How much thought do you put into the socio-political issues in games?

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#1 Posted by Humanity (19038 posts) -

AS a little backdrop to my question: In the past month or so I've begun exploring other podcasts. The Bombcast was my first love - quite literally the first podcast I ever listened to and for many years after it was the only one I listened to. Through the office splintering and various change-ups over the years at GB I begun to lean a lot more towards the Beastcast as my primary pod' of choice. This break from the many years of listening to the Bombcast led me to start exploring other game related shows as well. The two I've somewhat settled on are Kotakus Splitscreen hosted among others by the scoop master himself, Jason Schreier, as well as Waypoints (I'm sorry ..Vice Gaming) "Waypoint Radio" with Austin Walker, Patrick Klepek, and several other rotating chairs of the Waypoint crew.

Listening to these different podcasts I've noticed how little the guys at Giant Bomb talk about various issues in gaming concerning representation, gender identity, racial stereotyping, and so forth - what I would bundle together as socio-political issues, or if you want to be super modern about it I guess "woke" topics. Now I'm fine with that because personally I don't give that much thought to it myself. I like to play games to relax and unwind and certain things either go right over my head or I simply don't really put that much thought into them. This indifference on my part makes Waypoint at times a strange experience of vast ignorance. I actually think the team there has a great dynamic and oftentimes is a very funny, informative podcast. Then there are moments where I think, and this is just me of course, that they severely over-analyze certain issues and look for oceans in a puddle. Recently there was talk how a certain Overwatch character is getting a new skin and it's that of a Riot-Cop. This led the entire Waypoint team to say (and I'm paraphrasing) that this character is now celebrating "police militarization" and so forth. (They cite an article for a lot of this talk but are mostly in agreement with it). I dunno I kind thought.. hey it's a skin for a fantasy game about made up superheroes.. isn't this digging a little deep? Also while police brutality is making a lot of headlines and the few clips I've seen online are disturbing to say the least, I also wouldn't paint with such a broad brush to label all police forces nationwide to be equally terrible. To me it's a skin, not a news story. There is a cowboy, a robot monk, a pig man in a gas mask. A police skin just seems like a no brainer to me, and it's a game about shooting each other anyway so where do you draw the line of what is right and wrong?

But all that aside, I found myself thinking is this just a Waypoint thing? Over at the Bombcast/Beastcast these topics almost never gain any traction if they are brought up at all, and they generally just stick to talking about games from a "how fun is it" perspective. Kotaku does bring this stuff up once in a while but they don't really dwell on it quite as much. While I do empathize with a lot of the modern issues people have to go through, I also find myself kind of rolling my eyes when Waypoint discusses some silly horror game and they give a very serious warning about mental health representation before diving into the conversation. Like in a game about a "mad" movie director haunting you throughout a cruise ship with spooky mannequins do you really need to warn people that this might not be the most accurate representation of mental illness?

I guess in short my question to you fine folks of Giant Bomb is: how much do you dig into this stuff? Do you just play the games to have fun and don't take them all that seriously or are you acutely aware and sensitive to issues like mental health representation in horror games or how military shooters fetishize warfare to a younger audience?

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#2 Edited by Fear_the_Booboo (1099 posts) -

A lot, but then my life is basically games, movies and books, especially since the last two years where I’m stuck at home because of health issues.

It always strike me as a little strange that someone would invest hundred of hours into video games and not think more critically about them, but then again everyone come at them with different expectations. GB mostly seem to be going at them mechanic first, and that’s absolutely fine and really I cannot blame anyone that are more interested in the gameplay than the social politics, even though I sometimes think the divide between the two is unwarranted.

Really the only point of view that bothers me is those that want to shut out that kind of criticism, if you don’t care fine but don’t go at journalists with some “it’s just a game defence”, everyone knows it’s just a game, doesn’t mean it has zero impact on the player’s perception. (Not blaming you OP, just the hundred of twitter folks that get in the mentions of every political article)

As for Waypoint I do find that sometimes they’re fairly aggressive about that stuff but then again, I’m pretty sure it was their plan from day one and I can’t fault them. I do find some content warning to be a bit much sometimes, but I guess it just means they’re not for me, if someone calls them out it’s probably because they’ve been asked to once. As for the police skin in Overwatch, I can see why it would trivialize real world issues. It’s obviously a small drop in a larger bucket, but it’s fair to talk about. Count me amongst those that have an issue with the police system as a whole though, so maybe my opinion ain’t worth much here.

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#3 Posted by Mike (17998 posts) -

Not at all. I have about an hour or two a week to play games if I'm lucky, and I want to spend that time not thinking too deeply about it and just play the game for a bit then get on with the rest of my life. I'll leave all the deep thinking and commentary to people who actually have the time for it, because I don't.

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#4 Posted by FacelessVixen (2702 posts) -

Frankly, I play games to avoid thinking about politics; not that I'm a part of a "just shut up and play the games" brigade since I'm well aware of the deplorable work environments that some big-budget studios are, specifically Rockstar, BioWare and Riot, which is all the more reason why I'm avoiding working in the gaming industry like the plague, and I have at least some level of empathy for those who are suffering while working for their respective studios.

So as much as I personally like to not get into any serious debates about the gaming industry or what a specific thing in a game can say about current events, I can't object to having a healthy and respectful conversation about it, provided that those engaged in the conversation can avoid being too in their feelings and keep their shit together.

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#5 Edited by Jesus_Phish (3912 posts) -
@humanity said:

Then there are moments where I think, and this is just me of course, that they severely over-analyze certain issues and look for oceans in a puddle. Recently there was talk how a certain Overwatch character is getting a new skin and it's that of a Riot-Cop. This led the entire Waypoint team to say (and I'm paraphrasing) that this character is now celebrating "police militarization" and so forth. (They cite an article for a lot of this talk but are mostly in agreement with it). I dunno I kind thought.. hey it's a skin for a fantasy game about made up superheroes.. isn't this digging a little deep? Also while police brutality is making a lot of headlines and the few clips I've seen online are disturbing to say the least, I also wouldn't paint with such a broad brush to label all police forces nationwide to be equally terrible.

This is a problem I have with Waypoint and why I actually stopped listening to it. They never disagree with each other on these topics and it just becomes a giant echo chamber. And something you said there really stuck out to me - "nationwide". Try globally. Obviously Waypoint look through most things from their North American viewpoint - and I'm not about to say that cops aren't a problem in other counties. But they're literally saying "Hey we have a problem in the United States with cops so please Blizzard read the room* and don't put that non-American character into riot gear. PS the *room is just the United States, maybe cops in Sweden are cool, we don't care to look." And they try brush it off by saying Blizzard are an American studio so they should "know" better, which is some real privilege bullshit.

I'll discuss socio-political issues with friends, but I can't listen to podcasts about it because all the english speaking ones happen in the US so the only socio-political issues they talk about are from an American point of view. I don't dislike that GB rarely touch that stuff. I'm glad it exists for people who want to engage in it, but it's mostly not for me.

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#6 Posted by Relkin (1222 posts) -

I can't help but look at the games I play with a critical eye, but I very rarely am ever doing so through a socio-political lens. Games have long been a way for me to get away from it all, and during the past few years, there have been a lot of reasons for me to indulge in some good old-fashioned escapism.

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#7 Posted by Epidehl (741 posts) -

I'm sort of in the middle on this stuff. I'm not completely unaware/uninterested, part of the reason I don't play a good chunk of AAA games is because any game that can be summarized as "You are a normal person shooting other normal people with realistic guns" makes a little uncomfortable, and that feeling has only gotten worse over time. On the other hand, I play a lot of JRPGs that I'm sure the Waypoint crew would have WORDS about (say, Persona 5), but I just can't bring myself to care in that way, or I just don't see the same things as problems that they do.

I follow a bunch of them on twitter and there's a very real difference in what people seem to care about in a game. Like, I'm someone who identifies as "queer". I have zero interest in almost any game (primarily indie games honestly) that in some way advertises itself as being queer, or about queer issues. A lot of them are basically adventure games which I find unbelievably dull, and dealing with in theory "relatable" issues isn't enough to get me to care. But, there seems a decent group of critical-minded people that act like I'm doing myself/games as a whole a disservice by not supporting these games and instead playing MK11. There's an attitude toward what they seem to consider "important" games that has always kind of bothered me and kept me from going any further than occasionally reading an article they do.

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#8 Posted by BaconHound (304 posts) -

I put very little - if any - thought into this kind of stuff. As you (and others) said, I play games in my free time to relax. They are a form of entertainment for me.

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#9 Posted by sparky_buzzsaw (8956 posts) -

I peep in on it a bit from time to time for the games that interest me, but that's about the extent of it. I come to games mostly for fun. If something makes me think critically along the way, awaesome, I might get involved in the conversation. If not, that's okay too.

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#10 Posted by BladeOfCreation (1433 posts) -

In 2009, I was just a few months removed from active duty in the Army; I was less than 2 years removed from a deployment to Iraq. Red Faction: Guerilla seemed like a fun game. Did you see the way those buildings collapse?! It was impressive in 2009. Hell, it's still impressive today!

Martian revolution stories are a dime-a-dozen, and not particularly innovative or unique. I actually like the idea of it in general, though. So I played the game and blew up some buildings and stuck it to the corrupt military force that was occupying my home. Regardless of what you may think of the current military, enough people in the world have a cultural or national history of having their land occupied that "fighting a military occupation" is a fairly common story.

This was all fine and good until I was messing around with some weapons and got the idea to attach some satchel charges to the side of an armored truck, drive that truck into an enemy base, hop out, and detonate the charges. That's some creative gameplay capability there! I did this a few times.

I didn't really have the framework to deal with how this made me feel at the time. Years later, I would learn that the brain functions as a connection-making machine when it comes to memories. The problem is that memory isn't perfect and the connections can be tenuous. Those connections can still have an affect on our minds and bodies.

I had happily stepped into the role of Martian revolutionary. I had inadvertently stepped into the role of IED bomber. Rationally, I knew that I hadn't done anything wrong. Depiction is not endorsement. The game didn't even have a moralizing NPC to judge me--a more common occurence these days, I think--or anything like that. I still felt sick. I didn't feel right playing it. I uninstalled the game.

Recently, the "Re-Marstered" edition came out. It's been a decade, I'm in a much better place now, and I'm aware of how media and art can affect me. I downloaded the game months ago.

I stil haven't decided to start playing it again.

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#11 Posted by notnert427 (2294 posts) -

I'm a white male and am therefore privileged to not really have politics negatively affect my life in ways it unfortunately does others. I recognize that, as well as how it renders my perspective a bit less meaningful in these sorts of discussions. Given this, I can't say I often notice or overly concern myself with political over/undertones and/or what messages can be derived from games. It's not what I play games for, as they're mostly escapism from real-world awfulness. That said, I'm glad outlets like Kotaku and Waypoint do address these things. It's worth considering and discussing.

Frankly, though, sometimes this stuff feels like a real stretch. Everyone's individual lens colors their perspective a bit (myself included), and there have been plenty of times when people have made a concerted effort to try and make something political that wasn't necessarily intended to be so in order to take a stance on it to push their beliefs. I don't necessarily have a problem with that in and of itself because I enjoy hearing perspectives other than my own, but sometimes this stuff gets really insular in not-great ways.

The most notable example of this that comes to mind are all of the recent pieces about working conditions in the gaming industry. While exposing some of that stuff is a good thing that hopefully forces some changes for the better, the fact remains that there was a very preferred narrative of evil corporations keeping the little guy down, and most of the articles about the issue didn't even make an attempt not to be one-sided on that. It all seemed far more focused on being influential than informative, and that's fairly frightening.

I also recall when Far Cry 5 came out and its story (which in fairness Ubi initially painted as if it would be some social commentary on religion and the political right) ended up pulling its punches politically. It was readily apparent that many were hoping to use the game as an opportunity to tee off on groups they disagree with and were somewhat livid that the game didn't really give them as much ammo for that as expected. Granted, the story was dumb/bad, and I actually wish they'd tried to say something instead of nothing, but the backlash to the game for not eviscerating hated groups was petulant and transparently so.

Does the Riot Cop thing bother me? Not really, but my demographic isn't being questionably shot often, either. It's arguably in poor taste, kinda like how Battlefield Hardline was, but where's the line on that stuff? I mean, it's not too hard to get offended at the shooter genre itself if you head down that road, and then get mad at racing games for promoting unsafe driving, etc., etc. I personally take issue with a lot of the weird pervy stuff often needlessly stuffed into games that IMO too many people give games a pass on because there are segments of the gaming community that are "into it", but I don't spend that much time trying to push that agenda.

At a certain point, it's worth considering whether it's just becoming attempts at censorship and what games will become if everything has to be outright designed to not potentially offend. I'm not going to sit here and defend the most deplorably-themed Steamtrash games as if they should definitely exist, though. I guess for me it's a thing where if it's something 99% of us can agree is awful, lambast away. However, if an "issue" is a sort of thing that's dependent on personal politics, it's fine to make that case, but also fine for others to not jump on board with that and just play the game if they want to.

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#12 Posted by Efesell (4629 posts) -

It has to be really, truly egregious. There are a lot of times where I'll see something and recognize why some more thought should have been put into this decision but I'm sorry I don't need to see a think piece about it.

Waypoint is rough because when you get all of them together they're basically the same person and when something is identified as a problem there's absolutely nobody at that site looking at anything from a different angle.

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#13 Posted by MrGreenMan (250 posts) -

I don't play games to think about that stuff so if it is there I usually don't care unless it's trying to shove it's message in your face. I'm sure there are some gross messages out there, I just don't have the patience to deal with that. I play games to escape and get away from those kinds of things.

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#14 Posted by Ares42 (4369 posts) -

I've talked about this here before, but my view is basically that once you start pulling at these threads there's no going back and you're just off to the races, which is what I feel a lot of people have fallen victim to. It's not that you instantly get an attitude of "everything is bad/wrong", but you're caught in a situation where nothing can be right anymore. There's always something you can over-analyze, something that's "a problem", and you can't dismiss anything anymore without being a complete hypocrite. It's a path with no aim to achieve a solution, it just tries to remove all the problems, which is an awful way to approach things.

Ask yourself this, if games no longer idolized military, if they were no longer violent, if they were no longer discriminatory, if they were no longer (insert problem here), what would they be ? And if we somehow reached that point, would you be happy ? Or would you just have a new list of "things that are wrong in the 2050s" ?

It's commendable to try to progress our cultural society, but in the process it's also important to discuss and understand what is and isn't a major issue. And by constantly asking questions without ever having that discussion you're just being a nuisance.

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#15 Edited by liquiddragon (3552 posts) -

As an Asian, it's hard not to notice how we're portrayed. There is very little care or fucks given to differentiate distinct and separate cultures. A lot of mish-mashing of aesthetics and very little variety in faces. I kinda get the feeling Western developers literally think we all look alike. A character like Mirror's Edge's Faith looks like it was designed by a room full of white dudes...I was impressed by how varied the Asian faces were in Horizon Zero Dawn unlike a game like MK11 where the Asians all seemed to be a variation on 1-type.

I also play older games so I'll notice how far we've come (hopefully?) I played Persona 4 for the 1st time early last year and was really taken back by how they leaned on Kenji. Contrast that with how much backlash Atlus seem to get with how they handled trans issues in Persona 5 and I guess we should consider that progress. I've been hanging around this site for a long time and the amount of times I've seen Persona 4 declared one of the best games of all time vs. the love (or lack of) I seen for Persona 5 is night and day.

I'm currently playing Mass Effect 3 for the 1st time and playing as FemShep, it's really bothering me how the mocap is clearly for MaleShep. This series like that with everything. It's all male mocap except for when it's some sexy alien catwalking or pole dancing. They don't have just normal female mocap. I find to be insulting. This series is supposed to be all about being able to play as male or female but I hate the lack of effort they put into really obvious things, things we constantly see. ME games have really bad attention to detail. And the way they redesigned Ashley to look more porny? Wtf were they thinking? It's a good series but it annoys me fans aren't more critical.

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#16 Edited by TheFlamingo352 (386 posts) -

A couple years ago I would've said none. So much has changed since then, though, and like you I've begun listening to wayyy more varied sources on the internet.

Today I honestly can't *not* think about politics when playing games (as Austin Walker would say, every game is political). It's one of my favourite parts of playing--considering the context a game is made in, what the developers are trying to say, what they might accidentally be saying.

For example, I've been playing through FFVII for the first time and that game is just a fascinating political time capsule. It takes me back to what mainstream progressive ideals were years ago; environmentalism and mistrust of corporations was super in vogue, but the gender/sexuality/diversity revolution of the past couple years hadn't happened yet.

It's a game that can simultaneously have a hammy, sincere dialogue about the threats of climate change and big business, then trip flat over its face with racial sterotypes and cringe-worthy presentations of female characters.

(Edit) Also: it's okay to consider a game's political ideals without trying to argue about those ideals' effect on the world. As an example: Yes, even if no games glorified war some people would still glorify war. But isn't important to reflect on how and why that happens?

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#17 Posted by fisk0 (6964 posts) -

I guess I try to think about it a lot. I haven't found many non-American podcasts dealing with these subjects though, but at least there's a lot of great critical writing in other languages and cultures, and I really enjoy reading that.

I enjoy listening to Waypoint too, but I disagree with a lot of what they and many other american sites and podcasts say. They often seem to fall into a bandwagon trap with no real overall, coherent concept or idea they consistently apply across the board, and yeah, the American centric view can get pretty rough at times.

I really enjoy critical essays on film/TV, but I think game criticism still has a long way to go, even though non-gaming oriented places like The Guardian, Deutsche Welle etc. occasionally put out some excellent critical essays.

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#18 Edited by Onemanarmyy (4580 posts) -

It really depends on the game. Like i'm not going into Mordhau or Rage 2 expecting there to be much thought spent on those issues. I don't have the feeling that the game is trying to tell me something. But give me a new Kojima game and i know that this is a game that has something to say so i will make the extra effort. Sure, if you want you can view those first 2 games through this lens as well and see what the 'default' choices that get made (subconsciously perhaps) are like. But personally that's the part that i don't tend to think about much. I'm much more likely to wonder why there's 0 blood when i shoot a person at point blank. But in general. the times have made me more cognizant & aware of looking at games through this lens. Hell, i just played some Final Fantasy 6 earlier today and the girls in the castle keep mentioning how King Edgar hits on every girl. There's even this small girl that's probably not even 10 years old that straight up asks the king when he will finally marry her. That's the kind of stuff that would've made me smirk in an 'oh square, you're so silly' kind of way 10 years ago, but now my first reaction was that it was kind of fucked up and wouldn't be brushed over nowadays.

Also note that Waypoint's whole angle to gaming is focusing on these issues. So they'll always be in that mode trying to offer a new perspective on things. Sometimes that hits the nail on the head, sometimes it feels like they're reaching. But it's how they distinguish themselves from other outlets so they will always try to have that conversation.

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#19 Posted by thegame983 (68 posts) -

They're divisive subjects. If you embrace them (like waypoint did) then you're telling people who people who don't drink the kool aid that they're not welcome. And that's a lot of people.

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#20 Posted by Forrester90 (1010 posts) -

I'll notice things in game that I think of as "good" or "bad" but I won't go searching for other peoples opinions on it usually. I've got medical issues that keep me staying away from things that might be stressful so watching/reading people arguing about the troubles of the world is something I actively avoid.

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#21 Posted by SunSpark (74 posts) -

Not really. I mean, if a game is blatantly racist or sexist or something, to the point that anybody who plays it would notice, that's one thing, but games like that tend not to enter the mainstream.

I don't have anything against Austin, Patrick, or the rest of the Waypoint staff on a personal level, but man, some of their stuff, including when they were on this website, can be downright absurd to listen to if you don't lean to the extreme left of center. A lot of times the stuff they're complaining about is stuff that 99% of people playing games wouldn't notice or care about, or at the very least it's things that aren't worth getting worked up about. It's unfortunate, but the people at Waypoint are the kind of people who claim to be progressive and open-minded, but are decidedly close-minded to anyone whose views don't validate their own preconceived notions.

I appreciate that the Giant Bomb crew keeps their political beliefs (mostly) limited to their twitter feeds. For a website that bills itself as "unprofessional", they're at least more professional than Waypoint. I prefer my video game coverage as unbiased as possible (except for opinions about the quality of the games, obviously), and I'm pretty sure most of the internet feels similarly.

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#22 Edited by nateandrews (111 posts) -

@bladeofcreation: I appreciate that you shared this. It was a very interesting read.

I've become pretty conscious/aware of those sorts of issues in games as a result of just following the right people on Twitter for so long. Truth be told, nowadays I just can't be bothered to get in line with the Waypoint line of thinking. It sounds far more dismissive than I really intend, but I don't have the time, or patience, or mental willingness to be upset about a police skin in Overwatch. At some point that stuff starts to feel like such a reach to me, and I consider myself to be very left of center. It feels even sillier if I spend any amount of time at all reading about issues in the "real world." If I'm gonna spend any time getting upset at this planet and the people who inhabit it, it's gonna be there.

But like I said, I'm still very aware of these things and a lot of the issues that have been raised over the years have been totally valid. I've been extremely critical of the Battlefield community's embarassing dismissal of black soldiers in Battlefield 1, for example. And that stuff about the cleft lip monsters in Rage 2 really sucks. But boy am I totally done reading think pieces about these things in video games.

This really started to change for me when I began deleting social media accounts to focus on re-centering myself. It's something I think a lot of people could benefit from.

Edit: Also worth mentioning, if we're including it here, that I think the labor issues surrounding the development of games are extremely important. That's on a whole other level.

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#23 Edited by SethMode (2097 posts) -

I'm definitely aware of it in games, whether it is overt or not. For me, I'm engaged in what I'm interacting with or I'm not playing it, so it's impossible for me not to notice certain things. And I know this wasn't the overall point of the thread, but while I personally line up with Waypoint politically, I agree with other assessments here that at times it feels like they're so caught up in noticing these things that they're creating issues that aren't really there. That's not to say they are feeding outrage culture (a term that I despise for a whole host of other reasons), because I think Waypoint is almost always thoughtful in their criticisms (especially written). Also, while they are sometimes maybe overly analytical, they still do have things that they enjoy despite some of their criticisms, basically reminding me of the recent adage "your fave is problematic". I just think in some respects it can actually cheapen the bad things that exist in actual reality when you shame-shame Blizzard for a cop skin. Like, in the real world we have police officers murdering people in their own apartment...so you'll forgive me if it's hard for me to get worked up over an Overwatch costume.

Again, this isn't meant to pile on to Waypoint, which is full of people I respect and enjoy the hell out of most of the content that they produce.

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#24 Posted by Stonyman65 (3812 posts) -

Very little if any at all. I use games to relax and escape from daily life. Literally the last thing I want from a game is it trying to shove it's morals or socio-political views down my throat. I get enough of that shit in real life as it is, so I definitely don't need or want it from my games too.

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#25 Posted by mellotronrules (2629 posts) -

@humanity said:

how much do you dig into this stuff? Do you just play the games to have fun and don't take them all that seriously or are you acutely aware and sensitive to issues like mental health representation in horror games or how military shooters fetishize warfare to a younger audience?

i'm generally not approaching games with my magnifying glass out- which is to say, i kinda let the thing wash over me, and if there are currents that push me in one direction or another- so be it. i find i have natural aversions to certain content or themes- the modern warfare franchise for example. i've never been super comfortable engaging in material that (at least for cod4 and mw2) fetishized that sort of violence. i'm not anti-FPS by any stretch...but something about it felt, i dunno, a little too close to stuff from the news? i need my gun-shooting to be cut with the absurd or a higher degree of fantasy.

i find waypoint and its ilk useful for articulating or crystallizing my feelings like that from time to time. and you need people doing what they do- because frankly if you engage with their material they force you to see things from another perspective.

that said- i'm actually tapering off the amount of stuff from waypoint i consume. @jesus_phish's comment about it being an echo chamber is right on the money, and they have tendency to parrot each other's humor and opinions (which gets stale). i also don't know where they get their stamina from- i would be perpetually exhausted were i to engage with the material they way they do.

and kotaku's splitscreen tends to strike a pretty healthy balance between the critical and the experiential.

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#26 Posted by Hayt (1697 posts) -

There is definitely a real Americentrism to a lot of the discussions out there which is a bit of a yawn. I'm not going to tell people to not (over)analyse videogames in the way some publications do but I can only imagine how exhausting that lifestyle would be every time I see an article describing some of the wrongs.

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#27 Posted by Darth_Navster (886 posts) -

I gotta say that seeing Waypoint, the only major video game site to my knowledge headed by someone who isn't a straight white dude, being referred to as an "echo chamber" is rich.

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#28 Posted by stantongrouse (243 posts) -

I think the medium of games is problematic to critique. And, although it's getting there, it's still a way off finding a more accepted angle to view them from. It took roughly 60 years of cinema before textual analysis, criticism and review had a voice that met expectations set by literary critics - and it could be argued that games are a much more difficult subject to analyse than film due to the sheer variety in style, number of contributors and level of interactivity. So reviewers/commentators attach their own ideas of how games should be covered - which has led to some wildly different approaches to the subject.

Personally, I find it hard to remove socio-political thoughts from most things created for entertainment - but then my job is writing learning materials which has become a minefield of do's and don't of what can and can't be said, so I feel I am a little hyper sensitive about it. I like the Bomb crews because they are (with the possible exception of Dan), highly aware of both positive and potentially harmful social constructs and talk about them quite often without it being the primary reason or focus of the discussion. I dip into other podcasts like Waypoint and some of the UK ones but I as someone who has to write the odd lesson on diversity, equality and inclusion I feel spoken down to a little too much. It's as if they are targeting a less informed audience (which is good) or doing what they can to make the room nod (which is also fine, but can seem more than a little smug). Giant Bomb show their socio-political leanings with their guests, their occasional rant at something or someone (looking at you Randy P) in the industry without forgetting that most of us do this for fun.

TL;DR - I think Giant Bomb is pitched about right. I can't help but get into socio-political loops in my head when gaming.

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#29 Posted by hankrazorbeard (122 posts) -

@darth_navster: Classic Waypoint take: Bring race into the conversation.

No one cares about Austin Walker's skin colour.

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#30 Posted by SethMode (2097 posts) -

Not to speak for the OP, but for the sake of this good topic in which I would like to hear more takes, how about we not just devolve into a dispute that isn't actually related to the topic?

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#31 Posted by Darth_Navster (886 posts) -

@darth_navster: Classic Waypoint take: Bring race into the conversation.

No one cares about Austin Walker's skin colour.

I do. Because I'm a person of color and it's important to me that there's an outlet with a queer person from a marginalized background setting the editorial direction. But humor me, what makes Waypoint an echo chamber and how is it any different from any other gaming podcast where people agree with each other?

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#32 Posted by nutter (2394 posts) -

I think about social and political issues in games here and there. It’s entertainment, and most are focused on phone, live, or competitive games, so there’s not a ton of room for intelligent commentary. Add to that that games are a rough business and potentially alienating folks is easily done, and I get developers avoiding it altogether.

I know Bioware has tried to have diverse and inclusive casts, and Andromeda was no different. The poor writing in that game was amplified by representation and people got pretty upset with how dialog turned out in some cases.

So, in games, it’s easier to avoid, and I get that.

In podcasts...I like Jason and Patrick and I really love Austin, but I don’t agree with a lot of their politics. I don’t want to see their politics strangled from the earth. I don’t think less of them for their politics. I applaud them for having well thought out views that they can support in debate.

I just don’t want to listen to an echo chamber of the same or very similar opinions on a podcast. That keeps me away from Waypoint (which bums me out) and keeps me from even taking the time to check out Kotaku.

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#33 Posted by deactivated-5d1d502761653 (305 posts) -

I try to stay away from sites that have a heavy emphasis on RL politics commentary. A commercial outlet will sooner or later always stretch it to the nth degree to maximize traffic.

Also a lot of these sites work themselves on very questionable business models - just look up a given site an check how much content is done by freelance writers.

The other week Klepek had a minor mental breakdown on twitter complaining about working conditions (in particular the number of unpaid hours he accumulated) and I was like "yeah dude, maybe talk to Austin about that, aren't you the ones that (rightfully) point out bad working conditions within the industry on a frequent basis?"

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#34 Posted by Teddie (2162 posts) -

I notice stuff, and get tired of seeing it, but anything deeper than that is a rarity. It's not the kind of effort and negativity I want to devote to the go to way for me to unwind and enjoy myself-- those conversations are important, but I have them elsewhere.

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#35 Edited by Jesus_Phish (3912 posts) -
@liquiddragon said:

I also play older games so I'll notice how far we've come (hopefully?) I played Persona 4 for the 1st time early last year and was really taken back by how they leaned on Kenji. Contrast that with how much backlash Atlus seem to get with how they handled trans issues in Persona 5 and I guess we should consider that progress. I've been hanging around this site for a long time and the amount of times I've seen Persona 4 declared one of the best games of all time vs. the love (or lack of) I seen for Persona 5 is night and day.

Are you thinking about the Catherine issue? In the remastered version they've changed the "good" ending so the trans character Erica no longer transitioned and "is happier in life" because of it. They also put in a male character whose a cross dresser and "tricks" the PC into having romantic feelings.

I don't remember there being much trans related subject material in Persona 5.

That's actually I guess a case where a social issue has stopped me buying and playing the game. I really like the Persona series and I never played Catherine. I was considering getting it when it released in the remastered version, but all the stuff they put in it isn't something I want to throw my money behind.

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#36 Posted by liquiddragon (3552 posts) -

@jesus_phish: Oh, looks like the backlash was about how Persona 5 handled gay characters. With Catherine, I remember Erica's reveal was treated sort of as a joke at the end. It's distressing how much further they decided to take it in that direction it seems. Atlus hasn't really changed over the years but it's good that ppl have gotten more sensitive about the portrayal of LGBT characters.

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#37 Edited by soulcake (2827 posts) -

Politics are a Toxic Wasteland at the moment where polarization and other extremes are key in any discussions your either a Nazi or a Communist on the internet these days. So i Don't blame them avoiding most of these topic, and i even applaud them (the crew) for it it's hard to be neutral on these topics these days with everyone waving there flag off allegiance on every website or twitter post. Politics at least in America feel like a cry/start of a civil war so yeah i would avoid that shit at all cost. Democracy is great but it's also a tool which got the whole off ancient Athens Slaughtered.

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#38 Posted by JohnyMyko (1902 posts) -

Very little if any at all. I use games to relax and escape from daily life. Literally the last thing I want from a game is it trying to shove it's morals or socio-political views down my throat. I get enough of that shit in real life as it is, so I definitely don't need or want it from my games too.

@mike said:

Not at all. I have about an hour or two a week to play games if I'm lucky, and I want to spend that time not thinking too deeply about it and just play the game for a bit then get on with the rest of my life. I'll leave all the deep thinking and commentary to people who actually have the time for it, because I don't.

This is exactly how I feel.

I barely have time to play games nowadays and, when I have, I just want to be entertained and have fun. I might over-analyze the creative side of the story or the visuals a little bit because I usually pay more attention to those details, but that's about it. I couldn't care less about it's socio-political views or "wokeness". This applies not just to games but to other forms of entertainment as well, such as movies or tv shows.

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#39 Posted by BoOzak (2680 posts) -

Not much unless a game smacks you over the head with it. I remember the first episode of Life is Strange Season 2 being quite ridiculous in that aspect.

Waypoint have had multiple half hour rants over Fortnite stealing dances from popular songs because somehow this is racial appropriation and these poor rappers/actors (most of whom are rich beyond belief) should get paid for it. I like Austin but he tends to blow things way out of proportion, as do many other journalists.

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#40 Posted by Efesell (4629 posts) -

@hankrazorbeard said:

@darth_navster: Classic Waypoint take: Bring race into the conversation.

No one cares about Austin Walker's skin colour.

I do. Because I'm a person of color and it's important to me that there's an outlet with a queer person from a marginalized background setting the editorial direction. But humor me, what makes Waypoint an echo chamber and how is it any different from any other gaming podcast where people agree with each other?

I mean by any definition of the term I think it's really hard to argue that Waypoint is not an echo chamber. How that different from other podcasts I would say its by degree. I certainly don't know of any where it's quite so dramatic.

It's probably far more noticeable because of what they cover.

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#41 Posted by notnert427 (2294 posts) -

I've been extremely critical of the Battlefield community's embarassing dismissal of black soldiers in Battlefield 1, for example.

Huh? The game opens with you playing as the Harlem Hellfighters in a fairly harrowing bit that serves as a emotionally stirring depiction of war itself. Moreover, the game's box art featured an African-American soldier, and it had in-game items featuring their insignia and honoring where they served with nicknames they earned through valor. Personally, I wasn't that familiar with WWI history on the whole, but actually read and learned about the 369th Infantry thanks to the game. I also did the same with the Women's Battalion of Death featured in later DLC. I'm not typically big on defending EA, but they deserve some credit for featuring soldiers and units in Battlefield 1 other than the standard white male fare that most games do.

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#42 Posted by dudeglove (13790 posts) -

I've become more aware of it in recent years. Ain't gonna dunk on waypoint but I will say if games are extremely bad at, for lack of a better term, "reading the room", then for me it sticks out like a sore thumb. Whether intended as a symbol of police brutality or not, Brigitte's riot cop skin in Overwatch is a good example (also Brigitte is still awful, just nerf her already).

[More broadly, Brigitte's actual inclusion to that game was a net negative both in terms of OW's stated mission (she's literally a buffed up Mercy in appearance) and the gameplay (the resultant triple-support GOATS meta utterly sucks and is dull as hell to boot).]

Probably worth pointing out that it ain't just games that are guilty of this behavior either. A lot of media suffers from the same problem of handling socio-economic issues with any level of respect or care, the reasons for which are myriad, though usually boil down to something like the ones in control of these things are: extremely wealthy and come from a particular class, extremely privileged, sometimes extremely clueless, and their intent is almost never accidental but we in the audience are usually too far removed from such decision makers to notice the actual source of the problem.

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#43 Edited by nateandrews (111 posts) -

@notnert427: I think you misread my post! I absolutely love the inclusion of black and colonial soldiers in BF1. I didn’t love the loud people in the game’s community that had racist meltdowns about it.

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#44 Posted by notnert427 (2294 posts) -

@notnert427: I think you misread my post. I absolutely love the inclusion of black and colonial soldiers in BF1. I didn’t love the loud people in the game’s community that had racist meltdowns about it.

Ah, okay. That makes more sense. I thought BF1 was a terrific game that actually did it right on inclusivity with interesting, historically-sound depictions of the conflict, so glad we agree on that. And yeah, unfortunately some of the gaming community sucks, but that's more an issue with the general shittiness of people (especially anonymously on the internet) than gaming itself.

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#45 Posted by Humanity (19038 posts) -

Thanks for all the responses I honestly didn't think many people would read this and/or reply to it. Really interesting to see everyones take on the issue since I'm often doubting myself when listening to these other podcasts whether I'm the weird one for not getting that worked up about a lot of this stuff. My approach of "it's just a game" seemed to be going up against a growing trend to really scrutinize every part of the industry. It is especially interesting to get a cross section here on GB where as I mentioned the guys don't really dig into that stuff. One might guess that this approach would draw in a very specific crowd and yet we do have a pretty good mix of folk that love the deep dives and the people who just want to play the game.

Also I just want to point out that I mention Waypoint in detail as an example and didn't mean for this to turn into a pile-on-session for that outlet. Nethertheless as long as it's respectful I am also really curious to see peoples takes on their podcast because I've never before listened to something where I'm enjoying it in equal measure as I'm rolling my eyes. For those that have never checked it out I would suggest giving Splitscreen a listen. The Kotaku show is extremely organized - everything is done according to schedule. The three hosts are all very different. Like Maddy Myers is really upbeat and I do like that she will talk about certain issues she thinks are problematic, but then she is just as likely to simply say "but you know, whatever, the game is fun so it's not a big deal." It's a really measured response. Kirk Hamilton also seems like a really chill guy that seems very positive even when discussing things he isn't that into. The one small issue I have with Splitscreen is that while I respect Jason for all his reporting, he does appear a bit overbearing and pushy on the podcast. It is not uncommon for him to ask someone what they've been reading, and then halfway through interrupt them and talk about a book he just read. That said their personalities do seem to balance out pretty well, even though all the jazz music Kirk composed for it seems so incredibly out of place.. but maybe I just need to get used to it.

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#46 Posted by FrodoBaggins (2118 posts) -

Almost absolutely none. I play games to have fun and I don't care for all the other bullshit. Too much on my plate to let stuff like that bother me.

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#47 Posted by niko_of_death (278 posts) -

For me it all depends on the game. Generally I don't put much thought into that kind of stuff unless A. There is a clear intent behind the themes/ideas expressed and B. The writers have the chops to actually pull it off well (BioShock Infinite is probably the quintessential example of a game that qualifies for A. but fails miserably at B. for me). Additionally, I generally dislike attempts to commentate directly on specific contemporary issues rather than more lasting, widespread issues (i.e. "This specific politician is bad" vs. "What is the impact of this ideology"), which I think is what a lot of people mean when they say they "don't want politics in games". There are also some games that I find too campy to take their ideological ideas/questions fully to heart, but still enjoy thinking/arguing/joking about in a "memey" way (like Deus Ex or Metal Gear). Pathologic is one of the games that comes to mind when thinking about games that are really worthy of analysis/debate of its socio-political messages. The Megami Tensei games (mostly the mainline SMT Law/Neutral/Chaos trichotomy, but also in some of the side-series) sort of fall in the middle between the "serious thought" and "memey debate" categories for me, I find their ideas genuinely interesting, but they are also overly grandiose in typical JRPG fashion that makes it hard to take fully seriously.

@liquiddragon said:

I also play older games so I'll notice how far we've come (hopefully?) I played Persona 4 for the 1st time early last year and was really taken back by how they leaned on Kenji. Contrast that with how much backlash Atlus seem to get with how they handled trans issues in Persona 5 and I guess we should consider that progress. I've been hanging around this site for a long time and the amount of times I've seen Persona 4 declared one of the best games of all time vs. the love (or lack of) I seen for Persona 5 is night and day.

Are you thinking about the Catherine issue? In the remastered version they've changed the "good" ending so the trans character Erica no longer transitioned and "is happier in life" because of it. They also put in a male character whose a cross dresser and "tricks" the PC into having romantic feelings.

I don't remember there being much trans related subject material in Persona 5.

That's actually I guess a case where a social issue has stopped me buying and playing the game. I really like the Persona series and I never played Catherine. I was considering getting it when it released in the remastered version, but all the stuff they put in it isn't something I want to throw my money behind.

Spoilers for new content in Catherine: Full Body: This may not be accurate, but from what I've heard Rin is actually an alien, and her (?) story gets into weirdness about that rather than issues of crossdressing. I also heard that the new ending you're referring to simply takes place before Erica transitions, and the reason she is "happier" in that timeline is because history was changed so she had her friends with her throughout her life. This is all just hearsay, and I've avoided digging deep into it because I want to avoid spoilers, so take it with a grain of salt.

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#48 Posted by notnert427 (2294 posts) -

@humanity said:

Also I just want to point out that I mention Waypoint in detail as an example and didn't mean for this to turn into a pile-on-session for that outlet. Nethertheless as long as it's respectful I am also really curious to see peoples takes on their podcast because I've never before listened to something where I'm enjoying it in equal measure as I'm rolling my eyes.

Eh, it seems like even the duders who don't tend agree with Waypoint's general perspective seem to at least like Austin & Co. as people and respect their opinions, which is how it should be. Honestly, taking extreme left positions on things is arguably kinda Waypoint's whole brand at this point, and it's fair for that not to be for everyone. I find myself often in a similar place to where it sounds like you're coming from of both wanting to hear from them and often thinking they take things a bit too far.

I wish they had someone on staff at least play devil's advocate, or better yet actually fall in the middle or even skew a bit right politically. Except that would likely just be the crew ganging up against that one person all the time, and I'm not sure the gaming community itself even tolerates non-left perspectives at this point. The Waypoint stuff is fairly entrenched now in fighting racism, sexism, et al., which certainly isn't a bad thing, but also frames things to where any comment that doesn't fully jump on board with that is considered pro-racism, pro-sexism, et al., when the actual point may simply be that X thing they're getting irate at might be a stretch.

All in all, I'm glad that both Waypoint exists to do their thing and I'm glad GB mostly stays away from politics. Alex seems like the only GB staffer who's equipped and willing to offer some sharp political commentary anyway. GB is wise to stay in their lane, and I try to do much the same. It's not necessarily that they don't care about this stuff; it's that this is a video game website first and foremost. It's fine for gamers to take a similar perspective of just wanting to play video games as well.

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#49 Posted by deactivated-5d1d502761653 (305 posts) -

@dudeglove said:

Whether intended as a symbol of police brutality or not, Brigitte's riot cop skin in Overwatch is a good example (also Brigitte is still awful, just nerf her already)

That's a prime example where I just rolled my eyes. She is portrait as part of the Swedish police force. It might blow your mind but the predominant narrative present in the US when it comes to the police isn't representative for the entire world.

This one becomes in particular odd once you take into consideration outlets that critically reported over the Swedish police skin, write today a fairly positive piece over D.Va's depiction as school girl and its impact on Overwatch related porn content.

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#50 Posted by mellotronrules (2629 posts) -

@hankrazorbeard said:

@darth_navster: Classic Waypoint take: Bring race into the conversation.

No one cares about Austin Walker's skin colour.

I do. Because I'm a person of color and it's important to me that there's an outlet with a queer person from a marginalized background setting the editorial direction. But humor me, what makes Waypoint an echo chamber and how is it any different from any other gaming podcast where people agree with each other?

speaking for myself- when i borrowed the phrase 'echo chamber' i simply meant to say- relative to itself (and not the wider 'games writing' world) the opinions (not the people themselves) that comprise Waypoint are fairly homogeneous. as an outlet Waypoint has a clear and important editorial voice- but the podcast itself tends to be one person expressing an opinion, and the verbal equivalent of nodding heads for 2hrs. granted they don't engage in the same subjects, but i appreciate when someone makes a declarative statement on the bombcast (everyone: majora's mask is a great game) and someone pushes back (jeff: no it's fucking not). the ensuing discussion makes for more entertaining listening, and you legitimately understand someone's mind better when you hear them articulate their reasons.

to be clear- i really like waypoint and they do outstanding work- but the podcast doesn't have the back-and-forth that keeps me engaged. i sometimes wish they had someone play the devil's advocate if only to hear austin lay out his framework- because the man is clearly bright and has his reasons.