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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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Edited by conmulligan

It's cool to see you experiment a bit with news coverage. I might be in the minority, but I'd like to see more text-based news stuff on the site.

Posted by Video_Game_King

Begin all your articles with "This just in:" from now on. It's the only way.

Posted by Video_Game_King

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.)

Posted by EuanDewar

Think ya posted this a bit early Paddy my lad.

Edited by MooseyMcMan

I really appreciate the Kotaku article about being gay in games, etc. But, you know, of course I did. It's nice to have games where you can do things like that. Though, I don't really think the options for that in ME3 were great (who wants to date Kaiden?), but that's just me.

Posted by BeachThunder

So, wait, what were the experiments exactly?

Posted by SpaceInsomniac

Apparently Edmund McMillen's niece & nephew never actually finished Super Meat Boy.

Posted by CollyWolly

Vox is his go-to site for politics... FFS.

Posted by csl316

I like text articles on GB, so I'm glad there's some experimentation going on.

Also, I should really start on Gunslinger. Game's been sitting on my PS3 since release!

Posted by kristov_romanov

@patrickklepek

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.

I totally disagree with your thoughts on your story here. It was a valid point you made about that Xbox dev article.

There has been a lot of discussion lately about Giant Bomb and it's crew. Many of us, both on your staff and in our community, acknowledge that we need to fix some things. I don't think that precludes us from critiquing others.

I personally think that when you, Patrick, say something that you mean it. From what I hear you say and see you write I don't believe you are capable of writing something that is there to garner you a "slap on the back".

You write good words, and we read em.

Edited by garbagewrappedinskin

" 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.

Posted by SpaceInsomniac

" 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.

Posted by flatluigi

I think the main thing I and a lot of people felt about your articles last week can be summed up pretty simply: they looked very low-effort. They frequently went up with confusing phrasing and loads of typos and the subject matter was incredibly simple compared to the longer, well-researched articles you tend to put up. Sure, some of them had interesting subject matter, but they could've been presented with more information (there's been many good articles in the past about how other companies have dealt positively or humorously with pirates and having overview of those would've been a nice addition) and/or have just been better put-together. Hopefully you take this into mind!

Posted by MrMazz

I only started reading VOX because of Todd Vanderwerff jumping over therer and the sectioned pieces while a logical way to highlight and show information, I think it kinda ruins some of his more longform pieces but within the context of a news post like the CliffyB post it makes sense. I just think it was over used in that case.

Loved that Errant Signal video.

Good stuff as always.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

@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!)

Posted by FonkyMucker

I like the random articles. This site has all sorts of random video content, so why not do the same for the written word?

Edited by BenderUnit22

"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?)

Posted by kdrudy

I think the main thing I and a lot of people felt about your articles last week can be summed up pretty simply: they looked very low-effort. They frequently went up with confusing phrasing and loads of typos and the subject matter was incredibly simple compared to the longer, well-researched articles you tend to put up. Sure, some of them had interesting subject matter, but they could've been presented with more information (there's been many good articles in the past about how other companies have dealt positively or humorously with pirates and having overview of those would've been a nice addition) and/or have just been better put-together. Hopefully you take this into mind!

This 100%. You've put out some great work but last week's just felt a little lazy in places. Keep trying new stuff though, better to do things wrong a bit than be stagnant.

Posted by Hailinel

So this is a Monday feature now?

Posted by Megulito

Patrick you are the such a staple in giant bomb you fit right in while being different. I don't always agree with you but I respect you and that goes a very long way. Keep it up the things you have to say are poignant and feel like they will lead to a bigger better more diverse industry.

Edited by EuanDewar

@hailinel: Apparently but oddly enough its been accessible via the forums since Friday so I have no idea whats going on there.

Posted by TheHumanDove

De ja vu. Noice!

Edited by TreuloseTomate

The Zelda video is full of inconsistencies. First he says, a certain type of enemy or trap doesn't work that well in 3D, then he suggests exactly the same trap to be used in a 3D Zelda game. A lot of his criticisms directed at OoT could also be directed at ALttP. And ironically he constantly bashes SS, even though it changed the combat exactly the way he wanted. If you are skilled enough, you can end most battles quickly.

I get the feeling, this guy has no idea what he is talking about.

Posted by Maluvin

I think having Worth Reading published on a Monday is a good way to go. I was a little wary of the change at first but it's nice seeing a reflective piece that's had the benefit of a weekend's rest and consideration.

Edited by EuanDewar

@maluvin: He wrote this before the weekend

Edited by billyok

I really like what's going on at GB these days. Patrick trying out writing formats in front of an audience, Vinny and Alex recording streams while simultaneously assembling their studio, quick looks of unfinished and PS1 games, drew making videos about making videos. It all underscores just how fluid and open GB is despite growing in size and locations. Really cool. Keep on experimenting (and dissecting it afterward). You're giving aspiring journalists and producers a better education than a lot of classes can provide.

Edited by AngriGhandi

Really happy to see the level of self-reflection going on about the past week's experiments, @patrickklepek. And, I think I pretty much agree with what you took away from it!

(Edit: On a related note, I don't think Mass Effect's treatment of same-sex relationships is unrealistic at all. 2183 is more than five generations from now. People are going to be over themselves by that point.

Everyone's moved on to space racism, anyway.)

Posted by Asmo917

@patrickklepek If running Worth Reading on a Monday works better for you and the site, more power to you. I will say that I liked having it go up on Friday evenings, knowing that I could come back to it over the weekend when there was less content coming from Giant Bomb and I'd have more time to dig into the articles you've highlighted. The later was especially important, as those would tend to be things I'd seen linked on Twitter during the week by someone or multiple people, but at times when it wasn't practical to read a longer article.

Posted by megalowho

I prefer this feature on Monday morning, it's something I'm more likely to browse through at the start of the week than at the end when there's recorded and live content regularly hitting on the site. Also good reading for easing back into the work week.

Most of all I just really enjoy long form pieces with multiple interview subjects that might not be about the hot topic of the day, but I understand how time consuming it can be to make happen. Thanks for trying to shake things up and look into new ways of getting news items across.

Posted by huser

Really happy to see the level of self-reflection going on about the past week's experiments, @patrickklepek. And, I think I pretty much agree with what you took away from it!

(Edit: On a related note, I don't think Mass Effect's treatment of same-sex relationships is unrealistic at all. 2183 is more than five generations from now. People are going to be over themselves by that point.

Everyone's moved on to space racism, anyway.)

I think that's the best answer to ME's social commentary. While there will be holdouts, there always are. They will be ever more marginalized, just as say the average person of 1845 would be a cultural Neanderthal to people in the modern day (at least within the same country).

Edited by FaPaThY

As long as you stay away from top 10 lists and 'Why you should care about X' articles, I will not hate you.

Posted by stumpsock

I'd like to hope that the "Pirating" article got good traffic not because of the kind of lame grab line, but because it was a legitimately interesting post. Because it was.

Posted by fisk0

Yup, that video about the 5 genre defining games was pretty damn good.

Posted by MrPlatitude

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.'

Posted by Veektarius

" 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.

I remember seeing something on Polygon from a gay dev at Bioware who gave a panel at PAX, I think it was. And his argument was that games are all about fantasy worlds and we shouldn't feel obliged to perpetuate social norms that we feel distasteful within those worlds. In other words, if you wish gay relationships were just like normal relationships, you should make them that way in your game if you want to fight against prejudice.

I have mixed feelings on this personally, since I think that social agendas should take a backseat to an absorbing narrative. Social interactions behaving in ways you would not expect and which aren't explained is a good way to to screw up immersion. Nevertheless, I think that's why Mass Effect and DA2 work the way they do.

Posted by LaserJesus

Was the A.V. Club article acting like Conway was tricked into taking the shot by "elusive language?" Did he not understand the sequence at the truck just a few minutes ago where it's very nearly spelled out that Conway is a recovering alcoholic? I guess it's more convenient for the article if the Financial Crisis made him do it, though.

Posted by XCEagle

"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.

Posted by Tomba_be

I personally prefer these in the weekends, because I tend to have more time to kill away from a PC then and there are usually some interesting links that I can read on my phone. But since most of the links aren't really hot news, I can still just keep reading them during the weekend.

More news doesn't really interest me. I go to an actual video games news site to check up on the news because I know almost everything will be mentioned there. GB will and should never be a news site, I come here to read/watch more in-depth coverage. Having talent waste their time by writing news seems silly as well, unless you get some cheap interns to do it? Having the news repeated in WR just seems pointless, since most GB fans come here often enough anyway?

Apart from that, I wonder how many people really like Cara's writing. She often covers interesting topics or people, but I always get the feeling the article is 50% about Cara herself. Especially with the prose-like writing form it just gets too hard to filter out the good/interesting/relevant bits. I think she would be much easier consumed in podcast form.

Posted by Video_Game_King

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

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

....yea....

Posted by pocketroid

Mountain seems like a game designed sort-of like a Tamagotchi. A thing to pay attention to when you will, at your leisure. It's a sort of endlessly undulating unpredictable scenery to rest your mind on when you need to think for a moment. I'm interested in keeping such things on in the corner of my monitor.

Posted by bombedyermom

That was a really interesting read, I didn't realize how much thought went in to just the headlines. Would love to see more like this one!

Posted by yeah_write

Love the experimentation @patrickklepek. Keep it up! Three suggestions:

1. Can you get some corporate synergy up in here? I don't think this should become a Gawker media re-posting mill, but highlighting some things on Gamespot like Danny O'Dwyer's fantastic No Man's Sky feature would be cool.

I think Worth Reading covers the rest, because really, there's not that much worth reading each week.

2. Kotaku has these "Tips before you start playing X" articles that I really like. I bookmark them and return when I get around to playing a game. They're particularly useful in games that involve a lot of leveling or character customization choices. 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.

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!

Posted by Deathpooky

I'll agree with others that Worth Reading on Friday made it easier to read the articles - I'd usually open up tabs on all the interesting ones and browse off and on over the weekend. But I also could see how Friday afternoon would be bad for visibility.

Also I'm fine with more random news articles. I don't have time or inclination to sort through dozens of posts on a Joystiq or Kotaku, so having more here to highlight interesting news can't hurt, even if they're fairly quick posts. I mostly keep up through random twitter feeds and that tends to be uneven and spotty in coverage.

Posted by audioBusting
Posted by Maluvin

@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.

Edited by spraynardtatum

@patrickklepek, I gotta say. I really appreciate the thought you put into your presentation and writing and your honesty when discussing its reception. Top of the class. You get an A+.

Posted by Dark_Lord_Spam

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").

Posted by hrn212

I have mixed feelings on this personally, since I think that social agendas should take a backseat to an absorbing narrative. Social interactions behaving in ways you would not expect and which aren't explained is a good way to to screw up immersion. Nevertheless, I think that's why Mass Effect and DA2 work the way they do.


The thing I wanted to respond to is the bit where you say "social interactions behaving in ways you would not expect...screw up immersion" right after saying that "social agendas should take a backseat."

See, the thing is...every time I play a game with no lgbt characters that breaks my immersion. A world without lgbt folks is inherently impossible to me. A world with only one gay character, especially if that gay character is a hollow stereotype, is also impossible to me. It breaks my immersion.

The reasons you see lgbt folks and women and people of colour, etc. etc. demanding better representation isn't to further some abstract social agenda...it's a twofold issue of how the lack of representation affects our real lives (a la LeJacq's article) and how a lack of representation affects our experience of the game (i.e. that it actually breaks immersion).

An idealised bit of representation (i.e. where gay and straight relationships are treated equally) doesn't really break immersion for me, though...it just gets interpreted as fantasy.

The question to ask, I think, is who is the "you" in your statement of "social interactions behaving in ways you would not expect?" Because what you expect and what I expect might be quite different. And what you think of as a "social agenda" might actually be integral to an "absorbing narrative" for me.

(Sorry I'm a bit of a rambler).

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