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#51 Posted by TheRealTurk (525 posts) -

My general feeling on it is that I will engage with it to the extent that the game itself is signalling it wants to address political issues, but I'm not going to go out of my way read into it. For example, I find it perfectly logical to criticize something like Far Cry 5 for pulling its punches when pretty much the entire design and marketing surrounding that game played up the supposedly political aspects of the narrative. On the other hand, I'm not going to tie myself in knots making Into the Breach some grand allegory for total ecological collapse. Sometimes a game with giant mechs fighting bugs is just a game about giant mechs fighting bugs.

As far as podcasts go, I agree that Giantbomb typically tries to stay away from discussing those issues, but when they are put into a position when they need to talk about them, they often preface or follow-up with a disclaimer that either (a) they can't get inside the head of those involved and so won't assume their motivations and/or (b) don't know enough about the subject to handle it particularly well. And I think that's probably both the most respectful and most intelligent way of handling it. It lets people know pretty quickly that it isn't going to be that kind of podcast and if you want informed discussion of the issue, you should look elsewhere.

As for Waypoint, I think ultimately the problem I have with it is how it wants to turn seemingly every game into a political Rorschach Test while simultaneously working under the assumption that the test has a "right" answer. When you play Overwatch, do you view the Bridgette skin as a dumb fun thing the devs did or a fascist glorification of police brutality? Is Dreams a cool creative tool or another example how everything you do is owned by the aristo-capitalist elite? One of these is correct. The other means you are guilty of ignorant Wrongthink.

And as someone who considers himself to be pretty moderate, that sort of "us or them, there is only one right answer and it's ours" attitude gets extremely tiresome. Now, admittedly, I am clearly not Waypoint's target audience (based on the fact they had a podcast episode literally entitled "OK, Maybe Centrism Really Is Bad For Your Brain"), but it's frustrating to see people you know are smart enough to recognize the nuance involved with these situations so often fail to acknowledge that the nuance exists.

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#52 Edited by ghost_cat (2275 posts) -

I like to see it like this: a game site like Waypoint, so long as their agenda is to be thoughtful and not harmful, is important. I normally play games or consume video game content for entertainment, but it's important to remember that people work hard to create video games and that the medium has become powerful to the point that it can be politically/socially influential. The boundary of video games and the outside world is blurry these days.

I agree that Waypoint does, at times, kinda go off the deep end in their political and social viewpoints, but I can hear how much that stuff is important to them. They probably don't expect the audience to agree with everything, but Waypoint's angle is to inform and to think deeper about the entertainment we enjoy so much because the field is different now, especially in this chaotic world we live in now.

The one thing I can see as an issue is the echo chamber they often corner themselves into with the audience. It would be more interesting if they open themselves up to having discussions with people outside their circle, which I think would give their viewpoints more weight.

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#53 Posted by AdamALC (289 posts) -

I cut my teeth on Sierra adventure games that had several tongue and cheek references to political issues interlaced through the various text boxes and secrets. I didn't notice or get them at the time because I was a kid that thankfully had no idea how stupid the world around me could get. 30 years on and I don't have a problem if games having their own particular political lean, or their own message, that is up to the developer. I land firmly on letting developers make the game they want, about what they want, and let the consumer decide if that is what they want. I am a simple man, I want a game that plays well and has an interesting story, if part of that story is selling me a bill of goods on whatever political platform the developer is pushing than I hope it is done well.

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#54 Edited by TobbRobb (6583 posts) -

Dear god, absolutely zero. I can barely even imagine a faster way to disrupt my enjoyment of something than having to think about socio-politics. It'd have to be extremely egregious for me to bat an eye, and even then games with such extreme messages carry other baggage with them (like being shit) or are strictly MADE to be political, which probably means I wasn't interested to begin with.

Giantbomb only rarely talking about these things and doing it in appropriate context is a blessing. I don't even know where I would get my info if the site turned ANOTHER place for people to overanalyze poor games for political messages imagined or real. Sometimes a shoe is just a shoe man....

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#55 Posted by Rejizzle (1122 posts) -

I find it a lot more fun to actively think about how a piece of media reflects the world than to mindlessly consume things. I also enjoy thinking about how media has influenced my own way of thinking, whether that media intended to make a political statement or not. For instance, I have a distrust of authority from my childhood of watching early Simpsons on a near daily basis; I support trans people in my daily life because my first exposure to the subject was on Giantbomb.com, a website about videogames.

There's a lot to like about escapism, but nowadays I have just as much fun analysing a games themes as I do playing them.

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#56 Posted by SarcasticMudcrab (383 posts) -

I dislike games journalists using video games as a soap box to push their personal agenda. Other than that unless it's outright offensive I couldn't care less.

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#57 Posted by cikame (2824 posts) -

I won't claim to have a unique approach with regards to world issues, i don't really have an approach, i take issue with hardly anything, i don't consider any topics to be taboo and am never offended, and i have no idea if it's because of my background or if i've just learned to be solid neutral (maybe i just don't care).
I am a 29 year old straight agnostic white male from the UK, being from the UK i notice a lot of popular issues that come up on the internet which originate in America, my distance from these issues and the fact that pretty much nobody is talking about them here mean i have no personal stake in them, freedom of the press is big here, comedians revel in politics and dark subjects Monty Python is a testiment to that, i don't care if people have a religion i only care that people don't care that i don't. I think of the saying "British people like to complain about the weather" and it's true, is it because we don't really care to complain about anything else?
Most game developers, obviously, aren't British, and the market for games has always been an international one, having to cater to all tastes regarding certain topics makes it so that most games are fairly neutral, if the games market was completely British i wonder if developers/writers would feel more inclined to broach hard subjects, to take risks, i'm not saying it would be better but i just have a feeling that an American response to "mature" subjects is a lot louder than a British one, i think that's entirely down to our difference in population, but it's possible there's a difference in how our societies approach effecting change in the world.
I'm not going to review what i just wrote it was just some thoughts typed out, but to directly answer the topic, i appreciate when a game isn't afraid to get detailed on serious issues, i recently played Mafia 3 and really respected how much casual and hard racism is in that game, it really gave me a feel for what it might have been like in the 60's American south, i don't use it as evidence of what it was like as at its core it's exaggerated fiction, but it was a very entertaining look at the subject.
I don't NEED to see stories tackling real world issues, i've enjoyed plenty of fiction without it, but i'm open to seeing it.

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#58 Posted by ArbitraryWater (15715 posts) -

Coming from a humanities/social sciences background and being left-of-center means I tend to at least pick up sociopolitical stuff in the media I consume. I agree with the sentiment that everything is making a political statement in one way or another, and in the abstract I absolutely believe it’s important to critically examine the media we consume.

However, the last two years of US politics have done a number on my ability to get upset about “problematic but ultimately trivial-in-the-grand-scheme” stuff, which it turns out involves pretty much all of video games. I can spot a bad trope or a questionable bit of subtext because at this point I spot that shit inherently, but I don’t have the stamina or connection to pour the same amount of rage and negative emotion towards video games being stupid as I do to (Current political crisis of the week.) It’s probably why I respect what Waypoint does a lot, but find a lot of their takes exhausting even when I agree with them wholeheartedly.

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#59 Edited by IEEE_GB (41 posts) -
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Overall as I have read more and more history that was not taught to me in school, especially someone like Howard Zinn or Chris Hedges, I have to say everything is political and many gamers are reactionary and ignorant idiots. Jim Sterling in my opinion has some of the best commentary on the gaming industry in terms of the bigger picture issues like the material reality that devs and workers face in an increasingly hostile economy towards workers compared to corporations.

Many gamers are unironically people who like r/KotakuInAction (https://www.reddit.com/r/KotakuInAction/top/?t=month) or are the type to get made fun of in r/GamingCirclejerk. "keep your politics out of muh games!" OK didn't realize existing as a marginalized person was a political act. These people that think they are apolitical really mean "keep your politics out of my games" and don't understand how much they are reinforcing the current status quo that does not challenge power. Here's another good jim sterling videos

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#60 Edited by Seikenfreak (1533 posts) -

When I am playing a game, I do not think about any of that stuff at all. Games are mostly escapism and entertainment for me.

I do listen to Waypoint (mostly because I'm starved for podcast content since my job involves driving for 8+ hours a day, 5 days a week) but I tend to drift off if they get deep into the weeds (which they like to do, it's what separates their content from others I suppose). I just want to hear from Patrick/Austin/Rob about more general opinions on games and whats been coming out. I wish Giant Bomb would drag them back into the fold somehow.

So I am aware that stuff is out there and happening in the industry, but I don't get involved and I try not to let it affect my experience with games.

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#61 Posted by BladeOfCreation (1338 posts) -

Regarding Waypoint, I like Austin and Patrick and I enjoy the hell out of the East Coast content whenever Austin drops by. I've only listened to one or two eps of the Waypoint podcast. While I generally agree them politically, I've definitely become less interested in explicitly leftist media critique in recent years. Leftist media critique will often fall into two common generalization traps: Depiction is endorsement AND Everything is political.

"Everything is political," is a generalization that I think does a disservice to the discourse. Surely, everything has the potential to be interpreted through one's own lens of political thought, experience, et cetera. I certainly believe that--just look at my post earlier in this thread. I have a hard time imagining how a game like Minecraft can be political, for example.

That Waypoint conversation about the riot cop skin wasn't the worst thing I've heard, but it seemed like a stretch. I'm aware of the concept of whataboutism, but I have to ask...what about the D.VA police skin? They literally don't even mention it on this episode of the podcast, but they should. I mean, she's in a straight up mech suit and fires rockets and guns. That's way more militarized than Brigitte. The notion that skins are the problem with Overwatch is pretty silly to me. Overwatch is, as of the start of the game's story, an illegal vigilante group that operates across international borders with no oversight. Why is a cosmetic skin (the second of its type) worse than the actual story of the game? The whole conversation felt like a stretch. In the end--and this is important--nobody said that the skin ought to be removed from the game or that someone was bad for playing the game or using the skin. If leftist media critique often lacks nuance, the responses to those critiques are often just as bad--or worse.

Much of this conversation has focused on the views of average players and professional critics, but the creators themselves are hardly immune from claiming that games are apolitical. A recent article had one well-known writer saying that their game has politics only in the context of the game world itself, which is of course absurd. Their overall point--that a writer shouldn't condemn a player's choices in a game's story--is valid. I interpreted my actions in Red Faction Guerilla in a way that I'm sure was unintended by the creators of that game. Those creators drew on stories from the real world to make their fictional world believable, and the particular story beats of any game are going to resonate with different people in different. Art does not exist in a vacuum, independent of the real world in which it is made. No one has to engage with that if they don't want to, but the reactions to examining this stuff in even the most cursory way are often overblown and dramatic.

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#62 Posted by Jesus_Phish (3881 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).

How do you feel about the next Watchdogs being set in post-Brexit London? Considering the absolute clusterfuck that is Brexit for absolutely everyone in the UK and it's immediate impact on Northern Ireland and Ireland* as well as the rest of the European Union as a whole, I would say that it's a bad "read on the room". But I've yet to see anyone else say that, where as when a Swedish character was put in a Swedish cop uniform, immediately it was a problem because the US has a real problem with law enforcement.

Having said that, I expect Ubisoft to have as sharp teeth about this as they did about Far Cry 5, which went from politically right wing weaponized cult leaders to yahooo bang bang fun times between two trailers.

I'm not trying to do some whataboutism, but I guess I'm just trying to point out part of my issue with places like Waypoint. They take everything through the lens of an American. America isn't the only country in the world that has problems with law enforcement, but they're certainly at the head of that issue.

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#63 Posted by IEEE_GB (41 posts) -

@jesus_phish:

@dudeglove said:

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).

How do you feel about the next Watchdogs being set in post-Brexit London? Considering the absolute clusterfuck that is Brexit for absolutely everyone in the UK and it's immediate impact on Northern Ireland and Ireland* as well as the rest of the European Union as a whole, I would say that it's a bad "read on the room". But I've yet to see anyone else say that, where as when a Swedish character was put in a Swedish cop uniform, immediately it was a problem because the US has a real problem with law enforcement.

Having said that, I expect Ubisoft to have as sharp teeth about this as they did about Far Cry 5, which went from politically right wing weaponized cult leaders to yahooo bang bang fun times between two trailers.

I'm not trying to do some whataboutism, but I guess I'm just trying to point out part of my issue with places like Waypoint. They take everything through the lens of an American. America isn't the only country in the world that has problems with law enforcement, but they're certainly at the head of that issue.

As far as whataboutism, here is a good podcast describing where that comes from and why it is a BS term https://citationsneeded.libsyn.com/episode-66-whataboutism-the-medias-favorite-rhetorical-shield-against-criticism-of-us-policy . Also as far as the US, I don't know anything about Waypoint but I can tell you that the US has a significant impact on policing globally and as the imperial power we set the standard, on top of capitalism itself distorting the goal of protect and serve to protect and serve for the rich

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#64 Posted by militantfreudian (684 posts) -

Video games' lowbrow status doesn't exempt them from being critiqued from a social or political angle, regardless of whether or not a game sets out to make a political statement from the outset. Video games, after all, aren't made nor consumed in a vacuum. So, yeah, I find the type of discourse Waypoint engages in to be of value.

I usually don't play games purely for escapism. I care deeply about cultural representations in media, naturally including games, and it has informed my thoughts on many things, from a news segment to a video game character. Although to be fair, plenty of harmful cliches and stereotypes go over my head, which, again, why I find outlets like Waypoint to be important, and why I found discussing video games – media in general – from different perspectives to be truly educational.

I don't think approaching video games from that angle has lessened my enjoyment of playing them — not in the slightest.

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#65 Posted by dudeglove (13751 posts) -

@dudeglove said:

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).

How do you feel about the next Watchdogs being set in post-Brexit London? Considering the absolute clusterfuck that is Brexit for absolutely everyone in the UK and it's immediate impact on Northern Ireland and Ireland* as well as the rest of the European Union as a whole, I would say that it's a bad "read on the room". But I've yet to see anyone else say that, where as when a Swedish character was put in a Swedish cop uniform, immediately it was a problem because the US has a real problem with law enforcement.

Having said that, I expect Ubisoft to have as sharp teeth about this as they did about Far Cry 5, which went from politically right wing weaponized cult leaders to yahooo bang bang fun times between two trailers.

I'm not trying to do some whataboutism, but I guess I'm just trying to point out part of my issue with places like Waypoint. They take everything through the lens of an American. America isn't the only country in the world that has problems with law enforcement, but they're certainly at the head of that issue.

As a setting for a game, it could be immensely interesting. As someone who lived in Northern Ireland for 18 years and cannot recognize the place every time I come back home (is that the word? it doesn't feel like it), I do have extremely low expectations on the part of Ubisoft. However, considering they are primarily based just outside Paris (in Montreuil) and London isn't some far away place like, say, San Francisco or NYC, they might be able to hit some sort of nuance. Mostly I'm hoping they can fuck up less than the current UK government.

I don't think it's a bad reading of the room either, as Watch Dogs 2 basically hit the right nerve at the right time (hard to know whether it was luck on their part), and it's not as if the Brexit situation has been this sudden thing either (though it sometimes feels like it). The referendum was in November 2016. Watch Dogs 2 came out in June of the same year. As someone who ironically now lives in France, I know that the French have been entertained a lot by the Brexit debacle and in some spots are looking forward to the UK becoming an economic heap that will come begging to the EU for help. What I do take exception with, however is Ubisoft's utterly flimsy claims in various interviews and the like in recent months that they're not political when the content is absolutely screeching-from-the-top-of-the-lungs otherwise. I am willing to bet that in that game you will end up digitally graffiting the side of Westminster from the Thames or sneaking a drone into 10 Downing Street but that's totally not political you guys.

My own issues with Waypoint has little to do with Austin, who I think is an extremely smart and good dude. I'll just say it's a very "Vice" thing that's going on there, and I hope Austin eventually gets out of it in one piece.

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#66 Edited by Giant_Gamer (762 posts) -

@humanity: This reminded me about the time when @danryckert said that he never thought of MGS as a political game at first in the last Beastcast which i can understand.

We play games to escape from this life and we when we face subjects that are related to real life, we sometimes unintentionally filter them out so that they don't ruin our experience with the game.

Beastcast is also my favorite because they don't over analyze games, developers and the subjected agendas. Instead, they laugh things out and keep it simple.

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#67 Posted by MonkeyKing1969 (7583 posts) -

I put most media through a "how woudl this really work" sensor in my brain. Books, movies, games, and D&D games. There has to be some throughlien of logic to yoru story even if it internal logic. So, hell yes, do I consider the socio-political aspects of games. I suppose when you don't know much ist hard to do that. I don't expect a 12 year old to understand why the overworld of Shadows of Mordor is a little cock-eyed in ist representation of an Orc society. But, I expect someone in the mid-20 to notice by following the meaning & implication of a book, movie, or game.

Understand I don't mean, "how you interapte" the sociopolitics or what you make of the story. You can be a fascist, libertarian, socialist, marxist...or whatever you want. You can think the way a world described in a book, movie, or game is fine. (you'll likely learn why you are wrong later in life.) But, believe what you want, and like what you want. BUT, UNDERSTAND WHAT IS BEING SHOWN/DESCRIBED! If you're over 25 and you CANNOT say, "Well this game is saying this..."; then what the hell are you doing with that brain, while the story is going on?

If you don't pay attention to what any given book, movie, or game is saying- even subliminally; you really cannot say you understand whatever it is you are watching or participating within. Again, you can like what these things says or not; you can even say, "I understand it, but it does not bother me." But when some says, "Pokemon is about enslavement, and bring up interesting questions about how we treat other sentient animals." You can't say, "OMG you even think of that! That so stupid, why would you even think about it that deeply. Ist just a story."

....Uh, everything is a story, Becky! Objective reality is -a story- your brain and sense weave together too. History is just a story the winners of any conflict tell about what happened. Someone describing their shitty day at work, is a story too. If you can follow the meaning & implication of your spouse's day at work to see why they hate their boss; then you can follow the meaning & implications of a book, movie, or game. And, if you can; well, that admission says a lot you - not a good thing.

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#68 Posted by JohnyMyko (1889 posts) -

While I generally agree them politically, I've definitely become less interested in explicitly leftist media critique in recent years. Leftist media critique will often fall into two common generalization traps: Depiction is endorsement AND Everything is political.

"Everything is political," is a generalization that I think does a disservice to the discourse. Surely, everything has the potential to be interpreted through one's own lens of political thought, experience, et cetera. I certainly believe that--just look at my post earlier in this thread. I have a hard time imagining how a game like Minecraft can be political, for example.

This is 100% how I feel about it.

I'm not trying to do some whataboutism, but I guess I'm just trying to point out part of my issue with places like Waypoint. They take everything through the lens of an American. America isn't the only country in the world that has problems with law enforcement, but they're certainly at the head of that issue.

This is exactly part of my problems with Waypoint's critiques and other similar critiques: most of them are seen through an American lens. If there's any issue with anything it's always because it's a problem in America (or, sometimes, in UK). As someone from a non-english country, it's annoying to me how half (or more) of the internet just accept that everything has to be on America's point of view and how American social-political views are the only acceptable way of looking at things. It's weird how they're trying to be more open-minded and more inclusive but then fail to accept that different countries around the world have different cultures and different points of view.

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#69 Edited by notnert427 (2230 posts) -

@bladeofcreation said:

I interpreted my actions in Red Faction Guerilla in a way that I'm sure was unintended by the creators of that game. Those creators drew on stories from the real world to make their fictional world believable, and the particular story beats of any game are going to resonate with different people in different. Art does not exist in a vacuum, independent of the real world in which it is made.

Thank you for sharing your personal story here in this thread. I'm sure it's not an easy thing to talk about or think about, but please know that your service is greatly appreciated. The gameplay that you mentioned is something most gamers, myself included, didn't even really think twice about, yet can deeply affect others as you described. This is very much worth noting here in this thread. I'll never be able to fathom what that evoked for you personally based on your experience, just as I'm not going to pretend like I can fully appreciate the (warranted) fears of police by the African-American community in particular here in the U.S. that can lead to a riot cop skin being offensive. As a matter of perspective, it's extremely important to consider how people's differing experiences may lead to them interacting with games in different ways and to not simply ignore things if they don't affect you, and I try to remember that. That's why I'm glad the Waypoints of the world exist. As much as the things they get upset at are often not that resonant to me personally, it isn't necessarily so for others.

As far as Red Faction: Guerrilla goes, it's a great video game and I'd recommend it, although I get that it might be hard to play based on your experiences. I do want to mention one feature that I thought was particularly cool, which was that the game allows you to rebuild destroyed objects after completing the campaign. I found it to be fairly meaningful, and made a thread here about my feelings (https://www.giantbomb.com/red-faction-guerrilla/3030-21125/forums/in-a-game-where-youre-encouraged-to-destroy-its-ca-1842755/) that might be interesting and relevant if you want to take a look. Apologies if I'm off base or overstepping, but it seems like it could help the game maybe be a little less of a struggle to play, so I felt compelled to share.

This has been an awesome thread, by the way. There are several great posts here that have made me stop and think, and I truly love that GB is a place where people can have rational and respectful discourse, even when people disagree. In my experience, this is a rare thing (especially in the realm of politics), so everyone take a moment to high-five yourselves as quality duders.

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#70 Edited by extintor (1097 posts) -

Authenticity is important.

When people speak to their own experiences that they've had directly with a game then that has a particular type of subjective authenticity that I appreciate most.

I think there's a spectrum where people's experiences range from direct (individual first hand experience with a game) to indirect (extrapolated/inferred symbolism and meaning within a game, and its subsequent analysis relative to socio political issues)... and for me, when those experiences are more toward the indirect end, there's usually less utility, and thus usually less value. Not to say that there is no value in this kind of analysis, or that I'm deaf to it, more that it can sometimes seems contrived, sometimes even to the point of the sharing of opinions about socio-political meaning taking on a performative characteristic. When this is the case, poorly formed ideas and unsupported or one-sided assertions come across as being much less authentic, probably because the intended tone of them is educational/objective rather than critical/subjective.

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#71 Posted by BladeOfCreation (1338 posts) -

@notnert427: I just your story about rebuilding the bridge. That's a really cool feature and I think it's great that you were able to roleplay your character in a way that added meaning to your experience! Thanks for sharing that.

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#72 Posted by someoneproud (584 posts) -

If there's interesting politics in a game I might take notice but if it's the same tired, parroted arguments I can find literally everywhere else I tend to glaze over. I feel I've heard most of these political takes a million times over and I don't care to hear them any more personally so I tend to skip the more political podcasts.

I can appreciate that some people like endlessly discussing this stuff but it's just not for me. I can put up with a whole bunch of sociopolitical commentary that I might not agree with in a game as long as it's fun or tells a good story.

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#73 Edited by alwaysbebombing (2708 posts) -

I mean, I was happy when The Sims added same-sex relationships but I often don't really put much stock into it.

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#74 Posted by shivermetimbers (1710 posts) -

This is a tight rope, I have to be careful...

It's important to have a diverse voiceset if you're going to talk about socio-political issues (which you totally should). That means hiring more writers from different walks of life to talk about how a certain game affected them. Whether it be LGBT, PoC, disabled, etc. etc. it's important because having a team full of white dudes talk about a subject they aren't really affected by isn't gonna cut it.

If you enjoy a game despite its problematic elements, go you, you shouldn't be effected by people talking about it. 'UGGGGH! Why don't you talk about the gameeeeplayyyyy' is a very trite response and if you're listening to a different perspective, then respect that perspective and don't roll your eyes. That silly horror game to you might be upsetting to someone else, it's really not that hard to figure out. That sounds like I'm being harsh, but we should learn to criticize media and not have it affect our overall enjoyment.

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#75 Edited by tunaburn (2081 posts) -

Zero. People are way easily offended now. Today people are calling to change the definition of the word black in the dictionary. If you get so enraged and butthurt over narative in a video game you have a problem.