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Worth Reading: 07/14/2014

As this feature shuffles over to Monday morning, let's reflect on last week's news experiments before a bunch of really thoughtful pieces take over.

You might have noticed a couple of experiments in the news section of Giant Bomb this week. There wasn't a particular reason to shake things up--there's no strict mandate from above, in other words--but I wanted to try a few things out, and see how people (including me) responded to them.

Some things worked, a bunch of things didn't. Before we move onto the rest of Worth Reading, I wanted to pull up each of the articles and point out what we can take away for the future of news.

The inspiration for this one was simple: Vox. The formatting isn't new, but Vox has become one of my go-to spots for politics, and this format's used to explain complicated topics. So while I think there's something here, a news story about Cliff Bleszinski starting a new studio, in which we know barely anything about the studio or game, probably wasn't the best way to start. This would have been far more appropriate for breaking down ZeniMax's lawsuit against Oculus when documents showed up in court. Some people liked it, some people didn't. Given the right context, the right story, I would probably bring this one back. But it won't be common.

There's an alternate universe where this becomes a tweet instead of a news post, and while I'm not suggesting all my tweets will become news, this seemed worth sharing. It's not "news" in the traditional sense, as no press release was issued, but given my continued interest in understanding games that don't appeal to me, I thought people would get something out of it. Don't expect this every day, but I'll probably share more of this.

This one did tremendous traffic for Giant Bomb. I won't share numbers, but it was exponentially more than your average popular news feature. Some people worried the headline suggested Giant Bomb was going to the realm of clickbait-y Upworthy-style headlines, but that wasn't the intent at all. I thought the headline teased what was happening in the story just fine, though a more straightforward "Skullgirls Developer Catches Pirate in the Act, Hugs It Out" could have worked, too. In any case, don't worry about some new, crappy headline trend. We don't have to worry about pandering to Google traffic, so I'm allowed to be straightforward and get to the point.

If I could take back a single story this week, it's this one. We tend to avoid journalistic navel gazing, and this one qualifies as a "slap yourself on the back, Patrick" kind of story. There was no reason to post this, and I felt bad after it went up. It was tempting to take it down and say "this was stupid," but one should live with mistakes.

Not much to say, except that the bit about "console exclusive" was flippant. That happens when one starts writing a bunch of stories quickly. You become less thoughtful, and often fall back on whatever comes first. It's my theory on why there's so much snark on the Internet. It's easier to be sarcastic than it is to be insightful.

One of my favorite blogs is Daring Fireball. Though writer John Guber mostly writes about Apple, he often files sharp commentary about other Internet going ons. This was my attempt at something similar, passing along a piece of information--pre-order DLC for Alien: Isolation--and roping in the larger conversation about pre-order DLC. Sharing what other people were saying on Twitter might have been unnecessary, but I enjoyed having a venue to share observations in a way that's larger than 140 characters, yet doesn't justify its own post.

With that out of the way, let me know what you think. I'll continue to play around in the news department, and I'm always looking for your feedback. Plenty of people have already sent it my way, and it's much appreciated!

Hey, You Should Play This

And You Should Read These, Too

I never took the relationships in Mass Effect seriously, it always struck me as goofy, and unlocking an achievement for having sex struck me as a crass and unnecessary. But Yannick LeJacq's personal essay about how Mass Effect and Dragon Age allow players to experience a world where gay relationships aren't given a second glance floored me. LeJacq criticizes BioWare's approach here, arguing it's not reflective of real-life, but he makes a passionate defense for the very thing he's criticizing, arguing that's, perhaps, a worthy fantasy.

"For those people, the gay switch delivers a fantasy of near-perfect equality. Everything is so normalized you almost don't even know it's there. Unfortunately, that's not how things work out in real life for many people. In terms of its storytelling, then, I think the sexuality in Mass Effect isn't particularly sophisticated. It says less about the experiences of real gay people than something like the It Gets Better project. And that's a public outreach campaign put on by a prominent gay rights activist, not something to be viewed at our leisure.

So it's troubling to think that a game like Mass Effect or Dragon Age gives young players the idea that nobody will ever treat them differently once they find out they're anything other than straight, rather than give them the tools with which they can start to understand and accept the discrimination they may end up facing in their lives."

If you aren't continuing to follow Cara Ellison's "Embed With" series on Tumblr, change that! Her latest profile follows two weeks with Quadrilateral Cowboy developer Brendon Chung. Ellison's pieces are wholly unique is how much flavor she captures about the first-person reporting experience. I cannot capture these observations with my own reporting, which largely happens over Skype. In a piece ostensibly about Chung, Ellison paints a vivid picture of making games in Los Angeles, capturing a largely overlooked development culture. While we learn very little about what Chung is working on by the end of the story, Quadrilateral Cowboy will eventually speak for itself. Chung (and LA) is enough.

"For Brendon, making things seems like something necessary for him, but it doesn’t really matter what medium they are in as long as he can keep making connections with people.

'There is something about having people play your stuff, enjoy your stuff,' he says to me. 'Knowing that you’re making some sort of connection out there. For me, I love with when someone makes something just for me. there are some movies out there that I think, ‘You made this just for me. You made this movie to appeal straight to my senses.’ I like to try to make stuff for people who don’t have stuff made for them.'"

If You Click It, It Will Play

These Crowdfunding Projects Look Pretty Cool

  • Pyrella's spin on a Metroid-inspired action game is making darkness a key component.
  • Epanalepsis is a point-and-click with three narratives (1990s, 2010s, 2030s) about life and technology.
  • The Deer God, a game about reincarnation, has players exploring as, well, a deer. I'm in.

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+
131 Comments
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Posted by Cuuniyevo

Since nobody else has mentioned it in the comments yet, I feel compelled to re-link the Crawl announcement. It really is the best. Crawl is Delayed

Edited by Kovski

I wonder if publishing Worth reading on mondays is really a good idea? I mean the nature of Worth reading is that it's a more of a long read that I find just more fitting for the weekend when I personally have more time and there is nothing else going on at the site. Now I am worried it will just drown in everything else. But I also feel that the benefits of a weekend's rest can be good too. So I don't know what works the best, but for me it's not ideal. I do like the experimenting tho, always good to keep us on the toes!

Posted by yeah_write

@yeah_write said:

I'd be interested in something similar, but maybe a bit more introspective. Maybe something like, "How I played X." You could tell us--with or without spoilers--how you went through the game and how you felt about your decisions, maybe even get a round table of guests who played it too. Busy gaming dads like myself always appreciate seeing other paths through a game because we rarely have time to make second runs--as a game journo, I'm sure you don't either.

That is an incredibly interesting idea. One would hope that modern games are freeform enough that gameplay methodology could be included in the discussion, as well (and be more interesting than, say, "I liked the shotgun").

Yeah, like maybe combine this with a developer interview. That would take "I liked the shotgun" and add in "You probably liked it because we did X to the physics and Y to the animation to make it feel like Z when you pulled the trigger."

Or even better, get devs to talk about things they would have preferred or changed. It's so rare to see game creators talk about the shortcomings in their creations. Writers, artists, musicians--they do it all the time. Game creators never do. Maybe that's because when they admit something fell short a zillion articles are written about how they dropped the ball, and because gamers are horrible creatures, they demand refunds for their 50+ hours of entertainment. Sigh...

Posted by thomasnash

I like this 2-part response to that Michael McMaster piece: On Mountain and On Text Vs. Form

really makes you think

I dunno, that basically just seems like post-structuralist/post-modernist dogmatism that doesn't really meaningfully engage with his argument at all, to me.

Posted by Veektarius

@hrn212: Well, first off I think you realize that you're sort of misinterpreting what I said. The "unexpected social dynamics" are not the presence of gay people but rather the way in which they conduct themselves. As for what "expected" social dynamics are, there is certainly room for person-to-person variation, but this particular topic wouldn't have come up if it struck people as the norm when they encountered it. The fact that this Bioware employee made his point in the way that he did kind of confirms that it was not meant to be a realistic homosexual encounter by the standards of the current day.

Posted by hrn212

I think its great you are experimenting and trying new things, and being super frank and open about it.

On the Mass Effect thing, I don't really agree. Its science fiction. True science fiction is social commentary about present-day issues. With this, Bioware is saying that 'it shouldn't be a big deal, and that in the future it won't be.'

There's a bit of dissonance, there, though between what the narrative is trying to explicitly say and what other aspects of the game say.

"It shouldn't be a big deal in the future," is what the narrative says...and yet they didn't have an option for MaleShep to be gay until ME3.

"It shouldn't be a big deal in the future," is what the narrative says...and yet the queer bits of the story were hidden from the player unless the player actively chose to find them. (Until ME3 where we had what's-his-face mourning his dead husband).

Mass Effect and Dragon Age are attempting to be (and largely succeeding) social commentaries and yet still often fall into some of the traps of the society they are commenting on. Personally I think that's part of what makes the idealised treatment of same-sex relationships in the game somewhat frustrating...it's not just that they are idealised, it's that they are idealised in some ways and problematic in others, thus making the idealised bits seem a bit hollow.

Edited by yeah_write

I know...I'm quoting myself:

3. More articles on reflections from game creators AFTER a game comes out would be great (LOVED your Walking Dead series). This industry is so preview driven, it amazes me how little we see after a game comes out. This could take the form of spoiler casts, chats with game designers, or maybe even bits of reflection from specific team members/contractors--voice actors, musicians, the guy who had to draw all the backgrounds, etc. The article on Mark of the Ninja with the old concept videos was really cool. That behind-the-scenes stuff can be fascinating.

Thanks for all your hard work Patrick!

Forgot to add these links. I'd love to see huge behind-the-scenes guest posts like these ones from Joey Ellis:

http://www.joeyblog.com/2014/05/the-visual-development-of-bonsai-slice.html

http://www.joeyblog.com/2014/06/making-leaky-timbers.html

I'm all for seeing how the sausage is made.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@hrn212 said:

See, the thing is...every time I play a game with no lgbt characters that breaks my immersion.

What about games without any characters to speak of, but where immersion is still a factor on some level? Like Burnout, for instance?

Posted by TimesHero

One thing I enjoyed during some of the original bombcasts was the idea of spoiler casts. When Adam Sessler was at Revision 3, he did a show called "Spoiled Games". This kind of content in particular helped me sort out my thoughts about games I finished.

@yeah_write said:

I'd be interested in something similar, but maybe a bit more introspective. Maybe something like, "How I played X." You could tell us--with or without spoilers--how you went through the game and how you felt about your decisions, maybe even get a round table of guests who played it too. Busy gaming dads like myself always appreciate seeing other paths through a game because we rarely have time to make second runs--as a game journo, I'm sure you don't either.

That is an incredibly interesting idea. One would hope that modern games are freeform enough that gameplay methodology could be included in the discussion, as well (and be more interesting than, say, "I liked the shotgun").

This idea could work out. Some games I don't have time to play, and most certainly not a second time through. I think as long as you can get a couple people together who finished it, and weather or not you have to Google Hangout the thing. I've noticed a void for this kind of "One specific game only" content all over the internet. More post-mortems that aren't tailored for the GDC audience only would be great too.

Edited by cooljammer00

The best thing is the follow up tweet of Edmund McMillen, where his niece tells him that he can differentiate between meat girls and boys by giving the girls muscles and the boys a red bow and makeup.

Online
Edited by Brodehouse

I don't understand.

When we write gay characters who undergo true-to-life experiences of gay people, including being insulted, belittled, invalidated and having their personalities overwritten by people who think all gay people must behave like X... those games get criticized for 'contributing to an anti-gay culture' by including bigoted characters who act in homophobic manners. Even if it feels like an authentic portrayal of that character. Especially if the game doesn't follow up by making that character a complete villain. Think about Yosuke's rather typical homophobia, he doesn't appear to hate gays but he does feel threatened by Kanji and a lot of other rather typical things of people who grew/grow up in a culture that tells them certain things about gays. These games have the true-to-life gay experiences that the article wants, but they get used as examples of how games writers hate gay people by including real life negatives.

When we write sci-fi space operas that take place two hundred years in the future, and we see a culture that has ostensibly advanced ethically in that time (just as we probably feel we've advanced ethically since the 18th century), by portraying their intergalactic future culture as being past discrimination based on sex, race or orientation (all Mass Effect discrimination and bigotry is based on species), these are examples of how games writers don't care about real life gay experiences because they didn't include real life negatives.

I don't feel as if there is any winning from the hyper-critical few who only want to drag a cup across steel bars.

In lighter fare, Kentucky Route Zero; pretty cool. There's a Midwesty Kurt Vonnegut tone to it that I really dig.

Posted by Chet_Rippo

Oh man! Thanks for posting my Thief Town trailer patrick! :)

Posted by hrn212

@hrn212: Well, first off I think you realize that you're sort of misinterpreting what I said. The "unexpected social dynamics" are not the presence of gay people but rather the way in which they conduct themselves. As for what "expected" social dynamics are, there is certainly room for person-to-person variation, but this particular topic wouldn't have come up if it struck people as the norm when they encountered it. The fact that this Bioware employee made his point in the way that he did kind of confirms that it was not meant to be a realistic homosexual encounter by the standards of the current day.

I don't think I'm misinterpreting what you said...just responding to something you said and responding to something you didn't say and perhaps not making that clear in my response...I'm getting nuance-y or nitpicky or whatever...not trying to black-and-white argue with what you're saying.

Anyway, it was really your use of the phrase "social agendas" that prompted my response to take the form it did. Though you didn't say it, the notion that social agendas should take a backseat to narrative is precisely the argument used to exclude diverse representation. Right? That it would "break immersion" for there to be women on a battlefield or that it would "break immersion" if there were too many gay characters running around...etc. etc. (This is also why I pointed out who the "you" was in your statement really matters...because what breaks immersion for one group of people won't for another...and in US AAA games the assumed 'you' is always white straight and male).

I agree, Bioware's treatment of gay relationships is meant to be idealised and are thus not-quite-realistic by today's standards (regardless of personal perspective). BUT, the potential issue with that isn't to do with whether that breaks immersion. The potential issue is whether that idealised world serves to mask and and paint an unrealistic picture of the realities of being gay in today's world.

Edited by Random45

Reading about those Nintendo Shareholders makes me so glad that I'm not a CEO for once. If I had to deal with dipshits like that I think I would honestly lose my shit.

Posted by yeah_write

One thing I enjoyed during some of the original bombcasts was the idea of spoiler casts. When Adam Sessler was at Revision 3, he did a show called "Spoiled Games". This kind of content in particular helped me sort out my thoughts about games I finished.

@dark_lord_spam said:
@yeah_write said:

I'd be interested in something similar, but maybe a bit more introspective. Maybe something like, "How I played X." You could tell us--with or without spoilers--how you went through the game and how you felt about your decisions, maybe even get a round table of guests who played it too. Busy gaming dads like myself always appreciate seeing other paths through a game because we rarely have time to make second runs--as a game journo, I'm sure you don't either.

That is an incredibly interesting idea. One would hope that modern games are freeform enough that gameplay methodology could be included in the discussion, as well (and be more interesting than, say, "I liked the shotgun").

This idea could work out. Some games I don't have time to play, and most certainly not a second time through. I think as long as you can get a couple people together who finished it, and weather or not you have to Google Hangout the thing. I've noticed a void for this kind of "One specific game only" content all over the internet. More post-mortems that aren't tailored for the GDC audience only would be great too.

Polygon had an excellent video round table discussion about Bioshock Infinite not too long after the game was out. It was fun to watch them excitedly talk about the game without fear of spoilers. I heard a few things I missed, and it also prompted me to examine my own thoughts on the game. I don't know why there isn't a spoiler cast for every big AAA game (which are the games you can be reasonably sure a large part of your audience will play).

Then of course there are the Geoff Keighley "Final Hours" deep dives, like the one he did on Portal 2. Those are great. I get why there aren't a lot of these things--it's the stuff true enthusiasts want. Previews (and other pre-launch content) cast a much wider net.

Posted by Brodehouse

@spaceinsomniac said:

@garbagewrappedinskin said:

" So it's troubling to think that a game like Mass Effect or Dragon Age gives young players the idea that nobody will ever treat them differently once they find out they're anything other than straight, rather than give them the tools with which they can start to understand and accept the discrimination they may end up facing in their lives."

I understand what the writer is saying here and it is valid. As a counter point though, I think there are a lot of benefits to showing a completely normalized homosexual relationship (free of bigotry or even comment) to young players that are not gay. Not to say that games are role models, but that idealized fiction shows the flat equivalency of the relationships.

That idealization shows its transgression by being so divorced from the unfortunate reality.

Also, if aliens from another planet show up and bring hyperspace technology to earth--as is the lore of Mass Effect--I really don't think humanity would care all that much anymore about skin color or gay people.

Hahahaha, yeah, sure. Color me cynical, but I think there will ALWAYS be people out there that care about that stuff. (Also you have the lore completely wrong, the Earth people went to Mars, got the tech there, then found the aliens, duh!)

There are still billions of people on this planet who care very deeply to which ancient tribe you inherited your genetics from. There are places in the so-called First World where you can get killed or assaulted because of this.

People who believe that the circumstances of your birth inform your character will always exist. They will always exist to tell others that They Are X So Therefore Y.

Posted by BigD145

Shareholder to Nintendo: "Why aren't I getting any sweet free games?"

/facepalm

You're a shareholder in a very large corporation and you can't afford to buy yourself games? Really? Are you that petty to ask Ninten.... yes you are.

Posted by hrn212

And just like that, I think I spotted something worrying in the Quinn article:

You know who doesn’t leave bullshit messages like the ones I get?

Anyone with anything interesting to do.

Just as anonymity allows people to leave the shitty messages she gets on a constant basis, it's the same thing that allows her to write those same people off like that. It's a little worrying, to say the least.

(I could write an entire blog post about this if I could organize my thoughts more complexly and effectively. And if I had a more effective venue than my blog.)

Um, dude...for one thing she made a general statement about a non-specific group of people based on their behaviour...rather than a personal statement about an individual or a statement about a group of people based on their identity (which is what the folks leaving her horrible messages are doing). So that, right there, is a huge difference. For another, her response is based on something that these folks have said to her, individually and personally...which gives her leave to be less-than-magnanimous with her response. Also, she said in the beginning of her post that she might be a bit aggro.

Plus, 'these guys must not have anything interesting to do' is not even remotely comparable to the expletive and slur-ridden insults and threats Quinn is sent. Like, come on, now.

I've not experienced the sort of targeted hate that Quinn has on as large a scale or with the regularity that she's faced it. But I have been the subject of targeted hate...and at some point, if only for self preservation, you end up writing those folks off. And then when you're in a better headspace (because the attack has let up a bit) you're able to come back and be a bit more magnanimous in your consideration of them. Sometimes. If you're lucky enough to ever get to a place where the attack has let up.

Edited by conmulligan

When we write gay characters who undergo true-to-life experiences of gay people, including being insulted, belittled, invalidated and having their personalities overwritten by people who think all gay people must behave like X... those games get criticized for 'contributing to an anti-gay culture' by including bigoted characters who act in homophobic manners. Even if it feels like an authentic portrayal of that character.

When has this ever happened? I've yet to come across any such criticism.

Online
Posted by Video_Game_King

@hrn212 said:

Um, dude...for one thing she made a general statement about a non-specific group of people based on their behaviour...rather than a personal statement about an individual or a statement about a group of people based on their identity (which is what the folks leaving her horrible messages are doing). So that, right there, is a huge difference. For another, her response is based on something that these folks have said to her, individually and personally...which gives her leave to be less-than-magnanimous with her response. Also, she said in the beginning of her post that she might be a bit aggro.

Justification means nothing. Anybody can justify. We would do well to remember that

Plus, 'these guys must not have anything interesting to do' is not even remotely comparable to the expletive and slur-ridden insults and threats Quinn is sent. Like, come on, now.

And that makes it OK?

I've not experienced the sort of targeted hate that Quinn has on as large a scale or with the regularity that she's faced it. But I have been the subject of targeted hate...and at some point, if only for self preservation, you end up writing those folks off. And then when you're in a better headspace (because the attack has let up a bit) you're able to come back and be a bit more magnanimous in your consideration of them. Sometimes. If you're lucky enough to ever get to a place where the attack has let up.

That still doesn't make it OK. Understandable, but not OK.

Posted by Veektarius

@hrn212: I'm not sure what you want me to say. I think that the dialogue and the romance itself loses its impact by not being treated in a manner that would resonate with my experience.

Let's talk about one of these other areas of under-representation you mentioned. It's not as though I'm arguing that because there aren't many black CEOs that there shouldn't be one in a given story, I'm saying that if there is a black CEO in a given story, it behooves that story to acknowledge the fact that he has had to overcome prejudice in order to succeed (and probably continues to do so). The fact that it's whitewashing reality doesn't bother me, but by not acknowledging the challenges that we, in our minds, know must be there, it becomes that much less like something real and that much more like a fairy tale of little substance.

Posted by Brodehouse

@brodehouse said:

When we write gay characters who undergo true-to-life experiences of gay people, including being insulted, belittled, invalidated and having their personalities overwritten by people who think all gay people must behave like X... those games get criticized for 'contributing to an anti-gay culture' by including bigoted characters who act in homophobic manners. Even if it feels like an authentic portrayal of that character.

When has this ever happened? I've yet to come across any such criticism.

I referenced one in the sentence that follows where you clipped my quote.

Posted by hrn212

@hrn212 said:

See, the thing is...every time I play a game with no lgbt characters that breaks my immersion.

What about games without any characters to speak of, but where immersion is still a factor on some level? Like Burnout, for instance?

I can't tell if this is a genuine question or I've we've venturing into specious arguments. If there are no characters the issue of whether there are lgbt characters is mute...because there are no characters...

Posted by Video_Game_King

@hrn212:

'Twas a genuine question.

Posted by BenderUnit22

@xceagle said:

@benderunit22 said:

"So it's troubling to think that a game like Mass Effect or Dragon Age gives young players the idea that nobody will ever treat them differently once they find out they're anything other than straight, rather than give them the tools with which they can start to understand and accept the discrimination they may end up facing in their lives."

This is one of those statements that sparks the "well, what the fuck do you WANT me to do?" reactions in me. Am I not supposed to tolerate and accept you the way you are and treat you as equal, regardless of gender, race, religious belief or sexual preference? I'm so sorry my lack of disdain didn't prepare you for facing disdain.

Do these games require a token homophobe character to remind players that society hasn't fully accepted them (yet?)

Maybe you should read the article, because he's not talking about you. He's talking about the portrayal of gay relationships in media Bioware produces. The romance is idealized, not realistic. The writer presents this idea to the lead writer of Dragon Age, and is given an answer that satisfies him, even if he doesn't agree.

You've misjudged the author's point, so I think a read is worth your time.

And you don't understand that I'm not talking for myself, but partially for the writers at Bioware and the fact that you just can't satisfy everyone with anything. For one thing, they are fictional universes and not some hard knock life preparation courses, having a world where homosexuality is widely accepted is not some insane fever dream, especially when I thought such a state is what society is striving for anyway.

Secondly, the author writes the gay relationships are romanticized, idealized without the hardships of a real relationship. Well, yes, but so are the heterosexual relationships in these games. They are, game-y in that all you do is increase a variable to a certain point to open a dialog choice to watch a cutscene.

Finally, what's the alternative? That after you're done Anderson intercoms you and says "get of my ship, you faggots" to show the kids what might happen when they decide to come out?

Posted by hrn212

@hrn212 said:

Um, dude...for one thing she made a general statement about a non-specific group of people based on their behaviour...rather than a personal statement about an individual or a statement about a group of people based on their identity (which is what the folks leaving her horrible messages are doing). So that, right there, is a huge difference. For another, her response is based on something that these folks have said to her, individually and personally...which gives her leave to be less-than-magnanimous with her response. Also, she said in the beginning of her post that she might be a bit aggro.

Justification means nothing. Anybody can justify. We would do well to remember that

Plus, 'these guys must not have anything interesting to do' is not even remotely comparable to the expletive and slur-ridden insults and threats Quinn is sent. Like, come on, now.

And that makes it OK?

I've not experienced the sort of targeted hate that Quinn has on as large a scale or with the regularity that she's faced it. But I have been the subject of targeted hate...and at some point, if only for self preservation, you end up writing those folks off. And then when you're in a better headspace (because the attack has let up a bit) you're able to come back and be a bit more magnanimous in your consideration of them. Sometimes. If you're lucky enough to ever get to a place where the attack has let up.

That still doesn't make it OK. Understandable, but not OK.

So...you expect Quinn to never respond to any of this in a human way? You expect her response to always be the Most Moral and Perfect?

Her response does not hurt anyone...thus the fact that it's not a perfect response is not a problem. My "justification" which makes it understandable DOES make it okay, because her response was not harmful. The question of whether something is understandable but not okay is legit only when the thing is harmful.

For example, I'm sure we could explain some folks' hateful messages to Quinn in such a way that makes them understandable (perhaps some folks are acting out aggression due to personal problems or whatever)...but that would not make it okay because their hate was still harmful. Quinn's statement, though not an ideal response, is not harmful.

This is why I said that your comparison of the two is uncalled for. You cannot compare something that's not all that nice to something that's actually threatening or insulting.

It is actually quite exhausting the way this plays out (over and over and over). Folks decide to focus on whether or not someone's response to hate is Good Enough, rather than focus on the fact that...y'know...it's messed up someone was targeted by hate.

Posted by Zujx

Hey @patrickklepek,

just wanted to throw in my two cents here

I really respect that your very much a perfectionist of sorts in your journalism here on giantbomb when it comes to news articles. Though you really need to be a little less hard on yourself with this stuff. Your the only person on here that posts anything really "worth reading", 95% of the time and we all enjoy your writing style feel free to switch things up and do want you want. I don't speak for everyone but, alot of people choose gb over other sites for its style of journalistic freedom that staff posts about what intrests them not just the big news. Meaning I don't really care if you post something that tha may not directly interest me, or some may consider click bait worthy. As long as it interests you I'm intrested to see your point of view. You've certainly gained the respect here from your readers to take risks on certain articles because hate it or love it will come back for more.

Overall, I'd like to see more readable content on this website. That is currently my biggest flaw with giantbomb that if I just want to read something in between appointments at work they're are only certain times a week I can do that here on the giantbomb. Feel free to throw more out there even if your feeling a little shakey on the article its cool I'm still interested to see what you have to say.

I know your basically a one man army on quality news articles and I thank you for the effort you've been putting fourth. On a side note another great worth reading today keep up the good work.

Posted by conmulligan

@conmulligan said:
@brodehouse said:

When we write gay characters who undergo true-to-life experiences of gay people, including being insulted, belittled, invalidated and having their personalities overwritten by people who think all gay people must behave like X... those games get criticized for 'contributing to an anti-gay culture' by including bigoted characters who act in homophobic manners. Even if it feels like an authentic portrayal of that character.

When has this ever happened? I've yet to come across any such criticism.

I referenced one in the sentence that follows where you clipped my quote.

Have you got a link to the article you paraphrased?

Online
Posted by Video_Game_King

@hrn212 said:

Her response does not hurt anyone...

On what grounds does it not hurt anyone?

It is actually quite exhausting the way this plays out (over and over and over). Folks decide to focus on whether or not someone's response to hate is Good Enough, rather than focus on the fact that...y'know...it's messed up someone was targeted by hate.

The two are not mutually exclusive.

Edited by EuanDewar

@maluvin: Yarp, look at the first few posts, all from 3 days ago.

Posted by EquitasInvictus

@maluvin said:

@euandewar said:

@maluvin: He wrote this before the weekend

Did he? It's showing a July 14th publish date for me (specifically talking about Worth Reading, rather than the individual stories cited). Either way if I wasn't clear I had in mind reflective time for the reader. I know that people like stories published as soon as possible after events but think revisiting stories with a couple more days worth of reflective time has some value as well.

I can confirm seeing this posted on Friday verbatim. (I was going to comment on the really crazy things shareholders said in that one link at the bottom of his post, which is why I remember.)

They probably decided around then that it'd be a Monday thing from that post forward and simply modified the publish date to set the precedent with this post? I'm sure they'll actually start posting these on Mondays now to follow through, this was just a way to transition from Fridays to Mondays is my best speculation.

Posted by Liljugger

I really like "Worth Reading" I usually don't get to them until Mon anyways.

Keep up the good work Patrick

Edited by hrn212

On my way out the door but just wanted to say:

@veektarius: One more thing about the question of social agenda versus absorbing narrative. The thing is, all games have a social agenda...even if it's unintentional...even if that agenda is just "treat status quo as neutral" or "treat status quo as normal."

@video_game_king: One more thing to add about Quinn...it's also so frustrating to see this particular "her response is not nice enough" sort of argument levied against her, of all people. I mean, she's sat in a panel with Patrick in which she talks about the difficulty of how to respond to internet jerks. And she's talked about the difficulty in not responding to the hate with immediate anger...so I think any worry one might have at whatever inferences you might have made at her "nothing better to do" comment are unfounded. She clearly isn't attacking anyone, is what I'm saying.

Edited by joshwent

@conmulligan said:
@brodehouse said:

@conmulligan said:
@brodehouse said:

When we write gay characters who undergo true-to-life experiences of gay people, including being insulted, belittled, invalidated and having their personalities overwritten by people who think all gay people must behave like X... those games get criticized for 'contributing to an anti-gay culture' by including bigoted characters who act in homophobic manners. Even if it feels like an authentic portrayal of that character.

When has this ever happened? I've yet to come across any such criticism.

I referenced one in the sentence that follows where you clipped my quote.

Have you got a link to the article you paraphrased?

Not to step on Brode's toes, but here is just one article of many which proposed that the unease that some characters had with Kanji's exploration of his sexuality was homophobic:

Yosuke's attitudes about Kanji are problematic, and so is the game's way of handling them.

- Denial of the Self: Queer Characters in Persona 4

I've seen similar arguments tons of times regarding historical fantasy which portrays women as the second class citizens that they tragically were in the medieval era. When Game of Thrones got big, there were articles and prominent blogs condemning the series and even suggesting boycotts for what they saw as a narrative promoting rape and subjugation of women... because rape and subjugation of women were events and themes in the story.

The repeated plea went along the lines of, "You're creating a fictional fantasy world. Why do you insist on raping your characters? Why can't we have a story with women who aren't victims?!". The implication being that even if GRRM was legitimately trying to explore these crimes and their aftermath in an earnest context, their mere presence was stereotyping women by showing them as characters who only exist to be abused.

That whole can of worms is a discussion for another thread, but those arguments, that showing the real oppression that a person might face IRL in a fictional fantasy story is a negative thing and even if it reflects era-appropriate attitudes it's inclusion will only serve to promote those attitudes, is quite wide spread.

Posted by Veektarius

@hrn212: I don't want to be dismissive, but I get the feeling you're replying to the words "social agenda" and not anything I'm actually saying.

Edited by Brodehouse

@conmulligan said:
@brodehouse said:

@conmulligan said:
@brodehouse said:

When we write gay characters who undergo true-to-life experiences of gay people, including being insulted, belittled, invalidated and having their personalities overwritten by people who think all gay people must behave like X... those games get criticized for 'contributing to an anti-gay culture' by including bigoted characters who act in homophobic manners. Even if it feels like an authentic portrayal of that character.

When has this ever happened? I've yet to come across any such criticism.

I referenced one in the sentence that follows where you clipped my quote.

Have you got a link to the article you paraphrased?

It wasn't an article, it's a general line of thought I've heard and even discussed with friends who share it. If I were to pick an article, there's a couple on tumblr that I won't pick because they seem to have gone uncommented on and I know I'll be told they're irrelevant, but Carolyn Petit's piece on Persona 4 criticizes the game for not 'dealing' with Yosuke's homophobia. I don't typically believe in 'microaggressions', most 'microaggressions' tell you more about the victim's narcissism than the abuser's cruelty.... but the way Yosuke's ignorance manifests itself in minor, negative ways would be an excellent example of microaggressions. But all I get is that the writers of Persona 4 are bigots for including what I feel are rather authentic depictions of interactions between teenage boys because they include negative experiences suffered by gay/questioning characters like Kanji. Especially from a character who is not portrayed as an out-and-out villain, if the character doesn't grow and have an after-school special moment of empathy, then the game is contributing to the normalization of anti-gay rhetoric.

I read an article the other day about how Trevor from GTA5 is a negative depiction of gay characters due to his violent narcissism. Frankly, I don't even know what to peg Trevor as due to how severe his mental illnesses are, but his violent narcissism manifests in explosive reactions when he thinks people are negatively judging him; one of those aspects could easily be that he feels negatively judged by homophobes or low-thinkers. He doesn't want to conform and he has violent psychotic moments when he even feels as if he's being judged for not conforming. This is a rather complex and authentic characterization of how extreme narcissism intersects with negative cultural stereotypes or opinions of groups; but everything I've read just says "the writers are bigots" for making the gay(?) character into a violent narcissist.

And then in the rare cases where games present people behaving in a manner not emblematic of our current culture, they're whitewashing negative gay experience.

Posted by hrn212

@hrn212: I'm not sure what you want me to say. I think that the dialogue and the romance itself loses its impact by not being treated in a manner that would resonate with my experience.

Let's talk about one of these other areas of under-representation you mentioned. It's not as though I'm arguing that because there aren't many black CEOs that there shouldn't be one in a given story, I'm saying that if there is a black CEO in a given story, it behooves that story to acknowledge the fact that he has had to overcome prejudice in order to succeed (and probably continues to do so). The fact that it's whitewashing reality doesn't bother me, but by not acknowledging the challenges that we, in our minds, know must be there, it becomes that much less like something real and that much more like a fairy tale of little substance.

Okay, two things, though...

One: Why is it that resonating with your experience should be prioritised? Especially if you're not part of the group of folks who are being represented.

Two: Aren't people of colour and lgbt people and what-not allowed fairy tales, though? I'm assuming you're a straight white dude, here, and if not please forgive me...but straight white dudes got all their fairy tales when they were kids. They saved the world and rescued the princess and blew up the evil villain's lair. So now that you're an adult (or a teenager or whatever) you're like...hey, let's see something more complex and real.

And minority adults also want to see something more complex and real (because we're adults). But we also want to see our power fantasies...our fairy tales...because we didn't really get that as kids. We had to map ourselves onto straight white dude fairy tales...and the queering (so to speak) of hetero texts is fascinating and useful...but still not quite filling that same desire as just having an explicitly queer fairy tale would be.

Three (or 2a, I guess): Isn't it troubling that something which is a bit of a fairy tale regarding minority folks is equality. Whereas a fairy tale (or power fantasy) for a straight white dude is...well...actually having power.

Okay, those aren't exactly questions I'm expecting you to answer directly...

(Okay, now I really am out the door...I'll be back later, though. I do like this conversation...I know I often come across a bit more aggressive online than I mean to be, so, yeah).

Edited by conmulligan

@brodehouse: @joshwent: Caroline Petit's article does not criticise Persona for portraying the difficulties faced by LGBT people, it criticises the way it was handled. That's a pretty big distinction.

Online
Posted by Marokai

During a school camping trip in which the protagonist, Kanji, and Yosuke are gathered in the same tent, Yosuke goes so far as to ask, "Are we gonna be safe alone with you?" suggesting that in Yosuke's mind, if Kanji had been gay, he would also be prone to behave inappropriately. When Kanji tells Yosuke that he has no problem being around girls now, Yosuke asks him to prove it, saying that if he can't, "we're gonna be stuck here all night half scared to death." Yosuke's attitudes about Kanji are problematic, and so is the game's way of handling them. Rather than addressing Yosuke's negative perceptions of homosexuality, perhaps with a character arc in which his prejudices are challenged and he becomes more open-minded over time, Persona 4 lets his view of homosexuality as something to be feared stand unchallenged and unremarked upon, treating it as normal and acceptable.

That reads pretty straightforward to me. Because Persona 4 faithfully portrays Yosuke as an ignorant teenage boy like so many ignorant teenage boys, and there's not explicitly some sort of kumbaya moment with him and the rest of the team talking about how awesome gay people are by the end, that (in her opinion) means the game is normalizing and excusing anti-gay rhetoric. She's criticizing the game for not having an unrealistically feel-good portrayal of that character.

I mean, there are plenty of other issues with that article (Kanji is not gay, for one, and people actually do call Yosuke out on his bullshit, and even if they didn't, that doesn't mean the game supports that rhetoric because "it stands unchallenged" in one scene or another, etc.) and this is veering off-topic, but it's clear that the issue of Atlus including a character that acts like an actual person was mildly controversial to some.

Edited by joshwent

@conmulligan said:

Caroline Petit's article does not criticise Persona for portraying the difficulties faced by LGBT people, it criticises the way it was handled. That's a pretty big distinction.

It's really not so much the way it was handled, more that it wasn't explained away in a way she would have liked. Let me quote a bit more from Petit's piece for context:

Yosuke's attitudes about Kanji are problematic, and so is the game's way of handling them. Rather than addressing Yosuke's negative perceptions of homosexuality, perhaps with a character arc in which his prejudices are challenged and he becomes more open-minded over time, Persona 4 lets his view of homosexuality as something to be feared stand unchallenged and unremarked upon, treating it as normal and acceptable.

So yes, she's okay with the game including these real life prejudices, but only if it's treated as a moral lesson and it's concluded with the offending character realizing the error of their ways.

As we strive for better and more serious writing in games, that kind of resolution only serves to potentially dumb down a story and force a character into a two dimensional role. The brilliance of Persona 4 is that its characters are, on the whole, fully realized, meaning... they are imperfect. Yosuke is a clutz, he's awkward, he's trustworthy, he's easily excitable, he's true to his friends, he's very self conscious, and he's homophobic. Not to the extent that he would speak out against homosexuality or work to deny people rights, but in so much as he's unsure about how to act around a friend of his who might be gay. Like many real people are.

Forcing a resolution (in her specific terms) to that by the end of the game, is exactly that... forcing. If it was part of the narrative that the authors had in mind, then great, that can make for a great story too. But if not, claiming that its omission is directly implying that homophobia is acceptable feels like an immature accusation and honestly a bit offensive towards the creators of the game.

Posted by Mr_Creeper

I liked the Microsoft news post, @PatrickKlepek. I'm all for reminding people that researching everything is better than jumping the gun and looking stupid.

Edited by conmulligan

@joshwent said:

Yosuke's attitudes about Kanji are problematic, and so is the game's way of handling them. Rather than addressing Yosuke's negative perceptions of homosexuality, perhaps with a character arc in which his prejudices are challenged and he becomes more open-minded over time, Persona 4 lets his view of homosexuality as something to be feared stand unchallenged and unremarked upon, treating it as normal and acceptable.

So yes, she's okay with the game including these real life prejudices, but only if it's treated as a moral lesson and it's concluded with the offending character realizing the error of their ways.

As we strive for better and more serious writing in games, that kind of resolution only serves to potentially dumb down a story and force a character into a two dimensional role. The brilliance of Persona 4 is that its characters are, on the whole, fully realized, meaning... they are imperfect. Yosuke is a clutz, he's awkward, he's trustworthy, he's easily excitable, he's true to his friends, he's very self conscious, and he's homophobic. Not to the extent that he would speak out against homosexuality or work to deny people rights, but in so much as he's unsure about how to act around a friend of his who might be gay. Like many real people are.

Forcing a resolution (in her specific terms) to that by the end of the game, is exactly that... forcing. If it was part of the narrative that the authors had in mind, then great, that can make for a great story too. But if not, claiming that its omission is directly implying that homophobia is acceptable feels like an immature accusation and honestly a bit offensive towards the creators of the game.

I think the point she was trying to make is that the decision not to challenge Yosuke's homophobia was thematically at odds with the rest of the game. For me, Persona 4 excelled when it explored the different personality traits of the characters, so excluding Yosuke's homophobia from that was at best a missed opportunity, and I can totally see why some would see it as normalising homophobic behaviour.

As for your suggestion that Caroline was implying the creators are homophobic because of Yosuke's characterisation, I would point out that the majority of the piece is focused on criticising the depiction of Kanji and Naoto.

Online
Posted by Gyrfal
Posted by joshwent

@conmulligan: Okay, I disagree, but we're getting wildly off topic and discussing these specific points further will just result in us saying the same things ad nauseum.

I posted originally just as a response to you saying how you've never seen an article which criticised including characters who held negative stereotypical views or presenting the oppression that certain groups have and still face, and I provided you with one.

Here's another discussing the other Game of Thrones related perspective that I also brought up which many others have similarly written about.

Game of Thrones doesn’t need to be historically accurate because it’s a fantasy, a fantasy that includes scenarios in which women fall for men who treat them like property and are confronted with the threat of rape at every moment. This is the world that George R.R. Martin chose to build, and this is the way the HBO series chose to portray it.

Here, unlike Petit perhaps, Maris Kreizman is clearly stating that it's not just the way these things are handled in the narrative, but their existence itself which is problematic.

I'm not trying to get in a discussion about the ideas presented, and I agree with some of their sentiments. Just trying to show you that, yes, many people have argued that very point which you've never seen.

Posted by Veektarius

@hrn212 said:

Okay, two things, though...

One: Why is it that resonating with your experience should be prioritised? Especially if you're not part of the group of folks who are being represented.

Two: Aren't people of colour and lgbt people and what-not allowed fairy tales, though? I'm assuming you're a straight white dude, here, and if not please forgive me...but straight white dudes got all their fairy tales when they were kids. They saved the world and rescued the princess and blew up the evil villain's lair. So now that you're an adult (or a teenager or whatever) you're like...hey, let's see something more complex and real.

And minority adults also want to see something more complex and real (because we're adults). But we also want to see our power fantasies...our fairy tales...because we didn't really get that as kids. We had to map ourselves onto straight white dude fairy tales...and the queering (so to speak) of hetero texts is fascinating and useful...but still not quite filling that same desire as just having an explicitly queer fairy tale would be.

Three (or 2a, I guess): Isn't it troubling that something which is a bit of a fairy tale regarding minority folks is equality. Whereas a fairy tale (or power fantasy) for a straight white dude is...well...actually having power.

Okay, those aren't exactly questions I'm expecting you to answer directly...

(Okay, now I really am out the door...I'll be back later, though. I do like this conversation...I know I often come across a bit more aggressive online than I mean to be, so, yeah).

To your points, even though you told me not to reply to them directly

One: I don't think this question makes sense. We aren't discussing straight white males (which I am, spot on) in this conversation. We are discussing the experience of blacks and gays, which is not my experience, but which is an experience that is nearly universally acknowledged to be prejudicial. You're either arguing that as a straight white male I don't get a vote, which is silly, because I represent a larger pool of game consumers than do gays or minorities, or you're arguing that my perspective of reality is biased by my good fortune, which it probably is. However, if I am biased, it's in the direction of seeing things as fairer than they actually are, when we would expect that the perspectives minorities themselves would magnify the challenges and social forces arrayed against them.

Two: You could make the argument that I only value realism because my reality is privileged, I suppose. Nevertheless, fairy tales are perfectly fine - I like Big Fish and I like Up and any number of stories that could be described as having a fairy tale tone. In this case we are discussing games that are not going for that style of storytelling. They are aiming for plausibility, by and large, as evidenced by the extensive codices attached to both Mass Effect and Dragon Age games. And let's not pretend like straight white guys don't face any prejudices - they can still be fat, bald, ugly, short, could have a southern accent, or they could just have trouble getting the job they want because they weren't privileged with good opportunities to make the right professional connections. Everyone deals with some degree of unfairness and prejudice day to day. I'd argue that if you threw a guy with my general attributes into a game and he was a total chick magnet, I might enjoy that, but I would definitely feel like it was being fan-servicey and unrealistic. This is sort of how I feel about Geralt's luck with the ladies in the Witcher series.

At the end of the day, this isn't a question of right or wrong. This is a question of what I personally value in a story. So, it could be that every gay person in the world prefers the way that Mass Effect handled gay relationships to having even one scene where Shepard and Kaidan furtively discuss whether they should come out to the crew. But even if that were the case, it would have no bearing on my own opinion of what makes story relatable.

Posted by conmulligan
@joshwent said:

I posted originally just as a response to you saying how you've never seen an article which criticised including characters who held negative stereotypical views or presenting the oppression that certain groups have and still face, and I provided you with one.

Here's another discussing the other Game of Thrones related perspective that I also brought up which many others have similarly written about.

Game of Thrones doesn’t need to be historically accurate because it’s a fantasy, a fantasy that includes scenarios in which women fall for men who treat them like property and are confronted with the threat of rape at every moment. This is the world that George R.R. Martin chose to build, and this is the way the HBO series chose to portray it.

Here, unlike Petit perhaps, Maris Kreizman is clearly stating that it's not just the way these things are handled in the narrative, but their existence itself which is problematic.

I'm not trying to get in a discussion about the ideas presented, and I agree with some of their sentiments. Just trying to show you that, yes, many people have argued that very point which you've never seen.

As I said before, Caroline's piece doesn't criticise Persona for "including characters who held negative stereotypical views or presenting the oppression that certain groups have and still face", it's simply critical of how it's done. As for the GoT piece, I was referring to games and not television or film. Anyway, you're right that we've gone off-track, so we'll have to agree to disagree. I appreciate the links regardless!

Online
Posted by Maluvin

@maluvin: Yarp, look at the first few posts, all from 3 days ago.

Ah I see it now. Front page made it look otherwise for me at first. Thanks.

Posted by NecroNeko

@mrplatitude said:

True science fiction is social commentary about present-day issues.

What about Star Wars? It tried its hand at social commentary and...

....yea....

Well, I think the entire point of that scene was to show how everyone was flawed, and that despite being 'good' the Jedi often didn't understand their own teachings. And we've already seen that Obi-Wan ignored Yoda's council and teaches Anakin to be a Jedi, just like Qui-Gon did.

So you can never really quote any of the Jedi as being flawless or ideal role-models.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@necroneko:

That still ignores the critical point that this is one of the prequels.

Posted by Foil1212

I admire your dedication to experimentation and constantly trying something new. Someone's gotta keep things moving forward.

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