Kierkegaard's forum posts

#1 Posted by Kierkegaard (660 posts) -

@kierkegaard: The concept you talk about in your original post is censorship. "Freedom needs to regulation and governance." That line is hard to take any other way. Your second post is better since it explains what you mean and it makes more sense. I wasn't searching for censorship when you blatantly say it.

Eh, I see how the wording can imply that, but regulation and governance don't have to imply government. Glad the second post clarified that I'm talking about what we already have--a working collaboration between artist, consumer, and industry to do the best we can for each other.

@jeust said:


This forces one of two things, either warnings that are incredibly generic/non-specific and thus useless (and likely already covered by ESRB stuff) so they don't spoil the story or it forces specific warnings that are likely to spoil the story.

Actually ESRB doesn't have any incredibly generic/non-specific warnings to cover it, and I believe a self-harm warning is vague enough to not spoil the story, and precise enough to warn people about the content of a game.

I don't understand why it is so controversial a warning saying that the game features self-harm. It doesn't state how it equates in the story, nor the degree of it. It would just state to people who are sensitive to it, and even people who isn't that the theme of self-harm is in the game. It is not more spoilerish than say, a sexual content warning, already issued by the ESRB, that states that sexual behaviour is in the game.

What's so problematic about this?

It's not controversial. You're just writing in a world where people can be very defensive about the idea of even acknowledging the needs and pains of others. It takes some maturity to recognize that allowing the needs of others to complement yours is not losing control, but instead sharing it.

#2 Posted by Kierkegaard (660 posts) -

@renahzor said:

@kierkegaard said:

I think that's fair, and for the record I voted yes on this. Responsibility in art is important--the creators should be thoughtful when dealing with heavy themes. Haven't played Life is Strange so I can't comment on how they handle those themes, but if a creator makes a mistake and does not do so thoughtfully or deftly, they can cause harm. People freak out at the thought of responsibility but it feels like an attack on freedom, and it is. But it's anarchic freedom, not moderated freedom. Freedom needs regulation and governance otherwise everyone is a dick to everyone always.

This is.... pretty scary shit. Whats your proposed punishment for offending the thought police?

That is terrifying. I guess no one is allowed to even attempt to touch on heavy themes.

Hey guys, you're searching for censorship a lot, huh? Here's the deal.

1. The first responsibility is on the creator--if what you create may cause great harm or ignorance, you should reconsider if the point you are making with your art is worth that risk. The best developers are thoughtful, choosing to push boundaries and heavy themes in a way that respects the power of those ideas. The problem is thoughtlessness, not thought. Very, very few developers aim to do harm or spread prejudice or flippantly include something traumatic. Most are considerate and thoughtful. Some are not thinking about the deeper shit, and that is the huge problem. There's nothing to lose here besides ignorance, and ignorance sucks.

2. The second responsibility is on the consumer, both before and after purchase. If we want the best out of the art we consume, we should both be aware of the nature of that art before experiencing it--looking at for warnings--and we should be active in discussing that art after we experience it. The ability to question and argue with creatives, the flatter world we live in with modern social media, is a great power that we should use actively and considerately.

3. The third responsibility is on the industry. The ESA and the ESRB need to view games as the mature medium they are and, I think, perhaps rate games based on more than whether the blood is cartoony or realistic. Arguably, with everything being digital it's really easy to ignore ratings and just buy a thing. Maybe that needs rethought--like online stores having clearer delineations based on ratings? I don't know the answer there, but the rating system probably hasn't grown up as much as the medium has.

People need to stop entering into these conversations defending against censorship. Censorship is forced, outside control on art. And it doesn't work! Censoring leads to revolution and underground movements, not successful control. What works is a combination of artist, consumer, and industry thoughtfulness.

Although young, video games are actually better at this than movies. In just 50 years we're already seeing more diversity of this art form, more depth among the just fun stuff, and that's wonderful. I hope we can all agree that more of that is good.

Life is Strange dealing with heavy shit is important. But no one loses if, in dealing with that stuff, the developers make moves, like simple disclaimers, that make sure making art does not cause unnecessary harm.

#3 Posted by Kierkegaard (660 posts) -

@jeust said:

@baal_sagoth said:

I don't think you can have any sort of meaningful artistic expression without potentially touching on incredibly dark and disturbing subjects. Creators should feel a huge responsibility to address these subjects with tact, intelligence and good grace and not simply exploit them because they can. But the fine line between exploitation and a drastic exploration of fucked-up themes is so subjective that finding it has to be the responsibility of the creator and not the recipients. The latter simply have to assess what they want to engage with and what they can handle.

A modern, media savy human has to be able to cope with footage of death camps, decapitations, sexual assaults, murders, suicides and so much more. Not to speak of atrocities you'll eventually personally witness most likely. I know I have and it doesn't even compare to the (admittedly shocking) first exposure via media. As for your personal situation: I can't advise anything on so little information but I'm not a huge fan of "white lies", especially not when they can be exposed by a quick google search anyway.

I agree with you, but she wouldn't google it. I believe we should protect a person when he/she is too sentitive to deal with an idea with relative ease, if possible, until the person is healthy enough to face it in a way that works to her advantage.

I think that's fair, and for the record I voted yes on this. Responsibility in art is important--the creators should be thoughtful when dealing with heavy themes. Haven't played Life is Strange so I can't comment on how they handle those themes, but if a creator makes a mistake and does not do so thoughtfully or deftly, they can cause harm. People freak out at the thought of responsibility but it feels like an attack on freedom, and it is. But it's anarchic freedom, not moderated freedom. Freedom needs regulation and governance otherwise everyone is a dick to everyone always.

In your cousin's situation, I find people do better when giving the option of reacting to reality than having it hidden from them. Mentioning that the second episode deals with some themes that could trigger her is better than hiding it from her.

#4 Posted by Kierkegaard (660 posts) -

@anwar: "Saying that 48% of gamers are female means that they are fine with it or if they weren't they would probably say it, right?"

Well, they're totally saying it all the time, seeing that there's a lot of criticisism coming from women about how games does not represent them enough. Plenty of people game despite the fact that they have problems with said games. The "core" audience is white cis male because that's what the studios are making because they're known quantities for them, but it's obvious that this is changing. It would change way faster if there weren't a bunch of people complaining everytime there's a woman protagonist in games.

Fact is, women and minorities are used to be under-represented in mainstream media. That has been documented since the 60s. If they want to engage with cinema (and games, now), they have to accept the fact they are under-represented. Does not mean they cannot enjoy it.

I'm not sure I get your point. If you say that it is not a problem that women are under-represented because 48% of gamers are women, it seems obvious that a lot of them are unhappy whith how games represent them and have to enjoy games despite of that.

Yeah, I'm not sure why these discussions usually turn toward "there isn't a problem" instead of recognizing the reality of lack of diversity and talking about ethical ways to address it. All of these head in the sand, let's move along, nothing wrong here people need to get educated so they can stop disrupting progress.

#5 Edited by Kierkegaard (660 posts) -

@imsh_pl said:

@thatpinguino: I think that you are ignoring certain factors which limit good story development. First of all, you have to have a good writer, which - let's just assume - is a cost that every game with a story has, and it's just always there. But you could also hire an additional writer, or a team of writers. You could hire a researcher to help the writer properly represent the social and cultural backgrounds of their characters, for example. Finally: all video games and, by extension, all video game writing has a certain time constraint put forward, which limits creative potential, the improvement of particular story elements or characters, etc.

The point I'm getting at is this: no matter what game you consider, all of its elements will always be limited by two factors: money and time. This means that even though it might not cost a lot of money to improve writing, it does affect when a game is released, since it means that a larger amount of work - and, by extension, time - has to be spent on writing. There will always be a tradeoff between one element of a game (like the story) and the rest (like the gameplay, the graphics), either in monetary cost or development time.

Additionally: let's consider the perspective of what you are saying. If it were true that the cost of having a good story/characters is always very small in relation to the gain in the quality of the game, why would so many games suffer from poor writing? It makes no sense. I mean, we have one of the key components of many games, which largely contributes to the game's reception, reviews, and, by extension, profits; and developers are just choosing to not develop it, even though it would be relatively simple. For no apparent reason at all. Only because they are lazy.

This to me seems very implausible, even contradictory. I would argue that the fact that games often have underdeveloped stories actually proves that the reason for it is that developers and publishers make the choice to commit more time and resources to other components like gameplay or graphical fidelity. Paying more attention to the story and writing has pretty much no negative consequences, so the fact that not all games have them to me proves that there has to be significant monetary or time investment in developing good writing, to the point that afromentioned developers choose to commit their limited resources to different aspects of the game.

Nope. See, good writing and ethical writing are fair. Honestly, schlock can be quite wonderful. Sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic bullshit has no place in any writing. The point isn't that every game writer needs to be amazing. The point is that we, consumers and critics, need to stop letting game writers be stupid. We need to stop allowing neato mechanics sweep away writing that is bad because it uses stupid stereotypes and boring tropes. It does not take a good writer to avoid this. It takes a thoughtful one.

It's about an attitude shift. Games have never purely been consumer products. They have always had or had the capacity for something deeper. Missile Command was anti-war. Zelda was about the joy of exploring the natural world. Games are built around ideas. Games are built around people.

What executives need to realize is that every time they all a game to turn to a divisive, harmful well, to the well of weak sex objects or racist caricature or status quo white hetero dudes--every time they allow that, they hurt the potential power of video games.

Consumer product or not, a game can be a piece of complex art containing choices in mechanics, appearance, and narrative. Companies are coming around to this, but we need to keep encouraging it and discouraging the bullshit. That's how all this grows.

It is patently the provably false to claim that games can keep their lazy tropes out of a need to cut costs or focus on gameplay. Stop defending that which harms the thing you love, that which keeps this medium from expanding to a more respectable and respectful place.

@hoodcommando Criticism of art is not censorship. Remember that. Kojima can do all the stupid shitty stuff he wants. It is the right of anyone to tell him it is stupid and shitty. If he changes it, that is still his choice. There is no artistic censorship here.

#6 Posted by Kierkegaard (660 posts) -

@kierkegaard: Oh, hey, VIDEO GAMES. Technical good in games means mechanics, too. So you can have a game that shoots real good but is ethically questionable. GTA V, for example.

I feel like GTA V is essentially the God Bless America of video games. They're saying almost identical things and allow the same sort of cathartic and troubling release. You make some good points in the following paragraph but I really think it was more addressing the superficial nature of everyone in the game world rather than their sexuality or gender. It probably is more cynical than God Bless America though. There isn't a single good hearted character in the whole game, just maniacs that sometimes, rarely, act nicely.

They have a lot in common, though God Bless America has a complex female character where GTA doesn't really. I guess that whole everyone sucks mentality just feels like a lazy approach to the world to me.

GTA does have clear dialogue satirizing gender and sexuality. It's just not handled with much thought or care. GTA always feels like South Park made by less clever people with a smaller point to make. And South Park is plenty cynical and has problems too, but it has a bit more complexity and depth.

#7 Posted by Kierkegaard (660 posts) -

@kierkegaard said:

We don't disagree as much as I thought but here it goes.

Well I would question your controls, I think there's many cases, like the present where controls are making things worse(mostly referring to drug quality), see "Bad Pharma" by Ben Goldacre and this one. So I asked you to talk only about video games so we don't go off in such tangents so I won't get into the relativity of civility and the preferences over safety.

I think given the nature of the product, which is digital and does not truly decay, its fairly easy to see that the genre will not stagnate because we only buy things that innovate. I don't know of any other industry where we have such strict standards of improvements on sequels, if a game doesn't do better than its previous installment, it usually gets hated or at least looked down upon. I hope I don't need to point to examples of this in a GB thread of all places. You are not alone in this world, we are all in here with you, if you get bored of video games because of their content(and not because you find something else) its likely that lots of us will get bored with you so we are all going to punish the producers if that occurs, indeed we already are. We are partly on this site to discover which games are the interesting ones and which ones are the boring ones.

I think your last paragraph kind of destroys itself. You can't have diversity and then ask that everyone have the same ideas. I think people should believe whatever they want to believe and as a society we draw the line at violence and probably some forms of harassment(like stalking). Its not the job of video games to reform misogynists or any other "negative idea". The trip to extremist-an in this case basically entails some modern music(rap) to be buried because its misogynistic. Alternatively films like "God bless america"(which isn't great) would be banned because it makes mass murder look cool. Just because some may interpret mediums in harmful ways doesn't mean anything, pretty much every art can inspire violence, like "Catcher in the Rye" or John Lennon. Surely you are not suggesting that it was a mistake to release these latter two because they may fuel hatred. Hatred is fueled by everything so that's a no go. I don't even think rejecting any opposing ideas to your paradigm is an old person thing, its a trait of human nature to rinse and repeat what worked in the past. If you want to have a psyche changed then that's in the classroom, make people curious and open minded.

@fredchuckdave:Lol on your post. Its like you got started on one topic but ended up using most of the space to complain about moderators. Bad experience eh? I don't disagree btw and I like your writing style.

No disagreement that there are faults in many controls that cause more harm than good.

Let's talk games.

This is the ol' you can't be intolerant of intolerance thing. I certainly can. Part of the job of a creator is to be thoughtful and a bit responsible. Not saying you can't create if you aren't--this isn't about censorship. I'm saying I laud those who are because they are making something better.

See, the examples you gave have constructive points. Rap can reflect a world, challenge that world, and look to overcome it. Shitty rap glorifies what is horrible to sell records. It's Talib Kweli vs. Drake. Thoughtlessness vs. thoughtfulness. God Bless America is a very likable power fantasy where all stupid, ignorant, racist, extremist people are killed. It's satire and it's not poorly done. The message at the end does not say violence is the answer at all. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on the other hand is a dogmatic jingoistic car commercial with sexist tropes, racist caricature, low humor, and weed jokes. It is a shitty movie.

I teach Catcher. Catcher advocates doubt in power structures but hope in innocence. It emphasizes the hardships of teenage life and the transition to adult hood that is choosing to care for others. Lennon and Catcher both gave deranged people a scapegoat for violence, but they did not inspire or advocate that violence.

Now, there's two things at work here: There is technical good and social good. Drake has flawless production, catchy hooks, a chiseled jaw--lots of technical good. But he doesn't promote good ideas about women or what happiness is. Transformers 2 has beautiful cinematography and some amazing shots occasionally, but it is bad art. Catcher and God Bless America actually have some lazy writing in there, but they end up being comprised of important ideas.

Oh, hey, VIDEO GAMES. Technical good in games means mechanics, too. So you can have a game that shoots real good but is ethically questionable. GTA V, for example.

Great open world, lots of stuff to do, impressive graphics, cool character switching mechanic, neat heist missions--some great game design in there.

But it advocates a casual cynicism about the world, saying everyone sucks so fuck it, essentially. It has protagonists who have to torture people or be complicit as well as choose to kill each other in the end. It says that living in Black L.A. is hard, being a middle aged white guy is pathetic, and being a methed out low-life is actually preferable because it's internally consistent. Trans women are jokes, female characters are generally whiny or crazy, gay characters are worse stereotypes than they were in GTA IV, and we feel a little worse.

Assassin's Creed III is really, really technically flawed. Lots of space without enough to do. Shitty chase sequences. Occasional really fun parts like the ship stuff.

And it's story is not perfect. The ending decides that society tends toward hierarchical power structures even in the case of a rebuilt world. Conner's spirt journey and saying "there is an evil in this place" reeks of colonial versions of the First Nations. But it tries to do something interesting. It looks at the American Revolution from a more learned and less patriotic perspective and, even if it fails on many counts, it fails trying to say something that is better than everything is shitty. Conner decides that despite the horrible wrongs he will build a family in the homestead, an island of misfit toys that can find camaraderie in their isolation. Portal 2 does the same. Gone Home. The Last of Us directly attacks this cynicism.

The point is games should aim higher when they can. Choosing to promote what is ignorant or lazy or stereotypical is not something I think we should control against, but it is something we can dismiss more forcefully. We have to stop being drawn in by mechanical wonder that masks lazy social thought. We deserve better than that. We deserve both.

#8 Posted by Kierkegaard (660 posts) -


If you want me to get into an argument about evils of capitalism, at least be clear and concise. Why do you think capitalism is an inappropriate system in the domain of art, more specifically video games, given that they are goods which are privately consumed and to which we have falsified most causal links to negative behavior(i.e no negative externalities)? Of course as human endeavors go, these studies are not the most accurate way of doing things but given the domain, its probably the best we have and will have for any foreseeable future.

If you get into this be aware that I am just going to be taking your arguments to extremist-an, so they better be able to survive such a trip.

I don't think capitalism is evil. History demonstrates that capitalism without controls (controls like labor laws, codes of food or drug quality, environmental protections, anti-trust laws) can easily be used for monetary gain that belittles and harms many. We need to control and moderate some aspects of the system in order to keep things civil, safe, clean, and just.

With the art form of video games, I'm not looking for a government requirement of diversity in games. That sort of dictation can lead to paint-by-numbers passionless art. Instead, I'm looking for an active consumer base to, on forums like this, in letters, and anywhere else, promote and advocate the need for diverse casts of characters so this art form does not stagnate and wallow.

Art both reflects society and influences it. It responds to society and builds from it. Studies do not show any correlation between playing a violent or misogynistic game and becoming more violent or misogynist. The problem is that for someone who already has those views for whatever reasons, games can be a great supporter of some very negative ideas. That should stop. People learn how to think from somewhere, and any influence a creator can have on a player should be aimed away from obvious social harms. No playing of GTA will make anyone a mass murderer who wouldn't have already been one, but it may make them feel like Rockstar agrees that trans people are deserving of mockery. That second part is a problem worth addressing.

#9 Posted by Kierkegaard (660 posts) -

@gamefreak9: Victoria secret is a product that is inherently sold to a specific sex. Games have no such inherent qualities.

You could actually educate me about what I've gotten so wrong about the idea of unfettered versus moral capitalism rather than saying I'm too stupid to talk to...

@crysack said:

@kierkegaard said:

Things get better because we make them get better. Waiting for the market to inch its way along will only hold us back as a culture. individual humans are smarter and better faster than the market. Because the market, whether looking short term or long term, looks to gain revenue rather than be good to people, so it gets fucked up.

Already things are improving and diversity and inclusiveness and pluralism are winning, but it is vital that we keep fighting for them and advocating rather than ever thinking that things are good enough.

That does risk extremism, and that's worth being aware of, but waiting for change accepts mediocrity and harm. And fuck that.

This is garbage. The way to promote diversity in a creative medium is to provide an open platform so that anyone has the opportunity to create and distribute whatever they want. The market has no vested interest in being 'good' or 'bad' to people, it is quite simply a reflection of the needs and desires of the audience.

Nope. Diversity is an active trait, not a passive one, at least in our culture. A history of subjugation of groups of people means that the status quo is unfair and homogeneous, meaning that to promote diversity is to actively encourage it. That means hiring practices based around representation as well as skill. That means, as players and critics, telling artists we want them to create more diverse casts. All of that is working right now. All we need to do is promote it and stop fighting it.

#10 Posted by Kierkegaard (660 posts) -

@kierkegaard said:

@gamefreak9 said:

I don't like reading news(unless it's about affecting my near term purchase decision, i.e video games) because its mostly just irrelevant noise, i'm more interested in science and history. But somehow I know what's been on the news without going because you get drones sent all over the place. All this "white male privilege" stuff is obviously some dogma people read in papers or watch on TV. I'm too lazy to respond but here's why your assumptions of discrimination are unlikely:

If you want to be coherent, at least credibly argue against her arguments because she is pretty convincing, here's a playlist of her videos:

Pew Research found it's about 84 cents, and that it's lessening drastically.

American Enterprise Institute is a conservative think tank that promotes some problematic traditionalism, with the above person in particular famously arguing that heterosexual men are under attack in media, that their masculinity is being attacked, which is a ridiculous claim.

If the wage gap that used to come primarily from discrimination now comes more from women taking off work to raise children, there's some progress there. But my rejoinder would be that that is a problem of paternity leave laws, of the fact that in the U.S. fathers are not given the same rights as mothers, nor the same societal expectations, to take off half a year to raise their kid. So, closing that wage gap may be about ending the patriarchal view that fathers do not need to spend as much time off of work as mothers and thus do not deserve the equivalent of maternity leave.

Even the woman above agrees, though, that discrimination and gender-bias exist and are a problem. Diversity in art and in hiring is one of the best ways, as proven, to combat these issues. Because, unfortunately, it can take a group of people feeling less alone to give them and their allies the strength to confront injustice.

I don't not listen to a group just because of who they are, if you want to attack this stuff make fun of their content, not their people. I don't see why saying masculinity is under attack is a ridiculous claim, it seems plausible enough though I don't know what it means exactly, she seems pretty coherent i'm sure she defines it in a very specific way. Care to elaborate?

I'm not convinced that ending the wage gap is absolutely essential especially if it means mothers spend less time with their children. Not saying which is right and wrong but we should have some more evidence that its alright before we do. Do we have evidence that mom time is perfect a substitute with dad time? Maybe its just an argument of relative strengths, if guys do get more technical degrees then they are more productive at work and it costs the household more for the dad to stay home than the mom. This is the norm for probably the history of human civilization, you can't just assume its pointless or bad.

That video in the pew site seems to say that 10% of men say they are being discriminated against versus 18(unless I read that wrong)? Now I think women are much more in the spotlight for this sort of thing so if its happening they are more likely to see it and even if it doesn't they are still more likely to interpret it that way.

Here's what I know:

The BLS says women work less hours:

Which can be combined with this study:

Having spent some time at a law firm I find that they have the most objective criteria for compensation so I looked this up:

Here you go:

She says there's no correlation between games and violence (true and good) and then uses the weasel word "some" to say that "hipster's with cultural studies degrees" want male gaming culture to die. She says sexist tropes exist, but that games are now inclusive, without a lot to back up that fact.

Fact is, she has an agenda, just like anybody, and that agenda is libertarian and traditionalist, just like much of AEI. She believes that markets should not controlled or influenced in order to conform to ethical practices, that art should not be criticized so harshly.

The videos you posted are aimed at a similar narrative--things are getting better, so let's not worry about that.

That's bullshit.

Things get better because we make them get better. Waiting for the market to inch its way along will only hold us back as a culture. individual humans are smarter and better faster than the market. Because the market, whether looking short term or long term, looks to gain revenue rather than be good to people, so it gets fucked up.

Already things are improving and diversity and inclusiveness and pluralism are winning, but it is vital that we keep fighting for them and advocating rather than ever thinking that things are good enough.

That does risk extremism, and that's worth being aware of, but waiting for change accepts mediocrity and harm. And fuck that.