The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for… I don’t know. We can do anything, can’t we? The world is our lobster, as the saying goes. Let’s start with what we do know, and round up the week’s writing about games.

International treasure Robert Yang wrote this past week about the indiepocalypse, and his points are worth thinking about as always. I have friends who making a living from their art and I have friend who make art in their spare time, and sometimes the latter group produce more because they have non-artistic jobs that spare them from the stresses of living on the breadline.

What I’m saying is: we should try to feel less shitty / embarrassed / ashamed about making no money from our personal projects — and for our own health, some of us may need to start seeking fulfillment (and maybe rent money) in other ways. Working for someone else, instead of yourself, should be totally OK and understandable, not “giving up.” Being a hobbyist should not be a dirty undesirable thing.

Last week Chris Crawford, founder of GDC and quixotic game developer, shared new details of his latest interactive fiction and put out a call for unpaid contributors. Emily Short wrote a post expressing her doubts about the system, to which Crawford has now responded in the comments. It’s worth reading Short’s original post if you haven’t already, and then scrolling down to a post from Emily that begins, “Chris writes:”. Crawford is self-aware and takes the criticism well. I find all of this fascinating, because I am interested in attempts to create better engines for telling interactive stories.

The whole point of the Encounter Editor is that with it I have stripped away everything to the absolute simplest form. Any further simplification would have to remove a fundamental concept. My ambition here is to attract a small group of people who are willing to put up with the intellectual abstraction and mathematical form used in my interactive storytelling technology. I figure that, if I can’t get even a handful of people interested, then the technology is simply inappropriate for people. I retain the expectation that, at some point in the future, the process-intensity concepts that underlie my technology will become so familiar that some future generation that happens upon my work in an archaeological dig might be interested in it, if only as a historical curiosity. “Gadzooks! This fellow was talking about process intensity all those years ago!”

Polygon’s Colin Campbell covered Anita Sarkesian’s appearance at VidCon and the harassers who followed her there. I was particularly fond of the crosshead, “A Pile Of Shitlords”, till I found that this is a term these people use to refer to themselves.

“They can skip right to bashing my ideas, and their followers will eat it up no matter what I say. It’s a losing game. I’m not going to change anyone’s minds debating with any of them. More importantly, I shouldn’t have to debate the fact that I am a human being who deserves basic respect, and in fact that is in itself a core issue with all of this: how degrading and exhausting it is just to have to keep arguing for and fighting for and begging for our own humanity.”

Last year, in the old MMO Tibia, a player finally reached level 999. This allowed them to walk through a door no player had ever been able to enter before – a door that the entire Tibia community had been speculating about for over a decade. What was on the other side? We still didn’t find out; the player walked through, disappeared, and never shared what they saw. Now another player has gone through the door, and this time it was livestreamed. Patrick Klepek at Waypoint has the story.

It’s been almost a year since I started reporting on a mysterious door in the online MMO Tibia, whose secrets have remained out of reach for 12 years. Since 2005, this door has quietly taunted: “You see a gate of expertise for level 999.” Beyond the door is a portal, but no one knew where it went—until now. Last week, someone finally answered a riddle that’s vexed hardcore Tibia players and curious outsiders.

Also at Waypoint, Rob Zacny interviewed Tim Soret, the developer of The Last Night. The Last Night was shown at E3 to immediate praise, but within minutes people had found old tweets by Soret in which he had expressed support for GamerGate and suggested the game would aim, in some way, to skewer what he perceived to be the flaws of feminism. He’s taken back and apologised for those comments since, but there’s a lot more in this interview.

My own… The day when we just had so many articles about the death of the gamer identity. I knew… I don’t come from America. I came to it from a European point of view. And from my side, and maybe I was in my echo chamber, but on my feed it was people just being like can you stop evaluating games on this scale of progressivism.

The Witcher for instance was attacked because because there are no black people whereas it’s a game about Slavic mythology, right? Can we rate games on their qualities and a bit less on… it’s really good to talk about these things, right? But maybe they should be more opinion pieces and blog posts without being games reviews. That’s how I feel. That’s just what I was trying to say back then.

At Glixel, Steven T. Wright talks to the head of Level 5, developers of Ni no Kuni and creators of Professor Layton, about that series’ success and what else they’d like to do.

I think in RPGs, the main part of the appeal is getting that new experience – new world, new story, new adventure. If you bring in the same characters, what happens is you’re forced to bring in the previous world as well, and that defeats the purpose of creating an RPG in the first place. I thought it would be better if we created a whole new set of characters and set it in a different time period, so we can have that element of “newness.” That’s the best part about RPGs – that discovery.

At Eurogamer, Chris Thursten charts the emergence of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds from “the messy histroy of survival shooters.”

It’s hard to draw up a strict definition of these games. There are a lot of them, for certain. They’re the product of the unlikely union of the Minecraft phenomenon and, of all things, ArmA’s modding community: the discovery, obvious perhaps in hindsight, that the midpoint between ‘playing with Lego’ and ‘being in the actual army’ is ‘paintball’. It is very modern, this marriage: impossible without the flexible standards of early access, the convergence of traditional modding and cheaper access to powerful game engines, and the emergence of compatibility with YouTube and Twitch as arguably the most important factor in the success of a PC game.

This letter from the New York Times copy desk to management in the face of staff reductions is amazing.

Music this week is Iamamiwhoami’s Play. Lots more on Spotify and it’s all great.

98 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    The Almighty Moo says:

    Did I miss something or was there no WAYPWTPWT this weekend? Without it, I’m not sure I knew to start relaxing…

    • Ghostwise says:

      Maybe it was accidentally posted as a supporters-only article. :-D

      • Premium User Badge

        The Almighty Moo says:

        Or a non-supported only post…

        • Ghostwise says:

          Or maybe it was a post only for Level Blue Alpha Zed-Two supporters.

          Which you’re not cleared to know about.

    • Premium User Badge

      kwaylood says:

      Alice is away so I guess nobody took over on that.

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Seriously! Where am I supposed to gloat about finally getting a Switch? Ah screw it…

      I gotta Switch. I gotta Switch. I gotta Switch. Ho ho! Hey Hey!

      • Premium User Badge

        The Almighty Moo says:

        Congrats! Jealous!

      • Wulfram says:

        I’ve got a switch too. Its very useful when I want to turn the lights on.

      • jshdhskals says:

        As you’re in such a good mood I won’t feel bad about pointing out that ‘gotta’ means ‘got to’.

    • floogles says:

      Sundays are for reading WAYPWTPWT

  2. Ghostwise says:

    IME the most frustrating aspect of the sort of not-for-income projects Mr. Yang writes about is that it *could* be so much better with a little budget.

    But spending that little budget makes no sense since there’s little commercial upside, or it’s far too uncertain. And thus so many projects remain a mediocre shadow of what they could be.

    Or, worse, somebody torches all their savings on quixotically chasing an income that’ll never exist.

  3. Kollega says:

    With The Last Night, I feel as if the firestorm of current hot-button political issues that the game brushed against due to some old comments on Twitter detracts/will detract from the possible discussion on its actual politcs. Because, this ancillary firestorm aside, they really are quite dumb.

    I mean… let’s take the premise that when all work is automated, and everyone has universal basic income, the rich will remain rich due to inheritance. This doesn’t make sense in my mind. If politics are still a factor, why won’t people vote, directly or otherwise, for redistribution of wealth so that everyone – from the proverbial “white Anglo-Saxon Protestants” to impoverished families from a place like Afghanistan – is on an even keel? Unless those initatives would be systematically blocked despite popular demand, and then that would be a cause for an uprising. Or hell, why would there even be any sort of capitalist economy, at least for material goods, when those material goods cost basically nothing to produce because there’s no labor cost? Continuing onwards, if the protagonist is somehow unable to use augmented reality to enjoy his modern-day leisure, why can’t he enjoy forms of leisure that existed before computers? Can’t he travel around the world, given how there’s no need to earn money to pay for living expenses, and consequentially he’d presumably be able to afford world travel? Or can’t he study and enjoy various intellectual pursuits? And what about creativity? If the situation is such that artificial intellegences make all the best works of art and humans cannot compete with them, why not team up with one? Surely you could find a like-minded AI if they all have enough in terms of personality to actively create works of art? I could continue, really. And it’s too bad that a lot of these questions may end up ignored just because what the creator said on Twitter years ago is more controversial.

    Now of course, that my just be my personal optimistic view of the future, influenced by outright socialist ideas and ideals. But I honestly believe that the ideas that The Last Night presents do not hold much water; imagining that in the future, we will not have to work but will still have to deal with the downsides of being out of a job makes no goddamn sense to me. Surely monetary inequality will be much less of an issue in a post-scarcity economy, and money will be all but obsolete? And similarly, wouldn’t appreciating the wonders of the world be a lot easier when you can spend the majority of your time travelling and learning? Sure, you can go all Brave New World, but is that really the only thing you could be doing in such a situation? And sue, maybe that’s just my overly-optimistic vision, but honestly? Maybe optimism, and striving towards a better future, is something that we all need more of.

    I’ll just get my coat.

    • Premium User Badge

      MajorLag says:

      “I mean… let’s take the premise that when all work is automated, and everyone has universal basic income, the rich will remain rich due to inheritance. This doesn’t make sense in my mind. If politics are still a factor, why won’t people vote, directly or otherwise, for redistribution of wealth so that everyone – from the proverbial “white Anglo-Saxon Protestants” to impoverished families from a place like Afghanistan – is on an even keel?”

      Why don’t they do that now? Individuals are largely rational actors, but in groups people are really really stupid. They’re easily manipulated, irrational, and violent. Look no further than recent elections and the lead up to them to see that. A Douglass Adams quote [One of the later Hitchhiker’s Guide books, I don’t recall which one] seems appropriate:

      ==========
      “It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”
      “You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”
      “No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
      “Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
      “I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
      “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”
      “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
      “You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
      “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
      “But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
      “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”
      ==========

      “why would there even be any sort of capitalist economy, at least for material goods, when those material goods cost basically nothing to produce because there’s no labor cost? ”

      Why do we still have publishers for media? The internet has made the copying and dissemination of information so ludicrously cheap as to be considered free. Yet here we are with a pile of limitation mechanisms and laws and associated punishments to keep us from doing that. A relevant short story [Cory Doctorow]: link to craphound.com

      “If the situation is such that artificial intelligence make all the best works of art and humans cannot compete with them, why not team up with one?”

      What would that accomplish? They don’t need him. They’d be humoring him. Like having your toddler “help” you with home maintenance or something. Only in this case the toddler knows precisely how useless they are.

      “But I honestly believe that the ideas that The Last Night presents do not hold much water; imagining that in the future, we will not have to work but will still have to deal with the downsides of being out of a job makes no goddamn sense to me.”

      Which is precisely why we should embrace the opportunity for a well thought-out argument against our optimism. If we stick our fingers in our ears and shout “lalalalala” and confine ourselves to an echo chamber of people who are as optimistic as we are, then we might miss a warning about a potential danger we hand’t considered and consequently not be able to avoid it. It is my considered opinion that ANY idea should welcome being tested by well thought-out considered opposition. Call it scientific method applied to philosophy.

      I, for one, am very interested to hear what he has to say, if nothing else because it is so different, yet the same, as the traditional punk narrative. Our oppressors this time aren’t giant cold-hearted corporations, but mobs of virtue-signaling echo-chamber inhabitants (one only need spend some time on Reddit to see how this could work). The people live not so much in poverty of wealth as in poverty of meaning. It seems to me to be in the tradition of cautionary story telling: what if you got what you wanted, but it wasn’t everything you’d hoped?

      • Kollega says:

        I wrote an argumentantive comment, but then decided against publishing it. I am bad at winning tit-for-tat arguments. All I will say is this: the trend of being pessimistic and only thinking of the dangers that is quite popular these days isn’t saving us. What we need are not mere warnings, but plans. And while not a lot of science fiction has offered us a tangible roadmap for a better future, rather than a mere picture of a better future, some examples are there. And nothing will convince me that this is somehow less important than dystopias showing us “how not to do it”. I mean, of course “how not to do it” is important, but “how to do it, realistically speaking” is, at this point, needed much more.

        • malkav11 says:

          I would definitely welcome a roadmap towards a better future because I honestly don’t know how we’re going to get there at this point. But fundamentally I think that’s a different discussion than whether the setting premise of this videogame is logical or realistic. And I’m afraid I don’t agree with your criticisms on that front either.

    • pepperfez says:

      The inheritance thing stuck out to me, too. The idea that UBI will exacerbate wealth inequality is…not a good sign for a work that claims to care about political thought.

      • Premium User Badge

        MajorLag says:

        Ask yourself this: Why do we have inheritance in a society that purports to be a meritocracy? The biggest predictor of your future wealth is the wealth of your parents, which is about the least meritocratic thing possible, yet we do absolutely nothing to address that.

        Human nature won’t change just because the economy has.

        • April March says:

          I think there is a difference between UBI and, as you mention, a society that purports to be a meritocracy. UBI would affect Literally Everyone’s life in a tangible way. What does ‘purpoting to be a meritocracy’ does? It might mean that ascending the social ladder is incredibly difficult instead of absolutely impossible, but for most people in the world it does nothing. Which isn’t to say, of course, that UBI would solve the world; just that it’d cause a more tangible difference than just convincing everyone that they can do whatever they want if they put their minds to it.

          • Premium User Badge

            MajorLag says:

            Perhaps my use of the term “meritocracy” is being misunderstood. What I mean is that we like to think that success in our society should be based on talent and drive. You get rich by working hard and being smart, you earn your place in the world from equal footing with everyone else. Of course the data tells us that is totally completely not even close to how it actually works, but we all like to pretend it is how we want it to work… for everyone else. We want ourselves and our own children to have more opportunity than everyone else or we’d turn our noses up at the very idea of inheritance, we talk about estate taxes and they get labeled “death taxes” and everyone hates them.

            It has nothing to do with the “follow your dreams and work hard and you can achieve anything” motivational speech nonsense.

            It is completely and totally possible that UBI won’t work in reality the same as it does in theory. That’s true of anything, and to pretend otherwise is ludicrously optimistic. In theory free markets are supposed to be efficient because consumers make informed decisions, in reality this often isn’t the case at all. In theory increases in productivity due to automation were supposed to give us a 20 hour work week, yet the opposite has happened in many industries. Things do not always work out as planned and it is worthwhile to explore the ways they could fail.

          • JamesPatton says:

            MajorLag: the reason why our society claims to be meritocratic but wealth inequality remains elusive is that society is *not* meritocratic (you’re right on the money there) but it suits the political/business class to claim that it is. So you have this odd situation where our society is profoundly unfair and money is being held in greater and greater shares by a tiny minority, but most people think the world is just and all you need to succeed is to work hard.

            As malkav11 says, UBI would not fix society but it would make it more meritocratic in a very tangible sense. You say: “Human nature won’t change just because the economy has.” But I fundamentally disagree. People’s choices and opportunities are fundamentally determined by the situations they find themselves in, which in social terms means their economic situation. People will be less depressed, more active, will smoke and drink less and take better care of their bodies, will eat healthier food, will make better long-term decisions if they know they have enough money to pay their expenses at the end of the month. In that sense, giving every person that stability could have a wide-reaching effect on the economy and on everyone’s lives.

          • malkav11 says:

            Just wanted to note that I didn’t say that and I don’t think I agree with it. Not sure who you were thinking of.

          • JamesPatton says:

            Sorry, I meant April March. I must have accidentally scrolled past their comment and got mixed up. :)

    • Jerkzilla says:

      Yeah, it’s possible Soret’s idea might have problems, but enacting wealth redistribution policies isn’t exactly straight forward or non-destructive.

      First of all, that would be assuming people with a great deal of influence would policies that even hint let anything like wealth redist. pass. UBI would also seriously neuter any moral or humanitarian argument for it.

      It would be even more complicated should all the patents, human resources and technology that enable automation belong to a private entity. There’s (questionable) ways around this
      , but the point is, UBI does not automatically imply wealth redistribution. I think at least that aspect of the game’s setting holds up.

    • Wulfram says:

      Economic systems tend to serve the interests of those already powerful. And to the extent that our current ones don’t, there’s generally some sort of revolution or threat of revolution underpinning all that. But if all the tasks are carried out by robots then that presumably includes the military, and how will revolution succeed when there are robot soldiers to oppose them, who will never turn on their masters and won’t have any qualms about?

      I agree that some people, maybe most people would be able to find purpose for themselves without work. But I don’t think everyone would, and presumably that includes our protagonist.

      I’m not a pessimist, and I tend to think in the long run our future is more like Star Trek than anything Mr Soret envisions, but I think a dystopian look at the future is still worth looking at – thinking about future problems is a way to avoid them after all.

      • Kollega says:

        To be fair, if there’s an army of robot soldiers enforcing the will of the rich-and-thus-powerful, then it’s more of a generic evil totalitarian dictatorship than a dystopia of “present-day cyberpunk”, isn’t it? And having a state with a fully-functioning capitalist economy but no human labor, requiring universal basic income to keep things running yet still featuring the haves and have-nots separated by monetary wealth, just doesn’t ring true to me. If it’s a repressive dictatorship with an automated workforce, why not just have a good old card system instead? :P

        I think my point is, “monetary wealth inequality” and “fully automated workforce” do not logically mesh in my view. It’s the same thing as with dystopian stories where one corporation controls the entire world, including the distribution of all money and goods, and the terms “citizen” and “employee” are interchangeable. In those cases, the very idea of capitalism and money is just window-dressing, and there’s not a lot of fundamental difference from a Communist world dictatorship where everything is card-rationed and the government/ruling elite decides who gets what and how much.

        So yeah. I’m not against trying to envision where things can go wrong in that proverbial blind spot between us and the future, but to be of practical use, such predictions have to actually make sense :P

      • JamesPatton says:

        I’m with Kollega on this. If Soret’s world has UBI and direct democracy/referenda every single day, surely that’d eventually even out wealth a bit? It’s as simple as

        – “Our UBI is too low.”
        – “Ok, raise everybody’s UBI.”
        – “How do we pay for it?”
        – “Maybe tax the super-rich? They have loads of money.”

        Job done.

        • Premium User Badge

          MajorLag says:

          See, this is the kind of thing I’m talking about. It ignores human nature.

          We have democratic systems right now, today, and we still manage to vote against our own interests all the time. Let me give an example: In Florida they passed a law not all that long ago that required welfare recipients to be drug tested. This was an easy sell, because in the minds of many people drug addicts are undeserving of abusers of the system. Problem is, and this was confirmed after running the program for some time, it costs way more to drug test welfare recipients than the system saved by not paying the incredibly small amount of people who didn’t pass the drug test.

          Look at what you wrote. There’s no reason that shouldn’t be happening right now today. We have a lot of wealth inequality, it’s been growing for decades, and yet here in the US we’ve overwhelming re-elected the party of that favors taxing the super-wealthy even less, and it isn’t that different in other nations.

          Our society is rife with examples like this. No matter what system you implement, people will try to manipulate it for their own gains, they will use hate and fear and misinformation to sway others into supporting their self-serving broken implementations. Taken as a whole, that is people function.

          Believe it or not I’m a supporter of UBI for a lot of reasons, but I am not arrogant enough to believe that I know how it will all work out in reality. I welcome insight from opposing viewpoints for that reason.

          • JamesPatton says:

            Bear in mind, though, the current system puts a bunch of people in power for a (usually) fixed term. The feedback link between what people want and what politicians do is stretched so thin it barely holds at all. You might vote for a person because they’re pro-something, but then they might go against your interests in another matter. That’s not human nature, that’s the way that this specific political system is structured.

            The link between UBI and political progress is indirect, but my basic thinking is that money equals power. The reason why so many people are disenfranchised in our society is due to culture and bigotry and stupid laws and stupid people, but at the end of the day it all comes down to money. If someone earns less money, they have less power. If they have less power, they are less capable of advancing their own interests.

    • Relenzo says:

      I was about to complain about the eternal tragedy of storytellers who find themselves on the wrong side current politics…but I found a serious comment section instead. Good talk, RPS.

    • This banana says:

      Just read your post, and I’ve got to say: You Sir, are a good human being! The world needs more of you inspirational optimists. Only then it may change.

      That’s all.

      • Kollega says:

        Thank you! It warms my heart that someone, somewhere, does not consider hope and a wish for a better world as “something stupid and trite”. And even though I am actually rather cynical (sometimes too much for my own good), I still make myself remember that no – hoping and wishing for a better world is not stupid and not trite, but in fact vital.

    • thelastpointer says:

      A sidenote: I absolutely adore that this game is able to spark such wonderful (and important) discussions like this thread. That alone almost (almost!) makes it a success in my book already.

  4. Michael Fogg says:

    At Vice Waypoint there’s also a good article by Kunzelman about the recent wave of police games
    link to waypoint.vice.com

  5. Chillicothe says:

    Note how Soret is hiding behind the Witcher conundrum (which was solved amicably and respectably). Voila! Now he’s also “under fire for something legitimately normal and defendable”.

    This is a tactic that everyone here must notice ASAP in these troubled times.

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      That Witcher complaint also isn’t unwarranted because a) there would almost certainly have been non-whites living in medieval Poland and b) the devs had no problem using the struggles of minorities as plot points only under the guise of “non-human”. How many Aboriginal people lived in Poland, yet the elves are a clear allegory for colonialism.

      • pepperfez says:

        There’s also this persistent conflation of criticism and condemnation. “Some people thought a piece of media made dubious artistic decisions, so of course I felt like someone should ruin their lives” is not actually sound moral reasoning!

      • Towerxvi says:

        Might be worth remembering, in that case, the creative people working on TW3 inherited that universe, already long established, from an author. They couldn’t just not have the elves.

        Also, I never played TW3 to completion, but I remember that in tw1+2 the elves both had legit complaints and also did a lot of morally questionable thing. Plenty of them were asses, though no more than any other group in the universe. Doing that with an actual human minority, however, would be throwing yourself to the wolves. I wouldn’t blame anyone from shying away.

    • Premium User Badge

      MajorLag says:

      Is it really that big a deal? Really? Ok, so the devs neglected to put some black people into a setting where they could have technically been. Is it racist? Probably on a sub conscious level yeah. I doubt anyone held a meeting and said “we’d better not put any black people in this game”.

      So is it worth pointing out? Yeah, absolutely. You can’t entirely eliminate racism from the human mind because it’s built for efficiency, which is another way of saying it is lazy. It likes to slot things into categories based on obvious properties and apply judgments to the entire category, because in the hunter-gather sense of our survival that is an efficient way of dealing with the world. Not a goddamned one of us is immune to this, so the only way to deal with it is to recognize when it’s happening and force ourselves not to be so lazy. Maybe someday we’ll evolve out of it, but that’s not the reality we live in today.

      But should the entire work be judged by it? What sense does that make? Is the only valid form of expression a crusade for diversity?

      • malkav11 says:

        The thing is, as far as I can tell, that’s what people were doing: they were pointing it out. Not judging the whole thing by that one failing. And then a bunch of people got upset because it was pointed out.

        • Premium User Badge

          MajorLag says:

          That’s certainly possible. I’m not familiar with that particular conflict. Around The Last Night though, the last time we had an article here about it there was certainly a lot less “pointing out” and a lot more outright condemnation. I think my response was really aimed more toward that group, and I guess I had assumed the other situation was similar.

          • malkav11 says:

            I think those are different scenarios. A (likely) oversight in terms of diversity and inclusion is quite different than deliberately casting feminists and social justice causes as villainous or running with one of the most toxic crowds on the internet. Now, in this interview Soret is certainly trying to give the impression that those are misreadings of what he and his game are about, so maybe that reaction will turn out not to be justified. But it seemed perfectly appropriate to me in the earlier limited context.

      • PsychoWedge says:

        Well, the point of ludicrousness seems to be that a lot of these US gamezz jurnolists judge the diversity in presented populations in games by the current American situation/standard and the failings of the last decades in their own media. Which is stupid but… well, people are stupid. But what they completely fail to recognize is the fact that all of this is contextual and any criticism of this kind is ONLY valid from the point you look at it.

        Example? In Germany there are very, very few black people. But ~15% of us are of Turkish or Arab background, so if we would take this chain of reasoning and run it through then the German gaming scene should really be in uproar about the offensive underrepresentation of people from the middle east in almost every single game ever to come out of America. Like Deux Ex Human Revolution. There are so many whites and blacks but no browns. In a major city… A quarter of all the people should be middle eastern… This is madness! So much racism!

        I wonder if these people will start screaming racism when more and more games come out of Africa and a lot of them will very probably have little to none Latinos characters…

        • Dersu says:

          Exactly my thoughts. Americans view racism through certain lens and expect other cultures and nations to approach it from the same lens as them, even when the cultures are completely different and had developed differently. Not to mention the fact that, put simply, Poland is and was white. Some would ask: is it down to xenophobia? racism? maybe or maybe it’s due to the complicated history of Poland which I won’t go into here. Point is: Poland has an overwhelming majority of white people, that’s a fact. And they are not obligated to make fiction that mirrors Anglo-Saxon society.

          Also, just a thought, mostly in regards to the recent Dragon Age. What is the point of making a European-themed medieval world which functions like the modern multi-cultural metropolis? there are anachronisms and then there are anachronisms. And I get that it’s fantasy, but even fantasy fiction is based on history, and I personally felt like Bioware’s last Dragon Age game just didn’t even try to feel like a medieval-fantasy world. At least the Witcher world still feels authentic, in my opinion. Not saying Bioware “broke” the lore in their game, it just somehow didn’t feel authentic at all.

      • zeekophento says:

        “Ok, so the devs neglected to put some black people into a setting where they could have technically been. Is it racist? Probably on a sub conscious level yeah. I doubt anyone held a meeting and said “we’d better not put any black people in this game”.”

        Just for clarity’s sake, people were talking implications of a narrative which is often explicitly about racial prejudice while having human minorities absent. This then led into the discussion about the utility of allegories. That is about the full extent of The Witcher’s “controversy” in progressive circles regarding racism. Not upset with anyone here specifically, but the weird ass games of telephone every time a feminist so much as sneezes in a gamestop needs to end.

        • batraz says:

          “Progressive circles” ? So this is how you call yourself. Why not “aufklärung circles” or “circles of the true faith” ? Cut the crap, kid ;)

      • Furiant says:

        I agree that it’s important to not generalize here, as factions tend to be manufactured by the mechanics of social media. But my impression is that the loudest, most hostile proponents of “progressivism” are really just acting out the very thing they rail against. They are intolerant, dismissive, and self-righteous to any person or work that does not subscribe to their beliefs, and are ready to shame and ostracize their targets using the support of peers who agree with them. Like any intolerant group ever.

        I don’t really like the term “progressivism”; I do actually care about tolerance and inclusion, but I don’t think that making every game cater to and include every group is the way forward. That’s just a bottomless well of opportunities to be offended. So I tend to ignore the shock troops of the movement, because I suspect they are doing more harm than good.

        “If we don’t believe in freedom of speech for those we despise, then we don’t believe in it at all”. -Noam Chomsky

    • Dorga says:

      To the whole Witcher thing, I just want to add that there are no black people in Poland NOW; so I guess that there it would be easier to make such an oversight, and that seen from a more diverse country it seems incredible.
      I also guess that historically racism in Poland is tied to religious minorities or foreign european communities, while for many people in the video game press, in America, it’s forever tied to skin colour, and that creates another collision point.

    • Orazio Zorzotto says:

      His apologies have seemed
      hollow from the start and this was just more classic white cis guy nonsense. He just doesn’t get it. Not buying this game.

  6. Premium User Badge

    quasiotter says:

    Reading about the guys who harass women in gaming really depresses me. I feel absolutely terrible that females who simply want to enjoy something cannot do so freely. I hate hate so much.

    • goodgeorge says:

      That is a really awful article and looks like something that Sarkeesian would have wrote herself. It makes those men seem like some monsters and Sarkeesian some kind of hero for gaming. Both claims are very far from the truth. Go watch some of the videos of these guys and the tropes videos and you will see what I mean. In Sarkeesians mind ANY critique is harrassment. And oh man how much there is to critique about her work. She is just making up totally false claims about games to support her feminist motives and totally dismisses all the things that dont’t. She isn’t a woman in gaming. She has said that herself.

      • Orazio Zorzotto says:

        Great, I just rolled my eyes so hard they fell into the back of my skull.

        • goodgeorge says:

          If you disagree please feel free to actually state what you disagree with.

        • goodgeorge says:

          “Orazio Zorzotto says: His apologies have seemed hollow from the start and this was just more classic white cis guy nonsense. He just doesn’t get it. Not buying this game.” – Either you are a troll or you are a person that I can never reach a consensus with. I’m interested in hearing why you rolled your eyes that hard because of my comment, but considering that probably also my comment was classic white cis guy nonsense to you, any actual discussion seems impossible.

          • Orazio Zorzotto says:

            It’s exactly as Sarkeesian said in the article: there’s no point debating you because you’re only interested in attacking her. I see many people have already tried to show you why you’re wrong: you don’t listen and just respond with a bunch of half truths. Regardless of whether or not Sarkeesian has ever been a less than perfect human or academic, the fact that some fairly basic feminist criticism inspires such righteous fury among “real gamers’ says it all imo.

          • goodgeorge says:

            When did I attack her? I criticized the poor quality of her research and questioned some of her actions. There wasn’t anything personal here. Is there some special reason why we cannot disagree with her? Is it an universal truth that she is right about all the things she says? Sarkeesian made public videos to start discussion. It’s not discussion if we all just agree with her ideas. She also received way bigger amount of money that she asked for those videos and still didn’t deliver a big portion of the promised content. That is something that we should be allowed to comment on too.

            I don’t see many people trying to show I’m wrong. Maybe one in addition to you seemed to clearly disagree with some part of my comments. Others were interested in knowing more about a subject they are not familiar with and one seemed to agree with me.

            I don’t know what half truths are you talking about. My opinions are just that, my opinions. I didn’t claim that I’m absolutely correct on everything that I said. If I said something that is wrong then anyone is free to correct me. On the other hand many things that Sarkeesian says about some games are half truths and clearly false. For example the way she describes Hitman is something that anyone who has played that game knows is just made up. You can see in her own video that the gameplay does not match with what she is saying. I really hope that you aren’t referring to me with “righteous fury among real gamers”. You are really trying to misinterpret what I’m saying if you feel like that.

      • JamesPatton says:

        As far as I know, Sarkeesian has never lied on her Tropes Against Women in Video Games videos. I’ve seen all of them and I’m pretty sure she never actually lied.

        Did she read videogames through an explicitly feminist lense? Yes, but that’s literally what the videos are meant to be about. Did she extrapolate certain tropes beyond their context in an individual game? Yes, but that’s how cultural studies works: you look at the broad cultural strokes/tropes.

        • goodgeorge says:

          Well maybe she does not lie but many things that she says just seem so obviously illogical and she misses some really big things in the games. Her feminist lense seems to be so thick that to me it takes all the credibility and objectiveness from the videos. It just seems to me that first she decided what she thinks about sexism in games and then tried to bend the truth as hard as she could to fit those decisions and not actually studying what kind of sexism can be found in games.

          It is really strange that she talks about how it is problematic that you can kill female strippers in games without penalty and the clip that she chose to display to prove that point clearly shows how the game penalizes the player for killing those women. There are many strange things like this in her videos. She clearly doesn’t seem to understand what many of the games that she addresses are about.

          • Dersu says:

            I find it really ironic that alot of the alt-right and Gamergate people object to identity politics and yet abide by its rules. I watched several videos of Feminist Frequency and I genuinely struggled to see what could be so offensive to “male gamers” about them. Criticizing the content is one thing, but harassing her and giving life threats based on videos about video games? if that’s not identity politics then I don’t know what is – this is about people that identify themselves so completely with consumption products that they view any critique of the medium as an attack on themselves. In a way, that is even worse than the same “SJWs” who play the same game as being women, queers etc. Because at least they don’t identify themselves with a product made by a corporation that doesn’t care for you personally at all, outside of being its costumer.

            Her videos actually made a change because it led to the creation of stronger and more varied female characters in games, and I just can’t see what’s wrong with that. If video games want to evolve as a medium then it has to open up to other ideas. And what Anita generally has done is bring feminist academia into popular culture through video games. I’m not saying she’s a saint and I do believe that she made mistakes, Maybe she’s offended people and harassed people herself, I don’t know because I’m not very interested in her personal life. I’m talking specifically about her actual content and the hate it generated on its own.

            That being said, even though she was trolled at vid-con, she still should’ve tried to remain calm because unfortunately she played right into their hands. She shouldn’t automatically throw insults at people regardless of her views of them. I mean it is true that Sargon hasn’t personally harassed her and never encouraged harassment either. Untill he actually does something terrible, he doesn’t warrant such harsh words as “garbage human”. What he’s done at vid-con was provocation but not harassment, in my opinion.

          • goodgeorge says:

            “Her videos actually made a change because it led to the creation of stronger and more varied female characters in games, and I just can’t see what’s wrong with that.”
            Although I haven’t seen anything that suggests that her videos have had this kind of effect or that this is something actual female gamers want or need, more varied female characters is one of Sarkeesians points that really makes sense and making games more accessible for everyone is of course a good thing.

      • simontifik says:

        Question for you goodgeorge: Why do Sarkeesian’s videos annoy/upset you?

        I’ve never watched any of her stuff but I’m very interested to hear what she has to say now. She seems to have had a vocal section of the internet in quite a tizz for a long time.

        • goodgeorge says:

          Gaming is very important to me and she is a person that says negative things about games based on lack of information and faulty assumptions. She complains that women do not have a voice yet she does not approve any criticism and disables comments in all of her material. Nobody likes Jack Thompson and Anita Sarkeesian is doing essentially the same thing which is talking about something they know nothing about for personal monetary gain. What’s even worse it that many think of Sarkeesian as some kind of expert on the field. There might be sexisms in games that needs to be studied an addressed but Sarkeesian is doing it in all the wrong ways.

          • maninahat says:

            What is the right way to talk about sexism in games then? I see a lot of talking about how Sarkeesian does it wrong whilst they, at best, offer a throw away line where they admit in the vaguest possible way that the sexism must exist somewhere. It’s almost as if they’re being disingenuous.

          • goodgeorge says:

            The right way to study or talk about anything is that first you familiarize yourself with the subject and then make your conclusions. The wrong way is to shallowly glance at the subject and then impose your existing beliefs on it.

          • maninahat says:

            It’s quite funny that you should say that.

          • goodgeorge says:

            Why do you think it is funny? I think we kind of misunderstood each other there. I didn’t mean that I have anything meaningful to say about sexism in games. My point was that you can’t make conclusions about sexism in games if you do not study and understand the games well enough. If you say things about the games that you base your conclusions on that are completely false then that in my mind kind of invalidates those conclusions.

        • ChrisT1981 says:

          I just watched one or two videos back then, when there was the big fuzz about it in social media. If I recall correctly she took actual valid points but then took them out of context and blew them way out of proportion. Apart from the whole Feminist vs. Radical Feminist vs. Anti-feminist drama, most of the valid criticism she faced was actually directed at her scientific approach.

          Sadly though a lot of people just took the whole thing as an opportunity to publicly express their hate on women and or men.

          • goodgeorge says:

            Very much agree. When it comes to subjects like this, valid criticism and discussion drowns under all the nasty yelling.

        • JamesPatton says:

          Oh please. She switches off the comments for her videos because we all know exactly how vile they would be. It’s sad, but she didn’t make that space toxic; the people sending her death threats and pictures of mutilated bodies did.

          • malkav11 says:

            Yeah…Youtube comments are a cesspit at the best of times. And given the quality of commenter these issues tend to bring out on otherwise respectable sites like RPS, it absolutely would not be the best of times.

      • jimmycrash says:

        Very much agree with your views ‘goodgeorge’

        From the videos I’ve seen Anita does not seem to be intellectually reflective with the criticism she receives. Instead she appears to label legitimate counter-argument as ‘harassment’ as a means to avoid engagement.

        This does not seem to be the approach of youtubers that have been critical of her like ‘Sargon of Akkad’, who readily appear to want to debate ideas. As far as I’m aware, Sargon has offered to have an open discussion with Anita in the past and been met with silence.

        At the recent Vidcon event it’s worth noting that after Anita called Sargon a ‘sh**-head’ & ‘Garbage Human’ he called out ‘We just want to talk’.. to which she brushed aside with – ‘Whatever dude..’ (14:05 in following link)

        link to youtube.com

        Anita had not been heckled or prevented from talking. She was the one with the microphone and decided to throw insults. The Q&A session afterwards was also cut short, giving no ability to suitably reply to her charges.

        We are all entitled to our opinion, but surely all ideas should be subject to scrutiny?

        • Premium User Badge

          subdog says:

          Oh please. “Sargon” championed GamerGate, which based entirely on harassing women in the videogames industry. You don’t get to come back from that and claim you want to have “open discussion”.

          Fuck, that video you posted even has a thumbnail that literally caricatures Sarkeesian, as if that’s going to sell the idea that he’s interested in benign debate and not simply denigrating her. What a joke.

        • maninahat says:

          We are all entitled to our opinion, including Sargon. That doesn’t make him any less of a ‘sh**-head’ & ‘Garbage Human’. Granted, his approach of sending gay porn to people on twitter he doesn’t agree with was a little unconventional, but I’m sure its a reasonable debate technique from someone who just wants to have a chat.

        • Premium User Badge

          MajorLag says:

          Harassment is not scrutiny. What possible reason did he have to show up early and claim the first few rows of seats for a posse of his followers if intimidation wasn’t the goal? At best you can say he only wished to provoke a reaction, but that doesn’t make him any less of an ass.

          • Rumpelstiltskin says:

            Just how insecure must one feel about their intellectual stance if simply having their opponents sit silently below the stage with no access to the microphone is considered intimidating?

          • goodgeorge says:

            One reason for sitting in the front could be that he wanted to film the discussion. Sargon seems to be interested in Sarkeesian a bit too much but that doesn’t make him a harasser in my eyes. I think that people like Sarkeesian slap critics with a harasser label way too easily.

          • Premium User Badge

            MajorLag says:

            Because he had shown from his history with her that he had no intention of not confronting her?

            She should have kept quiet about it until actually confronted, that’d have been the smart move, I agree. Instead she played right into his trollish bullshit. But let’s not pretend that this asshole has any desire for a rational and reasonable discourse since it is very clear from his work that he doesn’t.

          • Rumpelstiltskin says:

            Confronting is not limited to insulting, you know. It can in fact mean engaging in a rational dispute, and that’s probably what he was hoping for (since his position is a lot more internally consistent and reasonable). What do you think he was planning to do, specifically? Boo and insult her? You don’t need that if your arguments are superior.

          • Premium User Badge

            MajorLag says:

            “We had a blast with this. It was such an adrenaline high to be there in the situation, to shit-post, in this trolling kind of way.”

            Supposedly that’s his response to the whole thing. He called it “playful”. Like a bully being caught with his posse beating on the school nerd “Aw shucks, we were just messing around!”. That doesn’t sound like someone who wants reasonable discourse. The thumbnail he uses in that video the one snowflake whine-calf keeps posting certainly doesn’t suggest that he cares about reasonable discourse. Nothing about him or his actions says he wants a reasonable discourse.

            Even assuming I’m wrong and he did actually want reasonable discourse, he is going about it in a way that only the most naive of people could think would actually result in that.

          • Rumpelstiltskin says:

            Well he said that after being publicly insulted by her. She started it. Still, my question stands – specifically what low and unseemly thing do you think he was planning to do that warranted being preemptively called “shithead” by Anita?
            As a side note, it looks like some of my comments in this thread were removed. I’m pretty sure they violated no rules of a civilized debate, other than expressing views that apparently some moderators strongly disagreed with (which, I was hoping, wasn’t a justifiable reason for censorship on RPS).

          • Graham Smith says:

            I’m doubtful that some of the comments here are being made in good faith, given the way they willfully distort arguments, omit information, and change the goal posts each time a point is addressed. For that reason, some comments have been removed. Since the conversation has turned up whatever it’s going to, I’m also going to now close comments on the post.

            Want to talk about it? My email address is graham@rockpapershotgun.com.

  7. Michael Manning says:

    Really liked Yangs post, I don’t expect or need to make money from my games but I am working towards a situation where I can spend more time making them, working on my own projects in the evenings and weekends can be exhausting. This could be trying to be more successful as a freelancer in the long term or trying to reduce my work hours slightly in-house. Quite a hard thing to achieve when the industry is quite demanding of your time when working for a bigger studio and per project you don’t make enough money to be able to take a ‘break’ for a couple of months a year.

  8. Blastaz says:

    My immediate response to the Yang idea of why can’t you make a game and not get paid/just do it for fun is one of scale. I can paint a watercolour in my spare time vs I can build a cathedral in my spare time. When an AAA game is so big a one man, part time effort is always going to look budget.

    • Premium User Badge

      MajorLag says:

      You’re note really disagreeing with Yang. His point isn’t that no one should be making money or trying to, it’s that we shouldn’t feel like being successful selling games is the only metric for our success as artists. We don’t have to go down that path if we don’t want to.

      And he’s completely right about that. Dwarf Fortress is free and it has had a significant impact on medium, for instance (which itself should not be our only metric for success either). I know that I, personally, started to hate game development when I thought that I needed to produce something popular, something a lot of people would wan’t to buy, something that probably didn’t interest me and required a lot of tedious art-asset creation that I hated and was terrible at. When I got over that and decided to make something I would enjoy making, something that played to my strengths (so much as I have any), without caring if anyone else would ever appreciate it, I started enjoying it again because I finally feel like I’m actually expressing what I want to express.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Unless you work your way up to be creative director on a large project at one of the big studios you’re not going to make a ‘cathedral’ either way. As an indie, there is no guarantee that you will get the opportunity to make your dream project even if it is modestly-sized. There is something to be said for pressure-free tinkering. For most people “don’t quit your day-job” (just yet… or at all) is good advice.

      I like the approach advocated by HobbyGameDev (hobbygamedev.com). If you want to try indie development try making some projects on the side and see how it goes. If it doesn’t go anywhere you made some cool things and learned some new skills… if it does take off you can always quit your job later. And like MajorLag said, maybe you just want to make games for the fun of it and not have to worry about what will sell enough copies to make a living.

      • JamesPatton says:

        Absolutely. And if you’re the head of a big studio you’re more constrained in some ways: you need to create games that will sell millions of copies, and that means they’ll have to align with a lot of expectations/existing genres.

        But if you’re indie you don’t need to worry about that so much because hey, if it flops it flops but at least you’ve got your day job.

  9. PikaBot says:

    Yeeeeah, the Last Night guy really isn’t doing himself any favors with that interview. Yeesh.

    • Ghostwise says:

      Milkshake duck, milkshake duck, does whatever a milkshake duck can.

      • pepperfez says:

        I’ve gotta give the dude a little credit: I hadn’t heard of milkshake duck before and it is a fine internet tradition.

        • Nevard says:

          I think the term is a relatively recent invention that managed to rise into the right people’s view at pretty much exactly the right time to take off.

    • zeekophento says:

      The Soret interviewer really needed to ask him why he’s actually still doing the same shit on twitter if he had a change of heart.

      • pepperfez says:

        Twitter’s not real! Things you say there don’t count; just ask the president of the US.

    • GardenOfSun says:

      Well, as someone who has little interest in the whole GG business and who absolutely despises any form of harassment, not only I see nothing objectonable in that interview, but I see nothing that I wouldn’t subscribe to. Obviously I can’t know how truthful the lad actually is, but that’s another issue, and something we shouldn’t really raise when discussing what he says.

      I especially sympathise with his mentioning the European point of view. As a European myself, and with moderate left-wing tendencies, I can attest to the fact that this trend of identity politics among anglo-saxon liberals is something puzzling for many of us, again including left-wing people. And I can also understand why many people would be tired of it, because it’s quite arguable that it is a political dead-end resulting from an unwillingness to tackle the problems that unite people and truly cripple society, that is socio-economic ones. When you start to create trenches in society between cultural groups, so that (for example) black people are not fighting against the social bias and conditions that has them growing up in disadvantaged situations – and that would thus put them on the same page as many other groups, even of whites – but against their “own” problems, the problems they start to feel defined by – it then becomes very hard to engage in a meaningful rational debate about the forces shaping up society to work that way. It just becomes blunt opposition to “stupid”, “ignorant” or “bad” people who, surely enough, will crop up on the opposite side just out of the need to, again, “define” themselves against political movements they don’t understand. So sure, the lad might be a bit naive about some of his ideas, but I totally sympathise with a left-wing stance that feels nostalgic from when left-wing meant striving against neoliberism and pushing for socialism, and not herding an indeterminate group of “oppressed identities” towards too often abstract battles of opinion.

      And even leaving aside the specifically political elements of his thought (which are definitely there, so I don’t see how Zacny can talk about an advocacy of political passivity, unless, again, you’re so far down your echo chamber that you can’t even understand politics outside of identity advocacy), I find the ideas he’s trieing to explore mature and interesting. I’m also a big proponent of UBI, but since I’m not ignorant of history,I know that all social reforms are unvariably bound to have unexpected effects, and that from laws and reforms that might necessary now might arise terrible problems tomorrow. Again, it’s another issue how he’ll implement these elements and the naivety of some his claims can be pointed out, but the intention is definitely in the right place.

      TLDR: I wouldn’t want to ruffle any feathers, but as a European with left-wing leanings I totally sympathise with everything Soret says in the interview, and I know I wouldn’t be alone among people like me. In fact, I personally think it’d be time for the anglo-saxon progressive circles to start to look beyond the echo-chamber of their identity struggles and relativise them in light of different political cultures.

  10. Babymech says:

    Oh my, that discussion on procedural story telling. I understand that it’s problematic and incorrect to call that kind of reasoning autistic or asperger-like, but I really don’t know what to call it.

    • JamesPatton says:

      I’m confused, you’re talking about the Emily Short/Chris Crawford piece? I didn’t see those words used on the site. Or do you mean that you think Crawford or his system is reasoning in a way that you can best describe as “autistic” or “aspergers-like” but you’re not sure how to put that?

  11. Ben King says:

    William Chyr had a bit of response to the handful of indiepocalypse articles recently on his Manifold Garden devstream on twitch/YouTube. It was coinciding with the stress of both simultaneously working on the game and the surprising news that his apartment may be getting sold by the landlord, so it was mixed up with a lot of other legitimately anxiety inducing stressors. I can’t clearly summarize his conclusion but the upshot I got was basically a deep contentment with simply getting to work on his game in the present, economy be damned. He was hoping for financial success as well, but in casting an eye towards the future also seemed clear-eyed and ready to move on to other careers after the Manifold Garden release if it is necessary. I’m sure the emotions and considerations went far beyond those two sentences, but it’s a thought.
    I would love to read an interview with Connor Sherlock about his Pateon or whoever is behind the JLV PLACES tumblr on how they grapple with the why’s and how’s financial or otherwise of creating their game worlds.
    Also I gave Robert yang $5 for The Tearoom, and as instructed on his blog gave the game a go before reading his statement. IT WAS BIZARRE and hilarious and weirdly fun, awkward, and paranoia inducing all at the same time. but the backstory of the game’s inspiration was deeply sad.