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I've been reading about Gamergate and gender / political issues in gaming since the beginning, but for the most part, I've largely done so from the outside looking in.  I don't have a twitter account, and the precise number of tweets I've sent in my life is exactly zero.  But looking from the outside in on this most recent explosion of gender debate and harassment, I think I've finally found a working a thesis that explains what is happening in a way that makes sense to me.

Gamergate is a response to political disenfranchisement.  The political process is controlled social chaos.  That is how modern societies take differing views and peacefully negotiate a middle-ground in terms of policy, law, and the values we hold as a society.  Journalism has always been a key aspect of politics (enshrined in the first amendment), and most political philosophers believe that without a free press, it is impossible to have an informed public, and therefore impossible to have any kind of a meaningful democracy.  

It's in everyone's best interests to bring as many people as possible into the political process.  The actual process of political debate is largely peaceful and non-violent.  But when people are shut out of the government, or shut out of the press; when people feel that they have no peaceful means to express themselves and be heard, that is where we see small pockets of desperate people take up extremism, revolution, and protest.  These are political actions you take when you no longer belong to a functioning political system.

I.  the iraq war

As most of you know, a few journalists have infamously compared Gamergate to ISIS.  

This was likely just a crude way of saying that GG is "the worst thing in the world."  But if you actually think about this in terms of political disenfranchisement, I actually can see a few similarities that I think are worth thinking about seriously.

Drawing this parallel is controversial, so I want to first list my source; the fantastic documentary from PBS' Frontline series, "Losing Iraq."  If you haven't watched it, I recommend doing so, as it really does a fantastic job of explaining the key political mistakes made after the beginning of the occupation.

The first road side bomb in Iraq was the very next day after the Baathists (Sunnis) were shut out of the Iraqi government.  It wasn't when the US invaded, or during the first few weeks of the occupation.  It's now referred to as "Order #1," Ambassador Paul Bremmor's first major order after arriving to Iraq; and it is now seen as the largest tactical bluder in the entire Iraq War.

"There are two reasons were wanted to keep the Baathist party intact.  One, they were the only folks that had experience running the government.  Number 2, the Sunnis needed to have a voice.  And, if you don't give people a voice, they have relatively few options. [...] What history tells us is that the next option is violence."   - Col. Thomas M. Gross (Office for Humanitarian Assistance) (15:00 min)

Transitioning from this severely serious example to discussion of gamergate is admittedly silly in just how vast the disparity is in terms of consequence, and severity.  But what we're discussing is uprising, revolt, and if we can learn anything about the crowd psychology of political revolts.  There are parallels worth noting.

II. The gaming press

For several years now, we've seen a surge of feminist-focused gaming stories on all the large gaming websites.  Most of the major gaming websites are run from coastal cities in the US, made up almost completely of liberal, white male journalists.  The infusion of an explicity political agenda into gaming journalism is the turning point.  For several years now, that political discussion has consisted entirely of only one very narrow band of politics.  All other political expressions and ideas have been systematically shut out from all mainstream exposure.  Commenters expressing alternative views have been heavily moderated, whether it is on the gaming websites themselves, or the total lack of comments allowed on Anita Sarkeesian videos.  The consistent theme has been to push one small slice of political ideology onto a large and politically diverse readership, and to silence and marginalize any opposing voices.

After years of this escalating tension, Leigh Alexander declares war on anyone outside of her narrow political spectrum, and declares that they are "dead."  This was so extreme, that even with no representation over the last several years, I think most readers still expected to see dissenting views represented in a response article.  That response article never came.  What followed instead was a media blitz, and a wholesale endorsement of that declaration of war.  Anyone outside of the accepted narrow political spectrum was not given a voice, and they were now under siege.  Comments were censored, forum threads were crushed, dissenting articles never materialized at all.  

You all may be aware of the existence of the "Gaming Journalist Professionals" google mailing list.  It's a semi-secret, private list of email correspondence between gaming journalists from almost all the major sites.  That list has been leaked by a whistleblower, along with several extended email conversations.  In one of these leaked emails, we can see that even allowing a forum thread on The Escapist was seen as a threat that had to be systematically crushed.  Journalists from completely different websites were secretely pressuring the Editor in Chief of The Escapist to crush a forum thread on his site.    I think we can agree that political diversity was being systematically crushed.

III. political desperation, revolt

With no peaceful alternatives left to express their political views, small subsets of gamers have turned to extremism of varying degrees; some appropriate, and some inappropriate.  Why?  Because they were shut out of the political system, and their voices were systematically crushed.  

You see an unfortunate, and dangerously threatening subset of these disenfranchised people take up violent reactionary behavior not unlike that first roadside bomb in Iraq in terms of the psychology of it at least.  They tweet harassing behavior and make shockingly violent threats that have gotten the police justifiably involved.  These people have escalated to the use of force, and have to be shut down by law enforcement.  We can see how political disenfranchisement leads to a predictable backlash, but that doesn't justify violence or threats.

We also see people emailing advertisers in what is the gaming journalism equivalent of a BSD (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) political protest; like we've seen against South Africa's apartheid regime, or more recently, Israel.  That's a perfectly valid form of political protest for someone that is marginalized and systematically excluded from political representation.  What else should they do?  They have no other options.

Understanding the psychology of political representation helps us understand how misguided "gaming journalism" at large has been; and how badly they've misunderstood what is actually happening here.  The solution to this extreme tension is political representation.  The solution is to give these people a stake in the political system because if they participate in politics, then they have a peaceful stress release valve.  They have a way to have their voices heard, and they have no reason whatsoever to move to more extreme measures to express themselves.  The solution is to include their viewpoints in more articles, and to increase their political representation.  The solution is for the press to stop being driven by narrow ideological agendas and activism, and to start representing diverse political viewpoints and include more voices in the discussion.

Just like in Iraq, the solution is not merely a matter of involving the military.  The solution is political.  It is convincing people that they have a voice in their government, and that it represents them.  The press is a critical part of how people interact with each other and with their government, and if if a society does not have a free and fair press, it makes democratic representation impossible.  The last thing we need is a #stopgamergate movement that marginalizes these people even more and limits their political expression.  The solution is more inclusion and more diverse representation of political views. 

The current climate in political gaming discussion is equivalent to having not just one bised station that is a liberal version of Fox News; but rather having every single major station be a liberal version of Fox News.  And I'm a liberal, but I still want a free press that represents multiple political views, and not an agenda driven press that shuts out any dissenting political ideas.  It was journalists who decided to include politics several years ago.  Their mistake was in thinking that once they opened that door that they could only include politics they liked and have no one react to that.  Everything we know about history tells us otherwise.









I was listening to the inFamous Second Son OST today in the car, and I was again struck by just how great it really is.  This is really of the most refereshing and unique OSTs I've heard in quite some time.  It starts with two premises:  capture the feel of 1990s - present Seattle rock, and convert that into an appropriate OST.  So, it's not as straight ahead as most rock.  It's more ambient, a little bit more muted and suited for the background , especially being an open world game.  But, that unexpectedly ends up giving it a really original and refreshing sound.  Finally, they combine electronics work with it, which I always love to hear in combination with rock.  The final product is equal parts relaxing, and rock out, which is pretty unique - dark ambience, punctuated with playful rock.  I can't recommend it enough for curious music fans.  It's one of the only western OSTs I've enjoyed listening to front to back without skipping songs.

Second Son

The Vandal King

Speed of Light

Conflict Resolution

The Bio-Terrorist Threat

Cumulonimbus

Martial Law

Freedom and Security

Serial Tagger

Owning the Future

Smoke and Mirrors

Alibi

"Second Son" is built for the cinematic intro, and takes me back to that introduction with the skyline and the speeding car as the tension builds up, and it has an awesome melody on guitar.  "The Vandal King" is almost like bluesy southern rock, and maintains a really laid back feel and just has nice warm tones.  "Speed of Light" is super original, almost combining street drumming style with rock guitar and electronic vocal samples.  I can't say I've heard anything quite like this, and it's awesome.  One of my favorite songs.  "Conflict Resolution" is just a solid song, similar to Vandal King with some bluesy rock.  They turn up the heat a little bit and have a more pronounced, rocking chorus.  "The Bio-Terrorist" is one of the best songs on the OST, with a super catchy build up and rock out line that I've listened to probably 100x and it never gets old.  "Cumulonimbus" is the song that hit me the most in the car today, and it's just a really kick ass mixture of dark ambient electronics with rock that I'm in love with.  "Martial Law" has a very cool intro, mixing electronics, drumming, and light bass before the guitar kicks in.  The drum sound is interesting, and reminds me a bit of street drumming.  "Freedom and Security" is one of the main melodic lines in the game, and it's stuck with me ever since I played it.  "Serial Tagger" is also a personal favorite, and really is one of the more complete songs as a stand alone piece of music, and perfectly demonstrates this interesting intersection between OST, electronics, and bluesy/warm rock.  I really love this one.  "owning the Future" is one of the main boss fight rock tracks.  It's fantastic, and despite being one of the heavier songs, has a great melodic line.  "Smoke and Mirrors" is the big climax rock track for the game, adn it's one of the best.  "Alibi" is one of the more relaxed tracks, but I love it.  Really uses some interesting effects on the strings, and mixes it with rock drumming.  

These are just my favorite ones.  They're all pretty good.  22 tracks in total.  Not only great to listen to alone, but really captures the feel of the city for the game.

 








As Phil Fish makes his graceful exit from his career in game design, I feel like a unique opportunity has been created to talk about something that has been plaguing gaming media, and gaming culture for the last 7 years - racism.

1. Edge

Edge posted an article about the whole ordeal this morning that really forced me to reply; but this issue has been brewing for me this whole console generation.

Phil Fish and the hate mob - an internet tragedy
http://www.edge-online.com/features/phil-fish-and-the-hate-mob-an-internet-tragedy/

"Phil Fish absolutely fulfilled his side of this bargain, with a big chunk of the web fulfilling the other side. It’s tempting to say that Fish tells it like it is, if ‘tells like it is’ wasn’t a euphemism for ‘is a mad bigot with no off-switch’. Phil Fish isn’t a mad bigot; only the most perspective-challenged self-identified fans of Japanese games would accuse him of being a bigot, which is admittedly still at least 50 per cent of self-identified fans of Japanese games."


Since I said in the comment section yesterday that I do feel he has bigoted opinions, I felt I'd take this moment to point out just how incorrect this article really is, considering he's talking about me, and people like me.  Yes, I am a self-identified fan of Japanese games.  I wear that badge of shame proudly.  My user name is based on a Japanese anime that I really enjoyed many years ago, Rurouni Kenshin.  My avatar is also from a different anime series, Hellsing.  I plead guilty to these two crimes: openly admitting I like Japanese games, and liking some anime series.  

Before I move on to my argument, just look at the above quote.  It's important to note that in Edge's dismissal of charges of bigotry, Edge actually says very obviously bigoted opinions in that same sentence.  It's stunningly ironic, and clear as day.  This shows how pervasive racist attitudes towards Japanese games really are.  They have become virtually invisible to many gamers, and especially gaming journalists.

Let's dissect what he's saying.  50% of self-identified fans of Japanese games are extremely "perspective-challenged."  Firstly, why isn't it 50% of all gamers?  If you like Japanese games, it is due to an inferior perspective?  This segments fans of gaming into "us" and "them."  If you like Japanese games, you have a 50% chance of being an irrational fool.  If you don't like Japanese games, we can assume from Edge's statement here that this means your risk of being a fool is probably a lower percentage.  Considering that two out of three consoles out today are Japanese, we can assume that a great many people like Japanese games around the world.  New Super Mario Bros. alone sold almost 30 million copies, which actually surpasses Call of Duty; and it's been a top gaming franchise for several decades longer.  According to Edge, minimum, 15 million people are "perspective-challenged."  You can tell this because they purchased New Super Mario Bros.  Dead giveaway.  This doesn't even mention the 75 million PS3 owners, or the untold numbers of perspective-challenged gamers on Wii, DS, and 3DS.  That's an awful lot of perspectively-challenged individuals.  

Since sexism is the hot button issue these days that gaming journalists and gamers can't seem to get enough of, I'll filter a few statements through my sexism analogy filter generator so hopefully more people can see how problematic some of these statements are.  

"Phil Fish isn’t a mad [sexist]; only the most perspective-challenged self-identified fans of [games made by women] would accuse him of being a [sexist], which is admittedly still at least 50 per cent of self-identified fans of [games made by women]."


Can anyone imagine a journalist writing this sentence in this day and age?  They would be crucified.  More importantly, can anyone imagine a game journalist actually arguing that what he said would not be considered sexist?  But since it's merely implying that a whole race of people are worse at making games than everyone else, it can fly through the radar without much complaint.  

Moving on to my explanation of why I think Fish has bigoted opinions about gaming, check out this video if you haven't already.  And while you're at it, go ahead and read about the response of the person he humiliated.



"They suck.  I'm sorry, you guys need to get with the times.  Make better interfaces and better technology.  We're totally kicking your ass."


Before I start, run this through the sexism analogy filter.  Picture a female developer standing up and saying that she's proud that Indie Game: The Movie is made by a female film director interested in gaming.  Imagine her asking what Fish thinks of recent games made by women.

"They suck.  I'm sorry, you [girls] need to get with the times.  Make better interfaces and better technology.  We're totally kicking your ass."


Can anyone imagine the kind of backlash that he would have gotten from the gaming press if he said that?  More importantly, can you imagine a game journalist actually arguing that what he said wouldn't be considered sexist in any way?  But he's just insulting all Japanese developers, so it's fine I guess.  If you see any bigotry in this, you're perspective challenged, along with 50% of all fans of Japanese gaming.

2. Soft Racism

I make the jump from Fish being rude to Fish being racist because it takes racist beliefs about Japanese developers being inferior to even rationalize saying something that profoundly stupid. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is literally the highest rated game of this gen. Blow even mentions Dark Souls, which does precisely the exact opposite of what he was complaining about. In fact, game journalists first saw Demon's Souls' design as being so foreign, so alien that they literally called it "crazy." It ran counter to everything they were used to seeing in streamlined western games. They would often say it's really only the product of "crazy" Japanese developers, with their zany ideas about game design. To act like that is some random exception to the rule, when its a distinctly Japanese product is absurd.

Or look at any fighting game, whether it's Street Fighter, Soul Calibur and on. Or look at Vanquish, or Metal Gear Solid V, or Bayonetta, Gravity Rush, Soul Sacrifice, Etrian Odyssey IV, Ninja Gaiden 2, Super Mario 3D Land, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Animal Crossing, NieR, Bravely Default, FF Type-0, Valkyria Chronicles, Rhythm Thief, Professor Layton, Okami HD, Lost Odyssey, Trauma Team, Gran Turismo, Ghost Trick, Sin and Punishment 2. Look at the combat mechanics of Dragon's Dogma and Dark Souls compared to Skyrim. Look at Xenoblade. I could keep going and going and going.

The list goes on and on and on, in virtually every genre out there.

Many Japanese games are utterly fantastic, and are some of the very best games ever made, including this generation. They excel in game music, game mechanics, originality, colorful artistry, and gameplay polish. Nintendo is probably still the single best developer on planet Earth, and their critical acclaim, sales, and history of massively original titles bears that out.

Fish at the time he was saying this had literally not even released a single game yet. Blow had only released one. Pick any two good Japanese game this whole gen, and you're already at twice the output these guys had. The only reason they could possibly even settle on what they said is racism against Japanese developers. I'm not saying they're members of the KKK, but they are absolutely prejudiced, and a ton of game journalists are too.

It takes effort to look at what happened in that video and not see an obvious racial component.  A Japanese developer spoken to as "you guys," and Fish taking the mantle of "we," as in "we are totally kicking your asses."  It's very transparently ethnic/nationalistic competition, fueled by racist bigotry and a desire to see his collective race/nation/region seen as the champions of gaming.

3. The Gaming Media

Not only have Japanese games come under attack this gen, but it's gone hand in hand with a full scale attack on Japanese culture as a whole, something that I feel is entirely unprecedented in gaming culture in previous generations.  

Most gaming fans have read Kotaku, and they're one of the most influential sites out there when it comes to pushing aspects of gaming culture and collective gamer attitudes and perspectives.  Kotaku is probably without a doubt, the website most responsible for bringing sexism and gender issues to the forefront in gaming culture.  They're also the website most responsible for shaping gamers' attitudes about Japan.

For years, Brian Ashcraft has ran a series of non-gaming related culture oddity articles overwhelmingly focused on "odd" things about Japanese culture.  These run 5 days a week, Monday through Friday.  Topics covered include blow up sex dolls, erotic games, pin-up models, sex hotels, and more.  You could literally sum up almost every one of the articles with the headline "What the fuck Japan!?", and it would fit.  The purpose is to purposely show only the most obscure, odd, and strange aspects of Japanese culture - 5 days a week.

It is my opinion that stories like these, running for the last several years straight, have "othered" Japan as a whole in the minds of many gamers.  While most people out there have enough intelligence to realize that Japanese culture cannot be summarized by posting articles about blow up sex dolls, I fear far too many gamers have failed to figure that out.  

The tendency to "other" and "fetishize" Asian culture has been around for a long, long time - known as Orientalism.

"Orientalism" is a way of seeing that imagines, emphasizes, exaggerates and distorts differences of Arab peoples and cultures as compared to that of Europe and the U.S.  It often involves seeing Arab culture as exotic, backward, uncivilized, and at times dangerous.  Edward W. Said, in his groundbreaking book, Orientalism, defined it as the acceptance in the West of "the basic distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborate theories, epics, novels, social descriptions, and political accounts concerning the Orient, its people, customs, 'mind,' destiny and so on."

According to Said, Orientalism dates from the period of European Enlightenment and colonization of the Arab World.  Orientalism provided a rationalization for European colonialism based on a self-serving history in which "the West" constructed "the East" as extremely different and inferior, and therefore in need of Western intervention or "rescue."


In the time I've been online this gen, Japanese games have been systematically picked apart, insulted, and labeled as collectively inferior along with the whole of Japanese culture.  Look at how gamer language and culture has changed in regards to RPGs since last generation.  Last gen, most people just called all RPGs "RPGs."  Crazy, I know.  Now, we have JRPGs and WRPGs.  And then shortly after people managed to introduce "JRPG" and "WRPG" into common gamer vocabulary, we had the constant debate about how the west can intervene, or rescue the Japanese from themselves, because their game design methods are exotic, backward and comparatively inferior - or so the narrative goes ... but don't count Dragon's Dogma and Dark Souls as JRPGs, even though they are RPGs made in Japan, because the purpose of using the label "JRPG" is to make sure it looks as inferior, dated, and backwards as possible at all times when compared to WRPG.

Let's pull out the sexism analogy filter again and imagine what it would be like if 5 days a week, Kotaku ran articles only about irrational and strange things that women do.  How do you think this might color the opinions of people reading stories on that website about games made by women?  How do you think it might impact the opinions gamers have of women in general?  Do you honestly think articles like that would be acceptable, and would not be sexist?  

These are important questions to ask yourself.  The answer might not be very pleasant, because many gamers and gaming journalists have grown comfortable with a persistent racist attitude towards Japanese products and Japanese people.  It's not uncommon to read a comment on a Japanese game article from a user claiming that all Japanese people are pedophiles.  Where do opinions like these come from?  It's not uncommon to read user comments online claiming that all Japanese games are inherently inferior, and that they are technologically inferior.  Where do opinions like these come from?  
It's not uncommon to read articles written by Destructoid, IGN, and Kotaku editors claiming that Japanese developers are uniquely perverted compared to western developers, and that their games have unusual levels of sexual titillation.  Nevermind the fact that nudity, romance plot lines, and sex scenes are far more common in western games, and that one of the most popular shows on US television focuses on sex, torture, incest, pedophilia and rape (Game of Thrones).  It's far easier to externalize our perversion to the "other."  They're worse, and they're the bad ones, not us.  When western artists use extensive perversion and sexuality in their games and storylines, its seen as mature and thought provoking.

The unfortunate reality is that many gaming journalists have been peddling soft racism in gaming stories for years, and this will lead many to come to Fish's aid, or at the very least to downplay his offenses.  It's articles like Kotaku's culture pieces.  It's "how to fix JRPG" articles on IGN.  It's 7 years of "East vs. West" headlines and tabloid articles.  It's the double standards in reviews.  It's the tone used, the sex jokes, the inferiority jokes, and the continued push for the "west is better" narrative.  People will be quick to admit that Fish was rude, but few will admit that there are racist elements to his opinions, because saying so admits their own culpability in spreading these views, which are unmistakenly race-based double standards based on inaccurate assumptions and generalizations.  

4. Fear of using the word "racism"

How do you feel about recent games made by Japanese people?

- They suck.  I'm sorry, you guys need to get with the times.  Make better interfaces and better technology.  We're totally kicking your ass."

How do you feel about recent games made by women?

- They suck.  I'm sorry, you girls need to get with the times.  Make better interfaces and better technology.  We're totally kicking your ass."

How do you feel about recent games made by African-Americans?

- They suck.  I'm sorry, you guys need to get with the times.  Make better interfaces and better technology.  We're totally kicking your ass."

I could go on and on, but there really is no other scenario where this wouldn't be seen as colored by bigotry, except when it's directed at Japanese developers apparently. 
 
Calling out this hard truth makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and they simply shut down and deny that its even a possibility, instead of engaging in the debate.  I think this is because many people do not understand that there are varying degrees of severity in regards to racism.  Most people in the US especially see racism as the be-all end-all of criticism.  It's a life ending charge that gets people fired, tarred and feathered and collectively shunned by society as a whole, and for good reason.  But not all racism is equal.  Not every person with a racist belief is equivalent to a Nazi or a KKK member.  Some people may just hold on to irrational beliefs because they have developed a specific blind spot in their logic that has not yet been challenged, or countered with education.

I don't think Fish hates Japanese people.  I don't think many game journalists hate Japanese people either.  But I do think that Fish, and many game journalists have allowed themselves to develop a significant blind spot in their logic.  They push objectively inaccurate generalizations as fact; generalizations that demean Japanese people and the games they make.  They push false generalizations about Japanese culture.  They forgive western game design flaws, but criticize the same flaws when present in Japanese game design.  They let nationalism and pride in western accomplishments promote a rivalry of "us versus them" that exaggerates our differences instead of celebrating our similarities.  They take pride in the collective triumph of team western over team eastern, like it is a battle that has to be fought with winners and losers, instead of a sharing of art and culture.  That's not the same as being a KKK member, but it is still race-based discrimination.  

Instead of plugging your ears and running from any mention of the R-word; take a moment and analyze your own blind spots.  You just might find something you're not that proud of.  Learn from the experience, grow, and stop promoting racist, inaccurate generalizations.  Stop championing people like Fish who do. His claims were factually absurd, and they were shameful.

And here I'll end with a few more gems from Edge's article about Phil Fish from this morning.

"We're so used to seeing developers' public personas through a mesh of corporate hierarchy and external comms policy that seeing someone filtered through the mesh of being a sarcastic real-life person is frightening and confusing.  And following this weekend's announcement, it looks as though those meshes were there for a reason; the corporate mesh deflects and absorbs abuse, deforming and ricocheting off to one side like a bullet on kevlar, whereas Phil Fish's normal person mesh just lets everything through unhindered, to grim cumulative effect."


No.  Look at how people responded to Microsoft PR around Xbone One's reveal.  Gamers do not prefer misleading, polished corporate PR non-answers.  And Phil Fish isn't a champion for truth and honesty.  He's hated for publicly humiliating one of his peers at a developer conference for no reason, based solely on inaccurate assumptions about game design based on the race of the people designing.  It's not praiseworthy to be "honest" when all you have to say is that everyone is beneath you, and that you're superior.  What a crock of shit.

Phil Fish's "mesh," is hardly what I would consider "normal person."  I have never sat in a conference of peers, and publicly humiliated someone who was asking a polite question right after complimenting my work.  

The game industry needs more people like Phil Fish, and it’ll be all the poorer for his absence if he’s really gone. The internet isn’t short of people saying things are rubbish, in the same way that there’s probably enough creepy artwork of characters from Mass Effect already, and Sonic-themed erotic fiction is so oversubscribed as to be on a one-in-one-out system. But there are precious few people in Phil Fish’s position who are willing or capable of stirring up such debate, and almost none who are as entertaining. You might hate him, but he made Fez – and as such, he’s probably better than you."


Not only are western designers literally better people than Japanese designers, they are better people than every gamer who reads Edge who is not a designer.  We now define individual human worth by whether or not they have made a western game.  I've saved a human life before (seriously, I have), but I didn't make a western game, so I am an inferior person, probably.  I have not humiliated people in public at a conference of peers, but I didn't make Fez, so I am an inferior human being, probably - 50% likely to be "perception challenged," AND inferior, to be more accurate.  What about Japanese developers?  Are they better than us too, probably?  

Maybe Edge and Fish should stop trying to tell everyone who the accepted class of "better" humans are, and should start treating people as equals.  If you think I'm exaggerating, remember that Fish just told Marcus Beer to "compare your life to mine, and then kill yourself."








I saw this video on IGN yesterday and it struck me as a little sad.  6 months left in 2013, and IGN has GOTY nominations locked already between Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us (really they're pretty transparent about favoring The Last of Us at this point).

http://www.ign.com/videos/2013/07/01/game-of-the-year-watch-2013-q2-the-last-of-us-vs-bioshock-infinite

There's a whole lot of time left in 2013, and I see lots of GOTY contenders that aren't even out yet.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Two Worlds



A sequel to one of the most beloved games of all time, built to take advantage of the 3D screen like few other games.  New puzzles involving height, where seeing the height differences is actually possible in 3D.  New puzzles with Link becoming a flat painting that can move around 3D objects - and these are just two of the many items in the game.  If it's anything like Link to the Past, it'll have around 20 items.  

They've also already confirmed that the game has a light and a dark world, like the original game (if the title and the dual triforces in the logo didn't give it away already).  I think this is really one to watch for GOTY, for bringing new gameplay ideas, fresh puzzles, and wrapping it up in a great overall package.

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team




I'm going to just let the trailer speak for itself.  This game looks absolutely bananas.  There are so many interesting things going on, and so many original ideas.  Who actually thinks of manipulating someone's face while they're asleep on the bottom screen to impact how they imagine in their dreams on the top screen ... and makes it actually work flawlessly and intuitively in a game?  That's pretty remarkable in and of itself.  The game looks hilarious, and fun, and it's definitely one I'm going to be keeping an eye on.

Super Mario 3D World




Any student of history would be wise to not name GOTY early when a mainline Mario title is coming out before the end of the year.  They're consistently among the highest rated games of all time.  

While this doesn't look like the huge leap forward that I was hoping for, it certainly looks like an extremely fun, polished platformer.  And really, the cat suit looks pretty damn amazing.  

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze



If you played Donkey Kong Country Returns, or the 3D release on 3DS, you know that it's literally one of the best platformers ever made.  Extremely polished, and challenging, with fantastic level design and rock solid gameplay throughout.  It had the challenge of living up to one of the most beloved game series in gaming history, and succeeded with flying colors.

This time, Retro wanted to just perfect what they started.  Does that not sound like GOTY material to anyone else?  Swimming levels, 3D panning camera, HD graphics, David Wise is back to compose the music like he did in the original 3 ... I don't know how any serious gamer can write this off without even playing it yet.  Retro's track record is pretty much impeccable, and if they felt like they had more to contribute to DKC, I definitely want to see it.

Grand Theft Auto V



To be perfectly honest with you, it pains me to have to post this because I'm not a fan of these games.  But it'll be in the running, or will likely win GOTY.  That's just how it is these days.  Anyone deciding GOTY before this is out is really prematurely running their mouth off.

Pikmin 3



In Miyamoto's words, this is the perfection of his original vision of what Pikmin should be.  He also said it's extremely fun.  Coming from the best game designer of all time ... I think I'll give it a shot before I write it off.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2



This is one of my most anticipated games of the year, and of the generation.  The first one blew me away in every category: art, graphics, music, voice acting, story, menu design (that book was GORGEOUS), and most importantly combat and platforming.  Who would have thought at the beginning of this gen that a 3D Castlevania would have far more solid combat than Ninja Gaiden 3?  But it's true.  Smart use of light and dark magic, puzzles, and whip platforming sealed the deal.  And now, you've got tons more powers that I can't even imagine.  And this is going to be the conclusion to the Lords of Shadow storyline, so expect an ending even more shocking than the first.  I cannot wait.

Puppeteer



Gorgeous, charming, and original.  The idea of stages moving around you like a play just seems amazing to me.  Definitely getting this day 1, and I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be in the running for GOTY for anyone interested in gaming.

Beyond: Two Souls



I thought Heavy Rain was pretty great, and this looks far better.  It looks better than some next gen games I've seen, and I'm sure the story will be pretty captivating if they got Willem Dafoe and Ellen Paige to sign off on the script.  Definitely getting it day 1, and I'm sure it'll be something extremely interesting to see.


Honorable Mention:

Tearaway
Watch Dogs
The Wonderful 101
Knack
Sonic: Lost World
Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Killer is Dead

So I implore you, keep an open mind and try and look at everything out there before settling in on The Last of Us for GOTY - a zombie TPS without anything innovative in the gameplay department at all, but with great production values and above average story.

There's a lot of other stuff out there, and a lot of it is better than what Naughty Dog is doing, more original, more polished as far as gameplay, and very possibly even better story too.  

There's a whole six months to go. Don't let me down people.  Journey winning last year was depressing enough.  Do we need two years in a row where we worship designers who strip gameplay down to the bare minimum for the sake of "maturity?"  Let's reward innovative gameplay, or game concepts for once.  Let's not reward fungus zombie TPS games with good cutscenes.
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This is probably my most random blog post ever, so if you don't want to read a rant and personal anecdote of mine, you can safely move along and not miss anything because that's all this blog post is.

So I got The Last of Us a couple of days ago.  I had seen all the same trailers everyone else had; the shocking E3 trailers showing the stealth gameplay and the graphic violence and realism.  I saw all the perfect 10 reviews, and I read through hundreds of comments agreeing with it on multiple sites.  The game definitely looks gorgeous, but I just wasn't sure if I was going to be happy with how it played.



I asked around online.  "Is it really as great as everyone says?"  99% of the people I asked said it was even better.  "I know the production values are impressive, but what about the gameplay?"  One of the best TPS ever made, right up there with Vanquish - is what I was told by some.  

Vanquish?  Clearly this guy was getting pretty carried away since the game looks nothing like Vanquish, but I assumed it was a solid stealth shooter.  I enjoyed Splinter Cell Conviction, and I figured if the game was at least as competent as that in the gameplay department, save for the mark and execute system, than I was sure I would have a pretty good time.

How wrong I was (no story spoilers, but some light gameplay impressions and opinions on the pacing up ahead).

First I saw an update was ready for the game.  This was after the auto save glitch had been fixed that I read about, so I tried to download it.  It froze my system.  So I tried again.  Frozen.  After two hard resets I gave up on the update and started up the game.

The intro was neat, but it might as well have been a cutscene honestly.  I didn't really resent that it wasn't, but you're basically just walked along a pre-set path with scripted events happening all around you, or moved the camera around as you looked outside the car.  

The next 3 hours weren't much better.  Most of it consisted of following a pre-set path, with scripted AI leading the way, with the movement speed limited to walking.  No sprinting allowed, or even a light jog.  Walk and follow.  Again, it might as well have been a movie.  I like movies.  I like zombie movies even.  No reason for Naughty Dog to avoid trying their hand at cinema I say.  They'd probably be pretty good at it.

The graphics impressed, but I was still waiting for the game to start, probably a good 4 hours in.  I shut it off for that night.

The next night, after having my game freeze during gameplay twice in the same section- requiring a hard reset of my system, I encountered my section with several clickers, and this was the breaking point for me.  



Being 100% honest, clickers in The Last of Us are probably some of the worst designed enemies in the entire history of gaming.  Not literally the worst ever, because they're not buggy and they work as intended.  But worst because what the designers intended is just so god damned bad, and promotes such a horribly unsatisfying style of gameplay.

Since resources are limited, you can't go through the game blowing shivs on clicker stealth take downs every time if you want to open up the locked doors scattered throughout the game.  Clickers also give you no kind of reward for killing them, so it becomes pretty clear what the best, most logical course of action is based on the gameplay systems in place.  You avoid all clickers and simply walk past them unless you're forced to dispose of one to access and area.  

So what is it like walking past clickers and not killing them?  It's pretty damn boring.  Stealth doesn't rely on sightlines with clickers, or the use of shadow.  They're blind and can only hear your movements.  So you walk at the slowest setting, and you're virtually 100% safe at all times around clickers.  Try exploring any environment that a clicker is in.  It's like pulling teeth.  You have to walk in slow motion, literally, with zero tension or chance of being discovered.  You're just inconvenienced, basically and forced to listen to their annoying monster sounds, which are not scary.

I could keep going, talking about how counterproductive it is to design an aiming system that promotes stopping and shooting carefully (the target shrinks when you don't move), but then surround the player with enemies that run at you at full speed and one hit kill you, which makes you play in a run and gun style.  I could talk about the "newly infected" zombies that just literally sit there, and can't see or hear you and just wait for you to do stealth kills on them - possibly the most boring enemy of all time.  I could talk about the waste of a level up system that offers you a choice between leveling up ~8 completely useless, and boring skills that barely impact gameplay at all, or the awkward arc for aiming on the bow that is entirely inferior to the new Tomb Raider, or your x-ray vision ability that lets you see enemies through walls more effectively than Adam Jensen  - but my rant would be 10x as long.

I kept waiting for the game to get good, and instead I was just disgusted.  The constant hand holding, and the absence of any kind of compelling gameplay left me feeling hollow inside, and sad - because I know so many people are not just enjoying this game, but genuinely LOVE it, sincerely.

I sold the game that same day; the first time I had sold a game in years.

A couple days passed since then, feeling depressed about the state of modern gaming, and my role in it.  And then out of nowhere, a light bulb lit above my head.

Why not buy a Nintendo 3DS?  I've wanted one for a while, but for some reason I never truly considered putting down the cash to get one.  I went down to my local store and tried out a few of their systems and I was interested, but decided I had to have the 3DS XL instead.  The thing is just gigantic, and I didn't realize how much of an improvement it really is.

So I just took the plunge, out of nowhere.  I got a blue 3DS XL, and I walked out with Fire Emblem, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and Professor Layton.

I was beaming.  My faith in gaming had been restored.  I already played through DKCR on Wii, but the thought of playing it again was enough to completely cheer me up.



And Fire Emblem, I love that series.  Why did I wait so long?  The more that I looked over the 3DS library available, the more it hit me how much I've truly been missing these last couple of years, and how much I now had to look forward to.

Super Mario 3D Land
Animal Crossing
Luigi's Mansion
Ocarina of Time
Project X Zone
Mario and Luigi Dream Team
Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Castlevania: Mirror of Fate
New Super Mario Bros 2
Etrian Odyssey IV
Rhythm Thief
Kingdom Hearts 3D
Theatrhythm

Just to name a few.  All games that look like they prioritize gameplay above cinematic, scripted events.  All games that for the most part, look bright and colorful, and celebrate fun, instead of misery.  Pretty sure that after I catch up on my 3DS fix, I'll probably get a Wii U early next year.

I realize I probably stand alone in most of my opinions regarding gaming, but as far as I'm concerned, The Last of Us is unbelievably overrated.  It stands a real shot at dethroning GTA IV as the most overrated game of all time.  And Nintendo, they are equally underrated and underappreciated.  I lost sight of that somewhere after Skyward Sword, but I found the light again and I couldn't be more excited about the next few months of gaming ahead of me.

The End.
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Destructoid ran a story two days ago praising the Kickstarter campaign of Susan Wilson, a mother who was asking for $829 to send her 9 year old daughter "Kenzie" to RPG camp. (Nevermind the next logical question, what the fuck is RPG camp?) Why you may ask? Because her brothers supposedly made fun of her and said that girls can't make good RPGs.

In the words of Destructoid's Ian Bonds, this was "awesome."
http://www.destructoid.com/nine-year-old-girl-kickstarting-game-development-249327.phtml#comment-840592382



A thread about this on NeoGAF revealed a lot of interesting things about Susan Wilson that were not featured in Destructoid's glowing endorsement. I suggest everyone read the thread, as I won't really do it justice.
http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=528903

Turns out this Susan Wilson ...



is the same Susan Wilson that also happens to be a millionaire, now asking for $829 to send her daughter to "RPG camp." She's the one on the left, next to Warren Buffett.



She's the founder and CEO of The Judgment Group, a company that focuses on debt collection. She was featured on CNN Money as part of their list of The Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs. Oops.
http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2009/fortune/0912/gallery.most_powerful_women_entrepreneurs.fortune/8.html

Her Kickstarter campaign was only for $829, but she also happens to have stretch goals in place for even $10,000 contributors. She's also apparently gone out of her way to spam her Kickstarter campaign to women's groups and even the Ellen Degeneres show's Twitter account. Quite a lot of work for just $829!



Oops ...

It should be unbelievably clear to you by now that this entire Kickstarter campaign is a complete scam. It was designed to capitalize on popular gender politics right now, and it succeeded brilliantly. In the words of Destructoid's Ian Bonds, it is "awesome." He even is so kind as to link to Sarkeesian in the article so you don't forget how great it feels to stick it to the patriarchy by tossing money at things people know almost nothing about. Notice how she even literally makes a graphic of her daughter "Versus" her sons. The manipulation couldn't really be any more blatant.

There are more details to the story that I won't go over, but the whole thing is the epitome of sleaze. It's not clear whether this violates Kickstarter's own policies or not, because she's expressly asking for funding for education. Wilson also has an apparent history of trying to create funding drop sites for other popular causes she has no true allegiance with, like Occupy Wallstreet.

As it hilariously says in her CNN Money interview, "She recognizes the value of focusing on the details. [...] Next up: a website that enables debtors to make payments and negotiate settlements online. 'An individual will pay more when they're negotiating with a computer than they do negotiating with an individual,' Wilson claims." Apparently she was very, very right.

There are other sleazy aspects to this, like the fact that the $10,000 donation reward is a personal apology from her sons to the donor? Or the fact that she's making her sons very public villains in a KS campaign for money? Talk about throwing your own kids under the bus.

The Kickstarter campaign has been reported by at least a dozen people in that thread, and I encourage anyone who finds this objectionable to report it as well.

Furthermore, Destructoid owes their entire readership a formal, public apology for their article endorsing this Kickstarter scam. If any of their readers donated to this, they should really feel ashamed.

But hey ... it's not all bad. If you donate $25 to Kenzie's RPG Camp, you can get this bitchin' mouse pad.