Bulletstorm, the NGP, and the PA Controversy

Hey everyone, seeing as I had a few random thoughts from this week bouncing around my noggin I thought I might as well air them now since my main blog posts are still occupied by my pieces on becoming a game designer. I understand the following blog is very sizeable so feel free to skip whatever you’re not interested in.

Bulletstorm (Demo)

 Hey, I didn't know Wolverine was in this game.

This week I downloaded the Bulletstorm demo and booted it up, prepared to be very put off by the over-the-top vulgarity of the game, but the thing that surprised me was that I wasn’t. In fact even with its ridiculous use of heavy metal and curse-filled portmanteaus it felt tame compared to the ad campaigns, and there was something almost charming about the way it seemed rather Duke Nukem-like. The gameplay was what really impressed me though, while the narrative content may be somewhat akin to Gears of War, the gameplay felt like far more than just a first-person Gears game. Using the leash and finding different ways to dispatch enemies felt great.

My main worry is that even in the short time that the demo took to complete, by the end it felt like I was running out of inventive ways to kill enemies. The game is meant to have hundreds of ‘skill shots’ (ways to defeat bad duders) in it and is obviously more heavily reliant on elaborate methods of killing than just straight-up weapon accuracy, but there’s only ever going to be a limited number of ways for players to kill at any one time, still, this kind of criticism is largely speculative. I’d say my final verdict on the Bulletstorm demo is that it was surprisingly good and genuinely fun.

The NGP

Not this NGP, the other one.

I have to say that while I never owned or even had a great urge to own the original PSP, from a technical standpoint Sony’s new handheld looks amazing. The features and technologies they’ve managed to pack this thing with are quite something, I just hope they don’t fall into the same trap they did with the original PSP.

Looking back, the games library of the Nintendo DS could have all too easily been a collection of throw-away titles for the casual games enthusiast, but it wasn’t. Among the games released on the platform there were plenty of titles that “core gamers” really managed to sink their teeth into in a way that I feel they couldn’t with a lot of PSP titles. Games like God of War: Ghost of Sparta and Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection were well-received but they were still essentially cut-down versions of their home console counterparts. It’s been said before but I do feel like with the DS developers were making games that you could pick up and put down easily, but the thing that really discouraged me from getting a PSP was that it felt like developers were making compromised versions of games you could be playing at home on a larger screen.

Sony have made a point of highlighting that they’ve got franchises like Metal Gear Solid, Uncharted, Resistance, Killzone, and Call of Duty on the NGP and while I can understand that they’d want to get some big name franchises confirmed early on, I’m again getting discouraged by the fact that they don’t seem to making strides to bring us games that aren’t rehashed home console games. Perhaps Sony are just trying to produce handhelds for a rather specific market that I’m not part of.

Penny Arcade

 The famous Krahulik and Holkins.

So, some of you may be familiar with the recent Penny Arcade controversy. If you’re not the short version of the story is that PA published a comic that included reference to rape, a considerable number of people got angry and offended by this, Penny Arcade made light of this fact in another comic, and those people continued to be angry and offended. All this happened back in summer 2010 and so I thought the issue would have blown over, however it seems that PA are still getting emails about this even now.

You may have seen the thread about this on the forums and the thing that really annoys me is a lot of the responses I saw in there, and from other places across the internet, were from people who didn’t entirely understand the situation but still branded the anti-PA people as ignorant and essentially told them to fuck off.

While I’m by no means against PA for the most part here, this issue was more complex than people getting offended by a mention of rape. The people opposing PA on this one have had two major problems; firstly they believe people putting rape in a humorous context normalises and desensitises people to the behaviour, and secondly they believe this talk of rape acts as a “trigger”.

Regarding the first issue, just as I believe video games can never truly desensitise a mentally healthy adult to violence, I don’t believe this kind of humour can desensitise a mentally healthy adult to rape. Both rape and serious violence are horrific, terrible things and if there are people in the world looking at real cases of these things and going “Oh well, it’s not such a big deal” then I believe there is something seriously wrong with those people in a way that the entertainment mediums they’ve consumed cannot be held accountable for.

The issue of the “triggers” is a more delicate one because it hits people on a more personal level. It’s been very well-established in psychology that people who have experienced highly traumatic events in their lives can experience severe periods of negative emotional and physical sensations when exposed to things that remind them of the traumatic events, and this can even include panic attacks and flashbacks, these reminders are known as “triggers”. Part of the problem is saying that no one should use rape triggers, but other triggers are fine, is favouritism and hypocrisy, and the only way to still ban rape triggers without this favouritism and hypocrisy would be to ban all triggers. This would mean no talk of or suggestion of anything relating to physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, terrorism, war, traffic accidents, natural disasters and a whole range of other issues, unless they were deemed to be discussed in a very highly serious context.

 The offending t-shirt design.

My heart goes out to the victims of rape and their loved ones, it really does, but what is essentially being called for by a lot of people here is “freedom of speech unless that speech affects me personally”, and this is a kind of thinking which has been fundamental in the unfair censorship of video games themselves. As long as PA is not forcing this kind of potentially offensive content on people they shouldn’t be censored. Unfortunately I do think PA made a bit of a mistake on this one, and that was the t-shirt based on the comic they released. People can decide never to read the PA comic again and run no risk whatsoever of being offended, while simultaneously PA is allowed their free speech, and I believe that’s a perfectly fair agreement, but the t-shirt allowed people to continue the rape joke into real-life environments, a setting where you cannot pick and choose what you do and don’t want to see, and it risked unfairly upsetting people.

In the end I think PA made the right move, they took the t-shirt down from their store because people said that with that shirt around they didn’t feel comfortable coming to PAX. Mike Krahulik also expressed that if people feel conflicted about coming to PAX then they shouldn’t come, which I believe is the best advice he could have given. While I think people being distanced from PAX by the original comics is the unfortunately necessary price of free speech, I’m sad that the shirt (which I think crossed the line into PA releasing something that could upset people in a way people couldn’t control) threatened the atmosphere of PAX, because I feel PAX is a unique haven where games enthusiasts can come and feel safe, accepted, and like they’re part of a real community of friendly people, and I don’t want that to go away.
 

Duder, It’s Over

Well, I sure feel a lot better for getting that all off my chest. For now I must bid you adieu brave warriors of the internet, as I once again steal off into the night. Good luck, have grav lift.

-Gamer_152

25 Comments
26 Comments
Posted by Gamer_152

Hey everyone, seeing as I had a few random thoughts from this week bouncing around my noggin I thought I might as well air them now since my main blog posts are still occupied by my pieces on becoming a game designer. I understand the following blog is very sizeable so feel free to skip whatever you’re not interested in.

Bulletstorm (Demo)

 Hey, I didn't know Wolverine was in this game.

This week I downloaded the Bulletstorm demo and booted it up, prepared to be very put off by the over-the-top vulgarity of the game, but the thing that surprised me was that I wasn’t. In fact even with its ridiculous use of heavy metal and curse-filled portmanteaus it felt tame compared to the ad campaigns, and there was something almost charming about the way it seemed rather Duke Nukem-like. The gameplay was what really impressed me though, while the narrative content may be somewhat akin to Gears of War, the gameplay felt like far more than just a first-person Gears game. Using the leash and finding different ways to dispatch enemies felt great.

My main worry is that even in the short time that the demo took to complete, by the end it felt like I was running out of inventive ways to kill enemies. The game is meant to have hundreds of ‘skill shots’ (ways to defeat bad duders) in it and is obviously more heavily reliant on elaborate methods of killing than just straight-up weapon accuracy, but there’s only ever going to be a limited number of ways for players to kill at any one time, still, this kind of criticism is largely speculative. I’d say my final verdict on the Bulletstorm demo is that it was surprisingly good and genuinely fun.

The NGP

Not this NGP, the other one.

I have to say that while I never owned or even had a great urge to own the original PSP, from a technical standpoint Sony’s new handheld looks amazing. The features and technologies they’ve managed to pack this thing with are quite something, I just hope they don’t fall into the same trap they did with the original PSP.

Looking back, the games library of the Nintendo DS could have all too easily been a collection of throw-away titles for the casual games enthusiast, but it wasn’t. Among the games released on the platform there were plenty of titles that “core gamers” really managed to sink their teeth into in a way that I feel they couldn’t with a lot of PSP titles. Games like God of War: Ghost of Sparta and Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection were well-received but they were still essentially cut-down versions of their home console counterparts. It’s been said before but I do feel like with the DS developers were making games that you could pick up and put down easily, but the thing that really discouraged me from getting a PSP was that it felt like developers were making compromised versions of games you could be playing at home on a larger screen.

Sony have made a point of highlighting that they’ve got franchises like Metal Gear Solid, Uncharted, Resistance, Killzone, and Call of Duty on the NGP and while I can understand that they’d want to get some big name franchises confirmed early on, I’m again getting discouraged by the fact that they don’t seem to making strides to bring us games that aren’t rehashed home console games. Perhaps Sony are just trying to produce handhelds for a rather specific market that I’m not part of.

Penny Arcade

 The famous Krahulik and Holkins.

So, some of you may be familiar with the recent Penny Arcade controversy. If you’re not the short version of the story is that PA published a comic that included reference to rape, a considerable number of people got angry and offended by this, Penny Arcade made light of this fact in another comic, and those people continued to be angry and offended. All this happened back in summer 2010 and so I thought the issue would have blown over, however it seems that PA are still getting emails about this even now.

You may have seen the thread about this on the forums and the thing that really annoys me is a lot of the responses I saw in there, and from other places across the internet, were from people who didn’t entirely understand the situation but still branded the anti-PA people as ignorant and essentially told them to fuck off.

While I’m by no means against PA for the most part here, this issue was more complex than people getting offended by a mention of rape. The people opposing PA on this one have had two major problems; firstly they believe people putting rape in a humorous context normalises and desensitises people to the behaviour, and secondly they believe this talk of rape acts as a “trigger”.

Regarding the first issue, just as I believe video games can never truly desensitise a mentally healthy adult to violence, I don’t believe this kind of humour can desensitise a mentally healthy adult to rape. Both rape and serious violence are horrific, terrible things and if there are people in the world looking at real cases of these things and going “Oh well, it’s not such a big deal” then I believe there is something seriously wrong with those people in a way that the entertainment mediums they’ve consumed cannot be held accountable for.

The issue of the “triggers” is a more delicate one because it hits people on a more personal level. It’s been very well-established in psychology that people who have experienced highly traumatic events in their lives can experience severe periods of negative emotional and physical sensations when exposed to things that remind them of the traumatic events, and this can even include panic attacks and flashbacks, these reminders are known as “triggers”. Part of the problem is saying that no one should use rape triggers, but other triggers are fine, is favouritism and hypocrisy, and the only way to still ban rape triggers without this favouritism and hypocrisy would be to ban all triggers. This would mean no talk of or suggestion of anything relating to physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, terrorism, war, traffic accidents, natural disasters and a whole range of other issues, unless they were deemed to be discussed in a very highly serious context.

 The offending t-shirt design.

My heart goes out to the victims of rape and their loved ones, it really does, but what is essentially being called for by a lot of people here is “freedom of speech unless that speech affects me personally”, and this is a kind of thinking which has been fundamental in the unfair censorship of video games themselves. As long as PA is not forcing this kind of potentially offensive content on people they shouldn’t be censored. Unfortunately I do think PA made a bit of a mistake on this one, and that was the t-shirt based on the comic they released. People can decide never to read the PA comic again and run no risk whatsoever of being offended, while simultaneously PA is allowed their free speech, and I believe that’s a perfectly fair agreement, but the t-shirt allowed people to continue the rape joke into real-life environments, a setting where you cannot pick and choose what you do and don’t want to see, and it risked unfairly upsetting people.

In the end I think PA made the right move, they took the t-shirt down from their store because people said that with that shirt around they didn’t feel comfortable coming to PAX. Mike Krahulik also expressed that if people feel conflicted about coming to PAX then they shouldn’t come, which I believe is the best advice he could have given. While I think people being distanced from PAX by the original comics is the unfortunately necessary price of free speech, I’m sad that the shirt (which I think crossed the line into PA releasing something that could upset people in a way people couldn’t control) threatened the atmosphere of PAX, because I feel PAX is a unique haven where games enthusiasts can come and feel safe, accepted, and like they’re part of a real community of friendly people, and I don’t want that to go away.
 

Duder, It’s Over

Well, I sure feel a lot better for getting that all off my chest. For now I must bid you adieu brave warriors of the internet, as I once again steal off into the night. Good luck, have grav lift.

-Gamer_152

Moderator
Posted by jim_dandy

I always prefered Cockjackals anyway.

Posted by fwylo

Good read.  I tend to skip demos for the most part so I doubt I'll even get around to playing the Bulletstorm one as I really don't have an interest in playing it in general. Looks fun, but I've got other, probably better games I'd rather play. 
  
I had a PSP for a while but sold it when I realized it I never played it ever.  I keep my DS because some friends and I get together weekly and play some games like Mario Kart DS and sometimes some multiplayer Tetris, but portable gaming devices don't appeal to me anymore.  With social networking if I ever have time while I'm out I can always just troll my facebook friends or do whatever on Twitter and if it comes to the point where I have even more time and I'm bored of that, the 10 minutes of Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja skips the time pretty fast.  Whenever a new portable system comes out I always say thats awesome and I'll probably get it just to have it, but I doubt I will this time around.  I can wait for the 3DS and the NGP just really isn't my style. 
 
I remember when this Dickwolves issue originally happened.  I'm really quite surprised that it has gone on for this long but haters gonna hate really.   

   “freedom of speech unless that speech affects me personally”

It's really quite a shame that this is the case with everything. Comedians, comic writers, and whoever is out there trying to make people see the lighter side of things has to tip-toe around certain subjects.  Obviously its fine to be sensitive about these things but the ends that some people go to about it are quite out of hand in my opinion.  I think Tycho has handled it perfectly, stating that if they don't want to read the comic or come to PAX because of something then don't.  Realizing that PAX should make everyone feel comfortable and if this t-shirt was going to make people feel uneasy then it shouldn't be out there or available.  Good for him. 
  
Also, can anyone hook me up with one of those t-shirts? I want to wear one to PAX prime and can't find one on ebay. Trolls gonna troll.
Posted by Aetheldod

I think these folks overreact ... look my Dad killed himself , he was my best friend and well the finest human being I have ever known , so does that mean people around me cant ever mention sucide or guns in any context  ( being funny jokes or serious talks ) ? Hell no .... if they were joking about my dad then I would get upset , but that is the thing people need to recognize that the mention of a subject is not a direct attack to them.

Posted by takua108

Oh man, I'm going to have to remember to start reading your blog more regularly. An excellent read!

Posted by LordXavierBritish

I'm more put off by Bulletstorm's fucking fugly-ass art design more than anything else.  
 
Also, no you are not in the market. I am in the market for NGP. They got me, they did it.
 
Also also, I think the people who are offended by Dickwolves are ignorant because they've been doing this shit for years. 

Posted by ryanwho

I'm offended at the idea that someone would turn down a mounting from a mighty dickwolf. 

Edited by JJWeatherman

I had no idea about the specifics of the whole PA issue, so this was enlightening. Now that I know, I realize that "Hey, it's just another stupid internet controversy!". 
 
About the whole issue of people becoming desensitized to things like rape, I think that's kind of a good thing. Horrible things happen every day, and I don't think people should be sheltered from it. If you're shocked and appalled by the idea of rape or murder, then you need to wake up to reality. I agree that any mentally healthy person is not going to be corrupted by being exposed to harsh realities, but they will become more aware, and I think that's always good. 
 
Besides, it's all in the context of a joke. I really don't understand people sometimes.

Posted by Hailinel

Why do people keep insisting that the dickwolf thing is a controversy?  More like a lot of people making a mountain of of a molehill that was built last year.

Posted by wrathofconn

The comic was never a rape joke and the shirt was even less of a rape joke. It should never have been taken down because the shirt is not a trigger and doesn't reference rape even tangentially. Other than that, it's all very serious, I'm sure.

Posted by Gamer_152
@fwylo: I remember back in the Gamespot days for some reason a lot of people on there started selling their handheld games consoles, and there always seemed to be more people regretting selling off their DS than their PSP. I've gotta say though, if there was one PSP game I really liked the look of it was Patapon, that looked great.
 
@Aetheldod: Sorry to hear about your father but like I said it's not that these people are all calling for censorship because they're offended, there are greater issues at work here.
 
@takua108: High praise indeed. Thank you.
 
@LordXavierBritish: Krahulik did point out that they have a character who is an actual rapist (Fruit Fucker) and it's a valid point that I don't think a lot of anti-PA people have picked up on, however it must be noted that there is a pretty big difference between fruit getting raped, and a human being getting raped.
 
@JJWeatherman: That's not desensitisation though, that's realisation, but I agree, people need to realise the kinds of real issues that affect people.

@Hailinel: You could look at it as people getting too worked up about an issue but that doesn't make it any less of a controversy.
 
@wrathofconn: Surely a rape joke is a joke about rape, I think in that regard PA's stuff qualifies as a rape joke. No, the shirt was not a trigger but you can't deny that it was an indirect reference to rape, we all knew what that shirt meant. Like I said I think they did the right thing by trying to preserve the friendly and safe atmosphere at PAX, while still sticking to their guns with what they could freely say within their own, sectioned-off space.
Moderator
Posted by GetEveryone

Nice post, man. Earned yourself a follower.

Posted by Afroman269
@Hailinel
Why do people keep insisting that the dickwolf thing is a controversy?  More like a lot of people making a mountain of of a molehill that was built last year.
Posted by fix8ed
@Gamer_152:  I felt exactly the same way about Bulletstorm!
Posted by TaliciaDragonsong

PA Controversy?
 
I must have missed it on the evening news and in the papers then.
 
Silly gamers blowing stuff out of proportion.

Posted by Gamer_152
@GetEveryone: Thank you very much.
 
@ThreeMegabytes: Not really. The majority of the post isn't about Bulletstorm.
 
@TaliciaDragonsong: Controversy doesn't necessarily mean international panic, it's just when there is an issue over which there is contention.
Moderator
Posted by TaliciaDragonsong
@Gamer_152: 
Yep, was referencing the way some people went batshit about it while in pyramid land people beat each other up :P
Its silly.
Posted by buft

that comic was pretty funny as was the followup, some people are just too keen on internet hate to take it as a joke.

Posted by HS21

What is this? Something worth reading on the forums? lolwut where's my question of the day?

Edited by Gamer_152
@buft: I don't think this was about generating arguments for the sake of arguments, I think people had a genuine moral objection to PA's comics.
 
@HS21: Don't worry HS, my next blog post is going to be about how girls make my woo woo feel funny.
Moderator
Posted by Dalai

I never really gave the whole dickwolf controversy much thought, but it's basically like any other type of media. If you don't like it, don't read it. Penny Arcade should be able to be as politically incorrect as they want to be without being hounded by those who are the least bit offended. 
 
With that said, the shirts are going a bit too far. Sometimes a little self-policing is needed.

Posted by wrathofconn
@Gamer_152: Yeah, I hear that, I just recognize that the rape was not the funny part of that comic, nor was it intended to be. And if they just didn't sell the shirts directly at PAX, I think that would have been a more valid reaction than just not selling them period.
Posted by actionTACO

contrary to popular belief, the 1st amendment doesn't protect you from being called out when you say stupid shit. sorry PA fans (mostly because of your terrible sense of humor tho).

Posted by Gamer_152
@Dalai: I agree completely.
 
@wrathofconn: I understand what you mean. The shirts were sold in the PA store though, it was only likely they were going to show up at the PA convention, I think they made the right move.
 
@actionTACO: I never once claimed it did and I haven't seen any other PA fans claiming it does either, but I don't think PA should have ever been called out and told to censor themselves (apart from with the whole t-shirt situation).
Moderator
Posted by l4wd0g

I just think it's sad how many people will be willing to laugh at something, but then when it's something they care about, they will turn against it in an instant. In today's society it's fine to make fun of Christianity, but God help you if you make fun of Muslims.

Online
Posted by Gamer_152
@l4wd0g: I agree that these double standards are a really bad part of society. The same comment can be a compliment coming from a female or sexual harassment coming from a male, and while jokes about the French or Welsh are considered highly acceptable, jokes about those from the Middle East or Africa are taken as unspeakable racism.
Moderator