The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for watching some kind of everlasting conflict, probably.

This week’s Papers are heaving with absorbing personal stories, and Steven Messner’s account of EVE Online’s first all-woman pirate gang for PC Gamer seems a good place to start. It’s basically a truism at this point, but the day interesting reads stop coming out of EVE is the day all of society crumbles.

In its first few months, Hellcats made a splash in New Eden. Word spread quickly of a gang of badasses roaming through pockets of low-sec like a Mad Max-style biker gang. But in a universe dominated by men, the fact that a few ‘yarr girls’ had banded together to cause chaos was met with a more ‘that’s cute’ attitude than actual respect—or so Mynxee believes. “I think they just thought we were a novelty,” she speculates. “We had some respectable kills, flew respectable ships, and we were pretty skilled. But I don’t really know because I didn’t ask or care. We were who we were. It wasn’t about fitting in, it was about having fun and having our own self-identifying group and culture.”

At Eurogamer, Alex Wiltshire wrote about the joy of discovering a game by yourself in the algorithmic age. It’s a measured take on the pros and cons of living in a time where good games are in abundance, while the twin forces of the internet and algorithms robs us of a sense of discovery that we had in our youth. Well, not mine, obviously.

I’m not sure you can feel that sense of ownership for many games today. They exist in a lattice of all their other players, across their Steam Community Hubs and Twitter accounts. There’s a guide for everything. There are guides for Scavenger SV-4. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing. The truth of my experience as an indie kid was loneliness. I held those few games I had tight because there was nothing else to them. I’d loved to have been able to access more, to see screenshots and read walkthroughs and watch videos detailing their Easter eggs. And Steam is great at finding games I like.

There are some good anecdotes in Rob Zacny’s BattleTech review for Waypoint, but I’ve grabbed the quote below because for me, reading it crystallised why I’ve got little desire to play the game at the moment. I could probably overcome the fiddly UI and annoying wait times, but the tactical game beneath sounds deeply draining.

At their best, these battles start to feel like prize fights as exhausted combatants circle toward each other, weighed down by the history of old scars and the knowledge that the bill collectors will come knocking, win or lose. Every new hit means more time and money spent on repairs, every lost component is something new to be replaced, every wound means additional weeks in the hospital for your pilot. Again: It’s all about attrition. Even if you win, you’ll still lose… but at least you’ll be alive.

Also on Waypoint, Danielle Riendeau wrote about how she spent her weekend playing heteronormative 60s board games marketed to young girls. Mystery Date does not sound great, but seeing the actual “dud” does present that bit in the Simpsons in a whole new light.

The game teaches excellent values like, if you dress right, you might get a man and be ok in life! And also: watch out for the dud! (The “dud” is the cutest boy and dude just looks like he hangs out in Brooklyn, so, idk man).

It was released in 1965 and marketed to girls 6-14, so, you know we’re in pretty nasty territory here, in terms of strict gender roles and the way those are communicated to children through toys. I mean, we still are: toys are still marketed heavily through gender stereotypes. And here’s another disturbing thing I noticed in the 1965 edition Mystery Date: everyone appeared to be white. Woof.

For the Washington Post, Tom Jackman wrote about a recycling innovator who’s facing a 15-month prison sentence for selling windows restore disks. The long and short of it is that Eric Lundgren is being punished for helping people to extend the life of their PCs in a way that could only be viewed as unethical from a twisted commercial perspective.

Lundgren pleaded guilty but argued that the value of his discs was zero, so there was no harm to anyone. Neither Microsoft nor any computer manufacturers sell restore discs. They supply them free with new computers, and make the software available for free downloading, for those who have paid for the software and received a license – typically a sticker with a “Certificate of Authenticity” number on it. Lundgren said he was trying to make the discs available again for those who needed them, and that they could only be used on licensed computers.

Here’s one more legal story, even though it’s a Wired article that you can only read if you’ve paid or haven’t clicked on two other articles this week, because it’s riveting. Brendan I. Koerner wrote up the story of some teenage hackers whose activities started innocently enough, then spiralled into the distinctly immoral. I’ve highlighted this bit not because it’s the most shocking thing Pokora got up to, but the point at which I stopped being on his side.

For an extra $50 to $150, Pokora and Clark also offered “infections”—powers that players’ characters would retain when they joined nonhacked games. Pokora was initially reluctant to sell infections: He knew his turbocharged clients would slaughter their hapless opponents, a situation that struck him as contrary to the spirit of gaming. But then the money started rolling in—as much as $8,000 on busy days. There were so many customers that he and Clark had to hire employees to deal with the madness. Swept up in the excitement of becoming an entrepreneur, Pokora forgot all about his commitment to fairness. It was one more step down a ladder he barely noticed he was descending.

‘Nimbus_Nought’ (a friend of mine) somehow knows the details of every character’s potential death in Mass Effect 1-3.

Music this week is Back it Up by Caro Emerald, because enough weeks have gone by for me to link to another of her tracks.

31 Comments

  1. I Got Pineapples says:

    This Old Time-y Piece Of Pop Culture Does Not Reflect The Values Of Today will never not result in a tired, insipid piece of criticism and that Riendeau piece has done nothing to buck this trend.

    • Kohlrabi says:

      If something contanins the phrase “heteronormative” you can be certain that it won’t be worth reading.

      • I Got Pineapples says:

        It’s not that. It’s that people have been doing Mystery Date Is Problematic since at least the 90’s. What, exactly, is being added to the discourse there beyond the initial, kinda obvious because it’s a dating game from the freaking 60’s, thesis?

        • klops says:

          It’s like fashion. Reinventing things introduced 20 years again. Adidas button pants, critising stuff that was problematic but only 30 years old then, etc.

        • MajorLag says:

          Right? It is a product of its time, it would only be noteworthy if it didn’t reflect the culture of the period.

        • Vinraith says:

          I’m particularly putt off by the shock she expresses about the lack of minority representation in a children’s game from 1965. How old is this person, and what school utterly failed to teach them about the civil rights movement?

          • Chairman_Meow says:

            I hate it when I’m reading a book or playing a game set in the 1800s and its all problematic because of slavery and women being treated as less than men. It’s like they had never even heard of intersectionality, gender studies, or civil rights!

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            FhnuZoag says:

            The Civil Rights Act was signed the year before the publication of this game. Brown vs Board of Education, desegregating schools was back in 1955. MLK just got a nobel prize.

            What do you know about the civil rights movement?

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            FhnuZoag says:

            Worth noting the other game she played from a mere 4 years later did let you play as a black girl…

          • GeoX says:

            I hate it when I’m reading a book or playing a game set in the 1800s and its all problematic because of slavery and women being treated as less than men.

            “Set in the 1800s” is a completely different thing from “created in the 1800s.” You don’t appear to really be paying attention to this debate.

          • klops says:

            FhnuZoag:
            So you seriously disagree that it’s a no-brainer that an American board game made in 1965 isn’t taking minorities into consideration?

    • Det. Bullock says:

      Sincerely I just think that the problem is that doing a retrospective on old board games without undelining that they are “heteronormative” in this day and age might incur in the risk of the article taken as an endorsement of those outdated values. RPS is a rather “clean” community but I also write in some Italian videogame forums and ooh, boy, you have no idea of what the moderators tolerate there.

      • Cederic says:

        What about people that think heteronormativity is natural and harmless?

        I mean, “Girl, dress nicely and some idiot will work himself to death to give you a home and spending money” isn’t a nice message even if it does match the career aspirations of many women. It does however very accurately represent the sexual preferences of most women.

        What’s wrong with that?

  2. Someoldguy says:

    At the risk of repeating what is rapidly becoming a tired old line, Rob Zacny needed to watch a tactics video like the ones by Anaro Sunfire if he sees it as a punishing war of attrition rather than a careful use of tactics to achieve a bloodless victory. In the last dozen battles I haven’t lost more than a heat sink or had more than two mechwarriors recuperating from injury post-battle. That just means the stand-ins get to have a go. Money isn’t trivially abundant but it’s not cripplingly short either. The game has an inadequate tutorial and that’s causing lots of problems. Plus people don’t read the advice it gives anyway, like it being sensible to withdraw from any “oh shit” contracts before you get blown to bits, rather than bemoan your wrecked mechs and empty bank account after a narrow win.

    In a way it has this problem because this is a genre that hasn’t been seen since maybe CyberStorm 1/2 in the ’90’s. It has a duty to teach people how to play. People don’t write reviews about getting killed over and over and over again in FPS games despite shockingly inadequate tutorials. The genre can rely on it being highly likely that you’ve played similar games before. Only a small minority need to be hand held through every nuance of how to circle strafe or use cover or which weapon to use in which situation. Those that do can turn to youtube to see other people play for guidance … just like BattleTech. Except many of the streamers aren’t good at BattleTech.

    • Cederic says:

      So how does it compare to Cyberstorm? I really liked those games, it would be quite excellent if BattleTech had comparable gameplay.

      • Someoldguy says:

        It’s a far more detailed game as you have much more control over your mechwarriors and mechs on both the strategic layer and the tactical map. It’s been too many years since I played Cyberstorm to give a genuine point by point comparison other than to say I really enjoyed both. If you’re interested, I’d suggest watching one of the streamers teaching tactical gameplay and see if it appeals to you e.g. Anaro Sunfire or Eck.

  3. Kollega says:

    So, you can go to prison in the US for distributing software that demands a license key, as if you were distributing pirated software. Just because it stops people from “buying new” (and contributing to the mountains of e-waste with the still-working “old” that they throw out).

    I would say that I am shocked or unpleasantly surprised or something like that. But I recently read a story that BBC ran, about people in the US routinely getting sentenced for deliberate murder because they tried an armed robbery and one of their accomplices got shot. So honestly, Americans seem to enjoy just as many legal rights and protections today as people living in run-down third-world dictatorships. “Yay!”

    • MajorLag says:

      In this case it is worth noting that the person in question put Dell and MS logos on the CDs they were distributing, which is a pretty clear trademark violation and makes one a bit suspicious about their intent.

      That said, yeah, it’s pretty stupid that you can go to prison for things like this. That’s what happens when you live in a plutocracy I guess.

  4. phenom_x8 says:

    I didnt know this article have been mentioned or not, but I guess its worth a read :
    link to vg247.com

  5. Shazbut says:

    The Wired story is amazing

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    kfix says:

    Oh god, the plucky fan-site’s comment section on the Eve story….

  7. Premium User Badge

    FhnuZoag says:

    It’s interesting that the actual Mystery Date thing is strongly class-orientated – the ‘Dud’ seems dressed in working class attire, and the rest is to stress he’s ‘untidy’, I guess. In contrast the high class dates are the upright chaps in a dinner jacket.

    In contrast the Simpsons version translates it to a jocks vs nerds thing. This works for the joke but I wonder if the writers had played the original game.

  8. cpt_freakout says:

    IMO the thing about ‘discovery’ is that it’s primarily founded upon a lack of communication, and the feeling that Wiltshire describes (and I don’t mean this condescendingly, I’ve felt the same way) has more to do with making yourself feel special through a kind of knowledge you then restrict. I was a teen when the internet became relatively widespread here in my country, and the stores that carried PC games were always months, sometimes even years, behind the current releases I’d see in magazines. The solution was to go to one of the piracy bazaars where vendors somehow got their hands on the latest releases, always, and you’d be able to buy and discuss new games with the geekdom that gathered there. Most of my friends were too ‘nice’ to go to such a seedy place, so I’d get to school with all these new games they’d only heard or read about (and that took many, many months and sometimes a year or more to get officially carried by stores). I’d feel special, but also stupid because for the most part I couldn’t really talk about the games that much… so I started copying them for my friends, making the discoveries much more enjoyable in the end.

    To me, sharing discoveries with a community makes them so, so much better, and I think there’s plenty of proof in RPS columns such as the Free Games one and the new cool Steam releases one. Those columns also prove that yes, you can still ‘discover’ things even when an algorithm is pushing all sorts of stuff into your view.

  9. dontnormally says:

    It would be cool if people could make an article instead of a long, hard to follow tweet chain for interesting stuff like the “all ME deaths” thing.

  10. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    My Favorite Gaming Thing this week is the new episode of Soren Johnson’s Designer Notes podcast, the first part of a two-part interview with Brian Reynolds. This first episode is all about how he broke into the early 1990’s gaming industry, talking about getting stuck making Rex Nebular, turning down Richard Garriott, being a Civ 1 fanboy while it was being developed, getting Microprose to take a risk on Colonization, and the huge surprise success of Civ 2 at the dawn of the Windows 95 era.

    It will definitely appeal to RPS readers of a certain age.

    Edit: Link-
    link to idlethumbs.net

    • melancholicthug says:

      Thanks for this! As an Alpha Centauri addict (a couple of years clean) this pleases me. The thought of being “of a certain age” is worrying, though.

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