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I thought this was a video that gamers familiar with the gender debates of the last several years would like to see; and need to see.  This is a video from The Young Turks, a liberal, feminist-leaning online news site with multiple female staff members.  In this video, they react to an article from Chris Plante, founding editor at Polygon, who now works at The Verge (Polygon's sister site).

Plante wrote an article at The Verge condemning one of the scientists responsible for landing a spacecraft on a speeding comet millions of miles away from earth.  Plante condemns this poor scientist because he was wearing a shirt that Plante found in poor taste, and called the shirt sexist.  

As you can see in the video, the scientist later apologizes and is fighting back tears.

The kicker is that the shirt was a gift from a female friend who makes the shirts.

...

I just wanted gamers, and especially gaming journalism editors and writers at Destructoid to see what a prominent liberal news site's reaction is to the same kind of feminism the gaming community has been subjected to for the last several years.  If this shirt was reviewed by Polygon, I predict it would have gotten a 7.5.

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"Look, every single group has ... extremists, fringe group that's somehow associated with it.  And so ... I hate, I hate that this has taken on the feminist tag because this is not feminism okay?  Real feminism focuses on gender equality."

- Anna Kasparian (TYT anchor) (3 minutes, 40 seconds)

I hope that everyone can listen to the diverse opinions of women on this issue without trying to erase their opinion.  I'd hate to see someone as prominent as Anna Kasparian have to join #notyourshield just to try and prove she exists.









I finally found an article with the full interview up and got a chance to watch it.  I was honestly pleasantly surprised by Colbert's questions and I think this was an interesting watch.  This is the kind of questioning that I wished the gaming media was doing from the very beginning, and I think it's worth looking at this interview critically.  

Link to the video.

We can all agree it was a great PR victory for her just on visuals alone, but the actual content discussed doesn't seem to really back up many of her claims or positions.  Even with this being a relatively softball interview, I think it's actually the most pushback and questioning I've ever seen her get ... ever.  That is a sad statement on how little discussion has actually occured around her videos and her theories.  It's sad that it took a comedian that is completely outside of gaming to be the first to do this in a mainstream way.  

Anyway, let's look at some of the exchanges I chose to highlight.  They also talk a bit more about harassment, and her Utah speaking event that got canceled.  I think everyone but extremist trolls agrees that harassment is not okay, so I don't find it to be a particularly compelling topic to discuss since there's really not much to discuss.  Report it to the authorities, which she did.  Good.  Okay, moving on to her actual ideas now -

I. Colbert: "It's a culture war, it's a sub-culture war."

Anita: "There is something going on, and what it is is women being harassed and threatened and terrorized -"

Colbert: "After you first attacked male gamers for enjoying looking at big-breasted women with tiny armor that barely covers their nipples.  What is wrong with that?  I like that.  I like what that looks like.  I'm a man baby!"

Anita: "Well -"

Colbert: "Newsflash, I like it."

Anita: "Well, one of the problems with that is that it actually reinforces this cultural myth that women are sexual objects and sexual playthings for male amusement.  And, we're not."

I thought this was actually a pretty interesting exchange, because Colbert is basically arguing that heterosexual male fantasies are entirely normal, healthy parts of male sexuality.  "News flash, I like it."  He's arguing that there is nothing wrong with games that are purposely made to cater to male sexual fantasies, because sexual fantasies are healthy, normal parts of what it means to be a human being.  

Anita says that male sexual fantasies are "problems."  They reinforce a cultural myth that women are sexual objects.  I just don't find that compelling at all.  What is the evidence for that statement?  Is there even a way that anyone could scientifically prove that?  It just sounds like an idea that is plucked out of the air and can't be proven.  I could just as easily say that violent fantasy games reinforce a cultural myth that murder is fun and death has no consequences.  But that doesn't prove true in reality.  Violent crime continues to decline nationwide in the US at the same time that violent gaming rises.

I just find her whole message here to be anti-inclusive, anti-sex, and anti-tolerance.  I'm all for supporting any and everyone's sexual expression whether it's LGBTQ or anyone else.  That also includes my support for heterosexuality.  How can we casually demonize someone's sexuality, or sexual art?  Many men are attracted to women, and like to spend their money on fantasy games where they can interact with women they are attracted to.  Would anyone feel comfortable calling a game allowing gay men to explore their sexuality a "problem?"  No they wouldn't, and they shouldn't.  But the same goes for heterosexuality as well, which is being unfairly demonized here.

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II. Colbert: "We're saving them.  Damsels in distress.  I'm saving the princess, am I supposed to let the princess die?  Is that what you want?  That's kinda harsh, that's kinda hostile."

Anita: "Well maybe the princess shouldn't be a damsel and she could save herself."

Colbert: "They've got games where - [interrupted by crowd]."

This seems like a very unconvincing comeback from her that doesn't persuade me in any way that the damsel trope is problematic.  As Colbert argues here, most games portray a story of trying to save someone you love, someone that is more important to you than anyone, someone you are willing to risk death to save.  Is that really a story about objectification?  Sometimes it may be in extremely simplified NES games that barely even have the capability to tell a story.  But sometimes, it's a game merely about selfless heroism and risking your personal safety to save someone.  That is a positive message, and she doesn't really have any criticism of that here at all.

Maybe the princess shouldn't be a damsel?  Sure, that's fine for some games, and those games exist already and continue to be made.  Colbert said it right here himself.  Anita even says it later in the video.  So if those games exist, and will continue to be made, why demonize a story about selfless heroism in other games?

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III. Colbert: "By criticizing these, male fantasy games, male objectification of women games -"

Anita: "Some of them that would be an accurate description"

Colbert: "So, give me some names, name some names."

Anita: "Well, in the work that I do, I look at hundreds of examples of videogames that -"

Colbert: "So, can you think of 3?"  Can you think of 3?"

Anita: "I can, but I think it's a bigger issue to talk about the industry as a whole and how it perpetuates these ideas of sexism and mysogyny as opposed to just Grand Theft Auto example."

I thought this section was also pretty convincing, since she basically fully runs from repeated, focused questioning here, and simply refuses to answer his question.  Instead, she wants to discuss how the entire industry, collectively perpetuates sexism and mysogyny.  I just don't think that's really true.  The entire industry doesn't perpetuate hatred of women.  If it did, why are 48% of gamers female?  It just doesn't make sense.  How would any prove her claim scientifically?  Can it even be proven scientifically?  It doesn't fit with reality.

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IV. Anita: "Women are perceived as threatening because we are asking for games to be more inclusive."

Colbert: "Why not just have a separate game?  Have separate but equal games."

Anita: "Well, we do have lots of different kinds of games that -"

Colbert: "So, what are you complaining about?"

Anita: "That's one of the things that I think is happening here is that, we have this wide range of games that - we're seeing mobile games, we're seeing indie games, we're seeing this influx of different kinds of games, and that's what gamergate is responding to.  They're actually responding to the fact that we're saying that gaming can no longer be this little boy's club anymore.  There are many of us women who have been playing games our whole lives, and so they're lashing out because we're challenging the status quo of gaming as a male dominated space."

Colbert uses charged language here that harkens back to segregated schools and it gets a laugh from the audience.  But his actual question and premise here are perfectly valid.  Lots of content is segregated across gender lines, simply because they have different intrests.  Men don't call Ellen and Oprah sexist because the talk shows don't have enough action segments in them.  They just find something else to watch; seperate but equal TV shows.  That's basically what Colbert is advocating for here; and he's asking if she's even comfortable allowing games made specifically for men to even exist.  In response to that, she basically says that gaming can no longer be a "little boy's club."  Does that mean that no games purposely made to appeal to men can exist?  It doesn't really mean anything specific because it's just a catch phrase.  If 48% of gamers are women, if games where women are the heroes exist, if diverse indie games exist, why would anyone call it a little boy's club?  She basically entirely dodges his question here, which is saying that not every single game will be designed to appeal to every person.  Some games will, and some games will be designed for a more specific audience.  If she agreed to this obvious, non-confrontational point, she would have little reason to demonize games or criticize the industry.

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V. Colbert: "What about the accusations of collusion between gamers, designers and journalists?  Do you understand how important it is?  We are talking about ethics in G-A-M-I-N-G J-O-U-R-N-A-L-I-S-M.  Do you understand how huge that is?  I mean, what if there was no ethics in Hollywood journalism?  If we can't trust Entertainment Tonight or TMZ where would we be?  Is that what you want for gamer journalism?"

Anita: "I think that that is a sort of compelling way to reframe the fact that this is actually attacks on women.  Ethics in journalism is not what's happening, in any way.  It's actually men going after women in really hostile, aggressive ways.  That's what gamergate is about.  It's about, like, terrorizing women for being involved in this industry, being involved in this hobby."

Colbert's question here is basically saying, "of course gaming journalism is corrupt, just like Hollywood.  It will always be corrupt."  He is probably right here as well.  But what does that actually say?  That says that there is of course going to be corruption, and so of course the claims of ethical issues in gaming journalism deserve more serious attention because they almost surely exist due to its inherent sensationalist attitude and conflict of interest built in as a consumer press.  Gamers complaining about the press has been a consistent theme for years, and it does exist.  Just ask any game journalist and they'll tell you that a lot of their audience is hostile, and suspicious of them.

But Anita basically dodges that point completely and goes out of her way to really eggregiously mischaracterize the whole gamergate movement with broad, generalized strokes. It's really a very bad answer that tries to blatantly simplify, demonize, and marginalize a diverse and complex collective of people and complaints. 

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VI. Colbert:  "As a man am I allowed to be a feminist?"

Anita: "Well, do you believe that women should have equal rights to men and that we should fight for those rights?"

Colbert: "Sure."

Anita: "Great, then you're a feminist."

He asked if he was "allowed to be a feminist."  The answer is yes.  He didn't ask what a feminist is.  Feminism is something you self-identify with, you don't label people as feminists against their will if they don't want to be included.  This is something that feminists have a huge problem with, because huge numbers of people (including large percentages of women), purposely go out of their way to not label themselves as feminists even when directly asked.  For example, I of course think that women should have equal rights to men and that we should all fight for that equality.  But I'm not a feminist, no matter how badly she wants me to be.  Feminism is not that simplistic, and it includes numerous sub-ideologies that have various beliefs and views about all kinds of things that go well beyond this purposely reductionist definition.  She basically ends the interview on a misleading cannard that is parroted online very frequently.

A better question to ask would be, why in the world are so many people purposely against calling themselves feminists?  That would require some self-reflection, and honest acknowledgment of their faults to determine though, so instead they will just use the broadest, most benign definition possible to label others as feminists after they go out of their way to disassociate themselves from the movement.  

Ouch.  And this relatively softball interview represents the most criticism she has ever had in an interview.









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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