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Viredae's blog

Mythbusters - Video Game Edition
5:50 PM on 08.28.2013
The Double Fine Dilemma.
1:33 PM on 07.03.2013
Where are all the female indie devs?
8:50 AM on 04.26.2013
Is the Wii U a failure?
2:20 PM on 04.24.2013
Is there still an "excuse" to buy a console?
12:00 AM on 02.25.2013
Japanese Girls Aren't Sexy
11:39 AM on 10.01.2012

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Hello everyone, I'm here today to try a new format for the blog in the form of ripping the Mythbusters off, and examining the "myths" of gaming culture and business, of course we will be dealing with science here, that means there will be a good bit of research hunting and reading up involved.

So what will we be tackling right off the bat?

*reads list*

Oh boy, this is gonna be another one of those blogs, isn't 

Topic 1: Sexualization of Women is Bad! And Evil!

One of the biggest problems in the gaming industry these days is that women are being sexualized far too much in video games, engendering sexism and objectification of women in society, thus increasing the danger to womenkind everywhere.

Now personally, first time I heard it said that sexual objectification of women in video games will engender sexism and thus the degradation of women's roles, leading to more serious aspects of gender discrimination against women being more common, my mind went directly to our old friend Jack Thompson:

he among many others also had a similar claim in that exposure to violence in video games will increase the proclivity to commit violent acts in children.

Now, we all know that most of that is hogwash, and there was no relevant correlation and thus no causation between the exposure to violent video games and any increase in violent behavior, and those studies were focused on children, certainly more impressionable than adults!

But who knows, maybe this is some sort of dichotomy, you know, although the sexual behavior and the aggressive behavior centers in the brain are very interconnected, as far as I know (don't quote me on this!), I'm sure we'll find some research that can link sexism in real life and sexism in video games...

... Huh... Nothing whatsoever, well, it IS a fairly new issue, though that does cast some doubt on where the people claiming this fact get their facts from.

No matter, I'm sure with some good ol' fashion ingenuity we can fashion some sort of rudimentary research, like say, the relation between sexual depictions in video games 
and real life sex crimes, right?... Wait, wasn't there something like that in those violence studi-

... Huh, so the most prominent and talked about form of gender discrimination has dropped drastically in the last thirty years[1][2]? And as I recall, so did the crime rates.

So this should lead us to one of two conclusions:

A) Video games are actively and directly helping to reduce the rate of crime and sexist discrimination THROUGH the use of said violence and sex, or...

B) It is completely unrelated, and those rates are dropping with no correlation to the depiction in video games.

And don't forget, video game culture has been growing increasingly since its advent in the late 1980s, if anything, the sexual pandering and casual nudity has only gotten more prevalent.

Either way, I think it's safe to say that video games are in no way causing society to devolve into women-hating, sexual objectifying rapists, well, at least for now until a proper study is made.

Really, this should have been painfully obvious if someone just pointed at porn and said "what about that?".

Now some people might ask, well, what about all that harassment hubbub we keep seeing in gaming news sites? Surely the increase there is some sort of sign?


TOPIC 2: Women Get harassed more in gaming culture

Now don't get me wrong, I'm sure plenty of women get harassed on the internet, and those guys are major assholes!

But... More than guys? Really?

Show of hands, how many of you here own an Xbox and play call of duty or any FPS on it? Okay, well how many times did you get your ears singed off by a fucktard who's entire vocabulary seems to consist of nothing but a word prefixed to a form of the word "fuck"?

you know? this guy!

A near daily occurrence, you say? Imagine that?

See, there might be not be as big a difference in the amount of harassment, just in the amount of perceived offense taken in general.

See, recent studies show that trait predominance gaps between genders are not as  small or irrelevant as they were once believed, while cultural and social climates can certainly alter the predominance of those traits in the genders, there is still a very solid baseline of... Shall we say "instinct", left behind thanks to the evolutionary process.

To quote:

"the largest differences between the sexes were found in 
Sensitivity, Warmth, and Apprehension (higher in females), 
and Emotional stability, Dominance, Rule-consciousness, 
and Vigilance (higher in males). These effects subsume the 
classic sex differences in instrumentality/expressiveness 
or dominance/nurturance." [3]

See, our large and nice human brains are not just human brains, they are the brains humans built atop the brains of earlier stages of homo-sapiens atop the brains of whatever ancestor we shared with the neanderthals, all of which are built on top of the brain of our reptilian ancestors.

And it is those reptilian brains that jump into action first whenever we interact with the environment, and it processes all of our surrounding and induces our emotional states before the rest of our brain that is associated with cognitive analysis even kicks in to rationalize WHY we are afraid of that big carnivore with so many large and sharp teeth and realizing "oh, this fucker is dangerous and could end me!", or why we are suddenly getting hot and bothered and releasing all of those chemicals in the brain that make us so happy before realizing it just may be seeing that very attractive guy or gal, and deciding "oh, they would make a GREAT mating partner!", our brains are just so fast in this process that we don't even notice anything but the rapid fire conclusion our brain makes.

Now let's look back to our past, and see just WHY did our ancestors need those proclivities to create a functioning society and survive.

For instance, those higher tendencies for apprehension and sensitivities? those translated to the females of the specie being more acutely aware of danger and discomfort, and thus capable of assessing the need to employ fight or flight to protect whatever offspring they have in the vicinity, since those off-springs are more prone and vulnerable than the adults in the group and certainly more in need of comfort to ensure their survival.

Likewise, the emotional stability and vigilance of the males of the specie made them more capable of standing their ground and defending the women and children from any danger approaching and to increase their comfort.

These traits were probably passed down to us due to them being the most effective in supporting the survival of the race, and thus they became instinctual behavior to avoid danger and prolong the specie's survival.

Now, these hardwired traits may be starting points that they are common enough to be associated with gender, but they don't always have to stay that way, that's where cultural influence comes in, when the brain realizes that these habits are no longer useful in this environment, an interesting phenomenon known as "neuroplasticity" kicks in, creating new pathways in the brain and atrophying the old ones, effectively creating new "instincts".

Well, if you say so, Mr. Fry...

but here's where our human capacity for rationalization can screw the whole thing up and fuck us right up the ass, it actually requires cognition of the dissonance to re-write these impulses.

See, the discomfort of someone shouting obscenities at you usually meant that this person intends to harm you, or it did until the advent of long-range communication, so it would naturally trigger these traits even if there was no immediate danger:

The brain begins by hearing the shouting, it is picked up by the perception part of the brain, which tells your body to trigger the appropriate response (fear and apprehension 
in women, Anger, aggressiveness and combat readiness in males), and only then will the frontal lobe go "huh, I seem to be scared/angry concerning a dangerous situation, must be that guy shouting at me who I cannot see."

Hell, if we actually perceive that sort of threat befalling someone else, our brains trigger another response of aid or protection, so even the response of "how dare you offend this person" is yet another response automated by the brain, after all, you don't actually have to think "there is an injustice occurring, I should get angry/scared".

So, do women actually receive more harassment than men? Maybe. 

But let's remember the story of Adria Richards, who was offended by a dongle joke told between two men in presumed privacy.

I think it's safe to say that there are probably some cases where the amounts of harassment are not really as big as they seem.

And that's it for this installment, bear in mind this is some amateur-grade research, so it can probably be countered if you research hard enough (as you should). If you want to see more, comment on the "myths" you want to see busted.

Thanks for reading.

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1:33 PM on 07.03.2013

No doubt you've already heard of Double Fine's... Fiscal management problems, if not, here's a link to the recent article that inspired this post to start you out.

Now I've been a backer of Double Fine's Kickstarter from the start, and I've been along the ride with them through the rather entertaining (and often inspiring)  2 Player Productions documentary, so since I know their stuff quite well, and I've just returned from a Software Development Management course, I feel like showing off my new found knowledge everywhere, so here goes.

First, let me start by showing you this:

This is commonly known as the project management triangle, and it contains the three basic measurements of a project, the idea is that this triangle represents the relationship between these three aspects; when you increase the cost, quality and time will respond accordingly, e.g. quality [or scope] might increase with the new possibilities, time required to complete it might increase or decrease depending on which way the scope heads.

By the same logic if time allowed increases the quality SHOULD rise with it, but so does the cost, the concept is a very simple yet deep one, we'll get back to this later.

The next thing that I feel requires mentioning mentioning the unfortunate fact that no, more money on your kickstarter does NOT mean you will have an easier time making your game, go back to our triangle, Double Fine just got more cash than they anticipated, now everyone might be all glad when that first happened, but the real insidious side effect was that, consider the following:

Your parent/spouse/significant other/aerobics instructor asks you to get milk for them, now you've done this many times already, they give you ten bucks and you go out to buy the best milk you can with Mr.Hamilton:

But surprise of all surprises, you see that your shopping buddy this time is none other than the very distinguished Dr. Benjamin Franklin:

Now your parent/spouse/significant other/aerobics instructor tells you that no, you should just do as you always do, buy as much and as high quality milk as possible with that $100 bill.

You're certainly befuddled by your parent/spouse/significant other/aerobics instructor's sudden and uncannily large craving for milk, but you just shrug and go to the store, where you have one of two choices:

A) Buy as much of the milk you usually get with the hundred, resulting in you going out with an entire shopping cart full of milk cartons and gallons (or bags, if you're Canadian),  which means you're barely able to push it to the clerk (who gives you one hell of an evil eye as he tiredly scans a year's supply of milk for you), and your car (which seems to be running on its two back wheels like a bad Herby the Love Bug impersonation), or...

B) You buy a couple of cartons of that weird tasting artisan milk which costs about $40 a pop, you're not even sure how good it tastes, the stuff's for hipsters and smells kinda funny, after all.

This is a rather long-winded and exaggerated representation of the mechanics of the the triangle, the money Double Fine got over their initial $400k to make the game didn't make their lives simpler, it made it much, much more complex, now their small niche adventure game has turned into a gigantic endeavor of adventure game trail-blazing, AAA proportion experience, you can see how the time and scale of the game shot right through the roof.

Now, you might be saying to yourself: "Well okay, the game will take longer but it'll be a better one, right? But wait, how come they're over budget so much?" Well, here's the SECOND caveat with getting so much more money than you asked from Kickstarter, and it ties to one of the oldest and scariest parts of project Management:

See, if you've just started your project, you've got a better chance going all out on the number zero in a fixed roulette game than you do accurately estimating the cost of your project while it's still in the pre-production stages, and the bigger the project (thus bigger scope and farther away release date) the harder it becomes, especially when you don't have any experience with something similar.

"Wait, what? Tim Schafer doesn't have experience making adventure games? Are you by any chance high, Viredae?" You might ask me.

And I'd answer no, no I'm not high, and yes, technically speaking, Tim Schafer doesn't really have any experience making point-and-click adventure games, nothing relevant at least.

While he hasn't been absent from the game industry in general, the last legitimate adventure game he made, he made it 13 years ago, that means none of the tools he's currently using has been used to make point-and-click adventure games before, none of the people he's currently hiring have any experience making point-and-click adventure games before, and to compound the matter, he went ahead with designing a new engine to fit around the art style of one specific illustrator (who happened to be working long-distance with them most of the time).

And that means our friends at Double Fine ended up in completely uncharted territory to them, with extremely ambitious  goals, and a project big enough to make it impossible to judge how much money or time it needs to finish... At least not until they're up to their wazoos in development.

Now in the end you might be asking me "Well Viredae, is there a solution to any of this?" And I'd reply probably, they've already been trying to augment their budget with funds from other projects' earnings, that's a good start, they're also trying to use the Steam early access feature to draw more consumers and thus more money to the game.

An idea I've had (and it's possible they've had it as well) is that they could license out and re-use the engine of the game (which is finished at the moment), much like the SCUMM and GrimE engines which were built in the golden age of Lucas Arts.

And for Kickstarter, there's a solution to minimizing this sort of rampant bloating, simply by adding a pledge cap to their projects, which would end the project at a certain amount even if there was time left on it, though I doubt Kickstarter themselves would like that suggestion since it would eat into their own profits, on the flip side it might mean that there would be more successful projects that would raise trust in the platform and keep people coming back for more.

Welp, I hope you enjoyed this long lesson about cost, quality and time constraints in projects in general (and video games specifically), till next time.
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This little thought tangent was brought on by the whole hubbub created by the game "Dragon's Crown", many people are, shall we say, ashamed of how the game is hyper-sexualized.

I responded in one of the blogs here on Destructoid that one of the best solutions is to encourage women to become game developers, and my first response in my head was that the industry is arguably so lopsided and impenetrable to them, bringing my mind to a few articles released recently. it seemed that only %3 of programmers were women, and only %11 in the field of design, the only field where the balance was more palatable was art and animation, where %60 of them are women, not to mention the following chart concerning wages:

The disparity involved could easily be considered off-putting, but... That's the AAA market here, right? What about the indie scene, the revolutionary new market that is literally a free for all, no barriers there, right? Everybody can use the same tools, some of which don't even require programming as a skill to create full and enjoyable games.

Apparently there's an imbalance there as well.

I'm a big fan of the indie scene, I enjoy listening to Destructoid's own Jonathan Holmes on his Indie game dev interview show "Sup Holmes", and it only then hit me:

I must have not heard more than three or four female developers on the show, as compared to several dozen male developers.

That couldn't be the case, could it? Maybe it was just a coincidence, a matter of scheduling or something similar, so I sought an answer right from the source:

My suspicions were proven true, something is wrong here, the one area that you could consider unequivocally fair and even was still a "boy's club", so to speak, What the hell?

It couldn't be the qualifications, like I said, many of the tools out there don't even require prior knowledge, not of programming or art or any such thing.

And I'm pretty sure women have an even bigger incentive to enter the market, if only to create things that cater to one's personal interests, which are apparently being both ignored and extinguished by many blunders in the AAA sector.

Now I don't really have an answer to this particular dilemma, All I can do is ask the question:

Where are all the female indie devs?
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2:20 PM on 04.24.2013

By now you've probably heard the news about Nintendo's sales projections, and how they've essentially failed, but did they really?

Well, here's the thing, the answer is a bit of a yes and a bit of a no at the same time.

See, the best way to describe this is that Nintendo, in this scenario a Spy young 8th grader who's working hard in school to get an A, but after all the hard work it put in, it only managed to get a C, now a C is by no stretch of the imagination a failing grade (barring special circumstances), but to Nintendo, it won't get that shiny new toy it was begging its parents to get for them if they got an A, it's a good effort, but they really wanted more.

And that's the situation we have here, Nintendo actually made money this year, but they were expecting to make much, much more than this, and so they essentially failed at the goal they set for themselves.

But if that's the case, then why the hell did Nintendo have such high expectations for themselves? The answer lies in two Words:

The Wii.

You see the Wii U isn't technically a failure, it's only one as far as it's stacked against the Wii.

Here's the thing though, the Wii is kind of an anomaly, I don't think any other Nintendo console (or ANY console, for that matter) has had as successful a launch as the Wii, normally there are always pitfalls in the first year.

What happened here isn't so much a failure as unmet expectations; Nintendo's projections assumed that since the Wii did phenomenally, the Wii U will also do just as well if not better, that's how sales projections usually go, unless there's some reason to believe otherwise, but that wasn't really the case.

What was the case is that the Wii U got its hardcore audience who would buy the console right off the bat on faith, and is still waiting to shift units on those who want to wait and see what the console has to offer, ideally that gap doesn't exist because you have a good line-up of games to continuously attract costumers, and Nintendo sorta flubbed that.

Unfortunately for Nintendo, this isn't an unavoidable mistake, Nintendo should have been able to see the differences between the Wii and the Wii U, both in terms of the market surrounding it and the climate of the video game industry.

Of course, I'm sitting here talking about this with hindsight being 20/20, it's easy to talk after the deed is done, but then again, I'm not a marketing executive, I'm just a guy sitting on an armchair (literally) typing away at his screen watching the fallout.

So does this spell doom for Nintendo? Well no, I'm pretty sure things will pick up once Nintendo releases Pikmin 3 at least; the company's one strong suit has always been its first-party releases, and I doubt that will change any time soon, what will be the big tipping point is if Nintendo can actually encourage third party developers to actually create stuff for them, and I'm fairly optimistic about that.

Maybe I'm just that much smarter or much more adept at computers than most people, but it has always mystified me how people say that it's too hard to build a gaming rig, some say it's too expensive...

True, most of those people haven't touched a video card part in years, if ever, but what do I know?

So just to make sure, I'll run down the list of the three biggest "excuses":

1.I don't know how to build a PC

Let me make this as simple as possible, do you know how to use this:

And can you differentiate between the previous one and this one:

If you do, then congratulations, you can spend at most 15 minutes in front of a gutted PC and figure out where everything plugs into what..

If you failed to pass that test... Well how the hell are you reading this?

If you did not catch my snooty, condescending tone back there, I'm implying that building a PC is as easy as taking a piss, you don't need to be a genius to build PCs, it's not a god given talent that supernerds can lord over you from their ivory towers, You're taking give-or-take six parts (Motherboard, Hard Disk, Graphics Card, RAM, CPU, power supply and maybe a disk drive) and plugging them into a case, good job, you just made a PC.

Some people are worried that you might end up buying a wrong part or something incompatible, but really? Just ask the person you just bought the part from if it will work with this other part you're buying, at most it'll take five more minutes to call that other guy who DOES know more about PCs and him taking a look over before giving you a pass or getting you a proper part.

2. It's actually much more expensive to build a PC than to just buy a console

I hear this one a lot, and the conversation usually goes something like this:

Idiot: "When you count in the upgrades and the bad parts you have to replace in the long run, PCs are much more expensive than consoles."

Me: "Ah, so you build your own PCs then?"

Idiot: "... No, because they're too expensive."

Let's set aside the fact that you're already considering to plop down a hefty price for at least one console, a couple more hundreds and/or few hours of learning a new skill is not going to kill you.

Let's even forget the fact that the previous argument is a bit too strawman-ish and over the top, but you get the idea, arguing from a position of ignorance, it's true that:

A) a "good" gaming rig can cost somewhere from $600-$1000 and

B) it is true that you will eventually need to upgrade your rig.

But here's the thing:

A) what people consider a "good" gaming rig right now is technically more powerful than even the PS4 and

B) upgrading your rig comes at a fraction of the cost, and you won't need to do that until at least the next console generation cycle (i.e. PlayStation 5 days)

So while you do need to pay about $600 NOW, in the long run you'd be paying about the same amount as you would with consoles.

But it gets even better, you see, we have something that makes owning a PC much more economic than owning a console, it's a beautiful thing called "Steam":

Just imagine a choir singing in the background

Aside from being somewhat cheaper to buy games in general on the PC (most AAA games cost $50 instead of $60 at launch), Steam practices this revolutionary tactic of "putting games on sale", where you can get a relatively new games for half or lower than their original prices at given points in time, and those cuts in game purchases usually save you a lot more money in the long run than shying away from a single big payment at the entry point, not to mention the larger variety of games you can actually play.

But I shouldn't salivate on Steam's cock (or vagina, anthopomorphizations are not set in stone and I'm all for gender equality in my racy humor) for too long, it'd be too unsightly.

Let's talk more about upgrading your PC, you see, when you do that, the cost of upgrading one's PC doesn't vary that much, as it usually costs somewhere in the range of $150~$250 to just stay in the same bracket every console generation cycle, so in essence, the concept of PCs costing more than consoles will become more ludicrous with the passing of each generation to come for you, you don't belive me? Let's do some math then:

Let us assume that you're a gamer on a budget and can only afford either a PC or a single console, and on average, you're paying $400 for a console right out of the gate in the console generation (It's usually more, but I'm being optimistic), while getting a PC of equal or higher power would set you back for $600, let's see how the total goes along the console cycles:

1st cycle: Consoles($400) PC($600) (PC is more expensive)

2nd cycle: Consoles($800) PC($800) (already PC gaming has caught up to Consoles)

3rd cycle: Consoles($1200) PC($1000) (consoles lose...)

And that's only assuming you still spend the same amount of money on games you did when you used consoles, at which you have more games in your library than you used to, either that or you save even more money that pointed out on the table above.

Finally, we have my favorite "excuse" when people don't want to buy PCs:

3. I just don't want to bother with all the drivers and stuff

Question 1: Are you using a computer right now (PC or Laptop, Windows or Mac)? Or own one if you're using a cell phone?

Question 2: Does it work?

If you answered yes to those two questions, then trust me, you can handle the "drivers and stuff" you get from a gaming PC.


Now I've basically talked about why most of the reasons people give as to why they don't want to switch to a gaming PC, I haven't really talked much about the PROs of owning one in that much detail (other than prostituting myself to Steam...), and of course, feel free to tell me of other "excuses" why it isn't outright better to just get a gaming PC and be done with it, maybe I'll even do a follow-up if there's enough fanboy rag-... Erm, "civilized discussion" in the comments.
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11:39 AM on 10.01.2012

Now before anyone jumps on my throat about me being a sleazeball for discussing my sexual preferences on a gaming blog, this isn't about that (god knows I've received enough guff for a week).

So let me start by introducing the catalyst for this blog, Jim Sterling:

Jim Sterling in his natural habitat.

First let me give my opinion on Jim's video before I get to the main subject.

I'm not trying to criticize Jim here, I like the dood, but I find it kinda funny that someone who goes on a weekly show trying to gross out his friend as much as possible gets offended by what Team Ninja makes.

Not to mention the fact that traditions where women mutilate their genitals is scientifically proven to be harmful, this? Not necessarily so much.

If the problem is that Jim is simply confused by TN's actions, then I would find that normal, we're all puzzled by one thing or another in this industry, that's just another addition to the conga line, but when it comes to being disgusted by their products, well, I've seen less sexier and more disgusting things come out of this industry, and I'm not even talking about sexualizations, just plain actions and attitudes.

That said, let's get on with the subject of today, attractiveness in the eyes of Japanese people.

Now some of you may be asking why I'm tackling this subject, it may seem irrelevant, but it really has a lot to do with crucial points in the industry, such as global marketing.

For instance, even if Japanese consumers made up most of their purchases, western studios would still produce games that appealed to westerners, not out of ignorance to the global market, but because those games appeal to the developers and their environment, same with the Japanese developers, this is mostly why companies fare so badly overseas, whether Western or Eastern, of course excluding companies like Nintendo who have their own separate and culture neutral styles (Metroid Other M, anyone?).

See, the reason why games like DoA have big breasted, doe-eyed, plastic doll like heroines, or why games like Final Fantasy have fey, effeminate protagonists is because Japanese people aren't sexy.

Or to be more accurate, they don't find "sexy" attractive, most of the time at least, yes you have different tastes, but for most parts, this is mainstream:

You may not find this attractive, but Japanese people would.

See, the main difference between what most westerners find attractive and what the Japanese do, is that the former see "sexiness" as the main criteria, while the latter value "cuteness" more, which would translate into cute, bubbly' women (A la the DoA girls and Vanille from FF XIII) and effeminate looking, delicate pretty boys (AKA the Final Fantasy and DoA boys).

And the fact that the culture and mainstream opinion is tied to this permeates it into the psyche of the developers across the pond, they can't help the fact that the moment someone tells them to "make an attractive character", this is what pops into their heads, because to them, that's what is considered attractive.

And like I mentioned, they are more inclined to follow their intuition on what is sexy than what those silly Americans consider to be "attractive".

So remember kids, next time you criticize someone else's culture, remember that there's someone out there who thinks that cheeseburgers suck.
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