others to pitch in and see what they found. It turns out there was a loose cable in the equipment (yes, seriously), that messed up their timing experiments.”

  • The Atlantic went to poke around Google’s health research facility – involves pills which release teeny tiny particles which could be capable of marking cancer cells which would then be read via a magnetic bracelet. Also features dummy arms made from real human skin.
  • ROSS – a digital legal expert capable of understanding natural language questions – is in development (answers given are not legally binding).
  • Snail facials are a thing. The beauty industry makes this type of pronouncement a lot. See fish foot spas, chocolate body wraps and bull semen hair treatments for further edification.
  • When I returned home, my wife described my face as “different” but declined to go into detail.

  • Magic: The Gathering’s Alesha, Who Smiles At Death
  • Videos of how food styling works by Minhky Lee. The videos are a couple of months old now but I didn’t see them at the time and find the processes involved in making food look good on camera endlessly fascinating. The icecream one is my favourite, I think.
  • Leigh Alexander (RPS columnist and friend) on wearable tech in the form of a vibrating gigantic statement ring.
  • Tellingly, one proposed use of Ringly is “when you’re waiting for him to text.” Imagine alleviating your dating anxiety with a giant moonstone ring. A beautiful, expensive ring devoted to immediately informing heterosexual single women who like flashy jewelry that “he” has texted. Could you sync Ringly with Tinder, so that you’re not always that person overtly checking Tinder at the bar?

  • A selection of music videos which caught Rob Walker’s eye
  • And from the very end of last week, This American Life – If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS. There’s a conversation between writer Lindy West and the only troll who ever apologised to her, a story about an osprey nest camera, and Ira Glass slipping in a casual Taylor Swift reference at the 50:18ish mark.
  • 123 Comments

    1. Wulfram says:

      If you describe something as “really harmful to women”, I don’t see how you can not be in favour of it not being produced.

      • Jamesworkshop says:

        that’s a very awkward sentence

        • Wulfram says:

          Yes, sorry about that.

          Unfortunately, this isn’t a subject where I can write a slightly ambiguous statement and assume it will be read in good faith, so ugly phrasing is unavoidable.

      • PikaBot says:

        I would also have been in favor of the last three seasons of Battlestar Galactica not being produced. Or any of the Star Trek TNG movies. Or the entirety of Lost. That does not mean that I am censoring these productions, or attempting to do so.

      • Pantsman says:

        There’s a difference between thinking something shouldn’t be done or said and thinking that it should be illegal or impossible to do or say. Running around telling strangers that they’re smelly shouldn’t be illegal, but it’s also a bad thing to do and you shouldn’t do it even if you’re legally able to.

        If this weren’t the case, then it would be impossible to hold any kind of strong political opinion without saying that the opposite opinion should be illegal.

        • joa says:

          While the critics may not be trying to make these things “illegal”, they should realise that their criticism often results in very harsh consequences for the people they are criticizing — i.e. losing one’s job, facing a barrage of internet harassment and death threats and so forth. People on the internet are incapable of having civil discussions and respecting each other’s positions; instead we just get internet hate mobs, even if the critics who spur it all off are well-meaning.

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            FhnuZoag says:

            So you’re saying these critics should censor themselves?

            • joa says:

              No. Just pointing out that any claim that critics aren’t out to stop people saying/doing what they want to do is questionable at best, given the trouble that the criticized invariably find themselves in.

          • LogicalDash says:

            What, do you think Anita is responsible for Gamergate somehow?

            That’s seriously the most charitable reading I can find for this comment.

            • joa says:

              No, I’m talking about both sides. Because the “critics” and Guardian-article-writers cast things in such black and white terms and subscribe to these lock-step ideologies, it promotes this kind of “us-vs-them” mentality in the people who read them, such that we get people on both sides organising en-masse to wreck the lives of people on the “other side”. So yes, people who promote such black and white ideologies share some of the blame for that.

            • Mman says:

              I sure remember all those developers who suffered prolonged harassment campaigns and were driven out of the industry and/or their homes solely because someone said their games had some awkward stuff in them.

              Oh wait

        • Wulfram says:

          No, but you wouldn’t argue that telling people they are smelly is dangerous or harmful. It’s just rude.

          Not all criticism is inherently a call for censorship, but sufficiently strong criticism is. Not necessarily state censorship, but turning it into the sort of thing that respectable corporations will not publish.

          Which isn’t inherently a bad thing. It’s great that popular pressure has effectively censored a lot of extremely shitty racist and bigoted things. It’s just hard to talk about it sensibly because “censorship” has turned into a pejorative term and thus is only recognised when it censors stuff you agree with unless it’s as blatant as a prison cell.

          Anita Sarkeesian is right to make the case against these games, but we shouldn’t act like Target in Australia didn’t take the only truly moral cause open to them if they agreed with her critique.

          (I agree with Anita Sarkeesian, by and large. But that’s not really relevant to this post)

          • Hebrind says:

            If you tell someone they smell, in so many words, then yeah – it’s rude. Rocking up to someone and saying, “Phew! You fuckin’ REEK!” is a terrible thing to do. If you ask to speak to someone about something personal and potentially embarrassing, tell them that you’ve noticed body odour recently and point out it could be a medical problem and/or just the need to keep better personal hygiene, then they might be more acquiescent to your request.

            However, with actual criticism over something you’ve chosen to do, such as speak out against feminism, speak out against equality, and purport to be telling the truth and “facts” on a matter, then if someone argues with you and tells you why they disagree with you, that isn’t censorship. It’s someone else having their say, which is completely their right, as it is your right to hold your beliefs.

            Someone out-and-out deleting your comment, or editing your comments to not show your fully intended meaning when you haven’t given them the permission to? That’s censorship. Being called out on your bullshit isn’t.

            NB: I say “your” and “you” a lot, I don’t mean you personally. It’s a hypothetical “you.” <3

      • machineageproductions says:

        Hamburgers are harmful to people. That isn’t a statement that they shouldn’t be made. It’s a statement that they’re harmful to people. Ideally, it’s a statement that, with some further critique and perhaps foundation in studies, should make us take a look at how we consume hamburgers, and ways to make them harm us less.

        • Wulfram says:

          Nowhere have I suggested that Ms Sarkeesian should not be saying what she’s saying.

        • April March says:

          ^^ Yes, precisely.

          People tend to act as if being harmful to women, or sexist, or whatever you want to call this is a binary. Either something is Sexist, and should be shunned forever and if you like it you are a Bad Person. Or something is Not Sexist, and it’s OK to like it forever and if you don’t like it or an aspect of it you are just trying to dig up trouble and are a Bad Person.

          Guess what? Our society is still pretty sexist, so almost 100% of our cultural output will be sexist to some degree. (That’s also true of racist, homophobia etc.) I’m surprised by how many people argue for a binary, because that’s zealot things. There are a lot of works that came from very sexist points of view that could be disassembled and empower women, just as there are a lot of works that tried to empower women but end up reinforcing patriarchal tropes instead. There are works that do both! Culture is complicated.

          So you can believe in something like “GTA is harmful to women” while also not believing “GTA should not be made”. For instance, you could believe “GTA should inspect the way it treats gender so that it portrays women in a better way.” That’s not too much to ask!

    2. Nice Save says:

      “When I returned home, my wife described my face as “different” but declined to go into detail.”

      Ouch.

    3. ribby says:

      Just a point that I want to make about the Guardian article

      “When Sarkeesian critiques the sexualised violence in, say, Grand Theft Auto some gamers think her “goal” is for it to be banned – and they think she has the power and contacts to do so.”

      Surely, whatever her goal is, (publicity and $$$ or changes to gaming) the problem with that criticism is that there isn’t sexualised violence in GTA V, is there? You can shoot any character in the game…. You’re not specifically encouraged to kill sex workers. Sarkeesian makes lots of erroneous claims like that about games such as Hitman- where you’re actually actively discouraged from killing innocents and even Assassin’s Creed. She often suggests that such games are encouraging violence towards women. And I can’t really understand that- because in these open world games where you can kill women, you can kill anyone else too.

      Wouldn’t it be more sexist to make women unkillable and men killable? Not only would that imply that men are disposable but it would further enforce the stereotype (that Anita herself addresses I believe) of women as something to be put on a pedestal and protected.

      • iaguz says:

        Maybe she’s upset that she can’t murder any male prostitutes in that game. You fuck those prostidudes up Anita.

      • povu says:

        There’s nothing in GTA 5 game specifically rewarding violence against sex workers, and there’s definitely no sexual violence.If killing a sex worker in a videogame is automatically sexual violence, then killing a black/gay person is automatically a hate crime. That’s not a logical conclusion.

        The way I see it sex workers in GTA 5 are not that different from hotdog vendors: You pay for a consensual service, your health is restored, and if you decide to shoot the person who provided the service you’re obviously going to get that money back, because it was in their pocket. And you get the police on your ass.

        • aldo_14 says:

          The way I see it sex workers in GTA 5 are not that different from hotdog vendors: You pay for a consensual service, your health is restored, and if you decide to shoot the person who provided the service you’re obviously going to get that money back, because it was in their pocket. And you get the police on your ass.

          On the other hand, some might see eating a hot dog as substantially different to paying for sex, even if the game mechanics are similar.

          • MrUnimport says:

            Except the charge is that the game rewards one behaviour specifically.

      • Premium User Badge

        John Walker says:

        “Surely, whatever her goal is, (publicity and $$$ or changes to gaming)”

        Her goal is to provide an academic feminist critique of gaming.

        It must be most odd to exist in a world where such a concept is unimaginable.

        • Nibblet says:

          Considering how consistently she fails at objective analysis you can hardly be surprised that some people are confused as to what she is attempting to accomplish.

          • Arathain says:

            Objective analysis and academic critique are not the same thing.

            • Nibblet says:

              Never said they were.
              The most important part of any critique, academic or otherwise, is the concusion. To arrive at one that makes sense objective analysis is required.

            • Arathain says:

              But since the criticism of creative works requires consideration of cultural context, objectivity is neither possible nor desirable.

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              John Walker says:

              Oh heavens, who told you that?

          • Det. Bullock says:

            She is no different from any other academic in any other artistic field.
            Right now I’m studying german literature on a manual written by one of the most respected scholars ever and I find plenty of things he writes incredibly facepalm-worthy, even our teacher warned us that it’s perfectly normal to not agree with everything written by an academic, however respected he or she is.

          • pepperfez says:

            Why, she doesn’t even put a sexism/10 number on the games she talks about! How can she claim to be objective?

          • thatfuzzybastard says:

            “Objective criticism” is a shibboleth, and wouldn’t be desirable even if it were possible.
            But there’s a difference between “not being objective” (yawn, whatevs) and “making incorrect statements about the text” (which I’d dock an undergraduate paper for). I have zero problem with Sarkeesian doing the former, but the latter is a problem.

        • Asurmen says:

          Sorry, but where did you get the idea that they can’t imagine that concept?

        • ribby says:

          @ John Walker- sorry, I didn’t make this clear, that’s what I meant when I said ‘changes to gaming’. But I realize that it sounds like I’m suggesting that she thinks these games shouldn’t be made (like the guardian article mentions) which is not what I meant. Gosh my thoughts are muddled now. I originally just had the more cynical suggestion of her motive, but I realize that was completely unfair and was trying to give her the benefit of the doubt with that second suggestion.

          • ribby says:

            Also I said “whatever her goal is” pointing out that that is not the important part. I just gave one or two examples of what people might think her motive is. It was by no means an extensive list. Really there was no need to bite my head off…

            • pepperfez says:

              I think the problems are 1) it ought to be obvious what her goal is (to do feminist games criticism just like people do in every other medium) and 2) the possible goals you list are the ones put forward by hateful cranks, so even if you’re being perfectly well-meaning you’re echoing their rhetoric.

            • ribby says:

              Yeah I was echoing some of the suggestions people have made… That doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with them. I was pointing out that whether the incredulous claims that people make are true or whether she has the best possible intentions, that’s not what’s important. That wasn’t what I was interested in discussing. I added the changes to gaming to make it clear that I didn’t mind either way, so that people didn’t misinterpret it as me calling her out for writing for publicity (which is not what I think she’s doing, incidentally)

              I could have said “whatever her motives, burning kittens or acquiring shrubberies, the problem with the criticism is..”

              I still say that the entire point of my post was a specific problem I had with a particular point in the article… I feel like John didn’t read beyond that very first half sentence where he found something he decided he didn’t like. There’s no need to be sarcastic and belittling just because you don’t agree with someone.

        • Azradesh says:

          John you just side stepped his whole point.

        • LordOfPain says:

          Your continual hostility to any comment that you think conflicts with your own views is a beacon of tolerance. Well done.

        • Reefpirate says:

          One of my favorite school teachers taught me a long time ago that it’s impossible to discern the motivations of people, and therefore it’s pointless to argue about them.

          Sarkeesian’s motives may as well be both noble and malicious at the same time because they really are irrelevant.

      • Morlock says:

        This is a common criticism raised, and one that forgets that the argument is also about who is the agent in games. What is said is that main charaters tend to be male in a this-is-a-boy’s-club kind of way, and if women appear, they are ojects to be acted upon. In that framework the violence against women is seen as problematic. If games had “equal agency” this would be seen as less of a problem.

        It’s good to have a healthy debate aobut these issues, but part of the healthy debate is to avoid cherry-picking fractures of an argument to dismiss the entire thing.

        • Azradesh says:

          Women are objects in the same way every single npc is an object regardless of sex, gender or race.

          • physys says:

            Azradesh says:
            Women are objects in the same way every single npc is an object regardless of sex, gender or race.

            You miss Morlock’s point – NPC by definition do not have agency. There are few games that feature a woman as the main character, and that’s where the perceived imbalance comes from. It’s not just something we see in games. The whole reason this is all even an issue is because games are created by people and the genders of people aren’t equal. People (mostly us dudes) get so fired up about all this because an issue they don’t relate to – gender inequality – is now seeming to invade their happy places they were comfortable in.

            Nobody wants to enforce some sort of artificial balance so that 50% of games are pro male and 50% of games are pro female. What we need is a gaming community that is conscious of how others are represented and a level of empathy. Not all critiques are attacks. We’ve got issues in the community and the first thing we need to know is that we do.

        • Emeraude says:

          What is said is that main characters tend to be male in a this-is-a-boy’s-club kind of way, and if women appear, they are objects to be acted upon.

          Got me thinking for a bit, and I wouldn’t say I agree. Women tend to be objects to be acted upon far less than men (how many women do you kill in games ?). for the most part, they’re not interacted with, period. They’re symbolic representations that have been neither acting on nor interacted with the vast majority of the medium’s history. They’re the prize. You get to it, you don’t interact with it.

          One thing to note, while Princess Toadstool is passive and waiting for Mario to save her, she’s still still the one that possesses the kingdom. She’s still the representation of the pre-existing social order into which males can hope to find a place and succeed… provided they work hard enough.
          A symbolic structure still relatively prevalent in modern games (see Dishonored not too far ago).

          • ribby says:

            My main thought to the damsels in distress argument is that the main issue with it is that lots of games follow the trope . A game like mario is not suggesting that all women are weak and incapable, it’s just showing one situation where a man has the resources and abilities to defeat a giant monster and save a woman who cannot defeat a giant monster. That in itself isn’t bad, it’s only when you look at the bigger picture that you can perceive some kind of problem.

            Buit… I HATE HATE HATE the idea that games (or any other form of media should have to change their ideas just to avoid fitting a pattern. If a game/film/book wants to have a weak female character, so what? I don’t want to live in a world where you have to somehow balance out the amount of strong/weak male and female characters you have in order to make everything ‘fair’.

            • Emeraude says:

              I guess what I was trying to get at is that the “damsel in distress” trope is not exactly diminishing women. And in the measure that it is, it also is to men.

              See, there’s a conflict between male interests (Mario vs Bowser; Corvo vs the regent) but in the end it’s the woman, the princess that represents the proper authority and social order into which the male wishes to subsume (Toadstoal ; Kaldwin empresses), and without which he ceases to matter.

              Old structures. Mandala of the matrix and mandala of the diamond. Enkidu and the priestess girl.

              Women lose individual agency in exchange for an acknowledgment of their intrinsic collective value. Men gain individual agency in exchange for any value they might have outside of the domination structures in which they have to insert themselves to exist.

          • Jim Dandy says:

            Emeraude, are you making the point that individuals of all genders are forced into not-necessarily-appropriate roles by our current model? If so I heartily agree – feminism is important for everyone.

            If you’re saying that the continuing reiteration of gender stereotypes is OK if the stereotype isn’t overtly nasty, then I’d have to disagree. The pedestal can be as damaging as the dungeon.

            • Emeraude says:

              The pedestal *is* as damaging as the dungeon. Simone de Beauvoir had some really great analysis on that.

              Are you making the point that individuals of all genders are forced into not-necessarily-appropriate roles by our current model?

              I’m making the point that individuals are being forced into roles, and that feminism is an unfortunate name, given it’s both sexes that can suffer from that state.

              As for inappropriate, that’s a bit more complex I fear. If only because that implies purpose. And as far as the basic purpose of survival and (re)production are concerned, those symbolic structures have proven rather efficient at maximizing output from the population. So they’ve been appropriate for the survival of the communities that spawned them.

              Equality is a luxury. It may well be a necessary luxury, it’s certainly worth fighting for, but let’s not disregard that if the structures endure it’s that they’ve served their purpose. Still do for many.

            • Jim Dandy says:

              I’m not sure feminism as a term is necessarily divisive. I’m well aware that it’s painted as such, often in grotesque and lurid tones. As a movement (as opposed to a label), I’d suggest that a primary aim is the minimisation of existing divisions, rather than the creation of new ones.

              There are problems intrinsic to patriarchy, which can be addressed in some measure by ‘feminising’ that patriarchy. All humans will benefit from that rebalancing, but the direction that the scales need to tilt is clear.

              Symbolic structures can be useful, dangerous, or meaningless. Sometimes all at once. We regularly* amend or abandon our symbolic structures when they’ve outlived their utility, or when harm becomes apparent.

              Feminism, like many of humanity’s great leaps, isn’t about denying biology, it’s about putting biology in its place.

              *Not regularly enough.

      • joa says:

        I think feminists aren’t actually in favour of absolutely equal treatment of men and women (and I don’t think anyone really wants that) – once you realise that, their arguments start to make more sense. They’re just in favour of better treatment of women as women – so the argument “x happens to men as well, so it’s OK” doesn’t really apply.

        I mean you might hit a man, right, if he provoked you? But you wouldn’t hit a woman; it’s just obviously wrong, everyone gets that (although not everyone lives by it). You wouldn’t argue “men get beaten, therefore it’s OK for women to get beaten too” would you?

        • Emeraude says:

          I think the point would be that neither men nor women ought to be beaten, but that may just be me.

          • joa says:

            Really? Well I would far sooner hit a man than I would a woman. But I’m just crazy like that.

            • Emeraude says:

              Well, I’ll hit both without a second thought, but if going for equity of rights, I’d think one would argue for the better conditions for both parties – and in this case don’t hit anyone regardless of sex seems like it would be the way to go.

            • joa says:

              So a world of pacifism and cowardice? Can’t say I’m with you on that one.

            • drinniol says:

              Pacifism is cowardly now? Damn, I better go out and king-hit some drunk dude for spilling his drink on me.

            • Emeraude says:

              Being, that I, myself, have no issues with hitting anyone if/when I chose to do so (which I deliberately stated in that first post), I think that means you *are* with me on that one (and with allies like you, who needs enemies ?).

              That being said, refusing to use violence, pacifism, and cowardice are three different things. And none necessarily entails both the others.

            • joa says:

              Yeah but you’re a woman aren’t you? So you can get away with a bit of violence.

              But anyway what I mean is men should be able to assert themselves and defend themselves from other men. If you teach boys pacifism and that they shouldn’t hit anyone, regardless of gender, that’s all very well, until someone decides to hit them, right? But men shouldn’t hit women, that’s the gender difference I’m talking about.

            • Emeraude says:

              I am. I can get away with breaking a man’s jaw and nose scot free. Hell, the poor guy excused himself after it all.

              That’s sexism for you.

              And I think we’d probably disagree on the base definition of pacifism.

        • Shazbut says:

          “I think feminists aren’t actually in favour of absolutely equal treatment of men and women (and I don’t think anyone really wants that)”

          Everyone wants that

          Unless you mean that we should not pretend gender doesn’t exist, in which case I agree with you. There shouldn’t be an equal amount of men allowed in the women’s toilet, for example. Labels aren’t a problem, unless you have a problem with labels.

          • joa says:

            I mean that we should be in favour of better treatment for men and women, and since men and women like and need different things to be happy and flourish, we should treat men and women as they would like to be treated. That’s why feminists (consciously or not) argue for different treatment of men and women – and that’s why others have problems with the arguments, because they assume that feminists are arguing from a standpoint of absolute equality for men and women, when in fact they are not.

        • TWChristine says:

          I think part of your problem comes from the fact that you’re making blanket statements. Feminists = this, is what you keep saying, and it’s no different from saying “all feel/act like X.” There are fringe/extreme groups of feminists that DO want women treated better over men, just as there are MRA people that want men treated better than women; but it’s stupid to say that ALL people wanting equal rights on either side only want it for their own gender. It makes as much sense as saying people wanting racial equality want it only for themselves, and we’ll never get anywhere as a species if we keep thinking everyone else is out to get us.

          • joa says:

            It’s not that everyone’s out to get you – but everyone is out for themselves, there’s no doubt about that. That’s just part of being human. The people who spout lofty utopian ideas about equality and so on are the worst for it – they’re just trying to feel important and superior to others.

            • Rodafowa says:

              I think that conclusion says more about you than it says about People In General.

            • Schiraman says:

              Whaaaaat? Are you really saying that people who stand up for the rights of others are the *most* selfish type of people? I think you might need to look at that again.

              And for the record I also think you’re flat out wrong about feminists not wanting actual equality. For example, I don’t agree that violence against men is somehow more ok than violence against women. Both are equally bad.

            • Distec says:

              @Schiraman

              This is an extremely dense and probably uncomfortable topic for a Monday morning, but as a short response to your first question: Yes, they can be. I don’t think I fully subscribe to joa’s stated belief there; this would invariably turn into a discussion about altruism if we were to investigate further. But I have personally met my fair share of “activists” who were ultimately miserable, shitty people. Their interest in equality and justice was maintained so long as there were enough kicks to their egos.

              We would need to specifically define what “standing up for the rights of others” means in any given case. But yeah, not unheard of.

            • Schiraman says:

              @Distec:

              Of course an activist, or anyone else who claims to be standing up for others, can also be horrible and selfish. As can anyone. I’m not contesting that people are people, what I was contesting was joa’s apparent generalisation that *all* people who “spout lofty utopian ideas about equality and so on” are more self-interested than anyone else.

              That’s really just baseless bigotry, and frankly smacks of being a convenient way of framing indifference for the suffering of others as a morally superior position. I.e. “of course I don’t care about equality – but nor does anyone, and at least I’m honest about it!”.

              I don’t believe that. I do care about other people, and I do care about equality. Like everyone, I’m also a flawed and somewhat selfish person – but that doesn’t make it wrong for me to stand up for what I believe in, and I certainly don’t see how it makes me *more* selfish than someone who genuinely doesn’t give a crap about others, or who cares but stays quiet.

      • Alex says:

        The devs “encourage” sexualized violence by building it into the possibility space of their games. Games aren’t worlds in which you have free agency to do as you like, not even open-world games like GTAV. They’re systems, and the only freedom you have is to explore the possibility space they set out for you. The devs expect you to use that degree of freedom to explore the systems they’ve built. So just because they don’t give you in-game rewards for violence against women (although you can loot money from sex workers that you murder, can’t you?) doesn’t mean it’s not encouraged; the mere inclusion of this possibility within the system of the game encourages the player to explore it.

        Also, it seems there *is* sexual violence in the game. For instance, in the scripted event where a woman is being attacked by two men on the roadside, and she’s calling them “perverts,” implying that their struggle is of a sexual nature. You do have the choice to kill the men to stop the event, but what Sarkeesian takes issue with in these types of uses of male-female violence is that the female characters are being reduced to background scenery to make the world seem more grisly. It makes no difference to the rest of the game whether you save her or don’t, and since the character doesn’t exist outside of this scripted event, she is literally defined by her victimhood. Maybe this doesn’t actively encourage sexual violence, but it does send the message that it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, and it certainly doesn’t do much to humanize the women who are victims of that violence.

        • Shazbut says:

          Although, I have no doubt that there is misogyny in the fabric of GTA, I take issue with your first paragraph. Tabloid newspapers blamed Flight Sim 95 for 9/11 using that logic. As long as high agency is being attempted, as it should, it’s going to allow for activity unintended by the developers.

          • pepperfez says:

            Surely it can’t be controversial to hold designers responsible for things in their own games? That paragraph you’re responding to makes absolutely no claims about anything outside of the GTA games themselves.

        • ribby says:

          @ Alex Whilst I disagree with your first point your second point does hold some water, though I don’t think I’ve seen that scripted event. “it certainly doesn’t do much to humanize the women who are victims of that violence.” Very true, but games don’t do much to humanize npcs generally. Because they’re not real people and are quite literally just a part of the background. Whether you choose to help out the people in any of the optional scripted events makes almost no difference to the game world . I don’t think that means the game is encouraging purse snatching, bank robbery or dehumanizing the real-life victims of those crimes…

          Addressing your first point, really the only systems in the game that are relevant here are a) that you can kill people b) that people you kill drop money and c) killing people will get the cops after you. GTA encourages you to do whatever the fuck you want within its systems. It no more encourages you to kill prostitutes than it encourages you to kill people wearing baseball caps, or mow down pedestrians or do anything else. Sure you’re ‘encouraged’ to test its systems, but you have free choice to play how you’d like.

          “So just because they don’t give you in-game rewards for violence against women doesn’t mean it’s not encouraged the mere inclusion of this possibility within the system of the game encourages the player to explore it.” Actually I think that’s exactly what it means… You’re not encouraged to do it. There’s nothing trying to make you do it. There’s the possibility of you doing it. You CAN do it. But you CAN do lots of things that you’re not encouraged to do. You’re not encouraged to drive your car repeatedly into a wall, but you CAN. You’re not encouraged to take artistic pictures of sunsets, but you CAN. You’re not encouraged to anger people and then lure them into oncoming traffic, but you CAN. There are no rewards outside the ordinary systems of the game for these things.

          Things the game actually encourages you to do are things like breaking all the driving laws (because there’s no punishment for that and it’s much quicker. It’s also v difficult to follow the rules of the road within GTA) and killing policemen or wildcats (because they will kill you mercilessly if you don’t). It no more encourages you to kill sex workers than it encourages you to kill anything else. The rewards for killing prostitutes are the same as the rewards for killing people with sunglasses. The punishments are also the same. The game isn’t giving a message to the world that people with sunglasses are just objects, to be acted upon.

          That said I find the whole world of GTA V utterly repulsive, all of the dialogue, the radio hosts, it kind of disgusts me. I think it fails at being satire if that’s what it’s trying to do, because it isn’t at all subtle

        • joa says:

          Pretty strange argument in your first paragraph. Are games encouraging murder by allowing one to partake in it? Do games need to restrict players’ actions to only righteous ones in order to be considered “good”?

          • April March says:

            The closest thing to what you describe is a modern Fallout game, in which most actions have an intrinsic value of ‘good’ or ‘evil’. While the world created by GTA in a 13-year-old’s idea of the gritty world of grownups, I’d still argue it’s better than the strange absolute dualism of modern Fallout. (But I’d also argue that the way GTA presents its world normalizes violence against women in its context, in a way I’d need a lot more words to explain and that Sarkeesian fails to explain, to my satisfaction at least. So I’d agree with her conclusion but not how she arrived there.) (Also, if I used more words to explain, I might be able to refer to use ‘the strange absolute dualism of modern Fallout” as an article title, which is excellent. Not as great as ‘a vibrating gigantic statement ring’, though.)

            • joa says:

              Isn’t GTA supposed to be a cynical satire though? I haven’t played it myself, but I get the impression its world is supposed to be rather ridiculous. A 13 year old’s idea of a gritty adult world as you say. If it was full of positive female role models it would rather undermine what they’re going for don’t you think?

      • wu wei says:

        Sarkeesian makes lots of erroneous claims like that about games such as Hitman

        She makes “lots” of such claims and yet the only instance I ever hear mentioned is Hitman. It’s almost like it’s a hyperbolic position.

        • LordOfPain says:

          And yet a few comments up someone mentions GTA. So how much do you actually hear?

          • wu wei says:

            You’re right, I don’t actively go out of my way to entertain the opinions of idiots. However, when their shrill whining does penetrate, nearly without fail it’s always “like Hitman” tacked onto their claim of so many egregious failings on Sarkeesian’s behalf.

        • ChiefOfBeef says:

          It’s because Hitman, particularly the segment she did of Absolution, was the most absurd to date.

        • Baines says:

          I guess Hitman gets conversation on a PC gaming site because of its PC gaming history.

          Sarkeesian’s Bayonetta video drew heavy criticism from men and women, both for her arguments and multiple inaccuracies and misrepresentations. Including describing Bayonetta as a mother, a mistake commonly made by people who only watched a few video clips of the game or who only heard about the character from others.

          Her other early videos had similar issues, if to a lesser degree. Her critiques routinely overlooked any evidence that would contradict or undermine her claims. One could say that it was a valid debate technique (as I believe John Walker once defended it in an RPS comment thread), but when coupled with her other mistakes and methods, it very much gave the appearance that she knew very little about the games that she critiqued. (Which is very much possible, that she knew very little about the games and characters that she critiqued.)

          I can’t speak to her later videos. I haven’t watched them. From complaints elsewhere, it sounds like Sarkeesian has not improved her methods, so I see no point in watching them. (I did watch part of a post-Kickstarter video. It was bad enough that I didn’t even make it through.)

          • LionsPhil says:

            …routinely overlooked any evidence that would contradict or undermine her claims. One could say that it was a valid debate technique…

            Well, I guess you might if you were an Internet Jackass who is more interested in “winning” than actually, y’know, having a discussion and influencing any opinions.

            • Baines says:

              I’m not defending it. When you feel that you have to hide or dismiss relevant information in order to make your argument, then your argument is probably flawed.

              Doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who defend such tactics, though.

              I remember years ago an incident where a new games journalism follower made something of a name for himself online. One article in particular appeared to skyrocket him to fame in certain circles. It said what certain people wanted to hear, and the guy got a reputation as something of an expert on the subject. There was just one problem. The guy had fabricated supporting evidence. Eventually the guy admitted that he had no issue with lying as long as those lies could get at least one person to agree with him.

              (If anyone is curious, the person above came through with his reputation largely intact. While the article got him popularity and rep, it wasn’t any big story, nor was it a paid piece, so there wasn’t any kind of scandal. The false evidence was only revealed in a couple of forums, and not the really big ones. I would guess the majority who read the article never even found out the claim it delivered was based on false information.)

            • LionsPhil says:

              Yeah, I know, I wasn’t attributing that to you.

      • PikaBot says:

        You know, this seems as good a place to bring it up as any: I keep seeing people bring the Hitman thing up, and if I recall correctly the contested claim goes as follows: Anita said that the Hitman games encourage the player to fuck around with a stripper’s corpse, to which players of the game responded that no, no it doesn’t, that’s stupid because nobody ever kills civilians in Hitman games because the game punishes you for it.

        I bring this up because there is an area in Hitman: Absolution where you are REQUIRED to fuck around with a dead stripper in order to advance in a stealthy (ie correct) manner.

        • ChiefOfBeef says:

          And is that in a sexual way? Is it more degrading then anything that happens to a fully-clothed or male body?

          • PikaBot says:

            Kind of! I mean for one thing, unlike every other dead body in the game which is just a regular character model with the strings cut, so to speak, this is a corpse, rotting pallor and all. And as far as sexualization goes, the body is found splayed out and virtually naked, and if the player has been paying even the slightest bit of attention they know how the dead stripper got there: the owner of the strip club ‘sends’ uncooperative or unsatisfactory performers ‘to Hawaii’ – a euphemism for raping and then murdering her on camera for his amusement and for the amusement of his fucked-up friends.

    4. Premium User Badge

      gritz says:

      No offense, but I definitely prefer a gaming and article focused Sunday Papers to this. A collection of random (albeit amusing) links is easy enough to find anywhere, but I come here every sunday for a curated listing of recent thoughtful and interesting reads about gaming, usually accompanied by some worthwhile commentary. There’s so much gaming content of varying quality released every day that I really appreciate and depend on RPS finding the good stuff for me.

      Please don’t make this a regular thing.

      • iaguz says:

        Well, at least the Magic the Gathering one has some PC gaming relevance, as Magic online and Duels of the planeswalkers are both PC games. Sure that’s a thin connection but it counts!

      • Morlock says:

        I enjoyed it, but was disappointed that it replaced the regular papers. To scratch the Sunday Papers itch, check out
        link to critical-distance.com

      • Traipse says:

        “This temporary change to a free service has resulted in me not getting my money’s worth!”

        Relax, mate. It’s okay.

        For my part, I thought it was good stuff. You be your bad self, Pip.

        • Leucine says:

          Why the snarky distortion of what they said? It was some politely worded feedback.

          • Premium User Badge

            John Walker says:

            I would suggest that, since Pip makes it clear she’s stepping in because someone else couldn’t write it today, that there was no need for any of the comment. It read fairly rudely to me, in that context.

            A better version of reality is the one where someone writes, “Thanks for stepping in and providing us with something to read today, Pip!”

            • ribby says:

              Don’t worry man, I got this

              Thanks for stepping in and providing us with something to read today, Pip! :)

              Cannot wait for Game of Thrones. I really want to see what they change from the books.

              I really don’t think the original poster thought they were saying anything rude though

            • FluffyHyena says:

              She also quote Leigh Alexander, so I got to read two of my favourite writers in one article.

              Thanks Pip!

            • Traipse says:

              Quite right, John; that was a failure of politeness on my part. My apologies for bringing down the tone of the thread.

    5. aoanla says:

      I’m sad you missed the whole FTL neutrinos thing, Pip, as it did involve Jim Al-Khalili declaring that he would eat his shorts if it turned out to be true.

      But it’s a great example of the disconnect sometimes between news reporting (we want new facts now) and science (we have some evidence for a thing, but actually we’d quite like other people to try disproving it first).

    6. thedosbox says:

      LOL @ the title for this.

      Anyhow, I thought this piece on the effects of steam sales and bundles from the POV of a indie dev was interesting:

      link to gamasutra.com

    7. Morph says:

      Some good stuff there, I would like a regular Pipwick Papers! Maybe not at the expensive of the Sunday Papers, but still.

    8. Dingbatwhirr says:

      Thanks for this. As much as I like gaming news, it was nice just to have a list of ‘stuff someone else found interesting’. Quite a refreshing change I thought.
      I especially liked the videos on food styling. There’s something fascinating, yet really quite bizarre about it.

      • thedosbox says:

        I just watched the first video – cotton balls and hat pins in hamburgers! Very bizarre.

        Couldn’t get the ice-cream one to play though – anyone else having the same problem?

        • Dingbatwhirr says:

          Yes, I had that problem. I believe I solved it by clicking on the ‘Vimeo’ button and watching it on there. It’s a problem with the embedding I think.

    9. Anthile says:

      I found Kotaku’s The Secret Douglas Adams RPG People Have Been Playing for 15 Years to be a pretty interesting read.

      • Emeraude says:

        Nice read.

        Thanks for that one.

      • bonuswavepilot says:

        Saw this article appear on Friendface as well – was it really that secret? I’ve had a copy for years and years, played with it a bit to mine it for as much funny writing as I could find (and the text parser was a good interface for that purpose) although the actual adventure gaming of it didn’t do all that much for me…

        Was going to say that the actor calling himself ‘Kim Bread’ who played the bomb did an astonishing John Cleese impression, but having done a wee bit of research I found that it was in fact John himself, and that Kim Bread was an in-joke psuedonym. The whole thing with the bomb disarming was one of my favourite bits of the game incidentally. If you don’t intend to play it, might be worth searching the utoobs.

        • Ejia says:

          The “Secret Douglas Adams RPG” isn’t referring to Starship Titanic itself, but to the forum RP based on ST that was played online by a handful of people.

    10. Tasloi says:

      Regarding the Guardian article: it probably doesn’t help when many of said critics and commentators can barely contain their glee when a game (GTA, Hotline Miami, ..) runs into censorship be it corporate or other. It’s just one example of the highly duplicitous nature of these critics and much of the “debate”.

      • Schiraman says:

        Can you provide some examples of this glee?

        Having watched Sarkeesian’s videos, I found them very reasonable and thought she was always very clear that she liked games, but just felt that it was still important to criticise the elements of them that she found problematic.

        Since that’s exactly what most people do when they play games (I liked this game, but X could have been better), I’ve never understood why people got so upset about it. But then again it’s also what games reviewers do – and I’ve seen plenty of times when angry fans spew hate at a reviewer for giving a hotly anticipated game a lukewarm review – so maybe that’s a better parallel.

      • jalf says:

        Seriously? Who gives a fuck?

        You know what “probably doesn’t help”? You. And everything you said.

        You want to talk about “duplicitous”? How about calling critics “duplicitous” simply for doing something that should have been done 30 years ago: doing actual criticism of games and discussing things that some find problematic about them. How about this desperate campaign to smear her in any way possible? To undermine her work and look for any and all kinds of dirt on her person?

        Is it really so difficult to just leave the critics you disagree with alone?

        It shouldn’t be so difficult. People in other mediums manage it. Is gaming really so full of sheltered broken manbabies who, unlike all other enthusiasts in all other entertainment mediums, throw a tantrum and attack the *person* when they dislike her criticism?

        Grow up. Gaming doesn’t need this shit. Gaming doesn’t need people who look at a woman who is forced to go around with a fucking security escort because of us, because of gamers, because of the shitty community that has sprung up around the medium that we love, and whose reaction to that is “well, she sure is duplicitous”.

        • Tasloi says:

          I think i’ll continue to state my view on these events and the people associated with it. Thanks for the feedback though.

        • Distec says:

          The person you’re making a reference to is not forced to tote anybody around with her.

          If we’re going to make a big bucket of “People Who Don’t Help”, you would seem to qualify as well.

    11. FluffyHyena says:

      Jim and John, can we please have the Pipwick Papers as a regular feature? I understand some readers might see her choices as too tangential to gaming. But I see it as approaching games from other angles, and most important, Pip’s prose is always a great read.

      Since I’ve got your attention, are you planning an RPS book collection? Since you, Leigh, Cara, and (soon I hope) John, Rich have published books.

      Thanks to all the RPS contributors for all the words they’ve put together to please our synapses!

      • April March says:

        Better idea: each week a different RPS writer gets to write the Sunday Papers. Guest and column writers are not part of the regular rotation but are allowed. Each writer must name their column after a newspaper (for instance, Pip’s could be the Pipwick Bugle, Graham’s regular thing would be the Grahamshire-upon-Avon Gazette, etc.) This last part is non-negotiable.

        • pepperfez says:

          I can support that, except “The Pipwick Papers” really needs to stay.

          • Geebs says:

            I vote for an incredibly heavily moderated article about the mildly contentious hot-button issue of the day, called Papers, Please

    12. MistaJah says:

      Why is Google making human skin?
      Of course to build a Terminator, like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    13. pepperfez says:

      Since we’re not stuck on PC games this week (Thanks Pip!), this is one of the best analyses/memoirs I’ve ever read about a game: A Maze of Murderscapes: Metroid II.
      I’ve never played the game in question, so don’t be put off if you haven’t either. It’s just a really smart look at how games can create narrative and atmosphere out of unlikely elements.

    14. kament says:

      I can’t help but think about how this hateful attitude towards critique from a female stanpoint is a shining example of (hardcore) gamer’s mindset.

      For a while I pondereded the idea of it being something like transference, because let’s face it: “We don’t like it, so it shouldn’t exist” is a motto for a lot of gamers. Anything that doesn’t fit Holy Scriptures of a True Gaming and somehow threatens their sacred cows is “destroying games”, and “they should’ve made a movie instead”, and basically anything but civil, polite and reasonable.

      So when a feminist points out something she doesn’t like and deems harmful—not for games, but society, mind—well, what could she possibly mean if not censorship, right?

      But then I’ve realized there’s no need for such redundant reasoning. It might as well be this simple: We don’t like our games being made with feminist criticism in mind, so v.s. Self-entitlement, nothing more to it.

    15. ChiefOfBeef says:

      Gamers are so afraid of debate, they won’t even post comments under FemFreq videos. Yes, I’m trolling.