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Hunt For The Gay Planet
January 18, 2013 4:14 PM   Subscribe


 
Goddamn Anna Anthropy is awesome
posted by danb at 4:22 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


*sigh* Bioware is not purposely restricting same sex romance to the new planet. They have limited resources due to a reduced staff and thus to start with they're enabling same sex romance with NPCs in the new expansion, which happens to be a new planet.

Could they have handled this better? Would it have been infinitely better if this was included from the start and available with your companions as well? Absolutely. But this is a good starting effort, IMHO.
posted by kmz at 4:27 PM on January 18, 2013 [16 favorites]


It could have been a free, standalone update.
posted by boo_radley at 4:31 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The real problem is getting emotional about romances or story in games. It's an easy cover for flabby gameplay and leads to creepy fans.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:34 PM on January 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


No, it couldn't. Do you know how expensive this stuff is to make?
posted by Justinian at 4:34 PM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


(in response to boo_radley suggesting it be free)
posted by Justinian at 4:34 PM on January 18, 2013


I can see Bioware's advertisement for this now: "Pay to be Gay!"

In other words, yes it should have been free content.
posted by happyroach at 4:36 PM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Made with twine, which Anna Anthropy also wrote a pretty great guide for.
posted by hellojed at 4:38 PM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


They have limited resources due to a reduced staff

Life is tough in the ghetto. But it's vibrant, too. The gay planet sounds awesome to me. Finally C-3PO and Lando can share their love. And don't get me started on poly Ewoks.

(Seriously, this is all a bit goofy; Bioware has historically gone way out of their way to include gay and lesbian content in their games. But the idea that you have to pay to access a special planet just to do a little lightsaber dueling is, well, ripe for parody.)
posted by Nelson at 4:38 PM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, it couldn't. Do you know how expensive this stuff is to make?

I think people have the right to be treated like people at no additional cost to themselves. The fact that this wasn't part of the original shipping product is a bug, and bug fixes should be free.
posted by mhoye at 4:39 PM on January 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Not a bug. A design choice.
posted by Roger Dodger at 4:41 PM on January 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


If there were multiple planets in the new expansion, and _only_ Makeb had gays, then I could see making a stink about this.

But, it seems like this is a reasonable way to deal with the original oversight -- why should expansions to a free-to-play game be free? If players aren't satisfied with the play options in the free version, they can not play, or pay more.

Also, while I get that I don't have to play parts of games that disinterest me, I am still kind of squicked out by the amount of flirting and sexing of any orientation that exists in these games. I like my porn to be separate (that's what fanfiction is for, after all).
posted by sparklemotion at 4:42 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not a bug. A design choice.

Indefensibly wrongheaded design decisions get filed as bugs, 'round where I'm from.
posted by mhoye at 4:43 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I won't be satisfied until I can romance the Sarlaac. I mean, just look at it.
posted by Justinian at 4:43 PM on January 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Finally C-3PO and Lando can share their love.

C3PO is gay. Lando is not.

Works equally well for "Osama is dead...", etc.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:43 PM on January 18, 2013


Re:Sarlaac Thousand year blowjob.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:44 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


@Charlemagne

your post made me have to go out and get a smoke

you're killing me :(
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:44 PM on January 18, 2013





*sigh* Bioware is not purposely restricting same sex romance to the new planet. They have limited resources due to a reduced staff and thus to start with they're enabling same sex romance with NPCs in the new expansion, which happens to be a new planet.

Could they have handled this better? Would it have been infinitely better if this was included from the start and available with your companions as well? Absolutely. But this is a good starting effort, IMHO.
posted by kmz at 4:27 PM on January 18 [+] [!]


This seems infinity more likely than the original framing. I'm honestly surprised that they didn't include that in the original game, but it's a different studio and different staff from most of their other games, so who knows. They're pretty good about this stuff, I don't think there's a lot of cause for cries about discrimination.




The real problem is getting emotional about romances or story in games. It's an easy cover for flabby gameplay and leads to creepy fans.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:34 PM on January 18 [1 favorite +] [!]


Well it's not really my thing either, but I don't think that's the point here.
posted by Stagger Lee at 4:46 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Zombie Kathleen Turner in Romancing The Sarlaac. Title song by Zombie Eddie Grant.
posted by GuyZero at 4:46 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


mhoye, I wish I worked where you did. At my company they are returned from development Working as Designed. I completely agree, however, that it was an indefensibly wrongheaded design decision.
posted by Roger Dodger at 4:47 PM on January 18, 2013


Well I guess when they chose to add fade to black style sex scenes with NPCs In the first place they should have included a myriad of options. The problem here is all NPCs are fully voice acted, they have to get new voice work done.

I guess they made their own bed, they added NPC sex but made them all straight. I don't think they can just eat the costs though, they are sorta half free-to-play already and I think they are in trouble generally.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:50 PM on January 18, 2013


mhoye, I wish I worked where you did. At my company they are returned from development Working as Designed. I completely agree, however, that it was an indefensibly wrongheaded design decision.posted by Roger Dodger at 4:47 PM on January 18 [+] [!]

Well yeah, but you file them anyway, that way your disagreement is on record!
It's at least as constructive as posting on metafilter.
posted by Stagger Lee at 4:50 PM on January 18, 2013


Check out the pay vs. free features. You have to pay to sprint.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:56 PM on January 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


The new planet is a content expansion designed for people who have reached the endgame. It expands the level cap and lets people explore more stories. MMO's have been doing paid expansions since MMO's came out, so this really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Running an MMO is hard; they need money to do it.

That the planet has same sex flirtation options there is a good will, stop-gap bonus feature while they work on reprogramming their Companion system to handle same-gender romance, and new voicework to go along with it (they can't just recycle everything, especially if there are gender-specific nouns happening).

It's a direct response to the playerbase wanting more options. They can't fix what they didn't do correctly the first time as fast as they intended to, so they added things that are much easier to accomplish in the interim.

@ad hominem: you have to pay to sprint before level 15. At release, before going F2P, getting sprint at level 15 was the default for everyone. And paying them "any money at all" gets it to you at level 1.
posted by Joviwan at 5:00 PM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


@ad hominem: you have to pay to sprint before level 15. At release, before going F2P, getting sprint at level 15 was the default for everyone. And paying them "any money at all" gets it to you at level 1.

Thanks for pointing that out, I'm just saying they ain't in the business of giving stuff away. Especially expansions with expensive assets like voice acting.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:06 PM on January 18, 2013


Fair enough, sorry. 'casionally get distracted by errant thoughts. Okay, not occasionally. Literally all of the time.
posted by Joviwan at 5:10 PM on January 18, 2013


But can I do a four way?
posted by cjorgensen at 5:14 PM on January 18, 2013


I like how Fallout: New Vegas handles it. Being gay gives a male player a 10% damage bonus against guys and increased dialogue options, so most players pick that option. The developer has confirmed that same-sex relationship will be in his next game, Project Eternity.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:14 PM on January 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


It bears noting that this gay/Star Wars issue has been a problem for Bioware for years now, it's not a recent thing at all. See the brouhaha over a game moderator saying gay people don't exist in Star Wars. And that was in 2009.

Bioware apologized at the time for the comment... but they've also had three and a half years to think about it and find ways to address the issue.
posted by Andrhia at 5:18 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


When people talk about finding the gay planet, I imagine it being more of a Starflight-style, "Determine the location of Old Earth" kind of thing than something with a scripted storyline. Go back to Interstel and buy the option Level 2 Gaydar, makes it much easier.
posted by JHarris at 5:22 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a direct response to the playerbase wanting more options. They can't fix what they didn't do correctly the first time as fast as they intended to, so they added things that are much easier to accomplish in the interim.

I guess that's kind of the point, if you're going to get outraged about this: the idea that they intended to do things correctly in the first place. Because if that were true, what prevented them? Saying it was cost/time/resources doesn't wash, because they could have just done half as many romances but made them available to both preferences.
posted by juv3nal at 5:23 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lando is not.

What song is that?
posted by adamdschneider at 5:33 PM on January 18, 2013


Maybe Lucas wouldn't let them but now Disney signed off. Probably grasping at straws but it seems like such a strange oversight.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:33 PM on January 18, 2013


The real problem is getting emotional about romances or story in games. It's an easy cover for flabby gameplay and leads to creepy fans.

You mean this in the specific sense, right? As in "it's an issue when people relate to/get emotional about stories/characters in games in the same way they would get emotional about real people and events"? Because, if that is what you mean, that escapism to the point of losing one's grasp on reality, is bad then I wholeheartedly agree.

If you're suggesting that games should not stive to be and/or should not be given the chance to connect with players on an emotional level then I humbly disagree. I think the real problem is the over-simplifying of emotions in games to one of two options (wanna have sex with it OR wanna kill it).

More on topic, I think, due to rationales given above and Biowares attempts to be inclusive of LGBT players in the past, that I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt here.
posted by sendai sleep master at 5:42 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh my goodness, the crossed arms, the well actuallys. Gay romance confined to one planet, in a galaxy inhabited by many types of humanoids? is funny. And worthy of satire.

And, come on, aren't the creepy pretend romances in MMOs supposed to be between the players, anyway?
posted by trunk muffins at 5:48 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


OTTH perhaps it's not surprising to have 'the gay planet' in a universe that has 'the snow planet', 'the desert planet', 'the cloud planet', 'the forest planet'...
posted by mazola at 5:58 PM on January 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


'the forest planet'

Forest MOON.
posted by sparklemotion at 5:59 PM on January 18, 2013 [21 favorites]


This would be just as silly if suddenly an expansion pack arrived that unlocks brown characters. Or women. Those just seem sillier because we've internalized the idea that a large, diverse universe includes people of various skin colors and genders, and any oversight there is inexcusable. But somehow straight is still default and few people blink when you have a MASSIVE and DIVERSE universe of MANY species who are all straight, and people are so eager to pat Bioware on the back for being progressive. (They are, but only when compared to the dismal state of the game industry on this front).

The next time I hear the "resources are limited" refrain, I shall argue that every character be a black gay woman. Because that would seriously save on resources, and no character would be off limits for romance. Make men part of the paid expansion. Pfft.

God I cannot stop the eye-rolling.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 6:14 PM on January 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


What song is that?

Some old NHL-on-ESPN thing.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:15 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not a bug. A design choice.

Patriarchy in all its bland flavors has always been a design choice, and not a good one, either. If you're going to have a goddamn fantasy world with relationships in it, it's incredibly boring to limit them to one boy/one girl. Ursula LeGuin wrote some excellent short stories about an entire planet where marriages required four people, at least 20 years ago. Lack of imagination when designing imaginary worlds is a fairly large flaw.
posted by emjaybee at 6:16 PM on January 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


There are probably yaoi fangirls and shippers who would pay hundreds of dollars for same-sex relationships. Especially if they were between canon characters.

I find it pretty creepy when people get into videogame romances because they're usually projecting so much into shollowly written characters. But that's a problem with game writing in general.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:23 PM on January 18, 2013


I'll have you know my romance with Alistair in Dragon Age was TOTALLY MEANINGFUL and also not at all shallowly written, thankyouverymuch!
posted by Andrhia at 6:25 PM on January 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


OTTH perhaps it's not surprising to have 'the gay planet' in a universe that has 'the snow planet', 'the desert planet', 'the cloud planet', 'the forest planet'...

I expect this is actually a property of the Star Wars universe. There's also the swamp planet, the city planet, the actually-a-space-station planet, and the blown-to-smithereens planet.
posted by JHarris at 6:26 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is the Star Wars gay planet in a multiplayer online game? Then it should be a perfect safe place for teenage boys secretly playing as hot and exciting and beautiful women Star Wars space adventurers & warriors in the game to hang out with each other and develop meaningful relationships, even if it turns out only for an hour or two.
posted by Bwithh at 6:50 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


OTTH perhaps it's not surprising to have 'the gay planet' in a universe that has 'the snow planet', 'the desert planet', 'the cloud planet', 'the forest planet'...
I expect this is actually a property of the Star Wars universe. There's also the swamp planet, the city planet, the actually-a-space-station planet, and the blown-to-smithereens planet.


Where is the hat planet?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:51 PM on January 18, 2013


So we're getting mad at them for starting to a fix a mistake?
posted by Brocktoon at 6:52 PM on January 18, 2013


So we're getting mad at them for starting to a fix a mistake?

I'm guessing its mad over the mistake, the fixing makes it new news.

Don't worry - some new shiney thing will distract the mob in a few months.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:55 PM on January 18, 2013


I saw this headline and thought of Planet Unicorn.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:59 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where is the hat planet?

Just look for the one that's grandest of all!
posted by JHarris at 7:02 PM on January 18, 2013


The real problem is getting emotional about romances or story in games. It's an easy cover for flabby gameplay and leads to creepy fans.

Haha, yeah. Engaging in fiction is dumb.
posted by byanyothername at 7:07 PM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


C-3PO isn't gay, he's a robot. Anthony Daniels is, but they didn't even want to use his voice originally, it just happened that his sort of obsequious English butler lisp was perfect for the character. Then there's Gay Stereotype The Hutt in the Clone Wars animated movie (looks like a purple tattooed Jabba, talks like Truman Capote), although they never say he/she/it is gay.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:14 PM on January 18, 2013


The real problem is getting emotional about romances or story in games. It's an easy cover for flabby gameplay and leads to creepy fans.

Haha, yeah. Engaging in fiction is dumb.


I love fiction. But games and gamers, by and large, have immature writing and immature fans. 90% of it is pretty embarrassing for all involved and distracts from the mechanics.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:16 PM on January 18, 2013


Isn't this an MMO? Can't you have whatever relationships you want with the other players?
posted by codacorolla at 7:19 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]




On a more serious note: Romance in video games. I love it. I wish there were more of it.

I'm solidly in the games-as-art and games-as-narrative-medium camp. And the way to do that is to take the player through an experience designed to provoke emotional reactions, as best I can figure it. Games have classically been pretty good about eliciting a range of feelings including pride, frustration, creeping dread. But there are other and more complex emotional journeys you can take a player on, too. The feelings that arise in relationships are absolutely an important part of the human experience, and so important to address in art, and so a natural element to include in games.

I read romance novels for the same reasons I play narrative games, to experience a dynamic range of emotions. But it's not the same when you're not the one making those choices, so to speak. I've written a lot about Dragon Age and Alistair, analyzing why the end of DA:Origins is actually some of the finest romantic drama I've come across in any medium.

And I consider myself a pretty normal, non-creepy person. Happily married, loving mother of two, successful in my career, etc. etc. I'm not running away from anything, you know?

To bring it back around to the main topic again: Bioware games are generally pretty great at offering the chance to have those emotional journeys. The resonance of a romance plot you have to play as hetero when you're just not, though, won't be as powerful; a romance thread with a character you find personally distasteful as a romantic partner for any reason just won't have the same impact as one where you actually kind of dig the character as written.
posted by Andrhia at 7:20 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


another vote for New Vegas here, for some reason making sexuality a design choice (in the form of a trait in you can define in the character-making process) leads to many more natural and interesting romance options, for just fucking around options, or story options.

Also cause Arcade Ganon is like my favorite newish RPG character and he's totally attainable to the actual me and stuff like that means a lot, no really. Seeing representatives matters.
posted by The Whelk at 7:24 PM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


or oh god Veronica's girlfriend yikes, it's a neat detail in the main story but you go to Dead Money and DEAR GOD.

Or just skimming cheaper prices from the closeted Ranger, it works. Makes the world feel more lived in.
posted by The Whelk at 7:26 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sorry, that was a really crappy, catty comment. I'm just totally tired of the anti-storytelling push from certain sectors of gamer culture, which I read Charlemagne In Sweatpants' comment as evoking. I like fiction and storytelling and I like to see it done well in games. As I get older, I'm losing interest in games because it's gotten harder to find any that engage me as fiction. Even the stuff that's considered cream of the crop in game culture is usually flawed and poorly written next to what film or prose has to offer me, but there's so much potential for beauty there and it makes me sad that anyone would want to squash it because it's not their idea of fun. There's nothing wrong with getting into a game's story; in fact, that's one way games can reach a more diverse audience.

Also, New Vegas is awesome for essentially rewarding you for having a gay character by throwing unique content at you.
posted by byanyothername at 7:44 PM on January 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Hmm, reading Anna Anthropy's speech here, unfortunately my reaction is that the focus on Twine hypertext is an odd and big step backwards for video game politics here.
posted by Bwithh at 8:10 PM on January 18, 2013


Anthropy's insistence that queer games are more interesting will be much stronger if she ever makes a game that's interesting.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:11 PM on January 18, 2013


It's hard to believe this is the same company that only a year ago made an eloquent defense of including same-sex romance in its games:

The romances in the game are not for "the straight male gamer". They're for everyone. We have a lot of fans, many of whom are neither straight nor male, and they deserve no less attention. We have good numbers, after all, on the number of people who actually used similar sorts of content in DAO and thus don't need to resort to anecdotal evidence to support our idea that their numbers are not insignificant... and that's ignoring the idea that they don't have just as much right to play the kind of game they wish as anyone else.

I'm disappointed that they've moved backwards. When they've made 20 possible romances, as the original article says, it's hardly a question of resources... their single-player games generally had on the order of three.
posted by zompist at 10:30 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


TFB, a lot of people here on MeFi (me included) thought Dys4ia was interesting and affecting, for one.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:48 PM on January 18, 2013


Re: Twine, I think it's a good "intro" choice because 1) the actual mechanics of it are simple, so the technical barrier to entry is low and 2) because the "tech" aspect of it is so minimal you end up focusing more on what you want to say as opposed to getting seduced by making cool-tech-demo window dressing.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:55 PM on January 18, 2013


Personally, I don't think games are going to "mature" as a medium until the creators are able to create the equivalent of, just as the barest example, Naked Lunch without being immediately set upon and torn apart by concerned watchdogs/Gawker/the media.

Of course, the obvious argument is that the people who create works like that are always attacked, and it's not really a blatantly incorrect argument, except that it doesn't help the problems of ROI inherent in game design.

In a way, I think the increasing popularity of games has actually retarded their development as a medium, simply because increased visibility means increased potential for outrage.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:55 AM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's really a question of time investment, I think. You can write a book and do other things, you can make a movie and still kind of have time to lead something like a normal life, but is it really worth two solid years of grueling, punishing crunch time and stress-based health deterioration to make something that stands a good chance of destroying your company and getting you fucking arrested?

Especially when you can just CliffyB it, make Gears of War n, and receive equivalent praise anyway?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:09 AM on January 19, 2013


How did they move backwards?
posted by Brocktoon at 2:06 AM on January 19, 2013


Especially when you can just CliffyB it, make Gears of War n, and receive equivalent praise anyway?

There's heaps of gay subtext in Gears of War, and I bet some of it is intentional.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:16 AM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


What I don't understand is why BioWare didn't just flag all of the existing romances to be gender-neutral and alter the minority of remaining lines, even in a piecemeal way and not all-at-once. Most of the "romance" dialogue (and regular game dialogue to boot) is already written to be so generic as to not even use gendered pronouns or names apart from class titles. And I suspect that all of the minor line changes that would need to be re-recorded wouldn't be terribly much more than all of the totally new lines needed for THE GAAAAY PLANET.

I think the gay gaming community (& friendly-minded folks) would have rather had a bit-by-bit conversion of the existing romances rather than this. Probably inadvertently, having this experience that is rather apart and disjointed from the main gameplay seems to signify "hey this area is to appease those gay weirdos and not part of your 'normal gaming experience,' so you can ignore it straight people." It's weird that this is coming from a game company that once had a horny gay male elf assassin try to jump your bones from the word "go."
posted by Keter at 4:32 AM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bioware has, historically, been good to very good about same-sex romances in their original properties. Their licensed Star Wars MMO isn't that. I have no difficulty believing that LucasArts proved to be an impediment in this regard, and I'm genuinely surprised that people aren't locating the blame with the same creative organization that gave us the fucking Trade Federation.

Star Wars nerds: please name the openly gay characters or same-sex relationships that existed in Star Wars canon before this, including Expanded Universe fiction. I don't think there are many, but I'm happy to be corrected.
posted by Errant at 5:02 AM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Personally, I don't think games are going to "mature" as a medium until the creators are able to create the equivalent of, just as the barest example, Naked Lunch without being immediately set upon and torn apart by concerned watchdogs/Gawker/the media.

Of course, the obvious argument is that the people who create works like that are always attacked, and it's not really a blatantly incorrect argument, except that it doesn't help the problems of ROI inherent in game design.


Well yes, your Nabokovs and your Joyces and your Prousts didn't have smooth sailing either. 'AAA' games seem to demand a ton of money and that's why many people are focusing on indies or the remaining 'AAs': less polished but often more interesting.

Btw do you guys know that Bethesda trademarked "an on-going television program set in a post-nuclear apocalyptic world."?
posted by ersatz at 5:31 AM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where is the hat planet?

over here
posted by ymgve at 6:21 AM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love fiction. But games and gamers, by and large, have immature writing and immature fans. 90% of it is pretty embarrassing for all involved and distracts from the mechanics.

I don't think the solution to bad writing is less writing if that's what you are implying. Let's just celebrate the 9% that isn't embarrassing and the 1% that's good. Or at least the writing that's not out and out hateful. What's up with GTA IV for instance?
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:58 AM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


en forme: I'd call Dys4ia affecting but not interesting. I dig what it's doing as metaphor, and the art's groovy, but it identifies and underlines everything it's up to with such shouting relentlessness that the player never gets to bring anything to it. Other games have used mechanics as metaphor, but always with a willingness to let the player connect the thematic dots. Anthropy tells you, over and over and over, exactly what everything means, so you never get a chance to think for yourself. As such, it's not just the opposite of gaming (which is all about the player collaborating on the experience), but also the opposite of art (which is all about the viewer collaborating to make meaning). A novelist can get away with being uninterested in anything but themselves (many French novelists specialize in it), but a game designer can't.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:47 AM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bioware is not purposely restricting same sex romance to the new planet. They have limited resources due to a reduced staff and thus to start with they're enabling same sex romance with NPCs in the new expansion, which happens to be a new planet.

Were there heterosexual relationships in the base game? Did you have the option to play either gender?

Then I can't see why it would have cost them a penny to enable same-sex relationships from the start.
posted by 256 at 8:52 AM on January 19, 2013


Wha? To do the voice acting and so on?
posted by Justinian at 9:00 AM on January 19, 2013


TFB: I think I'm not really understanding your criticism. Could you link to something that uses mechanics as metaphor in a way that you find more compelling?
posted by en forme de poire at 2:41 PM on January 19, 2013


Thanks for engaging with me though, I'm not trying to tear you down - I just feel like I'm missing something about your argument because I thought the use of minigame-esque mechanics in dys4ia was pretty innovative.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:57 PM on January 19, 2013


Could you link to something that uses mechanics as metaphor in a way that you find more compelling?

Extra Credits has a couple of episodes on Mechanics as Metaphor.

The first game they talk about is Loneliness. It's a game with very simple mechanics that is still compelling and explores the social concepts of loneliness, membership and outsiderness without any dialogue or narrative.

Anna herself has explored the concept in some of her games, for example mind fuck. mind fuck is a simple game where there's a counter in the center of the screen that keeps increasing, and either player has the option to take the money or let it keep growing. The goal is to collect 400 points.

It's very similar to a classic extensive-form game-theory game called the centipede game (and also related to the game of chicken). With the mechanics alone, you are exploring concepts of cooperation, greed, reciprocity and revenge, among a ton of other social-psychology issues.

But she had to flame troll traditional gamer culture by slapping on a cheap skin of gender identity politics:

"the public version of the game, i decided, would have to feature dykes who want to fuck each other in the most violent way possible, in space."

Which is fine of course. It's her game, and I love me some social anarchy and upsetting the status quo. But it's not necessary for the game. And ironically it puts her closer to her target rage group, 4chan gamers, than she realizes.

Anthropy's insistence that queer games are more interesting will be much stronger if she ever makes a game that's interesting.

That's the problem. Queer games are going to be boring and lame, same goes with "Games for Change" aka social justice games and Games for Girls.

Yeah, I'm trolling a bit myself. But I say this as somebody working on an environmental green game and looking forward to attending Gaymercon this year.

Too many of the people are trying to sell something in these independent game development movements, instead of trying to build a fun game. Honestly, the real gay ghetto isn't the Gay Planet, it's the isolationist developers who reject the entire gamer community because of it's current state and culture.

We don't need to take on the baggage of traditional fields by analyzing games as literature or narrative, or just building interactive stories. Engaging with the development community as a whole will help build a richer game landscape, because of the richer background the entire community has.

Gaming wasn't always as patriarchical or as focused on the male market as it is now. Roberta Williams revolutionized the field with her graphical adventure games, from Mystery House to King's Quest. Jane Jensen and the Gabriel Knight series were amazing. We had "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego". Sim City and Civilization, some of the classic strategy games, were less gendered and I'd argue more engaging than many of today's games.

Also +1 for "Confirmed Bachelor" perk.
posted by formless at 7:35 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know, maybe I can't really relate. I have to be honest, "Loneliness" didn't grab me the same way as something like "Lim" did (bugs and all), though I appreciate the intention and the artistry that went into it. And as far as "building a fun game" goes, I'm not sure that games have to be "fun" (and wouldn't "Loneliness" be a counter-example anyway?) in order to be worth playing - I think that sort of forecloses on a lot of human experience that games could be potentially used to share.

With respect to your last point, I agree the gaming industry doesn't intrinsically have to kowtow to teenage straight boys as it currently does (and that it hasn't always to the same degree). But I also don't want to wait around for the industry to get its act together before I can play things that really speak to me. So I agree with AA that one way to get that is to focus on bringing new voices into the fold (which is where her Twine advocacy comes in). Plus I have to admit, I'm suspicious about the integrationist argument - there's something a little too Andrew Sullivan about it for my taste.

As such, it's not just the opposite of gaming (which is all about the player collaborating on the experience), but also the opposite of art (which is all about the viewer collaborating to make meaning). A novelist can get away with being uninterested in anything but themselves (many French novelists specialize in it), but a game designer can't.

FWIW, I really disagree with this framing. I think the right analogy for "dys4ia" is creative nonfiction, which doesn't require an open-ended "interpretation" in the same way as a poem or a painting in order to be artistic or emotionally resonant. AA actually listed it as a "simulation" game on Newgrounds, which I think is partly tongue-in-cheek but also partly accurate - the point, at least as I'm interpreting it, is to make her experience into something other people can inhabit. I don't think that type of game would have been so affecting if it weren't also so direct and personal.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:41 AM on January 20, 2013


(p.s. I know "Lim" isn't an AA game but I think it's definitely a "queer" game)
posted by en forme de poire at 1:02 AM on January 20, 2013


Yeah, placing Dys4ia as creative nonfiction does make some sense, and I definitely take your point that it's more like a journal-entry-made-Wario than a game. But I concur with formless that this is kind of the problem with her work, and a lot of the "Games for Change"---they're unmistakably trying to tell me something (or in formless' delightful formulation, sell me something), and want to be really sure I get from it exactly what they want. And that's bad creative nonfiction, even---In Cold Blood revolutionized nonfiction writing because it dialed down the hysterical moralizing that used to characterize nonfiction (crime) writing and left readers space to think for themselves. The kind of writing Anthropy is doing seems like a huge step back to Victorian pushiness, even if the values are slightly different.

I haven't played the games on Extra Credit's list---when thinking about mechanics as metaphor, I was thinking about the slightly better known Braid, which uses time manipulation as a metaphor for loss, or Thomas Was Alone, which uses multipart puzzles to enact a shift from solitude to society. In both those games, though, it's up to me to come up with what the mechanics are a metaphor for; Anthropy doesn't give me that freedom, or any freedom at all. Like so many online activists, there's exactly one way she wants me to take anything she says, and as a designer creates a corridor to lead me to to it with nothing to do but jump through the hoops she's presented.

I haven't played her other games, though---mind fuck sounds kinda fun/interesting, albeit slight. But I'll admit to being generally annoyed by her general insistence on making games that lead players to a designer-approved conclusion, rather than engage players, entertain them, or make them think. Being told what to think is the opposite of being taught.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:15 AM on January 20, 2013


I should note: My complaints about being told what to think are not in reference to the game's writing, which is fine, or its visuals, which I think are completely awesome. It's specifically in reference to its game mechanics, where there's exactly one way to do anything, it's really simple, and it's super-obvious how it relates to the theme. The idea is really sound, it's the execution I argue with.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:57 AM on January 20, 2013


I still don't really see the linearity of that game as a problem, though -- have you played "Photopia"? It's basically the same thing but in IF: a series of spaces you wander through with one (straightforward) game mechanic per scene. Yet it was enormously successful and a lot of people found it really powerful. I also don't think it's true that this style of game defines her work. If you haven't played any of her other games I would look at "Redder" and "Mighty Jill Off" for sure -- "Redder" in particular gets across a certain emotional feeling but leaves a lot of latitude for the player to explore a larger world. ("MJO" is more constrained but has more conventional "gaming" challenges than "Dys4ia" while still being really well constructed.)

I definitely agree "Braid" is an excellent use of mechanics as storytelling, but what I think is kind of funny is that in her post on "Braid," Emily Short kind of inverts your criticism of AA, arguing that MB's writing actually undermines the rest of the game because it is so diffuse, unfocused and generic. "Dys4ia" succeeds for me precisely because it has something quite personal and direct to say but lets the game mechanics do most of the emoting.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:15 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Star Wars nerds: please name the openly gay characters or same-sex relationships that existed in Star Wars canon before this, including Expanded Universe fiction. I don't think there are many, but I'm happy to be corrected.

I don't know the material well enough to say if are many, but I do know Juhani, from the first Knights of the Old Republic, is a lesbian romance possibility for a female main character.

I don't think this is as easy as simply saying the problem "is BioWare" or "is LucasArts" -- both have shown a willingness to depict these relationships in the past ... even in this very same setting.
posted by Amanojaku at 1:21 PM on January 21, 2013


Yeah, I think Short's not wrong about Blow's prose. I love the way Braid expresses its themes through mechanics, but Blow's prose would embarrass a high-school poetry 'zine. Fortunately for him, many a great game has terrible writing, so he gets a bit of a pass.

But! What I love about Braid is precisely its openness to interpretation, and there I think I do have to part with Short (and Anthropy). In a lot of art, what I cherish most is being given just enough information to start thinking, and no more. For example, my favorite movie this year was The Master, because months later, I'm still pondering unanswered questions. For me, a great work of art kicks off a process inside the viewer, one that (ideally) never concludes so long as you live.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:03 AM on January 22, 2013


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