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  • eacaraxe 8:19 pm on September 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    On academic jargon, twentysomething hipsters, and bullshit 

    This will be short, since there’s only so much to say about this.

    “If you can’t write something at an eighth-grade level, you either don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about or you’re just trying to impress people. Either way, you’re full of shit and sound like an asshole.”

    Those are words I’ll take with me to my grave. They were said to me one evening in the spring of 2010 by my academic adviser, mentor, my favorite political science professor, the man who sat in final judgment of whether I received my political science degree, and one of the smartest motherfuckers ever to have walked this planet. They were said somewhere between the fifth and sixth beer of the evening, in his home, during a discussion that got particularly heated over my undergrad capstone paper.

    I’d just turned in a draft to him in which the F-K readability score was actually lower than the grade level, something which made him absolutely livid. To the point, in fact, from that point forward he’d refuse to accept from me any draft or revision that had higher than an eighth-grade reading level (and believe me, he checked). I was angry in return, but I buckled down and did it; in doing so, I realized he was absolutely, positively, unarguably right.

    It is immeasurably harder to “write down” than it is to not. One does have to have mastery over the subject material to condense it and write in an accessible, easily-understood form. Moreover, there’s no reason to not — academic jargon is exclusive, tiresome to read, distracting, at times condescending, and even counter-productive if one is writing to persuade or inform an audience. The only reason to ever engage in it, save the minority of profession-exclusive writing intended only for internal consumption, is to stroke egos or self-consciously obfuscate a lack of mastery of subject material.

    That’s why I cannot take twentysomething, pseudo-intellectual, hipsters seriously. I’ve been there, done that, got called out for it, gone back to the drawing board, and came out the other side far stronger for it. They’re not out to persuade, win hearts and minds, or effect meaningful, long-term change in their chosen field(s) — they’re out to prove how much they “know” and how “smart” they are. And, humorously enough, in the course of doing so either alienate the individuals who aren’t “in the know” or demonstrate prima facie to those “in the know” how colossally full of shit they are.

    And either way, they sound like assholes.

    [That paper, by the way, was a legal interpretivist analysis of the Citizens United Supreme Court case, contrast with previous case law, and comparison with Bush v. Gore to argue the decision privileges certain modes of political speech (financial expenditure) over others (voting), in direct conflict with modern American democratic principles. Being the decision had only been released three months’ prior to the deadline, almost all my research was original. My final draft received an A+, one of the proudest moments of my life.]

  • eacaraxe 11:51 pm on September 24, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Of ethics, choice, and morality in gaming, part 2 

    In part 1 I explored the player-character dichotomy, the concept of metagaming — the use of knowledge beyond a game’s internal narrative context to influence narrative decision making — and how these factors collude to create a corrosive influence on moral dilemmas and ethical choice in games. Before continuing further to illustrate what I personally believe can be done to remedy the conflict between player knowledge and metagaming, and emphasize the import and impact of ethical choice in gaming, I’d like to explore more deeply two games in particular from my personal experience and gaming history with unique approaches to this issue: Knights of the Old Republic II: the Sith Lords and Black & White.

    Knights of the Old Republic II in terms of moral dilemmas and ethical choice on its surface resembles the majority of previous role-playing games with a morality mechanic, as well as other games within the Star Wars universe, particularly its predecessor title. Indeed, the game itself can be played with little regard for its own internal context when engaging in ethical decision-making, and still punishes by omission moral shades of grey. However, one key difference turns the game’s morality system on its head within its own narrative context: Kreia.

    Kreia is a gadfly; a serial contrarian who is neither a light side nor a dark side character, who challenges and chides the Exile for acting in accordance with either alignment with equal prejudice. Or so it seems; scratch the surface, and the player learns the source of Kreia’s ire is myopia, and her continual goal is to force the Exile, and the player by extension, to come to the conclusion both light and dark are equally myopic in their own right. This is reinforced throughout the game by Kreia expounding actions and choices have more than immediate, intended consequences; unintended, long-term, and unforeseen consequences exist as well, and although those consequences may have little (to no) bearing on the game itself, Kreia’s words force the player to consider their character’s role in the game’s larger mythos and not merely the game’s own narrative context.

    What is interesting about Kreia, is her dialog forces a conflict between player and character: following Kreia’s advice leads the Exile down a morally-neutral path, which due to the game’s mechanics weakens the Exile over time and makes them less-prepared for the game’s later challenges…including Kreia herself, the final Sith Lord. Kreia’s in-character intent is anything but to create an easily-dispatched protagonist; she wishes for the Exile to become a Force-wielding Ubermensch (in the Nietzschean sense, not any pop culture dilution). The only means by which to reconcile this conflict is to intentionally reject Kreia’s advice in-character and become what she despises most; a myopic, dogmatic champion of either light or dark, ultimately a failure in her own grand experiment.

    Ultimately, Kreia’s presence and interactions with the Exile (and by extension, the player) grant Knights of the Old Republic II, in the process of actively challenging the player to consider the import and impact of moral dilemmas beyond the context of immediate, intended consequence both within and without the game’s internal narrative context. That, at least in my opinion, makes it a shining beacon for the future of ethics and choice in gaming.

    The second game, Black & White, illustrates that morality and choice is not strictly relegated to story-focused video games as is commonly assumed. While practically any simulator or god game may be sufficient to make this point, Black & White stands apart from the rest due to its built-in morality system, as well as the game play role of the Creature and its interactions. Key to Black & White’s morality is the possibility of long-reaching, severe, unintended consequences for each and every choice that seems, on the surface, morally innocuous.

    The game has a morality mechanic that aesthetically, but not mechanically, reflects the character’s morality on a traditional good/evil scale as the result of many smaller decisions made over time, based upon the nature of the act itself rather than intent or consequences. Actions that harm villagers, or offensive miracles, are deemed “evil” regardless of the context in which they’re employed. Also of note is that unlike Knights of the Old Republic II there is no player-character, the player themselves assumes the role of the god, with the Creature acting as player-character analog if trained to reflect the player’s will.

    Key to analyzing morality in Black & White are the unavoidable unintended and unforeseen consequences of choices made by the player. Consistently good choices may lead villages to overpopulate to the point of unsustainability, forcing the player to dedicate more and more time sustaining villages on worshippers’ behalf, cull villages with “evil” actions, or stand by as populations normalize (i.e. villagers die off) which reduces the player’s power as a god (which is directly linked to the number of available worshippers). Likewise, evil actions can cow worshippers into inaction, or lead to population decline over time as worshippers die to the player’s (or Creature’s) malevolence, forcing the player to intervene with benevolent (and out-of-alignment) acts. The act of extending influence to opposing (or unaligned) villages through the use of miracles and godlike acts is much the same, as drastic changes in villager interaction, and to villagers’ perceptions, can cause radical alignment shifts.

    Also key is the Creature, and the nature of player interactions with it. The Creature learns through observation and experimentation, and forms beliefs regarding actions and objects based upon observing its owner at work, through player feedback, and the immediate consequences of its own actions; it develops intent and goals on the basis of those beliefs, which is potential for a great deal of emergent behavior. For instance, one of the first things many players’ Creatures learns, left to its own devices, is that villagers are tasty and nutritious (Creatures must eat); eating villages is thus self-reinforcing behavior, and unless curbed early by punishment Creatures are certain to develop a habit of eating its own worshippers.

    More intelligent Creatures are also quick to learn they aren’t likely to be punished if the player isn’t watching them, leading to no ends of mischievous behavior when the player’s attention is diverted, or wandering away from areas in which attention is needed to engage in mischief, and necessitating a great deal of babysitting until the Creature matures.

    Creature interaction is where unintended and unforeseen consequences can arise, and in ways that can severely hamper game progress. Pampering the Creature can retard its development of survival skills; abusing the Creature can cause it to become an angry beast prone to lashing out against its environment, or cowed by fear into inaction. Player behavior in proximity to the Creature contrary to the values the player hopes to install in the Creature can lead it to believe engaging in the same behavior is not merely permissible, but preferred. The Creature may very well learn through observation to use miracles it is not matured enough to use responsibly. The Creature can develop bad habits, when left to its own devices, that can be nearly impossible to break.

    While each individual choice the player makes in Black & White has initially minor consequences, a series of choices can have far-reaching and oft-unintended consequences which require more effort in the long run to rectify. Players must, therefore, weigh the potential consequences of each choice as it occurs in order to play productively, therefore granting import to each and every choice or series of choices as a moral dilemma in its own right.

    In part 3, I will examine one case study — the Mass Effect trilogy — to examine the role of intent, particularly balanced against consequences, and its role in choice and moral dilemma in gaming, before concluding in part 4 with my personal opinion of what can be done in future video games to emphasize morality and ethics in gaming.

  • eacaraxe 6:54 pm on September 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Should I be a jackass? 

    Originally posted via twitlong, 22 Sept. 2014


    I’m using the word “jackass” here since practically any other applicable word has lost its meaning. By being a “jackass” I mean haranguing people, being uncivil, levying threats implied or explicit, refusing to acknowledge the fundamental humanity of others, using uncharitable arguments, and otherwise acting in bad faith.

    So, ask yourself: should I be a jackass?

    Short answer:

    Long answer:

    Unsatisfied with that answer? Okay, let’s break it down. Let’s say you see someone who may or may not be a “concern troll”, for example. Now, they’re either a concern troll or not, and you can either be a jackass to them or not.

    1. If you ARE a jackass to them and they ARE a concern troll, congratulations, you’ve been successfully baited and your own jackass behavior can and will now be used against you and everyone else to validate arguments against us.

    2. If you ARE a jackass to them and they ARE NOT a concern troll, congratulations, you’ve successfully pissed them off, probably chased them away, and validated arguments against yourself and everyone else.

    3. If you ARE NOT a jackass to them and they ARE a concern troll, you’ve provided them no ammunition to use against us and made yourself a case example of their own dishonesty.

    4. If you ARE NOT a jackass to them and they ARE NOT a concern troll, you’ve made yourself a case example of opponents’ dishonesty and are helping convince neutral or moderate parties to join us.

    As you can see, being a jackass has only NEGATIVE consequences, and NOT being a jackass has only POSITIVE consequences. You have NOTHING to gain from being a jackass, and EVERYTHING to lose. So, don’t be a jackass.

    As for my part, I’m beyond belief I feel compelled to explain why being a jackass to people is a bad idea.

  • eacaraxe 5:42 pm on September 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Of ethics, choice, and morality in gaming, part 1 

    I thought I’d revisit this topic in greater detail, since it’s been one of great interest to me especially in the last fifteen to twenty years as gaming grew into a more narratively-focused entertainment medium. I’ve spoken to the topic here and there, but most lately in the form of a comment in response to this video by Jennie Bharaj:

    Personally, I can’t help but vehemently disagree…while there must be NARRATIVE consequences for an ethical dilemma to have meaning, foreknowledge of the outcome (including unintended and unforeseen consequences) and the weight of the mechanical or gameplay consequences undermine the ethical nature of the decision. Most players in Bioshock, for example, chose to save the little sisters because the short-term ADAM gain from harvesting far outstripped long-term gain from saving, and at the point in the game ADAM hoarding had the greatest impact (the endgame).

    The Mass Effect trilogy is a prime example, taken as a whole: players had the foreknowledge the game would be a trilogy and that decisions in the first two would have consequences in the second and third, but had no foreknowledge of what those consequences would be. For many players, there was no capacity to “metagame” during Mass Effect 1 and 2, as even having foreknowledge of that individual game they could only make guesses what would occur in later installments.

    I’d first like to add some explanatory context to some terminology I used, since ‘metagame’ has a distinct and different meaning in video gaming. Metagaming in tabletop gaming is the use of knowledge available to the player, but not the character they’re playing, to influence events and actions as they occur in the context of the game itself.

    I’ll use an example from a tabletop game I’m currently running (West End Games’ amazing Star Wars D6 RPG) to illustrate this. During the first game session, the PC’s ran into a group of Imperial Army soldiers (distinct from Stormtroopers) led by an officer who had nothing noteworthy about him, save this big commlink-looking thing on his belt. The PC’s figured “fuck it, this guy’s in charge, if we kill him we can sew some chaos as they’ll be leaderless and get away” and started taking shots at him.

    That big commlink-looking thing? It was a lightsaber, which the Inquisitor then ignited, started deflecting blaster bolts, Force choked one PC and severed another’s hand. The PC’s didn’t have to know what a dark Jedi was to know it was time to get the fuck out of Dodge, but had they said “oh crap that’s a lightsaber, he’s an Inquisitor and it’s time to run!” with no rational in-character basis, it would have been metagaming.

    [Which I’ll add, this game started before any information had been released about ‘Star Wars Rebels’, which is now being colloquially referred to in my group as ‘Star Wars D6 the Series’. Damn TV show is heading most of my best ideas for this RPG off at the pass, stupid Disney/Lucasfilm.]

    Metagaming extends to mechanical knowledge as well as narrative information. If the player of a Fighter in a Dungeons and Dragons game has his character reach for their mace in an encounter with skeletons, knowing they have damage resistance against slashing and piercing weapons, but without his character having any rational basis for knowing this (either from having been informed of this by another character, or passing the requisite Knowledge (religion) check), it’s metagaming as well.

    I emphasize the point about metagaming, because basing a choice in a video game on foreknowledge of a choice’s mechanical and narrative consequences is metagaming. For example, if in Mass Effect a player chooses to save the Rachni queen for the sake of gaining Paragon points, or with foreknowledge saving her provides war assets in Mass Effect 3, rather than as a mediated decision based upon what their Commander Shepard would do given the available information at hand, that is metagaming.

    Metagaming is an exclusively consequentialist phenomenon, as the player is interacting with an intent to maximize desired outcomes and minimize undesired outcomes (whether or not those outcomes are “good”, “evil”, or other arbitrarily-assigned descriptors for morality or ethics). That is a distinct phenomenon than playing a consequentialist character (as is arguably a renegade Commander Shepard), as the player draws from knowledge beyond the scope of their character’s to do so.

    Is metagaming forced on players? In some instances, arguably so. The Knights of the Old Republic series’ light/dark side mechanic incentivizes playing as exclusively light or dark, by providing attribute bonuses, alignment-specific equipment, and ability cost (i.e. Force point) reductions for alignment-specific powers; there is no equal mechanical incentive for remaining “mildly” light, dark, or neutral, which means there is no reason for doing so for players with any degree of metagame concern (such as making a powerful character). In the context of the Star Wars game setting (a space opera “good versus evil” setting) and the narrative context of the game (the player plays a Jedi) it is sensible, but it is a constraint on the player which forces players to consider mechanical consequences out of the game’s narrative context when decision-making nevertheless.

    Mass Effect 2, due to locking paragon and renegade dialog options based upon dynamic paragon/renegade point prerequisites, is also a chief perpetrator of forcing players to metagame to achieve desired in-character outcomes.

    Metagaming is a significant barrier to choice and morality in video games, as it promotes (or even forces) players to consider choice not as a moral dilemma inside the narrative’s own context based upon information available to characters, but rather a choice between mechanical outcomes available to the player. Do all players metagame? No. Is metagaming necessarily a bad thing? No, players have the right to interact with video games however they choose, and it’s not my place to judge. I’m simply here to point out the phenomenon exists and occurs, and its implications for the meaning of choice and morality in gaming.

    In part 2 to come soon, I’ll examine metagaming, choice, and consequences in the context of two games which challenge the player to consider choice and ethics in their own narrative context: Knights of the Old Republic II, and Black & White.

  • eacaraxe 3:30 am on September 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Redneck Tales, ep. 1 

    And now for something completely different, hopefully to lighten the mood and inject some much-needed humor into an otherwise bad situation.

    Tales from my redneck youth. Yes, I grew up a redneck: farm, hunting, guns, whole shebang. I mostly grew out of it, but I have some pretty good stories to come out of it. Perhaps there’s no better place to start than some of my childhood pets since they’ll likely come up again in the future: black and tan coonhounds.

    Not my actual childhood pet, a stock image pulled from Wikipedia. It does the job.

    The first thing you’ll notice is they look like some sadistic fuck crossbred a doberman and a mastiff. Which is good enough, because unless sufficiently motivated they’re some of the kindest, gentlest, most loving and attention-whorish dogs you’ll ever meet. They’re scent hounds, and probably the most surprising them about them is they’re loud — they’re vocal as hell, they have a deep and authoritative baying howl, and you can hear them for miles when they start up. There’s little funnier than watching a black and tan full-out charge somebody while baying, and that person having no clue what breed the dog is and panicking, when all the hound wants is a quick friendly sniff, a scratch on the head, and maybe even a treat.

    Of course, when sufficiently motivated…watch the fuck out. They have an extremely strong prey drive, they can and will take down cougars (I was around when one instance actually happened), and they take down motherfucking bears in packs. Lesser known, is the fact they make fantastic guard dogs, mostly out of intimidation factor but also because they’re fairly empathetic dogs, can suss out fairly quickly a person’s intent, and they can and will turn that prey drive against hostile humans.

    Such was the case about twenty years or so back when some jackass intruded onto my family’s property at the time. It was probably some idiot teenager looking to vandalize shit as was usually the case. The family had been in bed maybe an hour when the dogs started raising hell; that happened a lot, but they usually shut up in a few minutes on their own…not that night. My dad and I went outside to see what the hell was the matter, and got out the door just in time to see some poor fuck running straight into the forest across from our property with our dogs in hot pursuit.

    Dad and I could have called them off, chained them up (we usually let them run free, since it was the country, they behaved themselves, and were generally lazy motherfuckers whose most frantic period of activity was dinnertime), and called it a night…but we were bored and wanted to see how this turned out. The dogs gave chase for about ten or fifteen minutes, changed to their treeing bay (hound thing, when their prey is cornered or chased up a tree they change from a short, higher-pitched bark to a deep howl), and not long after that went quiet. We figured the dogs treed the intruder, got bored and gave up, or had chased the intruder to their car or ATV at which point the intruder got away.

    That is, until the dogs came back, one of them carrying a shredded pair of pants. As close as we were ever able to tell, the dogs chased the intruder to the point he had to climb a tree to get away, which is just about the dumbest thing you could ever do to get away from pissed-off coonhounds, and he either had to take his pants off and throw them to the dogs as a distraction, or fell out of the tree and was relieved of his pants by the dogs. The dogs were proud as hell of their prize, too, they presented the pants to us, rose hell until they got treats, and proceeded to tear the pants into an unrecognizable lump of denim by chewing and tug-of-war.

    It was also the only time anyone ever trespassed on our property.

  • eacaraxe 12:52 am on September 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    How I would, were I so inclined, destroy Gamergate 

    Originally posted via twitlong, 21 Sept. 2014


    Gamergate is a decentralized, consumer revolt-cum-movement that is nominally in favor of reforming the gaming press and enforcing ethics and journalistic integrity upon it. The gaming press-crafted narrative thus far has been it is a hate movement and harassment campaign against women in the gaming press and gaming industry, fueled by misogyny. The gaming press has erected an informal blockade with a series of biased articles and generalized narrative control, through which it hopes to asphyxiate the movement by denying it the oxygen of publicity.

    I believe that’s a fair enough definition for everyone to get onboard.

    Early on, GG posters moved to undermine that narrative by painting itself as a pluralist, anti-harassment campaign focused on journalistic ethics and integrity, calling out and countering harassment while simultaneously distancing itself from harassers and other abusers. This directly countered the gaming press narrative, producing an accessible and exportable narrative that simultaneously highlighted and undermined press credibility on the matter. This allowed it to grow despite media manipulating via framing, especially combined with numerous journalist and industry gaffes that continued to energize and mobilize the movement further.

    Of course, it’s not enough to say one is against harassment. One has to carry through with that claim by actually calling out and condemning harassment as it occurs. A person can claim anything they want, and if their actions are inconsistent with that claim (such as anti-GG’s nominal anti-harassment message, but implicitly condoning harassment by their own) they are merely hypocrites and untrustworthy. I can claim I’m Queen Elizabeth II, not as I’m not an 88-year-old woman who lives in Sandringham House, it’s a safe assumption I’m actually not Her Royal Majesty and my claim is quite hollow.

    Of course, the downside to a movement thus organized is it must grow, and remain energized to facilitate mobility (i.e. consumer action, in this case seen as the letter-writing campaign against advertisers, sponsors, and corporate partners, and continued independent investigation of the gaming press). Preventing this was the ultimate goal of the gaming press’ media blockade — as I already mentioned, to deny #gamergate the oxygen of publicity.

    We’ve already seen numerous, failed attempts to destroy the #gamergate narrative: continued blockading, intimidation and harassment, false flagging and shilling, and concern trolling. Of course, of all these the middle options were the most noteworthy, as they backfired due to #gamergate posters calling it out as they would any other abusive poster and distancing themselves from it. The latter is important as well, especially as there’s an atmosphere of healthy paranoia surrounding those engaging in the movement, but we’ll see why later.

    So…what to do now, were I an anti-#gamergate agent provocateur? Well, first and foremost, the accessibility and exportability of the #gamergate narrative has to go, in order for the pregenerated press narrative to take root. I’d want people looking into the hashtag and those participating and not see individuals speaking out against harassment and abuse — I’d want people doing that silenced, to have a free hand painting GG as pro-harassment.

    What better way to do that than attack people speaking out against harassment? Those are generally the moderates, who may (or may not) see the valid criticisms of both sides, who are sitting on the fence or desire an end to harassment as well as a transparent and accountable gaming press. So, as such it’s easy to manipulate the atmosphere of paranoia and attack them by calling them concern trolls, which has a chilling effect on calling out harassment further (as people don’t want to be ostracized on that basis).

    In the meantime, I’m pushing GG’s “window” for acceptable rhetoric further to an extreme. Posters become emboldened to engage in more extreme, exclusive and even abusive speech, and emboldened to label anyone with criticism (no matter how valid) or moderate positions a concern troll. In short, an echo chamber gets built in short order, and the group of people who make up GG shrinks as individuals race to the extreme for acceptance.

    So, when unaffiliated or curious people come looking to see what #gamergate is all about, instead of a inclusive group of people condemning harassment as it occurs and directly countering the gaming press’ narrative, they instead see a toxic and exclusive echo chamber full of people calling each other concern trolls for stepping away from the party line which ultimately validates the gaming press’ narrative.

    You can figure out what happens next. Consider carefully who engages in what speech, and what consequences — intended or otherwise — condoning that speech can have.

    • Bethe 3:10 am on October 7, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      It is both beautiful & frightening how well this reflects the anti-#GG’s scornful, cavalier & dismissive stance as they actively sever themselves from reality & sadly move further & further from any meaningful or constructive communications with #GG, just to force their narrative & continue their smear campaigns against #GamerGate.


  • eacaraxe 5:49 am on September 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    On corruption and transparency 

    Originally posted via twitlong, 21 Sept. 2014


    I’ve read a lot of people, namely anti-GG folks, point to triple-A business and management culture, and the relationship between triple-A companies and games media outlets, as the source of the “true” corruption…and as such, were GG honest in its intentions of promoting ethics and accountability in games journalism, we’d be going after triple-A companies instead of indies.

    Well, let’s set aside the obvious counterarguments:

    1. That’s a fallacy of relative privation, and triple-A corruption doesn’t justify indie corruption;

    2. Gamers have tried, such as was the case with Gerstmann, Florence, and Keighley, but were largely blockaded by a subservient gaming press;

    3. No one is saying GG will stop once indie gaming and press has been cleaned up;


    4. The indies were the ones who happened to get caught red-handed, tough shit.

    and concentrate on the issue I believe is fundamental to all of this. That is, the toxic wall of opacity and unaccountability that surrounds the gaming press, and has for years. The same wall that saw payola allegations made by Rab Florence met with a gag order and quickly dismissed; the same wall that same the same un-investigated gag orders against Jeff Gerstmann; the same wall that now, for example, blames gamers for alleged sexist business and management culture issues in the gaming industry; and the same wall that meets corruption allegations with widespread censorship and article campaigns that attempt to reframe the issue as one of misogyny among gamers.

    Simply put, it’s the gaming press’ job to investigate and report on these matters, and that is not occurring. In fact, not only is the gaming press negligent in this duty, it is actively shielding the gaming industry from answering to these allegations. Most important of all, due to widespread negligence and recklessness on the part of the gaming press, were they to even begin they are not trusted enough to do it in an unbiased, ethical, and honest manner. Establishing transparency, accountability, and trust in the gaming press is what must occur, first and foremost, should the “real” corruption as members of the gaming press claim, ever be tackled.

    To illustrate this problem, I’d like to draw from American history…the Prohibition era, as a matter of fact. Everyone is, or should be, familiar with the story of Eliot Ness and his cabal of Prohibition agents known as “the Untouchables”. The story goes, for the uninitiated or unaware, when Prohibition began corruption among law enforcement and politicians from the local all the way to the federal became widespread and endemic; officers were bribed and some even became bootleggers, politicians were bribed to hamstring enforcement, some were intimidated, and some even became intertwined with organized crime itself (for more, read up on the Kennedy family, particularly Joe Sr.’s activities during Prohibition and afterwards).

    Enter Eliot Ness and “the Untouchables”: a cabal of Prohibition agents hand-picked and deemed “untouchable” because of their reliability and resistance to the corruption that permeated society. The rest is history, and not terribly relevant to the point being made.

    In this analogy, the games industry is the mob and the gaming press are law enforcement. The law isn’t being enforced, because those charged with the duty are bought and paid for, and nobody even trusts enforcement to be done honestly in the first place. Sure, the mob is “the real problem”, but unless the law is being enforced in the first place, and in good faith by uncorrupt officers, there’s no chance of “the real problem” being solved.

    If anything, I suppose that would make #gamergate “the Untouchables”, if one must know.






  • eacaraxe 12:30 am on September 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    A rebuttal to ‘The “moderate” pro-#GamerGate And why you shouldn’t trust him. A guide’ 

    Originally posted via twitlong, 20 Sept. 2014



    I’m in no particular mood for rhetorical flourish in this matter, so I’ll go straight to the point. I’m a fan of Sam Harris, notably in this case his argument against religious fundamentalism and extremism which I feel is extrapolated all too easily to social and political movements. His argument is, found in ‘End of Faith’, put simply:

    Fundamentalists and extremists in [religions/movements] exists, and it serves no one’s purpose but the extremists’ to deny this. Moderates have a tendency, when extremists are under criticism, to take the criticism as levied against themselves, circle the wagons around the extremists, and defend their [religion/movement] as a whole. In doing so, and for failing to denounce extremism when and where it occurs, legitimizes extremism, enables further extremism, and makes moderates complicit in the acts of extremists.

    Whether one wants to admit it or not, harassment and threats do occur, from within #gamergate and without. This is not a subject up for debate. #gamergate has since its inception acknowledged the existence of harassment and denounced it as part of its general platform, and to preclude criticism against the movement from without for engaging in and supporting harassment. Now, for the past few days, what we are beginning to see are individuals such as he who made the initial post and like-minded individuals, engaging in implicit denialism of abuse and harassment (by changing the subject when it arises rather than denouncing abuse and moving on) and going so far as to imply (or outright call) those who would self-police #gamergate concern trolls.

    Some have gone so far as to harass or abuse #gamergate posters for decrying abuse — I’ve certainly received that treatment, and I know others have who shall in this post remain anonymous.

    That, to me, as someone who has participated in this consumer revolt days before the #gamergate hashtag was born, is an absolutely intolerable situation. This is because, going back to Harris, denialism of harassment (or participating in it, humorously enough, in the name of “self-policing”) legitimizes harassment and shields those who engage in it. #gamergate becomes a movement that implicitly condones harassment, and opponents’ criticisms are thereby validated.

    That is what #gamergate opponents do. It is a brazen, transparent, hypocritical, extremist position, and so is ours should we choose to comport ourselves the same. If anything will kill #gamergate, it won’t be “concern trolls” or “false flags”. It will be the movement eating its own in the name of purity until so few remain it cannot be sustained.

    You, the reader, would do yourself extraordinarily well to consider that before engaging in the same purity-driven inquisitions as our enemies. Personally, I cannot help but distrust the sincerity and motives of individuals who would engage in harassment of those who decry abuse within the movement.

  • eacaraxe 5:46 pm on September 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    On game reviews 

    Originally posted via twitlong, 16 Sept. 2014


    A lot of tat is flying around in regards to objectivity in game reviews, and I thought I’d revisit the topic further for the sake of making my opinion heard. I discussed this once,


    and thought I would use it as a starting point for further discussion. It strikes me there are two key elements of review and criticism at play:

    1. Qualitative analysis of the technical merits of the subject, and strength and consistency of narrative if present.

    2. Sociocultural commentary and criticism of the subject.

    Setting aside questions of payola and conflicts of interest which by all rights should be cut-and-dried issues in regards to game reviews…

    Both elements are inherently subjective, and that must be accepted at face value by reasonable readers. There is nothing wrong with that. However, what I and many other gamers perceive and fear is the intentional conflation of the first and second element, and supersession of the first which by all rights ought to be the fundamental of game review by the second, and more damning exclusively on a purely topical basis without analysis of works’ own narrative context.

    To illustrate the point, I’d like to draw attention to three controversial, but classic and highly influential, films: ‘Birth of a Nation’ by D. W. Griffith, ‘Triumph of the Will’ by Leni Riefenstahl, and ‘Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom’ by Pier Paolo Pasolini.

    ‘Birth of a Nation’ is considered one of the greatest films of all time for its numerous technical innovations and the internal consistency, depth, and concise nature of its narrative ( http://www.filmsite.org/birt.html ). It was also white supremacist propaganda the immediate influence of which was the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan.

    Much of the same can be said of ‘Triumph of the Will’ ( http://www.logosjournal.com/kelman.pdf ), despite being pre-war Nazi propaganda.

    ‘Salo’, on the other hand, is not merely technically innovative, but its pervasive, explicit content (including depictions of violence against women) is instrumental for its symbolic representation and condemnation of fascist Italy (as well as the topical failures of the sexual revolution). (http://hcl.harvard.edu/hfa/films/2010julsep/pasolini.html ) (http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2013/04/15/pasolinis-salo-a-film-that-bleeds-onto-other-films )

    Are we to disregard any of these films on the exclusive basis of topical sociocultural criticism? Are the first two films’ technical innovations and influence negated by their content? Is the thirds’ symbolism and theses negated by pervasive, explicit depictions of violence against women? No, of course not, it’s a laughable concept.

    Why do we accept different from game reviewers?

  • eacaraxe 10:14 pm on September 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    An unanswered question 

    Originally posted via twitlong, 31 Aug. 2014


    [It’s been two weeks and one day since I asked this. I’ve also asked the question on Reddit, the official Penny Arcade forums, and probably two dozen game journalists since #gamergate started. Not one has acknowledged the existence of the question, let alone given an answer. On the other hand, I have received plenty of insults for it by #gamergate opponents.]

    This is my question for PAX Prime 2014. This is an entirely open question, I don’t care which panel or which speaker addresses it, I just want someone — anyone — to answer it. I don’t even care if it’s answered at PAX.

    In the last week we have seen an aggressively anti-“gamer” campaign in games media, by online personalities, bloggers, and journalists alike. This campaign claims to call out bigotry, harassment, and hatred in the gaming community, in the name of inclusiveness, acceptance, and equality. However, this campaign is pervasive in language that is thoroughly ableist, and body-shaming. It has been there from the beginning, continues to be awash in it, and will ostensibly continue indefinitely, and not just occurs with the express approval of social justice-minded journalists, but is actively perpetuated. It is so pervasive, and foundational to the campaign, I cannot imagine its continuance in its absence.

    I say this because this campaign characterizes to what it refers as “gamers” in terms of traditional negative stereotypes: socially awkward, lazy, emotionally-stunted shut-in cisgendered heterosexual white males.

    Many gamers are introverse. Many gamers are on the autism spectrum. Many gamers suffer from social anxiety disorders. Many gamers have physical health-related issues with which they struggle every day. When journalists invoke stereotypes of gamers and include words like “lazy”, “shut in”, “socially awkward”, “emotionally/socially stunted” or even “retarded” as some have, “ugly”, “fat”, “virginal”, “unygienic”, or “crazy”, they are trivializing the real struggles against which many gamers — not just white, cisgendered, heterosexual males, but ALL people who play games — face on a day-to-day basis, and capitalizing on their lack of privilege.

    Moreover, by framing those who take exception to this, among other issues, as exclusively white, heterosexual, cisgendered males, journalists erase the existence and voices of women and individuals of non-binary genders, people of color, and LGBTQ’s.

    All of this, in the name of social justice, intersectional feminism, inclusivity and acceptance in gaming. This is deeply problematic, and it makes me question the sincerity and motives of those who initiated and perpetuate it, and utterly fail to hold themselves and others accountable for it. Honestly, and with all due respect, I would go so far as to call it hypocritical.

    It isn’t social justice to harm the people for which one claims to speak by collateral. It’s oppression, it’s shameful, and it needs to stop. Will journalists, bloggers, and online personalities acknowledge this pervasive ableist language and body-shaming, make amends to those harmed by it, hold one another accountable, and find a way to call out sexism and misogyny in gaming without engaging in behavior that is, itself, deeply problematic?

    • John Markley 12:07 am on September 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      As an autistic man, this is exactly why I’m in favor of #GamerGate: It’s painfully clear that its chief detractors utterly despise men like me, and the rest either share that attitude or at least have no objection to it. They sound strikingly similar to many of the people who tormented me as a child for being a freak, with some left-wing argot thrown in.


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