The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for hoping your kid stops being sick sometime soon. Writing, videogames, go.

Headline of the week: The Runescape players who farm gold so they don’t starve to death.

More and more Venezuelans are growing wise to the benefits of gold farming. Earlier this year, a local newspaper published an article on the process. Runescape players, meanwhile, continually report seeing dozens of gold farmers crowding up locations like the Blast Mine and East Dragons. This has resulted in growing tensions, with players doing everything from regularly demanding that developer Jagex ban all gold farmers to publishing a guide that helps other players more effectively hunt, kill, and insult farmers.

At Motherboard, Emanuel Maiberg did a little searching for the hate groups that populate Steam. Remember: as Gabe Newell is fond of saying, people are content.

I’ve also reached out to Valve asking why the Steam platform is filled with racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic curators, groups, and other content, but have not heard back.

Meanwhile.

The founder and CEO of Valve was valued at $5.5bn, up from the 4.1bn Forbes estimated in its March 2017 Billionaires list – not bad for a Harvard University drop-out. His net worth has increased fivefold from the $1.1bn it was reported as in March 2013.

Aztez is a sidescrolling, stab-happy indie game that was in development for seven years and accrued lots of buzz in the run up to release. Then it sold poorly.

“If I was paying attention to Steam, maybe I wouldn’t be so blindsided by what happened, but I’m also not necessarily sure what I would’ve done differently,” Ruiz says. “If I’d have known like, oh, it’s a saturated market now — what the fuck do you do?”

The Magic Circle is a first-person puzzle-exploration game set within a half-finished, in-development game by some of the bods behind BioShock. It gained a lot of buzz before release… then sold poorly.

“The role of Coda Soliz, the fan who gets a job on the game-within-the-game and in her mind is going to save it from its own creators, her role darkened a lot. Essentially, this whole wave of pollutants had come to the surface of gaming culture. My friends were getting death threats, and it meant I couldn’t see game fans as true innocents any more. In hindsight, this might have made it difficult for people to find any character in The Magic Circle with whom it was easy to sympathise. But I couldn’t unsee all this, even if I wanted to.”

Pip might not work here anymore, but she continues to do great work for the cheeky RPS fanzine. This week she turned the PC Gamer team into flowers.

I thought it would be nice to create a plant-based team photo for the UK writers of PC Gamer so I ordered seeds for everyone’s name. There’s a Phil, a Pip, an Andy, a Joe, a Tom and a Sam. I was so excited! But the only pots I had for multiple plants had three slots. I divided us into online and print and started planting.

Patrick Klepek writes about South Park: The Fractured But Whole, arguing that the game has an identity crisis and so does the TV show.

Here’s the problem: you can’t recognize the rights for marginalized people to publicly identify themselves in a way that feels true and mock those very same people for asking others to self-examine the language they’ve been using because it undercuts that very identity.

Also at Waypoint, Cameron Kunzelman writes about how mortal danger permeates every inch of Stalker. I will happily continue to read praise of Stalker for another ten years, I reckon.

It’s rare that there will be something so dangerous that you will be forced to reload a previous save game to extricate yourself from a bad situation. It’s rare that you will fail so severely that you cannot simply flee and start over in ten minutes when the alert meters go away. By contrast, the very act of traversing STALKER’s countryside, of simply getting from A to B, is harrowing. The player is always encountering an existential threat. The Zone is a place that kills, and each encounter drives that home.

This past week’s big news is the closing of Visceral, developers of the Dead Space trilogy, and the effective cancellation of the story-driven Star Wars game they were making with Amy Hennig. Instead of reading hot takes about the death of singleplayer games, watch this Chris Bratt Here’s A Thing video from February on the Dead Space 3 the developers wanted to make. There’s lots of interesting detail in there about the conflict between EA and Visceral, between commerce and design goals, and it paints a picture of the kind of relationship that can exist between publisher and developer.

Music this week is Fever Ray, who it seems likely is about to release her first album in 8 years. For now, there’s a new song and a new NSFW music video.

107 Comments

  1. batraz says:




    About the south park philosopher : maybe the whole discourse about identity has an identity crisis.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    I wonder if the problem with Aztez was that the individual elements combined appeal to very different groups… maybe people who like historically-themed games and people who like intense 2D fighters don’t overlap that much? I love a good history/mythology game but am not that into hardcore fighters and also don’t really care for over the top blood and gore so I passed on this one.

    Man, that Motherboard article on Valve though, wow. I’ve seen some shit posted on Steam but that is something else. Are they asleep at the wheel, just don’t care (as long as it makes money), or what? How is that trash not already banned? Seems basically like Twitter: no interest in actually enforcing their own rules if it brings in more views.

    • Archonsod says:

      That’s kind of the funny thing about the article – it’s the same with the Magic Circle one too. They seem to examine everything from market saturation to Steam itself as reasons the game failed, without ever considering what I think would have been a more fundamental point – is the game any good?
      Aztez has problems that extend beyond just the genres it tries to mash together; in my opinion the main issue being that neither of the two sections feels fully developed, so it feels a bit like they made half a strategy game and half a fighting game, then stuck them together in the hope that half plus a half would be a whole. It’s not that it’s a *bad* game as such; it’s just bland.
      It’s the thing the article misses I think. The important buzz for an Indie game isn’t what’s generated before release in the press, it’s what’s generated after release by word of mouth. Aztez to me is an example of style over substance – Steam tells me I played it for just under an hour, and I’ve never felt any real compulsion to pick it back up (in fact writing this is probably the first time I’ve even thought about playing it since release). I’ve never felt the need to recommend the game to friends, or write a Steam review. I suspect a significant portion of those 2000 buyers probably felt the same – the game isn’t good enough to get people talking about it, and it isn’t bad enough to attract notoriety, so it’s going to sink into obscurity. Fair enough there is probably an element of saturation there insomuch as if you have ten good games released that week and you release an average game you’re not going to get much attention, but I don’t see why this is a bad thing …

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        While worthwhile wonderful games get lost in the shuffle (and sometimes become niche cult-hits adored by only a few) all the time, it’s true there’s a general reluctance towards self-examination in these kinds of post-mortems: “Hey, maybe we just made a thing that for whatever reason did not resonate with people, and the marketing was actually fine.”

        I mean, I get it: that’s tough to swallow… but it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes you just made something that’s cool on its own merits, but too niche to have broader appeal. If you can, you try again and maybe have more luck next time, or accept that financial success is not your goal and continue making weird stuff that you enjoy.

        • April March says:

          There’s an old nugget that nothing is worse for a bad product than good marketing. But I’m not sure I believe it, not in a world in which Aliens: Colonial Marines sold hundreds of thousands of preorders (well, I’m ballparking here but it’s a quantity that wouldn’t surprise me). Maybe what the devs should be asking first in these instances is, “are there really people who would’ve liked the game who didn’t buy it or are we wishing we’ve tricked more people who wouldn’t like it into buying it?” A tough thing to ponder when the matter is putting food on the table.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            It’s also super hard to predict what will resonate widely. Everyone told Will Wright a virtual dollhouse would never be successful. I think the only thing you can do is make something you are interested in and hope for the best. If it doesn’t sell at least you didn’t waste your life building something you don’t care about in pursuit of imagined profits.

      • aepervius says:

        @archonsod Well written, I wanted to give an identical feedback on aztez.

      • Baines says:

        I have the feeling that the article glosses over such details out of a desire to be kind to the developer. It carefully skirts around anything that could be taken as casting blame or criticizing either the developers or the game. From the article’s text, the only fault of the developers was to get caught in a development bubble while the world changed around them, and even that is portrayed as something ranging from neutral to just their bad luck. At the worst, the developers were just up against an inevitable situation.

        Even the console part avoids anything that could even be considered as criticism of the developers, despite all but painting the console indie market as a dead man walking. Instead, it just quotes Ruiz saying that the Switch port might come too late to avoid being lost in that system’s indie crowd.

        Of course if the article didn’t skirt such issues, the article itself would probaly be under fire for taking too aggressive a tone, criticized for attacking innocent developers with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.

      • Viroso says:

        Also there’s other games with a similar story that did well. Owlboy and Cuphead. They both had really long development time, lots of press buzz and high expectations.

      • Premium User Badge

        magnificent octopus says:

        I don’t remember Aztez, but I followed the Magic Circle with interest, and then when it came out it looked. . . interesting, but not necessarily fun. So I didn’t buy it. I have no idea if that was the marketing, or if I formed a fair impression of the game, though.

    • malkav11 says:

      I’ll say that I definitely skipped it because I don’t want action in my strategy, much less challenging action.

      Although I had to think a moment to distinguish it from Aztaka, the much older side-scrolling Aztec-themed action RPG.

  3. Moni says:

    I’m not sure I would be surprised if Gabe Newell was outed as a bit of an antisocial dint, have you seen his absurd, maybe psychopathic, knife collection?

    But Steam’s absolute dominance of my game library always gets me a tiny bit worried.

    • onodera says:

      What makes a knife collector more psychopathic than a stamp collector? Neither buys them to use them.

      • Phantom_Renegade says:

        But only one of those collections could be used to stab people.

        • onodera says:

          And so what? There are probably thousands of people in the US with larger collections of knives than Gabe. Are all of them psychopaths because they are attracted to sleek sharp objects?

          Matt Easton, the HEMA guy from England popular on YouTube, collects swords, which are designed to kill by definition, unlike knives. Is he a psychopath?

          • patrickpeppers says:

            Haha, silly you. Trying to counter an irrational statement with a rational one.

        • Premium User Badge

          MajorLag says:

          And a car collector could use those cars to run people over.

          • Premium User Badge

            DelrueOfDetroit says:

            The car is not designed to do so.

          • April March says:

            Honestly, a fair amount of knives aren’t designed to stab people, either.

            Well, we’ve managed to whittle down this argument to splitting hairs. Let’s go home, everyone.

        • Unclepauly says:

          Your post just made me throw out everything sharp in my house. Wouldn’t want anyone to think I’m a bad person. Btw I’ve had to start feeding my kids like a momma bird because of your post. THANKS

  4. fuggles says:

    I think the problem is that there are just too many games!

    Equally valid is the insight in the magic circle article that only idiots don’t buy things in steam sales – there’s always something on my wishlist on sale.

    Aztez, bizarrely seems to compete with another ancient artwork based game, apotheon – who knew that would be crowded genre! It looks okay, but not striking. As a bundle it would be great, to horribly condescend the developers.

    It’s tough, magic circle is the same – I’m sure it’s really good and I’d love it, but in the time it’s taken me to write this a hundred more things will go on steam. I could then get a £40 game reduced to £20 or a full price £20 game. You need a major and obvious USP like cuphead or a popular social influencer these days it seems. Bad for slow burn games but then there have been games I’ve only bought and loved because of giant bomb.

    These guys should all get together and have like a humble, but heroic failure bundle. It must be devastating for them.

  5. BooleanBob says:

    Steamspy reports that the Magic Circle has over 115,000 owners on that platform alone. Not all of those will be full-price purchases of course, but I’m surprised that qualifies as ‘selling poorly’. How many exactly were they hoping for to reach their ‘modest expectations’? What was the figure they’d see as a success?

    In the article they drop a figure of 1,000 sales and suggest it to be a disappointment, and that certainly sounds disappointing, but they don’t give the number a time frame or any wider context beyond labelling it the ‘initial run’ of sales. How can we account for the discrepancy that over 115 times this initially disappointing figure are owners of the game, and yet it’s still deemed a sales failure?

    • Premium User Badge

      Aerothorn says:

      You are absolutely right that the article needed to go into more detail, but that discrepancy is almost certainly due to Humble Monthly Bundle.

    • kwyjibo says:

      Humble Monthly skews those figures.

      Brigador was another indie sales failure which has inflated numbers from the Monthly.

      link to steamed.kotaku.com
      link to steamcommunity.com

    • BooleanBob says:

      Ah, that solves the mystery then. Thanks to you both for pointing that out!

      I wonder how much developers get for having a game featured. I see the Brigador devs mentioned a lump sum. I googled around but couldn’t find anything.

      • syndrome says:

        It’s a bulk price, around 20% of the intended retail price, in cash, at your doorstep, they try to get as much copies in advance as they can, from 10k to 100k. (Distributed as Steam keys afterwards.)

        This, along with rampaging Steam discounts, effectively destroys the indie scene. No wonder IGN bought Humble, it is everything but “Humble”.

        PC gaming store equivalent of this picture

        and it turned into a strong #2
        HOW BAH DAH?

  6. Kollega says:

    The fact that Steam’s community section is completely unmoderated while Gaben rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars – just like with all the other leading (anti)social media platforms – shows one thing to me. It’s that we need the actual laws to step in at this point. I definitely would be happy if Internet giants were beholden by law to pay more taxes and show basic social responsibility. And trust me, we can totally implement some basic regulations that would wring some more responsibility from big businesses, without going to absurd dystopian bureaucratic extremes in the style of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

    Now, you can call this “socialism” if you want… mostly because it is. But if we are to make our future better, social responsibility has to be enforced, profit be damned – not vice versa.

    Sincerely yours, Comrade Obvious.

    • Vilos Cohaagen says:

      I agree. Turns out these companies are very corrosive to society around them. I reluctantly think that they need to be reined in. It is clear through their actions that Steam/Valve only care about money these days. The rest is just PR.

      • Faxanadu says:

        I don’t agree.

        “social responsibility has to be enforced”

        It already is. Make a death threat and it’s illegal everywhere. Now, if you’re promoting something like “hate speech” being banned, which is AGREED BY EVERYONE to be hella vague, that is just beyond messed up. Making vague laws about what you can or can not say? HOW does any of that sound like a good idea?

        Sounds like a scheme of control hungry people. We’ve seen those before. Lots, and lots, and lots… Lots more than nazis. And with a much higher k/d.

        • Kollega says:

          It wouldn’t be too vague to have a law that says “demanding the genocide of any group of people is a criminal offense, because genocide is really evil”, just as it wouldn’t be too vague to have a law that says “big businesses have to pay taxes in the countries where they operate, not in tax havens, because tax evasion takes away from society”. And currently, Amerika and its biggest Internet companies don’t even have/follow that. I rest my case.

          • Faxanadu says:

            So your whole social responsibility thing was just about banning one sentence which is basically a death threat but on a bigger scale?

            Yeah sure whatever, I’m not against it, don’t think it’ll change anything though.

    • Archonsod says:

      I’ll take the free market every time, but that’s largely because I don’t draw much of a line between fascism in the name of race and fascism in the name of family values. They both tend to lead to the same place.

      • Kollega says:

        Hey, fascism in the name of money is also a provably real thing! I mean, just look at all the dystopias of the cyberpunk genre… the ones that actually have social commentary in them, that is.

        Besides, I said in my orgiinal post that there’s no need to overreact – or think that people in the hypothetical scenario will overreact – and make a slippery slope argument. Make of that what you will.

        • Premium User Badge

          Angstsmurf says:

          It’s the great propaganda triumph of the rich to make us think that their plutocracy is somehow more free than the rule of a democratically elected government.

          • Kollega says:

            I would say that an even greater propaganda triumph of the rich is the widespread acceptance of idea that “there really is no alternative”. I’m tired of hearing that. Because that’s patently untrue.

      • Landiss says:

        Having some regulations is not the same as not having a free market, it’s just not completely free. And there is no such think as a completely free market, at least not in developed countries. Yeah, perhaps you have a completely free market in Kongo (where capitalists from wealthy countries are free to force local populace to slave work draining the nation natural resources for those capitalists), but definitely not in UK and not in US. What’s the difference? The regulations. We have so many regulations that limit the free market that they became so obvious most people don’t even see them. Things like restrictions on working children, taxes, anti-monopoly policies, safety procedures, not to mention minimum wages and unions etc. etc. It’s really a lot. To advocate against regulations is to change the status quo, not to keep it.

        Now, the issue is that a lot of regulations were slowly being taken down in the last few dozens years plus the new markets (in general connected to IT and internet) were not regulated as much as old markets (like industry), because people started to believe that the market will regulate itself (even though it never did that in the past).

        So, to sum up, why we should suddenly stop regulating the free market?

        • Archonsod says:

          The market of ideas has always been free :P At present you’re free to choose to join those groups or not, and you’re free to choose to buy from Steam or not. Bring regulation in and that’s likely to change.
          It’s kind of the issue with the whole argument. If you think a group or curator happens to be racist/spam bot/wrong or whatever you’re not obliged to follow them, it’s your choice. If on the other hand you’re complaining a group of people you aren’t involved with are doing something you don’t agree with then you’re being a bit of a dick. The problem there isn’t social responsibility, it’s personal responsibility.

          • Kollega says:

            Since we’re talking about moderation against groups using actual Nazi symbols and expressing support for Nazi ideology, I believe it is appropriate to mention that the Federal Republic of Germany has made it a crime to display Nazi symbols in public (Strafgesetzbuch § 86a) and engage in blatant hate speech (§ 130). Didn’t exactly make modern-day federal Germany into a hellish totalitarian state… no matter what anyone might think of the unfortunate prohibition on having Wolfenstein’s clearly evil Nazi villains wear historically-appropriate swastikas.

          • Kolbex says:

            If on the other hand you’re complaining a group of people you aren’t involved with are doing something you don’t agree with then you’re being a bit of a dick.

            Damn, I’m complaining people are arguing that non-whites are inferior. I’m such a dick! Buddy, you’re clueless.

          • Vandelay says:

            If you look at the article and the groups it references, many of the groups are openly saying they are for the death of homosexuals, POC, Jewish people and Muslims. One even offers a link on how to create a noose if you believe in their values. This isn’t just simply people saying things that I and many others don’t agree with, but they are actively promoting the murder of individuals.

            That is mostly definitely hate speech and would certainly be considered illegal in the UK, as well as many other countries I’m sure.

          • onodera says:

            @Vandelay I’ve interpeted that as “if you think we’re serious, go hang yourself”.

    • Premium User Badge

      MajorLag says:

      Hell no. Should valve do more to stop this sort of thing on Steam? I don’t know, Internet going to internet and a crackdown could just Streisand effect the whole situation.

      But claiming that the law should step in? As an American, and with Valve being an American company and all, I find that idea repugnant. It is not the government’s job to be the thought police. Freedom of speech is the very first right enumerated in our constitution for a good reason, it is part and parcel of our identity as a nation. It is up to Valve to handle this or not as they see fit, and up to you as a consumer to convince them to change if you don’t like what they’re doing.

      Now if you want the government to step in for a number of other reasons, like skin gambling and all that junk, then that’s fine, that’s their purview.

      • Horg says:

        Tell you what, the UK can moderate hate groups online and the US can give them all the free speech rights they want. In 10 years we can compare and contrast to see who has more nazis : |

        • Cederic says:

          Sadly in the UK we appear to be voting the fascists into power. Although to be fair, the choice at the last election was primarily fascist versus communist, and neither believe in freedom of expression.

        • Premium User Badge

          MajorLag says:

          We may end up with more Nazis, but since they’re free to express that they’re Nazi’s without fear of reprisal from the government we’ll know who they are. And their stupidity will be out there in the open for all to see.

          Personally, I like that Nazis are free to speak, because if we can respect freedom of speech for those assholes than I don’t have to worry about anything I say being suppressed, no matter how out there it might be.

          Tell, me, are you guys still not allowed to say bad things about the queen?

      • Kollega says:

        Another American has once pointed out that booting Nazis from a stage is not the same thing as restricting the Nazis’ freedom of speech. And again, endorsement of Nazism is illegal in modern-day Germany. Having laws against hate speech that people and companies must follow doesn’t magically turn it into a totalitarian wasteland.

        Clear, comprehensive laws about what is unacceptable hate speech, that everyone would have to follow to the same extent (as opposed to each company deciding on its own what’s acceptable and what’s not), will not make things worse. But of course, instituting such laws in regards to Internet-based companies would be a big problem – for on the Internet, “we’re all living in Amerika”.

        • Premium User Badge

          MajorLag says:

          The comic agrees with me, it is not the purview of the government to censor speech. Companies may censor pretty much whatever they want on platforms they control, people can put social pressure on others or economic pressure on companies, but the government cannot. Personally, and I recognize some bias here from being born and raised in the US, I think that’s the way it should be. If people want Valve to take action in these cases, then by all means organize boycotts and letter writing campaigns.

          As for “Clear, comprehensive laws about what is unacceptable hate speech”, that’s an incredibly difficult thing to come up with. I’ll give you an example: “America should close its borders to foreign immigrants”, hate speech or economic opinion? No race was singled out, yet people who say this are labeled racists because people assume an underlying racist motivation. And you know what? A whole lot of people do in fact have an underlying racist motivation for saying that and use it as code for “git rid of da brown ones”, but certainly there are many who don’t. So which is it? Is it hate speech by association or not hate speech by content?

          • Kollega says:

            “Companies may censor pretty much whatever they want on platforms they control, people can put social pressure on others or economic pressure on companies, but the government cannot.”

            Ahh… I love the smell of cyberpunk in the morning. And by “love” I mean “hate with all the cold power of my vengeful, spiteful pinko Commie heart”.

            And for adressing the argument about “Clear, comprehensive laws about what is unacceptable hate speech” being an incredibly difficult thing to come up with, I’ve got something. In modern-day Germany, it is NOT illegal to say “German government should close borders to foreign immigrants”. In fact AfD, a party of right-wing populists, has been touting this rethoric – and hasn’t been banned or even ousted from politics; and many people are worried about that and will fight them on political fields, with means like “starting boycotts” and “writing letters”. However, what WOULD be GROSSLY ILLEGAL is for a bunch of Nazi thugs to go out into the street with actual Nazi symbols like the swastikas and the SS insignia, and with Holocaust denial (or approval) placards, and hold torchlight parades while chanting “Jews will not replace us!” And what we are talking about here is the equivalent of this sort of behavior, except on the Internet and with the fig list of “irony” in some cases. I’m not asking for some kind of mass censorship campaign on anything I might dislike. What I’m asking for is for the US government, and preferably as many governments as possible in general – and consequently the biggest Internet businesses – to unilaterally ban the clear support of actual real Nazism on their platforms. So you can’t just pledge loyalty to Hitler, call for genocide, and get away scott-free. That would be a good start.

            Though maybe this is just a cultural difference. After all, in Germany the Nazi symbolism is banned, and the actual real neo-Nazis have to steal symbols (like the black-white-red tricolour) from monarchist groups just to hold their little pitiful marches, yet everyone knows who they are anyway and refuses to support them – while in Amerika, people can march around en masse with swastikas and guns and flaming torches while chanting blatantly racist/antisemitic slogans and calling for genocide, and that is completely legal… and sadly enough, some people actively don’t understand what’s wrong about that, or even think that this is not all bad.

            Sigh.

          • Premium User Badge

            MajorLag says:

            I think you’re right about the matter of culture. We have a long history of peaceful protest and dissent in the US, and we take our right to free speech very seriously, and the way we figure it is that even the most unpalatable of all speech should be protected because the right would be meaningless if we ignored it whenever it suited us. The ACLU has defended the right of Nazis to peaceful protest on many occasions. You may have heard of the supreme court case National Socialist Party of America et al. v. Village of Skokie (a town in Illinois that had a large population of holocaust survivors at the time), notably taken up by the ACLU in 1977 at the urging of Joseph Burton, a Jewish Lawyer.

            Taken as a whole, Americans believe very strongly that no one should fear government reprisal for their views or for expressing them peacefully, even if those views are fundamentally not peaceful. We have a group of assholes who routinely protest at the funerals of fallen soldiers, who believe that homosexuals are inherently evil. They are almost universally hated, but our solution is not ban their right to peaceful assembly, it’s to organize a counter protest that’s significantly louder to drown out their vile bullshit.

            Let me ask you something: have your anti-nazi laws actually done anything to keep nazis out of your country? Because it sounds a lot like they’re still around and still doing what they’d be doing otherwise, they just have to use a lot more coding in their speech, and what’s the point of that?

          • Kollega says:

            I’m sure I will be accused of misrepresentation and “not knowing what I’m talking about” – despite never trying to mislead people about my country of origin – but I am not actually from Germany. But of course, I know a few Germans. And those Germans I do know universally find Nazism repulsive, thanks to the thorough and ultimately successful policy of denazification. Whenever I see the footage of actual neo-Nazi rallies that happen in Germany, it’s a dozen or two of glum hooligans walking down the street while literally everyone around yells at them to go home. And the fact that Holocaust denial or endorsement of Nazism are crimes in Germany are a big part of that. You can’t have a literal swastika-and-sieg-heil parade in Germany, and this is part of what makes the Nazis feel unwelcome. Meanwhile, in the US people believe that free speech will self-regulate and that Nazis can’t rise if there’s freedom to protest both for and against them. But of course, I don’t think this idea holds in a seriously Weimar-like situation of economic hardship and social inequality. Remember: Hitler did not seize power with a coup, but rather managed to play democracy against itself. So nowadays, the sanest idea is to make the Nazis feel unwelcome – including by prohibiting blatant examples of Nazi hate speech. When the Nazis feel comfortable in expressing their views, seeking out a weakness in democratic system and getting on a roll is far easier for them than if they are shunned and barred from spewing their hate left and right.

    • Cederic says:

      shows one thing to me. It’s that we need the actual laws to step in at this point.

      Really? What it tells me is that GabeN has managed to deliver a service people want.

      What they don’t want is fascist sexist racist idiots banning them from speaking freely in their online discussions about the games they’re playing. Legislate against that.

    • malkav11 says:

      Good luck getting the current US administration to regulate much of anything, much less hate groups.

  7. OpT1mUs says:

    I just don’t find new South Park funny at all. Not because of reasons mentioned in the linked article, jokes are just flat. Gimmick of continuation between episodes also didn’t help, because now you had to deal with recurring boring characters from previous episodes. Most of the “political commentary” was just beating a dead horse much like “Newsroom” did. Meh.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      Yeah, I do agree that the show is going through an identity crisis, in part because (though it’s trite to say) truth is currently stranger than fiction. I gotta say that the author of the article has woefully misinterpreted the show’s message, though:

      When you’re ignorant to the world’s nuances, it’s easier to interpret everything through occam’s “they all suck” razor.

      South Park has been pretty consistent in advancing the point of view that while everything can and should be open to criticism and mockery. However, they’ve also been pretty clear that they believe that there’s an obvious, universal scale of right and wrong (case in point – the end of the NAMBLA episode). I’d argue that the show is more nuanced in its approach to current events than almost any other media available today, hence why it tends to advocate moderate positions that take into account multiple perspectives.

  8. Someoldguy says:

    It’s disappointing to hear about players being abused in Runescape but I don’t think it’s surprising that this particular tiny subset of gold farmers are being PK’d. All gold farmers that farm gold in PvP enabled areas are liable to be PK’d (and insulted)… just like everyone else in the wilderness. It’d probably be better for them to stay in safer spots if they are solo, or band together with their own guards to share risk and reward.

    I don’t think many people would deliberately target someone they thought was a victim of the economic collapse in Venezuela and would genuinely starve if they failed to farm gold that week. They just don’t accept it as the main reason that most people are gold farming, given that it’s been a significant problem ever since the game first launched.

    • Kolbex says:

      I don’t think many people would deliberately target someone they thought was a victim of the economic collapse in Venezuela and would genuinely starve if they failed to farm gold that week.

      You’d like to think so, but I saw someone on Reddit argue that the devs’ “property rights” (because according to this person the existence of gold farmers is an existential threat to the game and this the devs’ intellectual property) are more important than the right of people to not starve. There is really no limit to the depravity of libertarians.

      • Someoldguy says:

        Hence the “many”. There’s always a few that will defend the most extreme positions, some for ideological reasons and others just for the debate.

        It’s disappointing that the best thing a group of people with internet capability can do is farm gold. Hopefully someone entrepreneurial will think of something more productive they can do to earn a modest wage.

  9. onodera says:

    Me reading that Vice article: “Steam has groups?” I’ve always used it only to buy games and find an occasional thread about rebinding keys to ESDF, I haven’t seen a single topical group there.

  10. Merus says:

    We learned a few weeks ago that your average Seattlite Nazi works in tech, and that there are Nazis in mainstream institutions trying to subtly make things worse, who only get exposed once a prominent Nazi’s email is leaked, or you listen to a black person ever. Given that, my assumption to why Valve doesn’t ban Nazis is because Valve has at least one Nazi working there. We could probably confirm this: Valve’s staff list is public.

    • Landiss says:

      I have an alternate theory, it might seem complicated, but bear with me!. Maybe, just maybe, they just don’t want to spend any money on moderation until they are forced to do that?

      • icarussc says:

        Whaaaaaaat!? But if we take that line, what will become of this lovely witch hunt?! I’ve got the pitchforks sharpened and everything!

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      That seems like a stretch. More like people in tech are mostly oblivious libertarians who think data will solve everything and ‘the market’ is a benevolent force that can regulate itself.

      Maybe cool it on the paranoia?

      • pepperfez says:

        I mean, odds are good that no one at Valve is literally a member of an explicitly neonazi political party. But the US center-right is significantly more nazi-sympathetic than they are common-decency-sympathetic, so it’s almost certain Valve has plenty of employees who’d rather have front-page nazism than remove it.

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          “many sides… many sides”

          I think you can file much of the American right under “wir haben es nicht gewusst”… the sort that are not themselves on the *extreme* right but they’d rather look the other way on things that don’t affect them, and on balance they prefer nazis to those who care about worker rights and justice for all including the poor (ie socialists)… and then afterwards they loudly protest that they had no idea what the nazis were capable of and they would’ve done something if only they’d known. Their retrospective remorse is worth nothing.

          Whether it will come to that is an open question. Unlikely in the near term I think. At least your embarrassment-in-chief turned out to be incompetent. It would be worse if he had plans and ideas.

          I don’t know the various political views of Valve staff though anecdotally I don’t believe they lean right.

  11. Pharos says:

    I’ve also reached out to Valve asking why the Steam platform is filled with racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic curators, groups, and other content, but have not heard back.

    Oh boy, with a question like that I can’t imagine why Valve thought this guy wasn’t asking in good faith.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Given the shocking examples shown in the article it’s less of a leading question and more of a factual statement with inevitable follow-up. Valve should absolutely be held to account for the shit they plainly tolerate on their platform. The only mystery is their reasoning for not dealing with it.

      Seriously the fact that we currently live in some parallel universe where in some circles the most heinous shit is suddenly considered ‘reasonable mainstream discourse’ does not make said shit any less reprehensible. Indeed it should be highlighted and criticized more than ever.

      • Pharos says:

        It’s a factual statement that it’s “filled” with racists and homophobes, is it?

        Maybe the in the author’s head, he was doing some hard-hitting journalism by asking the tough questions, but it just looks like yet another gotcha piece. I can’t predict the future, and I can’t read minds, but I reckon he’d have had a better chance at a response if he’d phrased it more neutrally.

        Also, “shocking examples”? I read that article too. It’s a bunch of juvenile edgelord nonsense that the creators will grow out of when they hit 16 or 17.

        I have a very hard time believing that the people featured seriously subscribe to any policies of the NSDAP.

        More importantly, there are good reasons for Steam to remain apolitical. It frankly boggles my mind that anyone would want a corporation to police their speech. Can you point to a single moment in history where that has ever ended well? I certainly can’t.

        Sure, in theory, you could just shut down anyone who says mean words on Steam, but please realise that this won’t solve the problem. It will just engender resentment at what these people will perceive to be a politically protected class.

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          I think it’s fair to assume that “filled” in this instance means “more than a handful of examples”, not “literally a significant percentage of the userbase”.

          > It’s a bunch of juvenile edgelord nonsense that the creators will grow out of when they hit 16 or 17.

          There’s no such thing as an ‘ironic’ nazi. If you post that shit, you are a part of it. You cannot excuse hateful trash like some of the material shown in that article with “oh they’re just edgy kids having a laugh”. NO, fuck that shit. Garbage like that should not be welcome on ANY platform.

          And also *fuck* equating literal textbook definition of hate speech to “says mean words”. Fuck that SO MUCH. If you say dumb shit like that you are part of the problem.

          As for being “apolitical”: A private corporation can absolutely refuse to do business with or provide a platform to those who violate its terms of service. For Valve this seems to mainly include people who cheat during online games or scam their trading system, but apparently not people who engage in the hate speech that is *explicitly forbidden* in the language of many of its TOS documents. If they were following their own rules they would ban the shit out of these scumbags.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            * This is provided the terms remain within the bounds of the law, which in most places prohibits discrimination based on ethnicity, sexual orientation or religious belief, and certainly prohibits advocating violence against groups or individuals.

          • Cederic says:

            equating literal textbook definition of hate speech to “says mean words”

            Sadly though it’s very hard to have an online discussion about actual hate speech because people do conflate it with “says mean words”.

            “I don’t agree with ..” is decried as ‘hate speech’.
            “Strange, the facts disagree” is slammed as ‘hate speech’.
            “You’re making a false extrapolation from an individual incident across an entire population group” faces calls for bans as ‘hate speech’.

            You want examples? Look at all the fuss and stupidity saying James Damore is misogynistic when he tried to identify how to better welcome women and help them be successful within his industry. He got sacked for trying to do the right thing, because ‘hate speech’.

            No wonder people react so strongly to the term.

          • Pharos says:

            There’s no such thing as an ‘ironic’ nazi.

            I’m choosing to interpret this as “my own personal value system means the idea of someone using Nazi iconography and rhetoric, however sarcastically, is completely unacceptable”. I feel that the alternative, that you’re claiming you can read the minds of every single one of these people and you can say authoritatively that they’re serious about being actual Nazis, is not very likely.

            Regardless, I restate my original objection: when you give up a freedom, assume you’re giving it away to the worst people in the world, because eventually they’ll have it.

            Once you give the power to censor to the sort of people who want the power to censor, they will a) demand even more of it, and b) never, ever give it back. Once they’ve got rid of all the “Nazis”, are they going to hang up their banhammers and call the job done, or are they going to find some other group or ideology that justifies their existence? What does your experience of human nature tell you is more likely? Why do you assume this won’t affect you in the future?

            Perhaps now I’m the one trying to read minds. Are you aware of that but you just don’t mind? I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

          • malkav11 says:

            James Damore is a pretty terrible example of an innocent martyr. His points were rooted in decades old, thoroughly debunked conceptions of female capabilities and while it’s conceivable that he was still somehow unaware of the illegitimacy of these concepts and legitimately meant to help, his subsequent behavior doesn’t exactly reinforce that picture.

          • Unclepauly says:

            Surprise but my son and his friends ironically act like Nazis. Guess What? Only half of them are even white! I thought it was weird at 1st to hear black kids acting like Nazis but they think it’s funny. So yeah, I bet they aren’t the only ones.

          • Landiss says:

            Do they also ironically role play humiliating and killing Jews? I mean, you can’t be serious, but it’s impossible to tell in the internet…

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            @Unclepauly:
            >my son and his friends ironically act like Nazis.
            Well then, your son and his friends are pieces of shit. Congrats! Good job on the parenting! (this of course assuming that you’re not simply a troll making shit up, the more likely explanation)

            @Pharos: Intent is irrelevant. The effect is the same. If you march with nazis or spread nazi propaganda, you’re a nazi.

            The only slippery slope here is people like yourself being totally fine with tolerating nazis in your community.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            Anyway, I’m done dignifying this shit with a response. Knock yourself out.

          • Dogshevik says:

            @Pharos
            The idea that not allowing people to condone or endorse mass murder will inevitably lead to a totalitarian dystopia is … quite far fetched.

            Censorship is bad, agreed. But maybe endorsing mass murder is bad too?

            Because that´s what we are talking about. Mass murder and its symbolism. Not politics.

            I think you will concede that the people using the symbolism (“ironically” or not) are 100% aware of that.

  12. Phantom_Renegade says:

    So PCGamer.com asked me to disable the adblocker. Which I thought was fair, I was reading their content. I unblocked them, read a single sentence and then… a massive video-advertisment for some movie completely covered my screen and started playing.

    See, this is why I use an adblocker. Not to block your revenue screen, but so I can actually read your website. Use banners, have paid editorial content, whatever. But don’t be obnoxious. I immediately blocked PCGamer again, I’m learning from my mistakes. How’s about websites do the same.

    • Horg says:

      I will never remove an addblocker until internet advertisements are regulated to the same standard as other media.

      • Landiss says:

        Could we please have better standards instead? I really hate when radio ads are always a little bit louder than music or other programs.

        • Premium User Badge

          DelrueOfDetroit says:

          If you work in the ad department of a radio station, you are going to hell.

        • aepervius says:

          It has been a long time I looked at the issue, but in many country they are not allowed to have radio/TV ad louder than the program. So they simply used a trick which work well with our ears : they cut off the lower and higher frequency , and set output the maximum peak power onto the frequency we can ear. The result is that it *sounds* as if it was much louder while outputting the same peak power as legally allowed. Factually we naturally hear it as louder (often painfully so).

          • Landiss says:

            Yeah, I’m aware of that. As with so many laws we just tend to say it’s ok when the bad guys (yeah, I know this example is trivial, but similar things happen everywhere, most notably in regards to taxation) find a way to breach the law and that it just has to be like that. No, it doesn’t, unless we just let it be.

          • MattM says:

            @Landiss
            Right, if that’s the case the law can be amended with a measuring method that accounts for perceived loudness. Some things are so complex or subjective that legislation can be difficult, but I don’t think this is one of them.

  13. Baines says:

    Aztez was moderately interesting as an indie game story five years ago. Of course five years ago was not only a different time in the market, it was early enough in development that all we knew of Aztez was artwork and promises. It is easy to be interested in a game when all you have are promises that it will be interesting/good.

    When Aztez was covered closer to release, it just didn’t seem that interesting. At least it didn’t seem that interesting on the occasions where something reminded me that it existed, and I didn’t get it confused with Apotheon. The combat system sounded functional (from article descriptions), but not a game-seller on its own merits. The black and white (and red and grey) color scheme, while it gained the game attention in its earliest indie days, looked like a big handicap for a regular retail product. I remember reading an article talking about how the enemies were given a faded look to help with visual recognition in a black and white world, and while it was easy to locate the player character, the included screenshots and the video of the combat made it look like it created an issue of enemies blending into the background.

    And then the game released at $20. I know some people don’t like to mention prices, but that is important when you consider just how many options exist in the world.

    Although I do think the color thing may be the biggest strike against the game. I cannot help but think it would have sold a bit better if it were in full color, even a muted full color. Heck, even keep the faded background and enemy thing, where the main character is a bit brighter than the rest of the muted color world.

  14. fupjack says:

    Bonus points for that STALKER article for capping a screenshot of the most pants-poopingly scary moment in the game. (first Controller encounter)

  15. Synesthesia says:

    Thanks for bringing attention to the steam hate group thing. We should contact steam support en masse, asking for a swift response. That shit is not fucking acceptable.

    -Edit- And of course, contacting them directly is night impossible. Does anybody know a way around mailing them directly?

    • Cederic says:

      Doesn’t GabeN have a valvesoftware.com email address?

      I’m not saying he reads it personally but it’s the one he uses for his own Steam account.

      • MultiVaC says:

        Yeah that is an email he reads personally, or at least he used to. Back in days Half-Life 2 hype you could generally email him fan questions about Valve games or Steam and there was a good chance you would get a reply. I think in the one of the HL2 episodes’ commentary he talked about how he tried to read every email he gets. Probably not the case any more, but I checked the depths of my Gmail archive and found a couple emails I sent back in the innocent days of 2003-2004 that he replied to. Made me a little sad, thinking of the contrast in Valve’s behavior from then to now.

  16. Bobtree says:

    I have Aztez and The Magic Circle both wishlisted. Aztez has continuous screen shaking, which I hate. The Magic Circle is only 4 hours long. Both may be overpriced at $20, given how saturated the market is.

  17. malkav11 says:

    The Magic Circle is a fine game for what it does do, but personally to me it felt a bit undercooked – and not just because it’s theoretically an unfinished game in the fiction. You get a bunch of toys to play with and then boom, you’re already done. And the puzzles have so many possible solutions that in general they don’t end up feeling particularly clever or interesting.

  18. April March says:

    I have something to offer to the Sunday Gods this week. I backed Cultist Simulator, and this week Alexis posted a snipped of a conversation he had with his UI designers. I found it an interesting thing for those who are interested in the nitty-gritty of game-making, player perception, and keeping your mind open to the possibility of changing your game’s entire pathos because players can’t figure out what’s going on.

    link to weatherfactory.biz

  19. RabbitIslandHermit says:

    Valve needs to be broken up (as they would have almost automatically ~40 years ago). Monopoly without social responsibility is unworkable.

    In the meantime I’ll be shopping at Itch.io.

    • RabbitIslandHermit says:

      On a sidenote, it’s really terrible that Steam of all places has become the arguable center of the PC gaming community. A community platform run by people who clearly do not care about their community. Store-centric forums are pretty awful in principle, too.

    • MattM says:

      Although Valve has a large market share, the online videogame retail market has many players and a low barrier to enter. Valve hasn’t engaged in anti-competitive activities as they allow games sold on their service to be sold on other services (with the exception of a tiny number of valve developed games), allow developers to charge different prices on other stores, and have even with the recent restriction on number of keys that can be generated still allows developers to sell steam keys on other stores like humblebundle and doesn’t take a cut despite being on the hook for the bandwidth and support tickets (insert obvious joke about valve support here) which actively helps their competitors.
      Valve is a terrible candidate for trust-busting. Itch.io is pretty cool though with their store cut policy but they don’t do much moderating of content either.

      • RabbitIslandHermit says:

        Valve doesn’t allow devs to sell at a different price on different stores, at least not long-term. And giving out steam codes to encourage people to be locked into the platform is hardly a tactic unknown to monopoly. It’s not like bandwidth costs a significant amount at that volume (and as you’ve already pointed out their customer support is worthless).

        It is virtually impossible to sell PC video games for profit without doing business with Valve. That’s a dangerous level of market concentration, which in of itself was once considered sufficient reason to break up a company. Are there more worthy candidates than Valve? Sure: Microsoft, Google, Apple, banks, etc., but that’s besides the point.

        Itch.io’s lack of moderation is excusable because they aren’t worth billions of dollars and they don’t charge the same amount for a digital storefront as a physical storefront charges (and I’ve never seen anything much untoward on there besides).

        • MattM says:

          I deliberately didn’t make a “there are others that are worse” argument because I know its a poor argument (outside of questions of resource allocation) so its a bit of a strawman to make that point. I just disagree that pure market share should be enough to break up a company and believe that valve hasn’t taken enough anti-competitive activities to warrant it.
          Viviendi, Microsoft, and EA all release titles off steam including the best selling PC game of all time.
          I also think that the author of the article elided over that fact that those groups have few followers and very recent founding dates suggesting that they are likely to be caught in some periodic sweep. I just checked and some of them have already been banned (possibly in response to this article).
          Itch.io sells games promoting political violence, against Nazi’s yes, but bad actions don’t become good when applied to today’s jerk punching bags. If someone applied “punch a non-violent person with an abhorrent ideology” then read accounts what communism, marxism, and Russian race identity had a role in in the USSR then people would be free to assault a good 10-20% of liberal arts professors.
          I’m not saying you shouldn’t vote with your wallet and switch to other digital stores, that’s all good and fine, but I don’t agree that the government should step in and break up the company just for its success or for being a bit slow in moderating offensive but not illegal (in the US) content.
          (Edit: some of this argument is more a response to some up thread stuff so feel free to ignore it)

          • RabbitIslandHermit says:

            Excessive market concentration is a drag on the economy and there’s nothing wrong with government intervention to encourage competition, US economic growth was highest when federal regulators were quickest to take action against monopolies and oligopolies. Valve’s utter disinterest in doing much of anything aside from coasting off their dominant market position just makes their monopoly all the more pernicious.

            There was an article a month or two ago that pointed out Nazi groups that had been reported multiple times that Valve ignored. They don’t do regular sweeps, they don’t check on reported groups (unless, presumably, there are enough (probably scores of) reports that their algorithm kicks it up to an actual human being). I can say from personal experience that they don’t do anything about rape threats. They don’t seem at all bothered that their community is one giant cesspool, and that’s a problem.

            I’m not gonna touch the equivalence between Marxism and Nazism except to say that as someone who attended a rather left-leaning liberal arts school I never ran into or heard of a tanky professor and barely ran into self-identifying Marxist professors.

          • MattM says:

            If you are referring to the 20-35 years of post WWII era of economic growth, then it is tough to control for all the possible factors that could have caused the boom. The rival technical/industrial powerhouse of Europe was destroyed, war spending had injected a powerful deficit stimulus, women were entering the workforce increasing the labor and talent supply, and the invention of the transistor in 1947 kicked off a massive new industry which powers growth even today. I don’t think there is adequate evidence that a similar very strong anti-trust movement would result in strong economic growth and I do think there is evidence that a strong anti-large company, anti-profit agenda would hurt the economy and employment.
            I attended a 5c school (HMC) which was next door to a college (Pitzer) that wouldn’t feel feel out of place in a parody of P.C. culture. While I was there, there was a confirmed case where a professor vandalized their own car with racial epitaphs because they wanted to rally students to protest. If I overestimated the number of Marxist professors out there, it doesn’t really change my point that if we decide it is acceptable to physically attack people because they advocate for ideas associated with movements that have committed atrocities in the past, then we won’t be stopping with Nazis and will be declaring open season on many people and ideologies.
            I’m not against anti-trust but I think there should be evidence that the company’s actions are causing a specific harm to the market or consumers and I don’t see how that has happened with Valve.

  20. Distec says:

    Out of sheer freakin’ curiosity I decided to read the comments on RPS today. In some ways it’s comforting to know that there’s still a healthy contingent of uber-progressive hysteria and judgment. The world just wouldn’t feel right without it.

    You people are operating in some weird alternate dimension the opposite side of the Black Mirror where 30-40% of the people around you are loudly advocating and turning the gears towards open mass murder. That sounds wonderfully fraught and dramatic! I wish my life was this exciting.

    Stay golden, and good luck. You will really need it. :D

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