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  • eacaraxe 4:55 pm on October 27, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Bayonetta 2, review scores, and market meddling 

    Call me crazy, and I’m sure some will, but that 7.5 Polygon review for Bayonetta 2 (and to a lesser extent, the 6.5 for Tropico 5 for much the same reason) on — by the writer’s own admittance — the exclusive grounds of the depiction of the titular character struck me as odd. I wasn’t angered over the review, especially as I’ve never been a Bayonetta fan and I haven’t played the game in question yet to have judged it myself, but it just seemed odd for reasons I couldn’t quite place.

    Well, this morning it struck me. I’d heard that exact score mentioned by games journalist Liana K in a speech hosted by IGDA Toronto. It’s important to note I’m not indicting Liana K in anything, here. I link the video to highlight a named and discussed phenomenon — review scores influence developers’ pay:

    …people are basing bonuses on Metacritic…I stopped giving out 7.5’s when I found out it needed an 8 to get your bonus…in that environment, giving a 7.5 is just a dick move.

    If you don’t want to take her words for it, it’s a well-documented phenomenon elsewhere and has been for years:

    Make of the phenomenon itself what you will — companies in a free-market economy incentivizing the production of a quality product, guilt-tripping critics into inflating reviews — what is important is this phenomenon exists, and is clearly elucidated.

    This engenders a certain number of questions. Are certain critics, if they are docking points simply for finding the game’s content distasteful, trying to punish game developers and their publishers by denying them review-based bonuses? If so, is this emblematic of an effort on the part of critics to influence what games are produced and how they produced, contrary to critics’ claims? Is this a valid, or ethical, form of protest against content deemed objectionable by critics and those who produce it?

    This, among other reasons, is why I find myself highly skeptical of game critics and their claims with regards to their influence and the gaming industry throughout this controversy, and the circumstances that preceded it. I’m not suggesting Bayonetta 2‘s developers were under such a bonus agreement — I don’t know, and have no information one way or the other — I’m merely illustrating a trend at this point, and my opinion on how we as critical consumers should approach it.

    Then, there’s the question do review scores impact what games are made? If so, how do review scores impact what games are made? The games industry is fundamentally capitalist; they do what they do to make money. They make money by selling their products; the more products they sell, the more money they make, and more importantly (given games require massive investments of time, money, and human resources) vice versa.

    Whether or not review scores influence sales is a topic that’s been subject to controversy for years; some say yes, some say no, and the industry clearly hedges its bets by saying “yes” regardless (at least enough to incentivize good review scores). Universally accepted is that brand and marketing matter, arguably more than review scores, which I’ll address shortly.

    What is more interesting is actually looking at the data.

    Those who argue for no correlation base their argument, more or less, on the fact most games (96% as cited by the Venture Beat article) sell less than 500,000 copies, and that games that sell more are statistical outliers. Fair point. This bears out in arguments for a weak correlation as well. Those who argue for correlation point to average sales by rating and general industry trends, and assert the correlation does exist — beyond the 500,000-unit sales threshold.

    Before anyone gets up in arms this is “old” data, this Ars Technica article by Kyle Orland written just this year illustrates these trends persist.

    What this ultimately tells us is review scores and sales do correlate…but not for the entire games industry, just the bigger players (i.e. double- and triple-A companies). This is easily explained through intervening variables — exposure, brand, marketing, the extreme amounts of resources dedicated to each by double- and triple-A companies (incidentally enabling multi-platform releases, a major driver of sales figures), but more importantly the lack of resources on the part of indies which acts as a limiting factor.

    Did I mention, as per the aforementioned articles, the breakpoint for exponential sales increase is 80%? One article even identifies it as “the 80% divide”, and Orland’s article even demonstrates a sales “dead zone” for games that receive ratings in the 70’s.

    Suddenly, that Bayonetta 2 — a triple-A game and therefore subject to the correlation between review score and sales — rating by Polygon seems awfully targeted.

     
  • eacaraxe 7:44 pm on October 25, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    "We know games journalism is awful, but…" 

    It’s about time I turned my attention to this as well.

    One of the more shocking realizations perusing Gamergate, the hashtag which is its namesake, affiliated and indie gaming news sites, opposing gaming news sites, mainstream outlets which have run the story, forums which entertain discussion on the topic (for one side or the other), or practically any other place that includes discussion, is there is a single conclusion that is near-universally accepted:

    Gaming journalism is awful, corrupt even, and the gaming press is generally horrid at its job.

    Biased reviews, lavish press parties and junkets, influence-bartering and leveraging access, incestuous relationships, destruction of the wall of separation between content and advertising, underpaid and overworked writers, low barriers for entry, degraded workmanship and quality…it’s all there. No one denies it, least of all people in the profession itself; it had long been to the point of being an inside, sick, joke among gamers (and the gaming press) how singularly horrid gaming journalism actually is, which I suspect is no small reason that after one scandal after another over the years, it remained begrudgingly tolerated among consumers. Even outspoken Gamergate opponent Ben Kuchera wrote about it on the now-defunct PA Report.

    As a brief aside, Gamergate opponents inside the press would deflect (and have deflected) this criticism by saying Gamergate is barking up the wrong tree, by going after indies when the triple-A industry is the “real” source of corruption. I would disagree, and have written about why before. Simply put, the gaming press is the industry’s “fourth estate” and implicitly charged by the gaming community to acts as its ombudsman against the industry; that it is derelict in that duty is the fault of the press, and no one else’s.

    It’s not as if the gaming press cannot dig deep, find some shred of ethical fortitude, and utilize its power as the media, or has never done so in the past. Bonus points for the fact this article was also written by Kuchera, and explicitly mentions influence- and access-bartering within the industry. Apparently, this only happens (or the topic arises) when the gaming press has vested (financial) interest in acting like journalists (or not), contrasted against principle.

    Returning to the point, there is a clear consensus (even among gaming journalists) gaming journalism is in an excessively poor state, particularly in regards to industry corruption, and has been for years. There is certainly room for contention as to why this is the case (and I hope I have made my thoughts clear, if not explicit), but not that it is, in fact, the case. I would even go so far as to say the general poor quality of gaming journalism, and the continual shenanigans of gaming journalists, have been normalized, to borrow a term (chiefly, its usage and connotation) from the opposition.

    This boils down to one undeniable conclusion, stemming largely from the consensus view of the state of the gaming press: the gaming press, and gaming journalists, are not trustworthy. I have written in the past about this here, more directly in regards to how the gaming press frames its protesters, as well. Of course, being the gaming press is the chief source of opposition to Gamergate, one must if they are to remain intellectually honest ask, especially if they accept the consensus view regarding the gaming press and its trustworthiness, “how can we trust the gaming press to speak truthfully about Gamergate, when the gaming press and its members themselves are the implicated party, especially when implicated parties have vested self-interest in an outcome amenable to themselves?”.

    After all, the gaming press writing about its own beat-wide controversy represents a colossal, self-evident, conflict of interest — a notion egregiously swept aside in a glaring, unironic, demonstration of precisely the issues around which Gamergate coalesced. Individuals certainly have the right to defend themselves in the court of public opinion, but is this circumstance appropriate?

    To this, as a brief aside unrelated to the question(s) at hand, I would add the claims made by the gaming press and affiliated individuals aren’t even parsimonious.

    The short answer to both questions is no.

    The long answer is, if we accept the consensus view the state of gaming journalism is corrupt, and acknowledge Gamergate’s allegations directly implicate the gaming press in at least dereliction of journalistic responsibility if not outright malfeasance, then we must conclude the gaming press cannot be trusted to speak truthfully about Gamergate, particularly in light doing so represents a conflict of interest in the presence of which the gaming press freely writes anyways.

    Really, simply saying the gaming press isn’t trustworthy is sufficient, but I figured I would drive the point home due to somehow being contentious when it should otherwise be self-evident. Note the state of being corrupt directly implies untrustworthiness (the two words are synonymous, in fact). Whether or not we agree with allegations against the press by Gamergate, or believe the sincerity of those making the allegations, those allegations still exist.

    Turning away from the coldly logical and into the polemic for a moment, accepting what the gaming press says about Gamergate at face value would be akin to the American public listening to Richard Nixon on November 17, 1973, and saying to themselves “well, that settles it. The President said he’s not a crook, he must not be a crook!”. This is, after all, the gaming press’ “I am not a crook!” moment.

    Could the gaming press be speaking truthfully about Gamergate? Well, yes. A broken clock is right twice a day (despite being wrong the other 23 hours, 59 minutes, and 58 seconds); the wolves did eventually come for the shepard boy’s flock (never mind all those other times he cried wolf); Nixon was one of the most progressive Presidents we’ve had on environmental issues, ended the draft, and actually made a go at universal health care (you know the rest of the story. Is the gaming press speaking truthfully about Gamergate? Well, that’s the question of the hour.

    Notice in an earlier paragraph, I stated “…accepting what the gaming press says about Gamergate at face value…”. That is intentional, since guiding principles in this circumstance should be skepticism and rationality. If you, the reader, understand the consensus view regarding the state of the gaming press, and why that consensus view is the case, why accept comments made about Gamergate by the gaming press at face value? Circumstances as I have elucidated them demand at least skepticism and independent investigation to come to one’s own conclusions, if one is to remain critical and intellectually honest.

    “We know games journalism is awful, but…” No, no buts. We know games journalism is awful, period. Which means it’s time for you, dear reader, to reject games journalism at face value and draw your own conclusions. If, at the end, you agree with games journalists on the issue, so be it; all I, as one person, ask is that conclusion is your own.

     
  • eacaraxe 3:20 pm on October 24, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    On commodifying abuse and why we should condemn "professional victims" 

    …so I had something to walk home in before taking a quick nap and going on the air that night with Countdown. Not a word about the incident, of course, because as the FBI guys pointed out, as tempting as it was to tell the story the way I have here, from notes written in that Contact Isolation room that night, doing so would only assure the sender that he’d accomplished his sick mission, and that he had my address.  They couldn’t stop me from revealing it had happened (“Jeez,” said one of the FBI guys, “if I had a newscast I’d do the whole show about it”), but in a very clear way, in revealing it, I would be helping a domestic terrorist.

    So that was the story, on which I sat, and was going to, forever if necessary.

    […]

    If [the New York Post] had, they would’ve been advised that, yes, there had been an incident, but, oh, by the way, the local representatives of the federal government…had asked everybody to keep it quiet so as not to provide the perpetrator with a return receipt…

    That is what Keith Olbermann had to say in his book Truth and Consequences: Special Comments on the Bush Administration’s War on American Values (page 45) about one of many threats against his own life for being a high-profile, outspoken and liberal, reporter — in this case, a fake anthrax letter sent to his home.

    I’ve spoken about commodifying abuse and the motives of “professional victims” in the past, and on the subject of so-called “normalization”, but it wasn’t until Ken Levine made the following post on Facebook,

    that I felt compelled to place my full, undivided attention on the subject. We’ve read time and again, from unaffiliated reporters, public figures, and even attorneys and law enforcement how one responds to threats and harassment. Here, we have someone in the gaming industry who has received threats for his work and status, restating what we all already knew — that is, one who is the recipient of threats or other forms of abuse should not not respond to it publicly.

    In the worst-case scenario, it verifies personal information to a potential perpetrator if the threat is genuine and credible. In the best-case scenario, it merely validates and enables a trolling tactic (if the threat is not credible). Worse, as sending death threats is tantamount to criminal coercion one way or the other, it can interfere with the capability of law enforcement to investigate and prosecute those that make threats.

    People are right to point out threats shouldn’t be sent in the first place, credible or non-credible, but unfortunately we live in reality opposed to a utopian fantasy world. Criminals, other deranged people and criminal acts exist whether they should or should not, and for that reason individuals must first learn how to respond so as to not enable poor behavior, or in the worst-case scenarios how to not put themselves at risk while jeopardizing the capability of law enforcement to do its job.

    What do certain individuals, at the heart of Gamergate or peripherally-related, do instead? Exactly the opposite of what law enforcement and legal counsel would advise (and probably has advised, repeatedly) them to do. They publicize it. They politicize it. They even go so far as to advertise it by using threats and harassment as the keystone of public speaking and fund-raising campaigns. This all adds up to one undeniable conclusion: they commodify it.

    Commodification is, for the unaware, the transformation of phenomena, objects, ideas, or other entities not generally considered goods or services for exchange into such, for the purpose of generating wealth. In other words, one is turning something not generally used to make money or traded for money, into something that is. It is a lynchpin of practically every modern economic theory, from Marxism to Neoliberalism, whether it’s regarded as a positive or negative phenomenon.

    And, when something (in this case, abuse) is commodified, the individual engaging in said commodification gains vested self-interest in not merely its perpetuation but its maximization. This bears out when considering publicizing threats and abuse enables, and one would even say normalizes (not in the formal Foucauldian sense, but the bastardized sense employed by the so-called the social justice movement at large today), the phenomenon.

    Take it straight from Mr. Levine (emphasis mine): “…if the jerk is a troll, then you’ve handed them a victory and are effectively encouraging him to do it again. He may even tell his pals about it and encourage them to do likewise to get some of that sweet, sweet attention. Of course, it’s not sufficient to publicize threats; the gaming press (who has vested financial interest in reporting and editorializing controversial content) is happy to frame (distinct from report) this as the status quo among to what the gaming press refers as “gamers” (distinct from “people who just happen to play games”), which is to say threats and abuse is the norm…in other words, normalized behavior.

    That last sentence is loaded with disclaimers to highlight precisely the rhetorical game in play by the gaming press: “not all people who play games but this outlying, vocal, minority we’ve cherry-picked to fit arbitrary demographic constraints, the gaming industry’s own demographic research we’re happy to parrot anyways in any other circumstance be damned, which by fantastic coincidence lends itself well to a priori outgrouping, that we perceive as the target demographic for the triple-A developers we declare as problematic, but fuck it we’ll call them gamers (excluding people along ethnic, racial, gender, sex, and orientation in the process) and present them as the majority anyways…among these assholes who we know to be unrepresentative of everyone who plays games, but we’re treating as representative anyways, threats are normal”. Look, if framing the term “gamer” has to be so precise as to exclude eighty-odd percent of people who play games (and that’s just within the US), and not even all of whoever is left, to frame a phenomenon that is universally condemned by everyone save those who actually engage in that behavior (when that pre-selected demographic isn’t even responsible for the total of that behavior) as “normal”, the line between simply reporting on a phenomenon and normalizing it oneself has long since been crossed.

    Why is this a problem? Well, going back to Mr. Levine (again, emphasis mine): “…if he/she’s a sociopath, you don’t even [sic] them to even know you’ve read the threat. ANYTHING they know about you is a bad thing. Again [sic] the police…it only takes one truly dedicated jerk, so better safe than sorry”.

    Not everyone has a megaphone in the form of a profit-hungry gaming press willing to report at great length and in great detail every time a “gamer” so much as looks at oneself cross-eyed, let alone send anything that could be reasonably construed as a threat, credible or not. Not everyone has a legion of Patreon or Kickstarter supporters whose disposable income far surpasses their common sense willing to donate at so much as a calamitous air biscuit being floated in one’s general vicinity. Not everyone has social privilege and publicity sufficient that law enforcement doesn’t immediately discount threats and harassment against their person — that is to say, if they’re not being shot in the back multiple times by cops or would-be vigilantes for the cardinal offense of walking down the street minding their own fucking business with a skin color darker than “chestnut”, or if that’s a serious day-to-day concern.

    As Mr. Levine said, “it only takes one”…and chances are, it won’t be abuse profiteers who end up victimized. It’ll be someone powerless, without a fawning media or mollycoddling crowdfunders (among whom include members of the press who profit in turn), whose victimization was enabled by those with social power who recklessly decided to put that power to use for the sake of profit. No, it’s not sufficient to say “abuse is bad” when one’s actions betray the words, especially simultaneously engaging in an extensive dehumanization and demonization campaign that outright normalizes (and this time, in the actual Foucauldian sense save utilization of informal institutions opposed to state power) further abuse in the name of corrupt Utilitarian calculi.

    Of course, can we expect better from individuals whose social power and capital is vested singularly in abuse profiteering? From where I sit, the answer to that question is a resounding “NO”. Which is why I say these individuals are nothing but a blight on the gaming community, toxic through-and-through for the simple fact their vested self-interest lies in the gaming community being as abusive as possible and for as long as possible, and if gaming is to make any strides forward as a form of art from this point, these people must be the first to be shown the door.

    The bottom line is, condemn abuse. Condemn harassment. Condemn threats. But more importantly, be genuine in your condemnation. Don’t enable it. Don’t facilitate it. Don’t normalize it. Don’t profit from your own abuse, or the abuse of others, because when you do your self-interest shifts from ending abuse to perpetuating it, and when that happens your credibility on the topic of abuse goes out the window. Call out abuse profiteering as a major source of toxicity in the gaming community.

    …and as a brief post-script, when one publicly flaunts counsel any attorney worth a fraction of their weight in salt, and advice any halfway competent law enforcement officer, would give which we all by this point know to be the case, while actively antagonizing law enforcement and using the “opportunity” to fund-raise and work the pundit circuit to increase visibility and social capital, one sends an implicit, but obvious, message to critical viewers but more importantly law enforcement itself: one isn’t even taking their own threats seriously. How for the love of God does one expect law enforcement to treat this shit seriously when not even the alleged victim does?

     
  • eacaraxe 12:47 am on October 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , framing, , ,   

    On straw men, the gaming press, and why Gamergate will never end peaceably 

    I finally took the time today to watch this video by George Weidman of “Super Bunnyhop”,

    you guys might know it as the video for which the now-famous Greg Lisby interview was source material. While watching it, one thing which had been stuck in my craw since the beginning of this jumped out to me, which is the near-singular attention and response to the most extreme, least-informed, and therefore least-credible voices among people who have spoken out on the consumer action-cum-movement.

    I’m not calling Mr. Weidman to the mats about this; despite tongue-in-cheek (and, to be honest, somewhat on-point) commentary he was fair to the points made by Gamergate, provided disclosure whenever the situation actually did call for it (for example, disclosing personal relationships with sources), and his source material complete with citations in their entirety. Which, as far as I can tell, puts him head and shoulders above the gaming press proper of no less than the last decade.

    Onto the original point, this is of course not a phenomenon restricted to games journalism; it occurs in every level of media, in every field and beat. Jokes about how the evening news finds the biggest redneck in town to talk about the tornado and how it sounded like a freight train, the largest collection of negative African-American stereotypes on legs to talk about city shootings, the most smoked-out hippie to talk about liberal issues, and the dumbest gun-waving lunatic to talk about gun control exist for a reason. It drives viewership, and advertisement revenue, to indulge an audience’s biases for laughs, pander to bigotry, or frame and drive a narrative; it’s that simple. But, we’re here to talk about the gaming press, so the gaming press we shall talk about.

    Commentary from the gaming press at large clearly responds to the vocal minority lacking in credibility, something to which I’ve alluded in the past on this very blog,

    https://eacaraxe.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/on-subjectivity-and-red-herrings/

    neglecting if not actively avoided voices in the middle, or voices with experience or knowledge in journalism and journalistic ethics. Invoking Hanlon’s razor on this allows us to conclude the gaming press is merely trying to drive controversy for viewership and page revenue — otherwise known as the “clickbait” phenomenon (a major source of the general degradation of games journalism over the past few years). Attributing this behavior to malice — perfectly understandable, even rational, given social media commentary of the last two months by many of the selfsame individuals — forces us to conclude the gaming press is building straw men, framing Gamergate as indulgent and even malicious in its ignorance of journalism.

    The truth is, many of us now speaking out already knew enough about journalism to know the behavior demonstrated by the gaming press is, and has been for years, thoroughly unacceptable. Those of us who didn’t, have received enough of a crash course to know what is and is not acceptable. We already knew gaming journalism has been a joke for years (if ever there was a moment it wasn’t), and precisely why. We know what constitutes conflict of interest, and that professional collegiality does not (and we all know about what we’re complaining well exceeds that); we know appearance of impropriety is what is to be avoided above and beyond real impropriety; we know the wall of separation between reporting, editorial, and advertising is no longer extant and why; and no amount of framing is going to change that.

    That is, in itself, emblematic of the very environment of opacity and unaccountability that has been tolerated far too long by, as far as I can tell, the most patient and forgiving (if not tactful) audience of any branch of mass media. Personally, I can’t imagine a fraction of the shenanigans and general malfeasance carried out by the gaming press being considered remotely acceptable by any mainstream outlet. Clutching pearls at what event was “the final straw” for gamers understates this toxic environment existed for years, and ignores that sooner or later, gamers certainly would have said “no more”.

    Which brings me to why, I believe, Gamergate is an existential conflict (at least for the gaming press) and there is no possibility for peaceful resolution. First, a bit of general context:

    https://eacaraxe.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/on-negotiations-and-leverage/

    https://eacaraxe.wordpress.com/2014/09/21/on-corruption-and-transparency/

    On top of those things I discussed gamers already know, we also know journalism is founded on one core principle from which stems all of these exacting guidelines, standards of conduct, and ethics rules. That core principle is the unspoken compact of trust between journalist and audience; before all else, the audience must trust journalists to investigate, report, and even editorialize factually, with due diligence, and without letting individual bias supersede and compromise produced content.

    That trust, once broken, never can exist again. Sure, audiences with careful image management and handling by editorial staff can grow to trust an individual journalist after a breach of trust, but never to an extent that existed prior. Trust is also a fickle, fragile thing, which is why appearance of impropriety is to be avoided as well as real impropriety, especially when breaches of trust can end careers, mar the reputation of their outlet, or even in the most egregious of cases the entire profession.

    This is certainly the case with the gaming press in light of Gamergate. Very little if any real trust in the gaming press on their audiences’ parts existed prior to the controversy, and whatever did is now gone…perhaps forevermore. The plural of anecdote is not data, but I can certainly speak for myself in saying I trusted none of these implicated outlets before, and in light of the controversy I am regretting that choice made long ago not in the least; nor will I, even if these outlets undergo extensive restaffing and reform, trust any of the implicated outlets again such is the extent of the bad faith fostered and demonstrated by the gaming press in light of this controversy.

    For many of the implicated individuals, their careers as “journalists” (if indeed they ever called themselves such, or held themselves to anything remotely resembling journalists’ standards of conduct) is over. You can see as much for yourself by the ever-so-subtle (sarcasm) shift in narrative divorcing themselves from the word, preferring instead “blogger”. They know that if their outlets reform, or otherwise try to meaningfully advance the field of games criticism or journalism, their heads will be first to rhetorically roll as their audiences not only distrust them, but actively dislike them (and not even in a “love to hate” sense of the word which would see critics playing the heel for ratings or pageviews) on the basis of that distrust and past malfeasance.

    This is precisely why many journalists, whether they admit it or not, are outspokenly critical of revised codes of ethical conduct such as those employed by Kotaku or Escapist in response to the controversy.

    The Rubicon was crossed with “gamers are dead”; either implicated individuals bludgeon their audiences into quiet submission, or they lose their livelihoods as their names become too radioactive to hire and their names too radioactive to publish. This is why we’ve seen double-down after double-down, ever-elevating levels of angry (and now, violent) rhetoric, and even pleas for help from a mainstream media hungry for controversy and revenue, and eager to stave off their own days of reckoning at the hands of their own audiences, in turn angry for many of the same sins.

    https://eacaraxe.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/on-gaming-journalism-and-mass-media/

     
  • eacaraxe 4:00 pm on October 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ableism, , ,   

    On Gamergate and disability erasure, part "why is this still be a thing?" 

    Originally posted via twitlong, 21 Oct. 2014.

    http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sd9tpt

    I’ve talked about this before:

    https://eacaraxe.wordpress.com/2014/09/14/an-unanswered-question/

    at length,

    https://eacaraxe.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/an-open-letter-to-mr-bob-moviebob-chipman/

    one might consider excessive,

    https://eacaraxe.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/the-source-of-my-anger-at-gamergate/

    or perhaps someone with a shorter attention span than I would consider excessive. I repeat myself quite often about this, but it’s something about which I feel passionately, and am not going to just “let go”.

    Look, I’m a straight, white, able-bodied male, but during the course of my life I’ve been bullied by peers (extensively) for a perception I was gay, and discriminated against for perception I was mentally disabled by my primary and secondary schools (autistic with attention deficit, in case anyone is curious). I don’t have the lived experience of anyone in those groups, and I lay no claim to either, but on the other hand you can be damned sure due to my own experiences I can empathize.

    From my point of view, it’s not about “me” or a rhetorical “you”. It’s not about “weaponizing” unprivileged status for political points — let the anti-GG twits do that if they think it does anything but make them look like opportunistic, parasitic assholes. It’s about the people who have moderate-to-severe disabilities, for whom gaming is a valued outlet and quality-of-life improvement, who are being erased if not thrown under the bus outright by the gaming press’ and their devotees’ reckless and dangerous rhetoric. The people anti-GG refuses to see or hear, or let others, for the sake of narratives and echo chambers, in the name of “inclusveness” and “acceptance”.

     
  • eacaraxe 5:51 pm on October 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    "Trust but verify" and the $64,000 question for Gamergate 

    For the sake of full disclose, my education is in political science (particularly, campaign finance) therefore I may be considerably more cynical than most. But, my education has drilled in me two mantras I apply to practically any political or social scenario, that have never done me wrong.

    Those mantras are “follow the money” and “trust nobody whose financial interest is at stake”.

    A whole lot of bandwidth and drive space have been dedicated to the topics of bullying, threats, and harassment during Gamergate, no small part of it in direct regards to certain individuals whose affiliation with the larger controversy is, at best, peripheral. Out of it has arisen another mantra, “trust but verify”, which speaks to a notion of optimistic skepticism wherein claims of bullying and harassment are to be taken at face value, but verified with proof in order to maintain credibility. Skepticism is good, but I personally feel “trust but verify” in this particular context disregards an elephant in the room which speaks to the sincerity, motives, and message of involved individuals, as well as strikes to the heart of gaming press involvement, journalistic ethics, and Gamergate at large.

    It’s time to talk about that elephant, that involved individuals and the gaming press profits from harassment, threats, and bullying (to which I will collectively refer for the sake of brevity from this point forward as “abusive behavior” or simply “abuse”). Involved individuals leverage and even advertise their own abuse to generate donations and views of their own content (which may in and of itself generate revenue). The gaming press reports on abuse to generate page views and ad revenue, which is understandable in its own right (the press’ job is to report news), but publishes at length controversial editorial content (see, gamer-baiting) which serves as a driver for revenue generation as well. That is to say, their vested financial interest is in abuse.

    You might have heard of this phenomenon by another,  more controversial and less tactful (but honest) term, “professional victimhood”. Whatever you call it, the $64,000 question is “why would anyone with a vested financial interest in abusive behavior ever want them to end?”…or, for that matter, “why would anyone with a vested financial interest in abuse want anything but for them to increase?”. The necessary, but hidden, premise of commodifying (monetizing) abuse is, simple enough, abuse becomes a resource to be exploited.

    I could write in detail about the effects of this on real people — diverting attention away from voiceless or powerless victims of abuse, trivializing the issue of abuse through profiteering, perpetuating an abusive environment for the sake of profit setting up real victims for further abuse, or as we’ve seen in the last two months subjecting people to abuse simply for voicing their opinions — but I won’t. I’ll stick to the topic at hand; opining on abuse while profiting from it represents an inherent conflict of interest, and calls into question the biases, motives, and sincerity of those doing it.

    Do we trust used car salesmen on car safety? How about — as I’ve alluded to on Twitter — the automobile industry on automotive safety? No, their financial interest is in selling vehicles.

    Do we trust the tobacco industry, and the lobbyists and scientists in its employ, on the dangers of smoking? No, their financial interest is in selling cigarettes.

    Did we trust the fossil fuel industry, and the lobbyists and scientists in its employ, on acid rain in the ’80s or the prevalence of lead and the hazards of lead exposure? Do we (rationally, with their track record) trust them on climate change or the environmental hazards of fracking? No, their financial interest is in selling fossil fuels.

    In each of those cases, there is a clear financial interest at stake — the perpetuation (and maximization) of profit, personal or industry-wide. So, why should we trust abuse profiteers — and that’s exactly what these people are — on abuse? Their financial interest is in the perpetuation of abuse, not ending it contrary to their claims, which represents a clear and undeniable bias which renders them fundamentally untrustworthy.

    Which is why I believe “trust but verify” to be fallacious. Trust nobody whose financial interest is at stake. Doubt, but verify, because at no point should we ever forget in what these people’s financial interest, and biases, lie.

     
  • eacaraxe 9:59 pm on October 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , history, ,   

    A Response to Mr. Bob "Moviebob" Chipman's latest commentary 

    This is a response to this series of tweets by Mr. Chipman:

    Given the context of Mr. Chipman’s tweets taken as a whole and having followed his work as an avid fan for some time, I feel reasonable secure assuming he has in his mind for gaming a paradigm shift akin to the collapse of the studio system and the rise of “New Hollywood”. I say this because, in Mr. Chipman’s own words, gaming needs “a superior, progressive audience” which indicates he has in his mind a demographic shift for the medium which is precisely what happened to usher in New Hollywood, and also in his own words “the dinosaur AAA-space” which I believe to be an allusion (however unintentional) to the studio system.

    I’m not attempting to put words in Mr. Chipman’s mouth, and it is certainly not my intent, so if this assumption is incorrect or off-base I would be more than happy to apologize. Nevertheless, I would like to compare such a paradigm shift in gaming to the rise of New Hollywood to see if it pans out. Regardless of Mr. Chipman’s viewpoints I would strongly urge individuals to view his “Hollywood History 101” series of videos on The Escapist as they are immensely informative as well as entertaining, as well as my chief source of information in this post. I would also suggest viewing The Story of FIlm: an Odyssey by Mark Cousins (readily available on Netflix streaming) for those more interested in cinema and the (international) history of film itself.

    And, in the sake of full disclosure, I don’t consider myself a “film buff”. I have at best lay knowledge of cinema and the history of film, I don’t work in the film industry (nor have any inclination), and I don’t have a film degree. I’m merely commenting to the fullest of my (limited) knowledge of the topic at hand, and fully invite anyone to correct me when (not if, when) I go wrong.

    It is very true changing demographics precipitated the rise of New Hollywood. Namely, filmmakers’ target demographic shifted from older and less-educated consumers to the younger, generally better-educated, more politically liberal (and certainly more inclined to counterculture), and most importantly more-affluent baby boomers. Accompanying this shift in demographic was the larger cultural context of the numerous upheavals, movements, unrest and revolutions of the 1960s (sexual, countercultural, political), which cannot be ignored especially as the same individuals responsible for those revolutions were also Hollywood’s new target demographic.

    Which is why Hollywood turned to that generation, among which were the great auteurs of the era, to make movies for the target demographic — they understood their audience, and their audience’s desires, something the older and more established producers and directors did not. I would argue, at least for Hollywood’s part not “for the art” but “for the profit” — not to deride or undermine the achievements and brilliance of the auteurs, but rather to point out capitalist endeavors are, like it or not, still capitalist. They did so because the “star-driven” and “epic film” genres of the 1950s and early-to-mid ’60s which propped up the major studios following the Paramount anti-trust case ceased to be profitable (increasing salaries, budgets, and decreasing box office grosses do that).

    Of course, that was not the only factor leading to New Hollywood. The end of the Hays Code, in itself a self-enforced industry-wide system of censorship, and its replacement by the MPAA ratings system (which as of 2014 is little better, especially in terms of suppressing indie filmmakers, but that is a conversation for another time) was a watershed moment in which producers, and directors, and writers whose expression had been long repressed were free to do as they will.

    Those three reasons are generally — at least, as far as I’ve ever read or seen — accepted as critical to the rise of New Hollywood (not the press and critics in and of themselves). Now, what of the consequences of the rise of New Hollywood? The rise of auteur theory and the birth of New Wave cinema certainly signified a paradigm shift in (at least American) filmmaking. It also saw the rise of the summer blockbuster which led to a new equilibrium in the “tentpole system” by which those selfsame blockbusters raise capital for indie and art films (as well as “Oscar season”). Cinema as an art and expressive medium moved forward, but on the backs (and the dollar) of the old studios eager to turn a profit off a new demographic…and now, yesteryear’s auteurs are today’s ossified establishment, struggling to cope with the era of digital distribution and newfound populism of content creation.

    But, does the precipitating factors of the rise of New Hollywood really match up with the realities of today’s gaming industry and consumer base?

    First, demographics; as an entertainment medium, film and gaming is a consumer-driven marketplace. Demographics are key, as without understanding consumers and their desires products (yes, even commodified art, which is the case with film and games alike) simply will not sell, and the businesses that produce them will not succeed. The demographics for gaming aren’t undergoing a generational, political, or cultural shift; that already happened. In fact, the average age of gamers is increasing (entirely explainable with the relative newness of gaming as a mainstream hobby, and historical connotations of gaming as a “children’s” hobby precluding older individuals from entering it).

    Second, the state of the industry, namely profitability. The gaming industry, including triple-A, is growing. The triple-A’s, especially, despite numerous missteps and hot off the heels of a global recession are exceeding expectations. One would, at least, expect if the first factor were present in some way the industry would be lagging, by failing to meet newfound consumer demands (clearly, it isn’t).

    Third, there is no defining, watershed moment on the horizon. Crowdfunding and crowdsourcing have existed for years. Gaming has no “Hays Code” and even were there the industry holds no coercive power in the existence of alternate means of funding, production, and distribution, and the ESRB ratings system is going nowhere.

    Simply put, the gaming industry won’t be undergoing a “New Hollywood” style paradigm shift any time soon. What would happen, already has, and ultimately pearl-clutching over the state of the industry by the gaming press is much ado about nothing (with many in the gaming press assuming the role of Don John, no less). The precipitating factors simply aren’t there. That doesn’t mean it will never happen, or that industry shocks (a distinct notion from an outright market crash in the vein of that which happened in 1983) in the near future will not trigger reform, but for the time being such a massive industry shift is not on the horizon.

     
  • eacaraxe 5:36 pm on October 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    A brief response to the 15 Oct. HuffPo Live Gamergate panel 

    An edited compilation of points made via Twitter.

    Two points came up during the interview about which I feel compelled to write.

    First, Ricky Camilleri made a comparison between game criticism and film criticism, and accordingly film and game review. His point was that film critics approach the subject from certain academic or sociocultural perspectives and biases, ostensibly to make a dual point that subjectivity is unavoidable and that differing viewpoints are to be welcomed in a mature medium. I’ve already written about this in length,

    https://eacaraxe.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/on-subjectivity-and-red-herrings/

    https://eacaraxe.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/on-game-reviews/

    and I stand by the content of those earlier posts. The issue with this point, is subjectivity and academic and sociocultural biases are not the problem in and of themselves. The problem is the intentional conflation of ludic (technical) review with sociocultural criticism, and in many cases the supersession of the former for the latter in the context of game review. Take for example, this recent review of Tropico 5 by Polygon,

    http://www.polygon.com/2014/6/4/5720864/tropico-5-review-wasted-away-again

    which was in near-entirety sociocultural criticism (and I would argue, deeply fallacious criticism as the entire intent of the game is to hold a mirror to the player’s face which the author apparently failed to understand) with very little if any real consideration of the game’s technical qualities, merits, or faults.

    As stated in my earlier, linked, post, the notion of this passing for an acceptable standard of review in film criticism is utterly laughable. Agreeable sociocultural themes do not forgive a technically-condemnable film, and a technically-brilliant film is not invalidated on the basis of disagreeable or even distateful sociocultural themes, symbolism. or imagery (see, the aforementioned Birth of a Nation). Both aspects must be taken into consideration and weighed on their own merits, holistically or separately, without one superseding the other. That is precisely the phenomenon evident in contemporary games criticism, particularly by involved parties within the gaming press.

    If a would-be film critic said Salo was misogynist garbage not worth the celluloid on which it was filmed simply because it included rape scenes, symbolism or authorial intent be damned, they’d be laughed out of the conversation. Why do, or should, we tolerate similar behavior in game criticism?

    As with film, no credible person seriously argues sociocultural commentary has no place in gaming criticism. It, however, has no place influencing ludic review of games, as a surrogate for ludic review, or superseding ludic review as a standard of criticism.

    Next point. Sexism and the treatment of women within and by the games industry itself came up, again by Mr. Camilleri. It’s an important point and one that needs to be addressed. Of course, that necessarily raises the question of who is, to this point, at least supposed to be the industry’s informal ombudsman, chief whistleblower to the consumer, and vehicle for accountability within the industry itself.

    That would be the gaming’s “fourth estate”, the press itself.

    The same people who, in any other circumstance but most egregiously in this one in regards to the triple-A sector of the games industry, rail heartily against corruption, press capture, and the oft-incestuous relationship between reporter and subject. The same people among whom are those fired for giving poor reviews by his own outlet for not being a driver of pageviews (Jeff Gerstmann on Kane & Lynch), are threatened with stripped access for the same (Ben Kuchera on Duke Nukem Forever), or are the recipients of outright legal threats and gag orders for making payola allegations (Robert Florence during Doritogate).

    Interestingly enough, two of those three (Kuchera and Florence) in particular have come out against Gamegate despite the consumer action-cum-movement’s professed intents and goals, deciding instead to perpetuate the “Gamegate is misogyny” narrative. To that you can add Anthony Burch, who publicly admitted a month ago the existence of a “revolving door” between industry and press, recalling his own past as a writer for Destructoid and continuing friendships with members of the gaming press, as well as individuals such as Leigh Alexander who work simultaneously in the industry (as a consultant) and for the gaming press, both of whom are decidedly “anti-Gamergate”.

    These are the people whose jobs are to investigate and report on the gaming industry, including industry and management culture, to its consumers. Interestingly enough, they aren’t, instead blaming gamers on presumptions of misogyny for that corporate culture, with which gamers ultimately have nothing to do. This would be like, in 1965, had Ralph Nader blamed drivers for the Chevrolet Corvair. It’s ridiculous and insensible to an extreme to blame consumers for not merely industry malfeasance but in an atmosphere of opacity and unaccountability as well, in many cases by the very people perpetuating that atmosphere.

    It is, in the course of Gamergate’s ongoing and evolving timeline, awfully telling that despite having full knowledge of the events surrounding Zoe Quinn and freely discussing them behind closed doors, there was no concerted vocal response by the supposedly anti-harassment and pro-inclusion gaming press until two weeks after the fact, when allegations of widespread corruption, incestuous relationships with indie developers, and influence-bartering within the gaming press came to light.

    It would be nice to have a gaming press that does its job, and is trustworthy enough to do so, and reports on problems within the gaming industry in the first place, rather than scapegoat to cover for its own dereliction and malfeasance.

     
  • eacaraxe 5:59 pm on October 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    On gamergate and politics 

    Originally published via Twitter rant directed to Erik Kain, 14 Oct. 2014. Edited for legibility, content, and context.

    As a far-left gamergate supporter, I’m rather distressed by journalists’ attempts to frame this as a left-right debate. Not only does that framing dismiss the reality many supporters ARE leftists, it ignores outright political nature that IS clear in gamergate — that of the authoritarian/libertarian spectrum, not left/right. Framing gamergate as left/right is not just a smear, it’s downright insulting as the preponderance of gaming hate is from the left.

    Joe Lieberman, Hilary Clinton, Evan Bayh, and Tim Johnson, who introduced and sponsored the (failed) Family Entertainment Protection Act of 2005? All Democrats. Leland Yee, who sponsored California Assembly Bill 1179 which was the law overturned in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association? Democrat. Joe Baca (whom you might otherwise know as a co-sponsor of SOPA), who along with one Republican co-sponsored the (ill-fated) Violence in Video Games Labeling Act? Democrat.

    Dianne Feinstein, who warrants her own special little category here as not only among the first to blame Columbine on video games, but despite all evidence to the contrary continues to blame school shootings on them (most recently and prominently, Sandy Hook)? Who takes every available opportunity to rail against video game violence and attempt the censorship of video games? Democrat. It also behooves me to mention her significant San Fran ties, being a former mayor of the city and Senator who headquarters there.

    Two other Republicans (Brownback and Upton) introduced bills as well, for the sake of disclosure. Of course, one didn’t make it out of committee and the other didn’t make it to committee in the first place. Of course, as a political science wonk I’m inclined to discard those as serious attempts but rather to shore up votes as both those bills were introduced during election years with lagging demographics.

    Nearly all serious, attempted game censorship via policy is from the left. If anything politically, gamergate is a showdown between authoritarian leftists and libertarian leftists.

     
  • eacaraxe 5:07 pm on October 11, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    On normalization, violence in games, and intellectual honesty 

    I have a lot of ground to cover on this one and not much time to do it today, so I do apologize if this post comes off a bit slapdash and skeletal. I’ll try to revisit it at a later time to flesh more concepts out and provide stronger linkage between salient points. That said, full disclosure: my training and knowledge are in political science and public policy, which is strongly informed by sociology and philosophy but not those fields in and of themselves.

    I’d like to open this post with discussing a rule of inference in classical logic: the hypothetical syllogism. If one thing implies, enables, or causes a second, which in turn implies, enables, or causes a third, it is valid to infer the first implies or causes the third. Formally,

    P > Q, Q > R, TF P > R.

    If “P” then “Q”, and if “Q” then “R”, then it is valid to state if “P” then “R”.

    An example pertinent to public policy: drinking, or even drinking and driving, in and of itself doesn’t cause traffic accidents. Impaired driving does. Excessive drinking causes impairment, but moderated drinking does not necessarily. Drinking to excess and driving does not guarantee one will get in a traffic accident, but it does strongly correlate. Likewise, it is possible to become impaired absent alcohol use (drug use, fatigue, distraction). However, it remains true permitting drinking and driving enables traffic accidents, the removal of that causative factor increases public safety, therefore our society legally prohibits drinking and driving.

    Drinking (P) causes impairment (Q). Driving while impaired (Q) causes traffic accidents (R). Therefore, drinking (P) and driving is at least one causative factor in traffic accidents (R). It reality it’s a lot more complicated than that — need to add in driving as an independent factor, link driving and impairment as a conjunctive addition, demonstrate relevance, etc. — but that’s the bare bones of the argument, which is sufficient for demonstrating my point about the relevance of hypothetical syllogisms themsleves.

    The same argument is present in debates over gun control. The legality and availability of firearms (P) enables persons (Q) to engage in violent crime (R), therefore firearms’ availability and legality enables violent crime. I’m making no judgment as to the quality of that argument, simply stating it exists and in that form.

    Now, how is this relevant to vidya? Social justice advocates and prominent critics claim violence in games normalize it, particularly in this case against women. Or reworded, video games incorporate violence against women (in any form, presumably) cause it be normalized. There’s our “P” (violent games), our “Q” (normalization of violence against women), and our “P > Q” statement.

    To get our “R” we need to have a brief discussion of “normalization”. The aforementioned advocates and critics derive their definition of normalization heavily from Michel Foucault’s work Discipline & Punish, in which Foucault argues normalization as a process occurs when those with “disciplinary” power hold a behavior or standard of conduct as ideal, and engage in a system of positive reinforcement for adhering to that standard and negative reinforcement for deviating from that standard, through formal (government) and informal (society at large) institutions, although Foucault focused on formal institutions. Foucault, of course, argued all those prerequisites must be present for normalization to occur, and despite however more “civilized” it may be from historical systems of justice and punishment it is still an inherently coercive process through which power is gained and control perpetuated.

    These advocates and critics also argue that in an environment of normalized violence against women, it is not only permitted but promoted (see, Anita Sarkeesian’s “Tropes vs. Women: Damsel in Distress: Part 1”). Violence against women, it is claimed, is held as idealized behavior and its engagement is positively reinforced (see, Ms. Sarkeesian’s “Tropes vs. Women: Women as Background Decoration: Part 2”). I’m not saying it’s right (in fact, I’d say it could not be further from the truth especially being they can’t even get their Foucault right), I’m saying that’s the claim being made. And, there we have our “R” (real violence against women), and our “Q > R” statement (normalization of violence against women enables real violence against women).

    It is then valid to employ the hypothetical syllogism, to argue games cause (or enable) violence against women. The intellectual dishonesty of these social justice advocates and critics comes into play, by leaving the syllogism to the realm of inference on the viewers’ part, and by downplaying or outright denying that is the implication in fact being made, especially through cheap rhetorical tricks when called upon it.

    This is why most, if not all, of these critics refuse to make any normative (i.e. what society ought to do to correct this asserted injustice) arguments regarding violence in video games. Prohibiting or restricting violent video games is, if their argument is truthful, the only reasonable policy position and they cannot admit that without tipping their hand.

     
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