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About
Hey, I'm Riobux. I joined Destructoid a few months back due to Podtoid when Jim Sterling, Jonathan Holmes and Conrad Zimmerman used to do it, and when Phil & Spencer did the Destructoid Twitch channel. I'm a Sociology With Psychology graduate who has a particular interest in videogame culture and the creation of videogames. I post a blog every two weeks (or at least try) about an aspect that interests me, with usually some article in the weeks between about something videogame related.

When I'm not here attempting to act like a civilised being, making odd jokes only I snigger at or being way too late with posting blogs, I can be found on Gamers Honest Truth, a fledgling videogame website that values the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, as a new videogame reviewer. I'm also attempting my hand at writing a fan-fiction at the Starcrawler forums after giving Darkest Dungeon fiction a punt.
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Good day, and welcome to a wonderful horror edition of my blog posts. As the month of October, a month associated with terror, fear and horror, comes towards a final bombastic close in the form of Halloween; I wish to throw my wood into the fire and share with you over the roaring flames what has tingled my spine. What has left me agasp in what I've witnessed in visual novel videogames. A tale of death, both of a physical and a psychological nature. After all, if there's certainly one thing worse than being in a state of real physical death, it's the knowledge that while they exist physically inside they're long gone. They breath, they sleep, they eat, but they were not the ones we thought we knew. That they are inside broken, destroyed and perhaps dead, a puppeteer of a parody of what we once knew and cared about.

So you may cry: “But why spine chilling creep, why not the horrors that keep you shaking and checking under your bed?”. To this, I respond with that horror is cheap and plentiful. You wish to be left paranoid, shaking in bed as you stare into the black void that may hide that which may claim your life, this is a cheap thrill. A building of atmosphere, the sensation that a creature may destroy you around the next corner, is something that requires no investment in the tale. It's when you become creeped out however, that requires something special. It requires build up, a strong story to keep you invested and then the unpredictable twist. As you look upon your spoiled goods, and see your fears become a reality in front of your eyes.

 

The only story here is about workplace exploitation.

 

So I wish to tell you of three visual novel videogames that have created a particular creep, that has left me disturbed and just saying a singular phrase over and over like a dark bird-song: “Oh no”. However, I wish to not sell you short, as every single one of these have left me worried, but still enjoying it. Like Alice as she burrowed deep into the hole, I wanted to go deeper but was scared of the outcomes to come. Naturally, spoilers will be afoot, but each chapter will begin with the videogame of discussion. So you may simply skip to the next videogame if you wish to experience it yourself in the future. If pictures are required to illustrate a point, a handy link will be given as a gift so those avoiding information on the game will not be foretold of the twists and turns. So, if you are sitting comfortably with a refreshment of your choosing, I shall begin.

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

999 is a visual novel with puzzles, the first in the Zero Escape series. You play as Junpei, a college student stuck on a boat that will sink in nine hours, along with eight other people and with one goal set out by the antagonist: Find the 9th door to escape. There are various rules set out to make sure people didn't cheat to escape with the ultimate punishment for breaking them: Death.

Each person has a bracelet with a number on it. This serves two functions: The number is used for the doors, and it can trigger a bomb inside the owner's body if a rule is broken. To enter a numbered door for the first time, two conditions must be satisfied. The first is the digital root of those who wish to enter it must equal the door number, and it must be between 3 and 5 people. This is confirmed by swiping their bracelet on the external box and locking it in. Those who enter then have to disable the countdown on their watch by swiping it against a box inside, so it prevents those who are unregistered rushing into the room.

 

"If there's no limit on how many people can enter a room, they'll probably all just go into a cabin and go to sleep. Hhmm...Better put a time limit on too. If they sleep on the job, it'll be hard to get them out if they can't be bothered."

 

During the plot of the game it is revealed that two of the characters, Clover and Snake, are related as sister and brother. Snake however gets a chronic case of the dead. This is thanks to someone pushing him into a numbered door alone, making him unable to disable the bomb ticking down. This is because everyone who is registered on the external box needs to swipe the internal box for it to disable the bombs. His death is revealed later, depending on if you force yourself to go into the 3 door or not. Needless to say, Clover is horrified at the revelation of her brother's death. She flips between being quiet and furious that it could have been anyone who threw Snake in. Plus, it would have to be more than one person, due to it requiring at least 3 people to open a door.

This failing of trust of who killed her brother climaxes in the Axe ending. After working out who must have thrown her brother in, she kills them (7+3+2= 12 1+2 = 3). However, with killing Santa and Seven, there was sadly an avoidable casualty. Someone who stood between Clover and the two people who must have killed her brother, and that was your love interest June. The only one who knew you outside of the 999 events. All Junpei can do in retaliation, is just to fall to his knees.

He then looks up to see someone broken. Horribly horribly broken.

Just the knowledge this person was just broken beyond belief, and unpredictable, made the screenshot of Clover creepy. In some way, you contributed to what is now a very mentally damaged girl. It was enough to make me remember the ending every time I think of Clover as a name. It doesn't help that Clover then uses an axe to cut you up for your bracelet, after asking you for your hand so you and this broken little girl can escape. Made even worse that even if she got every single bracelet, she wouldn't be able to escape out of the furnace. Meanwhile, her brother actually trapped in a coffin that no one can let him out of due to the two people who would have been able to being dead. A somewhat creepy experience, but I'm sure I can up the ratchet.

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Duel Destinies

So this is one that may simultaneously create confusion and a knowing nod. Perhaps something people wouldn't expect on a list like this, but yet they know the scene I'm going to be babbling about. Perhaps I should explain.

To the uninformed, Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney is a series where you are a lawyer who must defend clients from a guilty verdict, and thus in the process reveal the true culprit of the crime. It's a light hearted series that has plenty of jokes, fun visuals and some silliness as well. Duel Destinies being the sixth Ace Attorney game released in the UK (they did release Ace Attorney Investigations 2 in Japan only) and the first on the 3DS. As you play as Phoenix Wright, returned after having his lawyer license revoked from the previous game. Along with Apollo Justice from the previous game, and a new face: Athena Cykes.

 

Apollo comes back, angstier than ever.

 

Athena is a character that comes across as constantly happy, always with a smirk on her face. However, there are signs something is not quite okay with her. This becomes most apparent in case 3, Turnabout Academy, when Athena gets taunted by the suspected, and then proven, killer to the point of shaking with severe self-doubt. At the time, there is no knowledge of what causes Athena to lose faith in herself to the point of clutching herself, and sure she is unable to win the case.

However, it begins to be revealed that perhaps Athena may have had something to do with her mother's death, Metis Cykes. That when Simon Blackquill, the person charged with the death of Athena's mother, turned up at the laboratory for a psychology lesson Metis was already dead. Stood over her, was Athena with a grin on her bloody face. Athena only had one thing to tell Blackquill: “Something's wrong with Mom, so I'm taking her apart to fix her!”. Due to Athena's sheltered childhood, she believed as a child that people could be fixed in the same way robots could.

So she wasn't sad about her mother being dead, but glad to help fix her using the machine that disassembles and reassembles robots her mother happened to be laid upon; with a sword wound to her gut. This memory of her mother's murder, and of her believing in being able to fix the fatal wound, was blocked out to the extent that upon remembering it again she realises the conclusion to be drawn: She was the one who killed her mother. Just the look of sheer joy of unawareness, and somewhat due to this very dark moment coming from nowhere, sent a creep tingling up my spine. I pressed on, wanting to know more of what happened with her mother, but wary that the truth may be something even more horrible. Fortunately, it turned out to be someone completely different, but the possibility it could go even bleaker had me creeped out.

Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward

So this was a game that had no mental breaking moments, but did create two scenes that I consider the most creepy occassions in visual novels for me. I figured I'd focus on one, so I had to pick which one made me more fearful to know more but yet made me want to dig deeper. In the end, I had to go with Luna End rather than Clover End.

 

Do I prefer to be creeped out one way, or another... How about alcohol? I prefer that.

 

So say you went down the far left path of the flowchart. You first find a mysterious woman who is dead from a stab wound to the chest. Then the small boy, Quark, goes unconscious due to the mysterious virus Radical 6. He later goes missing after a room. Followed by Alice dying from a stab wound to the chest, similar to how the woman died. Next, Luna is found dead from being injected with a chemical that stops the heart, with later hints that perhaps Clover did it.

While you'd be forgiven for suspecting the deaths end there, it does not. Clover and Tenmyouji fail to turn up to enter a door on time, which carries the penalty of death by a heart stopping injection. You find the two of them, handcuffed to a sink together. A bloody message by Clover left on her inner thigh hinting at who did it: “016”. Finally, you enter the Rec Room to find K with an axe in the back of his head and Dio with a lance in his stomach.

So now, you and Phi are all alone. There is a killer somewhere out there. Either a 10th person, or perhaps Quark managed to hit K with an axe hard enough to penetrate his armour? Quark is just a child though...Right? Whatever is the case, you and Phi are next without a doubt.

That's when you enter a code into a PC in the director's office. ID: GTFDML016. That's when you find out the ID name is a GAULEM Unit's (i.e. robot) serial number. That's when you open the file, and see a familiar picture next to a GAULEM specification notes. Luna. Luna's serial number is 016, as written on Clover's inner-thigh. Your brain begins to snap into place.

Luna is robotic, and so would be able to fight as well as required and be as strong as required. She'd be able to wield the axe and spear, perhaps at the same time. Luna wouldn't be affected by the heart-stopping chemical, so she could act in stealth. Plus, who would expect someone as lovely acting and innocent looking as Luna doing something as foul as murder?

 

"PLUS, WHO WOULD EXPECT A WOMAN TO ACHIEVE A RAMPAGE?!"

 

The announcer starts counting down to the voting time, something at least one person in a group of three must do or be punished by death. Sigma and Phi arrive at the voting booth and swipe their card. They step in and turn around. Together, the two of them see a terrible figure just as the doors are closing.

Luna, just standing there, watching you by her self.

This creepy moment is made even more so by the simple fact that Luna is your opponent in voting. What if she knew if you allied or betrayed? What would she do if you betrayed her? What is her next move? What is she going to do? You're now trapped in a small voting booth, told to vote to ally or betray Luna (both would give you the required 9 points to leave, if Luna does not vote) with Luna quite possibly waiting outside for you. She's already possibly killed 6 people including the old woman, with an unknown fate for young Quark. You vote, and she's gone. Just like that. Depending on how you vote, you either get a character ending (akin to a good ending) that has been considered one of the best endings and the most depressing ending in the game or a bad ending.

Closure

So I hope you enjoyed the delightful venture into the creepier side of visual novels, where you must dig deeper to just find out how deep the hole goes. If you request a visual novel that is perhaps more horrifying than just creepy, I recommend for you to take a gander at Corpse Party. It is a delightful visual novel for the PSP where rather than obscuring the horror, they sit it out in the open for all people to look upon. You get to experience in full graphical detail the deaths of many teenagers, along with some pictures of said grizzly scenes (e.g. NSFW and an early spoiler ), with the knowledge that some of them are your fault and others are bound by fate to death. Which makes me wonder: Is it worse to die to a fault that is your own, or know you were powerless to it? Alas, I'll admit to not being quite sure of that.

May you have a wonderful Halloween, your tastes lying in atmospheric horrors of things just lurking and watching or with buckets of blood and gore sloshed around or somewhere in between.

 

Until next time... Take care...

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There's some small announcements, skip the italics if you don't care really.

Okay, so two small announcements:

1. Does anyone know about the number of characters in a title at most? Just keep having problems with trying to fit the title. The official title was "Speaking The Feminist Fable: The Problems Of Applying Sociological Theory To Videogames". A bit lengthy perhaps unless if it was a journal article. I believe it's 80 characters, but in the past had the title cut out a bit. 

2. A bit more an entertaining news. Basically, worked out my schedule, and I plan to do an analytical article every two weeks. Just to avoid burning out completely on what to write about, and trying to get it done within a week (it takes about 2-3 days to work out what to write about, and the rest to try to write it without burnout, so imagine a typical sociological 2k essay once a week, a bit tiring). What will happen instead is during a non-analytical week, I'll do something more miscellaneous. Unless something else piques my interest to talk about, it'll likely be a "Riobux Recommends" series that'll be somewhat similar to the Extra Credits (lord & saviour) series James Recommends. I'll admit it'll be leaning closer towards games I find interesting in one way or another rather than games that do something interesting. However, don't worry because I wouldn't just be constantly verbally making love to the game as I will point out weaker aspects of the game. This wouldn't start next week, but rather three weeks from now due to the Community Contest.

So, just for clarity, this is my current calender:

October:

Week 13th-19th: Analytical Article: Feminist Fable.

Week 20th - 26th: Community Contest: About 2 3DS games and a DS game. Feel free to guess.

Week 27th - 2nd of November: Analytical Article: ?.

November:

Week: 3rd - 9th: Riobux Recommends: Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward.

Anyway, onwards with the show:

___________________________________________________________________________________

One of my earliest articles (which is perhaps more raw than this, and harder to read) dipped into a few of the problems of sociology while discussing why the debate on videogame violence is a tedious one. However, the problems of trying to engage in sociological analysis does not end there. There are similar and unique problems associated with using sociology to describe ways videogames may be improved. So I may mention things I've already talked about before, so I'm sorry in advance.

For better and for worse, we've become increasingly critical of videogames. We attack the developers and publishers behind them, we attack the people who populate the videogame culture and, most of all, we attack the videogames themselves. One of the most vocal criticisms of videogames is about representations of people. While someone has made a good case that no one is represented well, the typical target of criticism is of characters who are not white, heterosexual, Western and male, or lack of said characters. This criticising of the lack of good representation has combined with a resurgence of a sociological movement to create Feminist analysis.

 

I'm sure somewhere there's a Marxist who believes the lack of Marxism representation in the videogaming culture is a conspiracy theory hatched by EA and Activision.

 

As more females who play videogames become more vocal about this poor representation, this has led to growing criticisms of the movement. One of the more notorious Feminist analyses is Feminist Frequency, a series by Anita Sarkeesian as she scrutinises poor female representation in videogames. The extent of disagreement became strong enough for Sarkeesian to block Youtube comments and later do a TED Talk on the experience of being verbally attacked. However, I wish to propose an alternative reason for the backlash Feminist videogame comments get: A misunderstanding of sociology theory.

There are three aspects this article will cover about the misunderstanding between what sociological theory may offer and what people believe it may offer. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but I feel it is enough of a list to outline why people reacted so passionately against Sarkeesian and other Feminists critical of videogames and why they may have been incorrect to do so.

The first aspect is the claim someone is wrong because others have reached a different conclusion. It is possible for two different sociologists to examine the same evidence and conclude different conclusions. A classic example is sociologists studying GCSE results by various children by different demographics. A Marxist could conclude that education favours those from a middle class background and puts those from a working class background at a disadvantage. For example, education favouring elaborate language codes (i.e. context-free sentences like “I kicked the ball through the window”) while the working class uses restricted language codes (i.e. context-sensitive sentences like “It got kicked through there”).

 

"NO! I don't care if you're educated! I don't care if you're using elaborate codes or restricted codes of languages! You're still grounded and you're still doing chores to help pay for the broken window."

 

While a Feminist may conclude females are disadvantaged due to some classes favouring particular genders (e.g. low females in engineering/science, while high females in things like dance). Another Feminist could even conclude males are disadvantaged, as shown by females doing significantly better than males. In 2013, 24.8% of exams by females were graded A* or A , while for males it was 17.6%. 72.3% of exams by females were graded C or higher, in contrast to males where it's 63.7% (Link to source of statistics). That is not to say one is wrong, or others are correct, but rather a different interpretation of a large amount of data.

So it is possible for the damsel in distress trope to simultaneously be a sexist trope in games from the mid 80s to the mid 90s as observed by Sarkeesian as well as a short cut used to tell a story in the limited amount of hardware space they had by referencing common movie tropes (e.g. save the world, kidnapped your girlfriend or just kill the criminal). Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Pool Of Radiance came with a book which the game referenced pages for you to read at particular moments as to create storylines. So rather than resort to creating characterisation and conflict to drive the plot as this would require explaining to the player why someone is doing something, tropes allowed the player to be instantly familiar on the what, where and why of the events which saved space. This is down to personal interpretations. While it's acceptable to disregard interpretations you don't accept the logic to, and maybe even explain your own logic in your conclusion, it doesn't make sense to flat out tell someone their perception is completely wrong. It makes even less sense to get angry about it. Why get angry that someone can't see the rabbit in the clouds? Why be angry they see a duck instead?

 

Although feel free to judge the jerk who sees both the rabbit and duck in the sky. What a smart-arse.

 

So, you could wonder why a theorist doesn't cover all the angles. After all, isn't it the job of an academic to address the full story? However, that brings me to the second incorrect assumption: That sociology is in any way holistic (i.e. complete). By their very existence, theories are reductive. This happens for two reasons: The first is a simple case of logistics. It is borderline impossible to study a sociological phenomena from every angle within the time period that makes the event relevant. An example of this is education. For a singular sociologist, or a group of sociologists, to study what aspects of education leaves some groups disadvantaged it would take so long that some of the things they point out as creating a disadvantageous situation are long in the past and new aspects have appeared that they are unable to consider. That is assuming they wish to not play catch-up constantly where they will never truly catch-up.

The second reason for reductionism is less of an ethical reason. Cherry picking evidence that makes your argument strong and your opposition weak is something that does occur. While you are expected to make an opposition argument in papers to point out problems with your argument, you are expected to explain why the problems are acceptable. This is often done by creating an intentionally weak argument against you by cherry picking what is said. While it's rarely done to the point of being a strawman argument, it's still intentionally brief and weak so you can dismantle it.

The classic example of cherry picking is a radical Feminist theory on domestic violence. A theory proposed by them was that domestic violence was something due to men. That because of violence being intrinsic to men, it wasn't an “if”, but rather a “when” and by removing the man from the situation, violence is averted*. Radical Feminism is Feminism taken to an extreme radical level of blaming problems of society on men. So they cherry picked their evidence to exclude cases of domestic violence by females, especially lesbian domestic violence as this eliminated “justified violence” by the female towards the male in a relationship. Fortunately, they've always been in a very small minority in Feminism.

This admittance of necessary reductionism by sociology is one of the reasons why sociology has somewhat shifted away from macro-theories such as Feminism/Marxism/Post-Modernism/Post-Postmodernism (seriously, Post-Postmodernism exists) that explains as many things as possible in society. What is more typical is hundreds upon hundreds of micro-theories that explain aspects of society, such as an aspect of education, of crime or of consumerism. Another reason is due to the popularity of Grounded Theory in sociology, but I'm getting off topic.

 

The basic summary of grounded theory is "This research is not bias because the theory comes from the data rather than using an existing theory to design the hypothesis, and then I make the theory in the conclusion. I could never be bias." Due to the appeal, it leads to a lot of theories and little debunking. 

 

The third incorrect assumption is that a sociologist picks up and uses a theory as required. That it's common for one theorist to use Feminism for education, and Marxism for crime/deviance. However, the reality is a sociology theory is an obsession. This appears in the reductionism a sociologist will tend to achieve as they look through a particular lens. To appreciate a sociological theory is to live, breath and read the world of that theory. This obsession is positive in that it can greatly motivate some people's activism. It can give a label and a flag to rally under for the fight of equality. While the term “Feminism” has been used to fight against female oppression, it has also been used to help fight against ways males are oppressed (e.g. males are less likely to seek medical (physical or mental) help partially due to it being a sign of weakness).

However, it does have it's negative slant. This obsession can create a particular colour lens that restricts the user in considering other possibilities. If the possibility has been considered, it is to be pushed to the side. To use Anita Sarkeesian's Feminist Frequency as an example, the more evidence Sarkeesian is able to present to show the ways videogames abuse female characters, the more correct she is able to seem. There is a possibility that Sarkeesian has interpreted some of the aspects of videogames due to her Feminism obsession, and that's fine. As a Feminist sociologist, there is nothing else to be expected, especially of a show called Feminist Frequency. However, awareness needs to be considered that when a sociologist follows a theory (especially a macro-theory), they are locked into an obsession. The goal is to sell as much evidence as possible that shows your theory is correct.

The conclusion I wish to present is one of a warning to prevent fruitless arguments. If you wish to argue to prove Feminism is wrong, expect to lose. As you are arguing from your own perspective against someone who lives and breaths their own obsession. It's akin to convincing people who play videogames regularly that their habit causes violence. We are all locked into our own obsessions, and it's unlikely an argument will break us from our little obsessions. However, what we can do is discuss our perspectives on an issue with respect given to how people's perception on reality do vary based on previous experiences and beliefs we hold. So let us share our realities in a civil manner, rather than telling someone you wish to use their eye-socket as a “love hole”.

 

Despite all that, I promise you sociology is a science. 

 

*NOTE: If the example I've given of radical Feminism towards domestic violence appears out of context or simply wrong, here is an example of a book describing the theory: link The word radical in radical Feminism is used almost to the same extent the word radical in radical Islamists is used. Although, without the violence. As I explained, they really are/were (if they are still around, they are in a VERY small minority) extreme in their beliefs and did believe in sexist beliefs towards men. Another theory they held was political lesbianism, where the radical Feminist would become a lesbian as to avoid sleeping with the enemy. An example of someone who believes in political lesbianism in the UK is Julie Bindel, a columnist at the Guardian. Her beliefs in the concept actually does come out in some of the writing she does for the Guardian. If you want more details on how it occurs, feel free to ask me as this note may be going a bit long. Just know that radical Feminism is not representative of typical Feminist beliefs, before you sharpen your pitchforks to lynch a Feminist.

 

Also on a side note, if there's anything you wish improved or wish to suggest an article, feel free to suggest away. I'm still adjusting concepts here and there so I'm still altering things to see if it works out better. Feedback is always welcome as always.

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This article was written before I recieved news today that AFK News will not be released soon. It may come one day, but it most likely wouldn't be a day any week soon. So I'll be returning back to my usual schedule of one-a-week for articles. However, I'll need to get back into the swing of things so the next article wouldn't be next week but the week after. After that point, it'll be a once-a-week schedule as usual. 

 

Edit: So the full title "Futurism Of The Oculus: A Consideration Of Possible Future Scenarios Due To Techology Advancement" couldn't fit in the title. So it's now shorten. 



 So when I went on board to take part in AFK News (it's coming, I promise), a few decisions were made about the type of content to reflect AFK News's goal of creating professional analyses of videogames. If you've worked on a social science paper, especially sociology, it's roughly the same style. This means things like to avoid a casual writing style, using language to signify ownership (e.g. “this paper will show” rather “I will show”) and baseless conclusions with no evidence. The last part is what makes it tough to talk about something I would like to: Futurism in Videogames, especially concerning the technology of the Oculus Rift.

Futurism, or Futurology, is the process of using current knowledge to attempt to predict future events. It tends towards using tools like extrapolation and assumptions to assume what may occur. For instance, there is a tendency to predict that humanoid robots will exist one day that will past the Turing Test (even if you may technically get the Chinese Room problems). This is born from our extrapolation of the progression of technology will continue unhampered, that our goals of said robots will not shift and similar assumptions. I explain this to help you recognise that not only this entire article is guess-work and I will likely be very off the reality, but also that I am aware of these problems.

However, despite this, I wish to discuss interesting possible sociological/psychological aspects that may come about from the Oculus Rift based on a video that inspired me to write this article. It will make the assumption a technology akin to the Razer Hydra (a product that is now discontinued) will exist, but technology will be discussed as well. It will also make the assumption that there will be a gradual shift towards games that use the Oculus Rift and other supporting technology, which I'll admit to being an assumption that flies in the face of how much people do not like motion sensor games at all, including me. Part of the reason for this assumption is how the Oculus Rift functions differently to existing motion sensors like the Kinect and the Move, and partially because the Oculus Rift looks like it actually works.

 

"As you can see, the Kinect operating machine works roughly 10% of the time. Looks pretty to investors, I don't doubt sir...Up to the point when they see we save people 10% of the time. Percentages increase if it's a simple routine operation like exploratory surgery on the knee...To about 40%."

 

The first aspect of this is a re-emergence of the “what is a videogame” conversation, as a new form of simulation is born. This new form of simulation will likely be due to the Oculus Rift's form of motion sensor technology being in the form of vision. With interactivity of being able to look around and, potentially few other things, it could be argued that it isn't a film. However, due to the low-level of interactivity, people will argue if it's a game. This is an example of what type of interactive-experiences may end up being born to cater to the simulation experience the Oculus Rift may offer.

Despite the discussion, I feel it'll be the type of question that'll already be answered by the reader and all forms of discussions are actually bitter arguments from the “is Gone Home a videogame?” discussion. However, due to the simulation-esque feel of the Oculus Rift, videogames that would normally appear too boring for standard audiences (e.g. Dear Esther) may get a resurgence. This could be due to people's curiosity being fed by the new form of presentation and a greater amount of immersion.

From this new venture into simulations and interactive-experiences, new technologies may come along. There are technologies that look to be designed with the Oculus Rift in mind. Two successful ones are the Razor Hydra, which is now discontinued, and the Virtuix Omni. While the Razor Hydra sought to replicate hand movements, the Virtuix Omni was designed to allow foot-movement to be detected.

However, naturally, there are downsides to both technologies. The Hydra does not have a device that can alter weight so a handgun is as heavy as a rocket launcher. While the Virtuix Omni has no way of detecting crouching or being prone. However, chances are is in time these problems will be fixed. A less commercially successful product was the Haptic Suit which gave feedback depending on where you were being hit in game. If it failed due to it's own limitations or due to people not wanting to feel it when they're shot is unknown.

 

Simultaniously the reason why it did as badly and as well as it did was because it lacked a lower-half part. This would be so you could punt people between the legs through the internet, rendering them hopefully sterile, every time they said or did something so stupid you died inside.

 

The other downside to the technology is how piecemeal it is currently. Put together, you'd be walking around on a pad with a harness on it, gripping two sticks as your controller, a headset on you and, assuming the Haptic Suit, having a suit on as well. It'd honestly be surprised if a company doesn't decide to combine all the technology together into one collection that functions with each other. If it's an existing company or a new one is unknown. If a guess had to be made, then it'd be Oculus VR which is now owned by Facebook, but it could quite easily be any other company.

The possible psychological impacts can be split into two sections, the positive outcomes and the negative outcomes.

Starting with the positive outcomes, there are a few but I'll cover two. The first is it can help potentially distressed individuals while they are in hospital. With the immersion the Oculus Rift potentially holds, it can distract patients who may be in pain and be unhappy with their environment or themselves (e.g. if they are using chemo, it may distract from the hair-loss and the weight loss that occurs). By putting the individual in an environment they may enjoy more, even if it's a simple walking through the garden simulation, it has the potential to raise their mood. Which by raising the mood of the individual, they have a greater chance to recover than someone who has given up.

Another such positive is it can allow people to experience things they may not be able to experience. While there will be elements that are very far away from being simulated, such as smells, tastes and being able to feel like you're walking when you're not, the Oculus Rift has the potential to become close. This creates the possibility to simulate things not out of entertainment or interest, but for a more positive psychological state for someone. One such example could be to alleviate some depression symptoms brought about because physical disability (e.g. damage to the spine) by simulating some experiences they enjoy such as travelling to foreign places or taking part in sports they loved.

 

Thanks to Oculus Rift, soon disabled elderly people may experience a joy they once experienced before being bound to a wheelchair: Chasing children who rang their doorbell and ran away, with belt and a lot of colourful language. 

 

Another example that has been theorised is it could help with transgenderism. By allowing the individual to experience a body of the opposite gender, they can determine how they feel in said body. BeAnotherLab did an experiment where two individuals could feel like themselves in a different body. By synchronising movements and wearing Oculus Rifts connected to a camera the other person is wearing, a person may feel what it's like to have a body of the opposite gender. This may help someone discover if they feel more natural as their original gender or as the opposite gender.

However, there are a few psychological problems that could occur from technologies such as the Oculus Rift.

One such problem is it may increase the addictive nature of videogames. By having greater immersion in a world where the individual is loved, praised and depended on, like a MMORPG, the greater the chance this may cause someone to disregard a world as rife with problems as their own actual lives and focus upon living in a world where they are psychologically satisfied. This is not to suggest however videogames addiction doesn't already exist (it does) or that it'll affect everyone (it wouldn't), but there may be a growing amount of cases. Although that excludes how this is reported cases, and videogame addiction is a condition that is increasingly being legitimised in the mental health field so the amount of people reporting it will most likely rise anyway.

Another problem is by creating greater immersion in the game-world, the events in the game have a greater effect on the player. While this on the surface is a very good thing, it does have the potential to cause some negative psychological repercussions. If a particular experience in a particularly immersive game ends up violent or traumatic, it could affect the individual negatively. For example, if there was a scene particularly violent, the individual may get PTSD symptoms.

Another example is an individual may end up mourning a character, either due to their death or due to the game ending. While there hasn't been a game example, besides the videos on Youtube of people crying about game characters they consider their waifu, there has been an example in film. After the release of James's Camaron's Avatar, a film with high special effects work, people began getting depressed. Accordding to the Huffington Post, there have been reports of depression and suicide on forums dedicated to the film Avatar. So the possibility exists for fictional events in a visual medium to invoke feelings of depression, even if it's just due to the fictional nature of the world. So isn't it possible a particularly immersive interactive-experience could invoke these feelings?

 

Sadly, like a character with plot armour plumetting to a death that consists of a floor of spikes, the fans of Avatar ultimately missed the point. 

 

The final interesting aspect to discuss is how this type of technology could theoretically revolutionise videogames as a sport. In it's current state, videogames tend to be a competition of tactics, reflexes and much more mental abilities. Physical strength and dexterity (besides reflexes) are left out of the equation. So, consider a videogame that used the Oculus Rift, Virtuix Omni and the Razer Hydra in conjunction that was created to function at competitive level. A FPS for instance. In that instance, a new skill list would be required.

To use a FPS simulation at competition level for an example, a skill list that could be required could include things such as stamina for running, fine motor controls for aiming, smaller body shape to decrease targeting area and maybe even the ability to quickly learn the environment if rules and levels were designed for the event as to prohibit reflexive actions that can occur in games like Counter Strike. This in turn could act to either legitimise or delegitimise videogames as a sport. Videogame culture could claim the virtual sporting event, thus allowing more tactical-based videogames to become a legitimate sport in the mainstream. However, it could become distant enough to typical videogames as to be considered not a videogame and possibly picked up by sporting circuit or simply not be a formalised competitive sport due to the lack of any backing.

 

Fortunately, I don't think having exhaustive knowledge of the many ways you can call someone offensive insults or imply the ways they screwed all of your family including the pet guinea pig would be part of the skill set of a competitive FPS simulation. Sending a false alarm to your competitor's local police station about your competitor holding children hostage however may be part of that skill set though. 

 

So, considering all the possibilities that future videogame technologies hold, it is naturally a future that looks simultaneously promising and one with problems. However, what the future will most likely hold is increasingly interesting technological advances that'll further increase engagement. It will be one naturally with some problems at the start, in a similar way that motion sensors on consoles has turned into a running joke. Even include some instances of people making some business decisions based on past logic that no longer applies, like different release dates globally for digital releases despite no shipping or colour encoding systems (e.g. PAL and NTSC) to consider.

However, especially with regards to possible psychological problems, we need to show caution. We need to be not afraid to say no to pushing the envelope, at least without any research into the effects. We need to be able to admit our videogames may cause harm in others, like they do today with regards to addiction. If we, as a culture, refuse to admit fault people's lives may be destroyed and we'll all be worse off for it. Every form of media has it's shady side. Such as snuff-films, corrupt journalism and moral panic inducing TV programs. It's okay to admit a shady side to videogames if future developments start suggesting harm is being committed. This article is all speculation, but grounded enough in reality that a possibility exists of it occurring. If our love for videogames blinds us from the harm it may cause rather than motivates us to improve it, then videogames will be demonised by the mainstream and all the work for legitimation of our medium in the last 40 years will be for naught.

However, if videogames ceased to be trying to be serious and legitimate, at least we could all bask in the warm flame and insane-song of increasingly tedious videogame debates. Worry not, because there will always be arguments to warm our bodies and lose our minds to.

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Hey, so this is my first blog post since joining AFK News (sadly don't have a link yet to it), and I wish to discuss something I will be doing for 61 days. This is a personal goal, for my own interests, but if others wish to join in I really recommend doing so.

On the 30th of September, I will purchase Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth and, if it's paid DLC, the Payday 2 DLC released on that day (the Hotline Miami one). From that point on, from the 1st of October to the 1st of December I will not buy a single video-game related item. Not an indulging of a deal on PSN or Steam. Not a Payday 2 DLC. Not even a Humble Bundle for less than £1. No games, DLC or added content. Anything relevant to videogames at all. This is for reasons beyond financial (as I'm not even buying $1 Humble Bundles), and dips into psychological.

As I've hinted at time and time again, I am someone with an anxiety disorder. It's something that has followed me from an early age. So, naturally, I found my own releases to deal with anxiety. A few can be seen as perhaps positive. Some like my tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve. I'm usually open how I feel emotionally. However, I also have some negative habits. I've had a long history of using alcohol as something to lean on during my teens, and somewhat a little bit during my early 20s during hard moments.

 

As much as I stole alcohol from my dad during my teens, I never stooped low enough to drink White Lightning. Even alcoholics have to have standards.

 

One tactic I've used to deal with my anxiety through-out my entire childhood and even today has been videogames. I grew up with them, and used them to get through a childhood that was spent pretty much in social isolation. That and the internet (a place that I had a few associates and no friends) were my two tools of helping to deal with things. However, when I moved out and went to university, the power of complete control of my life went to my head. I begun buying games on a whim, looking to play something that piqued my interest or held my attention. My standards of what would hold my attention for a length of time increased. So I bought more and more. Not usually at full price, but let's say that Humble Bundle's $1 for 3 to 5 games became a good friend.

If this is starting to sound like an addiction to videogames, I'm not so sure it's necessarily that. It's more an addiction to purchasing games. A rush of “maybe this is the game that'll captivate my interest” occurs when I buy a game. 99% of the time, my interest is not kept long. The wishful gazes of the title before purchases, and the rumours of just how this game is amazing and may change my life, just leaving me with something resembling a hang-over. A disappointing “...That's it?”, before I bumble off to see what new shiny games are being sold.

The reasons for this are somewhat self-inflicted as well as created by their own. As I've grown up with videogames, so has my demand of them. I demand more things of them. No longer I wish to be simply entertained by gunplay and sword-fights. I wish to be intrigued. I wish to be drawn into a world that makes me think about things I would not have thought of. I wish to be distracted not by gameplay but rather stories. My tolerance level and my expectations are now of an unachievable level. A level that I need to bring down myself.

However, another aspect to consider is Cryder, et al's paper on Misery Is Not Miserly. The short version is that sad individuals spend more than non-sad individuals. Their theory being that with the combination of a sad event and self-focus, it leads to devaluation of the self. Devaluation of the self leads to desire to enhance self. This in turn leads to the increase valuation of possessions that one may acquire. So with my state of social exclusion and anxiety, it's hard to have value in myself. I simply do not value myself much at all. So it's understandable that maybe, just maybe, this videogame will complete me and help me value myself more.

 

I'm sure on a sub-concious level I somehow thought "yes, a game where you shoot police officers and sometimes accidentally civilians as bank robbers as you steal cocaine, money, gold and guns will complete me psychologically some how" when I bought Payday 2. Then again, it is good fun.

 

I'll also admit that financial reasons are important as well to all of this. As I'll be leaving my home to live far away, hoping to get a job. I need to try to avoid as many avenues where I may lose money due to my own incompetence. Humble Bundles only cost $1, but I can be swayed easily to purchase a game or two on Steam that catches my eye for £20. I've also bought into quite a few Kickstarters that look interesting in my eyes.

I'll admit in this, I've rambled quite a lot. That it's very unfocused, very casual and very introspective. I'm not doing this to raise awareness of videogame addiction, nor have I adequately discussed it (maybe in AFK news in the future?). However, I wanted to write this for three reasons. First, I wanted to introspectively discuss this so I could understand this more myself. Secondly, I feel if I didn't put this down in paper then I can see myself backing out of it. At least in paper, it's harder to not feel like I'm betraying someone by caving in. Thirdly, I wanted to open up on my experiences so others may know of them. At the very least, so if someone is feeling somewhat similar or they wish to undertake a “videogame fast”, they may do without feeling alone. After all, it is hard sometimes to just say no. To deny the thing that you feel may complete you. I hope to further complete myself by denying said items for a while. Afterwards, well, I hope to spend money on videogames in a more controlled manner.


On a side note, damn the editor has changed. It means I can't do the dark-green text for captions. Also, I'm glad Payday 2's Crimefest is a thing. That should save me some money.

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Just a pre-word: So I have some good news and bad news for those who follow these posts. The good news is I was recently invited to work with The Scholarly Gamer (who hit front page a week or two back) on a new project he is doing called AFK News. I will be carrying on what I do here, talking about videogames in some form of analytical manner, but will be a smaller version (about between 1500 to 2000 words). Just look for something called Bitesize Issues when it starts soon. I'll likely edit this with a link when it does get posted so people know where to check it out. I'll be doing Bitesize Issues once a week.

The bad news though: Due to having more commitments (getting a job soon, Bitesize Issues, so on) and some real life illness, I'll have to reduce how often I do these posts. I already struggle as it is, I'll admit, to doing this once every two weeks. Let alone every single week. So to make sure future articles are of good quality and nothing else suffers, I feel I will reduce this to a "when it's done" schedule. You'll still have Bitesize Issues for a weekly treat of rambling, but this blog will be for when I want to pursue a more lengthy discussion or for when I want to just banter about something non-analytical. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this week's article.

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So, as anyone knows, there is the problems of Zoe Quinn. Most of it has already been said and done, and everyone has their opinions of the situation already. However, from the controversy surrounding Quinn, an interesting discussion has emerged.

Here is some back story: So on Reddit someone called SillySladar described how Zoe Quinn helped take down something called Rebel Jam which was being done by The Fine Young Capitalists (TFYC) and was about trying to get females to pitch ideas for games. These games  would then get made by an all-female developer (Autobotika), with all proceeds going to charity, with a small amount going to the pitcher. For more information, I'd say look it up as I'm trying to avoid getting involved with the Zoe Quinn situation.

TFYC decided to ask for donations, however I'll admit I can't find out if the donations would go to a charity of the donor’s choice or to TFYC for help with development. In the midsts of this, 4chan forums /pol/ (Politically Incorrect) and /v/ (Video Games) noticed the opportunity to help this jam, and decided to donate $10,000. They received a few rewards such as the donator's logo on the TFYC website for 6 months and loading screen of games sold. They picked a charity some money would go to, which was Colon Cancer Alliance (to “chemo butthurt”). They even got to make a character that would feature in the game: Vivian James. A personification of the /v/ forum.  


Complete with just absolute disgust with your taste in games, no matter what it is.


From this however, problems arose. A lot of criticisms were levelled at TFYC for accepting 4chan's donation, and it's one of the suspected motivations of the Indiegogo page being hacked.  Due to 4chan's perceived history of misogyny, it seemed counter productive to allow them to participate. So I wish to analyse if the source of donations is important. Especially as things like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Patreon appear to be the common norm in videogame culture. However, due to no examples beyond the Vivian James situation, I will be focusing on it as the example. As always, and is my final warning I do this in my posts: If a spoiler for a videogame is in a paragraph I will write in italics above said paragraph the name of the game so you can skip it.

So let's get the obvious part of this out of the way: The actions of some, or even most, does not mean all members of a group act in the same particular way. It may seem like an obvious assertion that, say, not all those who self-identify as feminists don't consider moments of discrimination towards males as unimportant. Some feminists believe in getting rid of gender inequality, while others believe in breaking down and destroying the structures that reinforces patriarchy in our society. However, it's a common mistake to apply the noticeable details of a group to all those part of it.

While it's illogical, it's as natural  as the paranoia that you left the front door unlocked that creeps in when you're half an hour away. The psychological term for it is in-group out-group behaviour. This is a psychological phenomenon where people are affected by being part of a group (cultural, racial, gender, etc) and it affects a lot of things. Like for instance, it explains why some people can come off as stereotypes of their own social group. After all, being part of a group can instil a strong sense of self-worth and identity. While there's a few other things that go under the in-group out-group umbrella, there is one part that I wish to focus in on. Namely perceptions of participants in the in and out groups.


Schrödinger's Door is just simply the worst. It requires that trip back for it to slide in the reality of being locked or unlocked.


Now for a demonstration: I want you to think about those within videogame culture. Look at diverse they are. Some of you may even love how varied those within videogame culture is as it can enrich social interaction. Now consider your views of, say, football (soccer for Americans) fans. If you're a fan of playing sportsball, try to think about bronies. If you're both, well, pick a subculture you're not a part of. For various reasons, you'll tend to speak in general terms and with less attention to variation than you do of your own culture.

Now to bring it back to the view that 4chan is misogynistic. I do not deny there are activities over there that are misogynistic in nature. However, by declaring 4chan misogynistic, it assumes two things. First, it assumes that the /v/ and /pol/ board represent all of 4chan, rather than being their somewhat independent board. It's like suggesting The Red Pill, Depression or Mildly Interesting boards represent all of Reddit.

The second assumption, and is perhaps more generalisable, is it assumes the entire group shares a collective view on everything. Like if all X-Box One fans were collectively anti-abortion, or if all PS4 fans believed marriage is purely between a man and a woman. From what I can discern about /v/, they are a board united by a love of videogames. So why shouldn't there be some misogynistic individuals, as well as some who wish to support pro-gender equality causes? So while the donation is in /v/'s name, why should that mean it represents all of /v/? Why not represent just those who care?


If the fan-boys are to be believed, the X-Box One, PS4 and Wii U are all the worst consoles of this generation, and I believe there is truth to that.


The second thing worth discussing is the idea that accepting money involves an agreement beyond the contract. There are several tweets feeling a sense of disgust of TFYC accepting money from 4chan as it symbolises accepting some actions seen as unacceptable, disturbing and counter-productive to the TFYC cause. However, this ignores the bureaucratic contract.

A bureaucratic contract, put in it's most distilled and simplistic form, is a contract drawn between two parties to ask both people to act in a particular way. If it sounds vague, it's because it varies wildly. From cease-and-desist contracts (we wouldn't sue if you do not continue), to do-not-disclose  contracts (you get to play this, if you don't speak of it's contents). While the forming of said contract does often involve opening a line of communication between both people, they are contracted to act in a particular way.

So while TYFC and people from /v/ and /pol/ are communicating with each other, it does not mean an alliance. All it simply means, on it's core level, is TYFC is getting money in exchange for offering services that have fine print to them. Said fine print includes TFYC stopping the deal if they feel what is asked of them is not to their taste (e.g. if they had to design a character that is sexually exploitive). What this means that while 4chan does offer misogynistic content, TFYC can at any point close the deal if they feel it is inappropriate. While they are acting friendly to each other, that does not indicate a friendship or an alliance. Nor does it indicate TFYC respecting everything 4chan related. If people wish to prove TFYC is accepting content of 4chan that is sexist, better proof will need to be found than simply accepting a contract.


Did it stop people from making their own NSFW sexually exploitive pictures of Vivian? It sure didn't.


A third aspect of this is the genetic fallacy. While this fallacy is very similar to the first point about 4chan being very varied, it is a bit more specific than that. This fallacy is where someone assumes a message to be correct or incorrect based on the individual delivering this. Taken to it's extremes, it can lead to such insane statements like “vegetarianism is wrong because Hitler was a vegetarian”.

4chan is a place with a very negative reputation, especially in the eyes of those who believe they value social rights highly. 4chan has been seen an anarchic place that brings out the worst in individuals. A cesspit filled with racism, homophobia, sexism, anti-Semitism and many more labels indicating their offensiveness towards different social groups. It isn't known for it's community spirit helping others, especially with avenues such as donating money to a pro-women representation cause such as TFYC. So when it does reach out and help TFYC, some how the acceptance of TFYC as a good cause by /v/ and /pol/ shines a negative light on TFYC in the process.

It's obvious that to invoke a fallacy is a negative thing to do in a discussion. As by invoking a fallacy, it's a sign of using poor logic to create a conclusion. However, another fallacy does exist which will open up the second part of this article: The argument from fallacy. A fallacy where if someone spots an argument containing a fallacy and therefore concludes the argument is incorrect. I have talked about all the problems with the assumption of being fearful who pledges to a project, and I guess it's now to admit there may be some truth to the arguments.


Sometimes, the planets align in just the right way, and the conspiracy theorists turn out to be correct.


The first of this is what does the money pay for, and methods to corrupt this. When /v/ and /pol/ paid $10,000 to TFYC, they received some things in return. The part that has drawn the most attention from everyone is the inclusion of a character in whatever game is created. This character has to be cleared by TFYC, and is then up for interpretation by them. Despite this, there are two methods of manipulation that can occur: Covert and overt manipulation.

Overt manipulation would likely involve black-mailing TFYC. By forcing the group behind the Kickstarter project to include as asked or face a refund, it can potentially force someone to allow a more risky pledger inclusion or face losing money. Of course, if the pledge was something like $125, it'd be unlikely to force the risky character into the game. However, if the pledge was at least $10,000, maybe it's more likely they'll allow that female character to be a bit scantly clad.

A more covert means of manipulation either involves sneaking thing under the radar or doing things outside the system with relation to that. For instance, say if you're trying to sneak an immigration message into a game like Darkest Dungeon. You may decide to pledge to name a character and/or item, and then use slang terms to make references to it. You may try to make the item function in a way to hint at the immigration debate. I'll admit to it being a crude method of sneaking said message in, but possible.

What may be more possible is to make allusions to your contribution with relation to your message. Using my previous example. Maybe you could design a fabled item that a hero you named tends to use. Then hire a good fan-fiction writer to write a story about said hero and item, and pepper it with references to the debate you have. Then just post it for free on the Darker Dungeon (Darkest Dungeon fan-website) forums. If it reaches popularity, it may act as a form of subliminal messaging.

However, as you can probably tell as I'm describing it, it is an approach with problems. First, the group can turn around and say “no” at any point for any reason. At least with regards to Kickstarter, the people behind it can refund and refuse service for any reason as they desire. They can cut down all forms of manipulation if they can feel it. Secondary, it would be hard to submit a message/concept of some kind besides simple advertisement without feeling clunky. It's hard to say “Zoe Quinn is a terrible individual” in a name, it's easier to just make a reference to /v/ forum.

This brings me to the second element of truth that is similar to the first. That the pledging acts as a ploy to achieve a particular goal. Rather than something getting pledged a lot of money out of genuine interest, it is rather being funded to fuel an ulterior motive. This motive can vary, but becomes potentially problematic if the goals differ from the Kickstarter goal.

The main example I have for this is actually the Vivian James example. According to a screenshot on KnowYourMeme, /pol/ originally picked up on helping TFYC in the first place to not only spite Zoe Quinn and other Social Justice Warriors, but also to create good press for the board. “Can you imagine? 4Chan attacks the cancer and simultaneously sponsors the chemo AT THE SAME TIME. We'd be PR-untouchable”.

However, there's two factors about this: The first one assumes that everyone is using the same logic and everything about it is about creating good PR and spiting Zoe Quinn. The first part of that, I covered earlier. The second part, I can't help but think this isn't really much different to other groups donating money for good PR. In 2013, Microsoft donated $113 million for non-profit organisations and charitable causes. Leaving motives aside, it's hard to deny that this level of charity contribution does create positive PR. I'll admit that I don't believe that those who did the ALS challenge were met with anything except praise and sympathy for the cause. It may not be a positive thing, but it's not as corrupting as I believe people make it out to be.


I'm not sure EA could amass enough money to salvage their reputation. I'm not even sure if Bobby Kotick could be redeemable in anyone's eyes no matter what he does from this point onwards.


The second factor is it assumes that by it being a ploy, takes it away from the bureaucratic contract in place. The one that allows the person behind the Kickstarter/Indiegogo/etc to stop at any point. For instance, if TFYC believed the ploy to be unacceptable, they can walk away from the deal. The fact they haven't, shows that at the most cynical level: Sometimes you just need money, without compromising your ultimate goal. At a more likely level, they believed that the /v/ and /pol/ board to be, while perhaps a bit immature, caring about the issue on some level and enthusiastic to designing their character.

In the end though, I believe Vivian James to be an interesting experiment. It was interesting, at least at some level, as a demonstration for many things. It's not often, if it does occur, for a group to take advantage for pledge-based websites to further their own PR. Nor is it often for a character to be created by many loosely connected individuals in the chaotic maelstrom that is 4chan's boards, and for the character to be something that could work as a representative figure of a female videogame player. In perhaps a more schadenfreude moment, it was interesting to see a pro-female videogame representation group to feel failed by their own movement after a representation of that movement abandoned them and destroyed then. Then, in a moment of falling out of favour, they got picked up by “the CATHEDRAL of misogyny” (words of Ariel Connor, who is possibly Anita Sarkeesian according to a picture on Know Your Meme) who proceeded to donate over $10,000 becoming TFYC's biggest donor for a few days.

I'll admit that I wish I had more examples to offer out, but as Kickstarter is relatively new (as well as the similar websites like Indiegogo) it leads to me to rely on the fiasco as a bit of a crutch to explain some interesting aspects to this. Just in the end, no matter how much power you feel a pledger may have, the person asking for pledges always has the opportunity to say no. While it may be a stab at some who may be too weak to say no, it's rather my possibly awkward way of saying:   do not worry about suspect pledgers, the group behind the project trusts the pledger or does not know anything. All you can do is inform them as much as you can if you feel it may create problems, and trust in them to make the decision they feel will benefit the project the most.


For some reason Vivian (who's nickname according to her bio is Clover) reminds me of Clover from the Zero Escape series. It would be nice if it wasn't for creeping fear that tingles down my spine at the name.
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So, two weeks ago I wrote about mental disorder representation in games. I'll admit to it being a somewhat rambling piece where I discussed positive and negative representations of mental disorder (although, it was mostly on depression, and a bit on schizophrenia). I had dipped into some of the reasons why negative representation occurs, but I wish to further elaborate as it is a complex issue. It's an occurrence that has many reasons, some that is the blame of people and others that are inherent to mental disorders.

So in this article, I will be talking about five of the factors that influence the representation of mental disorders in videogames. The list is hardly exhaustive, and even includes some overlaps in terms of the effects they have, however the items listed do appear to be some major problems to consider.  Like I said last time, keep in mind that I am not a professional in the mental health field so I may be incorrect. As always, if a paragraph contains a spoiler of a videogame, I will write in italics the videogame name before the paragraph so you know to skip it.

So the first influence exists outside the videogame industry, and more in the videogame industry's biggest inspiration: Hollywood. An inspiration that runs deep for many reasons and shows up in many ways. One such way this Hollywood Effect shows up is the drive for cinematic gameplay, which is gameplay that mimics the cinema experience. This inspiration does end up affecting the representation of mental illness. For instance, the display of schizophrenia in Lynch in Kane & Lynch: Dead Men is influenced more by pop culture than fact. This leads to sometimes simplistic (e.g. Darkest Dungeon with regards to all mental illnesses) and sometimes flat out wrong (e.g.  Billie Church in Clive Barker's Jericho as schizophrenic, although credit is due that they didn't make her a violent schizophrenic which is a low low percentage of schizophrenics) representations of mental illness.


Ah yes, the Hollywood cinematic experience.


Very similar to this influence, is also why some mental disorders are under-represented in videogames (e.g. personality disorders, at least as a non-enemy which occurs due to the Hollywood Effect). Like clothing, mental illnesses can become fashionable in the media. These can occur for various reasons, such as awareness campaigns (for depression) and popular films (then Multiple Personality Disorder due to Three Faces Of Eve, now is Dissociative Identity Disorder).  As the mental disorder enters the public eye, the portrayal of them can become people's perception of the condition. For example, the representation of schizophrenics by the news (as violent crimes committed by those with schizophrenia leads to a focus on them having schizophrenia) leads to the viewpoint that schizophrenics are violent. If there has been no representation, or a negative representation, this can lead to an inaccurate and potentially offensive perception of the mental disorder.

What these two influences have in common is they're rooted in the source of information of mental illness. Out of the five factors, these two are the easiest to solve as they involve doing research on mental health. While it's impossible to suddenly know of a mental illness's existence, it is possible to rectify misconceptions of a mental illness you wish to cover. There is the dry way of doing it of reading through the psychological theory behind the condition.

However, at the very least there should be reading of those with the condition (either written by those with it, or a company who has no motivation to twist it) or perhaps watch a documentary on it. While it is not everyone's goal to give an accurate portrayal, and that's fine (e.g. Darkest Dungeon is pulpy while focusing more on stress management), but if you wish to attempt for a correct portrayal research needs to be done to avoid creating misconceptions.


No.


The next two problems that exist with regards to the portrayal of mental disorders in characters does stem from what is a mental disorder and how is it classified.

The first is the vagueness of mental disorders. Let's consider one of the most popular mental disorders: Depression. This is a mental disorder that is classically characters by feeling depressed. A sensation described by the NHS as “[feeling] sad, hopeless and [losing] interest in things you used to enjoy”.  Using this simple description actually helps illustrates some of the problems of diagnosing. So when it says you have to feel sad, how sad is sad enough? After all, sadness is not an on-and-off switch but rather a degree of severity. Do you just have to feel uncomfortable with your current situation, or have to be crying at night? With regards to hopelessness, are we talking about a feeling of unable to change things or about things are about to go terribly and there's nothing you can do? Do you have to lose interest in one thing, or everything?

There are other symptoms to go along with this, each one of these have to be self-reported by the individual feeling these sensations. They first have to be acknowledged as abnormal thoughts and not just “things that just happen”. Next, they have to be described to a professional who uses their perception on the narrative being told to decide if the individual does or does not have a mental disorder. If they do have one, then which mental disorder do they have? There are many problems with self-reporting symptoms for diagnosis, but I will only talk about one to save time (if people want me to elaborate, I'll be willing to write a future article on it).

In 1974, Loftus and Palmer devised an experiment. They showed people a clip of a car-crash, and then asked how fast the cars were going when they smashed/collided/bumped/hit/contacted. Depending on the word used in the question, people estimated the cars were travelling at different speeds. By the use of a singular word, the memory of what they had seen had been altered. Consider what would happen if an individual used the phrase “Lately, I've been sad/depressed a lot”. It's simplistic to boil it down to a phrase, I'll admit, but phrases can load the rest of the conversation and create expectations. This type of phrasing is most likely unintentional, but the effects are the same.


Surprisingly, in the study they didn't use the question "How fast do you think the car was going when it crashed after being stalked/hounded/harassed/chased/tailed by the press."


Things like shows that mental disorders is actually a very complex yet vague thing. The difference between mentally ill and mentally well is an imbalance of hormones, a singular event and/or a phrasing of something as abstract and complex as mental thoughts. So to be able to convey something this abstract and complex in a plausible, interesting and representable manner is a hard task. Especially while making the mental disorder noticeable for people to pick up on with a resemblance of certainty, but not  invasive enough to make the character a singular note. After all, things like a mental disorder can colour a character, but it shouldn't be the entire colour nor unnoticeable.

Now, if this wasn't hard enough, you face the second problem: The variation of those with the same condition. While not impossible, it's hard to find two people who experience the same mental disorder in the same way. Two people with autism will very likely experience anxiety differently, struggle with social interaction/language in different ways and feel attached to order for different reasons. That's even ignoring severity of mental illnesses do vary wildly from barely noticeable to being required to live their life in a ward. So this creates a problem: How do you make a mental disorder representable?

The only hope you have is to avoid depicting the same type of symptoms. Talking about the schizophrenic with the paranoid sub-category is a tale that is old, especially with regards to aliens or governmental conspiracy. What about the Residual Type, where hallucinations and delusions are in a low intensity? Maybe you can have an autistic individual who isn't high functioning, but rather low-functioning?


Neo Nazi without a balding problem?



These two problems are things that can not be helped really as they stem from the complexity of human thought. As mentioned, one of the main ways you can help create an interesting and believable character is to pick a less mainstream interpretation of the condition that still falls in line of what is to be expected of the condition. Besides that, all that can be done is to be cautious, do research on people with the condition and go from there.

The final problem is one that affects some conditions more than others. Some mental disorders can be hard to represent in a way that doesn't create other problems. Some scenes that could appear in videogames due to mental illness of a character could be distressing, not only to those without the condition but also those with it. A classic example of this is suicide in videogames. In those without the condition, it can stir up reminders if they knew someone who also killed themselves as well as be particularly shocking to the player. To those who have thought about suicide, it can trigger suicidal thoughts as they are reminded of the desire to leave. This is why on some websites, they use the term “trigger warning” if they are about to talk about suicide, so those who may be triggered by themes such as this can avoid seeing it.

Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward

Likely due to it being a touchy subject, is why suicide is relatively rare in videogames and why experiencing the individual committing the act is especially rare. Off the top of my head, the main example I can think of where a game depicts an individual trying to commit suicide on screen is Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward. One of the times you experience a child who is 10 yelling “I have to get out of this body! They can't lock away the soul! Once my body's gone, my soul can escape! Please! You have to let me go! I'm trapped here! Let me die! I have to die!”. There are more like this. While it's not due to a mental disorder, it's obvious that this could act as a trigger to some.

So, needless to say, great care has to be made crafting characters doing things that could create severe discomfort in the player. Unless, of course, that's the point, which is fair enough. Although at least warnings should exist if such themes are in the game so those who may be triggered by suicides in videogames can avoid it.

So, as stated earlier this is hardly a comprehensive intense look at all the problems of depicting mental disorders in videogames, but they are a few factors that I believe are important to note. However, as I've stated a few times through-out, it's okay for a videogame to not try to depict mental illnesses in a realistic fashion if it serves the goal. It's okay for Darkest Dungeon to take hints from the pen & paper game Call Of Cthulhu in infecting it's characters in a Hollywood-esque depiction of various mental illness. It's okay, because the simplistic nature of doing so allows the player to not get bogged down about the ins-and-outs of each condition. However, the developers shouldn't expect anyone to find a character that is built badly with the mental illness poorly implemented remotely interesting or enjoyable.


Horror games where the main source of fear is of those with mental disorders are even worse than bad characters.



While I haven't dabbled really with regards to trying to simulate mental illness in videogames, a lot of the problems mentioned above do apply. Especially the complexity, as you are trying to simulate why a mental disorder creates one way of thought rather than another. As said before, the closest I know of a good mental illness simulator is Depression Quest as it uses mechanics to show how some options can be cut off due to feeling too depressed or hopeless. Although I do hope in the future that there are more depictions of characters with mental illnesses and good simulations of mental illness. As isn't one of the goal of videogames to help explore new and exciting narratives?

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So, through-out this article I've discussed the problems of mental health diagnosing. However, I speak from an element of personal experience that it is better to seek help rather than suffer in silence.

During my fourth year at university, then doing a Masters in Social Research Methods, I had slowly been stressed out. I had lost friends, one or two friends I knew had finished their three year course and moved away and I was slowly becoming distrustful of the field (as I learned some ins-and-outs that somewhat disgusted me about sociology). I'd even had to abandon going home for Christmas (I lived the other side of the country) so I could catch up with work that I'd slacked off due to focusing problems.

It was in January that things started really going badly. I had received some shocking news about someone I knew (all I'll say is it wasn't a health issue, and it didn't really affect me in any real way), I had deadlines around the corner and I was surrounded by people who were obviously not on a similar mental thought pattern so I had no one to really discuss things with. So I began failing things I should have passed, as I was unable to focus in on the work. I began panicking more-so than usual. I had to even excuse myself from lectures a few times so I could take a breather as being in the room made me feel miserable.

It took a few months of this, to finally admit defeat and look for counselling help. The first meeting was just an assessment meeting, and upon talking about most of the symptoms (I kept some things to myself) and even included my previous mental health diagnosis, they labelled me with depression and told me to go get medication. I responded that I'd rather just have the CBT, and no medication.

Both counsellors who I saw in the limited time I had left before I ended up full out failing the course were people who saw past the easy diagnosis and said it was my existing anxiety-condition being more intense.

While I can't say if certainty if they helped me out of the emotional problems I was having, they could have gone for an easy diagnosis and tried to get me on medication. Instead, they decided to help with the anxiety I was facing which had started to create depression-like symptoms with CBT.

So, despite all the problems I've mentioned as well as more (e.g. preferring type I error to type II error (a.k.a prefer to diagnose where no mental illness exists, than to not diagnose where one exists)), it's still important to look for help if you need it. Failing seeking help in the usual counselling/psychiatric way, there are communities out there willing to talk about any mental health issues such as Reddit. This isn't limited to depression, which in the wake of Robin Williams is the in-thing, but includes many other types of conditions if you feel you must discuss them. Just don't worry, there's always someone somewhere out there happy to just listen.


I think after all that, we could both do with some nice pictures.



Note: I'm sorry this took two weeks to write. It was due to me getting a bit ill recently. Not entirely over the illness, but I'm nearly there I think.
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