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Worth Reading 08/23/2013

Some thoughts on the subjectivity of value before PAX, and two weeks worth of your usual avalanche of links.

Even when it becomes vitriolic, I’ve enjoyed the ongoing discussion about how we value video games, a heated conversation prompted by Gone Home. It’s one of those conversations that helps expose the gaps between critics and players, a gap we sometimes forget actually exists.

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I don’t regret not talking about length, nor failing to make a call about the game’s $20 price point. Gone Home is worth $20 to me, and two hours I spent exploring a stranger’s house was worth the price of admission. That’s just me, though, and how other people interpret value is a incredibly subjective. Value is more than quality. Value is personal, a combination of factors--what you’re in the mood for, one’s bank account, etc.

I wrote this comment in an article by Ben Kuchera at Penny Arcade Report. (I also stand by my assertion on Twitter that starting a conversation by calling people “assholes” is ridiculous. It didn’t work last time, Ben, and I don’t think it works here. It distracts from the sentiment within.)

“I've been thinking about this quite a bit, since there was lots of conversation about the game's price vs. value in my own review at Giant Bomb. I don't regret not mentioning the price in my review, nor do I regret leaving out how many hours it took to finish. Those were irrelevant factors to my incredibly subjective review of Gone Home. But I do think it's important for game reviewers especially to check their privilege. Many of us are in incredibly unique situations, able to play many, many games without forking over a dime. Thus, paying $20 for an experience like Gone Home isn't a big deal. Not all critics receive every game for free (I sure don't), but we're definitely getting more than your average consumer, no matter whether you're at the top of the writing heap or at the lowest totem pole. That's privilege, and it's worth, at least, acknowledging what that means about your perspective.”

Kuchera left out the word privilege, but I think it’s important, despite the baggage that comes with it. Someone asked me about my commentary on privilege on Tumblr, and here’s what I said:

“It means recognizing that you have inherent “privilege” due to one characteristic or another. That can be being a games journalist who has access to free games, being white in a society that provides invisible bonuses just for being white, being straight in a world where only non-straight people are asked to justify their sexuality, etc. It’s not easy to recognize your own privilege, but it’s always worth considering what you get for being who/what you are that you might not take into consideration all the time.”

Some food for thought. See you at PAX next week? Please say hi! Don’t be shy.

Worth Playing

And You Should Read These, Too

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There will never be easy answers to the question of what it means to be a commercial artist, or if dabbling in the first part automatically disqualifies you from the second. This conversation actually happened a few weeks back, but it remains as pertinent as ever. Elizabeth ofth Woods wrote an essay on the fifth anniversary of Braid about another independent game designer, Michael Brough, one who's seen immense critical success but hasn’t exactly seen it translate into a financial windfall. What ensued was a heated, fascinating discussion about appealing to the mainstream, finding a way to be successful without selling out, and more.

"Not only have Blow and other well-known devs failed to understand that these subtle aesthetic choices are actually an integral part of the experience of playing Corrypt - they've actually completely missed what the game is trying to communicate in the first place. The more I think about it, the more the gap in perspective and intentions between designers of "polished games" like Blow and more self-expressive, experimental types Brough seems to widen. Maybe this also explains Brough's seeming indifference about how he priced Corrypt in the app store."

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I hope more people read this exchange between Anita Sarkeesian and Spelunky creator Derek Yu. Sarkeesian had previously used Spelunky as an example of the “damsel in distress” trope that has been core to some of her arguments about problematic game design, and when asked about this, Yu responded patiently, thoughtfully, and with empathy. This is the kind of dialogue that sparks change, even if it doesn’t result in any meaningful change to Spelunky itself. It’s about listening to other people and hearing them out.

"I don't think it's crazy to say that the 'helpless damsel' trope is pervasive and hurtful."

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Let this stand as a pristine example of what I’d like to see more if in games journalism. Chris Plante not only dissects the long history of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified’s messy development history, but Polygon dropped this story at the very same moment the embargo was up for the game’s review. At the very moment that you’re reading what Polygon thinks about the game, you’re reading the context for its creation. Maybe it plays into your decision to play The Bureau, maybe it doesn’t, but it was a great decision and should be applauded.

"This is the story of the definitive 2K game: a project given ample creative freedom, an exceptionally talented staff and — for better and worse — minimal corporate oversight. A game that has been in development, in some capacity, since the studio's founding and which has only just now come to light. After nearly eight years, at least three names, three genres, three lead studios and innumerable reboots, that project is finally complete".

If You Click It, It Will Play

Like it or Not, Crowdfunding Isn't Going Away

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

Gone Home Has Produced Some Great Commentary

  • Danielle Riendeau had found that Gone Home spoke to her due to a very personal experience.
  • Merritt Kopas also saw themselves in Gone Home in a way a game had never done before.
  • Claire Hosking with six lessons on crafting believable female characters in a video game.
  • Zoe Quinn, designer of Depression Quest, is now dying her hair red because of Gone Home.

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+
140 CommentsRefresh

Avatar image for wilshere
Posted By Wilshere

@bisonhero said:

@mrlog said:

never stop being complete shit, giantbomb comments.

They're not bad all the time - just when someone is trying to have an adult conversation.

I'd characterize it more as "Grrrrr, I don't like having my viewpoints challenged. Can't we just get back to talking about the graphics on level 3?"

The worst part is it's not necessarily even about directly challenging or overturning their viewpoints; I guess the very act of acknowledging that someone feels differently about things than they do flips whole worldviews like some Fresh Prince shit.

Its funny how you never see males throw whole campaigns or even just complain about things like: playing as a black character in San Andreas, Samus being a woman after all, full frontal male nudity in GTAIV, playing as Lara Croft, graphic violence against men, and so on.

Avatar image for gaspower
Posted By GaspoweR

@hailinel: Can never really take him seriously since that debacle with Erik Kain earlier this year.

Avatar image for lanechanger
Edited By Lanechanger

I've learned some new things like star craft universe and a controller for your penis, thanks Patrick, love this feature!

Avatar image for mocbucket62
Posted By MocBucket62

Seeing Mike Tyson talk trash to Glass Joe just put a good start to my morning. Also, another great Worth Reading segment Patrick.

Avatar image for oni
Posted By Oni

sHe haS dYed hEr haiR ReD?

Avatar image for gifforn
Edited By Gifforn

“$60“ ᴀɴ ʜᴏᴜʀ! Sᴇʀɪᴏᴜsʟʏ I ᴅᴏɴ'ᴛ ᴋɴᴏᴡ ᴡʜʏ ᴍᴏʀᴇ ᴘᴇᴏᴘʟᴇ ʜᴀᴠᴇɴ'ᴛ ᴛʀɪᴇᴅ ᴛʜɪs, I ᴡᴏʀᴋ ᴛᴡᴏ sʜɪғᴛs, 2 ʜᴏᴜʀs ɪɴ ᴛʜᴇ ᴅᴀʏ ᴀɴᴅ 2 ɪɴ ᴛʜᴇ ᴇᴠᴇɴɪɴɢ…Aɴᴅ ᴡʜᴀᴛs ᴀᴡᴇsᴏᴍᴇ ɪs Iᴍ ᴡᴏʀᴋɪɴɢ ғʀᴏᴍ ʜᴏᴍᴇ sᴏ I ɢᴇᴛ ᴍᴏʀᴇ ᴛɪᴍᴇ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴍʏ ᴋɪᴅs. Hᴇʀᴇ ɪs ᴡʜᴀᴛ ɪ ᴅɪᴅ>>>>www.Blue78.Com

Avatar image for lively
Edited By Lively

@marokai said:

The only argument being made here seems to be that: Because the cliche of weak and inferior women exists, that cliche being included anywhere, at all, is bad.

I'm gay; should I start being wildly offended and start a twitter crusade whenever there's a flirty/effeminate gay character in a game? Or a super whiny/bitchy one? Or an unrealistically masculine one? Or a totally scummy promiscuous backstabbing one? This can go on and on. There's a cliche for everything, but I'm not offended by any one of those specific examples in games/movie/television/books in proper context.

I'm not denying that the portrayal of women being unrealistically buxom exists, or that the stigma of weak and inferior women exists. But there are real villains in this mess, and then there are the completely innocent but easy targets like Spelunky. If this is a movement that's going to be offended by literally everything or demand absurd responses to assuage their outrage ("just never use that game mechanic again, that's all!") then at some point people have to realize where the limit is and say "Okay, you're right on ~80% of stuff, but enough is enough."

Instead, we're supposed to take this reaction to Spelunky as completely justified when it's absolutely not justified at all and shouldn't have happened to begin with because Spelunky didn't do anything wrong. All this does is encourage people to target others over completely innocent things and demand calm and careful reactions to the most irrational of complaints instead of calling them out for being silly; which apparently we're not allowed to do, because male white privilege, or whatever.

I guess I have a different interpretation for most of this; when Anita brings up one of her examples, I don't hear "this should never exist", but rather "this is an example of something that's overused". She highlighted Spelunky not because it's the worst offender (far from it), but because it's a good example of a modern game that puts some effort into subverting the trope, but still ends up using it.

I don't think she's even calling for the game to be changed, per se. Enough people think that's what she said that she could probably stand to make that point more clearly, but it doesn't excuse people getting so worked up over something that a little more comprehension could avoid.

The point isn't that clichés can't exist, but rather that if one negative cliché seems to pop up so often that it's crowding other ways of portraying a group of people, that's at least an indicator that you might have a problem, and trying to promote awareness and conversation about it doesn't really deserve to be called a "witch hunt", or censorship.

In the movie and TV world, you hear analysis and criticism of these sorts of trends all the time, whether it's the black guy dying first in a horror movie, nearly all gay guys either being flamboyant comic relief or tragically doomed, or most sitcom dads being lovable buffoons married to impossibly hot wives, or football commercials with one token black friend, but never more than one. As far as I can tell, these kinds of observations come and go with far less reactionary fear and anger than you get in the videogame community.

One reason for that, I think, is that there is a lot more variety in storytelling in these other mediums. So, even if someone thinks that the movie "Sin City" is ugly and chauvinist, there are so many other entertainment choices out there that you can spend all your entertainment time off with things that are more suited to your taste, and you don't have to spare a single thought for entertainment you don't like.

The videogame world isn't quite that fragmented and diversified yet, so you have people of very different tastes all tossing about in the same pot, arguing over what kinds of stories that they want to see made, and pulling in different directions.

I think these conversations will become a little more relaxed should a critical mass of games be made that feature more nuanced or compelling female perspectives, so that this audience won't feel so excluded - granted, that might not happen in the near future if the players of "core games" remain so predominantly male, but who knows what will happen later down the line.

If that future comes to pass, we'll still have our videogame equivalent of action movies, grind-house films, Bond films, and so on. There will always be someone willing to cater to the juvenile male mind, and I'll still be happily consuming them.

The existence of vegan salads will never take away our ability to have cheap pizza and wings.

Avatar image for spectreman
Edited By Spectreman

Kuchera talk a lot of bulshit, but this time he made a very good point.

Avatar image for marokai
Posted By Marokai

@lively said:

I guess I disagree that having the damsel choice mechanic means that its inclusion still isn't a little bit problematic.

I can only speak for myself here, but when I saw the whole "Chippendales Boy" damsel it seemed like something included as a joke. If you'll allow an analogy, you might have seen this image of the Avengers posing like women are often seen posing in comics:

[images]

Having gender-swapped males is kind of funny, but a hypothetical comic that included both ridiculous images wouldn't really fix the problem, either.

And I think it's a fair observation that they don't carry quite the same meaning, in the broader context. The latter image seems to be legitimately leering, and the former is mostly just funny because of how it goes against expectations.

In Spelunky, there's probably an argument to be made that the whole thing is kind of a light-hearted parody of other properties. Still, one of the points that Anita made in her third video is that while a lot of modern uses of the damsel in distress trope spin it as an homage, parody, or other twist on the concept, it doesn't really change the fact that it's still the same trope at the end of the day. There are thousands of other ways a story can be told, and the fact that this one keeps popping up so often says something.

I see what you're saying here, and I'm not denying that the trope exists and can be really gross. But this is going back to the original point I made; what is the way forward, then? The buxom damsel is a trope everywhere else in pop culture, so basically it can't be used anywhere ever again, even when it's gender-neutral, even when it's a tongue in cheek Indiana Jones parody? That's the only point I see being made here.

Yes, the image of weak and inferior women exists on a broader social level... but so what? I fail to understand why I should be outraged or even mildly unsettled by a game that doesn't poke any undue or specific fun at women that it doesn't poke at everyone else. The only argument being made here seems to be that: Because the cliche of weak and inferior women exists, that cliche being included anywhere, at all, is bad. Further, any mechanic where you have to rescue a man or woman at all invokes the spirit of that same social stigma, and is still bad, so we can't include a legitimate game mechanic, because someone somewhere might be offended by it.

At some point everyone needs to stop trying to read too far into things just for something to be offended by and take a lesson in Tropes Are Not Bad. I'm gay; should I start being wildly offended and start a twitter crusade whenever there's a flirty/effeminate gay character in a game? Or a super whiny/bitchy one? Or an unrealistically masculine one? Or a totally scummy promiscuous backstabbing one? This can go on and on. There's a cliche for everything, but I'm not offended by any one of those specific examples in games/movie/television/books in proper context.

I'm not denying that the portrayal of women being unrealistically buxom exists, or that the stigma of weak and inferior women exists. But there are real villains in this mess, and then there are the completely innocent but easy targets like Spelunky. If this is a movement that's going to be offended by literally everything or demand absurd responses to assuage their outrage ("just never use that game mechanic again, that's all!") then at some point people have to realize where the limit is and say "Okay, you're right on ~80% of stuff, but enough is enough."

Instead, we're supposed to take this reaction to Spelunky as completely justified when it's absolutely not justified at all and shouldn't have happened to begin with because Spelunky didn't do anything wrong. All this does is encourage people to target others over completely innocent things and demand calm and careful reactions to the most irrational of complaints instead of calling them out for being silly; which apparently we're not allowed to do, because male white privilege, or whatever.

Avatar image for grantheaslip
Edited By GrantHeaslip

@marokai said:

Unfortunately the thread ate the last bit of that post, but I'll summarize what was lost:

The problem here is that completely innocent devs are being made to feel super self conscious about their work even if they've done nothing wrong, and that's supposed apparently completely okay and "how change happens." But that's bullshit. There are legitimate cases of women being treated like shit in video games or pop culture more broadly, but just because a feminist had a legitimate grievance somewhere else, doesn't mean they have free reign to accuse everything, ever, of being sexist whenever there's a woman involved.

No one should "applaud" that "conversation" because it was based on a bullshit premise to begin with. Everyone claims equality is the only goal feminism ever had, and if that were so, I don't understand why Spelunky, a game that actually treated everyone equally, should be singled out for anything. But because the games press is so spineless on this crap, and so up their own ass with their social media activism, we're not allowed to call anything Anita Sarkeesian says out for being total nonsense, because that's mean and means you're sexist.

The fact that an innocent dev who did nothing wrong, from a game that treated both sexes entirely equally, is singled out in this continuing string of internet-feminism crusades, is not the kind of result that should be encouraged, at all.

Very much agreed. This sentiment that every "conversation" is important and should be supported is nuts. True change happens when members of each side are willing to call out their internal bullshit, not when everyone hunkers down and never gets off-message. I can't take this movement seriously when nobody involved is willing to step out and say "look, I'm on your side, but this one point you're making is ridiculous". Instead, we've got the outspoken agitators ratcheting up the accusations, and everyone else passively standing by saying "yeah, this is a good conversation!" and/or too scared/prudent to be the one to step out and challenge anything.

The bullying aspect of it also really rubs me the wrong way. If we've set a precedent that every conversation is valid and important, what's a developer to do when the conversation turns to them? The bar for an accusation of sexism is at this point basically "someone says they're uncomfortable about it", which is impossible to respond to in any kind of meaningful way. If there's no logical framework, there's zero defence aside from falling on one's sword in an appropriately feel-good way or refusing to comment.

Avatar image for curufinwe
Edited By Curufinwe

@marokai said:

@yummytreesap said:

Shit, y'all, Patrick doesn't even directly say anything about feminism/sexism in video games and you all are still jumping on him for it. It's completely absurd and makes me ashamed as someone who plays video games.

All he was commenting on is was that it's cool for there to be civil discourse in this world, when so much seems to instead be an endless onslaught of vitriol. That doesn't accomplish a whole lot (the vitriol), and it's very important to consider how others feel about things. Derek Yu doing that is pretty awesome.

The problem I have with this whole thing is that I don't understand what the hell kind of "change" that "conversation" is supposed to have. All I saw is a developer cautiously trying to calm any fires before they could start because Anita Sarkeesian made an absurd statement about how Spelunky apparently considers women as equals to dogs, or something. That doesn't solve anything.

It would be nice if Patrick would comment on the absurdity of some of the claims presented by Sarkeesian. "This is the kind of dialogue that sparks change" is particularly cringeworthy given her previous comments about Spelunky.

Avatar image for curufinwe
Edited By Curufinwe

DP

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Edited By bybeach

I've been meaning to do this since last Friday, in that I want to say how much I enjoy Worth Reading. I realize that it's depending on someone else to dig up interesting and perhaps controversial articles and opinions for me. But it works.

Being a gamer does not connote a tendency towards any points of view when you have everything from Reagan loving war video games and Military Sims to efforts like The Line and the Binding of Isaac. Just the same It's different points of view, cultural even say from other sources like Japan, that I am interested in. If I figure something is too biased I do not read much of it or let it mess with my strings. I so appreciate the many info and opinion pieces for a better base to view the world of Video games. And perhaps people.

I went over the beginning topics, when I get a chance later check out the rest of the material offered, thanks!

Avatar image for planetfunksquad
Posted By planetfunksquad

@pxabstraction said:

I stopped actively paying attention to PAR a while ago. It's become the Ben Kuchera Show. His original mission statement from the site was that game's journalism is broken and that he appears to perceive himself as it's saviour but he constantly breaks his own rules. Almost every article is an op-ed, as Patrick demonstrated, he tries to start meaningful dialogue with insults, he frequently bans/blocks intelligent critics and lumps them in with trolls and well, it's hard to call yourself a journalist when you all but devote entire articles to giving free PR to certain products (see Oculus Rift), especially when the aforementioned original mission statement accused large swaths of the industry of being in bed with business. He has a really good idea with that site but he's got to start adhering to it more and not constantly writing as if he's above so many of his peers.

Replace Ben Kuchera with Patrick Klepek and tell me how this statement of yours isn't still 100% true?

You realise that absolutely none of those things describes Patrick at all, yeah?

Avatar image for stevevacation
Posted By SteveVacation

I wanted to cry after that Spelunky telefrag.

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Posted By yoshimitz707

@patrickklepek

  • Edge helps us more about the super cool Experiment 12 horror experiment.

WHAT DOES EDGE HELP US MORE WITH!?

Avatar image for hailinel
Posted By Hailinel

@pxabstraction said:

I stopped actively paying attention to PAR a while ago. It's become the Ben Kuchera Show. His original mission statement from the site was that game's journalism is broken and that he appears to perceive himself as it's saviour but he constantly breaks his own rules. Almost every article is an op-ed, as Patrick demonstrated, he tries to start meaningful dialogue with insults, he frequently bans/blocks intelligent critics and lumps them in with trolls and well, it's hard to call yourself a journalist when you all but devote entire articles to giving free PR to certain products (see Oculus Rift), especially when the aforementioned original mission statement accused large swaths of the industry of being in bed with business. He has a really good idea with that site but he's got to start adhering to it more and not constantly writing as if he's above so many of his peers.

Replace Ben Kuchera with Patrick Klepek and tell me how this statement of yours isn't still 100% true?

Patrick doesn't lead off with insults, and he does not ban or block intelligent discourse (even if he doesn't always openly acknowledge said discourse). Show me one article Patrick has written that opens up by either insulting his readers or his fellow journalists.

Avatar image for professoress
Edited By ProfessorEss

@satelliteoflove said:

@Spelunky:

When the loudest arguments are about cartoon titties or harranguing a guy who's went the farthest in inclusiveness in his design both for the protags and the damsels in his games, we have officially wandered away from the original targets (equality in the workforce and squelching those being assholes to women on-line) and are now engaging in petty social banditry upon the ripest marks. The battles that can be won, not the ones needing winning.

And it was going so good for a while, too.

Petty social banditry. Excellently put.

Though I personally don't think it was ever going good (unless that's sarcasm?).

Avatar image for professoress
Posted By ProfessorEss

I stopped actively paying attention to PAR a while ago. It's become the Ben Kuchera Show. His original mission statement from the site was that game's journalism is broken and that he appears to perceive himself as it's saviour but he constantly breaks his own rules. Almost every article is an op-ed, as Patrick demonstrated, he tries to start meaningful dialogue with insults, he frequently bans/blocks intelligent critics and lumps them in with trolls and well, it's hard to call yourself a journalist when you all but devote entire articles to giving free PR to certain products (see Oculus Rift), especially when the aforementioned original mission statement accused large swaths of the industry of being in bed with business. He has a really good idea with that site but he's got to start adhering to it more and not constantly writing as if he's above so many of his peers.

Replace Ben Kuchera with Patrick Klepek and tell me how this statement of yours isn't still 100% true?

Avatar image for pxabstraction
Posted By PXAbstraction

I stopped actively paying attention to PAR a while ago. It's become the Ben Kuchera Show. His original mission statement from the site was that game's journalism is broken and that he appears to perceive himself as it's saviour but he constantly breaks his own rules. Almost every article is an op-ed, as Patrick demonstrated, he tries to start meaningful dialogue with insults, he frequently bans/blocks intelligent critics and lumps them in with trolls and well, it's hard to call yourself a journalist when you all but devote entire articles to giving free PR to certain products (see Oculus Rift), especially when the aforementioned original mission statement accused large swaths of the industry of being in bed with business. He has a really good idea with that site but he's got to start adhering to it more and not constantly writing as if he's above so many of his peers.

Avatar image for chrisbob
Posted By chrisbob

I have immense respect for Patrick for standing strong on reporting on the feminism front. Some of the comments on the Cara Ellison op-ed are so utterly devoid of empathy it's nauseating. I just don't get why the backlash is so over the top. Even people who claim to be reasonably disagreeing with Sarkeesian reframe her arguments in such a way that it's like they watched a completely different video.

Avatar image for takua108
Posted By takua108

@daneian said:

The problem with the Spelunky criticism is that it doesn't address that the damsel mechanic was put in the game purely for its value as gameplay.

The game is about navigating hazardous environments for treasure so Yu thought up challenge that involves successfully taking a destructible item to the end of the level. The item he would select to use would be based on two factors: its ability to visually represent when it was damaged and the challenge failed and to maximize player investment in the item so they will want to get it to the end.

He'd already used treasure everywhere in the game so choosing another, more valuable treasure, would have been redundant. A human NPC is kinda the perfect choice. Remember that Spelunky is about a set of universal rules that everything in the game adheres to. He had already established the rules for player damage so he wouldn't need to come up with an entirely new concept.

That he worked to give players three choices for the sprite is actually quite generous since he was trying to account for a variety of players just as he did by providing several Spelunker models.

Jesus Christ holy shit somebody else in the world gets it! Couldn't've put it better myself.

There is literally nothing wrong with having a mechanic in your game where a male character saves a female character, and especially nothing wrong if you allow the player to choose not only the gender of the player character, but also the gender of the to-be-rescued character. That last part is Yu going the extra mile; he was in no way obligated to do that, but he correctly realized that it should stave off any criticism of gender tropes.

Let's say I make a game about a carpenter, or maybe a plumber, who goes to a magical world of pipes and dinosaurs to rescue a princess. Is that me being sexist, having that as the core conceit of my game? It's definitely not progressive or imaginative, but is it bad?

Likewise, if I were to make a game about a woman falling in love with another woman, should it be critically lauded as the greatest thing ever, just because of its non-traditional relationship? What if I were to take the exact same game and change the relationship that of a "traditional" one? Would people be as all over that game as they would the other one?

Avatar image for barrock
Edited By Barrock

I really, really, really don't get the issue with Spelunky. There are much worse things to be upset about.

Avatar image for chrisbob
Edited By chrisbob

I have immense respect for Patrick for standing strong on reporting on the feminism front. Some of the comments on the Cara Ellison op-ed are so utterly devoid of empathy it's nauseating. I just don't get why the backlash is so over the top. Even people who claim to be reasonably disagreeing with Sarkeesian reframe her arguments in such a way that it's like they watched a completely different video.

Avatar image for lively
Edited By Lively

@marokai said:

No, she doesn't say it shouldn't exist, she just complains about every single example she can get her hands on. Totally different.

Can we stop rephrasing everything she does, already?

[...]

That's crap. It encourages developer witch-hunts and makes devs who aren't doing anything wrong self conscious about their work in a way they shouldn't be.

This is part of what you and I went back and forth about a bit in another thread, the "no win scenarios" created by feminists wherein no matter what you do, there is something wrong with how a female character is included. This is exactly one of those situations. There's total equal treatment, but it's still not good enough.

I guess I disagree that having the damsel choice mechanic means that its inclusion still isn't a little bit problematic.

I can only speak for myself here, but when I saw the whole "Chippendales Boy" damsel it seemed like something included as a joke. If you'll allow an analogy, you might have seen this image of the Avengers posing like women are often seen posing in comics:

No Caption Provided

Which is of course a parody of images like this:

No Caption Provided

Having gender-swapped males is kind of funny, but a hypothetical comic that included both ridiculous images wouldn't really fix the problem, either.

And I think it's a fair observation that they don't carry quite the same meaning, in the broader context. The latter image seems to be legitimately leering, and the former is mostly just funny because of how it goes against expectations.

In Spelunky, there's probably an argument to be made that the whole thing is kind of a light-hearted parody of other properties. Still, one of the points that Anita made in her third video is that while a lot of modern uses of the damsel in distress trope spin it as an homage, parody, or other twist on the concept, it doesn't really change the fact that it's still the same trope at the end of the day. There are thousands of other ways a story can be told, and the fact that this one keeps popping up so often says something.

I know there's an impulse with some people to throw up their hands and proclaim that "there's no pleasing these crazy feminists", but I think that's premature; making men into damsels as well is kind of the opposite of what is generally being asked for here. Rather, the hope is that women appear less as damsels, and more as pro-active participants in their own fates. To its credit, Spelunky does meet the latter part of that, since you can play as a female explorer.

If the developers themselves can take constructive criticism so well, maybe the people who are trying to defend the developers from a "witch hunt" are projecting their own emotions onto something more benign and well-intentioned.

Avatar image for marokai
Edited By Marokai

@lively said:

@marokai said:

The implication in these videos is insane and is why feminism is only hurting the cause of female equality here. The accusation here, quite directly stated, is that because there is a broader social stereotype of women being weak or inferior, any inclusion, whatsoever, of a weak female character in a video game is outrageous and reinforcing the broader social stigma, even if it is in context, or that treatment is completely equal to that of other characters. That's bananas.

I don't think she ever says that the story should never be used, just that it's used way too much. That's not bananas, that's a reasonable suggestion from someone who wants to see better storytelling in games.

No, she doesn't say it shouldn't exist, she just complains about every single example she can get her hands on. Totally different.

Can we stop rephrasing everything she does, already? Singling out Spelunky is a good of a way to expose the fact that she is a person that cannot be satisfied as anything else she could've done. The game quite literally treats male and female characters equally in every way. But because there's a broader social stereotype about women that doesn't exist to the same level about men, that automatically taints everything about the game mechanic and it gets deliberately misrepresented with a Fox News-esque style of clever presentation of footage and wording as if to imply that part of the game is sexist.

If this was a game where there was only a female to be rescued, and she was portrayed as unrealistically buxom, and the only character you could play as was male, and then the developer came on twitter and said "you know, you're right, I can see how that would be offensive and next time around there will be equal treatment" that is something we should be applauding as an actual change and a step forward for women.

Instead, this is a game that does nothing wrong except from the perspective of the perpetually offended, and the developer gets asked for comment and says "I can see how it would upset people, I really understand that, and although I don't feel like I should apologize I like the work Anita is doing" and this is held up by people like Patrick as "how change happens." That's crap. It encourages developer witch-hunts and makes devs who aren't doing anything wrong self conscious about their work in a way they shouldn't be.

This is part of what you and I went back and forth about a bit in another thread, the "no win scenarios" created by feminists wherein no matter what you do, there is something wrong with how a female character is included. This is exactly one of those situations. There's total equal treatment, but it's still not good enough.

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Posted By Lively

@marokai said:

The implication in these videos is insane and is why feminism is only hurting the cause of female equality here. The accusation here, quite directly stated, is that because there is a broader social stereotype of women being weak or inferior, any inclusion, whatsoever, of a weak female character in a video game is outrageous and reinforcing the broader social stigma, even if it is in context, or that treatment is completely equal to that of other characters. That's bananas.

I don't think she ever says that the story should never be used, just that it's used way too much. That's not bananas, that's a reasonable suggestion from someone who wants to see better storytelling in games.

...and this guy seems to think it's a reasonable thing to discuss as well, and I think he's got a pretty credible perspective on this.

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Edited By Marokai

Unfortunately the thread ate the last bit of that post, but I'll summarize what was lost:

The problem here is that completely innocent devs are being made to feel super self conscious about their work even if they've done nothing wrong, and that's supposed apparently completely okay and "how change happens." But that's bullshit. There are legitimate cases of women being treated like shit in video games or pop culture more broadly, but just because a feminist had a legitimate grievance somewhere else, doesn't mean they have free reign to accuse everything, ever, of being sexist whenever there's a woman involved.

No one should "applaud" that "conversation" because it was based on a bullshit premise to begin with. Everyone claims equality is the only goal feminism ever had, and if that were so, I don't understand why Spelunky, a game that actually treated everyone equally, should be singled out for anything. But because the games press is so spineless on this crap, and so up their own ass with their social media activism, we're not allowed to call anything Anita Sarkeesian says out for being total nonsense, because that's mean and means you're sexist.

The fact that an innocent dev who did nothing wrong, from a game that treated both sexes entirely equally, is singled out in this continuing string of internet-feminism crusades, is not the kind of result that should be encouraged, at all.

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Posted By Marokai

@agnosticwatermelon said:

@ssully said:

Derek Yu is an adult.

He actually listened, internalized, and respectfully responded to criticism of his work. Why can't we all be like this?

Thanks for sharing this as well as everything else here Patrick.

Because gamers (and devs to an extent) have a really bad problem with taking criticism to personally. When anita said that the damsel was sexist she didn't mean that the entire game was bad and Derek was a bad person for putting it in, she just meant that particular mechanic was a little shitty. That's why a bunch of those comments seemed to be generally confused as to why Yu responded the way he did.

[e] I mean shoot, just going through the comments on this page and I already found a few "playing games doesn't make me sexist!" as if that's what she meant at all.

I hate myself for continuing to not let this go, but this and other sugarcoating of Anita's actual words and self-assured delivery are getting on my nerves. It's like this woman can't ever be wrong or criticized for anything, lest that give ammo to some "other side."

Second, and perhaps more importantly, damsel’ed female characters tend to reinforce pre-existing regressive notions about women as a group being weak or in need of protection because of their gender, while stories with the occasional helpless male character do NOT perpetuate anything negative about men as a group since there is no long-standing stereotype of men being weak or incapable because of their gender.

To help illustrate this point let’s quickly take a look at the indie game Spelunky. Originally released in 2009 the game included a stereotypical damsel in distress as a gameplay mechanic whose rescue rewarded the player with bonus health. The 2012 HD remake of the game for Xbox Live again features the stock character damsel (complete with newly upgraded boob jiggle). However, this time an option was added to the menu that allows players to select a replacement for the default woman in peril by switching to either a Chippendales-style hunk or a dog instead.

Setting aside the fact that – if a female character is easily interchangeable with a dog then its probably a pretty good indication that something is wrong – Merely providing an optional gender-swap is not a quick and easy fix, especially where stock character style damsels are concerned.

The two may appear the same, but they don’t mean the same thing in our culture. This [damsel] is still a problem while this [dude] is not. Again because one reinforces pre-existing stereotypes about women, while the other does not re-enforce any pre-existing stereotypes about men.

http://youtu.be/LjImnqH_KwM?t=5m26s

In Spelunky the damsel can be knocked out, picked up, carried around and thrown at enemies before rewarding the player with an extra heart via a smooch of victory (if you manage to get her limp unconscious body to the end of each level while still alive that is).

http://youtu.be/LjImnqH_KwM?t=10m59s

These are the sections where she talks about Spelunky in Part 3 with the transcript of what she says in those specific parts if you don't want to actually go watch them.

This was not about "this is a poor game mechanic and the game would've been better without it!" This was "Spelunky's damsel mechanic reinforces negative and sexist stereotypes about women," while not even mentioning the fact that there are female Spelunkers (literally all video provided in Part 3 of Tropes vs. Women in Gaming included a male Spelunker), topped off with the dismissal of the fact that there is an option to alter who/what you rescue while in-game as if it were a comparison of women and dogs.

Do you want to know a good reason why developers don't include women in video games more often? This shit right here. Because as soon as you do, even if you include them and give them completely fair and equal treatment as their male counterparts, you're still pointed out as an example of the patriarchal society keeping women down. No matter what you do, people like Anita Sarkeesian or other tumblr feminists would jump on the inclusion of a female game character to find some flaws, somewhere.

The implication in these videos is insane and is why feminism is only hurting the cause of female equality here. The accusation here, quite directly stated, is that because there is a broader social stereotype of women being weak or inferior, any inclusion, whatsoever, of a weak female character in a video game is outrageous and reinforcing the broader social stigma, even if it is in context, or that treatment is completely equal to that of other characters. That's bananas.

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Posted By BR4DL3I9H

In regards to the whole 'Value vs Price' point, I think Jeff's point on the podcast was great. The thing about including price in a review is that you can't judge every single persons perception of a set amount in a unified way that could be used in a review. For example, I am in a much better position financially these days compared to 10 years ago, so for me the value I expect from a $20 video game has changed in those 10 years. These days I am very satisfied with a game like "Journey" whereas 10 years ago I wouldn't have even considered picking up such a short game for the price. However, the reviews can not possibly take that into account, so they have to rely on more traditional ways to communicate the value of a game to it's audience. It's just another reason why people need to stop attacking or praising websites that agree with their viewpoint just because it shares their opinion. I don't know about other people, but personally I love reading reviews or opinions from people that hold completely opposite views from my own, because then usually I get a better understanding and can appreciate their viewpoint, and my own, more.

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Edited By TheHumanDove

You know what I'd like to see in worth reading? Interesting articles written by women that aren't about being a woman.

Yeah, that's what I'd like to see.

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Posted By Saganomics

@mrlog said:

never stop being complete shit, giantbomb comments.

They're not bad all the time - just when someone is trying to have an adult conversation.

I'd characterize it more as "Grrrrr, I don't like having my viewpoints challenged. Can't we just get back to talking about the graphics on level 3?"

The worst part is it's not necessarily even about directly challenging or overturning their viewpoints; I guess the very act of acknowledging that someone feels differently about things than they do flips whole worldviews like some Fresh Prince shit.

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Posted By JohnTunoku

I feel for the spelunky guy. Put all this effort into being equitable towards men and women by letting you chose who you rescue and still gets called a chauvinist for even including women as an option. I can respect him taking it in stride I guess.

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Posted By JohnTunoku

I feel for the spelunky guy. Put all this effort into being equitable towards men and women by letting you chose who you rescue and still gets called a chauvinist for even including women as an option. I can respect him taking it in stride I guess.

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Posted By Daneian

The problem with the Spelunky criticism is that it doesn't address that the damsel mechanic was put in the game purely for its value as gameplay.

The game is about navigating hazardous environments for treasure so Yu thought up challenge that involves successfully taking a destructible item to the end of the level. The item he would select to use would be based on two factors: its ability to visually represent when it was damaged and the challenge failed and to maximize player investment in the item so they will want to get it to the end.

He'd already used treasure everywhere in the game so choosing another, more valuable treasure, would have been redundant. A human NPC is kinda the perfect choice. Remember that Spelunky is about a set of universal rules that everything in the game adheres to. He had already established the rules for player damage so he wouldn't need to come up with an entirely new concept.

That he worked to give players three choices for the sprite is actually quite generous since he was trying to account for a variety of players just as he did by providing several Spelunker models.

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Edited By Agnosticwatermelon

@ssully said:

Derek Yu is an adult.

He actually listened, internalized, and respectfully responded to criticism of his work. Why can't we all be like this?

Thanks for sharing this as well as everything else here Patrick.

Because gamers (and devs to an extent) have a really bad problem with taking criticism to personally. When anita said that the damsel was sexist she didn't mean that the entire game was bad and Derek was a bad person for putting it in, she just meant that particular mechanic was a little shitty. That's why a bunch of those comments seemed to be generally confused as to why Yu responded the way he did.

[e] I mean shoot, just going through the comments on this page and I already found a few "playing games doesn't make me sexist!" as if that's what she meant at all.

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Posted By paulunga

What's up with the recent rise of shit games like Soda Drinker, Surgeon Simulator or this VHS game? It kinda reminds me of the Japanese phenomenon "kusoge".

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Posted By BreakfastKing

I really love discussing the idea of "value" in games. I worked at Gamestop for four years, and one of the most common questions I'd get from people would be something like "Hey. I've got X amount of money, which of these games should I spend it on?". I'd ask a few questions to probe their interests (assuming I didn't already know them, we had a lot of regulars) and almost always help them come to a game that they're happy with.

Now, obviously value has a different meaning in a retail environment than it does in a review score. You can't control when people read a review, whereas in retail each game has a set price at that moment in time. You're also talking to the player at a specific moment in their life. How much time someone has to play video games and how much time someone has THAT WEEK to play video games are often very different answers. Perhaps they'd love to play Assassin's Creed 3, but they just marathon'd through the whole series and could use a break. A lot of things that would be highly objective or personal to the reviewer become almost exclusively personal to the player.

That all being said, the idea of value is still important in either setting. Something reviewers often cite as their reason to not address the issue is that they don't know how much time/money/etc a given person has and that their audience hits all parts of the spectrum on each of those concerns. However, what reviewers CAN compare to is other games.

For example, personally I think Gone Home was excellent. Were I to review it, I would probably mention that its not a long game but that the experience is one that will stick with me for a very long time. I don't feel like the price is an issue, but length certainly is to some people. Regardless of what someone spends on a game, many people prefer to play games that are at least average in length if they are going to get into something, and the inverse is certainly true too, many people love games to be short and sweet.

Now, if I were to review a game like, say, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, I would probably mention that it was also a short game, but that in my opinion it was too short. When a player spends 60 bucks on a game, they almost universally expect some combination of quality and length. If a game doesn't meet the standards of either set by other games that release at $60, the review score should reflect that. Even without changing the game at all, if Revengeance was 20 or 30 dollars, you'd see it getting much better reviews because, compared to other games at that price, it'd be a great value.

I think value is super important to the way we talk about games, whether we use the word explicitly or not. I think the issue at hand is people associating game hours per dollar as some secret formula for value. As long as you consider as many other factors as applicable to the game you're reviewing, you're in good shape.

PS, Totes going to my first PAX! I will see you there Patrick!

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Posted By Milkman

@mrfluke: Yes, I'm the troll. Not the guy who throws a hissy fit because one tiny part of an article presents a discussion that makes him uncomfortable.

lol

@dr_zox: Well, I did say more stuff before I said "deal with it" and I've contributed to this conversation in countless threads over the last year or so.

If you're going to dismiss Derek's stance as him "just trying to be nice" than there's no point in even having a conversation. I don't know how he really feels and neither do you. It's absolutely his right to engage in a real dialogue about this if he wants.

On top of that, have you even watched the video? She brings up Spelunky to reinforce the point that the "damsel in distress" trope is the issue and simply gender swapping doesn't fix it. You would be able to better argue your stance if you actually knew the point she was making about the game.

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Posted By LiquidPenguins

The problem with giving Gone Home a high score on a gaming review site is:

1) it isn't a game

2) you're recommending people spend $20 for an hour and don't even mention this

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Posted By Redhotchilimist

I forgot: http://fenglee.com/game/aog/

Wanted to recommend Feng Li's Attack on Titan Tribute Game. It's based on a show that takes place in a postapocalyptic medieval world where zombie-like giants are eradicating humanity and man has retreated behind enormous walled-in cities. That's not the important part. The important part is that they fight the titans by using grapplinghooks,jetpacks and huge box cutter knives, and this guy made a game out of that. Apparantly the man working on Energy Hook keeps getting mails about it. I don't doubt that his game will play way better than this one does, but it should be an interesting game to compare it with. Also it's way too hard for me.