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June 8, 2020 12:01 PM   Subscribe

The Video Game Industry Has No Clue How to Respond to Protests [Vice Gaming] “As protests against police brutality and anti-Black racism have arced across the United States, the video game industry has been slow to show its solidarity with Black people in the community. When they do, some of these statements are shy of showing an actual commitment to the cause. [...] How can I trust that Activision Blizzard supports these protests when Blizzard suspended players for speaking out about the protests in Hong Kong last year, where protesters were also beaten by the cops? How am I supposed to believe EA is delaying its Madden announcement because it cares about Black lives, when it censored Kapernick’s name in a song in their last game? I am happy to see and hear the solidarity. But the games industry has to clean its own house too, and admit that it is part of the problem.”

• Video game companies only stand for what you make them stand for [The Verge]
“Search every one of these corporate Twitter profiles from the duration of the Ferguson protests, and you’ll find absolutely nothing. Every company with a statement out now — Sony, Microsoft, Bungie, Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, EA, Nintendo — was absolutely silent six years ago. Instead, corporate accounts from the time promoted upcoming games like Far Cry 4 with darkly ironic blog posts about wanting a “politically unstable” setting with “a history of conflict” ... a “failed state,” in the words of producer Alex Hutchinson. Companies that paid a little bit of attention to the world around them participated in the ice bucket challenge for ALS awareness that had gone viral the previous month, arriving late to the party and offering corny contributions of their own. [...] Acknowledging the necessity of action in response to the protests against anti-black racism and police brutality in this country right now means contradicting decades of careful messaging on the part of game publishers and studios designed to do just the opposite. It’s abject cowardice in the service of capitalism, where a white supremacist’s dollar is just as good as yours or mine. No corporation should be applauded for making a statement or even a donation. Actions like these are not a measure of the moral character of billion-dollar companies; they’re another form of negotiation under capitalism.”
• I Am Black And Tired [Kotaku]
“George Floyd was murdered by the police, and I can’t tell you how hard it’s been to work, to write, or to live since then. I’ve felt like I’ve lost my ability to write. For the entire day I thought, “I can’t do this.” All my attempts to write something significant devolved into “a not-brief history of racism and video game companies” or “games to play when you’re Black and sick of being murdered by cops.” I didn’t want to write that. It felt like an attempt to mold this tragedy and all the violence that’s spun out from it into something on topic for clicks. But every post I tried to write that didn’t address this moment, especially when I’ve been afforded the privilege to reach wide swathes of people, felt like fiddling while Rome burns. And I realize now that’s okay. I choose to ignore the conditioning all Black writers suffer from—the impulse that tells them they must speak during moments like these—so I can play Animal Crossing, Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, and Battle Chef Brigade.”
• How To Support Black Video Game Developers [Screen Rant]
“Only 2% of people working in the games industry identify as black, African American, African, or Afro-Caribbean, according to a 2019 International Game Developers Association study, compared to the U.S.'s 13% black population. Despite this low number, many games created by black people are already out there for players to support. Buying black-developed games and the merchandise associated with them is one of the most direct ways to support black developers - not to mention a pathway to some beautiful and creative experiences. If black developers are able to sustain themselves with the games they create, they're more likely to be able to pursue development full-time, potentially bumping up that 2% statistic. [...] While diversity initiatives and black voices calling out poor representation periodically bring important issues to light, developers continue to mess things up. The cause - besides the obvious, i.e. not having enough black people in the room - of these repeated missteps is likely a lack of real consequences when black characters are done wrong. In the social media age, however, there's a greater opportunity for gamers to widely criticize poor decisions. If the gaming community continues to speak out about issues like Wargroove and Uncharted's whitewashed character voices, companies are less likely to repeat those errors. And things are getting better, with characters like Assassin's Creed Origins' Bayek, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider's Billie Lurk, and Watch Dogs 2's Marcus Holloway providing a few promising examples of how black representation in games has evolved since the medium's inception.”
• Get 742 games with Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality on itch.io from $5 / £4 [Humble Bundle For Racial Justice and Equality] [Eurogamer]
“itch.io's creator has launched what is probably the largest bundle ever in its efforts to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Partnered with 564 creators, the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality comes with a whopping 742 DRM-free titles in total, valued at over $3,400 (£2,675), but which you can have the whole lot by paying however much you want, with donations starting at a minimum of $5 (£4). It's already raised over $2 million (£1.5 million) since launching over the weekend with a goal to reach $5 million before the offer ends on 15th June. All proceeds go towards the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Community Bail Fund split 50/50 in the important fight against racial injustice, inequality, and police brutality against black people.”
posted by Fizz (57 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
I noticed something disturbing in my Twitter feed regarding games and the protests. There have always been ads for mobile games that come up as I'm scrolling, but they used to be for like puzzle games or zombie survival shooter games.

But once the protests started, the zombie game ads shifted to "urban survival" games. Like there's an ad that shows a guy at a gun store who sees a street full of raging people on TV, buys a bunch of guns, then drives back to a base where he fights off hordes of people. I swear that I'd seen this as an ad for a zombie game before, but now "zombie" isn't anywhere in the ad and it seems like it's about fighting protesters.

Has anyone else noticed this?
posted by star gentle uterus at 12:08 PM on June 8 [5 favorites]


Isn't that exactly how ad targeting works?

(The morals of these game companies is a different story)
posted by meowzilla at 12:20 PM on June 8


I think it's as simple as the game companies being very afraid of pissing-off their prime-demo, money-spending, toxic-gamer-bros.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:23 PM on June 8 [12 favorites]


Jim Sterling's Jimquisition today is also on this topic.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:54 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


I think it's as simple as the game companies being very afraid of pissing-off their prime-demo, money-spending, toxic-gamer-bros.

Friendly reminder that the games industry doesn't make money on racist toxic bros. Women spend more on games and are a bigger chunk of gamers than any other group.
posted by odinsdream at 1:03 PM on June 8 [12 favorites]


Wow! I am floored that all the game themes and game imagery and toxic in-game sexism was all aimed at me, a woman, as a target demographic. I had no idea I was so interested in those features! Thanks for that friendly reminder.
posted by amanda at 1:08 PM on June 8 [18 favorites]


I've picked StarCraft back up some since quarantine and in the last week it has been so bleak/upsetting how many random opponents make unprompted all lives matter jokes. (Though in a 2v2 one of my opponents insulted their ally racially and that ally turned a fleet battlecruisers on them and took a loss just to destroy all of their buildings, which I supported.)
posted by little onion at 1:18 PM on June 8 [17 favorites]


Amanda, I'm pretty sure odinsdream was not claiming games haven't catered to toxic-gamer-bros, but that, demographically speaking, they shouldn't--because the potential market of non-toxic-bros is much bigger.

(Also they shouldn't because it's immoral.)
posted by straight at 1:29 PM on June 8 [10 favorites]


@Thorzdad It’s way more complicated than that. BLM is something that only occurs in Western countries, not in Asia. While supporting BLM might be a no-brainer here, other political movements are way more problematic elsewhere. A game company that has a heavy user base in China can’t go supporting Hong Kong without some serious financial consequences that will piss off investors, no matter where they are.

It’s definitely Hobson’s choice for them.
posted by drivingmenuts at 1:30 PM on June 8


demographically speaking, they shouldn't

And yet.

So, how does this friendly reminder add or subtract from the proposed discussion? Seems like a classic derail. #notallmen #somewomentoo
posted by amanda at 1:36 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


It’s definitely Hobson’s choice for them.

I have always understood the eponymous choice to originally be of horses - sometimes the correct response to Hobson’s choice is to walk.
posted by PMdixon at 1:37 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


This reminds me of how Bethesda changed all their Twitter icons to a Bethesda logo with a rainbow in it for Pride month.

They did this for every Twitter account they had, for every country... Except for those countries where being gay is illegal, of course.

First step is to actually do something instead of "thoughts and prayers" bullshit like this that shows they're more concerned with money and not pissing off markets where they can make money.
posted by deadaluspark at 1:41 PM on June 8 [9 favorites]


Friendly reminder that the games industry doesn't make money on racist toxic bros. Women spend more on games and are a bigger chunk of gamers than any other group.

Maybe so, but after the success of GamerGate, the racist toxic bros are the ones that determine whether AAA games live or die. Game devs are terrified of another internet based mobbing.

There's also the chance that if they support one progressive thing, game companies may be vulnerable to other progressive movements, like women's rights, or *gasp* unionization for workers. From their perspective its best to just stay in solidarity with the racist toxic bros.
posted by happyroach at 1:43 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


How am I supposed to believe EA is delaying its Madden announcement because it cares about Black lives, when it censored Kapernick’s name in a song in their last game?

Madden is licensed by the NFL. Kaepernick is not in the NFL. EA's explanation is:

"We made an unfortunate mistake with our Madden NFL soundtrack," EA said in a statement. "Members of our team misunderstood the fact that while we don't have rights to include Colin Kaepernick in the game, this doesn't affect soundtracks. We messed up, and the edit should never have happened. We will make it right, with an update to Madden NFL 19 on August 6 that will include the reference again. We meant no disrespect, and we apologize to Colin, to YG and Big Sean, to the NFL, to all of their fans and our players for this mistake."

I find this totally plausible. A boneheaded move to include a censored version of the song, but the censorship wasn't due to the controversy, it was due to a misunderstanding of their legal obligations.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:44 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


potential market

Not even "potential". The "casual" market segment (of which women are the majority) brings in the most money, right now.
posted by sideshow at 1:49 PM on June 8


Since you're reading this thread, you're probably interested in video games, maybe tabletop games, and presumably racial justice. If any of that describes you, I urge you to go give what feels right to the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality mentioned in the post. Hundreds and hundreds of creators, hobbyists and professionals alike, gave the product of their labor to this cause: video games and interactive fiction, tabletop RPGs and experimental storytelling experiences, novels and comics, tools and assets. A lot of what's there is rough, a lot is absolutely fantastic, much more is on the way, and all of it was donated by people who want to use their art to support the Black Lives Matter protests and get marginalized people out of jail. It's a tremendous act of generosity and it deserves all the support it can get.
posted by skymt at 1:49 PM on June 8 [22 favorites]


Night in the Woods being on there just fucking hurts.
posted by deadaluspark at 1:56 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


So, one of the things I do as a technical designer who specializes in project standup/game systems prototyping is put what little spare time and energy I have into volunteering for indie teams with POC and women in leadership roles. This is sort of a corollary to my ongoing challenge to see how long I can go without working on a game where the player character is a white guy with a gun. Nearly all the devs I know are currently posting their support of BLM on social media, donating money to bail funds and the ACLU, and an increasing number are openly advocating defunding police. If you're looking for action from publishers: seriously don't bother. It's a hit-driven industry where one PR disaster can mean your company fails to recoup the $100 million development cost, and their risk aversion is far, far greater than the already cautious media and software industries.

For myself, it's... complicated. I am never sure how much of my anger is generic white male toxicity, how much is the extremely severe type 1 bipolar disorder, and how much is just normal human reaction to past trauma. My first six months away from evangelical fundie land were in Capitol Hill Seattle immediately after the WTO riots. Tear gas, kettledrumming, the works - all outside my door at least once a week for my first six months as an independent adult. What I saw took me from freshly atheist but still Republican poster child to anarcho-socialist in the space of a few months. I will never stop being livid with rage when I think back on it, and I don't really want to let go of that anger nor do I even think it would be morally right to let go of it, because it was a justified reaction and directed at a force of brutal oppression that based on the footage from this weekend hasn't changed at all.

I don't know how to make a game about leftist uprising that isn't a cop-killing simulator. I just don't. Every time I start thinking about what a game about radically throwing off the oppressors actually looks like and how it feels to play, mentally assembling gameplay vignettes that can become mechanics that (eventually) lead to a game that would inspire hope and provide some catharsis to people feeling oppressed...nothing comes to mind except reciprocal violence and burning down police stations. Those are not things I would ever actually do (dear FBI) because I have people who love me and, I hope, a lot to offer the world - but at the end of the day my specialization is in FPS systems prototyping that tends to feed the basic power fantasy demands of the AAA shooter demographic (which, yes, mirror my own tastes in gameplay even if I can't stand the culture). My skillset means I am very much the first person you want to talk to when starting a new Unreal-based project but the truth is I currently have zero creative vision for a project that speaks to our times that would be in any way constructive or wouldn't be immediately censored on release.

I am seeing my personal history relive itself in video after video shot twenty years later and a mile further south - all I want is to hit back, and that sort of mindset and energy makes being in any way uplifting virtually impossible. So: shut up, head down, work on projects and help out people with less privilege working to join the industry, and donate where you can is the current order of the day. I don't know what else to do.
posted by Ryvar at 2:02 PM on June 8 [7 favorites]


I currently have zero creative vision for a project that speaks to our times that would be in any way constructive or wouldn't be immediately censored on release.

Postal and Hatred got released. In CounterStrike you can literally choose to play as a terrorist.

I don't understand this double standard.
posted by deadaluspark at 2:07 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Postal and Hatred got released...I don't understand this double standard.

Most devs are better than them. In a few different senses of the phrase.
posted by Ryvar at 2:11 PM on June 8


Famous games from the bundle, in case that pushes you over the edge to getting it:

Night in the Woods
A Mortician's Tale
Blades in the Dark
Oxenfree
Pet the Pup at the Party
Catlateral Damage
Heavy Bullets
Quadrilateral Cowboy
Glittermitten Grove
posted by Canageek at 2:12 PM on June 8 [9 favorites]


Canageek,

Don't forget Super Hexagon.
posted by deadaluspark at 2:12 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


The only game company I spend money with these days is Niantic and I'm thrilled with their response. Full disclosure, someone very close to me works there, but even if they didn't I think I'd consider this to be a really thoughtful and well-considered set of donations and plans. And compared to the "nothing to see here" from the rest of the gaming industry it just stands out even more.
posted by potrzebie at 2:17 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


So, how does this friendly reminder add or subtract from the proposed discussion?

I think she was just pointing out that there's more of us (non-toxic-bro gamers) than there are of them (toxic-bro gamers), which seems relevant to a discussion of why game companies need to do more to be doing the right thing and how to hold them accountable.
posted by straight at 2:39 PM on June 8 [9 favorites]


Not even "potential". The "casual" market segment (of which women are the majority) brings in the most money, right now.

There's a segment of the population that does not think of those games as important. The overlap between that segment of the population and the people who make video games, demographically, is huge. This is obviously bad, and I'm not sure whether the chicken or egg came first with respect to gamer bros being both the catered-to audience and (by and large) the makers of games, but that's the status quo.

I'm tempted to draw a line back to a time when interacting with early computers was considered women's work (and poorly paid) until the emphasis shifted from hardware to software and home computing (marketed to boys) stepped in (along with the general patriarchality of the world) and flipped all that on its head.
posted by axiom at 2:40 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


Geez all i meant was that toxic bros shouldn't be listened to??
posted by odinsdream at 2:48 PM on June 8 [15 favorites]


So, just to throw out some ideas I think a leftist uprising game could be done. Make a game about being a reporter covering the uprising and seeing everything unfold through your camera lens (or the lenses of your photographers). You then need to edit pictures and build articles. Let the player be more pro-police or pro-citizens and change how the protests play out as a result of the news coverage. Along the lines of Orwell or Not for Broadcast.

Alternatively, a social stealth game, like The Occupation. You infiltrate buildings for the purposes of gathering information / evidence / ??. This might be better as a Deus Ex kinda thing where it's cyberpunk and you have upgrades to make it easier. Show results with newspapers, like early Hitman games did.
posted by caphector at 2:52 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Night in the Woods being on there just fucking hurts.

How so, deadaluspark? I’m not sure if I’m misreading your comment, but I’d much rather have Scott and Bethany use NitW (one of the most progressive mainstream games in recent memory) to do some more good in the world, rather than abandoning the whole thing as hopelessly tainted.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 3:10 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


So, how does this friendly reminder add or subtract from the proposed discussion?

I think that it highlights that (at the very least in this case) white male privilege is not simply a function of capitalism, and suggests that the relationship might actually be the other way around. Racism and misogyny are not actually a good basis on which to run an industry, but the people who have power in the games industry are either too racist and misogynist to see that, or too racist and misogynist to care.
posted by howfar at 3:12 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


So, just to throw out some ideas I think a leftist uprising game could be done.

Tonight We Riot Devs Wanted To Make An 'Unapologetically Leftist' Game

The studio is a worker-owned cooperative, so the game isn't really the sort of "parody of horrible antifa commies" thing that I expected at first.
posted by Foosnark at 3:14 PM on June 8 [5 favorites]


I’m not sure if I’m misreading your comment, but I’d much rather have Scott and Bethany use NitW (one of the most progressive mainstream games in recent memory) to do some more good in the world, rather than abandoning the whole thing as hopelessly tainted.

Yeah, slight misread. I don't consider it tainted at all. It's just hard for me to not think of all the horribly sad things that happened to all involved. It was a devastating and sad thing, not something that I personally think tainted it, but something that is very difficult to remove my memory from my memory in relation to it. My memory isn't of hate or even disappointment but just deep, deep sorrow.

It's a sorrow that rears its head whenever I think of the game at all.
posted by deadaluspark at 4:10 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Yeah, understood. I was in on my first run through of the Weird Autumn expansion when the shit went down, and I still haven’t been able to bring myself to finish it.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 4:15 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I'm tempted to draw a line back to a time when interacting with early computers was considered women's work (and poorly paid) until the emphasis shifted from hardware to software and home computing (marketed to boys) stepped in (along with the general patriarchality of the world) and flipped all that on its head.

This comes up a lot on MeFi, but the main point to understand is that the "women's work" part of computer programming just does not exist anymore. It is not a case of "dudes are doing this job now??? INCREASE THE WAGES!!!" as these convos seem to imply.

Imaging that instead of a keyboard/mouse, there was human being you had to communicate with in order to get your computer to function. That what's different now. Instead of having a team of people "program" instructions into the machine for "computation", you can do it yourself. Firing up Word/Pages to write you own letters rather than dictating memos and having the secretarial pool type them out is a similar sort of change.
posted by sideshow at 4:15 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Foosnark, from that link:
“I really loved [Bioshock Infinite], but I felt that the people in charge of writing the story kind of painted themselves into an ideological corner,” Anderson explained. “I felt like whoever [wrote] it was probably very liberal but very uncomfortable with the idea of what a revolution actually entails. It’s not a Tea Party and that people are probably going to get hurt. I was like, ‘What would happen if you made a really honest, straightforward, unapologetically leftist game?’ I’ve been playing video games since I was like four years old and I’ve never seen one. I sought to really honestly pursue that and see where it would take us.”

I created 54 gameplay prototypes for Bioshock Infinite. It was a lot of fun in the early days when all the targets were sky-racists. I once made a gun where everything and everyone I looked at caught fire, and just zipped around one of the Skyline combat testbeds for a couple of minutes capturing footage. I overlaid that footage on this video starting right when the music kicks off, and submitted that as a proof of concept clip. That was a pretty good day.

caphector: you're describing Beyond Good & Evil almost exactly, which is one of my top 5 all time/all platforms. It's a fantastic experience (with a prequel that has been in development hell for 17 years now), but I think the broader impact of the player's actions is a little too decoupled from the gameplay to really suit the current moment. That might just be me, though.
posted by Ryvar at 4:21 PM on June 8 [15 favorites]


The fact that its taken 17 years to get anything related to BG&E off the ground is a travesty because that game certainly had some fairly leftist/anticapitalist themes.

At the very beginning of the game, you have to ward off an attack from the DomZ because you cannot afford to turn on the shield to protect your home.

Then right on cue "military" swoops in to save the day and the rest of the game is spent figuring out that the military and the DomZ are one and the same and that every time they swoop in to save the day it's literally all a show (reminds me of the FBI), because the "military" were the ones perpetrating the attack.
posted by deadaluspark at 4:26 PM on June 8 [8 favorites]


Hmm. While I appreciate the idea of donating to the Community Bail Fund, and I like high quality indie games, but I'm not sure I want to encourage niche authors to flood the itch.io community with even more furry dating sims.
posted by pwnguin at 4:28 PM on June 8


Regarding leftist uprising game ideas... how about a city management style game? The game is about making decisions at a local level to improve the lives of the people around you. You have x time each day/week/month/whatever and however much money. Your character starts as someone just trying to improve their immediate neighborhood and throughout the game scales up to an entire city. They revitalize neighborhoods, remove corrupt politicians from office, etc. As you progress you get access to more places that need help and more tools. So maybe you can't implement a wealth tax at the beginning of the game, but you can later. Early on you can do things like establish a community garden or save a mom + pop grocer from being replaced by a WalMart.

You could even have capitalists offer money and always make them poisoned deals. Like, yeah, you can get that $100k you need right now for X project, but now you've sold a plot of land to a property developer instead of establishing it as a housing co-op. It will have negative effects later on.

I think this could work outside of the management genre, too. Like this could easily be a third person game where a group of diverse and fun people practice civil disobedience, guerilla gardening, and all manner of other things not currently coming to mind to improve a city. Like a solarpunk version of Watch Dogs.

I dunno, I think it would be fun to play. Plus, imagine how cathartic it would be to watch a run down city slowly transform into a socialist paradise. Watch people get friendlier, more green space appear, empty stores turned into useful places, etc. I think it could serve as a powerful statement while also serving as an example about how some of these ideas work in practice.

I'm just spitballing, though.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 4:29 PM on June 8 [7 favorites]


Regarding leftist uprising game ideas... how about a city management style game

Your leftist utopia has managers making unilateral decisions on behalf of the community?

edit: but I guess Civ's democracy civics have about as much effect so, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by pwnguin at 4:32 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Your leftist utopia has managers making unilateral decisions on behalf of the community?

Eh, I think that's just a quirk and side effect of any "city/nation" management game like Sim City or Civ.

Because by the sheer nature of the game, you're essentially a "god," because you don't age, don't die, never lose an election (because they effectively don't exist), and so on and so forth. (The Tropico series lampoons this by allowing you to cheat in your elections, but they also result in failure if you aren't re-elected)

So maybe the solution is some end-game states that involve being voted out of office and thus you can't continue your work on the city.

Or perhaps its more like a MMO-ish type thing, where you have a multitude of players and a multitude of cities, and the players have to exchange cities when the digital cities have elections for a "new mayor." Obviously, the votes would just be randomized and the citizens have basically zero knowledge of their former mayor or previous mayor, so you'd still be stuck with issues, but at least random re-assignment would mean people wouldn't be effectively "in charge forever" in the simulation.

Frankly I think the second one wouldn't work simply due to griefing. Probably easier to just program end-game states that involve you failing to win elections or failing to keep the populace from uprising and putting your head in a guillotine. I don't know, just spitballing.
posted by deadaluspark at 4:40 PM on June 8


Bloodborne is partly inspired by the French Revolution, among other revolutions, but it's... not pretty.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:50 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Imaging that instead of a keyboard/mouse, there was human being you had to communicate with in order to get your computer to function. That what's different now. Instead of having a team of people "program" instructions into the machine for "computation", you can do it yourself.

Wait, are you seriously suggesting that the reason computer programming shifted from being almost all women to overwhelmingly men is the invention of the keyboard? That somehow women are uniquely able to manage punchcards and assembly?

I don't think this is true. I think that women's work has, from the early days of computing right up until the present, been valued less than a man's. Not just in computers, everywhere. I think that men started taking more of an interest in becoming programmers once both (a) demand for programmers increased and (b) home computing made it more of an approachable hobby and a way to onboard young men interested in computers into a career choice met finally with (c) changes in computing that increasingly shifted the focus from hardware to software as time wore on. On top of all that, the perceived maleness of a profession often affects its pay scale. Teachers and nurses used to be considered male fields and today are dominated by women, with a concomitant decline in pay. Programming did the same thing except in the opposite direction, though the gender wage gap persists at about an 88% rate rather than 1969's 69% clip.
posted by axiom at 5:04 PM on June 8 [12 favorites]


Your leftist utopia has managers making unilateral decisions on behalf of the community?

It doesn't have to be an individual making the decisions. It's just the viewpoint or narrative is from the perspective of one. I guess you could frame the entire thing as some kind of collective as the POV, but I think doing so would make it much less approachable from a narrative standpoint.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 5:22 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


This comes up a lot on MeFi, but the main point to understand is that the "women's work" part of computer programming just does not exist anymore. It is not a case of "dudes are doing this job now??? INCREASE THE WAGES!!!" as these convos seem to imply.

Imaging that instead of a keyboard/mouse, there was human being you had to communicate with in order to get your computer to function. That what's different now. Instead of having a team of people "program" instructions into the machine for "computation", you can do it yourself. Firing up Word/Pages to write you own letters rather than dictating memos and having the secretarial pool type them out is a similar sort of change..


Writing code is table stakes. The real complexity is in putting all the pieces together. What tech stack should we use, given the skillsets and preferences of the people on the project, on top of required features? How do we design this system so it's scalable, maintainable, and extendable by people we may never meet years down the road? How can we ship something that will make all the stakeholders happy when we don't have the time and resources to implement every single feature they're asking for? Do the stakeholders even know what they actually want?

A large part of the job is about communication. Even the mythical antisocial genius engineer needs the support of better communicators around them, or else they're just coding into a void.
posted by airmail at 5:59 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


[i]I don't know how to make a game about leftist uprising that isn't a cop-killing simulator. I just don't.[/i]

Like tower defense, but it s people defense, with people vs riot cops / kkk/ 3 percenters / ICE.

you train, educate, agitate, organize, get co-opted by an electoral movement, start over again, get infiltrated by an FBI informant / sexual predator, and have to start again.

and the mobilization moments come randomly, and the game switches from strategy to tactical during a mobilization moment, like SimCity

Deacons of Defense --Bogalusa, that would be a dope game.

Or, it s safe to make a video game about the slave revolts in the usa, isn't it? You could be Harriet Tubman, working as a nurse to the union army, building enough trust in camp to then assemble enough South Carolina mariners to lead the biggest liberatory raids on record, burning plantation after plantation.

Are there any civil war games that acknowledge, for example, that as many or more southerners fought the confederacy than allied with it? Are there any strategy games that would take WEB DuBois' Black Reconstruction as a foundation?

What if you could play Charles Deslonde, son of the master, plotting against your father, conspiring to seize the armory in New Orleans?

The three biggest problems with leftist video games I see are

lack of a coherent collective action game mechanic,
Ignorance of the history of uprisings in the USA / controversy due to ignorance

and the fact that the more you play, the more you realize you should have spent the time actually agitating and organizing and getting to know people instead of being plugged into a machine.

The dopamine rush of politics is collective, the fulfillment is seeing your student, comrade, pr yourself go from someone lost and despairing to someone who can think critically and seize their own destiny.

you get that by mentoring and working phones, connecting to people not by plugging into a computer.

But seriously where are the slave revolt games that s a no brainer
posted by eustatic at 8:31 PM on June 8 [8 favorites]


i'm late to this thread, but this deserves a record player screech:

BLM is something that only occurs in Western countries, not in Asia.


I'm sorry, but hwhat?

Some examples: China || Hong Kong || India || South Korea || Singapore || Malaysia etc etc etc

BLM has resonance globally and it's not just because we consume too much American pop culture.
posted by cendawanita at 10:33 PM on June 8 [9 favorites]


Having worked for a studio that did successful contract work for both EA and Activision, eventually getting acquired by the latter, let me assure you, they don’t care.
posted by Cogito at 11:39 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Given the wealth of early pioneers in software development who invented tools and approaches that have served as the bedrock for practical development for decades, I'm looking a little side-eyed at the assertion that computer programming suddenly changed in a way that meant that men were better at it.

(Not to mention that "dudes are doing this job now??? INCREASE THE WAGES!!!" is an actual observable phenomena when you crunch the numbers across all professions - there is a strong correlation between a shift in the gender balance and shifts in the average wage.)

So, uh, what would be the hypothetical pitfalls of making an antifa-themed JRPG?
posted by Merus at 4:06 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


My friends and I were just discussing today how addictive Factorio is and how Sim City pushed you to make roads instead of transit and bike lanes and, yeah.. I think it could be possible to make a progressive version of these games. You could have a happiness score influenced by how many parks and playgrounds there are, how pleasant transit is, how connected the bike lanes are, etc. Homelessness would really drag your score down so you would have to balance building enough housing with environmental concerns. Energy consumption would also be reflected so integrating clean energy and decentralized power production would be important. Etc. etc.

I think just having a Sim City style game where the incentives were shifted would be something I would love to play.
posted by antinomia at 6:56 AM on June 9 [6 favorites]


I think just having a Sim City style game where the incentives were shifted would be something I would love to play.

I know it's a different type of gameplay but The Sims has made some interesting strides towards progressive politics with some of their recent expansion packs. Two of the more recent expansions were: Tiny Living and Eco Lifestyle.

The community has also been a good place for the queer community to play and imagine.

Companies can and should do better. The market is out there. They just need to listen and support these communities instead of catering to the small and shitty vocal bigots out there.
posted by Fizz at 8:34 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


Cities: Skylines tries to be a more quality-of-life focused take on the SimCity formula, and somewhat succeeds. It highly, highly encourages the use of transit networks to take care of passenger needs, for instance, and it models noise pollution as well as ground pollution. You still end up with a very road-centric city in the end, but the roads are almost entirely for service vehicles and commercial/industrial deliveries rather than passengers. I actually consider that kind of an interesting result, but unfortunately you still end up "fencing in" your residential zones with roads just like in classic SimCity games.

Non-urbanist "city builders" seem to be more friendly to community-focussed planning, Banished, for instance, has you constructing a village with a strong emphasis on sustainability just by virtue of the fact that you have to plan around the fact that stone and ore deposits will deplete and so will forests unless you dedicate villagers to replanting them. Trade exists but is heavily influenced by RNG so you can't rely on it for necessities.

Surviving Mars is hardly utopian or leftist, having a very resource-extraction-based economy, but it does have a focus on providing your human colonists with needs beyond the basics, so you need to manage work shifts to prevent burnout and then make sure that pops with specific traits are accommodated (which mostly means that, like, your Gamers have to have Arcades or whatever, but you could imagine expanding the concept to broader definitions of "traits" and "accommodations").

I think there's plenty of room to adapt the "builder" genres to more "leftist" ideals, it's just nobody with a budget has done it yet.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:09 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Whenever we talk about how game mechanics are political, I'm reminded of one of the Caesar games (I think I only played Caesar III) where to have a really spectacular result, you'd build your city and let overcrowding, crime and disease happen, but just before the end, you'd delete all the poor people's houses, so they had to leave town. Suddenly, you'd have an instant increase in per capita income and quality of life. Which is really not the sort of political message you hope a game would have!
posted by mittens at 9:32 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Surviving Mars is hardly utopian or leftist, having a very resource-extraction-based economy, but it does have a focus on providing your human colonists with needs beyond the basics

you mean like nerve staples?
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:51 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Guerilla Collective is an "online games festival" for indie game developers that was going to take place this past weekend. Instead, they ran a Black Voices in Gaming stream showcasing Black developers and games, and postponed their other events until next weekend.
posted by mbrubeck at 12:53 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


The community has also been a good place for the queer community to play and imagine.

Oh yeah it has.

Dec. 8, 1996

A rogue computer programmer was dismissed last week after secretly coding thousands of copies of a store-bound computer game to create animated images of men kissing each other, the game's manufacturer said.

The programmer, 33-year-old Jacques Servin, was dismissed by the manufacturer, Maxis Inc., after it was discovered that he had encrypted SimCopter, a new helicopter simulation game for I.B.M.-compatible computers, with a command to generate images of men in swimsuits kissing each other at certain points in the game. More than 78,000 copies of SimCopter had been sent to stores before the code was found in November by other Maxis programmers.


From the SimCity fan Wiki regarding Servin:

The SimCopter egg was a hidden feature in 1996 game SimCopter. If you complete a mission on either his (Servin's) birthday, his partner's birthday, and any Friday the 13th, loads of men in speedos will kiss each other instead of the normal marching band. He planted the egg because he felt that his boss, Will Wright was, as he put it, "excessively heterosexual".

Servin is also known as Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men.

To this day this is one of my favorite computer game easter eggs.
posted by deadaluspark at 2:06 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


you mean like nerve staples?

I mean, sure, if you want to play that way you can, but you don't have to. And anyway my point was mainly that one of the basic mechanics of the game -- everyone has the same basic needs but may also have some highly individual needs on top of those -- is conceptually easy to slot into a game with explicit leftist ideology.
posted by tobascodagama at 3:26 PM on June 9


(I was just riffing off Alpha Centauri but if my free copy of surviving mars that I haven't installed lets me be a complete dick to my settlers, well...)
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:00 PM on June 9


BLM is something that only occurs in Western countries, not in Asia.

There have been BLM protests in Japan, so no.

(Driven in part as I understand it by the treatment of Black or POC foreigners, at the hand of the police there.)
posted by MartinWisse at 1:14 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


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