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Posted by austin_walker (561 posts) -
In this scenario, you're Geralt with the torch, and this piece is the foggy woods. Spoooooky.
In this scenario, you're Geralt with the torch, and this piece is the foggy woods. Spoooooky.

Hey Giant Bomb! I'm Austin Walker. We've met in video form, I've spoken to you on a couple of episodes of the Beastcast, and maybe you've read some of my news posts over the last week. What you may or may not have seen is that over the weekend, I wrote a couple of blog posts in the community section of the site: First, one about The Witcher, Race, and Historicity, and second, a post expanding on some of the ideas in the first while simultaneously responding to some of the comments and discussions from the community.

These posts were written as sort of short, off the cuff contributions to an ongoing conversation that Tauriq Moosa really kicked off with a piece titled "Colorblind: On Witcher 3, Rust, and gaming's race problem," which netted him a lot of heat–both positive and negative. Thankfully, while there were some outliers (and there always are), most of the debate in the comment sections of my blog posts was civil and engaged. As I said in the second post, that’s really exciting to me! I love seeing people develop and clarify their thoughts–even when those thoughts aren’t ones I necessarily agree with.

But there is one line of thought that I’ve seen a lot of over the last few days which isn’t a refined argument so much as a big, club-like assault. It goes like this: “No one should be forced into changing their games just because you want them to.” I’ve seen this in the comments, in my Tumblr’s ask box, on Twitter, and in the few threads on Reddit and NeoGAF. There are variations on it that use words other than “force,” but they almost always remain words adjacent to coercion: “Make,” “demand,” “order,” “dictate.”

When I see this, something bubbles up in me that wants to immediately shout back a response: “Come. On. I’m not forcing anyone to do anything!” But I know that this sort of response doesn’t get us anywhere. It hitches itself to a binary of “forced” vs “free” while in reality things are a lot more complex than that. The knee jerk response also misses an opportunity to engage with that specific issue: What does it mean when a writer criticizes a work?

And I’m writing this here, as an article, instead of in another blog post because this isn’t just about a single game like The Witcher 3, nor is it about just a single issue, like race. This applies to the sort of work many people like me do in the sphere of games criticism, whether we’re writing about issues of representation or level design, about 200 hour RPGs or two hour #AltGame experiments. I’m also writing it for a more strategic, selfish reason: Because it’ll give me something to point at every time someone accuses me of “trying to force a developer” to do something.

A Spectrum of Influence

So, what if instead of thinking about all of this in terms of a binary relationship (either a critic forces someone to do something or they don’t), we thought about this on a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum is absolute disconnect from influence: A writer pens long form essays about how developers should always do whatever they want. On the other end of the spectrum is critical work demanding that devs actually be “forced” to do things. But most critique exists in between those two extremes.

You call my charts
You call my charts "amateurish." Well, I call them "artisanal."

What does “in between” look like? Well, there's a range.

Still way over on the “force” side of the spectrum, a critic could call for a sort of “prohibitive” legislation. That is, a call to make something a creator does illegal or less-legal. Whether it’s because of concern over content, an interest in addressing labor conditions or market concerns, or a desire to address de facto censorship or discrimination, media critics have definitely spent some time arguing for the need of government involvement in the entertainment industries. Any time a writer says “this game and games like this should be banned,” or “laws should be put into place to make it illegal to use these slurs in the workplace,” or “employing overseas workers should require the company to pay an additional tax,“ that's a what I'm calling prohibitive legislation. These all exist on their own spectrum too: Banning something outright is a lot different than limiting its availability or putting an extra cost on exhibition or distribution, right?

But… I don’t think this is what’s happening when writers like me write about The Witcher 3 and race, or when critics take Rockstar to task over transphobia, or when Jeff grumbles about QTEs. No one is actually calling for governmental bans, here, right?

So, a little further away from the extreme of “forcing” a dev to do something is arguing for action or incentives that would encourage them to act differently. Let's call these "incentive" legislation. Here, think about tax credits or media funds built to support to creators that meet certain requirements, like employing a diverse range of employees, working in a certain medium, or producing a work that is a “public good” because it deals with history, education, or some other interest. You’ll see critics calling for things like this sometimes, but it’s not common in our little corner of the world; I'm pretty sure it’s not a thing I’ve ever done (though I'm not fundamentally opposed).

At about this same level of “attempted influence” would be calls for community or consumer organization. This would include both boycott groups aiming to limit the purchase of a specific product, brand, or category of good, and groups organized to support a product, like the Browncoats who sent letter after letter to Fox, begging them to bring back Firefly. This isn’t the same as calling for a legal ban or incentive, since it requires retailers, exhibitors, and other consumers to respond to the consumer action. But it still happens, as was the case this year when Target Australia pulled Grand Theft Auto V from store shelves after getting pressure from consumers.

But, again, in general, this isn’t the sort of critique we see in our sphere of bloggers, critics, and reviewers. Instead, what we see is something more in the middle of the spectrum. We write about games we love with enthusiasm and joy, and maybe we hope that it sells well enough that we’ll see a sequel–but we don’t tend to organize fan-groups. We take apart broken games with careful precision so as to make our readers aware of the quality of the product–but it’s rare that you see a game reviewer organize a boycott or put together a fan group.

Finally, there's the center of the spectrum: The sort of critical writing that makes an appeal to consumers, developers, and publishers. There are lots of different sorts of appeals. Sometimes you reference the market ("The controls for other Shooters are just so much more refined...") and sometimes you address stated developer intention ("In interviews, the lead writer said that X, but maaaaan, is it ever Y"). And sometimes this writing appeals to the empathy of the reader, and to their knowledge of the larger context. This is every time we say "I totally fell apart when that Chocobo died," or "This game's depiction of sexual violence was fetishistic and uncomfortable."

For my money, this is where most of the evaluative writing about games is on the "influence" spectrum. And yes, at least some of us hope that developers will see our critiques and take them into consideration. They’ll say “God, yeah, Destiny really does need more content,” or “Damn, yeah, actually we did fumble the depiction of women in this one.” Or maybe they’ll “decide how to address the white savior trope.” That one is a real quote, from Far Cry 4 narrative director Mark Thompson, who explained what he learned from Far Cry 3 and the critical response to it in a fantastic interview with Game Informer.

Were Thompson and company “forced” to make that change? Or did they consider the critiques issued to the previous game and decide how to address them? One of the hidden flaws of the “critics try to force developers to do things” line of argument is that it ignores that developers are people who can make up their own minds. So long as there isn’t threat of ban or boycott, they can internalize the critiques they think make sense and discard the rest, just like any reader can.

And what's beyond this sort of "I hope the developer takes my advice" level of desired influence? Well... Here’s the thing: It’s actually really hard to imagine critical work that exists further towards “no influence.” After all, even the writer who says “keep doing what you’ve been doing” is “influencing” the developer, since in reaffirming the work a developer has released it may convince a wavering dev to stick to their guns. The only thing I can really imagine in this space is non-evaluative recaps and summaries–but those aren't exactly critical.

So when I look closely at the arguments that say “don’t try to influence devs,” what I end up seeing more often than not is “don’t try to influence the devs in this one way.” It's not wholly dissimilar from those who say they want government to get out of the way of business, only to then also insist that regulations be put in place to protect some corporations and to incentivize industry-wide innovation. In both cases, “freedom” is held up as sacrosanct and “intervention” is positioned as a boogeyman. In reality the two are never wholly separate, and what’s really desired is a certain sort of intervention, just one that is so aligned with the status quo that it quietly fades into the background and feels "normal."

So we're left with a lot of writing in the "middle" of the spectrum, the occasional piece that tries to exert more influence, and almost none that attempt no influence at all. Like all attempts to categorize writing, this one is bound to have flaws. That’s okay, because so long as we recognize it as a nice little analytical tool and not as a Truth From Heaven, we’ll be able to catch the problems as they come up. Still, there is one glaring issue with it that I want to address.

"Americans, Big Guns, and Strident Views"

The most American game I could think of is actually Japanese. Huh.
The most American game I could think of is actually Japanese. Huh.

There is very specific version of the “don’t force developers” argument that has been coming around a lot in the discussion of The Witcher 3. Here’s an example, which I got as an anonymous “ask” on Tumblr today:

Why should any culture be forced to homogenize their media in order to appease all other cultures? More tangibly, why should one of the most impoverished races in history (the Polish) pander to American cultural norms? I can't help but point out that this is why the world hates Americans in general, which is why this Witcher business is getting so much press. People are just sick of americans with their big guns and strident views pushing themselves into every corner of the world.

I’m actually fairly sympathetic to this argument, which is why I’ve attempted to discuss The Witcher’s Polish and Slavic heritage with care. I know that it comes from a culture that is not mine, and I know that lots of folks from the US–myself included–have the capacity to forget how big and varied the world outside our borders.

Part of the reason that I know that is because I just spent the last four years in Canada, which has laws made specifically to insulate itself from American cultural imperialism. One key part of this set of regulations is the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission's “Canadian Content” (or “CanCon”) requirements. These rules govern the required amounts of “Canadian” music and television that must be broadcast by networks and radio stations, and they go on to define what exactly “Canadian” means in terms of production, content, and distribution. These rules exist because (the argument goes), if they didn’t, then Canadian television and radio would be filled with American content, putting Canadians out of jobs and diluting the unique cultural heritage of the country.

(I don't want to go into a deep dive on Canadian comedy, but listen, let's hang out and watch some Kids in the Hall okay?)
(I don't want to go into a deep dive on Canadian comedy, but listen, let's hang out and watch some Kids in the Hall okay?)

(I don’t want to go into a deep dive on Canadian policy, because listen, that gets real dry real quick. But it is interesting to note that even with these rules in place, American companies find ways to reach Canadian audiences and duck CanCon regulations. This led to a big, weird blow up back in the fall where Google and Netflix were officially ignored during a set of major public hearings around CanCon laws and digital media. It's all super interesting if you're a weird nerd like me.)

The point is, I understand where this argument is coming from. I understand how American media sensibilities have already spread globally, influencing how folks across the world make things. I understand that this can sometimes (directly or indirectly) lead to the recession of important customs of cultures.

But in the same way that different cultures around the world aren’t homogenous (and are more beautiful for it), Americans are similarly varied and complex. And one key way in which we're different is the degree of cultural reach we have. So, let’s add another axis to that spectrum of influence, let’s call it “reach.” Some elements of American culture have lots of reach. Major media corporations, celebrities, and the very largest of large name writers reach worldwide audiences and (without ill intent) carry their aesthetic, political, and cultural ideas with them. But the output of every American creator doesn’t carry that same reach.

You'll need a much taller chart to find Ronald Reagan, Kanye West, or Apple.
You'll need a much taller chart to find Ronald Reagan, Kanye West, or Apple.

Said plainly: There are absolutely broad, American cultural norms that have been spread around the world through a dominant, global media industry. I’m just not sure that critical media analysis is part of that set of cultural norms.

It’s certainly not uniquely American: The greatest influences on my thinking and writing include Algerian, Australian, British, Canadian, Danish, French, Indian, and Jamaican writers, many of which tackle issues of race, culture, gender, politics, media, and play in ways distinctly non-American. And, yes, my own cultural reach as an American critic is definitely larger than it was just a year ago, but let’s be real: I do okay, but I'm no Mickey Mouse.

Waiting for "The Right Time"

Coupled with the argument that Americans should “butt out” of this topic is another argument that pops up a lot: “I agree with the call for diversity generally, but The Witcher 3 isn’t the right target for critique.” Well, as someone who has written about games and race a few times over the last few years, I’ve gotten used to that defense. As are many of the others who’ve tried to tackle difficult issues in the games they love and care about.

When we note that a game is filled with slurs and offensive caricatures, we’re told that we should be less offended because, hey, it's just satire. When we point out how a game leverages a history of racialized, coded imagery to elicit fear, people link us to wiki articles and explain the deep lore as justification. When a game made me spend a half hour of my real time every day just to keep my skin color on point, I was told that, no no, of course games have a problem with race, but why did I have to go after Animal Crossing?

At least I got to hear a lot of great songs on my way to that island to get a tan.
At least I got to hear a lot of great songs on my way to that island to get a tan.

You know that joke Vinny tells about having a baby? "If you wait until you're ready, you'll never have a baby." Well if we wait until the “perfect time” to tackle these issues, nothing will ever get done.

Yes, writing about diversity and The Witcher 3 is especially complicated because of the perspectives involved. Polish history is filled with outsider groups minimizing, controlling, ignoring, and erasing the nation's unique ethnic and cultural character. At the same time, people of color in white-dominant spaces have struggled to develop the vocabularies of critical race studies and post-colonialism only to then be told to mind their tone. These things mix here in an especially volatile way. But this doesn't mean that we should shy away from addressing it, afraid of stepping on toes, afraid of what we don't know. It means we step forward in good faith, with sympathy for the other perspective, and with a willingness to incorporate the complexities of someone else's view.

Real talk: I'm never kidding when I say that this stuff is complicated. Trying to unwrap this stuff is fucking brutal. And because issues like racism are systemic and cultural (and more than just some bad, violent men in white hoods), it's difficult to tackle them. The best we can do is address them honestly, actually engage with the tough stuff, and resist the urge to boil things down into simple binaries. Sometimes that means repeating ourselves, again and again: “No, I don’t think CD Projekt Red is racist; Yes, I still wish there were some people of color in the game. Yes, I still like The Witcher 3 a lot. No, those three statements do not contradict each other.”

Those of us who write about things like race, gender, class, and sexuality in games do so because we fucking love games. And you know, most of us actually spend the majority of our time in any given year writing about weapon design, death mechanics, art style, game preservation, "virtual worlds," weird little import gems, explosive and private narrative experiments, rad Japanese robots, and the billion other things that make our favorite medium so great.

And sometimes, we want to take the things we love seriously enough to offer analysis and critique that goes beyond "I like this" or "I don't like that." We want to figure out how a game might fit in a larger cultural context or try to communicate how it fit just so into our lives. We often see the faults in these games we love because we're so close to them. And sometimes, pointing out those flaws doesn't mean we love them any less. Even our most brutal critiques–the ones that come closest to head shaking and dismissal–are rooted in a broader love for the medium.

I know I'm dropping "we" a lot here, I know. And I can't speak for everyone, obviously, so I'll say it like this: I write about all of these things because...

Well, because besides wanting to engage with my readers and help them work through their own opinions, besides hoping to “influence” game makers with my critique, there is a rumbling something, an emotional drive that fuels my desire to write. I write because I cannot but write. Because when I wake up and see that someone asked me what I thought about game X, the cogs start moving all on their own. Pieces like this one drill themselves itself into my head, dragging themselves into existence through broad ideas and little phrases. I write not (only) because I want to change the world, but because I am compelled to get words on the page.

I’m grateful that so many of you here have been so supportive of the blog posts that I’ve written since joining the site. It's because of that support that I feel comfortable putting myself out there like this, right on the main page of the site. I promise I'll be doing more community-focused, quick-take blogging in the future too.

In any case I hope you'll enjoy diving into all the complicated stuff in the future. All I can do is promise to be rigorous, honest, and critical, and hope that you’ll continue doing the same.

Avatar image for leejunfan83
#1 Posted by leejunfan83 (1201 posts) -

Nice read

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#2 Posted by PerfidiousSinn (943 posts) -

Thanks Austin.

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#3 Posted by hednik4am (26 posts) -

Great little read. Thank you. I keep thinking Austin is Darren Gladstone (That's a good thing)

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#4 Posted by bhhawks78 (1339 posts) -

I'm continually impressed by Austin's ability to write about this stuff without coming off as a trust fund having whiney hipster douche unlike 95%+ of games press who tries to write about it.

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#5 Posted by SuperMacguyver (14 posts) -

I got distracted by that Metal Wolf Chaos picture, goddamn.

Great piece Austin, looking forward to many more from you.

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#7 Posted by Rincewind (416 posts) -

See you at E3

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#8 Posted by InsidiousTuna (577 posts) -

Thanks Austin! Great read.

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#9 Edited by Underthere (26 posts) -

Thank you.

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#10 Edited by sparky_buzzsaw (8861 posts) -

Nice article and a Kids in the Hall picture. That's pretty cool.

"It's a pill... that gives worms... to your ex-girlfriend!"

Avatar image for flstyle
#11 Posted by FLStyle (6628 posts) -

With all due respect, I'll bookmark this and read it at some point towards the end of the month, but not right now.

It's a week before E3 I'm pretty excited and looking forward to what's coming up from the conferences and the Giant Bomb after shows etc., and a critique and culture and debate based article is not what I'm looking for right now.

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#12 Posted by Platzkart (183 posts) -

Holy shit Austin straight-up killing it

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#14 Posted by inappropriate_touchscreen (113 posts) -

Good to know. Also, people should be allowed to call you Dr. Games now, because you have charts. :P

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#15 Posted by rmanthorp (4632 posts) -

Great piece! I'm happy to read peoples opinions no matter how much I disagree/agree with them and I'd be 100% lying if I didn't say that some writing words have changed the way I originally thought about things. I'm also so happy that you choose to start this discussion using your Giant Bomb blog! I really want to see more staff blogs, so thanks.Austin you have hit the ground running and not stopped! I can not be happier with you being brought into the Giant Bomb fam. Oh and Metal Wolf Chaos is DOPE.

Moderator
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#16 Posted by Tits_Matador (608 posts) -

I really liked this article. And your bespoke artisanal charts.

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#17 Edited by qnnplmr (49 posts) -

Beautiful. These three posts about the topic have articulated things I've had a general idea of for years, but not enough energy to sit down and unwrap. Now I have things I can point to when someone asks me to explain my position and I can say, "Here, look. Someone already did it better than I ever could, and far less abrasively."

Seriously, I don't know how you can write about topics like this with a clear passion for it and be almost utterly non-inflammatory. I am in awe.

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#18 Posted by Aska (539 posts) -

Fantastic write-up Austin, I really enjoy hearing about these types of topics. One of my favorite parts of Giant Bomb are when the staff (which are self-professed old men) get serious and delve into topics with maturity and weight and you, thus far, have done that fantastically. I hope you can bring other staffers into this conversation more as time goes on as well because I love consuming it.

Even early on, the Beastcasts you've recorded so far have had long conversations about more serious things in the industry which is my favorite type of content. Looking forward to your continued contribution to the site. Keep on keepin' on duder!

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#20 Posted by rainmaker395 (4 posts) -

Really good read on my lunch break. Great work so far Austin.

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#21 Posted by AMyggen (7738 posts) -

Fantastic piece.

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#22 Edited by borklund (321 posts) -

I know that lots of folks from the US–myself included–have the capacity to forget how big and varied the world outside our borders.

This is an understatement of the highest order.

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#23 Posted by lesaboteur (38 posts) -

The Professor is In.

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#24 Posted by Pudge (1263 posts) -

I would argue that there are some outlets and personalities out there that certainly wield their power to influence and incentivize developers. Maybe not the proper websites, but on YouTube and more social platforms, you have people actively encouraging their fanbases to attack games and developers or to boycott based on perceived wrongdoings. One only has to go back to Hatred to see certain outlets completely refuse to cover or even acknowledge that a thing exists. I still can't post anything about Hatred on NeoGAF for example. I don't even like the game or want to talk about it, but censoring a game from discussion is an attempt to hold that game down and encourage the developers to make something more in line with their standards down the line so that they do get the exposure. It's one of the reasons Giant Bomb is a great site 95% of the time, they cover things, give opinions, and ultimately let the viewer decide if they're being idiots or not.

If we could have these conversations in a civil manner without childish attacks and trashing reputations, I think we'd get a lot farther. In practice though, I think it's the developer's job to make they art they want to make, and it's the consumers and critic's job to judge if that art is something worthwhile. Steven Seagal still makes direct to video movies on occasion, they're still pretty good if you like Seagal, but generally the public has moved on from that. No one took away the Seagal movies, they just stopped being feasible to release in theaters. If someone was yelling at how violent Under Siege was in the 90s, people would have reacted the same way.

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#25 Posted by applecidermage (1 posts) -

I absolutely can speak from experience that critics are quite often the little people compared to relatively large games studios. However, there are times that companies can and will take criticism under advisement. The issue is often that when a company is so large, there's so many more people an idea has to pass through, making it seem like they are fairly inflexible. I say all this because this is why when people say critics are "forcing" a company to do something, I laugh a bit. Austin's delineating of what force would actually look like is a pretty good example as to what is actually being spoken to here vs. what is being said. A lot of this "forcing" is people being afraid of seeing politics they don't want suddenly "affecting" games, even if it's a worthwhile change.

Said experience I can speak to as one lady trying to get something to change is that back when Warcraft was beta-ing their Mists of Pandaria expansion, I came across an NPC that said some really bizarre things to only female player characters. I noted my discomfort with an NPC on my blog and eventually did a write up for the official beta forums - which is specifically there for such kinds of feedback. However, it erupted into multi-thread flame wars because the idea of making several small dialogue tweaks to a quest giver (who unbeknownst to me, became part of the larger story overall) was an unconscionable suggestion.

All that being said, he was eventually changed and the character actually became one of my favorites to interact with and care about. A small change (that I may or may not have had a hand in influencing, along with many other fans of the game) that made the game better but in no way had to be undertaken by Blizzard. They are a big company, one person complaining on their beta forums is pretty meaningless in the long run.

There's very little force that one can undertake as a critic, but sometimes companies do just listen and believe that it is an acceptable risk or an actually positive change in direction for their product.

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#26 Posted by bavelb (32 posts) -

Thanks for the read. I still dont agree with the viewpoint but I gather this is due to:

A) not seeing my characters as representation of myself. I mostly play female characters nonhumanoids or ppl of other race.

B)Being a caucasian male and not seeing the need for representation cause its prolly everywhere.

Its likely hard to appreciate something that can be taken for granted so easy...

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#27 Edited by WalterCrunkFite (618 posts) -
@flstyle said:

With all due respect, I'll bookmark this and read it at some point towards the end of the month, but not right now.

It's a week before E3 I'm pretty excited and looking forward to what's coming up from the conferences and the Giant Bomb after shows etc., and a critique and culture and debate based article is not what I'm looking for right now.

I'm genuinely curious as to why you felt the need to share that information? (I'm not being passive aggressive, and hate how thr nature of internet discourse makes me feel as if I have to make that clarification!).

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#28 Edited by Cronstintein (40 posts) -

TL; DR is Witcher 3 is racist right?

Jokng joking, glad to see you on the GB team, Austin. Good writing and podcasting so far :)

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#29 Posted by conmulligan (1901 posts) -

Giant Bomb, your #1 source for artisanal charts.

Seriously though, I'm really glad you made this point because it's an important one.

Avatar image for flstyle
#30 Posted by FLStyle (6628 posts) -

@flstyle said:

With all due respect, I'll bookmark this and read it at some point towards the end of the month, but not right now.

It's a week before E3 I'm pretty excited and looking forward to what's coming up from the conferences and the Giant Bomb after shows etc., and a critique and culture and debate based article is not what I'm looking for right now.

I'm genuinely curious as to why you felt the need to share that information? (I'm not being passive aggressive, and hate how thr nature of internet discourse makes me feel as if I have to make that clarification!).

I'm making it clear to Austin that the time and effort he put into his article is not unappreciated.

Avatar image for milkman
#31 Edited by Milkman (19285 posts) -

This is awesome, Austin.

The "stop forcing game developers to change their games" bit is something that always, always just makes me roll my eyes and throw my hands up. There's no difference between saying "this game should have been representation" and "this game should have better controls." They're both just criticisms, something that everyone here at Giant Bomb is ostensibly (sup Patrick) paid to do. One is just seen as an acceptable criticism that can be made about games and the other isn't because until recently, no one really thought about how games handled women/race/miniority/whatever issues.

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#32 Posted by WarlordGren (4 posts) -

Splendid work Austin.

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#33 Posted by ManlyPup (72 posts) -

This was a great piece of writing, Austin. Thanks for putting it out there. It's suprisingly difficult to come around to the idea that we can be critical of things we love, when most of us are taught that people either like something and speak highly of it, or don't like something and criticize it.

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#34 Edited by Fear_the_Booboo (1074 posts) -

Man, as a (French) writer myself, I'm impressed at the speed you can put out quality work Austin. Fantastic stuff.

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#35 Posted by mashzapotato (164 posts) -

I hope that one day there will be such a rich and varied arena of subaltern narratives that games like the Witcher don't need to be scrutinized in this way. A world where gaming itself is so diverse that every game doesn't have to be.

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#36 Posted by Wagrid (286 posts) -

Great piece. Thanks for writing it Austin.

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#37 Posted by MannyMAR (662 posts) -

I think sometimes when it comes to critique in general, many people always assumes that it's an attack on the media in question. In my experiences working as a freelance artist, you learn to parse the criticism into useful information while tossing away the fluff. While critiques may have the power to influence future projects from a creator, it ultimately falls on said creator to understand the critique and utilize it in the future.

On all the Witcher stuff, I fall somewhere on the middle. For the Witcher the lack of diversity in race doesn't bother me, but for me (someone who is Hispanic): it makes me hope CDProjekt takes the critique to heart for Cyberpunk 2077. I mean, you're talking about a setting in future LA, whose creator is black. There has to be cultural diversity in that game from the outset. Time will tell.

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#38 Posted by WalterCrunkFite (618 posts) -
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#40 Posted by Nodima (2598 posts) -

Just long enough; totally read.

JLE;TR?

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#41 Edited by Turambar (8251 posts) -

@austin_walker Would you say that CanCon exists more for the purpose of economic protection than actual cultural protection? If not, what are some of the aspects of Canadian culture that has come under threat?

I ask because it is an oft told joke by a few Canadians that I know that "Canada is just America desperately pretending it's not."

Avatar image for pudge
#42 Posted by Pudge (1263 posts) -
@milkman said:

This is awesome, Austin.

The "stop forcing game developers to change their games" bit is something that always, always just makes me roll my eyes and throw my hands up. There's no difference between saying "this game should have been representation" and "this game should have better controls." They're both just criticisms, something that everyone here at Giant Bomb is ostensibly (sup Patrick) paid to do. One is just seen as an acceptable criticism that can be made about games and the other isn't because until recently, no one really thought about how games handled women/race/miniority/whatever issues.

A game having better controls is a pretty binary thing that can be tested. A game having better representation is complicated and requires a lot of forethought, at least in something story based like The Witcher 3. You can't just turn the racist switch to the off position, you have to have people that can write dialogue for different races and genders, you sometimes have to frame stories in a different way depending on who you include. If you just put in people of different races that act exactly like white people, some might call you out for being racist that way, because it doesn't feel right. The same thing going in the opposite direction.

If it's not a story game, it's a lot easier. Team Fortress 2 should really have female equivalents for the mercenaries for example, there's no reason not to include those. But if your story based game is being written by mostly white dudes, that's a lot of what you're going to get, because the alternative is horrible stereotypes that are worse than not having representation at all. At least in my opinion.

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#43 Edited by JonDo (194 posts) -

Criticism is healthy, it's how people respond to it which is telling. The drama centered around this discussion seems cut from the cloth of ignorance. Frankly, video games aren't growing up fast enough for my taste.

In regards to the initial argument, I'm not sure which post this is best a reply to... so I'll put it here:

The largest audience for video games seems to be white male man-children, particularly American ones, who are the worst people to be forced to pander to. They live in America, are white, and doing well enough to afford video games as a hobby. They live in a bubble, because that's how America works. Media in particular. This leads to not being able to handle the world outside said bubble.

I'm actually getting pretty sick of media in general, and gaming in specific, being centered around these people... despite the fact that I myself am a white American man-child. Games that hearken back to 80s and 90s white male American kids, appealing to their nostalgia, are very widespread. Progressiveness is not.

Add in the way -- justified and not -- the rest of the world views America, caucasian Americans in particular (and the man-children in that group) , and discussion centered around this is going to heat up.

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#44 Posted by soundlug (402 posts) -

Pretty fair piece. Thanks Austin. Is appreciated.

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#45 Posted by I_Stay_Puft (5578 posts) -

That was a great read Austin.

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#46 Posted by Kentobi (108 posts) -

This is so great. And now I feel bad that I wouldn't have been exposed to Austin's writing if not for GB. Can't wait to see more stuff like this on the site.

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#47 Posted by goldenwayne (8 posts) -

Great article Austin!

I especially like that you engaged with the idea of American "imperialism" in the critical space because I've been thinking about this for the last couple of days. I'm not sure if and how it is connected to racism and the call for diversity in games, but I think it is happening when the representation of women.

To stay with the Witcher 3, there has been some discussion around the outfits some of the sorceresses wear.

I think when it comes to "sexiness" and revealing clothing and such there seems to be a huge negative push against it if not just from America then from the English speaking world. (I saw it called "neo puritanism" somewhere, which amused me). I'm not saying that these sex negative critiques are wrong, but I think that the convey a very American (to me prudish) view of sexuality. And I don't think that should be forcefully pushed into all corners of the world.

Of course I'm not saying that people should not feel a certain way about these matters and that they shouldn't voice their opinion, I just caution against applying these "neo puritan" values as the only acceptable viewpoint.

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#48 Edited by Lord_Anime (142 posts) -

Austin you a boss. 2 things

1) "Real Talk", having grown up in South Jersey, glad to see it's still present in ya :).

2) For this quote, "It means we step forward in good faith, with sympathy for the other perspective". Should it really be sympathy or empathy? Or is it that I can't blindly state I emphasize with your issue, cause I may not truly understand it at this moment?

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#49 Edited by RhymesMcFist (79 posts) -
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#50 Posted by Mechanized (511 posts) -

That was a great read Austin. A lot of commentary when it comes to subjects like this does boil down to very polarizing "I'm right, you're wrong" arguments, but I feel that is a part of broader internet culture as well. Looking forward to reading more from you. :)