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Women as Background Decoration: Part 2 (Tropes vs Women in Video Games)
August 27, 2014 6:11 PM   Subscribe

Women as Background Decoration: Part 2 – Tropes vs Women in Video Games (28 min 33 sec; here's a pointer to the identical video at YouTube). Warning: contains graphic sexual and violent game footage. Presented by Anita Sarkeesian of the video blog, Feminist Frequency. The website version (first link) is annotated to include links and resources, an "about the series" section, games referenced in this episode, and a transcript.

"Video Games, Misogyny, And Terrorism: A Guide To Assholes," by Andrew Todd, Gaming Editor of Badass Digest:

"One developer targeted this week (a phrase I have to use because multiple developers were targeted this week) was Fez creator Phil Fish, whose website was taken down, gigabytes of personal information (including banking details and emails) leaked, and Twitter accounts hacked. Fish has always been a volatile personality, but his tweets prior to shutting down his Twitter paint a particularly dismal picture of the gaming community:
this is videogames. this is what i get. this is unacceptable. this is not okay. terrorist. never again, you hear me? never again. this is videogames. this is your audience. to every aspiring game developer out there: don’t. give up. it’s not worth it. nothing is worth this. give up on your dreams. they are actually nightmares. just don’t do it. RUN AWAY. RUN AWAY. i would like to announce that POLYTRON and the FEZ IP are now for sale. no reasonable offer will be turned down. i am done. i want out. [...] you should all be ashamed."
A couple of relevant pieces from last year:

The Daily Dot — "Anita Sarkeesian still can't catch a break", by Aja Romano (August 02, 2013):
Comments disabled? Check.

Dozens of misogynist tropes? Check.

Instant Internet maelstrom? You got it.

Donning her now-familiar hoop earrings and pink-and-blue plaid shirt, accidental Internet feminist cause célèbre Anita Sarkeesian sallied valiantly forth into YouTube again yesterday for the third and final of her "Damsels in Distress" videos. We can only hope she also donned waders for the storm of hostility she unleashed.
Paste Magazine — "Hyper Mode: Anita Sarkeesian And The Trouble With Magic Bullets", by Maddy Myers (June 4, 2013):
Dear reader, I know what you are about to say: "stop reading the comments," right? That plan would work much better if I didn't still have to moderate comments on my personal blog, sort through my work emails, puzzle at tweet mentions, and give the side-eye to Facebook messages from strangers, as I'm sure Sarkeesian must as well.

Which "shut up and die" messages that I've received might constitute actual threats? Which "you deserve what's coming to you, you stupid slut" comments merit my tracking down an IP address to keep on file, should the cops end up needing to comb through my computer someday?

The problem with the "don't dish it out if you can't take it" line is that not all of us get an equal serving. Women and men are treated differently, which may sound fine if you are the kind of person who thinks men and women should be treated differently. I'm not that person. I'm very radical, in that sense.
The Feminist Frequency YouTube Channel

Previously: Feminist Frequency (1, 2, 3) | Please, mom, when can I use the iPad?
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (399 comments total) 73 users marked this as a favorite

 
Apparently the threats got bad enough this week that Sarkeesian left her home at least for a night.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:44 PM on August 27 [13 favorites]


this is a really well put together thread - thanks. i've been utterly dismayed by the ramped up nature of attacks on women in gaming over the last couple of weeks. i'm glad anita pressed on despite the abuse.
posted by nadawi at 6:45 PM on August 27 [8 favorites]


This is some appalling and scary shit.
posted by edheil at 6:51 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


I was musing today that video games may need to have it's own modernist movement out of necessity, since gamer culture has become absolutely rotten.
posted by hellojed at 6:53 PM on August 27 [10 favorites]


God, that Twitter chain. I knew the harassment got bad, but actually seeing it...What the hell is wrong with people? Nauseating doesn't cover it.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:00 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


I was musing today that video games may need to have it's own modernist movement out of necessity, since gamer culture has become absolutely rotten.

It's having it, or had it, depending on what you mean.
posted by michaelh at 7:13 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I don't play videogames, but I thought I knew vaguely how bad they were; I'd read articles about GTA and so on.

I guess I hadn't thought about how much the voice acting makes it worse; it's one thing to watch a man-shaped set of blips kill a woman-shaped series of blips, it's another to add a man's voice threatening her while she screams, complete with slapping and knifing sounds. That is some disturbing shit.

Red Dead Redemption seems to have an especial tilt towards nasty shit happening to women. I especially loved how even when you play the rescuer for the one prostitute with the abusive pimp, the game dictates that he kills her anyway. And then you get to kill him for points, hooray! She however is doomed to suffer no matter what.

What the fuck game designers.
posted by emjaybee at 7:23 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


These people make no sense to me at all. The stakes couldn't be lower (it's a game!) but the behavior couldn't be much worse.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:25 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


I suspect that gamer culture is just going to become more toxic, too, as it no longer refers to "anyone who is really into games".

I play a lot of video games, and maybe 10 years ago I would have called myself a "gamer" (not hardcore, in any way, but I read gaming blogs and knew basic stuff like who John Carmack or Hideo Kojima were, etc.). I still play games just as much, but haven't considered myself a "gamer" in years and years. I don't read the comments on gaming sites, even on innocuous articles, because that's where the "gamers" hang out, and why would I want to subject myself to that? And on MeFi threads about games, I see that most other MeFites seem to be the same way. People are waxing rhapsodic about Dark Souls and the like, but almost nobody calls themselves a "gamer".

So what you're going to have is two big groups, one of which are just "people who play games", who generally don't socialize along that axis because they don't consider themselves to be part of "gamer culture", and "gamers", who are the kinds of people who like games and are cool with being part of that toxic culture.
posted by Bugbread at 7:31 PM on August 27 [15 favorites]


I asked Mefi what to do about rape threats last year. At this point I've had enough of them that it's pretty predictable. To get them, simply be a woman and write critically about a man or something that's very much associated with male culture- games, guns, sports, paleo diets, crossfit, etc. etc.

It's hugely disappointing to me. And I don't know what to even do about it, except these days I write with a team and have other people moderate my comments. I'm simply lucky I haven't gotten any threatening emails lately.
posted by melissam at 7:34 PM on August 27 [17 favorites]


Between this and the harassment Zoe Quinn's been getting (and apparently Adam Baldwin has been amplifying that), games twitter has been a fucking shitstorm over the past few days.
posted by NoraReed at 7:38 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


Thanks for this post -- I was considering making one myself, including the really great Badass Digest article, but you've done a much better job than I would have!

I am a woman who writes about video games as a hobby and occasionally paid gig, and these last few weeks have been really sobering. Although I'm nowhere near as high profile as Sarkeesian or Quinn, I've had my share of crap from angry gamebros and it really makes me worry about when I'll cross that line and become a target for so much more. Unfortunately I think this has all had a very chilling effect on women in game criticism, and were I a young woman wondering where to apply her writing talents all this would keep me the heck away from gaming.
posted by jess at 7:47 PM on August 27 [12 favorites]


The latest video's been prompting some absolutely fantastic discussion threads among colleagues and former co-workers, and the series as a whole has been a major learning experience/perspective shift for me as a designer.

The one critique that's gotten near-universal praise from every dev (of either gender) that I've pointed to it is Kristin Bezio's review of Part 1, here.

For my own take, the following is pasted from an intensely positive gamedev thread on FB discussing what we thought were the pros and cons of Parts 1 & 2:
Honestly Sarkeesian's opened my eyes on presentation of women in games and, perhaps more importantly, the supernumerary ways in which their agency and self-determination are undermined in the service of both narrative and systems alike. I learned an enormous amount from her.

If I have an objection, it's to the Sleeping Dogs trunk-stuffing example in Part 1. As far as I can tell the alternatives are a) flagging hookers or all ambient female NPCs as specially immune to this - which seems both creepier and patronizing, or b) cutting the system altogether. If a developer goes with b), there are a ton of similar gameplay mechanics with the exact same fundamental problem, and by the time you're finished correcting for that you've cut the heart out of your criminal power-fantasy game.

I believe that games are a legitimate means for enabling escapism from societal pressure and giving the id of both genders some breathing space via power fantasy, and I don't see how that entire category (GTA, Sleeping Dogs, Watch Dogs, even Elder Scrolls somewhat) is at all possible under the proposed constraints. What I most want to see next from Sarkeesian or developers who accept that particular argument is a working template for systemic elements of open-world power-fantasy games presented in a way they would find acceptable.

To reiterate, this is a disagreement with at most 5% of the videos, and I'm intensely grateful to her for braving the tidal wave of death threats and Internet troll horribleness she's encountered* for the sake of educating developers like me who frequently roll critical failures at basic human empathy. Machines make a hell of a lot more sense than people, to me, but it's important to point out the human cost of laziness on that front.

*her twitter feed is inadvertently the single most depressing commentary on human nature I have ever, ever encountered.
posted by Ryvar at 7:49 PM on August 27 [14 favorites]


A few years ago there was a small study that showed young men's testosterone levels and tendency toward personal aggression went up when they handled guns. I'm not a scientist, I have no idea if this is a baloney study or a good one, I don't know if it was followed up or confirmed or debunked or what, I couldn't even read the publication itself if I wanted to.

Anyway, bearing in mind all those caveats, it would be pretty interesting to find out if there were any testosterone / aggression effects associated with playing violent, weapon-centric action games. Especially modern on-line games, where one's opponents are actually living, breathing human beings, not automatons. It would certainly offer some pretty tempting explanations for a thing or two. Like enormous, uncalled-for and frankly counterproductive online harassment campaigns against people who are trying to make more and/or better video games.

I've played way too many video games myself for the last 30 years or so. I would not like to believe such a thing were true, that there was a possibility that I could be affected this way. I have scoffed at the notion that notorious acts of school violence could be linked to video games. But there clearly are some unpleasant realities about the way some gamers behave that we haven't yet got a good answer for.
posted by Western Infidels at 7:49 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


To reiterate, this is a disagreement with at most 5% of the videos, and I'm intensely grateful to her for braving the tidal wave of death threats and Internet troll horribleness she's encountered* for the sake of educating developers like me who frequently roll critical failures at basic human empathy. Machines make a hell of a lot more sense than people, to me, but it's important to point out the human cost of laziness on that front.

Provoking the tidal wave is at least partly the point.

Or rather getting (eventually) better and more insightful art is the point and the noisy idea clash is how we get there.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:55 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


As terrifying as as gross as all of this is, I'm glad there is a growing backlash. What happened to Zoe Quinn was disgusting (when I read about it, I was shocked that all it seemed to be about is that TWO ADULTS HAD SEX! OH NO! Even if she was cheating on her boyfriend, why are all these people treating that like it's the worst thing a person could ever do? I can think of many worse things).

I do find the entitlement of all these men (and let's face it -- it's mostly men) making these threats really disturbing. The corporations making these games don't care about them (except as means to give them money) and while I'm not into the idea of "violent video games make people violent!" there is maybe something to being cut off from the world and never interacting with people. Which may be the case here. I don't know. But I'm always amazed when people take "attacks" on the things they like (even if those "attacks" are "legitimate criticisms") as personal attacks (but then I've also lamented that Internet culture has turned everything into "I LOVE THIS! It's PERFECT and I will shape it into the exact thing I think it is!" or "THIS IS THE WORST THING EVER and it's evil and I'm against everything about it!" There's no room for nuance or saying "I like this ... but ... maybe ...").

I do think things will get better. I sadly think they'll get a lot worse before they do, though. But I want to have hope. The alternative is terrible.

(I knew Adam Baldwin was a right-wing weirdo ... but wow. What an ass.)

Maybe gamer culture needs to take a good look at itself when it's making (mainstream) comics culture seem pretty cool and welcoming.
posted by darksong at 7:57 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I'm a gamer, I know and like a lot of the games Sarkeesian calls out in the most recent video, and I understood they were sexist when I played them but was OK with it. (Bioshock, for instance, I think the murdered woman shown early in the video is a really nice moment in the game. ) But her video is making me rethink what it means to be OK with overt sexism. Mostly I'm just grateful because her work is really good videogame criticism, in addition to being a strong feminist statement. It informs the discussion of games' portrayal of people, society, etc. In addition to its statement about the portrayal of women.

The response – the death threats, the crazy rape rhetoric, all of that – is just reprehensible. There's absolutely no defense for it at all and it's disgusting. It makes me ashamed to have anything to do with gaming culture.

A minor aside; the Tropes project has its start in a Kickstarter project. She's two years late in delivery (and guess what? More rape comments because of that!). But howdy hell, what a delivery. Good for her.

PAX is this weekend, the big gamer conference put on by Penny Arcade. Which itself is highly controversial for rape jokes in the past. Good timing, I think, to be focussing this debate. I was going to speculate maybe the timing was deliberate but then I realized I'd be proposing Sarkeesian was inviting being threatened with rape and murder. And that's just disgusting to even consider.

I went looking for Reddit discussion for Sarkeesian's video and found very little. I think Reddit is important, and despite all its cultural problems is a significant place for gamers to come together and develop gamer culture. Their response to this video is important, and I'm a little hopeful could be at least partially constructive. OTOH I'm glad not to read more horribleness there.
posted by Nelson at 8:05 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


In one of the clips, you have the chance to try to "rescue" a woman by hunting down and shooting the man who stabbed her. Tellingly, you don't have the option to perform first aid on her, or call 911 to get her an ambulance.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:07 PM on August 27 [6 favorites]


uh, you don't want to find most of the reddit conversations about her. they are horrific.

also, zoe quinn will be at pax. she said this evening,

But fuck you, I'm still speaking on my panels at PAX. I got major work done on Rebel Jam and Camp's Not Dead today. I'm not going to stop.

I'm also redistributing the money from my patreon & depression quest sales to other destitute women & queer folks in indie who need it

posted by nadawi at 8:10 PM on August 27 [11 favorites]


It's so weird because there's a great indie comics and webcomic community and they all seem to be Twitter friends and like each other, and there's a similar thing in the games community that I follow, except the comics people muddle along and do their comics about mental illness and are generally fine but in the game world people HATE that crowd. Part of it is that the indie gaming folks have more vulnerable women and the trolls are misogynists, but there's something community-deep that's way worse in gameland than comicland, it seems. Maybe it's that comics haven't reached the tipping point in their AAA titles yet for people to really flip their shit and come out of the woodworks, maybe it's something else. But gameland is fucking toxic, and the major controlling forces like the sites these people gather on are either cryptically supporting the abuse (what Kotaku just did about Patreon was shitty as hell IMO) or just generally turning a blind eye to it.
posted by NoraReed at 8:10 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


What happened to Zoe Quinn was disgusting (when I read about it, I was shocked that all it seemed to be about is that TWO ADULTS HAD SEX! OH NO!

I haven't followed this because there's too many disgusting people doing disgusting things in regard to it (the attackers, not ZQ) but I thought it was about her having sex with games journalists who then went and promoted or reviewed her stuff without mentioning the conflict of interest?
posted by Justinian at 8:10 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


A few years ago there was a small study that showed young men's testosterone levels and tendency toward personal aggression went up when they handled guns. I'm not a scientist, I have no idea if this is a baloney study or a good one, I don't know if it was followed up or confirmed or debunked or what, I couldn't even read the publication itself if I wanted to.

Sure you can. Guns, Testosterone, and Aggression An Experimental Test of a Mediational Hypothesis. (The N was 30, and it was male college students aged 18-22, for anyone wondering.)

Also, here are some of the articles that cited that article, if you want to look at the responses to it.
posted by cashman at 8:10 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


I continue to enjoy the TvW series. (As a backer, I think I'm getting solid value, even if the scope expanded substantially over what it was initially intended, which is what I think of as the root of the delays.)

I would like to look forward to a utopian day when people can debate feminist game criticism without a massive shitstorm of entitled flamage from fools who apparently have brains full of toxic worms... But, wow, I think it's a long way off.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:14 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I played Zoe Quinn's (truly) excellent Depression Quest when it was first released online. I thought it was great, said so and donated what I could afford to say thank you.

For obvious reasons I've been mentioning how excellent it is on Twitter from time to time over the last few days. Almost without exception, each time I do, I get a few unsolicited responses from random drooling knuckle-draggers who want to try and convince me that their very much ongoing persecution of Quinn is justified.

I thought it was about her having sex with games journalists who then went and promoted or reviewed her stuff without mentioning the conflict of interest?

It's not about that. It's about a group of young men trying to bully a talented woman offline. Because she is a woman, and for no other reason.

The allegation you repeat is one of their milder forms of trolling her. Actually they can't actually provide evidence for it - pretty sure at this point that none exists - and even if they could, it certainly doesn't justify the shit she is getting. So it's not a remotely relevant thing to bring up.
posted by motty at 8:15 PM on August 27 [40 favorites]


Justinian - nope! not really. her ex says she slept with a dude from kotaku. the only time that dude so much as mentioned her game was in a list with 49 other games (all which reached steam greenlight status around the same time), and that happened before they supposedly hooked up. this is the gigantic journalist ethics violation that has all these jerks in a blind misogynistic fervor, according to them.
posted by nadawi at 8:15 PM on August 27 [40 favorites]


I thought it was about her having sex with games journalists who then went and promoted or reviewed her stuff without mentioning the conflict of interest?

That's what the lynch mob would like you to believe but the employers of the journalists in question are saying they've looked into it and are certain that is false.
posted by straight at 8:16 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


and yeah, i've been blocking accounts created solely to harass both of these women left and right. i won't repeat the attacks here, but it's really, really gross and has nothing to do with journalistic integrity.
posted by nadawi at 8:17 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


In that cast I don't think they actually care if its an actual ethics violation, nadawi, they just like the salacious nature of it and would use anything as a club to hit people they don't like.
posted by Justinian at 8:20 PM on August 27


I haven't followed this because there's too many disgusting people doing disgusting things in regard to it (the attackers, not ZQ) but I thought it was about her having sex with games journalists who then went and promoted or reviewed her stuff without mentioning the conflict of interest?

As far as I've been able to tell, that wasn't true. Plus, what does it really matter if it was? I've always made jokes that bloggers are journalists without ethics, but really, when someone is maybe (MAYBE) getting $10 per a 500 word post (IF THAT), do you really expect them to write objectively? They're going to write about things they have a personal connection to and things they like. For good or bad, that's just what happens now.

Who is reading Kotaku expecting it to be fair and unbiased anyway?
posted by darksong at 8:22 PM on August 27


I don't know why this all decided to happen last week, in the midst of Ferguson and Gaza and ISIS and everything else that went horribly wrong last week, but it basically took one of my usual refuges from horrible shit and made that horrible, too. I cannot believe the awful misogyny these people represent, and it's stunning to me the lengths they will go to just to avoid having to think about how women and minorities happen to be treated in games, as if that's an unconscionable burden beyond the pale. These are people who think it's totally hilarious to post the confidential financial and business details of an indie dev studio, not to mention logins, home addresses and private emails, just because the outspoken head of that studio came out in support of Zoe Quinn.

I'm torn between wanting to shout at every opportunity, "these people do not represent video games," and wanting to give up on the video game community as a whole.
posted by chrominance at 8:23 PM on August 27 [6 favorites]


I thought it was about her having sex with games journalists who then went and promoted or reviewed her stuff without mentioning the conflict of interest

As others have said this is not the case, but also it's interesting to note that the furore has been around Quinn and not the author in question. If there truly was some kind of ethical breach (which there was not) the problem would be with the journalist and not the game developer, but instead we get a lot of people moralizing about a young woman having a sex life.
posted by jess at 8:23 PM on August 27 [55 favorites]


As far as I've been able to tell, that wasn't true. Plus, what does it really matter if it was?

Well, yes, I think it would matter if it were true. Just because games journalism is currently really crappy doesn't mean we should throw up our hands about it; we should want it to be better.

But other people have said it isn't true so it's kind of a moot point.
posted by Justinian at 8:24 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Random ray of hope: this tweet by Zak McClendon, one of the Bioshock 2 team.
The new @femfreq is hard to watch, but needed. Wish I had done more about the Bio2 stuff & regret that it didn't bother me more at the time.
I'm hopeful more good people will react this way to her critique. Games could just be so much better if they were smarter about portraying women. Gamers and developers should look at this as a chance to learn about their art.

I'm kind of hoping Sarkeesian has a video in her highlighting good portrayals of women in video games. I don't mean to be "not all games.." about this, but I think highlighting successful games could be as informative as her calling out all of the bullshit.
posted by Nelson at 8:26 PM on August 27 [30 favorites]


The ONLY time I've ever had a lot of questions about my hobbies when being selected for jury duty is when I mentioned I play video games. Even though mostly what I play is Kerbal Space Program.

The amount of vitriol hurled at Tropes vs Women proves more than anything how vital it is. I wish I'd backed it at a higher level. What the fuck is wrong with people that they threaten death over the Hitman series?
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:26 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


One of the worst outcomes regarding official reactions to this mess is Kotaku announcing a stupid, indie-penalizing policy forbidding writers to write about devs they give patreon funding to.
posted by straight at 8:28 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


Even if it was true, why would that justify rape threats?
posted by divabat at 8:36 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


I've played games since the TRS-80 days but for the most part avoided community things except for my few friends. I do a lot of looking at and analyzing popular culture and I've watched most of the videos she's done and I just marvel at how thorough and well-done they are. Especially given how she does it knowing the backlash that will come. Standing ovation, truly. Just fantastic work.
posted by cashman at 8:37 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow: In one of the clips, you have the chance to try to "rescue" a woman by hunting down and shooting the man who stabbed her. Tellingly, you don't have the option to perform first aid on her, or call 911 to get her an ambulance.

Well, which of those activities aligns well with the game's core gameplay mechanics? The whole point of the quest being in the game was probably to give the player some sort of reasonable motivation for going and getting into a gunfight, since gunfighting is almost certainly the core mechanic of the game. First aid or calling 911 would probably just involve padding out the dialog tree and can easily be handwaved away by having a bystander do it.

Although, some of the better RPGs have avoided this in the past, often with additional rewards for players who remember to bust out their first aid kit / healing magic first before running off for revenge. But it has to be the right kind of game for that.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:43 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


One of the worst outcomes regarding official reactions to this mess is Kotaku announcing a stupid, indie-penalizing policy forbidding writers to write about devs they give patreon funding to.

Why is it stupid, straight? Seems a reasonable arms-length policy for an ostensibly journalistic website?
posted by Sebmojo at 8:47 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I've never been so happy to be a fan of Double Fine and the Idle Thumbs crew ("Social Justice Warriors? Naw, we're Social Justice Wizards!") as during this debacle.

When Tim Schafer made the heads of a few of his stupider fans explode by recommending Sarkeesian's video, one of them whined, "Tim you said ICO is one of your favorite games of all time but Anita says it's the most sexist game of all time?" When told that it's possible to enjoy a video game and be critical of the way it treats women at the same time, he couldn't accept that as a possibility, "That would be hypocritical, you can't say that sexism is wrong then enjoy something that is sexist."

I think that kind of all-or-nothing thinking must be behind some of the anger directed at Sarkeesian. This kids think that if we label a video game "sexist" then that would mean that nobody is allowed to play it. Not necessarily in the sense of it being banned from sale, but in the sense of society saying "You're a horrible, sexist person if you play this game." Which (need it be said here?) is not what Sarkeesian or anyone else is saying about sexism in games.
posted by straight at 8:49 PM on August 27 [39 favorites]


Why is it stupid, straight?

You could read the links I put in there. Short version: Game reviewers are allowed to give money to Ubisoft by purchasing a copy of AssCreed7, but they can't give money to an indie game studio by giving money to their Patreon funding. And since when is it corrupt for a reviewer to give money to a developer?

Some games can only be gotten for review through Patreon. So if the reviewer can't donate, they'd have to ask for a free review copy. So Kotaku is basically requiring indie devs to give their reviewers free stuff to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
posted by straight at 8:54 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Between this and the harassment Zoe Quinn's been getting (and apparently Adam Baldwin has been amplifying that), games twitter has been a fucking shitstorm over the past few days.

It's been terrible for weeks. I follow pretty much everybody in the so-called SJW clique or whatever on Twitter and the shitnozzles have been basically constantly spewing hate at them since the start of the month. The only tiny silver lining is that a lot of big names have been supporting Sarkeesian and Quinn, including Tim Schafer, Joss Whedon, etc.

Why is it stupid, straight? Seems a reasonable arms-length policy for an ostensibly journalistic website?

Because it specifically targets a platform that heavily skews indie, while ignoring the way deeper financial relationships with big companies. Plus, Patreon, Kickstarter, etc are not investments.
posted by kmz at 8:54 PM on August 27 [11 favorites]


it seems like it would be a much better policy to have the writers disclose any support. many critics support content creators with their own money by way of buying books or cds or what have you. things like patreon are another way to support works you like. it honestly seems more suspect that games journalists don't disclose trips, meals, advertising dollars, and other perks that the aaa houses roll out for favorable coverage.
posted by nadawi at 8:54 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Why is it stupid, straight? Seems a reasonable arms-length policy for an ostensibly journalistic website?

Because it's like forbidding writers to write about games they bought for themselves.
posted by yonega at 8:58 PM on August 27 [8 favorites]


Well, yes, I think it would matter if it were true. Just because games journalism is currently really crappy doesn't mean we should throw up our hands about it; we should want it to be better.

GAMER: my god, Zoe Quinn, games journalist, all this sex I'm assured you're having with games journalists is a real breach of journalistic ethics. how dare you fail to meet the standards of your vocation, games journalism
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:59 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I used to think Phil Fish was a bit too much at times, but there's been many times these past few weeks when I think he's completely right. Just burn it down, salt the earth. But of course that's just what the assholes want.
posted by kmz at 9:00 PM on August 27


(What's the policy on linking in-progress Kickstarters in comments? I know it's a no go in a FP.)
posted by kmz at 9:04 PM on August 27


I am pretty sure it's fine, kmz.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:06 PM on August 27


Rustic Etruscan: "my god, Zoe Quinn, games journalist, all this sex I'm assured you're having with games journalists is a real breach of journalistic ethics. how dare you fail to meet the standards of your vocation, games journalism"

Just because we're talking about assholes doesn't mean we need to assume that people in this thread number among the assholes. I would expect reviewers not to review the games/movies/art/etc. of their relatives, close friends, lovers, bosses, significant others, etc. That's what Justinian is saying, and I think it's a perfectly cromulent expectation of reviewers.

This specific case is not an example of that. Justinian recognized that, saying, "But other people have said it isn't true so it's kind of a moot point."

divabat: "Even if it was true, why would that justify rape threats?"

It wouldn't, obviously. I don't get why you're directing that question at Justinian, because I haven't seen him write anything that would imply he thinks it justifies rape threats.
posted by Bugbread at 9:23 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


I was pulling a post together earlier this week about the Zoe Quinn thing, as a continuation of discussions we've had previously about women in gaming and comics, but I got so damn discouraged by the whole thing. And to be completely honest, I didn't want 4chan fucking with me because of it. They're scary.

Anita Sarkeesian is my hero. She's a braver woman than I.
posted by dejah420 at 9:23 PM on August 27 [35 favorites]


As a dev and a heavy game player myself I've been thinking a lot about this lately. It's absolutely clear to me that the behavior of harassment towards Anita/Zoe/everyone here is completely inexcusable and is not based in any sort of vague justification. The people doing the harassing have no legitimate basis for their actions, and I don't think anything anyone does is going to change their minds because they're obviously not rational. There is no universe where issues of journalistic integrity justify rape threats

But that doesn't mean that the CULTURE as a whole is somehow negative or harmful. I've seen a lot of comments like "gamer culture has become absolutely rotten" lately, but I don't think it's justified. The actions of the extremist minority here remind me of sports fans who riot after games or soccer hooligans. They're horrible people, but that doesn't cause most outsiders to say that "sports culture is rotten", and people have kind of gotten used to the 1% that do horrible things. People who have nuanced views towards many different cultures seem to take an absolutist view towards gamers other internet-based cultures.

In my view people should hold game developers to a much higher standard because we're in a position of power. I do what I can to move the industry away from sexism, but there's a lot of work to be done. But, when passing judgement on "gamers", you have to think about that group relative to other groups consisting largely of young males. Which across the board have extremist minorities that perform rash and hurtful actions.
posted by JZig at 9:45 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


The entire thing with Zoe Quinn is a fucking disgusting modern witch-hunt and transparent slut-shaming ritual being enacted by an enormous pack of knuckle-draggers terrified that the big bucks will stop being directed toward certain aspects of AAA games that are keeping our medium culturally categorized with pornography.

It's cretinous, cowardly bullshit that doesn't even share a home planet with legitimate concerns regarding "journalistic ethics" and it's overtly hypocritical to boot.
posted by Ryvar at 9:48 PM on August 27 [26 favorites]


4chan is indeed the blind idiot god at the center of the Internet.

One positive thing to come out of this is 4chan's /v/ board donating over $15k to a IndieGogo campaign to fund one of five games designed by women who have never made games before, with people voting on which game to make.

They did it out of spite, as Zoe Quinn clashed with the project organizers before, but still. Is there a word for doing the right thing for the wrong reasons?
posted by dragoon at 9:52 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


But that doesn't mean that the CULTURE as a whole is somehow negative or harmful.

I imagine that's hard to keep in mind when a number of terrible random people plus a D-List celeb are hounding your every move with slurs, private information, and pornographic art of you.

I agree with you that it's a small minority actually dropping the threats and harassment, but the majority of the other 99% is pretty darn quiet on this stuff. Look at the reaction to Tim Schafer's original fairly innocuous tweet that devs should watch the latest Sarkeesian video -- a number of his followers were SHOCKED that he could feel that way. Like, totally surprised. It may be obvious to those of us who pay attention that Double Fine is pretty progressive, but unless people like him and Joss Whedon actually speak up then it's just women (in this case) who are taking the brunt of the idiots and it gets pretty flippin' exhausting even if it is a minority.

Want to emphasize that gaming culture as a whole is okay? Make a point of being public about not being cool with all this crap. Then maybe some "gamer" women will feel a little less thrown under the bus by their hobby.
posted by jess at 10:03 PM on August 27 [35 favorites]


Yep, darksong asked if it would matter if the Zoe Quinn thing were true because games journalism is so awful anyway, not with regard to the terrible behavior of people towards Zoe Quinn. Just because games journalism is currently terrible doesn't mean we should not want it to be better. And direct conflicts of interest are one way we should want it to improve.

But, again, it's a moot point because everybody here who seems to be familiar with the situation says its not true in the first place. So there's no there there.
posted by Justinian at 10:06 PM on August 27


Also love how if a woman has consensual sex with someone in her field at a conference, it follows that she must have done it to further her career, as opposed to for recreation. (Meanwhile, of course, people who support anti-harrassment policies at cons are just prudes who are afraid of normal, healthy male sexuality.)
posted by en forme de poire at 10:26 PM on August 27 [23 favorites]


What can I do to help? How can I help oppose digital misogyny culture?

I'm not a gamer (Civilization, Pokemon, Mario Kart, & Smash Bros is all I've played since the 90's), and I don't really know anyone IRL that would identify as such. I saw some (and i'm sure only a small fraction) of the hate/death threats that got sent towards Sarkeesian because twitter, and I've been wondering all day how I can be helpful to the right side in this.

I'm (semi) familiar with "real world" anti-misogyny groups and efforts like womens' shelters, NOW, etc, but this seems like something different. I'm reminded of this and other stories where the internet allows seemingly decent men/people to be horrible misogynists and get away with it (see also: Adam Savage's "The internet has a problem with women"). I'm pretty sure the internet/gaming/digital culture is only going to become more important in the world, and I'd like to help fight the trolls, if I can. Does anyone have any suggestions?
posted by DGStieber at 10:32 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


en forme de poire: "Also love how if a woman has consensual sex with someone in her field at a conference, it follows that she must have done it to further her career, as opposed to for recreation."

I can see how a game producer having sex with a game reviewer, and then the game reviewer reviewing the game, could be seen as problematic, but:
1) That isn't even what happened, and
2) Even if it were what happened, jumping to the conclusion that "the game dev must have done it for a good review (in Kotaku, mind you, not even IGN or something?) and is therefore a bad person" instead of "neither the game dev nor the game reviewer did anything wrong by having sex, but the game reviewer should have taken himself off the title and had someone else review it, and therefore the game reviewer is a bad reviewer" is just...such a bizarre conclusion.
posted by Bugbread at 10:32 PM on August 27 [16 favorites]


As a gamer and game developer, I am constantly unnerved and disgusted by the abuse dished out on the internet towards anyone, especially women, who critique these issues in gaming. Is there anywhere I can find a well-moderated community of gamers who are actively feminist and lgbtq-supportive? (I imagine MeFightClub is a good start at least.)
posted by NMcCoy at 10:39 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I was going to say Mefightclub. :(
posted by Justinian at 10:45 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Oh, Rock Paper Shotgun is trying to drag their community to that place, kicking and screaming and whining in many cases.
posted by Justinian at 10:46 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


But that doesn't mean that the CULTURE as a whole is somehow negative or harmful.

"Just because there's those rude fellows in white robes are lynching black people, doesn't mean there's anything wrong with Southern culture"

No, gaming culture is toxic. From the games that encourage objectification of and violence toward women, to websites that shrug their shoulders and say "Sorry, we believe in free speech" in response to harassment complaints, to a general culture that tolerates and encourages harassment. The attacks on Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, and Phil Fish could not be as effective as they were without a general culture supporting them.

But at this point, I just don't know what to do. The harassers seem to be everywhere, have endless energy, and for now at least, seem to be winning. I don't know what can be done to effectively combat them, and I really think this is going to end with someone getting murdered.

I worry for my wife, who is a talented artist and outspoken feminist. I worry for my friends on G+ who are being targeted. And I wish I knew what I could do to make things better.
posted by happyroach at 10:49 PM on August 27 [39 favorites]


Well, yes, I think it would matter if it were true. Just because games journalism is currently really crappy doesn't mean we should throw up our hands about it; we should want it to be better.
Setting aside that no-one deserves this, as I think we all agree.

But if this were really about games journalism and ethical breaches, then the poisonous behavior would be directed at the games journalist, not Zoe Quinn. So its clearly just a pathetic cover story for misogyny.
posted by Joh at 11:11 PM on August 27 [12 favorites]


I've been following this latest attack on Zoe Quinn pretty much from the start, and it's just... nauseating. Thank you, MeFi, for being a place where sanity prevails in discussing it.

As a game developery type person, the whole thing just fills me with dread, though I know that as a white guy making a game about blowing stuff up I'll be just fine myself.
posted by Zarkonnen at 11:29 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


It wouldn't, obviously. I don't get why you're directing that question at Justinian, because I haven't seen him write anything that would imply he thinks it justifies rape threats.

I wasn't specifically directing it at Justinian, though it did spark the question - it seems from a lot of general responses to this issue that it's not actually obvious that it shouldn't be a justification for rape threats.
posted by divabat at 11:30 PM on August 27


The atmosphere within games has changed in the past week or so, too. The sexism/harassment exploded recently in the chat of the MMORPG I've been playing for years now, often specifically mentioning these bloggers or articles while spewing hate. I'm used to the dudebro crap but have stopped playing lately because, even if it's not directed at me, it still wears one down to see it. I felt like I was doing more "reporting" than playing.
posted by _paegan_ at 11:42 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I quite like the penny arcade forum rules. "Misogynist, misandrist, homophobic or transphobic behaviour or attitudes" fall under the Don't Be A Dick rule.

Either the moderation is really good or people just obey the rules, I'm not sure which. Also the people in the Steam thread engage in vicious attacks by giving each other games.
posted by squinty at 11:43 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Hah, on topic of gaming culture being toxic, this quote, from another context, could be used to argue the other side of things:

Muslims globally are no more responsible for the actions of ISIS than British Jews are for Israeli war-crimes. During the Gaza offensive no one asked British Jews to apologise for the Israeli bombs that killed hundreds of children. This is despite the fact that British Jews do go and fight in the IDF.

Demanding that Muslims condemn ISIS is xenophobic because it implies that they are sympathetic to the terrorist group unless they state otherwise. It implies all Muslims are responsible for the actions of terrorists.


I would fall into the category of "hardcore gamer". I played WoW 30+ hours a week in the #2 ranked PVE guild in my country, and the leader of the guild was a middle aged mom, and we had a relatively good representation of women. We had a great time. Could the other 99 guilds in the country have been raging cesspools of sexism, racism and ugliness? Possibly. I never stuck around to find out. Like everything thing life, we pick our playmates and the games we play carefully for the sake of our sanity. According to Anita, though, it seems that so pervasive is this culture that nearly no RPG is immune to this.

I still feel like I need to write a disclaimer that I support Anita, I think her web series is important and I have donated.

(maybe it's mainly a narrative thing: I think she could easily have also done a series on tropes in movies. well, maybe, yay for narrative free games like LOL and DOTA2)
posted by xdvesper at 11:50 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


The whole point of the quest being in the game was probably to give the player some sort of reasonable motivation for going and getting into a gunfight, since gunfighting is almost certainly the core mechanic of the game.

This is actually one of the things Sarkeesian brings up in the video, though -- that one big reason for including this type of violence against women is just as a shallow (and often titillating) way of making the player feel less conflicted about killing the "bad guy." It goes back to what she says about women not being "the other team" but rather "the ball."
posted by en forme de poire at 11:51 PM on August 27 [30 favorites]


I've thought Sarkeesian was a hero for a while now. She's saying what needs to be said, and I shed no tears for people who get upset about it. I got to meet her at Geek Girl Con in Seattle last year and found her absolutely awesome. Funny, light-hearted and friendly.

The only problem with Anita Sarkeesian is that she's RIGHT.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:55 PM on August 27 [22 favorites]


I hope that things have gotten so bad as a byproduct of their getting better in the long term. If the work being done by FemFreq, Zoe Quinn, Maddy Myers, Patricia Hernandez, Leigh Alexander and others was just falling on deaf ears, the trolls would be a lot more smug and a lot less insane, but it's not. It's not just that women are speaking out that are driving these assholes crazy, it's that men are starting to listen.

I hope a year from now we're looking at these last few weeks and thinking "that's when it started getting better".

I hope to god it doesn't get worse.
posted by Reyturner at 11:56 PM on August 27 [8 favorites]


This woman needs to be given stuff. MacArthur grants and the like. Google should give her a nice office and salary and staff just for the chance to be associated with her.
posted by pracowity at 11:58 PM on August 27 [10 favorites]


What I most want to see next from Sarkeesian or developers who accept that particular argument is a working template for systemic elements of open-world power-fantasy games presented in a way they would find acceptable.

I don't know how they'd answer the question, but here's some thoughts anyway.

1. Maybe question the assumption that open-world power-fantasies need to have murderable bystanders, victimized women, and pointless psychopathy? There are plenty of large-map games, even shooters, where you can't kill everyone you meet.

2. Retire some of the tired tropes. E.g. Dishonored has sections set in a prison, a religious HQ, a brothel, a residential quarter, a slum, an aristrocrat's house, a fortress. Did one of them have to be a brothel?

3. Choose more original victims? Borderlands 1 joked with the villain-killing-a-puppy trope by having a bad guy shoot a Claptrap robot. There's ways to establish villainy without adding to the women-as-victims list.

4. If you must have victim scenarios, at least allow options that treat the victim as a valuable human being. Sarkeesian talks about this quite a lot in this video, in fact. E.g. don't have an assault just to give the protagonist a perp to chase. She gives an example (Papo & Yo) which deals with abuse intensely but sensitively.

5. Don't use realism or "grittiness" as an excuse to shove in violence against women. Games are full of unrealities, so it's kind of weird to insist on being "realistic" in this one area. And as she points out, these themes generally aren't portrayed realistically-- e.g. the rapes presented in video games are not typical of rapes in the real world.

FWIW I like open-world games, and I think some games do pretty well. Fallout 3 doesn't really rely on sexism anywhere that I recall (and the main story involves rescuing a male). I don't think Skyrim has much that's objectionable (and, rare for a video game, its female armor is actually reasonable). I have a soft spot for Saints Row, which has problematic elements, but I think it's actually improved as it's ditched the street-gang stuff.
posted by zompist at 12:05 AM on August 28 [37 favorites]


Is there anywhere I can find a well-moderated community of gamers who are actively feminist and lgbtq-supportive? (I imagine MeFightClub is a good start at least.)

MefightClub is a good place to start. We're a benevolent dictatorship under stavrosthewonderchicken, and it's head and shoulders above any other gaming community I've been a part of when it comes to being friendly, non-judgemental and feminist leaning. It definitely skews metafilter-like with the bean plating - unsurprising, given that many mefighters are also mefites - but with a lot less snark. I can wholeheartedly recommend it if you want a refuge away from the stinking misogynist cesspit that is the wider gaming community.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:11 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


zompist: Thanks for suggesting games that do better in this department, any others? Anyone else?

I have been planning on playing through both Bioshock and Red Dead Redemption. This video changed my prioritizing. I might actually give Skyrim a chance after dissing it for so long.
posted by mnsc at 12:16 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


There's a creepy guy who has posted response videos to both parts of this video series that clock in each at around 2h30m in length.

I refuse to watch them, but SERIOUSLY?
posted by hippybear at 12:20 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


And really, at times I think we were all better off when our video games were abstract concepts presented simply in arcades and early computers. Pac-Man, Burger Time, Star Castle, M.U.L.E., Qix... Hours and hours of fun, zillions of quarters in circulation, and not a beaten female in sight.
posted by hippybear at 12:29 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


The women were still, when they showed up, the ball in Arcade games. She talks about the phenomena of Ms. Pacman, for example, and covers Donkey Kong in her Damsels in Distress videos. Yes, fewer beaten women, but fewer women overall as well. Being nonexistent is a different kind of suck for women.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:35 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


I agree with what's been said, but I still dislike the Social Justice Warrior moniker. Particularly the Warrior part. That implies, at least in American rhetoric, that you are fighting an enemy that will never compromise or change its ways. It reminds me of actual wars, as well as the War on Terror and the War on Drugs. You can bet that when you call yourself warriors, the first reaction of a gamer who has not been listening is of defensiveness. I don't see an issue with being called an activist. After all, it's what MRA's use when trying to sound reasonable.

I think one of the major differences between games and other media is the time spent on a single game. Instead of being expected to watch a bunch of movies or read a lot of comics, often stretching beyond one's favored genre, you have people specializing in only a specific game type, or even series. You can have a CoD fan who literally has not played other video games, but it's laughable to have a Batman fan who has never read/watched other superheroes. It makes it much easier to get in the mindset that a single work should encapsulate everything the developers imagined in a setting. MeFites are likely those that read a ton of sources to gain perspective, but if a male gamer treats Anita's video as a singular work, it'd seem aggressively attacking.

For me, it's more interesting to follow various implementations and interpretations of censorship at this point. People will cry that they are being censored when at the same time shouting that articles about gaming culture don't being in gaming media. The internet warps perception. It has also exposed people to so many different arguments that it is much easier and more accepted to have a self-conflicting position, especially since a person's different arguments may never appear in a single post/comment.
posted by halifix at 12:42 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


I still dislike the Social Justice Warrior moniker

Perhaps you missed the part where the people who are using the Social Justice Warrior moniker are the ones who are leading the fight to make the women who are speaking out about brutal depictions of women in video games shut the fuck up, and using brutal real-life tactics to try to scare them into submission?

It's good that you dislike that. It's Orwellian double-speak.
posted by hippybear at 12:48 AM on August 28 [34 favorites]


The actions of the extremist minority here remind me of sports fans who riot after games or soccer hooligans. They're horrible people, but that doesn't cause most outsiders to say that "sports culture is rotten",

It did in the seventies and eighties, when football hooliganism was at its peak, there were football riots all over Europe on most match weekends and the police seemed barely able to control it while nobody seemed to be concerned for the average, non hooligan fans.

With videogaming so much of the culture is so toxic, feeding from the misogeny, bigotry and racism in games that it's easy to understand people writing it off all together. If you're a white bloke you can avoid it, barely, just by not ever doing multiplayer, but being anybody else it's in your face 24/7.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:50 AM on August 28 [10 favorites]


You're right. I misremembered the article below the fold.
posted by halifix at 1:07 AM on August 28


I still dislike the Social Justice Warrior moniker

"SJW" is a term coined by the misogynist assholes--as an insult!--but laughed at and embraced by pretty much everyone they describe with it because, really, who wouldn't be honored to have one of these vile harassers-of-women call you, with disgust, a Social Justice Warrior?
posted by straight at 1:22 AM on August 28 [14 favorites]


I too would like to see a video on the good examples of women in games, even if there's only a handful to talk about. Underneath the torrent of misogynists responding with hateful abuse, I'm also seeing a few developers and players who've had their eyes opened and seem to be ready for a change. It'd be useful to have some previous work to look to for inspiration for the way forward, to help developers get a handle on what works and for players to support with purchases.
posted by harriet vane at 3:08 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


Just because we're talking about assholes doesn't mean we need to assume that people in this thread number among the assholes. I would expect reviewers not to review the games/movies/art/etc. of their relatives, close friends, lovers, bosses, significant others, etc. That's what Justinian is saying, and I think it's a perfectly cromulent expectation of reviewers.

The point of my comment was not that Justinian is bad, but that Zoe Quinn isn't a journalist, so directing all the rage at her rather than at the writers who supposedly reviewed her work just shows that "journalistic ethics" is, in this case, a laughable excuse for contemptible nerds to harass a woman for having sex. If the story had been true, and there really had been a direct conflict of interest, then attacking Zoe Quinn for her boyfriend's wrongdoing would still have been absurd.

It would be nice if games journalism were better than publicity, and we should expect better of it — if you count criticism as journalism, then Anita Sarkeesian is doing a great job — but its integrity isn't even at stake in the Quinn case, so it's a red herring.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:51 AM on August 28 [17 favorites]


It's shocking how easy it is to see all of Phil Fish's personal information and passwords, even currently. I wouldn't be able to deal with this situation.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:00 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


It certainly doesn't help that there are trolls on all sides of the issues here. Say anything (justified or not) anti-Zoe, and you will get hate and vitriol that rivals the attacks pro-Zoe people get.
posted by ymgve at 4:02 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


I've engaged with some of the characters popping up to offer up counter-arguments against Sarkeesian recently. It's telling that when you do this, you discover that there's actually nothing of substance behind their arguments (because being opposed to equality and harassment is a tough position to defend). Once actual facts appear, these characters vanish back into the interwebs.

Their tactics are quite interesting though. When the Quinn saga was being discussed, this one guy rocked up and dropped a link to the 'Five Guys' video (don't look this up - you will punch your monitor out) stating that here were the 'facts' that proved all the attacks against Quinn were justified. This tactic wasn't about engaging debate, it was about dropping chum into the water hoping to attract like-minded people.

Since then, it's been rinse-and-repeat on my social network.
posted by panboi at 4:05 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


That's what the lynch mob would like you to believe but the employers of the journalists in question are saying they've looked into [the allegations that Zoe and one of their journalists were intimate] and are certain that is false.

I thought they looked into it and found that the events happened after the story about Depression Quest got published so there was no conflict of interest, not that they didn't happen?
posted by ymgve at 4:10 AM on August 28


It certainly doesn't help that there are trolls on all sides of the issues here. Say anything (justified or not) anti-Zoe, and you will get hate and vitriol that rivals the attacks pro-Zoe people get.

This is not just a laughably dishonest statement, but one that is deeply disrespectful to the hard work Zoe Quinn's harassers have put in. Those guys have worked really hard on their harassment - many of them don't have a lot else in their lives. For them, it's all about the hate.

To imply that some amateurs who also make games, have human relationships and are not seriously putting the hours in on being the best harassers they can be could match them just like that is ... really disrespectful.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:10 AM on August 28 [42 favorites]


My memory still isn't all gone:

"On March 31, Nathan published the only Kotaku article he's written involving Zoe Quinn. It was about Game Jam, a failed reality show that Zoe and other developers were upset about being on. At the time, Nathan and Zoe were professional acquaintances. He quoted blog posts written by Zoe and others involved in the show. Shortly after that, in early April, Nathan and Zoe began a romantic relationship. He has not written about her since. Nathan never reviewed Zoe Quinn's game Depression Quest, let alone gave it a favorable review."
posted by ymgve at 4:16 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


I thought they looked into it and found that the events happened after the story about Depression Quest got published so there was no conflict of interest, not that they didn't happen?

Right. So there's nothing for the mob to be angry about. The whole thing is small beer and no reason to be releasing someone's address and organizing harassment campaigns against her.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:17 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Her detractors seem to have since moved on to "doxxing isn't cool, but she faked the doxxing herself to get attention" anyway, fwiw.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:23 AM on August 28


This "gaslighting" pretty much always happens. Women on the Internet are harassed, and then there is a strenuous insistence that they weren't, and that they are making it up to get sympathy, funding etc. Same thing happened and happens to Anita Sarkeesian.

The whole thing is small beer and no reason to be releasing someone's address and organizing harassment campaigns against her.

Also, the specific accusation against Nathan Grayson was that he wrote a favorable review of Depression Quest. No such review ever existed. When told that no such review ever existed, people then latched onto the fact that he had described Depression Quest as "powerful" in a roundup of 50 games that had been Greenlit on Steam he wrote for Rock, Paper Shotgun.

When it was pointed out that this was long before he and Quinn started seeing each other, the next line of attack was an article about the collapse of the Game Jam project he wrote that quoted her as a participant. This was also written before they started seeing each other.

The issue was further confused by a typo - or rather something subsequently claimed to be a typo - in the interminable blog post by the angry ex, which misstated the time period the relationship between Quinn and Grayson began in. He has walked that back now, but of course the damage has already and conveniently been done.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:46 AM on August 28 [28 favorites]


I'm glad those allegations against her aren't true--otherwise it might call into question the otherwise unchallenged integrity and objectivity of the video game review industry.
posted by almostmanda at 5:10 AM on August 28 [8 favorites]


having had a tiny fraction of the attention that is being pointed at the women we're discussing aimed my way, i call bullshit on the pro-zoe side rivaling the anti-zoe attacks.

also i have never personally identified as a sjw, that's something the trolls hurl at me, and yeah, i'll take it and make jokes because these assholes can't seem to see they are the same sort of idiots in that in the 80s & 90s would coin thinks like "feminazi" and say "it's political correctness gone mmmmaaaaaddddddd."
posted by nadawi at 6:10 AM on August 28 [15 favorites]


Rustic Etruscan: "The point of my comment was not that Justinian is bad, but that Zoe Quinn isn't a journalist"

Oh whoah totally my apologies. I went back and reread your comment, and somehow I got it all twisted up earlier (which is weird, because I read it several times, and it got twisted up the same way each time, but when I go back and read it now I have no idea how I interpreted it the way I did back then.) Big mea culpa!
posted by Bugbread at 6:27 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


ymgve: "It certainly doesn't help that there are trolls on all sides of the issues here. Say anything (justified or not) anti-Zoe, and you will get hate and vitriol that rivals the attacks pro-Zoe people get."

Oh man, that is so nowhere near truth. Nobody threatened to kill Eron Gjoni (the prick that released all the nude pics of Zoe and the falsified "transcripts" that he's had to walk back as false), or rape him, or murder his parents while he watched...all things that have crossed the streams of both Zoe and Anita. Example, here is an example of the shit that Anita gets regularly.

I've mentioned this before, but I quit writing about games during the 'nym wars when my publisher said that I had to write under my legal name. You know, the one on the deed to my house, the name I share with my kid, the one that is absurdly easy to find because there's only 3 people in the entire world that share it.

Because I've already done my time in the trenches as a comics publisher (in the 80s and 90s...the war stories in the feminist march forward I could share, would curl your hair), there was absolutely no way I was going to put myself in the line of fire again just to be able to write about a topic I love.

And I love games. I'm a ranked pvper in a couple, my Wow guild was one of the top raid guilds in the world, I probably play at least one game every day. I'm a good writer when I put my mind to it, (and when an editor fixes my eccentric punctuation), but I there is absolutely no chance I will write about games under a name that could be tracked to my real identity. Absolutely no chance.

Why? Because I can't handle the constant rape threats. I can't handle forcing my kid to never ride his bike to school lest some fucking idiot decide to hurt him to get to me because they didn't like my review of 3A ShootemUp 14. I'm not willing to risk my animals or my parents or my friends or my family just so I can write about games.

So, don't tell me the stakes are the same if you criticize Zoe. That's patent bullshit.
posted by dejah420 at 6:33 AM on August 28 [105 favorites]



I haven't been paying much attention to game world this past month so I didn't know this has been going on.

These women are now firmly in my hero list.

I did some quick reading about what's been going on around Quinn. I think this has pushed me over some sort of maximum, feeling outrage, line. As a female that has been gaming since the age of Atari and Commodore I've dealt with and navigated through a lot of sexist crap. It's horrible but I've been happy because I've felt that these issues over the past while are being openly discussed, becoming more mainstream and recognized. But good freaking lord the rage and spew is beyond what even I, who has experienced some pretty awful stuff for daring to game as a female, thought possible.

I've been going through some work life changes and I've realized that what I really want to do is going to involve establishing a online presence as myself. I've been online for pretty much as long as there's been an online but most of the time in some sort of anonymous like capacity. I'm a pretty outgoing independent type and as I've grown older I care less and less what people think about me but even with that I've found myself doing a lot a thinking about whether I really want to put myself out there on the net because it opens up the possibility of this type of crap.

It make me angry that I even need to have this type of pro vs con discussion with myself.
It makes me angry that I know that this sort of crap is holding me back, makes me think twice about doing things or posting something because as much as I can have an intellectual, rational talk with myself, this sort of crap hits some sort of emotional core and brings up a struggle between my flight vs fight responses.

Reading about Quinn and the latest with Anita is it for me. I feel more numb then anything, like so angry that I'm not feeling feeling angry about it. (I don't know if that makes sense, but I'm finding it hard to describe.) I'm done being concerned or thinking about what I want to do. I'm jumping in. Fuck it and fuck all those that live in that cesspool. I'm not fearful any more.

These folks have managed to break this females fear meter to the point of it just not existing any more.
posted by Jalliah at 6:40 AM on August 28 [14 favorites]


one bit in the Badass Digest piece that really struck me was this bit, about 3/4ths through:
These people will do anything they can to win, regardless of whether it’s morally or even legally acceptable. And they get away with it!

Before the internet, this didn’t happen
I actually think this did happen before the internet. I don't think the internet (or gaming) is *causing* or creating this evil culture, I just think it's yet another medium for the nastiness to exist in.

To my mind, the thing that this hurtful behavior reminds me the most of is the KKK and tar & feather / lynching. I wonder if re-branding anti-feminists as "the new KKK" would go a ways to help shut them down.
posted by rebent at 6:40 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


As a dev and a heavy game player myself I've been thinking a lot about this lately. It's absolutely clear to me that the behavior of harassment towards Anita/Zoe/everyone here is completely inexcusable and is not based in any sort of vague justification. The people doing the harassing have no legitimate basis for their actions, and I don't think anything anyone does is going to change their minds because they're obviously not rational. There is no universe where issues of journalistic integrity justify rape threats

But that doesn't mean that the CULTURE as a whole is somehow negative or harmful. I've seen a lot of comments like "gamer culture has become absolutely rotten" lately, but I don't think it's justified. The actions of the extremist minority here remind me of sports fans who riot after games or soccer hooligans. They're horrible people, but that doesn't cause most outsiders to say that "sports culture is rotten", and people have kind of gotten used to the 1% that do horrible things. People who have nuanced views towards many different cultures seem to take an absolutist view towards gamers other internet-based cultures.


It's not like those extremists are operating in a vacuum. The crux of Sarkeesian's argument is that the games themselves -- the vast majority of them -- either ignore women altogether or include them solely as property, toys, or prizes for being the manliest man (it's quite telling that the endless parade of prostitutes shown int he videos all have the same line, that for you, the player, they'll give a free sample because he's so incredible). Her claims are that this creates an environment which is hostile to women. Sarkeesian isn't pointing out problems in the hooligans that are threatening her, she's pointing out systemic issues within the entire industry, and she makes a convincing point.

This allegedly vocal minority seems to think that games exist solely for them, and that anything which threatens their hegemony must be viciously opposed. This is Sarkeesian's actual point, that the console videogame industry is by and large a place by men and for men. It seems clear that the assholes aren't the sole problem, they're the most visible signs of the problem. They were created by an industry that caters to them and a community that allows them to grow and fester unchallenged in their anonymous comment pools. Lance the boils all you want, but that won't solve the problem.

If this situation is only indicative of a small percentage of "game culture", then please point out the AAA studios, the gaming events, and the gaming websites that aren't participating in it.
posted by Legomancer at 6:41 AM on August 28 [24 favorites]


Evidently, Quinn is the subject of a new Godwin's Law for games journalism.
posted by belarius at 6:41 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


ymgve: "It certainly doesn't help that there are trolls on all sides of the issues here. Say anything (justified or not) anti-Zoe, and you will get hate and vitriol that rivals the attacks pro-Zoe people get."

Considering that what pro-zoe people get is death and rape threats, that feels like the sort of statement that needs to be backed ups with actual evidence.
posted by maxsparber at 6:42 AM on August 28 [25 favorites]


Olly Moss, artist and lead designer for Camposanto studios, threw together a Social Justice Warrior T-shirt to wear to PAX. He has now made the hi-res image available for anyone who want to print one of their own.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:43 AM on August 28 [13 favorites]


The Zoe Quinn thing is like the perfect storm of exes fighting in public, indie gaming drama, and gaming misogynism. Ugh.
posted by smackfu at 6:52 AM on August 28


That is a badass shirt but I kind of want the Social Justice Wizard version, as mentioned upthread.

One of the advantages of being on Tumblr is learning about the "SJW" thing. It's like "red pill"; a convenient tag for people you should probably just ignore/block already.
posted by emjaybee at 6:57 AM on August 28 [6 favorites]


"Social Justice Warrior", or "Social Justice Quest" as they called it in Japan.— Alice is no fun (@aliceandstuff) August 28, 2014

posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:58 AM on August 28 [6 favorites]


That is a badass shirt but I kind of want the Social Justice Wizard version, as mentioned upthread.

I'd like a Social Justice Paladin shirt.


Paladins love justice.
posted by almostmanda at 7:01 AM on August 28 [10 favorites]


Now I really want a Social Justice Wizzard shirt.
posted by kmz at 7:06 AM on August 28


I'd be a Social Justice Ranger-- some similarities to the Paladin variety but without the Lawful requirement (because the law was put in place by hegemonic power structures that must be defeated), plus a tendency towards hermitage and a horse (or RIDING DOG).

Also you get a favored enemy and mine is redditors
posted by NoraReed at 7:07 AM on August 28 [27 favorites]


almostmanda: "That is a badass shirt but I kind of want the Social Justice Wizard version, as mentioned upthread.

I'd like a Social Justice Paladin shirt.


Paladins love justice.
"

I would absolutely buy a Social Justice Paladin shirt.
posted by dejah420 at 7:07 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


it's absolutely not exes fighting in public - it's one ex going off the fucking deep end, publishing a bunch of cherry picked slut shaming bullshit, using weasel words to absolve himself of all wrong doing, and wrapping it up in a package designed to tank his ex's career - and then the victim of that saying to everyone, "I’m not going to talk about it. I will never talk about it. It is not your goddamned business."
posted by nadawi at 7:08 AM on August 28 [60 favorites]


The people who hate Zoe Quinn ought to have an easy job with me. I barely know her name so, I have no baggage, and I'm basically open to believing she's really Harley Quinn in disguise if there's evidence for it. But hell, there's not even a coherent outline of just what it is that supposedly makes her so evil, except cheating on her boyfriend, which is none of my business. Just thrashing.

So far as the "sex for reviews" accusation, which is the only one that seems straightforward, well, where's the proof? Besides which, while "flipping it around" is always fraught, but honestly, if Quinn were a guy, who'd slept with 5 female journalists and gotten good reviews for it, these same bros would be standing in line to high-five him.

(In re: Sarkeesian: Regardless of my take on her points, I've already said I think some of the people making threats ought to be in jail. Really, is communicating a death or rape threat not a crime?)
posted by tyllwin at 7:17 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


Mitrovarr: Well, which of those activities aligns well with the game's core gameplay mechanics? The whole point of the quest being in the game was probably to give the player some sort of reasonable motivation for going and getting into a gunfight, since gunfighting is almost certainly the core mechanic of the game. First aid or calling 911 would probably just involve padding out the dialog tree and can easily be handwaved away by having a bystander do it.

Well, but, no! Watch_Dogs is all about using your cell phone to hack the city - turn off street lights, listen to phone calls, etc. It would totally have fit in the game's core gameplay to include the ability to hack the police and ambulance dispatch to have them show up on the scene in time to arrest the guy.
posted by rebent at 7:20 AM on August 28 [15 favorites]


but honestly, if Quinn were a guy, who'd slept with 5 female journalists and gotten good reviews for it, these same bros would be standing in line to high-five him.

Rachel Edidin nails it:
If the genders were reversed in the ZQ rumors, the story wouldn't be"man uses sex to get reviews," but "woman uses sex to get scoops."
— Rachel Edidin (@RaeBeta) August 25, 2014
It's not about ethics, or exposing a wrong. It's about punishing a woman for her presence.
— Rachel Edidin (@RaeBeta) August 25, 2014
posted by almostmanda at 7:25 AM on August 28 [35 favorites]


I would absolutely buy a Social Justice Paladin shirt.

Are you sure that's not White Knighting? ;) I wonder what sort of Pact a Social Justice Warlock would make. "Swear to Tumblor!"
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:25 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


I like the suggestion made in the Olly Moss SJW Twitter thread for a "Social Justice Wario" shirt. WE FART ON SEXISM!
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:26 AM on August 28 [5 favorites]


Is there a word for doing the right thing for the wrong reasons?

Comedy.

As opposed to Tragedy: doing the wrong thing for the right reason.

At least that is what I was taught, but I've often thought upon how easily they
could be reversed.
posted by Chitownfats at 7:47 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


there's actually nothing of substance behind their arguments

It seems like the mouthfrothingly ignorant "critics" of Sarkeesian have stopped spamming that godawful video about how she's not a real academic or something. The new ignorance is:

1) Here's a video were she says she doesn't play the vidya!

and

2) Pedantic detail about her use of Hitman as illustrative of her point.

This despite that fact that neither of these things are actually substantive criticisms.

The first isn't even contradictory to what she has said on several occasions is her own relationship to video games: she likes them, has always played them, but could never really get into the dudebro shooters and smashers. It's like they just picked out a random statement to latch on to and use as a smear solely because it suits their own prejudices.

The second makes even less sense, because virtually every argument based on this (you can kill any NPC; you get punished for killing NPCs) is directly addressed in the video. Nor do those arguments in any way actually refute or rebut her actual position about women being used as background decoration.

So yeah, all these paragons of critical thinking and logic seem to do when they critique TvW or Sarkeesian herself is show just how deep into their own biases they are.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:51 AM on August 28 [4 favorites]


So yeah, all these paragons of critical thinking and logic seem to do when they critique TvW or Sarkeesian herself is show just how deep into their own biases they are.

Indeed. It's judicious use of "hand-wavium" tactics to distract people from the central message that Sarkeesian is delivering all under the guise of revealing her "mistakes".
posted by panboi at 7:57 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


it's absolutely not exes fighting in public - it's one ex going off the fucking deep end,

Yeah, I mispoke. My meaning was more that throwing in a bitter ex airing their grievances on top of all the existing misogyny just made things so much worse.
posted by smackfu at 8:02 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Fish. Jesus Christ. What an asshole. The guy shits on his fans, shits on other developers, shits on his paying users, leaves the scene, comes back to the scene when nobody gives a shit that he left, leaves the scene again. Please just stay gone. What the assholes did to him is inexcusable but in the grand scheme of things, it really is a means to an end that is better for everyone.

The guy basically shits on everyone, generates controversy, halfass makes a couple of not-that-notheworthy games and then wonders why everyone hates him and doesn't worship the god damn ground he walks on because he's a groundbreaking indie dev. That makes games that occasionally break your save file. He's like the Bethesda of indie platform gaming.
posted by Talez at 8:09 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


If this situation is only indicative of a small percentage of "game culture", then please point out the AAA studios, the gaming events, and the gaming websites that aren't participating in it.

In a "by your enemies shall ye know them" way, EA is by far the biggest publisher on the list of studios to be boycotted by gamers going around. I think it is too big and incoherent to say it is or isn't buying into gamer culture - a lot of its marketing is pure skater pants Red Bull - but it is vocal about its support for LGBT employees. BioWare in particular has been trying to introduce more diversity into its games' casts and its creative teams, which is why it is to be boycotted particularly hard - both as part of EA and as a studio in itself.

Jeffrey Yohalem (Ubisoft, Far Cry) and Neil Druckman (The Last of Us, Uncharted) have both tweeted that everyone who makes games should be watching "Tropes vs Women" - they don't speak for their studios, but there are senior creatives on big, AAA franchises. Cliff Blezynski, who is no longer the director of Gears of War, is also surprisingly on point on this (deeper thinker than the stereotype might suggest, that one), and, perhaps even more surprisingly, David Scott Jaffe (again, no longer at the head of Sony's God of War franchise) has specifically said that the discussion of Quinn's social life is none of anyone's business. Tim Schafer, of course, discussed above - Double Fine isn't a huge publisher, but it's a big indie.

Gaymer X is the most obvious gaming event in the US that isn't buying into the toxicity of gamer culture, but the Eurogamer Expo in the UK also has a strong anti-harassment stance, and banned the very influential YouTuber KSI for life for the harassing and misogynist quality of the "bantz" he recorded there. They also run Rezzed, a PC-specific expo. And Nottingham's Game City, of course, and GDC, but those are more for developers.

Gaming websites - Eurogamer is pretty good for this, as is Gamasutra, which is owned by the same media company that runs GDC. Kotaku is regularly assailed for its social justice credentials, although to be honest that really just means it employs a couple of women, one of whom is Patricia Hernandez. Kotaku is really too big and too tied to the news cycle to be clearly identifiable as having a consistent ideology, but Kotaku UK under Keza MacDonald is more focused and is developing a sense of itself editorially that might fit. I think Giant Bomb at least gets a lot of shit

Polygon has many detractors, on one side for its privilege and on the other for its feminist hugboxery, but does generally manage to stand against overt misogyny at least, and in Danielle Riendeau has one of the sharpest critical observers of games in the mainstream. Rock Paper Shotgun is PC-specific, but both features a range of very talented women (Cara Ellison, Alice O'Connor, Leigh Alexander etc.) and has an avowedly anti-harassment stand on its comments and its broader editorial. There are a load of smaller sites, like Paste, Unwinnable, things of that nature.

As an aside, Five out of Ten is a relatively new magazine aimed at tackling games from a smarter critical perspective. Issues 1-6 are the bonus in the latest video game books Storybundle, which is worth taking a look at.

I mean, disclosures, I go drinking when I'm in the same city as a bunch of these people (corruption! Hugboxes!) but. It's not pure cargo pants and circle beards all the way down.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:13 AM on August 28 [14 favorites]


tyllwin: "So far as the "sex for reviews" accusation, which is the only one that seems straightforward, well, where's the proof?"

Not only is there no proof, there can be no proof, because the event itself didn't even happen, plus the purported cause happened after the purported effect. It would be like saying "Where's the proof that Obama's inauguration caused the Russians to land on the moon first?"
posted by Bugbread at 8:17 AM on August 28 [13 favorites]


phil fish is a sensitive reactive sort who should probably have never been (limitedly) famous - he's just not built for it. while the zoe thing was breaking open, he was also doing some great tweeting and signal boosting about ferguson. part of his final burst of grar was related to the verbal abuse he was getting over his support for mike brown.

fez is one of my favorite games of all time. i'd be pretty sad if he never made another game, but i also wouldn't blame him.
posted by nadawi at 8:19 AM on August 28 [10 favorites]


running order squabble fest: "BioWare in particular has been trying to introduce more diversity into its games' casts and its creative teams, which is why it is to be boycotted particularly hard - both as part of EA and as a studio in itself."

Sorry, I don't understand this. It's doing something good, so it should be boycotted extra hard?
posted by Bugbread at 8:20 AM on August 28


ROSF means that people who don't like the LGBT inclusivity boycott Bioware itself as well as the parent company for not putting a stop to Bioware's tolerance. Or at least that's how I interpreted it.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:22 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Fish. Jesus Christ. What an asshole

This is a really gross context to discuss one's opinion of Fish's character. It wouldn't be relevant even if he had shoplifted and punched a store clerk.
posted by straight at 8:27 AM on August 28 [8 favorites]


They're all still mad about Dragon Age 2, the best romantic visual novel ever to pretend to be an RPG and it's rampant, wonderful, abundant bisexuality. Mostly Anders, I think.
posted by NoraReed at 8:27 AM on August 28 [10 favorites]


ROSF means that people who don't like the LGBT inclusivity boycott Bioware itself as well as the parent company for not putting a stop to Bioware's tolerance. Or at least that's how I interpreted it.

Yes, sorry - that's pretty much it. There's an image going around imgur of the studios "real gamers" shoudl be boycotting - EA is on it, and so is BioWare. Then smaller studios and creators like Polytron (Fez), Fullbright (Gone Home), Christine Love, Anna Anthropy - all people making really interesting games, of course.

EA is generally on there for its LGBT-friendly employment policies (although the given reason is that it uses those policies as a shield against legitimate criticism). BioWare, which is owned by EA, is specifically singled out for its LGBT-friendly (somewhat - that's another and longer discussion) creative decisions - they introduced a gay male romance option in Mass Effect 3, and also a gay character who might proposition you in Dragon Age 2, which inspired naked (or rather aggressively clothed) hostility from some sections of the audience.

Their then-writer Jennifer Hepler was subjected to sustained harassment, death threats, insults about her body and personal attractiveness and so on, based largely on out-of-context or plain fraudulent quotes attributed to her*. That was part of a campaign that had escalated when the Lead Writer David Gaider knocked a complaint about the same-sex romance options into the long grass on the Bioware forums in 2011.


(* As an example of the kind of expert industry insider we're talking about here, a quote attributed to her claiming that she was forcing the animation team on Mass Effect 3 to spend less time on combat and more on animating gay male sex was taken totally seriously, because of course a scenario-level writer working on a different game would be able to make that kind of call.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:39 AM on August 28 [8 favorites]


based largely on out-of-context or plain fraudulent quotes attributed to her

IIRC the biggest problem they had was the entirely true quote of:
The biggest objection is usually that skipping the fight scenes would make the game so much shorter, but to me, that's the biggest perk. If you're a woman, especially a mother, with dinner to prepare, kids' homework to help with, and a lot of other demands on your time, you don't need a game to be 100 hours long to hold your interest — especially if those 100 hours are primarily doing things you don't enjoy. A fast forward button would give all players — not just women — the same options that we have with books or DVDs — to skim past the parts we don't like and savor the ones we do.
Because at that point you don't really have a game. You have at best a terrible 90s era interactive FMV game and at worst a realtime rendered movie. Why bother writing for games if you don't actually want any gameplay? You don't go into work at an abattoir and say "Well I don't really like animal blood. Can we do this without all the blood?" But like most things that involve criticism of any woman, especially in gaming, the misogynistic assholes latched onto it and took it way too far.
posted by Talez at 8:46 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Sometimes the saddest thing to me about committed sexist haters is how little they understand about what a fun, open, non-sexist world would look like. Yes, you'd treat women with respect, but also, other dudes would not be calling you "f*ggot" or threatening you, either. You would not have to constantly freak out over your manliness/lack of same. A world without this crap in it is just more fun, for everybody; all you have to do is follow some very basic rules of respect and consent, rules that protect you as well as anyone else.

I guess it's a devil-you-know thing; they know the rules of their dark, hateful little world and are frightened to do what it takes to leave it for a world where different rules apply, even though it's a brighter and more interesting place.
posted by emjaybee at 8:46 AM on August 28 [29 favorites]


You have at best a terrible 90s era interactive FMV game and at worst a realtime rendered movie.

You mean like those incredibly popular Telltale games that everyone is calling a new frontier in gaming?
posted by griphus at 8:59 AM on August 28 [18 favorites]


Why bother writing for games if you don't actually want any gameplay?

uh, maybe because you want good writing? Maybe because the role playing aspect of the role playing games is more interesting to you than the combat aspect?
posted by rebent at 9:01 AM on August 28 [20 favorites]


it's interesting, i never remember hearing about felix the peaceful monk getting death or rape threats or being driven from his home or having to warn his parents about assholes knowing where they live. is he "not a real gamer" because he plays games often associated with combat bypassing all that combat? what about people who play civilization in a low or no combat way? do they just want terrible stories? if games really are art, can't some games which are geared towards combat still exist without it?
posted by nadawi at 9:02 AM on August 28 [6 favorites]


Man I had no idea that my being able to skip battles with weaker monsters in Earthbound meant that the game was totally ruined, and, like, not even a game.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:04 AM on August 28 [10 favorites]


Hell, one of the biggest criticisms of the AAA Deus Ex: Human Revolution was that the boss fights were utterly unnecessary and ruined the game for certain playstyles. That game would've been better received on a totally general basis if you were able to skip the boss fights they way you could skip a cutscene.
posted by griphus at 9:05 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


You mean like those incredibly popular Telltale games that everyone is calling a new frontier in gaming?

No because that still involves some form of gameplay. You still have to make your way through the series of puzzles the designer set for you. If you just want the story why not just watch the Let's Play on Youtube instead? You don't even have to buy the game at that point.
posted by Talez at 9:05 AM on August 28


Man I had no idea that my being able to skip battles with weaker monsters in Earthbound meant that the game was totally ruined, and, like, not even a game.

At least make a straw man that isn't so insulting to everyone here.
posted by Talez at 9:07 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Because at that point you don't really have a game. You have at best a terrible 90s era interactive FMV game and at worst a realtime rendered movie. Why bother writing for games if you don't actually want any gameplay?

Combat does not equal gameplay. The fact that this mistake keeps being made is one reason why designers are increasingly coming to loathe the term "gameplay". Dialog choices are also gameplay. Inventory management is gameplay. Levelling up is gameplay.

Also, having the option to skip combat doesn't mean the combat no longer exists. I mean, you might have so little sense of self that what Jennifer Hepler does defines your understanding of a game more than what you do, but if that is the case see a psychiatrist.

Here's the actual, in-context quote (answering a question about what she, personally, would like to see in games to attract a broader audience):
A fast-forward button. Games almost always include a way to “button through” dialogue without paying attention, because they understand that some players don’t enjoy listening to dialogue and they don’t want to stop their fun. Yet they persist in practically coming into your living room and forcing you to play through the combats even if you’re a player who only enjoys the dialogue. In a game with sufficient story to be interesting without the fighting, there is no reason on earth that you can’t have a little button at the corner of the screen that you can click to skip to the end of the fighting.

Companies have a lot of objections, such as how to calculate loot and experience points for a player who doesn’t actually play the combats, but these could be easily addressed by simply figuring out an average or minimum amount of experience for every fight and awarding that.

The biggest objection is usually that skipping the fight scenes would make the game so much shorter, but to me, that’s the biggest perk. If you’re a woman, especially a mother, with dinner to prepare, kids’ homework to help with, and a lot of other demands on your time, you don’t need a game to be 100 hours long to hold your interest — especially if those 100 hours are primarily doing things you don’t enjoy. A fast forward button would give all players — not just women — the same options that we have with books or DVDs — to skim past the parts we don’t like and savor the ones we do. Over and over, women complain that they don’t like violence, or they don’t enjoy difficult and vertigo-inducing gameplay, yet this simple feature hasn’t been tried on any game I know of.

Granted, many games would have very little left if you removed the combat, but for a game like Deus Ex or Bioware’s RPGs, you could take out every shred of combat and still have an entertainment experience that rivals anything you’d see in the theater or on TV.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:08 AM on August 28 [24 favorites]


No because that still involves some form of gameplay.

Because it's an interactive story where your conversations and actions with/towards other characters determine where the story goes, and it's built to adapt to give you story-based consequences to the choices you make?

"Gameplay" is a progressive series of choices and their consequences, not "press X to punch a dude."
posted by griphus at 9:08 AM on August 28 [18 favorites]


what about games where you largely get to choose if you fight, stealth, or charm your way through something? i would love to see more of those, and less basically on rails run&guns weaving in and out of the same environments as every other run&gun on the market.
posted by nadawi at 9:12 AM on August 28 [8 favorites]


I really wish she would narrate from behind the camera.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:16 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


[One of the funny things about this is that Hepler led the writing on the Orzammar section of Dragon Age: Origins, which was replete with characterization, intrigue, significant non-combat choices, personality clashes and so on - but also contained the Deep Roads, the grindiest grindfest in a pretty grindy game. Thus making her both the disease and the cure for gaming, or the cure and the disease, depending on your attitude.]
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:16 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


What would a Social Justice Rogue be?
posted by Karmakaze at 9:17 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


...but for a game like Deus Ex or Bioware’s RPGs, you could take out every shred of combat and still have an entertainment experience that rivals anything you’d see in the theater or on TV.

I've been replaying KoTOR on iPad lately and boy that game would be a lot more fun if they didn't have to pad "please help solve this complicated situation between warring families in a peaceful manner" with "oh and also all their droids flipped out and are killing everyone because XP."
posted by griphus at 9:20 AM on August 28 [6 favorites]


Sorry, I don't understand this. It's doing something good, so it should be boycotted extra hard?

Boycotted extra hard by the shitnozzles. The best part is that devs took that image and ran with it, asking how they would be able to get on it.

(There are legitimate issues with EA with things like Sim City and Battlefield Hardline, and Bioware isn't always perfect, but people like FartToContinue make me want to buy every EA game I can find.)
posted by kmz at 9:26 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]




Combat does not equal gameplay. The fact that this mistake keeps being made is one reason why designers are increasingly coming to loathe the term "gameplay". Dialog choices are also gameplay. Inventory management is gameplay. Levelling up is gameplay.

In any game, directly controlling your character(s) is going to be the lion's share of the time spent. The rest of it is just there to give depth to the experience. It just doesn't make sense because I mean how do you apply something like what she said to Civilization? Hell, how do you even apply something like that to Dragon Age? Do you push the button and up comes a standard amount of XP to advance your stats? But why even have stats if you're not going to even use them? Why have inventory if it has no effect whatsoever? At some point your actions generate the reactions to drive the game forward.

It just doesn't make sense why you would want all the ancillary stuff but not the primary stuff. It's like going to a steakhouse for the fries but you'd really like a Portabello instead of meat. Why didn't you just go to a vegetarian place that serves the steak fries you're after?
posted by Talez at 9:26 AM on August 28


Why bother writing for games if you don't actually want any gameplay?

Gameplay != fight scenes.
posted by kmz at 9:27 AM on August 28 [15 favorites]


I think the point is that there should be both a steak place and a vegetarian place and that considering "restaurant" and "steak place" to be synonymous is alienating a lot of vegetarians who would like an opportunity to eat at a restaurant.

Hell, how do you even apply something like that to Dragon Age? Do you push the button and up comes a standard amount of XP to advance your stats? But why even have stats if you're not going to even use them? Why have inventory if it has no effect whatsoever?

Gameplay choices and consequences determine XP. Skipped combat sequences give a set amount of XP that would be lower that if you actually fought through it, but enough to be able to progress through the game as an interactive story rather than a combat experience. Stats modify your ability in conversation, like how D&D 3.5 allows you to use Strength as the modifier for Intimidate rolls even though there's no combat involved. Inventory influences what you can do in conversation with characters (fetch quests, etc.) and your ability to get through non-combat oriented puzzles (like basically every single Lucas Arts point-and-click game.)

Bro, do you even game?
posted by griphus at 9:31 AM on August 28 [30 favorites]


If you just want the story why not just watch the Let's Play on Youtube instead?

Because controlling your character's decisions at moments which have actual significance to the plot -- unlike grinding out xp killing night time bandidos -- is playing the game. Watching a LP is not playing the game.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:32 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


> Why bother writing for games if you don't actually want any gameplay? You don't go into work at an abattoir and say "Well I don't really like animal blood. Can we do this without all the blood?"

I think this assumption that "gameplay" MUST mean fighting (the idea it's as given as an abbatoir having bloodletting!), and in the context of what Sarkeesian's talking about usually gendered violence as given, strange and perhaps telling of pervasive small-minded cultural assumptions. Kind of getting at what emjaybee says, it's strange this idea a world with an expanded selection of games (or expanded, you know, everything, so you can welcome people previously dismissed or abused) is so hard for some to even begin to fathom (which she touches upon towards the end of this installment--it reminds me of the "how can Idris Elba be in Thor, that's so unbelievable it'll be distracting!" thing, also baffling). When I watch Tropes vs. Women the overwhelming takeaway feeling I get is a longing for the future, when there will be better games, a lot of them, with a more open-minded view of all the things games could do and be. I never get the sense Sarkeesian doesn't want to play games--I think if anything she does, and is frustrated there aren't more worth playing that don't make women feel shitty. At least that's how I feel myself after watching her series.
posted by ifjuly at 9:33 AM on August 28 [9 favorites]


Inventory doesn't really matter though if you're going from A to B and picking up everything along the way in a skipped sense. Even Lucas Arts games make you go to a scene and use your intuition and innovation to find the particular items the game is looking for. If you could press a button and skip all of the item collecting in that scene and have it dumped into your inventory it'd be a pretty shitty game, yes?
posted by Talez at 9:33 AM on August 28


KoTOR on iPad lately and boy that game would be a lot more fun if...

Every objective didn't require hiking to the other side of the damn planet than hiking back to finish it? I love me some KOTOR, but early Bioware games have a distinct problem with thinking making things far away adds "depth."
posted by Panjandrum at 9:35 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


It's like going to a steakhouse for the fries but you'd really like a Portabello instead of meat. Why didn't you just go to a vegetarian place that serves the steak fries you're after?

Maybe that particular steakhouse has the most amazing fries in the city. And most steakhouses do in fact have vegetarian entree options.

Different games have different goals, and different players have different preferences for how they want to play. Story is absolutely a primary component in Bioware RPGs. You realize that having a fast forward option doesn't mean that you have to use that option, right?
posted by kmz at 9:35 AM on August 28


I see now your comment wasn't directly about Sarkeesian, my bad.
posted by ifjuly at 9:35 AM on August 28


steak places are sometimes the absolute best place for vegetarians to eat when their options are limited. their sides are straight forward, often not cooked in chicken stock, and can be ordered in groups of 2/4/6/etc at reasonable prices. loaded baked potato - hold the bacon, broccoli, and a side salad...fantastic meal. would eat again.


on topic: I mean how do you apply something like what she said to Civilization?

google pacifist civilization sid meier and see lots of discussions about which game in the series has the best pacifism options and which paths reward pacifism, and pacifism challenges, etc.
posted by nadawi at 9:37 AM on August 28 [8 favorites]


Alpha Protocol is a really interesting example of a game where the dialog and the character development are at times pretty incredible, but the combat is so broken that every specialization has impossible difficulty spikes at points and is boringly easy at others. Balancing combat - AI, weapons, skills - is really expensive, as is rendering real-time combat in 3D without it glitching in ridiculous or damaging ways.

If Obsidian had decided early on not to make a game with a shedload of real-time combat and character customization, and instead focused on building out the character and narrative development, that could have been a very different game. At the time, they couldn't really do that, because of the kind of contract they had to sign with publishers. Telltale now can, for lots of reasons, not least digital downloads and the ability of the Telltale tool, which took a long time to mature, to export to multiple platforms.

And Obsidian is now making Torment: Tides of Numenera, a classically styled RPG which foregoes that incredibly expensive real-time 3D combat entirely, in order to play to Obsidian's real strengths - dialog, characterization, weighty choices, exploration. These all involve "directly controlling your character". These are all forms of gameplay.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:38 AM on August 28 [10 favorites]


Just because someone isn't playing the game in a way that you grok doesn't make their enjoyment or the game-ness of the experience any less. It's just a thing you don't understand.

Hell, look at the people who play games in not-advertised-on-the-box ways, like setting up the initial conditions for Civ-like games or fighting/wrestling games and then turning full-AI teams loose just to see how things evolve and what sorts of interesting behavior results. Walks like a game, quacks like a game.
posted by introp at 9:38 AM on August 28 [8 favorites]


If you could press a button and skip all of the item collecting in that scene and have it dumped into your inventory it'd be a pretty shitty game, yes?

Not any more or less shitty than using a walkthrough or asking a friend on how to get through a part, which some point-and-click games practically required of people who weren't well versed with the conventions of the game. Before the internet, I never finished a point-and-click game. I just wasn't good enough that them. Were it broken up into coherent acts where you could click "skip" to go to the next one (or even just solve a puzzle on your behalf) I would've actually stood a chance at it.
posted by griphus at 9:43 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


In any game, directly controlling your character(s) is going to be the lion's share of the time spent. The rest of it is just there to give depth to the experience. It just doesn't make sense because I mean how do you apply something like what she said to Civilization?

Thanks, by the way, for demonstrating that you didn't actually read the quote in context, because you don't want to understand the context, you just want to express nerd rage. Once again:
Granted, many games would have very little left if you removed the combat, but for a game like Deus Ex or Bioware’s RPGs, you could take out every shred of combat and still have an entertainment experience that rivals anything you’d see in the theater or on TV.
There's actually a huge amount in Civlization that isn't combat. However, it is absolutely a game made up of systems. It does not have a developer-defined narrative. It isn't the kind of game she is talking about.

She was asked a question about how games could appeal to a broader audience. She identified that making combat optional - not removing it, but putting in systems that could simulate the effect of fighting - would be a way to appeal to audiences with limited time, or limited interest in exploiting combat systems, or for that matter disabilities that meant they weren't able to get through combat, but who enjoyed other parts of the gameplay experience of story-driven RPGs - i.e., the games she was familiar with and wrote for.

Thank you, I guess, for demonstrating how nerd rage demands that everyone drop everything and pay attention to its concerns, but doesn't bother actually to listen to responses. And has now made a thread about the harassment of women into a thread about nerd rage over a prescriptive and incorrect definition of what gameplay is.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:47 AM on August 28 [33 favorites]


And Obsidian is now making Torment: Tides of Numenera, a classically styled RPG which foregoes that incredibly expensive real-time 3D combat entirely, in order to play to Obsidian's real strengths - dialog, characterization, weighty choices, exploration. These all involve "directly controlling your character". These are all forms of gameplay.

They still have the incredibly tedious Baldur's Gate/KOTOR style 2D RTS combat, but they promised in the Kickstarter pitch that there would be non-combat ways to deal with every hostile encounter in the game. Which is good, because otherwise they probably wouldn't have gotten my money.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:48 AM on August 28


If you could press a button and skip all of the item collecting in that scene and have it dumped into your inventory it'd be a pretty shitty game, yes?

all sorts of games have mechanics to skip certain things or quicken other things - "either run around and pick up every gem after killing a character or using some sort of force to pull them towards you," "pay 12 gold dust to crack this lock instead of actually passing the puzzle," hell, game developers for some games will sell you dlc that's basically "how about i just effectively beat the game for you and give you a big open playground to do whatever you want."
posted by nadawi at 9:48 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Re: tshirts, I am a sort of connected to some of the same people that rosf mentioned as doing cool stuff, and a couple months ago on Facebook they were all about these "gaming's feminist illuminati" shirts riffing on the feminazi-cabal-ruining-games nonsense. I couldn't get one when they were available but I wish I had!
posted by Corinth at 9:51 AM on August 28


The biggest objection is usually that skipping the fight scenes would make the game so much shorter, but to me, that's the biggest perk. If you're a woman, especially a mother, with dinner to prepare, kids' homework to help with, and a lot of other demands on your time, you don't need a game to be 100 hours long to hold your interest — especially if those 100 hours are primarily doing things you don't enjoy. A fast forward button would give all players — not just women — the same options that we have with books or DVDs — to skim past the parts we don't like and savor the ones we do.

Because at that point you don't really have a game. You have at best a terrible 90s era interactive FMV game and at worst a realtime rendered movie. Why bother writing for games if you don't actually want any gameplay?
You're focusing here on what is skipped, but the other half of that is equally germane to the argument: skipping stuff means you can actually play the game because maybe you don't have a hundred hours to devote to it (or even twenty, or five -- already two movies worth of time). If you're interested in a game for its narrative, you cannot get to the end without slogging through the non-narrative bits. If you've already played a game once and want to revisit your favorite parts, you can't skip ahead like you could in a book or a movie.

This is a complaint as much about time commitments as it is about content. Rather than ask 'why not just watch a Let's Play?,' I would ask: why would the publisher want to lose that sale? Why would you tell your potential customer, please don't give us money for our product?
posted by cjelli at 9:54 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


> what about games where you largely get to choose if you fight, stealth, or charm your way through something? i would love to see more of those, and less basically on rails run&guns weaving in and out of the same environments as every other run&gun on the market.

god, now i'm nostalgic all over for my obsessive run with the kingdom of loathing (moxie, flailing-don't-give-a-damn dance moves, pasta colanders, and fearlessness around guano were all ya needed, if you so chose!) back in the day.
posted by ifjuly at 10:07 AM on August 28 [10 favorites]


There's an image going around imgur of the studios "real gamers" shoudl be boycotting - EA is on it, and so is BioWare. Then smaller studios and creators like Polytron (Fez), Fullbright (Gone Home), Christine Love, Anna Anthropy - all people making really interesting games, of course.

If anyone is interested, here's the list:

http://mrdappersden.tumblr.com/image/95942292047
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:20 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


And here it is, annotated with links and advice on where to buy games by these studios (thanks to this twitter account).

The mention of Origin as a place to buy EA games is particularly awesome trolling.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:29 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


That list is adorable. How dare those companies pander to potential customers.
posted by almostmanda at 10:30 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


I'm really wondering how PAX will be this weekend. There was supposed to be some kind of "gaming journalism integrity" protest but it looks like it's fizzled out. (They were thinking it would make national news, LOL.) Already dreading the audience Q&A portion of the Giant Bomb panel, which is awkward at the best of times. And wondering how the Game Industry Rumble (which includes Zoe Quinn) will turn out.
posted by kmz at 10:42 AM on August 28


Apparently 4chan misogynists have invented a woman to agree with them.
posted by Corinth at 10:50 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


The people who hate Zoe Quinn ought to have an easy job with me. I barely know her name so, I have no baggage, and I'm basically open to believing she's really Harley Quinn in disguise if there's evidence for it. But hell, there's not even a coherent outline of just what it is that supposedly makes her so evil, except cheating on her boyfriend, which is none of my business. Just thrashing.

She was also accused of fraudulently using a DMCA takedown-notice to claim copyright of a video criticizing her, in order to get it pulled from Youtube. That's a crime that hits my pet-peeve buttons but most people don't care about copyright stuff. If the video is the one I suspect it is, then judging from the first few seconds it's pretty awful stuff and I can understand thinking the ends justify any means, fraudulent or no, but at the same time, false DMCA claims really rub me the wrong way.

But... I didn't see much internet rage about the DMCA abuse allegation. When I tuned-out the shitshow, the DMCA thing was submerged under the sea of rage about sex and using the Woman Card to get All The Things. I don't even know if it was resolved or debunked.
posted by anonymisc at 10:53 AM on August 28


pax security is in contact with zoe about protests to make sure she has the resources and support she needs.
posted by nadawi at 10:56 AM on August 28 [6 favorites]


BTW, GaymerX was by all accounts a great event for everybody this year, so support that if you can.
posted by kmz at 10:58 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


What would a Social Justice Rogue be?

Probably someone like Lyte from LoL who waits for the creatures to stumble out of their caves and then Sneak Attacks them right in the back for double damage.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:17 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Social Justice Warriors are already really good at backstabbing, though THEY HAVE STABBED VIDEO GAMES IN THE BACK so I don't know what a rogue would add to the party...
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:24 AM on August 28


Rogues seem more like the Social Vengeance type. Though, with their knowledge of poisons, I bet they could brew up some delicious Kool-aid for us to drink.
posted by almostmanda at 11:37 AM on August 28


The End of Gamers

'Gamers' don't have to be your audience. 'Gamers' are over.
These obtuse shitslingers, these wailing hyper-consumers, these childish internet-arguers -- they are not my audience. They don’t have to be yours. There is no ‘side’ to be on, there is no ‘debate’ to be had.

@alexdecampi : Gaming: in dog training, we call this an "extinction burst" -- when a negative behavior stops being rewarded it grows sharply before dying.

Comics edition:
Fake Geek Guys: A Message to Men About Sexual Harassment
posted by Artw at 12:04 PM on August 28 [11 favorites]


en forme de poire: This is actually one of the things Sarkeesian brings up in the video, though -- that one big reason for including this type of violence against women is just as a shallow (and often titillating) way of making the player feel less conflicted about killing the "bad guy." It goes back to what she says about women not being "the other team" but rather "the ball."

Yes, and I can understand her point on this. However, this kind of thing doesn't take place within a vacuum within a game, and there are lots of examples of other atrocities also being committed (villages wiped out, people being robbed, murdered, etc.) So in general there are lots of other people being used as nothing other than shallow literary justification. I would go so far as to say 'Shallow literary justification' is a critical role in these games, and lots of poor NPCs meet their terrible ends to fulfill it.

I guess my point is that this shouldn't be taken as pushing a negative view of women as long as women aren't overrepresented (or represented in a really insulting manner) within a particular game as being the targets of violence. Like in Dragon's Age, the origin story for an elvish character could be taken as really depersonalizing for women IF you only viewed that one scene. However, it can actually be viewed as somewhat empowering, too - for instance, I'm under the impression that if you are playing a female character, your male fiance will break in with a sword - and then throw the sword to you. And later he ends up biting it to advance the plot. So it really makes a pretty bad example when considered as a whole.

Also, there's the problem that if you include certain elements in the game (slavery, racism, intolerance) not including or at least hinting at the sexual objectification, etc. that went along with it historically can feel like whitewashing.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:28 PM on August 28


rebent: Well, but, no! Watch_Dogs is all about using your cell phone to hack the city - turn off street lights, listen to phone calls, etc. It would totally have fit in the game's core gameplay to include the ability to hack the police and ambulance dispatch to have them show up on the scene in time to arrest the guy.

Watch_Dogs is generally considered to have been a pretty bad game that mostly squandered any promise it had. In particular, the 'crime fighting' aspect has been roundly criticized for being artificial and immersion-breaking all around. Furthermore, I'm willing to bet that men were also victimized in these random crime events and the player was equally unable to get medical attention for them.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:40 PM on August 28


However, this kind of thing doesn't take place within a vacuum within a game

However, this kind of thing doesn't take place within a vacuum within society.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:48 PM on August 28 [6 favorites]


This series is in the top flight of projects borne of kickstarter. Re Eurogamer, the articles and editorials have been getting better, but the comments are still disappointing.

Fish. Jesus Christ. [...]

The guy basically shits on everyone, generates controversy, halfass makes a couple of not-that-notheworthy games


Fez is brilliant AFAIC. Great music, graphics, atmosphere and it toes the line between puzzle and platformer. He's not great at PR, but he made one great game more than the majority of his detractors.
posted by ersatz at 12:57 PM on August 28 [5 favorites]


the series is about tropes involving women that show up repeatedly in video games. it is not tropes versus people or tropes about the disposable nature of npcs. it is unimportant that some games are equal opportunity (and even in that, men are rarely assaulted to provide a narrative arc for the female main character and most games don't have male sex workers in speedos moaning and emphasizing pinup characteristics as they're dying). it's unimportant if you or the general public consider something to be a bad or a good game. it's unimportant if a game is actually skewering those tropes by repeating them exactly with a nod and a wink.

what's important is that no matter what the justifications or context, certain things happen again and again and again, so often that there can be a multi part series focusing on different troubling tropes about women. also, for all the men dying indiscriminately and not being saved and being used as bait, they still get to make up the bulk of the in depth writing and game play. we're all still mostly watching these beautiful, layered worlds through the eyes of men. women on the other hand are largely shoved into these ancillary roles that tvw has focused on. this wraps back around to how a certain vocal group of male gamers seem to think women only started caring about games when portal came out and are only into candy crush and cosplay. to them women cannot enjoy or care about games like men do. investigating how women are treated in games is potentially instructive to figuring out why actual women are treated so poorly in the community.
posted by nadawi at 1:02 PM on August 28 [16 favorites]


Like in Dragon's Age...

That's still just the lazy trope of Rape as Drama (take your pick). You've got a Medieval Jewish analogue complete with ghettos and different religion; there's a million different ways to create a dramatic backstory that don't involve a planned rape of the PC, the murder of another NPC (that's the "body is still warm" bit from the latest video), and the completed rape of another NPC.

I'm willing to bet that men were also victimized

The topic of "male NPCs get hurt too" was directly addressed in the last TvW video as well as in the current one, where it is noted that the kind of random trigger crime event features men as mutual aggressors, not the victims of domestic violence. I haven't played Watch Dogs, but I'm willing to bet that there's not a single instance of stock, repeated male NPC whose sole purpose is act as the victim of an abusive partner. If there was, that'd be remarkable in it's own right.
posted by Panjandrum at 1:14 PM on August 28 [3 favorites]


nadawi: what's important is that no matter what the justifications or context, certain things happen again and again and again, so often that there can be a multi part series focusing on different troubling tropes about women.

I understand this, but I think the efforts of video game feminism would be much more effective if it focused more on the egregious offenders and less on the games that try to do it right. There were some things in that video (well, the transcript anyway) that I would classify as 'super fucked up', like the 'beautifully executed' promotion. It would be much more effective (and more reasonable, really) to focus on those things.

Bringing games that didn't badly overuse these tropes into it just makes your demands feel unreasonable. I mean, there are going to be innocent victims in games to motivate the protagonist, like there have been in every literary art form going back thousands of years. With women making up half of the population, some of them are going to be women. It makes more sense to complain about the games that overuse it or use it in a shitty manner, than to complain about every use of it. Because, what are the alternatives? Make every single victim male? Just not having games that include the concept of saving the victims of violence or war? You're not providing a reasonable alternative.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:22 PM on August 28


Sarkeesian does actually show footage of male victims in Watch_Dogs, and concludes that they are generally portrayed as less helpless, passive, and sexualized. But to respond to the larger point, some of the things mentioned above (like wiping out villages) can definitely also be problematic for similar reasons if they play into, say, racist/colonialist tropes (e.g. Resident Evil 5). So while Sarkeesian is focusing on women here, that doesn't mean that other things that appear in games aren't also a problem, they are just outside of the scope of this video series, which is to focus on women and the markedly different way they tend to be portrayed in games.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:23 PM on August 28 [4 favorites]


The biggest objection is usually that skipping the fight scenes would make the game so much shorter ... Because at that point you don't really have a game ... Why bother writing for games if you don't actually want any gameplay?

Oh, this is utter nonsense. The most unambiguously hardcore game ever, freakin' Doom, had cheat codes that gave you infinite ammo, invulnerability, and the ability to ghost through the level geometry, letting you skip absolutely anything in the game you wanted to. Lots of people had fun playing around with the game using those codes.

Did iddqd and idspispopd ruin Doom and make it a non-game? Pretty clearly they did not.
posted by straight at 1:23 PM on August 28 [13 favorites]


Sarkeesian does include an example of a game that she thinks treats the concept of domestic violence in a serious but engaging way, Papo & Yo.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:27 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


straight: Did iddqd and idspispopd ruin Doom and make it a non-game? Pretty clearly they did not.

They didn't ruin it for everyone, but overusing them will absolutely ruin it for you.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:34 PM on August 28


what demands? "notice that this is a thing that happens, and wonder if it's necessary every time it happens"? the alternative is not to make a bunch of non-combat, no woman ever dies, everything is a perfect feminist ideal games - it's to take a critical eye from a feminist viewpoint on the overall art form. why do people act like she's telling people to never play these games or she's calling people irredeemable sexists if they make or enjoy these games? from where i'm sitting she's simply saying, "this is a thing that happens." if she reduced it to the worst offenders the reactions would be, "well, yeah, what did you expect from xyz developer/series, you're just cherry picking the worst examples and tarring us all with that brush! what about the love that john marston shows his wife or the help he gives bonnie??" tvw isn't the end all be all of critique of video games, it's not even the only available feminist critique. there is no action plan. it is a broad view into repeated tropes that affect in game women.

as far as being effective, quite a few content creators inside and outside of gaming have said they find her videos useful and given them things to think about next time they make something.
posted by nadawi at 1:34 PM on August 28 [18 favorites]


I really don't the feeling that she is just 'pointing out' the usage of tropes so much as explaining why they are bad, even then ones that seem like they'd be necessary to use at least some of the time if gaming is to ever portray the real world (or a realistic one). I think this leads to a feeling of the videos saying "Your hobby is bad and you should feel bad" which is not constructive for change.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:46 PM on August 28


It seems to me that Sarkeesian's message is directed toward developers and designers more than fans - i.e., she's not trying to tell people what entertainment they should or should not consume, but rather is pointing out pitfalls during the process of game design that are totally avoidable (like having one female character whose characterization is basically solely that she is female, or having most of the female NPCs be scantily clad hookers). To the extent that she's reaching out to fans, I think it's more to empower them and give them the language to identify/discuss the things that make them feel unwelcome in their own hobby.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:50 PM on August 28 [8 favorites]


I think this leads to a feeling of the videos saying "Your hobby is bad and you should feel bad" which is not constructive for change.

Sarkeesian has clearly stated multiple times in her videos and other places that it's okay to like problematic things, just like it's okay to point out that they're problematic. All of the people I know who are most passionate about changing games to be a more inclusive place feel that way in part because they LOVE GAMES.

At this point if your only takeaway is "she wants me to feel bad about playing games" then I honestly feel you are not really thinking this through.
posted by jess at 1:55 PM on August 28 [17 favorites]


Did iddqd and idspispopd ruin Doom and make it a non-game? Pretty clearly they did not.

They didn't ruin it for everyone, but overusing them will absolutely ruin it for you.


Which is irrelevant unless you're making the "I'm too weak-willed to resist using cheat codes/walkthrus/quicksaves/skip options, so no one else should be allowed to have them" argument (or the argument we're actually disussing "...so anyone who publicly asks for them should be threatened with rape.")
posted by straight at 1:58 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Did iddqd and idspispopd ruin Doom and make it a non-game? Pretty clearly they did not.

They didn't ruin it for everyone, but overusing them will absolutely ruin it for you.


I heard it makes you blind if you do it enough.
posted by Panjandrum at 2:04 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


I think this leads to a feeling of the videos saying "Your hobby is bad and you should feel bad" which is not constructive for change.

Have you stopped to consider why it makes you feel this way?
posted by ndfine at 2:05 PM on August 28 [12 favorites]


I doubt it's intentional, but at least you can avoid the particularly potentially triggering content in DAO by playing any origin other that City Elf, IIRC. I thought they handled it OK-- overprivileged lordling raping marginalized folks-- but I a) never played it as a male PC and b) took an inordinate amount of pleasure straight-up murdering said lordling later in the game. It would've been nice if they'd said that, hey, there's some possibly traumatic content in this origin, especially since you can be a warrior or rogue elf going through the Dalish origin instead.

There sure is a lot of fridging in those games, though. Poor Couslands.
posted by NoraReed at 2:06 PM on August 28 [6 favorites]


I think this leads to a feeling of the videos saying "Your hobby is bad and you should feel bad" which is not constructive for change.

I absolutely love "Ico" and recommend it to anyone. It's a fantastic game. It also has a damsel-in-distress trope which I find annoying even though it's an integral part of the gameplay. I wish they'd found a way to do it that doesn't make Yorda seem so feeble.

If you can't figure out how I could love the game and still want to talk about what's annoying about Yorda's portrayal (particularly in the context of damsels-in-distress in other games), that's your problem, not mine. I sure ain't saying, "Ico is bad and people who play it should feel bad."
posted by straight at 2:07 PM on August 28 [9 favorites]


straight: Which is irrelevant unless you're making the "I'm too weak-willed to resist using cheat codes/walkthrus/quicksaves/skip options, so no one else should be allowed to have them" argument (or the argument we're actually disussing "...so anyone who publicly asks for them should be threatened with rape.")

I'm all for cheat codes, but it's pretty silly for anyone to think you can skip the primary gameplay mechanic in most games and still have a game. Doom is about shooting demons and avoiding death (well, in single player). If you skip all of that, all you have is some walking around and pixelated art. I guess you could have fun with that for a little while, in the sense that one could enjoy an illustrated copy of The Hobbit by just looking at all of the pretty pictures. But it's stupid to advocate that people actually do that, because at that point it's a pretty bad form of entertainment and you could almost certainly do better.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:08 PM on August 28


Not constructive to change: Pointing out bad things and explaining why they are bad
Constructive to change: uh,
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:10 PM on August 28 [11 favorites]


Did iddqd and idspispopd ruin Doom and make it a non-game? Pretty clearly they did not.
posted by straight at 4:23 PM


As a side note, while it's been a very long time since I was in QA, if I remember my TCRs (Technical Certification Requirements) correctly both Microsoft and Sony do not allow cheat codes on their systems, period. Everyone gets a few TCR exemptions per release (out of over a hundred for any platform), and games like Skyrim still feature a command console for the PC SKU, but in general the practice of providing codes like that in big-budget titles has dried up completely as a result.

I could be mistaken, but I distinctly recall reading something to that effect many, many years ago while in QA and being like "Oh, well that explains that."

This is also part of why most narrative-driven games now feature a ridiculously low-skill-requirement easy mode for people primarily interested in the story.
posted by Ryvar at 2:11 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Different people enjoy different things for different reasons. Not everyone is going to like playing a game the same way you like playing a game - there are people who buy Forza Motersports because they plan on spending 90% of their time in the paintjob editor. I advocate that people enjoy video games however they most enjoy videogames, because I like it when people enjoy videogames.
posted by Corinth at 2:14 PM on August 28 [12 favorites]


Sarkeesian does include an example of a game that she thinks treats the concept of domestic violence in a serious but engaging way, Papo & Yo.

I really enjoyed Papo & Yo. The core 3D platforming and puzzling is not very polished, but it offers plenty of things I've hardly ever seen in other games. A novel setting and protagonist, weird magic used to create surreal puzzles, an effective allegory based on the gameplay. I'm tempted to call it magical realism, but maybe that's just because it's set in urban South America. It's definitely worth checking out.
posted by straight at 2:18 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


The "realism" thing is also something Sarkeesian talks a lot about, particularly how that argument is unevenly deployed. For example, the fact that there are no underage pedestrians in GTA V isn't realistic either, nor is it realistic that you can mow down streetlights and fire hydrants with a convertible and your car mostly just keeps driving. (And of course these arguments often also get applied to fantastic or sci-fi settings where it just straight up doesn't make sense.)

Re: Doom, if you take out the killing you still get to navigate and explore the dungeon, which is something people find enjoyable (cf for example Knytt, and a lot of people even like just driving around and exploring the city in GTA). I have to add that it seems a little disingenuous to complain about people making you feel bad about your hobby by criticizing certain aspects of games you enjoy, and then turn around and say the way someone else games is straight-up categorically inferior.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:21 PM on August 28 [20 favorites]


i knew a guy who liked to use cheat codes to unlock/skip the campaign in one of the gta games, then drive around, obeying traffic laws, finding collectibles, amassing cars, taking sweet jumps, and generally exploring or doing races/target challenges/other non combat stuff. i would guess he sunk 75+ hours into the game and barely ever killed anyone on purpose. declarative statements about what people like in games or what counts as gameplay or how boring other people would find something seems weird to me. you can think it's boring. you can think it's pointless. you can think it breaks the core mechanic. so? it's not an unheard of suggestion, lots of people are already using mods and cheat codes and glitches to have an experience the developers didn't initially intend and the developers sometimes supports this by offering these sort of bypass the campaign modes through things like dlc. very few of these people are being called fakers trying to destroy the entire community of gaming.
posted by nadawi at 2:23 PM on August 28 [14 favorites]


Doom is about shooting demons and avoiding death (well, in single player). If you skip all of that, all you have is some walking around and pixelated art.

Mass Effect (the series) is about shooting aliens and making moral choices (well, in single player). If you skip all the alien-shooting, all you have left is a bunch of compelling narrative-driven moral quandries.

(I would be very happy with a Mass Effect that let me skip the alien shooting. And I generally enjoy shooting aliens.)

Some games are more substantial than Doom and give you more to do than shoot things. And some games are actually mostly about walking around and exploring -- Dear Esther, Gone Home, Knytt, and (in practice, for many people) Skyrim.
posted by cjelli at 2:24 PM on August 28 [4 favorites]


But it's stupid to advocate that people actually do that, because at that point it's a pretty bad form of entertainment and you could almost certainly do better.

No one's arguing that you should skip the combat in Mass Effect. People are just arguing that you should be allowed to have that option. What's stupid is to advocate for reducing people's options in how they want to play a game.

both Microsoft and Sony do not allow cheat codes on their systems, period.

Which is entirely because of their awful "achievement" systems. Wouldn't want somebody to get 500 cheevos they didn't "earn". Cause that's what games are all about. Earning those cheevos. Why did GFWL screw up so many people's savegames and encrypt them so it's impossible to fix them? Why are so many AAA games very hard to mod? Gotta protect the integrity of the cheevos.
posted by straight at 2:25 PM on August 28 [3 favorites]


Ooh, somebody made a nice list of all the people you should be following! Thanks, helpful dude!
posted by kmz at 2:26 PM on August 28 [5 favorites]


Anyway, the point about Doom is that if other people's ability to skip combat in a game which is nothing but combat didn't ruin Doom for you, then other people's ability to skip combat in a game like Mass Effect certainly won't ruin Mass Effect for you.
posted by straight at 2:30 PM on August 28 [8 favorites]


I'm all for cheat codes, but it's pretty silly for anyone to think you can skip the primary gameplay mechanic in most games and still have a game.

You seem rather incredibly concerned about the notion that other people might want to play a game in a different manner than you would. There's a not-so-subtle implication that because you don't think it's still a game, the people who do this are, ergo, not gamers. It begins to border on "fake geek girl" territory.

Just because you think the primary gameplay mechanic is killing things, that doesn't mean other people are wrong for wanting to play some other way, nor does their choice to do so have any effect on you whatsoever.
posted by tocts at 2:34 PM on August 28 [13 favorites]


i knew a guy who liked to use cheat codes to unlock/skip the campaign in one of the gta games, then drive around, obeying traffic laws,

This is the most adorable story about that game I have ever heard.

As far as combat goes, the first thing I do when any new Elder Scrolls game comes out is to build myself a weapon that will one-hit any creature in the entire game. Because I play for the story, not for mashing a button combo thousands of billions of pointless times.

GNS Theory might not be the tidiest complex of ideas around gaming, but it seems to apply in this conversation.
posted by winna at 2:37 PM on August 28 [3 favorites]


The actual shooting part of id games has never been that great-- the games have really served more as tech demos. Doom looks pixellated and quaint these days, but when it came out, just walking around and exploring the levels was a new* and kind of magical experience. I know a lot of people who basically played the game with god mode on as a kind of adventure game about navigating the maze-like level design.

*Yes, I'm aware that Ultima Underworld predates it
posted by Pyry at 2:38 PM on August 28 [4 favorites]


for me it's not even about actually implementing skipping combat in games like mass effect - but rather, is someone a nefarious fake out to ruin games because when asked how to get games to appeal to a broader audience her answer included the idea that some people might want to skip combat like others prefer to skip dialog? because that's why we started this whole branch of the conversation - was that suggestion in and of itself a problem. which, no. it's a fine suggestion that isn't too far afield of things that have been going on in gaming since the beginning.
posted by nadawi at 2:38 PM on August 28 [4 favorites]


people who are mad at the mere IDEA of a skip combat button make no sense to me, it's like damn, did you not play Dragon Age? have you MET Alistair?

you could streamline DAO to a really interesting game by taking out 75% of the combat and at least half if the walking. it'd be a better game for it.

anyway, if people want to play no-combat just to watch Alistair fall in love again and again, how could I fault them? they shouldn't need to go through something they find tedious just to watch him laugh and make jokes about cheese and get grandmotherly but surprisingly frank and lovely talks from Wynne. I don't feel like Alistair's love for my Warden is lessened by the player of another choosing not to fight another fucking gemlock wave, for this is a single-player game, and to withhold Alistair from anyone, no matter how casual, is a cruelty that would stain my character beyond redemption
posted by NoraReed at 2:43 PM on August 28 [21 favorites]


You have my axe, NoraReed.

This whole conversation is really all a derail from the post topic, but I gotta say that if there was a button that let me skip any Kai Leng interaction in Mass Effect 3 then I would have hit that sucker in a heartbeat.
posted by jess at 2:46 PM on August 28 [10 favorites]


I wouldn't mind a skip-combat button in some games. As it is, I'll sometimes play on easy or even with invul cheat mode on if I want to enjoy the game experience but not have to spend time repeatedly bashing my head against some opponent or other.

I particularly wouldn't have minded a skip-combat button for the giant battle near the end of Bioshock: Infinite. After 5 or 6 failed times through I gave up and watched someone's youtube recording of the ending to find out what happened next.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:47 PM on August 28


Oh, God. Kai Leng. Worst Gary Stu ever.

I think this leads to a feeling of the videos saying "Your hobby is bad and you should feel bad" which is not constructive for change.

Meh. Tim Schafer, Neil Druckman and Jeffrey Yohalem, just off the top of my head, have said that it was a useful video that anyone interested in making games should watch. I think I value their feelings more highly, as guides to what is appropriate content about gaming, than this hypothetical affronted gamer.

As a general rule, I'm going to think the creator of Grim Fandango has a better handle on how to talk about games than a Twitter account with an anime avatar and no followers. YMMV.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:48 PM on August 28 [3 favorites]


You take that back about John Romero.
posted by griphus at 2:50 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Is that Brenda's husband? Is he in games too?
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:53 PM on August 28 [8 favorites]


...have said that it was a useful video that anyone interested in making games should watch.

It is useful and worth it and she is insightful and expert, while simultaneously her ignorance and misrepresentation also makes it unnecessarily jarring and difficult and demotivating and easy to downplay. Sure, that borders on being a tone argument, but professionals are paying attention in part because they're being professional and want to be better and this stuff matters. Having the videos make that more difficult than necessary isn't helpful - some professionals who support the same goals stop watching them. Pros are paying attention to the videos sometimes despite the videos rather than because of them. It would be better if that wasn't the case. To me, she's still a hero for getting this much done.
posted by anonymisc at 3:01 PM on August 28


You realise you're writing Tim Schafer fanfic, right?
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:02 PM on August 28


I mean, I think he might just think it's worth watching.

Plus, TBH, if it was that easy to downplay, I think more people would actually be downplaying it, rather than threatening to kill her or narrating two hour YouTube monologues about how she is a fraud and a monster determined to kill video games.

I mean, one thing people who are treating Anita Sarkeesian like an existential threat to their way of life are not doing is finding her easy to downplay.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:09 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


I mean, one thing people who are treating Anita Sarkeesian like an existential threat to their way of life are not doing is finding her easy to downplay.

Those people are not professional game designers. AFAIK. "Downplay" means simply going ahead with business as usual, or only making slight adjustment based on the stronger parts of the videos.
posted by anonymisc at 3:10 PM on August 28


i keep being...darkly amused?...that a reason her kickstarter was so successful and that the videos have so many views on them, and likely a large factor in the big name developers watching and recommending the videos is because of the omg out of proportin backlash. if the nerds who thought this was silly or strident or attacking their lifestyle had just ignored it and focused their energy elsewhere, it likely would have been far less successful. i wish she hadn't been attacked and i wish she could have just done her project and got some eyes on it and maybe inspired some feminist indie developers or bloggers, but it is pretty instructive to have a living breathing example of lewis's law. the reaction to anita sarkeesian proves the need for feminist critique of video games.
posted by nadawi at 3:15 PM on August 28 [11 favorites]


The actual shooting part of id games has never been that great

OK, now you've gone too far and I have to do a 180 and say your opinion is wrong and you should feel bad.
posted by straight at 3:40 PM on August 28 [6 favorites]


i wish she hadn't been attacked and i wish she could have just done her project and got some eyes on it and maybe inspired some feminist indie developers or bloggers, but it is pretty instructive to have a living breathing example of lewis's law.

Given that she hasn't been able to do this without attacks, as least her bravery will be rewarded with a place in the history books. Perhaps not a household name like Rosa Parks (video games aren't as critical as schools) but I think she'll be remembered and lauded as one of those iconic figures of right-against-rage amidst a cultural turning point.
posted by anonymisc at 3:41 PM on August 28 [3 favorites]


Just linking to this in case it hasn't been already:

IGDA issues statement condemning harassment

(via ElementaryPenguin's Twitter feed @ElementaryPenguin).
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:44 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Honestly I haven't found much that convincingly makes the case that Sarkeesian is misrepresenting the games she's showing clips from. I mean I've heard people claim to have this kind of evidence a lot, but I have yet to find something that really would seem to me to constitute an actual rebuttal of any of her points. For instance, in context, BioShock is a satirical dystopia, sure -- but that's not a get out of jail free card for showing sexualized female corpses. Double Dragon Neon has that one awesome punch, but Sarkeesian even says herself that letting the damsel get one good (mostly symbolic) final lick in to her oppressor is a pretty common variation on the trope. Etc.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:44 PM on August 28 [9 favorites]


I really wish she would narrate from behind the camera.

Given that someone literally made a video game where you punch a picture of Sarkeesian's face until you're "rewarded" with a picture where her face has been photoshopped to look like she's been grievously beaten, I'd say keeping her face front and center during the videos is pretty damn badass. I'd don't think I'd be brave enough to do it.
posted by straight at 3:48 PM on August 28 [21 favorites]


Those people are not professional game designers. AFAIK. "Downplay" means simply going ahead with business as usual, or only making slight adjustment based on the stronger parts of the videos.

I feel like if you are asking one woman with a YouTube channel and a production budget about the size of a week of crunch pizza for a AAA studio to change the way all game devs think, you have set some very high expectations. This is something that happens a lot with women - they are set impossible targets and then criticized for failing to meet them.

TvWiVG is not perfect. It would be nice to be able to have a conversation about how it is not perfect without foamy dudes turning up to agree, and to add that she's a FRAUD and a SLUT, or indeed a constant nagging concern that you're having this discussion with a foamy dude who is keeping it just about under control. I'd love that. But this isn't a perfect world. I think we are all doing the best we can in it. There's a lot of great criticism of games by women from a feminist perspective being written. TvWiVG need not be one's only source.

Given that someone literally made a video game where you punch a picture of Sarkeesian's face until you're "rewarded" with a picture where her face has been photoshopped to look like she's been grievously beaten, I'd say keeping her face front and center during the videos is pretty damn badass. I'd don't think I'd be brave enough to do it.

I had not thought of that.

Huh.

(Also, the guys trying to raise $15,000 a month to make a "feature-length Documentary have already had to apologise after saying that they would put "Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian" on the DVD as an extra, along with "Beat up" games of their faces, I guess to show that it's just a lark and humorless feminists and so on. So, that's nice.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:58 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]




The internet loves setting polarizing, grand stages for conflicts. As long as they believe (or mentally perceive) that these are people out there specifically to ruin games, and not also doing a bunch of game development, discussion, and playing, on other topics at the same time, they'll continue to deride criticism. It's a lot easier to blow a specific incident out of proportion if you ignore everything else a person has done.

Anyways, progress marches on. I'm sure that similar antagonistic sentiments sprang up in women's suffrage, desegregation, and other civil rights topics. Why are you asking for rights when you should trust authority to be perfectly accommodating for your concerns? Oh, and it's your fault whenever anything bad happens to you. You weren't perfect enough, so obviously your argument is completely invalid.
posted by halifix at 4:02 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


keeping her face front and center during the videos is pretty damn badass.

Hell yeah. She's a braver woman than I. Also, she has a much larger collection of plaid shirts than I do.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:10 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


I feel like if you are asking one woman with a YouTube channel and a production budget about the size of a week of crunch pizza for a AAA studio to change the way all game devs think, you have set some very high expectations.

This is not my position. It seems entirely reasonable to me that when critiquing someone's work, you critique what they actually did or didn't do, rather than a straw man for emphasis or convenience. There is no shortage of bad shit to critique, so there is no need to alienate people who can make a difference, by misrepresenting their actions.
posted by anonymisc at 4:22 PM on August 28


What is she "misrepresenting"?
posted by zompist at 4:35 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]



This is not my position. It seems entirely reasonable to me that when critiquing someone's work, you critique what they actually did or didn't do, rather than a straw man for emphasis or convenience. There is no shortage of bad shit to critique, so there is no need to alienate people who can make a difference, by misrepresenting their actions.


A few people have already jumped on you, and I don't mean to pile on, but I have not really been following this. And trying to find out what peoples actual issues with the videos has just led me to either this sort of vague criticism, or to a bunch of awfulness that I would rather not slog through to find the substance.
So, would you mind outlining some of the actual problems you have with the project?
posted by St. Sorryass at 4:36 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


St. Sorryass, this has turned into a rather long thread but fairly early on I posted this, which contains a point of contention with the videos' approach to open-world mechanics and whether the ability to commit violence on any NPC is being conflated with encouragement of violence against women in particular. I've pointed out Kristin Bezio's critique (linked in that comment) to a bunch of designer friends and it's gotten a universally positive response from men and women alike.

That point aside - and it's pretty minor within the context of the videos taken as a whole - I agree with basically everything else Sarkeesian puts forward as problematic, though, and that includes the stuff I directly had a hand in (ie I assembled the vocal performance for Jasmine Jolene's murder scene in Bioshock 1 from several separate takes, which appears at 1:45 in the latest video). My former co-workers have been pretty universal in their agreement along similar lines (also, I never worked on Bio 2 but I love Zak McClendon's responses).
posted by Ryvar at 5:23 PM on August 28 [7 favorites]


I think Bezio makes a lot of good points, Ryvar - although I also think Sarkeesian does come back to the "violence against any NPC" element somewhat in part 2 - you can run anyone over in Watch_Dogs, male or female, but only women are murdered by their abusive boyfriends in the crime-stopping encounters. Violence there isn't encouraged, but it is narrativized. And there are limits to the idea of violence against women as a critique of the misogyny of the games spielwelt, for want of a better term.

OTOH, if you set up a world that makes men and women equally vulnerable to violence, I think it's worth examining how equal that is. An obvious example being (pace Zak McClendon, who got there first) pretty much any brothel/strip club scene, where the dead women are likely to be scantily-clad and very much subject both to sexualization before their killing and potentially a kind of post-mortem eroticization. I mean, Dead Rising really hangs a hat on that by providing points for cleavage and upskirt shots of female zombies...

So, yeah. When a Jack Thompson character says that you win in GTA by murdering sex workers, I think a mighty eyeroll is totally appropriate. But that doesn't mean that a sex worker's model, set of animations and voice track might not provide different affordances for the player.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:55 PM on August 28 [4 favorites]


I've been trying to think why this video, in particular, has been such a lightning rod for disgusting misogynists. And my terrible feeling is that it's just a reflex reaction. That the trolls who think rape threats are legitimate discourse also really enjoy looking at sexy murdered female corpses. And they resent being told that their enjoying repeated fantasies of violence against women may not be OK. Nothing more subtle than that, just bad people defending their bad practice.

I usually see this kind of discussion in a more nuanced light. I'm willing to defend about half the games Sarkeesian calls out, even defend their use of sexual violence as a trope. But that doesn't diminish the value of this video she produced, of just calling out examples of how pervasive this sexist violence is. And how lazy it is. And I really can't see how any non-sociopathic human could see this video and think "the appropriate reaction here is to threaten to kill the editor of this video."
posted by Nelson at 6:13 PM on August 28 [5 favorites]


I think this video in particular is getting a worse response than usual because of constructive interference with the wave of hate already in progress for Quinn. The disgusting misogynists were already engaged, so they were ready to froth from the get go without having to spin up anew.
posted by Corinth at 6:41 PM on August 28 [10 favorites]


I didn't mean to post and run earlier in the thread, glad to see it's still going on.

I definitely agree with Corinth, the reactions to this video have essentially nothing to do with the video itself, or even Anita as a person at this point. Anita is instead a representation all attacks on their identity as gamers. And, she is in fact an attack on their identity, in that she is hoping to confront them about the way they view themselves.

Various people have claimed that the problem here is that these gamers are taking everything too personally, and that it's silly to care about gaming that much. I don't think that's the problem at all. What do reasonable people do when their identity is attacked in a non violent way? They get a bit sad about it, or completely ignore the criticism, or maybe they write something online or protest. They don't send people rape threats or threaten to kill someone. But, some percentage of people, largely young males, react to threats to identity with completely inappropriate responses and this is a symptom of that.

I'm fairly hopeful that this is going to improve the community, because despite what some people are saying the mainstream gaming community is being quite vocal about this issue, with substantial pieces in kotaku and others and lots of posts from important developers. The gaming community is being pretty vocal about this, and hopefully it will help to educate a lot of the people who aren't intending to be hurtful about the harm they are doing. I remember a presentation from the Riot player behavior department showing that something like 50% of people who used racist or abusive speech didn't actually realize that it would cause legitimate harm, and honestly thought it was just humorous. There are a lot of idiot kids out there, hopefully there will be a few less after this.
posted by JZig at 7:21 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


They don't send people rape threats or threaten to kill someone.

Then again, gamer culture is in large part a culture formed around games where killing people is what you do. And as Sarkeesian points out, rape is also a constant subject of gamerism. What if it's as simple as that, that violent video games provoke sociopathic responses in gamers? I've spent years arguing that's nonsense. And yet here we are.

I'm fairly hopeful that this is going to improve the community

Me too. Sarkeesian's video is really well done. Anyone with even a tiny bit of an open mind should be able to learn something from it. I think her strongest criticism is that throwing sexual violence into a game to make it "edgy" is just lazy, unartistic. Thoughtful game developers aspire to do better.
posted by Nelson at 7:37 PM on August 28 [6 favorites]


> Anita is instead a representation all attacks on their identity as gamers. And, she is in fact an attack on their identity, in that she is hoping to confront them about the way they view themselves.

Yeah, I can see that (and the insecurity it displays tends to astonish me in that "must touch some nerve" way a couple people have alluded to upthread--people spend ridiculous amounts of time and effort reacting to her instead of just going "well, I disagree"), but I think it's interesting, this conversation coming right around the time the New Yorker does the Mary Beard article (also recently posted on the Blue, and some of those examples are just as graphic, just as violently gendered, and just as legitimately threatening such as the repeated bomb threats), where Beard points out it doesn't really matter what you're even saying/supposedly attacking--if you are a woman and you dare to say anything this can happen (in Beard's case, it seems like a lot of it just her daring to be present and comfortable at all in public academic discourse while having the gall to, you know, not look like a 20something fashion model...most of her televised work has nothing to do with feminism per se, nor critiquing current subcultures). And I can't help but think back to John Scalzi's "The Kind of Crap I Don't Get" posts too, and how friends of mine who food blog have dealt with this on some level for daring to have blogs (about things as incendiary and personal as cake for god's sake) and present ideas at all. Part of it kind of feels like it happens because on some level it's still seen as, if the word's not quite acceptable, something horrific and inhumane you know you can do particularly to women and on some level it's to be expected online still. Which of course, as mentioned upthread, is funny (except not, more like awful) in that it tends to Lewis' Law-style prove the points Sarkeesian's making, that abuse and dismissal of women is somewhat normalized in our culture.
posted by ifjuly at 7:41 PM on August 28 [4 favorites]


I think a big reason Sarkeesian in particular infuriates the misogynists is that she doesn't pander to them. She doesn't jump through hoops trying to prove that she's a "real" gamer. She doesn't use "gamer" lingo and rhapsodisze about the SNES RPG series she grew up with in an attempt to show she belongs in the cluubhouse. She doesn't wear tight tank tops and flirt with the camera. She takes herself and her subject seriously. Compare her with pretty much any of the female talking heads at a video game website, and the difference is pretty stark.

When she got started, I thought it was a shame she wasn't more of an insider, wasn't the kind of person I thought would be more persuasive to people on the fence about these issues. But as this goes on, I'm really glad that she's the person the gaming community is rallying around, not because she's pandering to us, but because anyone with an interest in games should be able to discuss these issues without harassment, without having to demonstrate she's "one of us."
posted by straight at 7:50 PM on August 28 [24 favorites]


> I'm really glad that she's the person the gaming community is rallying around, not because she's pandering to us, but because anyone with an interest in games should be able to discuss these issues without harassment, without having to demonstrate she's "one of us."

Yeah, agreed. It's almost like they kind of know they can get away with this shit partly because some vocal people's kneejerk reaction is still going to be "now let's have a referendum on everything about Sarkeesian's legitimacy ever", that classic victim blame-y focus, instead of an immediate "wow, that's an unacceptable response, full stop". It's hard for me not to find some shared aspect to it as in "but did he steal a cigarillo" like that makes any difference, the way it illustrates some ugly basic assumptions about varying levels of humanity culture defaults to for individuals of marginalized groups.
posted by ifjuly at 7:56 PM on August 28


There's violence against male and female NPC's, but only female NPC's (as far as I've seen) are on the receiving end of sexualized violence.

Please, game devs, do *not* balance the scales with prison rape jokes, either.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:17 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Then again, gamer culture is in large part a culture formed around games where killing people is what you do. And as Sarkeesian points out, rape is also a constant subject of gamerism. What if it's as simple as that, that violent video games provoke sociopathic responses in gamers? I've spent years arguing that's nonsense. And yet here we are.

It's certainly possible, but based on the prevalence of rape and death threats in other online communities it's definitely not focused solely in gaming. They're clearly correlated but no one has nearly enough evidence to make some sort of causal inference there. Gamers do express strong disagreement and hope for harm with more specific threats than most other angry people. There's a difference between telling someone to commit suicide in a specific way vs telling someone to generically fuck off and die.
posted by JZig at 8:29 PM on August 28


I really, really hope neither of these women get killed someday for having an interest in video games and *gasp* participating publicly in that.

I am afraid that day will someday come, soon.

Though we talk about this happening in "gamer" culture, but what it really does is happen EVERYWHERE where over 50% of the people involved in something are male.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:21 PM on August 28


xdvesper: I think she could easily have also done a series on tropes in movies.

Actually, she already did do a series of Tropes vs Women about other media. They pre-figure the Kickstarter and all the bullshit since. They're really good, I think. What happened was that she started planning her next series of videos following those and realized how prevalent the stuff she wanted to talk about was in video games in particular, so she decided to make the new series about video games more specifically.
posted by sparkletone at 11:28 PM on August 28 [3 favorites]


running order squabble fest: feminist hugboxery and then (corruption! Hugboxes!)

I know that you're using this here to mean a particular kind of echo chamber and probably didn't mean to be offensive... But please be SUPER, SUPER careful about using any variation on the term "hugbox." The root of the term is a machine invented by Temple Grandin designed to calm autistic people with certain kinds of sensory processing issues.

Because the internet is awful, certain shitty kinds of people have latched onto it as a slur in the same way that they use Asperger's and autism as a slur.

Don't use that word carelessly.
posted by sparkletone at 11:49 PM on August 28 [8 favorites]


Pyry: The actual shooting part of id games has never been that great-- the games have really served more as tech demos.

This is true for some later id titles, but not Doom. Doom is actually an excellent game at its core, and it holds up great, even under modern standards. The arcade-y gameplay is nice, monsters and levels are well designed, the game rewards skill but doesn't demand too much of beginners, and the difficulty levels are really well tuned. Even the graphics hold up well when the technical limitations are taken into account (not something you could really say about Quake, for example). I go back and replay it once every couple of years and I'm always positively surprised.

id got worse at making games over time. Quake is still mostly good, Quake 2 is alright, Quake 3 Arena is very popular with some people but is generally lackluster, and I didn't really play much they made after that. I think the original company was more than the sum of its parts and lost a lot when members started to split off.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:44 AM on August 29 [2 favorites]


My apologies for my late entry into this thread, but I thought this was important to address:

> Eron Gjoni (the prick that released all the nude pics of Zoe and the falsified "transcripts" that he's had to walk back as false)

Citation please. Eron did not release any of the nudes; Zoe had put those on a paysite long before they were together. He also has not, afaict, walked back anything except the May-March typo. Before calling him names and saying stuff that isn't true, maybe read what he first wrote about Zoe, or his tumblr. What he's describing is extremely abusive, hypocritical, gaslighting behavior by someone who doesn't practice what they preach. It's not "slut-shaming" to call someone out for repeatedly cheating. According to Zoe's stated standards, if you cheat in a committed relationship and then sleep with your partner without informing them, that is sex without consent. He backs up what he says with as much proof as he can. So I think she's scum. This behavior is unacceptable regardless of gender.

I also think the people heaping loads of abuse on her, and her supporters, are scum. It's an excuse for some legitimate misogynists and MRA/anti-SJW jerks to step up and harumph, and I'm not giving them any more headspace than I did previously. And of course there's always some assholes taking it too far, and condemning them is important. (As Eron does in big bold letters at the top of his post.) But just because some of the people condemning her are jerks and assholes doesn't mean she isn't scum.

I wish that Zoe would say "yeah, I abused Eron and our relationship and I'm getting some sorely needed psychological help," but it seems that's not going to happen.
posted by waraw at 1:18 AM on August 29


I wish that Zoe would say "yeah, I abused Eron and our relationship and I'm getting some sorely needed psychological help," but it seems that's not going to happen.

Holy cow dude, read that sentence again. You don't know any of these people, yet you're deciding the dynamics in their relationship and declaring that one has a mental illness. And you're deciding that... based on a Tumblr post by a stranger who admittedly had an axe to grind.

People's relationship problems are their own business -- it's not up to you or the internet to audit someone's personal life. It's not even like game devs are movie stars or someone who chose to be a public figure. You are thinking way too much about the lives of strangers.
posted by jess at 1:50 AM on August 29 [33 favorites]


... legitimate misogynists and MRA/anti-SJW jerks...

I don't understand what the difference is meant to be between these two groups, especially with reference to Quinn.
posted by harriet vane at 2:12 AM on August 29 [3 favorites]


Also:

It's an excuse for some legitimate misogynists and MRA/anti-SJW jerks to step up and harumph,

I don't call rape threats and death threats harrumphing, especially over something that's none of their business. You might need to adjust your perspective on this.
posted by harriet vane at 2:16 AM on August 29 [14 favorites]


Oh, yes, the "encouraging death threats, cyber attacks and doxxing was just the poor guy's way of trying to get her to seek the help she needs" argument. Excellent.

Sparkletone: huh. I did not know that this was another name for the Grandin machine. It was used in the title of a thread on The Escapist, one of the sites that allowed the discussion to continue from the start (somewhat unwisely, IMHO, although it was sort of interesting to see dudes used to the manosphere echo chamber getting more and more upset that simply repeating stuff did not convince people who were initially largely indifferent to the initial 8,000-word blog post, and then horrified at its consequences).

I thought it was just another reddity coining like SJW. Will avoid in future.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:07 AM on August 29 [2 favorites]


The men's-rights movement is a male supremacist group, so separating it from "legitimate misogynists" is a bit peculiar.

Zoe Quinn may in fact be a terrible person with terrible sexual ethics, but even if she were, it wouldn't justify the abuse heaped on her and her supporters.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:23 AM on August 29 [6 favorites]


gjoni didn't exactly come off as not abusive no matter how hard he tries to absolve himself of it. i think it's best these people are not together. i think it was never any if our business. i think he published that screed hoping this would be the result. i think it's clearly a misogynistic attack and as such it makes no sense to separate him from those who attacked her after. i think it is grotesque the way he and his supporters use the language of sexual assault to discuss infidelity.
posted by nadawi at 5:46 AM on August 29 [13 favorites]


And of course there's always some assholes taking it too far, and condemning them is important. (As Eron does in big bold letters at the top of his post.)

"I chummed the waters but now there's all these sharks swimming around, oh noes, I didn't mean for that to happen!"
posted by kmz at 6:55 AM on August 29 [18 favorites]


primer: I DO NOT STAND BY THE CURRENT ABUSE AND HARASSMENT OF ZOE QUINN OR FRIENDS. STOP DOING THAT. IT IS NOT IN ANYONE’S BEST INTEREST.
is the weakest excuse of a “condemnation” I have seen in a while. “not in anyone's best interest” is the understatement of the fucking century.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:07 AM on August 29 [8 favorites]


I think my favorite part of this is terrible dudes accusing women of making up harassment for attention. Like they think male attention is a valuable resource they possess that women are climbing over each other to harvest. Even the attention of vile, scummy, hateful bigots.

Sorry, terrible dudes--your attention holds negative value. It's like holding a $-100 bill, or a coupon for free food poisoning.
posted by almostmanda at 7:24 AM on August 29 [27 favorites]


Why bother writing for games if you don't actually want any gameplay?

Skipping down here a bit (well probably a couple of hundred comments or so) to make a point about the 'skipping game-play' thing, so apologies if this has already been brought up, or if that particular issue has been played out.

Basically, you don't get to tell other people how they should play a game, and if they don't play it the way that you think you should that they're not really playing it. I've spent a lot of time playing games from the Total War series, particularly Medieval, Medieval 2, and Rome. I've played the tactical battle portion of the game a grand total of 1 time in the course of several hundred hours as it just doesn't interest me.

There's only so many hours in the day, and only so very few of those that I can commit to playing games, so I'm going to do what I enjoy. Which is running an empire that controls more than half or Europe which involves a lot of time spent looking at information screens, deciding on build queues, deciding on overall strategy, etc. Running the minutiae of individual battles? Pfftt, do I not have generals? I have to deal with Wales getting pissy about their tax burden, and the public health situation around Lubeck really needs to be sorted out.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:44 AM on August 29 [10 favorites]


To get a little bit more back on topic, I was teaching a cultural studies/humanities subject to first year game design students in the first half of last year. So of course I did bring up and show parts of the TvW videos in class. Most were pretty on board with it (apparently it was a very good intake that year, a lot of discussion was about indie games and wanting to make interesting indie games) but there were a few that were weirdly defensive about it. They felt like they were being personally called out for liking games, particularly if they were games mentioned in the videos, that their hobby (if not identity) was going to be taken away from them, etc. There were also a few who were just out and out misogynists who took the 'what would she know anyway as a girl, she's not a gamer' approach. The encouraging thing is that I didn't have to shoot that latter group down, as there were some bright lights amongst their classmates who were happy to do that. I've forgotten her name now sadly, but one student did issue a your choice of weapons at dawn style challenge.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:57 AM on August 29 [2 favorites]


Oh, and speaking of playing games in the non-advertised way, I'm reminded of playing as Denmark in TW: Medieval where after a quick land grab to set-up a proto Hanseatic league type Baltic empire I spent the next 200 odd game years doing nothing but improving and fortifying my territories, staying the hell out of the cluster fuck that was the ongoing Holy Roman Empire-Lithuanian-Poland-Russian war for supremacy in the East, and building trading ships. Lots of them. After that couple of hundred years of that I had a treasury so stupidly vast that I could support an army 3-4 times the size of my neighbours combined for decades without having to worry about running out of money.

And that is how in that timeline Denmark somehow managed to extend it's far sighted policies on public amenities and social services across Europe and a good chunk of the Near East. And the Mongols were just 'those annoying guys on horses, what's their deal anyway? Oh, looks like they've decided to go bother the Seljuks instead.'

Anyway, my point with these posts is that there is generally no correct way to enjoy a videogame. I spent a lot of time playing Morrowind for instance, and I spent a decent amount of that time enjoying the scenery, looking at the sky, and enjoying the visual design. I didn't feel bad that I'd installed a mod to make those annoying cliff racers go away.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:32 AM on August 29 [8 favorites]


Yeah - the best part of Red Dead Redemption - one of the games Sarkeesian references - IMHO, is riding along watching the landscape and the sky change, listening to the awesome soundtrack. Nobody would have paid $50 for that experience - well, not enough people - but it's the thing I enjoy most of the many things one can do in Red Dead Redemption.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:41 AM on August 29 [2 favorites]


games.on.net: Announcement: Readers who feel threatened by equality no longer welcome.
As long as I am in charge of this ship, I will happily admit to pushing an agenda: I want better representation in games. That’s my agenda. That’s our agenda. ... if you’re not on board with that, leave. If you’re not on board, find another ship, and good luck to you because that ship will be sailing against the wind.
posted by Nelson at 8:44 AM on August 29 [15 favorites]


I think this leads to a feeling of the videos saying "Your hobby is bad and you should feel bad" which is not constructive for change.

there were a few that were weirdly defensive about it. They felt like they were being personally called out for liking games, particularly if they were games mentioned in the videos, that their hobby (if not identity) was going to be taken away from them, etc.

Gaming is not bad in itself. But certain games are doing bad things that need to stop. They may in fact be good games in some ways but still doing things that need to stop. There is room to have this conversation!

Rather than thinking she's telling gamers "Feel bad!" you could instead see it as "Here is a thing that is happening and causes harm in games. As a gamer, you could make a difference by pressuring makers for better games and choosing to play better games. Then everyone could have a good time without all this nasty shit in their faces."
posted by emjaybee at 9:59 AM on August 29 [2 favorites]


It'll be interesting to see if anyone at PAX seizes the oportunity to say anything...

...anything not totally awful, of course.
posted by Artw at 10:19 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


I absolutely love "Ico" and recommend it to anyone. It's a fantastic game. It also has a damsel-in-distress trope which I find annoying even though it's an integral part of the gameplay. I wish they'd found a way to do it that doesn't make Yorda seem so feeble.

Brothers tapped into a similar "we're in this together" vibe, so one solution would be to turn Ico into a woman too, so that the only person with agency isn't boy rescuing girl.
posted by ersatz at 10:20 AM on August 29


Rather than thinking she's telling gamers "Feel bad!" you could instead see it as "Here is a thing that is happening and causes harm in games. As a gamer, you could make a difference by pressuring makers for better games and choosing to play better games. Then everyone could have a good time without all this nasty shit in their faces."

Yes. That is what I actually did, or have been trying and will go on trying to do. And most were on board from the start. Some were a little bit harder to tease out from their resentment holes. A few were quite happy to stay in those holes regardless. And then complain when they got bad marks for what was basically a cultural studies unit.

And I Emphasised the point that you can criticise things whilst still enjoying them. Which I think is one of Anita's most important points. Most of them got that.

I'm playing less and less games these days, partially out of time constraints, but mostly because I'm pretty sure I've shot that nazi/space/alien/street gang thing to death a few years ago.

And re: things like Ico, it's perhaps helpful to point out that Anita's argument, at least as I read it, is that it is not about the specific games but rather using those tropes as a lazy fall back. It's not about the qualia as so much the quantia.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 10:37 AM on August 29 [3 favorites]


I've spent a lot of time playing games from the Total War series, particularly Medieval, Medieval 2, and Rome. I've played the tactical battle portion of the game a grand total of 1 time

Oh yeah! That reminds me, Master of Orion 2 had an option to turn off "Tactical Combat" so all the battles were fought off-screen. I think you just got a summary report when it was over. Even if you turned Tactical Combat on, you could still just just click "auto" and have the computer run through the turns; useful once you started rocking a fleet of Doom Stars.

So that's a pretty direct example of a Sid Meiers game with a skip combat feature.

I really want to play MOO2 now.
posted by Panjandrum at 11:34 AM on August 29


But Sid Meier didn't work on MOO2 and I think had even left Microprose by then...
posted by Justinian at 11:43 AM on August 29


Sid Meiers: Expanded Universe, then. MOO2 as the Thrawn Trilogy.
posted by Panjandrum at 11:48 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Starbase Orion for iOS (and possibly other platforms?) isn't a direct clone of MOO2, but it's by FAR the closest anybody's come since. More precisely, it's MOO2 slightly stripped down and balanced for multiplayer. The singleplayer isn't *quite* as rich as a result (there's some game-breakingly overpowered shit in the upper tech levels of MOO2 that has no counterpart in Starbase Orion), but it's still very much worth your time to check out.
posted by Ryvar at 11:55 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


I just got around to watching Sarkeesian's first video in this series. I think it's an even more effective video game critique than the second video linked in this post. Highly recommended if you're interested in game criticism; feminist or otherwise.

I was particularly interested in her analysis of how gaming is not just passive entertainment, that active player control makes the emotional impact of the game stronger. That's an important topic in games in general that I haven't seen explained very well.

Also, she organizes her descriptions of games with Martha Nussbaum's framework, an analytics framework for discussing the components of sexual objectification. This structure allows Sarkeesian to separate out specific elements of how games work. For instance in some games sexualized women are disposable, the way corpses despawn. And in some games sexualized women are interchangeable, in how sex acts have the same effect as healing potions or power-ups.

I'm really grateful to see such smart, insightful critique of video games. Watching this makes me double-down on my hope she's willing to also do a video series highlighting games that are positive examples of women in games. I have no problem with these videos that just call out bad treatment of women, gaming culture needs that. But she's done such a good job of it I'd like to see her do the other side of the coin, too.
posted by Nelson at 12:02 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


As an aside, I always recommend the short video that sort of kicked off the whole thing, her songvid of "Too Many Dicks". It's just over a minute long, and it's hilarious.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:27 PM on August 29 [3 favorites]


Now I'm imagining the horror of what a "gamer" made positive women in games video would be like.
posted by Artw at 1:40 PM on August 29


Total Biscuit has written a fairly lengthy piece addressing the current situation and gaming in general. No doubt people will think he's being falsely evenhanded in a situation which isn't amenable to "both sides have a point" and trying to draw equivalences where there are none but I think what he's trying to do is address gamers in their own language to get them to stop being assholes. People will stop listening when they feel they are being attacked, particularly if they feel they're being attacked unfairly (even if they're wrong about that), so the way to get them to reconsider their actions is to talk to them without making them feel attacked. At least I think that's what he's doing.
posted by Justinian at 1:47 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


I highly recommend everyone read Justinian's link.

I've been reading some more about the recent controversy over Zoe... including the chat logs posted by her ex. It just makes me really sad and wish people wouldn't attack each other so much. She probably has quite some experiences and mental issues to deal with, and her ex is probably pretty broken himself. They've both done things they probably shouldn't have... although the public blowback for the published issue, as opposed to being a person who would publish such an issue, is much greater.

I'm also feeling disappointment at myself, because I notice myself more internally annoyed that some feminist are doing malevolent actions, while often dismissing addressing the massive, impulsive (not organized) campaign against prominent feminist figures. It's because I am both probably still dealing with conditionally-habitually questioning females more, and also believing that the naysayers will never turn around. The second point goes against my personal belief in human capability for growth, and also means that I'm treating all naysayers as a single group.

I wish everyone a fulfulling life, even to those out there on the wide internet that don't want my wishes.
posted by halifix at 2:21 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the TotalBiscuit tract is... not great. If encouraging people to feel victimized and justified is part of some amazingly complex psyops campaign ultimately to make them better people, I'd be interested to know how often it works.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:26 PM on August 29 [6 favorites]


He's not encouraging them to feel victimized, he's recognizing that they already do feel victimized. Which they often do. Sometimes because they are actual victims, sometimes not. He's encouraging empathy.
posted by Justinian at 2:31 PM on August 29


Sorry, I think the TotalBiscuit essay is not so great. It totally is a false attempt at even-handedness. On one side you have someone who's worked for years producing thoughtful video criticism about misogynist portrayal of women in games. On the other side you have random people making anonymous death and rape threats. It's hard to talk about "gamers being attacked" when the sum total of the "attack" is a cultural critique.

TotalBiscuit says "I would rather discuss them on their merits" and "Engage with them in a discussion if they're willing." OK, well, why not engage with Sarkeesian's video? Instead of hand-wringing about some thrice-removed discussion about the rape threat response to the critique, why not just engage with the critique? There's an hour of video there, freely given, and it's thoughtful and worth respect.
posted by Nelson at 2:31 PM on August 29 [19 favorites]


No doubt people will think he's being falsely evenhanded in a situation which isn't amenable to "both sides have a point" and trying to draw equivalences where there are none
...
It totally is a false attempt at even-handedness

NAILED IT.
posted by Justinian at 2:33 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Oh, more seriously I don't think he's talking about the assholes making rape or death threats. He's talking about people like himself who have been caught up in the crossfire despite not really having much to do with it at all.
posted by Justinian at 2:34 PM on August 29


TB has consistently been all "oh noes journalism integrity" and "oh noes my friend JonTron (who likes to use slurs and post pornographic cartoons of Zoe Quinn) is being so unfairly attacked" the entire time. I think the latest piece might be the only time he's even mentioned the harassment Quinn and Sarkeesian have been getting. His first missive on the topic pretends to be neutral but is about as one-sided as it gets.
posted by kmz at 2:35 PM on August 29 [13 favorites]


How do you figure that TotalBiscuit is caught up in the "crossfire"?
posted by Corinth at 2:40 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


See, if you think his first missive is awful and one-sided I don't know how you're going to have a discussion with anyone who isn't already 100% on your side. Because his entire essay boiled down is "I don't know much about it, my understanding is that the accusations are as follows: (lists accusations). If that's true it's awful. However it may very well not be true. Which is why I try to stick to talking about games and industry bullshit."

That's not one-sided unless "one-sided" is defined as "doesn't already completely agree with me"
posted by Justinian at 2:52 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


How do you figure that TotalBiscuit is caught up in the "crossfire"?

I dunno, you'd have to ask him. He's the one saying it.
posted by Justinian at 2:55 PM on August 29


Right, and tons of gamers over on NeoGAF are saying they're being "bullied" by Alexander's Gamasutra piece more than the women who have been driven out of their homes by threats of violence.
posted by Corinth at 2:59 PM on August 29 [4 favorites]


I'm still baffled by how defensive people are to a feminist critique of gaming. I'm a gamer myself, and I like most of the games Sarkeesian critiques in her videos. I think she's even wrong about what she says. But I don't see any need to pretend to be the victim or "caught in the crossfire" or any such nonsense. Mostly I see a chance to learn more about the art of gaming, by considering it from a gender analysis perspective I'd not thought much of before.

NAILED IT

I reused your word "even-handedness" to acknowledge your posting the essay here. And I used it in direct response to your attempt to disarm the obvious criticism of TotalBiscuit's essay. Because his essay is "trying to draw equivalences". And he's wrong to do it, because there is no equivalence.

his entire essay boiled down is "I don't know much about it

I can think of a way he could know more about it, by watching Sarkeesian's videos and commenting on them directly. But he's not doing that. Instead he's just saying very little about the periphery of the controversy, the one started by anonymous people making death and rape threats.
posted by Nelson at 3:05 PM on August 29 [13 favorites]


Oh, more seriously I don't think he's talking about the assholes making rape or death threats. He's talking about people like himself who have been caught up in the crossfire despite not really having much to do with it at all.

Perhaps — and I'm just spitballing here — perhaps he should be addressing the people threatening women with rape and murder. Just my two cents
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:07 PM on August 29 [15 favorites]


"If person A did this terrible thing X, they're totally terrible! And Y, but oh maybe it's not true. And Z, but oh maybe also not true. Also person A's game sucks anyway, but that's not relevant. But I'm not going to mention anything terrible happening to person A, because OBJECTIVITY. Also boo SJWs."

Also forgot this nugget: "Any right-thinking individual knows that hating women is bad, we don't need libraries worth of articles to tell us that." Hooray, sexism is solved!
posted by kmz at 3:10 PM on August 29 [10 favorites]


Because his entire essay boiled down is "I don't know much about it, my understanding is that the accusations are as follows: (lists accusations). If that's true it's awful.

That is one-sided, because it presupposes that the most important issue is whether or not Zoe Quinn did something wrong.
posted by Serf at 3:12 PM on August 29 [13 favorites]


perhaps he should be addressing the people threatening women with rape and murder

Yeah, at this point, the content of Sarkeesian's videos is almost beside the point.

Imagine a woman gets up in an auditorium and says, "Wind Waker, on the Xbox 360, was the first game in the Legend of Zardoz series." An angry mob of dudes gets up and starts shouting at her, telling her to shut up, threatening to rape her and kill her family, distributing fliers with her home address. A bunch of other people stand up and confront the mob, demanding that they stop threatening her.

If your contribution to this scene is to go over to the second group and start pestering them about how, "You know guys, you gotta admit what she said about Wind Waker was wrong. First off, it was actually a Nintendo game..." then you should rightly expect a hostile response.

Any disagreement you may have with Sarkeesian is far less important than the principle that we shouldn't allow her to be shouted down by the mob.
posted by straight at 3:16 PM on August 29 [24 favorites]


And TotalBiscuit agrees with you. He has explicitly said she shouldn't be shouted down by a mob.

If you guys honestly think that people like TB are people who one cannot have a discussion about this with because their views are beyond the pale then there really isn't any hope for a discussion. It's going to be shouting all the way down.
posted by Justinian at 3:26 PM on August 29


Neutrality is a myth, there is only nuance and apathy.

And his is an argument for apathy.

TotalBiscuit is basically making an argument for the status quo. The problem is that the status quo is awful. It's right there in his piece:
I've watched Mike Bithells entire character be judged because he voiced support for someone who was being harassed. I've watched Jontrons name get dragged through the mud because he questioned Tim Schafer. (after saying some admittedly stupid things in days prior) I've been called a misogynist thug, an MRA and a nazi for addressing my audience and calling for cooler heads. I've watched Anita Sarkeesian receive death-threats.
One of those things is not like the other, particularly since one of those things has been receiving rape/death threats since she put forth the idea of examining the way women are portrayed in games. You can't say "both sides have been extreme" when one side is saying "games could do a better job at portraying women, which would make gaming as a whole better" and the other side is posting your home address and saying they're going to "rape you to death" then "ram a tire iron up your cunt." There are not two sides here.

The whole muddling about with game critics he knows and whether 4chan did or did not do something is probably the most embarrassing part of the piece though. TB doesn't seem to realize this is not about him or his cloistered world of people who make their lives off game commentary and criticism. This isn't some family squabble that can be solved by reminding everyone that they love each other, even if your uncle is a total misogynist, now let's hug it out.

He says:
While it might feel good to be on what you think is the “right side”, the world is not so black and white, there is no organized hategroup that you can revile as universally bad and attack with absolute moral authority. In reality, some developers and journalists are engaging in actively vilifying, stereotyping and outright attacking the very people who are part of the demographic they create their products for. Likewise some of these people are attacking developers for doing little more than saying “hey yeah so maybe we should have more diversity in game writing” or defending someone who they see being harassed. They all believe their cause is righteous.
Emphasis mine, because he's right, there isn't an organized group sending death and rape threats to any woman who dares say something (not even something challenging, just something) about gaming. There's an entrenched cultural force that says those women have no right to speak and by doing so their bodies and lives are forfeit. Even if the brave keyboard warriors will never collect on that threat, those who have been threatened still need to keep one eye open at all time, waiting for the moment one deranged individual decides to turn his hateful fantasies into action. Threatening someone with death for simply speaking is not the same as "villifying" someone. There is a wrong and a right side here, and it is shamefully easy to be on the side of not threatening to rape and murder someone.
posted by Panjandrum at 3:29 PM on August 29 [26 favorites]


at this point, the content of Sarkeesian's videos is almost beside the point.

That's what makes me the saddest. The content of Sarkeesian's videos are nuanced and thoughtful and any true gamer can learn a lot from her careful analysis of gender portrayals in videogames. Not to mention the discussion of the impact of interactivity. But instead we're having to spend our time saying once again "it's not OK to threaten to rape and kill women because you don't like what they say". And maybe, if we're lucky, a discussion of just how much of a victim man-children are because a mean lady criticized their playing out violent sexual fantasies in videogames.

people like TB are people who one cannot have a discussion about this

Again, I think TB's comments would be a lot more interesting if he were trying to have a "discussion about this". Where "this" is Sarkeesian's videos. They are excellent and deserve intelligent discussion. Fortunately many other people are engaging with Sarkeesian's criticism. Including people who actually make video games.

(To correct myself, when I said "I think she's even wrong about what she says." I meant to qualify that with "wrong about some of what she says". Sorry I edited my last comment about seven times to strip all the grawr out.
posted by Nelson at 3:33 PM on August 29 [7 favorites]


i think he published that screed hoping this would be the result. i think it's clearly a misogynistic attack and as such it makes no sense to separate him from those who attacked her after.

So it's fine to question his motives, and absolutely not okay to question anything she might have done? This is bass-ackwards logic.

i think it is grotesque the way he and his supporters use the language of sexual assault to discuss infidelity.

This is being done because Zoe claims to believe this to be true: "Views on the ethics of infidelity. Which she maintained is inherently wrong even if the person who was cheated on never finds out, because (aside from willfully endangering their partner by way of increased STD risk) if the unfaithful party then has sex with their partner, they are doing so under false pretenses, and therefore without their partner’s consent. That is, sex with a partner who doesn’t know you’ve cheated on them is sex without consent."

TotalBiscuit's real involvement with this whole mess started almost two weeks ago when he published this reaction to Zoe using DMCA to have a video critical of her removed. The reddit thread that linked to it had almost every comment deleted, because a head mod of the subreddit was in contact with Zoe.

If your contribution to this scene is to go over to the second group and start pestering them about how, "You know guys, you gotta admit what she said about Wind Waker was wrong. First off, it was actually a Nintendo game..." then you should rightly expect a hostile response. Any disagreement you may have with Sarkeesian is far less important than the principle that we shouldn't allow her to be shouted down by the mob.

This is not a zero-sum game. It is possible to believe that the people threatening to kill, rape, maim, hack, or in anyway threaten ZQ or AS are idiotic jerks who should STFU and DIAF, while simultaneously believing that ZQ is an awful person and AS deliberately misreads some aspects of the games she reviews to push her agenda. In your example, being shouted down by a mob of assholes doesn't make what she's saying any less wrong.
posted by waraw at 3:41 PM on August 29


If you guys honestly think that people like TB are people who one cannot have a discussion about this with because their views are beyond the pale then there really isn't any hope for a discussion. It's going to be shouting all the way down.

Honestly, Justinian, you are the person who is shouting here. We are talking about the problems of a particular YouTube celebrity's response to a situation he does not wholly understand. You are the one allcapsing NAILED IT and crying that if we do not embrace TotalBiscuit we are lost, lost, for clearly the SJWs won't talk to anyone who is not totally on their side. It's... kind of melodramatic, tbh.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:46 PM on August 29 [11 favorites]


It's almost as though the moral error of joining a mob threatening people with rape and death were much, much greater than that of getting some facts wrong in a critique of a pastime, or even that of cheating on your partner.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:56 PM on August 29 [24 favorites]


A harassing video was taken down, not just "critical". And what do you think Sarkeesian's agenda is?
posted by kmz at 4:00 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


"Let's all come together and resolve our differences and put this behind us!" is a pretty big overask of the women whose careers and safety were compromised by territorial assholes who felt like their hobby was threatened. Maybe they don't actually need to participate in any mediation to soothe the egos of men whose hostility they shouldn't have encountered in the first place.
posted by almostmanda at 4:10 PM on August 29 [7 favorites]


This is being done because Zoe claims to believe this to be true:

I realise that this is probably wasted words, but worth noting that you just said "X claims to believe this to be true:, and then linked to not-X. Being trusting is a wonderful thing, but some understanding of the difference between somebody saying something, and somebody saying that somebody said something is useful when negotiating the swells of life in the real world.

Generally, if I want to get an impartial opinion about somebody, I won't ask their ex. That's even if their ex has not written an 8,000+ world jemblebible and posted it to 4chan, and then pantomimed shock and horror that this has led to their ex being harassed and threatened. If their ex has done that, I would probably back away as quickly and silently as I can.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:14 PM on August 29 [14 favorites]


This is being done because Zoe claims to believe this to be true

And yet I would bet not a single person lambasting her with this quote believes this to be true. It's just another angle to attack her.
posted by Panjandrum at 4:36 PM on August 29


TB:
I've watched Jontrons name get dragged through the mud because he questioned Tim Schafer.
This is a gross distortion of the facts. Jontron was posting some vile shit re Zoe Quinn, including when he (in his own words here) "posted a comic where she's depicted naked briefly". A number of people jumped all over him for it, he kept swinging and defending what he was doing as being okay, he finally relented and deleted some of those things, then didn't bother to even fake-apologize for it.

So yeah, when Jontron's name is getting dragged through the mud for his continued stellar performance over the last 10 days as one incident chained off another, it's Jontron doing 95% of the dragging.

Much of what TotalBiscuit says here appears to be like this: a presentation of half-truths and apparently-careful omissions, designed to further the narrative he's tossing up. It's bullshit. There may be kernels of truth in what he's writing, but he's buried it too deeply to sift out.
posted by introp at 4:53 PM on August 29 [5 favorites]


TB's initial post is blatantly wrong. "The accusations are such: [repeats a bunch of horseshit], IF TRUE..." Motherfucker, with your platform/reach, maybe do the two minutes of googling it takes to determine how patently false those accusations are. It's not hard.

Jontron is even more disgusting for the reasons others have already mentioned. A comic featuring a drawing of Quinn with five men the point of which was mocking anyone offended by her harassment "cracked him up." TB's statements about this since only further show that he's decided there must be two valid sides to this, and he's going to find them at any cost. It's gross and has erased years of good will I had for him[1].

Expecting people to find what he's saying is BS and then calling "NAILED IT" when they do is deeply strange to me. If what he's saying is so easily recognizable as problematic, why would you expect people to not call it out as such?

[1] - Back when I paid lots of attention to SC2, TB regularly commentated t.tournaments I was watching and also some of his "WTF is [game]" videos were useful quicklook type things. The last week or two with him has been... Disappointing to say the lead
posted by sparkletone at 5:04 PM on August 29 [6 favorites]


TB's post ends on the following note, which I think is maybe a bit facetious: "If we can't resolve our differences and videogames are doomed, well."

The thing is, though, that's wrong. Video games are nowhere near doomed. The particularly toxic parts of gamer culture, as it exists -- you know, with people defending JonTron for posting pornographic cartoons of Zoe Quinn and then pretending like it's no big deal and being defended for it on grounds of, what, it was a joke? -- might be doomed and that is fucking fantastic. I would absolutely love it if every piece of shit who unapologetically posted a pornographic cartoon of a real woman is dragged through the mud for doing exactly that.
posted by griphus at 5:13 PM on August 29 [21 favorites]


It's particularly rich to see YouTubers talk about ethics in game journalism, seeing as at the higher end they make more money and have fewer official standards than writers for publications. YouTubers are, generally, the ones who get voice actor work in the very games they're covering, and until recently they didn't even feel an obligation to announce if they were being paid directly by a publisher to make a video.

Don't get me wrong, I watch a ton of LPs and YouTubers and I like the "wild west" attitude of the medium, but I've seen a number of big names in the last couple of weeks get huffy about being protectors of ethical reporting and it's a little disingenuous.
posted by jess at 6:01 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that TotalBiscuit essay doesn't really seem to add anything except a lot of irrelevant detail and vague homilies. For instance, it is not relevant that Sarkeesian said at one point that she didn't like or play violent video games: her videos do not critique violence in video games in general, and she has repeatedly made it clear that it is fine to enjoy things that have problematic components. Her subject is the treatment of women, and that's it. The fact that some gamers can't differentiate her positions from Jack Thompson's is their own problem.

The vague stuff is no better. This is something that always makes me roll my eyes, but we don't have conflict (whether in the USA or on the Internet) because political labels obscure our essential common humanity. We have conflict because people want different things and some of those things are mutually exclusive. An opinion that seems "extreme" is not evidence that it is wrong, and people who don't want to be seen as "picking a side" are not smarter, more ethical, or more enlightened than people who feel strongly about any given issue.

And man, there is just a lot of other disingenuous rhetoric here. By saying that "I don't believe videogames are all about chopping up women and I think I can prove that if I'm given the chance to," he implies this is something like what Sarkeesian and her defenders think. But nobody actually thinks that in this conversation! Who is served by injecting this caricature into what is ostensibly a plea for mutual understanding?

Meanwhile, he criticizes Tim Schafer for "detracting from the conversation" by using "rallying tactics" as mild as expressing a wish for everyone to watch Sarkeesian's videos. This is absurd. He then goes on to imply in a totally slippery way that there are more people on Sarkeesian's side who are harrassing bullies ("others... see [Tim] as aligning with Anita and in turn aligning with some sort of “anti-gamer” stance which seems to be held by people who are willing to bully and harass to get their way. Make no mistake, both 'sides' have many of these people but there exists a strange asymmetry"). That's a pretty sharp, negative, and unsupported claim to bury under all that feel-good smarm.

Ultimately I actually think that piece annoyed me more than it would have if it were just a blunt statement of his actual opinions.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:13 PM on August 29 [19 favorites]


Any disagreement you may have with Sarkeesian is far less important than the principle that we shouldn't allow her to be shouted down by the mob.

Well, yes, I get what you're saying, but I kind of disagree. If she had just gotten some basic factual stuff wrong she most likely would have been treated by that mob as a 'fake geek girl.' Still incredibly problematic, but the level of vitriol would not be as high. That she's actually right about what she is arguing is important - the 'men' who are harassing her feel in some way threatened, as in the depths of their black hearts they probably know they have no legitimate response to her critiques of the gender horribleness that is AAA gaming. So, to use an Australian sporting idiom, they've resorted to playing the man not the ball.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:22 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


It's gross and has erased years of good will I had for him

Yes. I have watched TB and the Co-Optional podcast for quite awhile but I just can't listen to him now. He's gotten close to this before but his defense of JonTron is just too much. As for JonTron himself: Ugh. I've never been a fan and only started watching Game Grumps after I found out he left.
posted by MaritaCov at 6:29 PM on August 29


This is being done because

i know why it's being done. i still think they're wrong (and overly trusting of an ex with a grudge) and i don't think they believe it, but rather they're doing that thing where misogynists call feminists sexists. i think people who are fighting on the side of zoe's ex filling up my mentions calling me a rape apologist because they say zoe is a rapist is fucked up and i think they know it's fucked up. also fucked up, the dudes who said, about phil fish trying to get a protest that would involve naked pictures of zoe shut down, "do you want another ferguson??" i really don't need you explaining the situation to me, i'm well versed, thanks.
posted by nadawi at 7:01 PM on August 29 [7 favorites]


and yeah - i hope tb stops talking about shit he's unversed on and stops using terms like sjws and just goes back to reviewing games in a funny way or actually dig in and learn some shit before he wades in again.
posted by nadawi at 7:02 PM on August 29 [4 favorites]


Apparently JonTron has a sex joke about a game sprite in the first video that gave him exposure. Classy.

On the upside, these early non-videogame Tropes vs Women can be hilarious -- go check them out.
posted by ersatz at 7:15 AM on August 30


I saw this on Twitter. Apparently you have to boycott Destructoid and Penny Arcade because of what SJWs they all are. I don't even know what Penny Arcade supposedly did. Is it because they're letting Zoe Quinn attend PAX? This just gets more and more bizarre.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 12:31 PM on August 30 [4 favorites]


If she had just gotten some basic factual stuff wrong she most likely would have been treated by that mob as a 'fake geek girl.'

I have been struck, reading the few posts and/or articles that actually talk about what she missed, at how either they missed where she addressed it in the post, or they think every single 15 minute video she does should somehow cover all 100% of the issue without missing anything. For example, several people responded to the first Women as Background by pointing out that men can have violence perpetrated on them as well in these games - a point she actually addressed in the video they were responding to by pointing out how men were treated differently even when what the player could to do them was similar. I think it's telling that the people responding acted as if she hadn't addressed it, instead of outright disagreeing with how she addressed it; I've seen no one actually do the latter (but I've hardly seen anything and would welcome being wrong).

Likewise, tons of people have objected to her videos by saying she was cherry picking which completely ignores that tropes are cherries - they are little pieces in a narration which are repeated across a variety of media. On the surface the critique seems valid - cherry picking is WRONG - but when you actually consider it in the context of what is going on it seems like it entirely misses the point, which I personally think is the point.

By and large she is making her case so well that it is difficult to impossible to argue with in good faith. You have to nitpick and claim she interpreted one game incorrectly and ignore everything else, or you have to act like she didn't address something when she did, in order to critique what she's doing. And that's why so many men are so pissed that they continue to harass her violently years after she started - she's simply too good to take on fairly, so unfairly will do.

Hell, even the "I wish she'd talk about video games that did it right" complaint ignored the contents of the actual video, and the fact that discussing video games that engage critically with tropes was added as one of the stretch goals, as well as the fact that she's doing double digits of videos, so maybe wait for all of them before deciding she's not addressing something.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:00 PM on August 30 [14 favorites]


I don't even know what Penny Arcade supposedly did.

If I understand correctly, Gabe has several times mea culpaed on being sexist and written about trying to do better, and seems to be following through on not only that but taking critique in a better spirit rather than lashing out. His recent post about Thornwatch seems to support my read on how he is trying to change for the better, and do so very publically so people can see why he thinks it is better.

He's an interesting example of someone with a lot of internalized sexism (as we all have), a history of being abused/bullied for being a geek (as many of us experienced), who subsequently became extremely powerful and the bully but continued to act on the defensive because he couldn't recognize changes to his situation. Things got very ugly before he could see it, and how he's trying to balance responding to what he now sees that he never did before, and still remaining himself.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:09 PM on August 30 [4 favorites]


Deoridhe: I imagine many of the critics didn't really watch the videos. Or only paid attention to the parts that justify their pre-existing world view. Which is such a shame, because there's so much to learn from these videos. They really are good gamer critique.

I'm responsible for a couple of comments here saying "I wish she'd talk about video games that did it right". But it's not a complaint – I think what she's done so far is fantastic. It's just so good I'm hoping to see her address more of the topic of women in games. Also I'm not sure I can stomach another 20 minutes of watching grotesquely exaggerated women being hit or shot, bleeding and dying. I'm glad to hear she's doing many more videos. One of the Kickstarter stretch goals was "Positive Female Characters! - Video #11", so hopefully it's coming.
posted by Nelson at 1:15 PM on August 30 [3 favorites]


Trying to figure out what Destructoid did to anger the mob is even harder. If you search Destructoid for "Zoe Quinn" you find a bunch of forum threads you couldn't pay me to read, and a link on the second page of search results to an essay that starts "To anyone coming here to bash Zoe Quinn: save your fucking breath." But the link itself goes to an empty page.

If you search Destructoid for that whole phrase, you get a whole bunch of hits, but I can't for the life of me find the actual text anywhere. I can't find a cached copy of it anywhere, and I really want to read it.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 1:16 PM on August 30


That boycott list is hilarious.
posted by Justinian at 2:09 PM on August 30 [3 favorites]


The one upthread is pretty great too. Christine Love tweeted that her games started selling double after she started getting "boycotted" which tickled me pink.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:17 PM on August 30 [5 favorites]


I’ve said my piece about my personal life and that holds true. I have zero interest in ever discussing my sex or love life publicly on other people’s terms.

[...]

Professionally, I feel like there are some things I can easily address though, now that things have begun to calm down.
zoe quinn's final thoughts on this whole kerfuffle.
posted by nadawi at 6:08 PM on August 30 [10 favorites]


Heh. Posted "@arthurwyatt: #GamerGate Maybe Anita Sarkeesian has some good points?" to Twitter, got 4 responses to the effect of "but what about her bad points?" within a minute.
posted by Artw at 8:13 AM on August 31 [2 favorites]


I was disappointed that nobody took the bait from your second tweet.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:16 AM on August 31


Might have dipped again too soon.
posted by Artw at 8:18 AM on August 31


It also might just be that PAX is happening right now, and people are too busy to look at Twitter. Not that I haven't seen some crazy town stuff searching for #pax.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:25 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]


Pax is all SJWish now in some undefinable way now because someone played a casual game or didn't retweet a rape threat or something.
posted by Artw at 8:28 AM on August 31 [3 favorites]


I understand how the situation came to be, but I love the fact that for the average MeFite, Penny Arcade is "that misogynist game comic site", and for the average misogynist gamer, Penny Arcade is apparently "that Social Justice Warrior game comic site".
posted by Bugbread at 8:31 AM on August 31 [12 favorites]


It's looking like they might get all the way through this PAX without saying that the problem with the Dick Wolves thing was that people can't take a joke of anything.
posted by Artw at 8:53 AM on August 31 [2 favorites]


I guess Gabe's new years resolution to stop being such an enormous asshole didn't sit well with the people who've modeled themselves on the Goatse guy.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:53 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]


No further pings on #gamerGate tweets, I'm beginning to wonder if "Anita Sarkeesian" is the keyword.
posted by Artw at 9:08 AM on August 31




OH NOEZ!! What about the possibility of a FALSE FLAG OPERATION by Zoe Quinn, because women totally have to make up abuse from gamer guys.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:03 PM on August 31 [2 favorites]


If she had just gotten some basic factual stuff wrong she most likely would have been treated by that mob as a 'fake geek girl.' Still incredibly problematic, but the level of vitriol would not be as high.

I think you're being . . . . . how do I put this? . . . . . unrealistically optimistic about the level of rationality involved in discussions about Sarkeesian's work.

I've just seen way too many accounts from women pointing out that virtually any time they go public with opinions on and analysis of a topic (especially on the internet, and especially in a male-dominated context like gaming culture), they're taking their chances. They never know what supposedly minor and inoffensive comment will result in a nuclear-option-level deluge of vitriol.

That she's actually right about what she is arguing is important - the 'men' who are harassing her feel in some way threatened, as in the depths of their black hearts they probably know they have no legitimate response to her critiques of the gender horribleness that is AAA gaming. So, to use an Australian sporting idiom, they've resorted to playing the man not the ball.

I really doubt that there's even that minimal level of self-awareness going on in the minds of the men who are having the most extreme reactions to her videos. They haven't even gotten to the point where they can judge whether her criticisms are legitimate or whether they might have a legitimate response - they're just filled with a black rage that a woman would even dare to have an opinion on something they consider important, or that forms part of their identity, much less criticize that thing. They're threatened by the woman, so they're "playing the [wo]man."

I mean, you yourself noticed that kind of reaction in some of your students - above, you said,
" there were a few that were weirdly defensive about it. They felt like they were being personally called out for liking games, particularly if they were games mentioned in the videos, that their hobby (if not identity) was going to be taken away from them, etc. There were also a few who were just out and out misogynists who took the 'what would she know anyway as a girl, she's not a gamer' approach."

and

"Some were a little bit harder to tease out from their resentment holes. A few were quite happy to stay in those holes regardless."
So I don't think that there's anything Sarkeesian (or any other woman) could do that would be guaranteed to lessen the vitriol directed at her from some men in gamer/geek culture - the questions to address are "Why does this (supposed) minority of misogynists have such visibility and influence in the gamer and/or geek cultures?" and "What can be done about it?"
posted by soundguy99 at 6:55 PM on August 31 [6 favorites]


You might be right Soundguy. I hope you're not but I fear that you are.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 11:33 PM on August 31


The Sorry State Of Gaming's Truthers And Their #Gamergate by Tadgh Kelly.

This actually seems like a more useful way of putting it than the blanket "gamers are dead" - although obviously it hasn't stopped an angry response on social media, largely accusing Kelly (a game developer, former Lionhead staffer and former head of developer relations at OUYA) of being a typical games journalist.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:47 AM on September 1 [7 favorites]


That Tadgh Kelly piece is the best summing up of the situation I've read so far.

I am still encountering people using conspiracy theory language to explain away the actual truth of the situation. So Sarkeesian's death threats are actually a "false flag" which she's engineered in order to profit financially from (don't ask).

For every point, every argument, every fact, there is - in the minds of these yahoos - a perfectly sensible response. The same sensible responses we've heard that explain the truth regarding 911, Sandy Hook, Chemtrails and the anti-vax movement.
posted by panboi at 7:34 AM on September 1 [3 favorites]


The Sorry State Of Gaming's Truthers And Their #Gamergate by Tadgh Kelly.

Tweeted that with hashtag intact in title and got a robo-response within seconds, so the anthill is still going.
posted by Artw at 7:44 AM on September 1 [2 favorites]


Also, checking the tag, their pleased as punch about some Breitbart article, so basically all the terrible people are merging together to make a big awful mass.
posted by Artw at 8:18 AM on September 1 [1 favorite]


Yes - impressively, it's gone from being _metaphorically_ the Tea Party to _actually_ the Tea Party, thanks to Adam Baldwin. All very strange.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:26 AM on September 1 [2 favorites]






Yeah, the environment art team on BioShock 2 (now no longer at Irrational, of course) also had a conversation on Twitter after the latest Tropes versus Women came out, basically saying that they wished they had thought about the brothel scene more, or had a chance to get feedback like this, and they would approach their next project differently.

Devs in general are pretty receptive to this stuff. Bungie had Sarkeesian over to their studio back in 2012 to talk about representation of women. Tim Schafer, as mentioned above, called the latest one a must-watch for anyone wanting to make games, as did the directors of Far Cry 3 and The Last of Us. Cliff Bleczynski, the creative lead on Gears of War, perhaps the bro-iest game this side of Army of Two, wrote an impassioned defence of Sarkeesian when she first started getting harassed, where he praised her work.

I think in general devs welcome sensible critique that helps them to understand how they can make better games. There is a degree of prickliness at times, but that's often when they are feeling put-upon due to poor reviews or poor sales.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:33 PM on September 1 [11 favorites]


running order squabble fest: "Devs in general are pretty receptive to this stuff."

Yeah, and that's the one area that gives me hope. I've seen no evidence that being non-misogynistic hurts sales. Which means that developers are also seeing no evidence that being non-misogynistic hurts sales. So if devs are receptive, and making improvements won't hurt the bottom line, there's a great chance of improvement.

Some areas are going to get stuck, mind you. The "on the average women play AAA games less than men, so there's no point to making the protagonist a woman, so all the games will be about manly men, so on the average women will play AAA games less than men" cycle will be harder to break. But the "let's up the stakes by having the female sidekick get raped!" and "let's make the female assassins sexy assassins!" and "let's have a brothel/Catholic girls' school level!" stuff will decrease.
posted by Bugbread at 6:21 PM on September 1 [1 favorite]


Also, checking the tag, their pleased as punch about some Breitbart article, so basically all the terrible people are merging together to make a big awful mass.

I would really like to think that's a marker of how limited they really are, in terms of influence and population. Increasingly, insulting people is becoming not ok. Buying people is becoming not ok. Discriminating against people is becoming not ok. It's spent a while being not ok in public talk, but ok in policy, but that is beginning to shift as people have more ability to talk about and share how it's still going on and it's not ok.

I've been increasingly thinking about this in terms of taboos; during the sixties there was this huge "rebel against the man" aesthetic which seemed to pride itself in violating taboos of "decency" which were really just shibboleths of religion and belonging. While people claimed to have opened their minds, raised their consciousnesses, and let go of the taboos of their parents, they secretly carried taboos on their backs that they would refuse to own up to, but do anything to defend.

When I first learned about taboos in anthropology, I thought they were awful things which hurt people, distorted lives and cultures, caused suffering, and limited who we could be as people. I'm increasingly seeing that the truth was my taboos were different from theirs, and so I found theirs monstrous while remaining unaware of my own.

I'm seeing a slow cultural shift to taboos being less about appearance and more about cruelty. Slurs began to become taboo with "political correctness" that on the surface was treated as an affront to humanity, but the effect was that to a white, middle class generation raised by sneering parents who "followed the rules" even while they derided them, slurs became startling and horrific. Now bullying is going the same way, and while I see a lot of the same sneering echoes in "social justice warrior", I'm also seeing how the actions - despite the sneering - seem to be altering what is culturally acceptable and what is not.

Using slurs in a private conversation got Donald Sterling fired and earned him public ridicule. Imagine what the future could hold for us once Social Justice has continued filtering through to the powerful.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:18 PM on September 1 [3 favorites]


Tropes vs Anita Sarkeesian: on passing off anti-feminist nonsense as critique
Today, we're going to be looking at some of the common ways in which Anita Sarkeesian is portrayed in the gamer community, and how to assess and critique the mistakes that are made in responding to her work. There are lies passed off as truths and meaningless non-sequiturs presented as devastating proofs by the kinds of people who like to bang on and on and on about the "marketplace of ideas" as if that justifies being a total ass. They don't send death threats, but they build and sustain the environment that means a woman like her is treated the way that she is.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:11 PM on September 1 [6 favorites]


The game devs I've met are always interested in learning how to make their games better, whether it's on the technical side or the artistic side. It's very heartening to see them take Sarkeesian's critique on board as a puzzle which can be worked on so we can all have better games.

I only wish that the marketing departments and whoever's in charge of deciding the overall corporate direction were as open-minded and willing to experiment.
posted by harriet vane at 2:41 AM on September 2 [3 favorites]




Meanwhile, Maya Felix Kramer, who I think is currently being blamed for having coordinated all the articles about the crisis in gamer culture that came out in the last few days because she does occasional PR for indie devs, and is helping to organise Ruin Jam, a 14-day jam with the intention of ruining video games

First up is Deirdre "Squinky' Kai, with Quing's Quest.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:38 PM on September 2 [7 favorites]




I just sent her a thank you note and donated $20. Hopefully she'll buy a bottle of wine with it. Speak truth to power, sister. Sheesh what a nightmare.
posted by eggkeeper at 4:30 PM on September 2 [2 favorites]


Anita is such an important and brilliant voice that the industry absolutely needs to listen to, and I'm both happy and amazed that someone could have such thick skin through what she's been put through doing this project, while sickened by what that shit has entailed.

There's a lot of stuff she goes into that, when I was 21 or so, I found subversively hilarious, and now I just find wrenching. And the thing is, while I don't wish harm on women now, I don't feel like I did at that age, either. The difference was almost purely in seeing them differently and seeing the world differently and understanding that something I might find funny can be harmful elsewhere.

Anita is steadfastly working that angle, and it's amazing.

The game I'm most into these days - Netrunner - is happily pretty good about all of this. It doesn't imagine hacking as a male-dominated thing, and of the human identitied involved, roughly half are women, and people of color are absolutely involved (I believe "white" is the minority in the core set, at least.)

Moreover, the women are presented as individuals, rather than gendered stereotypes.They are former socialites, sure, or locked-in tinkerers, wunderkind geek teenagers, competent couriers, efficient executives, broadcasters, etc. None of them, in my recollection, sexualized at all. Every mechanic assumes that the player might be of either gender, and in one of my favorite cards, "Quality Time," the flavor is that of a (heteronormative) couple getting a bonus not from sex, but from working together on their consoles as a shared activity and hobby.

This is a total tangent, of course, but I like it as an example of a design team clearly keeping these sorts of issues in mind and creating a sci-fi/fantasy environment that is inviting to everyone.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:33 PM on September 2 [2 favorites]


Okay, having just missed the edit window, I've looked through the runner identities currently available in Netrunner, and there are 5 women to the 10 men available, so still a lot of room for improvent. I will say, though, as a data point, that there is a joking wink-not pair of resource cards called the "Adonis Campaign" (featuring a highly sexualized man) and the "Eve Campaign" (featuring a sexualized woman) in there, but the sexualized man definitely came first here. For whatever that's worth.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:41 PM on September 2


Dammit, wrong again. 6-to-9. I'll shut up now.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:46 PM on September 2




Jesus.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:50 AM on September 3 [1 favorite]




shit is still utterly fucked up for zoe.

Yeah, 4chan is pretty much the worst. Anonymity is a terrible thing.
posted by smackfu at 12:17 PM on September 3 [1 favorite]


I just changed my steam 'name' field to 'zoe sarkeesian' in case it annoyed some misogynistic gamer when he gets the "killed by" message.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:11 PM on September 3 [14 favorites]




Al-Jazeera's take, which shows a little sympathy to the dudebro side.
posted by divabat at 6:13 AM on September 4


Al Jazeera Stream is not Al Jazeera News - it is "powered by social media and citizen journalism". i.e. it scoops up other people's content and arranges it in a minimal narrative frame. So, this isn't Al Jazeera's take, so much as content-farmed produce intended to generate ad revenues for Al Jazeera.

AJ Stream isn't coherent enough really to take a side - but since the dudebros are behaving in an unethical fashion, its content scoop uncritically repeats unethically generated content.

That's contributed to Jenn Frank leaving games writing. Mattie Brice has also left. However, this is absolutely nothing to do with harassing women.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:32 AM on September 4


also, apparently some idiot is making a game called "erection qu3st" (name obscured so it doesn't come up in google) as a play on "depression quest." i am so fucking done with sexist dudes and their shitty mobs.
posted by nadawi at 6:48 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


running order squabble fest: that's kind of like saying any news that's based on social media isn't really news at all. Also I got that link directly off Jenn Frank's Twitter, and she's saying it as coming right from Al-Jazeera.
posted by divabat at 6:51 AM on September 4


Oh, somebody already did "Oppression Quest", I think. And there's a dudebro parody of "Gone Home" called "Gone Homo". Usefully, these games generally show that their makers, along with having no technical ability, also do not actually understand what makes a game a game. Ironically.

But remember, this is not about sexism, or homophobia. It's about ethics.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:52 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


running order squabble fest: that's kind of like saying any news that's based on social media isn't really news at all

Well, no. It's saying that Al Jazeera Stream, specifically, is not a part of the investigative structures of Al Jazeera News, but rather a content operation run by Al Jazeera Media Network. Which is why it scooped up a bunch of tweets and repurposed them as its own content, with the minimum of effort put into throwing up some narrative framework around them.

Retweeting that tweet uncritically is obviously a failure of journalistic standards. I just don't think it's indicative of the editorial angle of Al-Jazeera here. It's indicative of someone under orders to spackle up a story pronto, while people were still googling "gamergate".
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:58 AM on September 4


all the same, jenn frank has pointed to it as one of the reasons she's leaving the games industry.
posted by nadawi at 7:00 AM on September 4


Yeah, I think we're agreeing furiously here. It's just ironic that the actual unethical journalism coming out of this farrago is stuff like this...
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:10 AM on September 4


similarly, the indiegogo campaign to hire a lawyer to try to get this issue in front of congress or some shit was cancelled after one day due to fraud/corruption. see also, dudebros pretending to be women and people of color to further harass those they view as unethical. it would be funny if their harassment wasn't working.
posted by nadawi at 7:14 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Paste Magazine on Why We Didn't Want to Talk About Gamergate.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:54 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


Mattie Brice's "Moving On" is so exactly right that I kept reading bits of it aloud at my spouse. I can understand why she's leaving, and I'm sad and horrified that it's come to that.
posted by sculpin at 7:58 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


It's indicative of someone under orders to spackle up a story pronto, while people were still googling "gamergate".

So like all other news outlets ever?
(sigh, mh370 coverage)

posted by divabat at 10:10 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]






It's breaking my brain that the response to being called out on outrageous sexist harassment has been to step up the harassment a thousandfold with the fake Twitter accounts. What the ever loving fuck?
posted by trunk muffins at 1:37 PM on September 4


Dragon Age 2, the best romantic visual novel ever to pretend to be an RPG and it's rampant, wonderful, abundant bisexuality.

They're continuing with that tradition: BioWare Shares All Romances For Dragon Age: Inquisition, Inclusive Of Different Orientations
posted by homunculus at 1:49 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Link.
posted by homunculus at 1:59 PM on September 4


Found through the always-good @muscularpikachu: "On 'Gamers' and Identity" by @ellaguro.
let's be honest - the industry has failed "gamers" because our culture has failed them. for me, being in a place like rural Ohio was so tremendously unempowering, and made me feel so much like i was so far from being able to ever influence the larger culture that i felt like i at least deserved the videogames everyone else i grew up around seemed to get to cope with all of it. that feeling, like you're "owed" media, is the default response of our culture to not being able to exercise any kind of other real autonomy or control over any other aspects of your life. critical personalities who cynically evaluate media from entitled perspectives like Yahtzee Croshaw or TotalBiscuit or JonTron, therefore, speak tremendously to these sense of values and shared culture. other popular media constantly reinforces and echoes these ideas until they become a phenomenon, a consensus, a way of looking at your existence, and when pushed, a venue of life and death.
The piece on right-wing video game extremism linked at the start is also worth a read.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:59 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


They're continuing with that tradition: BioWare Shares All Romances For Dragon Age: Inquisition, Inclusive Of Different Orientations

my dash has been flipping its collective shit over this for weeks, makin' fanart, writin' fic, cryin' about no romancable Varric. sometimes I think the hardcore bioware fandom on places like Tumblr are the polar opposite of the harassing jerks who keep trying to take over every comment thread ever started; they seem to all be super into social justice and wanting more/better representation and less sexism and a good balance of costume choices and all that good shit and they seem to actually produce a lot of content.
posted by NoraReed at 2:37 PM on September 4 [3 favorites]


This isn’t a problem with gamer culture. It’s a problem with our entire culture, and specifically with the attitudes and behavior of a rightist, predominantly white and male section of that culture.

Right wing gamers project an overweening sense of superiority and entitlement, while at the same time constructing an identity based on marginality and victimization. In this, though, they aren’t really that different from many revanchist movements in capitalist societies. They’re much like the Tea Party right, which laments the disappearance of the America it recognizes—that is, the America where straight white men are systematically advantaged.
Peter Frase: Gamer's Revanche
posted by RogerB at 3:35 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


shit is still utterly fucked up for zoe.

And now she's being subjected to this bullshit.
posted by homunculus at 12:25 PM on September 5




MIghtygodkng weighs in, comparing 'Gamergate' to the conservatives' attempts at spin control in the Michael Brown killing.

If there's anything that gives me hope in this awful situation it's that a lot of the actually influential "Name" people have come out against the misogyny offensive. Maybe in the end this war will lead to a better video game industry and hobby. I'm just terrified over all the damage the assholes can do now, and the casualties that will result.
posted by happyroach at 11:03 PM on September 5 [4 favorites]


If there's anything that comes out of this, it's that someone should put together a '4chan weather report' web site with one-line summaries of whatever astroturfing campaigns its community is running against women in gaming, black women, black victims of police violence, etc.
posted by verb at 1:19 AM on September 6 [3 favorites]


Apparently Zoe's been lurking and logging the IRC channels the 4chan people have been using to coordinate harassment efforts. She dumped a bunch of screenshots on twitter tonight. I knew these sorts of places/people existed, but had never read actual transcripts before. I don't really have words for my reaction. It's somehow funny, sad, INCREDIBLY outrageous and horrifying... all at once.
posted by sparkletone at 3:53 AM on September 6 [15 favorites]


Holy fucking shit.
posted by Artw at 6:38 AM on September 6 [1 favorite]


Also here's hoping some of this is actionable.
posted by Artw at 6:53 AM on September 6 [2 favorites]


I knew these sorts of places/people existed, but had never read actual transcripts before.

Here's a picture to go with the transcripts.
posted by homunculus at 9:52 AM on September 6


Twitter's blowin up and I have a hunk to smooch and a cigar to light off smouldering nerd corpses so if you wanna get in touch, email me~

— Zoë ʻTom-Kunʼ Quinn (@TheQuinnspiracy) September 6, 2014
Not sure I could love this more.
posted by almostmanda at 11:09 AM on September 6 [6 favorites]


The harassment of Anita Sarkeesian is, sadly, a counterpoint to Jay Smooth's distinction between the "what-they-did conversation" and the "what-they-are converation."

Sarkeesian's videos have very prominent, verbal disclaimers that criticism of an aspect of a game is not criticism of the entirety of that game. You have to actively work to ignore that point... unless someone linked you to the particular instant of the video with an imperfect representation of Hitman: Absolution – in which the violence against a sexualized woman isn't directly related to her sexualization so clearly, Your Argument Is Invalid.

And yet, despite a coldly academic tone and very solid arguments focusing on what these games did, the defensiveness and hostility meets — and often exceeds — the reaction to even "what you are" racism accusations.

It speaks to an imbalance of power, and more than that to an imbalance of perceived power. Anita is just one woman, clearly militant and/or uppity. It's easy to write her off as a non-entity, and maybe just laugh at a rape or murder threat in the comments of a post about it.

But when you see respected people respected men like Tim Schafer and Zak McClendon supporting her arguments, though, that's what drives you crazy. "I assumed that those guys got it... they were making games that represent the gritty reality of the gritty world I imagine I live in, and they said they like several games that represent it similarly!"

Yeah, they did. They were far more immersed in the reality of the world they were creating, and in the representation of those worlds, than you ever will be. They made mistakes, and acknowledged that a nonbeliever was right, before you even realized that those problems existed!

The resulting feeling of betrayal on your part is one of those immature primate things: you respect them, but disagree with them. OOK OOK OMG WTF!

Rape and murder are immature primate things too, and for some people the effort to sync up their actions with their emotions makes them become those people making rape or murder threats on a forum. But unlike the primate world — in which challenging others is obvious and dangerous — they make those claims with the insulation of anonymity and with the extra insulation of a sympathetic or ambivalent forum.

In a rational world, people would be encouraged to be introspective about their emotions: "I feel angry because _____". But an important recurring theme of feminism is that men are also the victims of patriarchy (whether or not they admit it). So instead, we pretend that introspection is the artificial construct: "don't doubt yourself, trust your passion!"

Yeah, no. Passion is as artificial a construct as any, and is trustworthy exactly as often.

And I think that's a natural conclusion of the things Anita Sarkeesian has been observing: in games, male passion is varied and deep: defend or exploit the helpless. Obey or defy the powerful. You're a passionate guy, so have sex with a prostitute... it's good for you! You're a passionate guy, so kill a prostitute to prove your masculinity... other powerful men will respect that!

But for women, passion is shallow and molded to fit the narrative. "My boyfriend hit me, go kill him and start a plotline in which you have to appease his employers!" "I have a vaguely-troubled background so now I'm a stripper. How can I help you be more masculine?"

The primary distinction between video games and other media is agency: you're in the story and you direct it even if all you control is a camera and a trigger. And that's the concern Sarkeesian seems to come back to: are we teaching gamers (young and old alike) that:
  • Men have agency, and it's mostly unrelated to their looks or their ability to behave like a civilized human being?
  • Women have utility, primarily related to their sexual attractiveness. Even as dead bodies, they have narrative utility if nothing else?
These are difficult questions to face, honestly. Hell, I had a genuine gut-wrenching moment to find out that Adam Baldwin, the man they call Jayne, might be enhancing this harassment. I love Firefly!

No one wants to doubt what they've accepted, no matter how shallow. And I greatly admire and applaud Sarkeesian for standing against that apathy. We also need people who are "on the inside" to plant the seeds of doubt, that this doesn't need to be the way we proceed as a culture.

That "agency" thing is important. Games have a lot of potential to change how we think we should approach our world (more so than any prior medium, in my opinion). While I'm sad to see where we are at the moment, the support that I've seen for people making these arguments is inspiring.
posted by Riki tiki at 1:37 PM on September 6 [12 favorites]


About GamerGate by Stephen Totilo at Kotaku.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:30 PM on September 7


New post about Zoe Quinn.
posted by homunculus at 1:33 PM on September 7


Rock, Paper, Shotgun posts a longish essay: Hello, video games are for everybody.
posted by Harald74 at 5:23 AM on September 8 [5 favorites]


Yesterday I saw Sarkeesian speak at XOXO, there's a Verge article about it here. Good talk, mostly her describing the nasty reaction to her gaming critiques rather than the critiques themselves. (Which was appropriate to the festival theme, about creative communities). She described two primary categories of attacks on her: impersonation hoaxes and elaborate conspiracy theories. Crazy stuff.

The best part of the talk was the rousing standing ovation given to her upon first walking on stage. This audience has been politely clapping for everyone but for her the room came to its feet to honor what she's been doing and the difficulty she's borne to do it. Really moving.
posted by Nelson at 8:39 AM on September 14 [3 favorites]


Some guy showed up at XOXO today to hand out leaflets denouncing Anita Sarkeesian. No, really, he was creeping around on the sidewalks around the venue trying to chat people up to take his literature. I heard a couple of minutes, some pseudo-philosophical babble with big words and no discernible meaning other than he really doesn't like Sarkeesian.

So just in case you were wondering if Anita Sarkeesian's descriptions of obsessive personal stalker harassment is really true, well, I saw it with my own two eyes. Damndest thing.
posted by Nelson at 11:13 PM on September 14 [9 favorites]


not about women in gaming, but tangentially related to gamer-rage, notch/mojang sell minecraft to microsoft for 2.5 billion dollars and notch discusses why he needed to get out.
posted by nadawi at 6:47 AM on September 15 [4 favorites]


Yeah, between the creepy dude with a shit haircut skulking around XOXO and the attempts by idiots to hijack the #xoxofest hashtag, it's like "Who are you going to believe? Some random assholes on the internet spouting catchphrases or Anita and your own lying eyes?" I know where my money is.

We were chatting before dinner about what the best word for the revulsion these people generate--the closest was "squick" but I think it needs to be more scatological.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:03 AM on September 15 [1 favorite]


people who are mad at the mere IDEA of a skip combat button make no sense to me, it's like damn, did you not play Dragon Age? have you MET Alistair?

Late To the Game: Relive The Joy and Trauma of Playing Dragon Age: Origins For the First Time. LOVE ME, ALISTAIR!
posted by homunculus at 3:13 PM on September 17 [2 favorites]


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