Gone Home, Manifesto of Modern Rad-Femme Extremism

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Warning: this read is LONG AS HECK!  A lot of games are pretty poignant and come out at the right time.  Gone Home is a game that came out about two months after DOMA and Proposition 8 were ruled unconstitutional by the supreme court.  Being in the Army at the time, I literally watched the military go from “don’t ask, don’t tell” to “First Sergeant is going to help me and my partner get housing benefits.”  It was a monumental time. I was actually in basic when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed and everyone thought I was going to come out.  Next morning at formation I was asked by several fellow soldiers and replied “I’m still rather fond of boobies.”  But in the swell of history-changing happiness, it seems a doctrine slid into place that, even now, is permeating the industry and much of our society.  Gone Home has a deeper, toxic narrative that uses the inspiring narrative of the game to hide and poke holes in American society, quietly going so far as to say that it should be restructured with women in the position of power over men.

In Gone Home you play Katie, the elder of two sisters who has just returned from a year-long trip to Europe.  Throughout the game you find various postcards sent home by Katie from a variety of historic locations.  This adds a sort of innocent perspective of family as perceived by someone removed from the conflict; but conflict in this game is constantly reviewed and discovered in the past tense, not personally experienced.  In order to get a proper context for the events of Gone Home, you should get to know the remaining characters.

Sam Greenbriar is Katie’s younger sister and the primary focus of the game’s narrative.  She seems to have started her last year in High School, but her grade is never explicitly stated.  Sam meets a girl, named Lonnie, that she becomes friends with, but the relationship goes further than she ever expected and blossoms into a full romance.  It’s 1995, so this doesn’t exactly go over well.

Janice Greenbriar is the mother of the household and, as the Head Conservationalist of Flintlock Forestry station, she is the bread-winner of the family.  While Janice is assisting with the Takelma County Forestry Service in a controlled burn of a section of forest, Janice distinguishes herself and is promoted to Regional Conservation Management Director.

Terrence Greenbriar is the father of the household and is a writer struggling with his own flaws to create a successful sci-fi historic fiction series known as the “Accidental” series.  Terrence is traditional and dreamy, but he seems given to periods of self-doubt and, possibly, depression.  He struggles with his job, too, losing a good gig in reviewing music from one room to the next.  The house they live in was recently acquired in a will from his recently deceased Uncle, a pharmacist named Oscar Mason.

Lonnie is Sam’s girlfriend, but it doesn’t start out that way.  They just start out as girls being girls but it develops further.  Lonnie is in ROTC and is training to join the Army.  Lonnie exposes Sam to a whole new life and way of thinking that was previously alien to her, but Lonnie is very conflicted and this comes through often.

Daniel is a background character.  He was friends with Sam when they were very young, before their recent move.  Same actually describes Daniel as a “default friend” in a journal to Katie and generally only talks to Daniel to get his “good” Super Nintendo games.  Sam is markedly slow to return these.  Sam distances herself from Daniel as she grows up, claiming that he got “weird.”

Big, happy family.

Big, happy family.

Now, Sam meets Lonnie in the most innocent fashion, and it starts out as the two having fun and being girls.  They explore the mansion, which neighborhood kids call the “Psycho House” since there was a tragedy that befell a previous owner, so it is rumored to be haunted.  As it turns out, the house may very well be haunted and there are numerous secret passages within the building.  Lonnie and Sam spend more and more time together, falling in love.  For the longest time they keep their love a secret from Sam’s parents, but eventually it comes out.  Now this would all be fine since this story is conveyed nicely and it is quite inspiring, but that is not all that lies within the text of this game.

While the girls are hiding their secret love, Sam creates two fictional characters, which she writes about.  The telling of these stories comes in a reverse order, starting with the most recent first.  I will start with the oldest one first, which is returned to Sam by Daniel.  In a child’s handwriting, the story describes Sam and Danny exploring a forest, finding an ocean with a pirate ship in it and manning it.  Sam declares that she will be the Captain and Daniel the First Mate.  Daniel replies with an “Aye, aye, Captain!”  This is two kids playing and seems genuinely innocent, but take note here that Sam automatically takes the dominant role in their relationship and  Daniel accepts unthinkingly.

Wait.. is he staring at her butt?

Wait.. is he checking her out?

Our next entry in this miniature “narrative within a narrative,” the First Mate is in trouble and shit gets weird.  After exploring the house for some time, you find hidden compartments in the walls.  In one compartment is another story about Princess Allegra, as the pirate captain has by now been named, is searching for her First Mate in a forest.  He has been captured by the Green Glacier Amazon Tribe.  Upon confronting the Queen Amazon, Allegra tries to stop the Queen by throwing the sword at her hand.  She is too late, though, and the First Mate falls into a vat of water.  Things go quiet and the First Mate emerges from the water transformed from man into woman.  Here is where shit gets weird.  The Amazon Queen says “She is one of us now.  She is ours.”  Allegra responds “That’s the love of my life, and you can’t have her.”

One of us! One of US!

One of us! One of US!

Now, looking at this for face value, it seems like a story about the transformation of a girls sexual identity from hetero- to homosexual, given the context of the main story; however, in the context of the deeper narrative context provided by the actual characters. This story takes on a totally different hue, which I will return to later.  Throughout the game, there are examples of women in a position of power over men, and it’s not even subtle or accidental – it happens in every possible relationship created in the game.

The only living primary male character is an example of male failure.  His job is not working out because he is infecting his reviews of music, where readers want to hear about the quality and value of hardware, with tangents and diatribes about the ruination of his childhood.  This is found in a typed letter from the reviews editor of Home Theatre Aficionado Magazine.  Terrence also receives a letter from the publisher for his “Accidental” book series, Mercury Books, that due to sales of the second books being worse than the first, they would no longer continue to publish his work.  Now, this all comes alongside the standard trope of older men being alcoholics.  Gone Home serves this up by placing a bottle of whiskey atop the bookcase in Terrence’s office; then, later, the rejection letter from Mercury Books can be found in the bar, just down the hall.  Here it looks like someone has recently spent a lot of time drinking by the sloppy placement of glasses on the bar and one on the table by the record-player.

Aside from failing at his work, Terrence is also failing as a father, at home.  We’ve already established that Janice has a steady job, which she is good at – given her promotion, but there is something else going on under Terrence’s nose that he isn’t even aware of.  Following Janice’s little story, you find that she has been spending a lot of time with a man named Richard Patermach.  Rich is man that she met during the controlled burning operation with Takelma County Forestry Service.  In what seems to be a personal room where she paints still-lifes, you can find a performance evaluation of Rich on the table.  Janice, being in a position of superiority over this man, gives him a glowing review and even says that she will put in paperwork to request his transference to her forestry station.  I mean, she cirlces all the ‘5s’ in a 1 – 5 evaluation scale, which TOTALLY doesn’t look suspicious.  In the next room you find a romance novel about a “fireman” set against a background of a forest.  Later on, beyond what is initially a locked door, you find some important scraps of paper: one is a receipt for a makeover given to Janice totaling 119.50$.  Now that is expensive, but according to this inflation calculator that is worth 186.03$ in 2014, which isn’t a huge gap, but when you have a daughter in high school and one in Europe, a husband that is struggling and a house that is in disrepair – according to the electric company inspection in Terrence’s office – that is a good chunk of change.  But why did she spend that much? Well, upon entering the dining room where mom and dad confront Sam about her sexuality, there is a table with a note bearing the Takelma County Forestry Commission’s logo.  Between these scraps of paper lie a promotion notice for Janice and a manual from Takelma’s forestry commission.  The note is from Rich and it invites Janice out to see a and EWF concert.  His girlfriend wasn’t into the concert and he invites Janice instead.  But there is no evidence she accepted, right? Wrong, ticket stub for Earth, Wind and Fire in the heating vent in the hallway.  How can we guess at the motivations for accepting and assume it wasn’t innocent?  Looking in the drawer behind the table sits a letter from janice’s friend, Carol, where she describes Rich as “our favorite flannel-clad hunk,” which describes Rich in terms of a character on the cover of a romance novel like the one in the backroom of Janice’s little personal room.  Later on we find that Rich gets married and Janice and Terrence end up going on a couple’s retreat, which, according to the calendar in the kitchen and the pamphlet by Terrence’s new writing spot in the greenroom, where they will likely review their marriage and where it is going.  I mean, Janice has been nothing but supportive of her struggling husband, why wouldn’t she feel the urge to leave him?  But the support shown to her husband mostly seems like a way to cover for her deeper intentions and desires, considering there is one physical instance of her support and numerous others detailing the narrative between her and “our favorite flannel-clad hunk.”  It is an objectification of a man with the female hegemonic gaze, just as is decried by feminists in terms of games where women are represented as sexual objects.

She knows this is supposed to be an objective rating of his job performance and not how he might be in bed, right?

She knows this is supposed to be an objective rating of his job performance and not how he might be in bed, right?

Through the rejection of his life partner, we see that Terrence is cast as an impotent male in terms of his fulfilling the gender role a man is supposed to: the provider of the home.  Hell, we even see an unused condom in one of Terrence’s drawers in their bedroom.  It looks like it has been there for some time, and there is only one, so it is more like a “just in the wild case” rather than hopeful premeditation of a sexual exchange with his beloved wife, not to mention they could just use the pill for a more intimate encounter.  It is the 90’s, afterall.

Terrence isn’t the only male rejected by a female.  Sam, our leading character, has a childhood friends who she regards right off the bat as a “default” friend, since he lives right next door.  She even goes so far to say that she only really valued their friendship because he had good videogames because he became weird.  You’d expect someone that is made fun of at school for living in the “Psycho House” to look past the exterior at who a person really is, even if she is a lesbian.  Lesbians can have friendships with white, hetero males and not want to be with them, I promise.  When Daniel calls she rejects him by not calling back.  He doesn’t even mention that he wants his game back until after what seems sustain cases of rejection.  Sam is, honestly, a cold little girl that only considers males in terms of what they can give her.  In the kitchen we see that Sam and Daniel finally reconcile when he returns the oldest page of the pirate story with the picture above and comes after Sam is confronted about her sexuality.  She wants to talk about her remorse about their lost childhood friendship, but instead tells him about Lonnie and recent events and then tells him about “how sorry I was that I wasn’t his friend anymore.”  This is nice and all, but it only comes after the boy has submitted to her, contacting her over and over and over with no response, asking for his game, trying to see her.  Finally she reconciles with him because, why?  Because he gives her some comfort in a tough time by hugging her and saying it’ll be ok, bringing a piece of her childhood self and reminding her that he had submitted to her from the very beginning.  I think this is referred to colloquially as the “friendzone,” where a female keeps a boy around for the value of his emotionally supportive nature.  This renders the guy more of a comfort object, similar to a teddy bear, rather than a person with his own thoughts and feelings.

Ah, the dead pharmicists personal opiate stash. memories.

Ah, the dead pharmicists personal opiate stash. memories.

And it doesn’t stop here!  We never get the full story of what happened with Oscar Mason, but in a safe in the basement we find a letter that was written before he died to his sister, Mary Greenbriar.  In the end of the letter he says “If no response is received, I shall henceforth accept my sentence, and one day simply cease to be.”  Throughout the letter we get the impression that something had divided him from his family and, in the rejection of the letter, he is never reconciled.  Like Terrence, who turns to the bottle to ease his emotional pain, we can suggest that Oscar may have done the same, the safe being filled with syringes and morphine syrettes.  There is even a rubber hose used to constrict the veins of the person taking the medicine, so they bulge with pressure and are easier to find.  You know, similar to the trademark hose of the heroine addict?  In his final weeks, maybe even days, Oscar reaches out in an attempt to reconcile with family, but his letter is rejected without being opened: it is marked with a red ‘X’ and scribed with the words “return to sender.”  By the admission of the last line of the letter, we can not only say that a judgement has been passed on him by Mary, but his situation is doubly cruel considering she never had the decency to open the damn thing.  I mean, none of us liked my grandmother, but when she died we went to her bedside so she would know that, despite all the horrible things she did, we were still a family.  That is a message infinitely more comforting than “return to sender” (subtext: so he can die sad and lonely with no one by his side.)  So where men aren’t sexual objects in this game, they are impotent examples of their own gender role or outright rejected until they submit to the females in their lives.

There is another function that Oscar fills, even in death.  Sam and Lonnie seek to contact his ghost with a Ouija board by performing a seance in the secret room under the stairs.  This contributes to the completely bizarre atmosphere Gone Home carries throughout.  With the flicker of lights, soft patter of rain at the windows and the lighting that occasionally lights up the halls, Gone Home has an ambiance right out of a horror game.  It even has a jump scare in it.  This feature, I think, shows an even more sinister and dark side of this game’s ideaology.  Oscar Mason is dead, yes, but his death and potential spirit haunt Sam in her life to the point where she is bullied in school as the “Psycho House Girl.”  We get the implication that the Uncle went crazy and this somehow resulted in his death.  I was never able to explicitly discover why or how, but it haunts her throughout the game.  Initially it’s only the bullying, but later we see a much more vague form of this influence.

This family is traditional and they keep a couple old bibles in the house.  This is common, though, and could be dismissed, but then there is the film “Inside Edition,” which is mentioned in the game.  In a scrap found in the room with Janice’s makeover bill, we find the schedule for the movie and description saying “Investigative team visits camp whose specialists help adolescents overcome deviant behaviour and homosexuality.”  Since the film is in the parents room and clearly written in a feminine handwriting, we can assume it is the mothers.  This would show the mother as being the true matriarch of her house, seeing a problem and using a film with religious undertones to uphold the most patriarchal aspect of their lives.  Of course, her own brush with deviance at the EWF concert leads you to think that maybe she isn’t so committed to that.  Either way, when the parents confront Sam, she remembers that it is Dad who really confronted her on this matter.  He even leaves a note on the kitchen table, so since he is the one writing for Home Theatre Aficionado and records numerous films on VHS, it’s not a big step to consider the possibility that Dad told mom to record the movie.

Oscar’s other role in influencing Sam comes in his own religious quality.  It is only truly discussed in the sole jump scare in the game, which takes place in one of the secret passages.  After looking around the area a bit, you can find a cross that has the words “for god so loved the world he gave his only son.”  When you grab this crucifix and examine it, the light bulb in the room explodes.  Sudden, unprecedentedly creepy, and another tie to Oscar through the use of the supernatural.  Oscar’s greatest role in this is similar to the ghost in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which is Hamlet’s father, referred to as King Hamlet for differentiation.  In Hamlet, the ghost comes back from the grave to tell Hamlet the secret about his Uncle Claudius.  Given the powerful nature of Oscar’s spirit and his reaction to your touching his cross – there are many other things of his to touch, but this is the only one that induces a jump scare – you can assume that he is likely very religious.  His spirit being such, he would disapprove of Sam and Lonnie’s relationship, and given their attempts to contact him and their playing in the secret places of the house – possibly more than just playing – Oscar would have the best view of their clandestine relationship.  While he never says anything to either Terrence or Janice, the house has an overall foreboding ambiance, which doesn’t suit the love story at all.  It feels more like Oscar represents the oppressive nature of the male patriarchy, expressed through religion.  The supernatural affect of Oscar, linked through religion to the parents, would seem like a sort of thematic amplifier to personify the oppression of the two young girls.  Though Oscar isn’t advising the parents take revenge on the girls from the grave, his disapproval  echoes across their generations in attempt to oppress the girls from beyond the grave.  Even if the mother would be the one that recorded the film, it would make sense since she is the head of the house and, thus, the one in the masculine role of power.  If the spirit is trying to reach out to Terrence, the darker implication would be that Oscar, Terrence’s uncle, is trying to tell Terrence to take vengeance upon the women in his life for usurping his natural “head-of-household” gender role by enforcing religious strictures upon Sam, his daughter.  Either way, the implications are pretty grim.  That is a lot to take from the game’s themes, though.  I mean, it’s not like there is a character in the game that personifies resistance against a greater male patriarchy that oppresses the deepest desires and natural state of the young women in ques… oh wait…

Kicking men in the face as they look up your skirt and making it a move against the patriarchy. A lost Marvel classic.

Kicking men in the face as they look up your skirt and making it a move against the patriarchy. A lost Marvel classic.

Note the upside down cross...

Note the upside down cross on revolution girl’s choker…

So where do they get the names?  Well, Sam takes on the name of Captain Allegra here, as the character in her story, and Lonnie gets to be Rev-L-Ution Grrrl.  you know, the one with the upside down cross on her choker?  No wonder Oscar is trying to come back from the grave, Lonnie is an anti-establishment lesbian that fights every element of the male patriarchy all while being in the ROTC.  One of the best parts of the game’s deeper story is where Lonnie explains her JROTC awards to Sam by drawing the awards.  The description for the last award for Adventure Training reads “I am a born adventuress and no borders can hold me.  The Army recognizes this.”  She also has an award for rifle training which makes her a “certified killing machine” and an award for orienteering.  Lonnie explains this last one as “the army thinks I can find my way around” but her having this award might be interpreted as “I can find my own way.”  So, in this game her position in ROTC and her affiliation with the military serves only to characterize Lonnie as a male in a female body and, thus, the epitome of an anti-male revolutionary.  The army is only used to make her stronger than all the other men in the game and point her out as unique, interesting and important.  Lonnie – carrying even a distinctly unisex name – is an example of the Butch Lesbian trope.

I am not sure that is quite what that means...

I am not sure that is quite what that means…

Entertainingly enough, Sam takes on another trope similar to the Butch Lesbian, known as the Pirate Girl. I mean, she writes about a pirate girl, fancies herself as one and even dresses like one at some point.  To quote the site from that link, the Pirate Girl trope often has a Dark and Troubled Past detailing how she ended up in this position; abusive fathers who they are in a “Well Done, Son” Guy relationship with seems to be a common theme.  Now, I don’t know about you, but this suits Sam to a tee.  Trouble past – Uncle goes crazy and dies.  Yup.  Abusive father is a little tougher, but he is a drinker and he does seem to focus on himself a lot.  The issues he is having with his work, his writing and his love life might be enough for him to take this out on others, women or not.

So how does this narrative of women end?  Well you won’t be able to guess, but the rejection of male patriarchy for the freedom of feminine justice embodied in the true love of our lesbian couple.  Yes, I am dead serious.  In a game full of weak male characters, men as oppressors and even men as oppressors through female couterparts in distinctly male gender roles, the game ends with a romantic “fuck you” to the male oppressors.  How?  Predictably toward the end, the real thing that separates Lonnie and Sam isn’t their parents, but the Army.  What better example of a real, existing male patriarchy that one might fight against than the military?  Religion is old school patriarchy, military represents the modern struggle.  Lonnie leaves for the army and Sam goes to cry and sleep in the attic.  She misses the first two calls, but the third she gets.  it’s Lonnie and she’s stepped off the bus to basic training and is telling Sam she can’t live without her and that they will drive until they can find a place where they can just be together,  likely New Hope, Pa.  Now, this might just seem like a play on the usual romance film ending, but with lesbians, but think about this a second.  If you are on the bus to basic, you’ve already signed the papers and handed your life over to service in the name of your country.  If you try to bail at this point, you are effectively going AWOL.  This is an offense punishable by law, so Lonnie’s actions are literally a big old middle finger to male-driven responsibility and the patriarchy.  Not to mention, Lonnie came to be in this position because she looked up to her Dad’s old army buddies, so it is in all ways Lonnie telling off everything male since it was a decision put into her by the influence of older men.

This is why the house is empty when Katie comes home.  Sam would be there, but she is off supporting bad life decisions.  I was touched at the end, but then I really started to think about what it would mean.  Sure, Sam and Lonnie might get a few good years together at best, but one day the man will be knocking on their door with a warrant full of feminine oppression to take Lonnie off to federal prison.  But that isn’t even the ending to the narrative of the game’s text.  The ultimate message in this game is more deeply hidden in a letter from Terrence’s father.

Gee, thanks pop...

Gee, thanks pop…

This preachy letter combines with the feminist narrative to create a big old fuck you to something particular here.  let’s see if you can guess it:

“An author’s work is the externalization of that which he holds dear (and that which he fears), and in this respect I believe your work was successful.  But the lens through which the personal shone was needlessly clouded by genre cliches and implausible dimestore science-fictional dei ex machina.  The great authors speak of their life’s milieu in clear and honest tones, the lens crystal that refracts their thoughts without distortion.  […] I urge you to shed artifice. You can do better.”

This preachy little letter can be found in the basement and is the only letter from the male character with the only positive representation in the game.  Granted, we can probably assume he is either really old or dead, so he is still a decently impotent male – maybe even literally – to suit the feminist attitude of this game.  He is also Terrence’s father and, being male, Terrence will follow his advice unthinkingly.  And he does, too.  The office is filled with chaotic notes on a bulletin board as Terrence reaches deep inside for something better.  In the greenroom typing area – a move that might have been an attempt for a fresh, new perspective – we find Terrence’s synopsis for the last book in his “accidental” series and it describes the main character having to save himself.

I call this letter, The Fullbright Company’s letter to the gaming industry.  Gone Home’s critics often dig into this game for being a walking simulator and having no real “game” features.  This game would be best called a dull adventure game, but they wanted it to be this big, artistic masterpiece: poignant, timely and edgy.  In this letter, the developers of the game tell you what they want to see in the industry as a whole and, combined with the other deeper narratives of this game, it is a bleak prospect: they want to tear down the oppressive patriarchy of games with exaggerated tropes and over-the-top themes.  They want games to become less ludic and more film-esque.  See the reason this thinking is fundamentally flawed is simply that games were created originally to be games: fun, meaningless little pieces of entertainment that get your through a day.  Recently, games have taken on a far more artistic trend, becoming more narratively advanced and deeper as a result, but to take everything out of a game that makes it fun just shows the drive of a rebellious sect of videogaming.  This is not unlike the spate of absurdist films way back in the day, like Un Chien Andalou.  Films like these were often artistic as hell and shed the existing trappings and tropes of film like “the carapace of a bug” but these movements often die out quickly due to their cliquish sentiment and limited appeal.  They are an important and interesting piece of history that is often referenced in films, but they ultimately just represent the art in terms of “overly artistic crap meant for a small clique.”

He's about to cut her eye open with a fucking razor...

He’s about to cut her eye open with a fucking razor…

Don’t get me wrong, I like artistic games, but not if the game element has been altogether erased in favor of a preachy and, frankly, insulting narrative.  This game even makes inside jokes about feminist film theory by suggesting how to “subvert the male gaze,” which is an element of film theory that says the way women are displayed is often used as a sexual signifier of women in terms of what men want from them.  It represents objectification of the woman’s body by the use of the camera ti display them in a sexual manner, as a man might look at a woman with his eyes.  You know, following her ass or looking down her shirt at the right time.  Modern film is admittedly guilty of this, but Gone Home’s calling this out only proves that this was a contrived piece of feminist workmanship.  Like, it was a fucking sign.  Ironically, right across the room the father had a porn mag buried in a box of his own discarded books, whose publication was halted.  A box of male degradation.

Overall, without all the feminist input, this game is alright.  Without paying much attention to anything but the lesbian narrative, one gets a touching game about real love and facing adversity as a young homosexual.  But this story is the cover for a story that is as socially intolerant of men as Birth of a Nation was for black people.  I don’t mind a so-stated “non-game,” but it still has to carry elements of its media.  Putting players into a world where there is nothing resembling a game at all is similar to someone selling a movie that is just a series of pictures of letters on the screen set to music that the viewers have to read to get the story then saying “it’s the artistic direction of the industry.”  That is stupid.  Truly talented developers take the ludic characteristics of a game and weave in the narrative like so much thread in a tapestry.  It is relevant to the industry and its consumers and has something deeper to it that shows it has soul beyond just killing some dudes.

This game looks nice and plays well, but the speed at which your character moves is deliberately slow and infuriating.  The whole game takes 2 hours only because you move so slow.  Judging this as a game would give it a unprecedentedly low rating, but this isn’t a game: it’s an interactive narrative.  It is preachy, oppressive, and is certainly not the future of the industry.  A true artist does not have to drain the color from a piece to make it profound, why do you think people make fun of hipsters that take pictures of their food, apply a sepia tone and post it on Instagram?  I am glad that I got this game on the Humble Bundle, because i didn’t give these people more than a few cents for a game that is 19.99$ on Steam.  This game should be going for FAR less than that, but everyone got so worked up over its artistic and deep narrative that they missed what this game was really about.  The funny thing is that they missed a message so toxic that they didn’t realize they were supporting a narrative of anti-male hate.  I am not an anti-feminist, I would say I am a feminist.  Feminism is not supposed to be about oppression of the opposing sex, it is about bringing men and women together as equals so we can create a better tomorrow.  Gone Home does none of that.  I’ll be looking for the sequel to this game where Lonnie is taken away by the government and Sam leads a feminist revolution to overthrow the oppressive, patriarchal government to free Lonnie.  Oh, no.  That would require killing dudes, and might make the game too much fun.

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Hydrophobia: Prophecy, Drowning in Inadequacy

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This game suffers from being viciously misnamed.  Hydrophilia would be closer to the mark, considering how much attention went into this game’s water physics.  It is just a shame that a game with so much potential fell flat on its socially-progressive pretenses and turned out to be just another bowl of meh pudding.  Seriously, it wasn’t astronomically bad, but it failed so badly at everything else it tried to do that its nothing worth mentioning in the history of gaming.  Then again with how advanced the water physics were in this game, you might liken it to a socially conscientious, non-bigoted Birth of a Nation: it might be a shit, but it is a shit that made powerful contributions to its discipline.  On the bright side, at least there was no one in black face.

So it isn’t so bad that it necessitates drawing a comparison to the most violently racist film in American history, and that is part of the problem.  Aside from the water physics there is nothing else truly worth mentioning.  First, let’s start positive, since there is so little to say here.  This entire game takes place on The Queen of the World, which makes legal doctrines difficult to read in this since there are so many titles and such.  Thing is, the Queen is a massive city-ship built to be humanity’s solution to over population: not enough space on land?  Fuck it, let’s live in the ocean.  Now that is really silly, but the thing is, the rest of the world likely isn’t happy about the wealthy elites retreating to the ocean to avoid looking at the dirty plebs everywhere.  So the ship gets taken over by this terrorist group called the Malthusians, named after Thomas Robert Malthus.  Apparently the guy was a demographic scholar back in the day.  I don’t think he would have gotten behind killing everyone on the ship, though.  Just sayin’

What a cheerful group of boys and girls...

What a cheerful and artistic group of boys and girls…

Coming back to the point, though, the terrorists decide to start blowing holes in the floating city.  Not usually a great idea, but hey, they’re villains in a videogame.  With breaches in the hull, water comes flooding in, and it cascades.  Seriously, though.  It looks awesome when the crashing waves of doom flood in through the doors or walls of an area you were having a pitched gun fight in, sometimes even to your benefit.  And that is about it.  Th water really looks like it is flooding into the ship.  Great.  The rest of the game? Well..

Again, not horrific, but not the magical amazing piece of “epicness” that all the hype back in the day implied!  First, there are these screenshots and such of your character with some magnificent power.  And it is pretty cool when you can lift things with pillars of water and throw explosive barrels.  But that is all you can do.  Oh, and you don’t play the WHOLE GAME with this power!  FUCK NO!  That would be too awesome, too much fun!  You get these powers in about the last 30 minutes of gameplay and then you have to face the only boss in the game with them.  That is like receiving training with your M16 in the military and being told it’s all you’ll need.  Then you get there and they hand you a fucking rocket launcher and a short faq sheet so you can reverse the blitzkreig!

Then there is your gun.  The malthusians typically have shot guns and machineguns while you are stuck with some state-of-the-art pistol that shoots 6 different types of ammo and the above-pictured MAV hacking device.  I want to use a goddamn shotgun!  A machinegun would be nice, but all you get in that department is some kind of automatic round that somehow makes your gun shoot faster.  That’s not how this works, it will still have the accuracy of a fucking pistol!

HydroPC 2014-10-02 14-16-42-64

I guess the plot holes got to her.

Then there is the story of the game as it develops throughout the game, which is to say it doesn’t.  You get the roughest outline of the idea of a story and then things start happening without any real explanation.  The terrorists are briefly explained in passing, and their goals are only really understood at the end of the game, and even then they’re still a little vague.  There is some kind of backstory regarding Mila Krass, the main villainess, the nanobots she wants to use to kill everyone in the world, and the ship.  But again, there is no real explanation to the player as to why they are here, why she wants them except some video-screens that you could miss if you are in the wrong room at the time.  Most of the plot is delivered through a series of documents and notes that you will most-likely run, or swim, right by.  I shouldn’t have to find the story of the game, you need to GIVE it to me.  The main plot of the game shouldn’t be like a football game at Thanksgiving where a few interested people get into it while the rest of us just ask for the score afterward!

Of course it seems that this was done to provide something to slow the player down as they progress through the game, which plays like a Die Hard movie with a thinner plot and less interesting enemies.  You run through the game so fast because the majority of it consists of you swimming out of the rapidly flooding decks.  You don’t actually fight enemies until a third of the way through the game, which is like serving food twenty minutes into an hour-long lunch period.  It’s just not fun, and I will likely have left to get a hoagie (massive sandwich) at the local Wawa (a convenience store).

HYD_screen

Mila looks more bored than threatening as she slaughters innocents by the truckload.

On the topic of things this game does only half-assed, there is a sort of rudimentary parkour engine in the game, but it’s boring.  Seriously, I am not sure how you can make parkour boring, but this deeply dreadlocked woman is the slowest parkour performer ever.  She makes Altair look like a fucking artists.  It’s like they wanted some elements of Mirror’s Edge in there, but didn’t have time to do it with all the work in the water engine.  Where you do use parkour, it’s slow and encumbering rather than fun and interesting.

But wait, there’s more!  The characters are unbelievably dull and fall into silly stereotypes.  First, this is a game with a female lead and a female villain, which should really be something!  I mean, it gives you a chance to see a battle waged solely between the females.  But then again, you have this snarky, annoying douche-nozzle named “Scoot” talking in your ear like he thinks he’s goddamn Otacon.  He also seems to get off on telling the main character (Kate) what to do all the time, then taking credit for it.  At one point that asshole is like “It’s so draining watching all this action, Kate.”  I imagined him saying this as he sits back in his little spinny office chair on A-deck.  The best part is that later in the game, malthusians storm his area, so he keeps his voice down.  At one point toward the end, Scoot leaves his console as the terrorists might have checked the broom closet that command usually keeps him in.  And then?  Well… he just kinda disappears.  His fantastic exit from the game after guiding you this whole time?  He just walks away from the fucking desk!  And you never figure out what the hell happens to him!

And this isn’t the only character that had a chance at a being interested, but got a bad wrap job.  Chief Bingham… Birmingham…  Mr. B is the chief of security on the Queen, and after you free him from a slow, terrible death he just walks off into a flooded room to “find a gun.”  Not before he has a chance to grumble out some insults of character implying that if you had done your job right, this might’ve been prevented.  That would be like the head of the FBI or NSA blaming their lower-level enforcers for 9/11.  Then you don’t see him again until a later scene in the elevator where Kate looks amazed and Mr. B is killed off camera.  And that’s fucking it!  In the original version there was the implication that Scoot was killed and you meet up with Chief B.  Kate wants to look for Scoot, but they find the room flooded and no Scoot.

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Piece from the end cutscene. Mila Krass dies. Spoiler alert.

Really, this is a game that might’ve been better titled “Water Physics Engine 3D.”  It is more a game about its mechanics than anything else.  There is a lot in here that games like Bioshock could have used in a sequel to make a neat “final death of Rapture” or something, but Hydrophobia: Prophecy just ends up being bland and flat as a stale cracker.  There could have been an interesting conflict between a badass female protagonist and a super-evil female villain.  Not really there.  Could have had a deep plot with connected characters and a plot that felt real and fun.  Scrap it.  In the end, what you have is a reason to market a water physics engine, and in most games the water physics barely even matter.  This is a game to avoid, with only a few redeeming qualities.  This shit ball is 4.99$ on Steam and I would recommend waiting until it goes on sale.  Seriously, it’s that non-fulfilling.

Rebuilding Our Culture : Where Do We Go From Here?

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(As a reiteration from my first article) From the outset, I need to say that this article is in no way connected to any of the reporting outlets for which I produce material.  Everything published herein is a product of my independent reading and research on this topic, and can only be said to be connected to those who choose to support it.  I will present my findings as objectively as possible.  I was up until 3am last night just reading and reading and reading about this situation and I am no more decided on this than I was at the start.  I will only explore the arguments and each side’s standpoint so those who have no idea on what is going on can at least get a picture of what is going down on the internet.  Again, this is in no way connected to any Games Journalism site that I develop and produce content for outside of my own. (reiteration ends here)

It’s out there.  Our gaming industry is severely corrupt.  Which makes sense, really.  We’ve all been staring at it directly in its ugly face and shrugged with a desultory sigh at the massive tangled web in front of us.  Why should we do anything else?  We are mostly responsible for the way the industry is now, as gamers.  But with so many of them and so many hands holding up their world, how could anyone dare to do anything?  At that time, we were all just playing games and didn’t want to care about it.  Now the pillars of our own internet community have turned into cruel elder gods, lording their power and cackling maniacally.

As I did in my article earlier today, here is a list of the articles involved in the media blitz attempting to label me, my wife, all of my friends (physical and virtual) and the majority of people I have known as misogynistic men who want to rape and pillage everything good in gaming.  This is my revised list of sites I will no longer visit.

Gamasutra – ‘Gamers’ don’t have to be your audience. ‘Gamers’ are over

Gamasutra – A Guide to Ending “Gamers”

Ars Technica – The Death of the “Gamers” and the Women Who “Killed” Them

Dan Golding – The End of Gamers

Polygon – An Awful Week to Care About Video Games

Kotaku – We Might be Witnessing the Death of an Identity

The Mary Sue – A Disheartening Account of What is Going On In Games Right Now (And How Adam Baldwin Is Involved)

BetaBeat – Feminist Video Blogger is Driven From Home by Death Threats

Financial Post – Sexism, Misogyny and Online Attacks: It’s a Horrible Time to Consider Yourself a Gamer

Jezebel – Misogynistic Trolls Drive Feminist Video Game Critic From Her Home

The Daily Beast – It’s Dangerous To Go Alone: Why Are Gamers So Angry

The list grew, and so does my disdain.  It is readily apparent that the tag of “gamer” is under direct assault by the gaming press.  I do not support harassment, and engaging in it is disgusting.  Were it that those who harassed Anita and Zoe could be found, it would likely help in some small way.  Recently a bunch of devs and journalists (including myself) got together and signed a petition to speak out against harassment.  Good.  It was signed by all the same people whose journalistic integrity is being called into question.  Not as sure…  PC Gamer tried to pawn it off as being directed at Anita’s harassers, but it is not.  They are now under review for addition to my list.  The petition just says:

“We believe that everyone, no matter what gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability has the right to play games, criticize games and make games without getting harassed or threatened. It is the diversity of our community that allows games to flourish.”

But there is derision among devs themselves as to whether this is the solution or not.  While I am not inclined to throw out names, I will say that the discussion is on Twitter.  Go see for yourself.  Many who disagree with the “popular crowd’s” petition have been signing a petition by Boogie 2988 entitled Gaming Industry – Please Stop The Hate.  I have signed and fully endorse this petition.  Sign it if you are not a misogynistic neckbeard that squeals with rage when things don’t go your way and sends death/rape threats to people.  I know I’m not.  The complete text of this petition reads the same as that above, with this addendum:

“We are asking indie developers, AAA developers, and other folks to stop branding gamers as neckbearded, misogynistic, hatefueled, ignorant, homophobic, idiots. While hate exists in ALL demographics, gamers are no exception.  However like most demographics, most gamers are kind, open minded, good hearted and love our fellow gamers. Stop the hate.”

One thing that is increasingly interesting about this all is the fact that everyone has just accepted male power-fantasy games as the norm for games.  Sure, it is fun to spend a day killing dudes and have extreme social freedom, but that is not all there is to gaming.  At some point, after the thousandth charge in Day of Defeat, someone got bored and wished there was something else to play.  Something fresh, something new!  Maybe even something artistic, or dramatic or made them feel something about who they are.  Something more than just killing dudes.

I’ll admit it: When I was a pubescent boy vibrating with a frenzy of hormones, I soaked it up.  I loved conquering and enslaving cities, laying enemies low and collecting my share of babes and loot, scarcely differentiating between the two.  Some times it is still fun to indulge heroic fantasies, meting out justice to evildoers, but often I want more.  Sometimes I want to laugh out loud, or explore what it means to be human.

Just because I am 28, doesn’t mean I have to give up gaming, but it sure is time gaming grew up with the rest of us.  Considering the audience that games have catered to until now, it’s no wonder their uproarious caterwauling is visible across the internet, but the rest of us are pushing back.

A gamer is what I am, and I shouldn’t have to be ashamed of it.  I grew up playing video games and I have been on many adventures and military campaigns.  What I have experienced in games has always been something I take with me because I experience the story alongside the character.

Some years ago, there was a show called Battlestar Galactica based on an older show from the 80’s.  It was so poignant in its messages about culture and society that the actors were invited to speak to high school students at the UN.  While there, on of the actors, Edward James Olmos, said the following:

“You are what you eat, you are what you think and you are what you do.  If you use technology […] to pass the time and get caught up inside of the game world, then you’re going to be in a game world”

Now EJO was using this opportunity to pass on some archaic beliefs about games, and that is they’ll probably destroy your life.  But they cannot even start to understand just how right he was and in what manner.  Some of the ways I think about my job are in the sense of a game.  I sell products to get a higher score, if I sell several products at once it’s called a cross-sale bonus and if my team makes its goals, we get a payout as our loot.  Seriously, this is how I look at my regular job.  Of course, you have to make sure you do it right to suit the customer or you lose some of your hard-earned loot, so integrity is important.  In the occupation of games journalism, however, integrity has fallen by the wayside, and this is the reason for the backlash.

No words, Viv, I know.

No words, Viv, I know (Found on DeviantArt. Art by Ilikepieism)

Now the big issue is about what we do now that this ivory tower of gaming has erupted like a cesspool atop a live volcano.  Well, I would support a full upheaval of their system, since they are trying to destroy our culture.  And yes, they want it destroyed and, somehow, they will rebuild it atop the bones of gaming to be a little puppet that will do their bidding, bowing down to their every word.  That is not how it works.  As I have, please consider boycotting the sites listed above (Polygon, Kotaku, Ars Technica) and others that refuse to uphold the journalistic integrity they should stand by.  I don’t trust them anymore where once I loved them like my big brothers.  I am not just saying this because it might benefit me, I am saying it because we could hold new faces to this promise easier under the figurative piked heads of their predecessors.  Just putting this out there, though.  I consider myself to be a gamer, but I also think of myself as a hobby journalist.  I am not saying that ALL game journalists are a problem: just the one espousing hate and printing a storm of articles about how gamers are the devil, and gamers are over, etc.

Even Vivian James is coming under attack, and you know what?  I love her.  I am considering getting her tatooed on my arm because she doesn’t represent misogynistic assholes who want to see feminism fume over feminist support for their cause.  Vivian James, at this point, represents female gamers, the accountability of games journalists and, personally, my wife.  Hopefully my daughters will likewise love games like her, even though there is no way they’ll be ginger.  As a result, my wife agreed to dress up in her own version of Vivian’s customary garb and I took a picture of her.  Here is the picture.

I love her

Love my lady

She agreed to do this, not because I tricked or forced her into it, but because she loves games and thinks this whole thing is just stupid.  Not to mention she did a great job with it X D!  Vivian was accepted by The Fine Young Capitalists as a symbol of women in gaming, and here she is, my lady in gaming.  This is what Viv represents.  And she is just as confused by all this as I am.  This is not the story of sexism, it is a story about journalistic integrity.  The Fine Young Capitalists had to deal with their own horrifying ordeal at the hands of the popular crowd of games writers, and now they are almost at their goal of 70,000$ to make game development a reality for female gamers.  To create something that represents them in gaming and what they are capable of.  It is awesome.  Please support them on IndieGoGo, I know we did.  Adam Baldwin did, and he has nothing to do with games, really.  If you like TFYC and what they are doing, and your gamer girls do too, ask them to dress up like VivJ and tweet them with the tag #TFYVivians!

On Reddit, several threads have begun exposing instances of  corruption in games journalism.  There is one here.  Then there are also people on Reddit talking about how we should be taking this situation.  You can read that here.  Not sure that you know how you can contribute, or even how to discuss this situation?  Check out this video, here.  Even just talking about this and propagating about this discussion and what it is really all about will help keep it in the front and center of our culture.  Check out this article about the things you need to know for a thorough update if you aren’t sure!  Ours is a culture of diverse characters and stories, ours is a culture of inclusion and ours is a culture of tolerance.  It is time they learned that.  Just don’t do it in a way that will make #GamerGate look like a group of assholes and don’t do it in a way that is harassing and upsetting.  Most of us dealt with bullying throughout high school, like this guy says, so don’t start throwing it at people.  It sucks.

NYS-tweet

 

<update> One more way that I have been seeing people speaking out against this situation is through the use of #notyourshield.  Essentially, the above statement covers it.  Women and minorities have a voice in gaming.  Theirs is a strong voice that we want to hear.  Gamers accept and celebrate them because they have been here all along.  Games Journos just seem to have this idea in their heads that gamers are actually all just basement-dwelling neckbeards that feel entitled and special.  As a result of moral elitists using minorities and women as a crutch to hide the corruption in games journalism, men and women of all races are now using the hastag to call them out on their shit.  Check it out for yourself.  Seeing this response from gamers and the internet is beautiful.  We all game.  We all love to game.  It brings us together into something bigger than just ourselves, and gives is all a unified element of all our cultures that weaves us together like a tapestry.  Are you really going to fuck with that?  I will leave you with this image I found on the hastag.  It is awesome. </update>

hush

This is all evidence of video games growing up.  Video games are not just for young, adolescent boys, but something enjoyed by men and women of all ages.  My wife has Pokemon X in there.  Sometimes she plays Harvest Moon.  Sometimes she plays Farmville on her iPad.  And there are plenty of others, black people play games, hispanic people play games… anyone you can imagine these days has likely played a videogame.  This is why the gamer will never die: there are too many of us and our culture goes so far beyond just who talks about our games that we don’t need them.  They don’t define us, we define them.  When I heard Wil Wheaton speak at Pax East 2010, I loved him because he said games are an art.  But he also reminded us of one thing: Games don’t divide us, they unite us!  They are a force that brings this diverse group of people together and makes them all relevant to one another.  As a group we are now taking to the internet and saying that this is who we are.  So what if Vivian James was created by 4 Channers, some of which might deserve the flak from Gamasutra and others?  She is a symbol of hope, not hate.  Unlike what the games industry has shown toward us.  I just want to reiterate, not all games journalists are the problem.  There are plenty in the lot.  Just like with gamers, there are just a number of bad apples.  But in the case of major, culture-influencing journalists: there aren’t many good ones right now.  This is directed at them.  Thanks for reading this tirade.  It is, in most ways, a collective release of all my frustration over this.

There is Something Rotten in the State of Gaming

GJshitstorm

From the outset, I need to say that this article is in no way connected to any of the reporting outlets for which I produce material.  Everything published herein is a product of my independent reading and research on this topic, and can only be said to be connected to those who choose to support it.  I will present my findings as objectively as possible.  I was up until 3am last night just reading and reading and reading about this situation and I am no more decided on this than I was at the start.  I will only explore the arguments and each side’s standpoint so those who have no idea on what is going on can at least get a picture of what is going down on the internet.  Again, this is in no way connected to any Games Journalism site that I develop and produce content for outside of my own.

Figuring out where to start with this is difficult as even placing one argument above another in a list-type article could be construed as preferential.  However, since this is turning into a war between gamers and those reporting on the games we love, I will start with the gamers.  Hell, I am a gamer myself.  My biggest concern is the “Death of the Gamer” as it is being coined and the “Death of an Identity”.  On this topic I am a little upset, since I have always called myself a gamer.  I am.  I grew up playing video games and gaming has gotten me through some tough times.  I tried to walk away from it, but it is so key to the things I love that I couldn’t do it.  Across the past couple weeks, however, numerous games reporting sites have put up articles blatantly stating that the Gamer is dead.  I have filtered these through DoNotLink to avoid directing clicks to them.

‘Gamers’ don’t have to be your audience.  ‘Gamers’ are over. – Gamasutra

A Guide to Ending Gamers – Gamasutra

We Might be Witnessing the Death of an Identity – Kotaku

The Death of the “Gamers” and the Women Who “Killed” Them – Opposable Thumbs

The End of Gamers – Dan Golding

So we’re over?  That’s it?  Honestly this just seems like the most childish smear campaign ever.  Gamers will never be over.  As long as there are games, and people growing up playing them, gamers will be alive and well.  I love how they didn’t say the “death of misogyny in games” or “the cleansing of gamer culture”: They just outright attacked everyone that plays games.  It is disheartening, honestly.  I will no longer be granting these people ad revenue by directing links to their site, I will start using DoNotClick to send readers there without adding to their viewing statistics.

Now they make some valid points here.  Harassment is messed up for any reason.  If anything, people deserve to be allowed to keep some things to themselves, and their personal lives should be the big one.  So, I don’t care who it is, harassing people for any reason is insidious. If you are trying to destroy someone’s credibility, harassing them will only provide them with a wall of anger and hatred to champion a cause against.  This, in turn, only grants them a valid soapbox to stand on, especially if you end up having a serious effect in their real lives.

The most powerful accusations in this situation come from the gamers themselves, actually, and it seems to be the reason gamers are so incensed over this.  These accusations are pretty thoroughly summed up by the Internet Aristocrat, focusing primarily on Zoe Quinn.  When I first saw this guy’s video, I thought he was just another hate-mongering asshat with a silly wig; but seeing some of the evidence presented, he makes a compelling argument.  If any of what he says in his video is remotely correct, then there is definitely something really ugly hiding in games journalism.  Of course, the video also makes some leaps in logic, such as not wondering if the ZoePost Blog was entirely true and not just the rantings of a jilted ex.

Now he says a lot in there, including that Zoe Quinn has single-handedly been able to manipulate all of games journalism with the magic power of her vagina.  Now that is a tall order, but if something wasn’t true about the level of journalistic integrity being called into question, why would Kotaku and Polygon both alter their policies on Journalistic Transparency in response?

Another big name at the center of this controversy is the girl at the top left of the banner for this article.  Her name is Vivian James.  She is a character created by 4chan (note her hair adornment) to represent females in gaming.  She was adopted by The Fine Young Capitalists.  They are creating a Game Jam where female gamers submit game ideas and TFYC work with developers and artists.  These games are then sold and the proceeds go to charity.  The really bizarre thing here is that 4Chan is known for being a haven for those with anti-feminist and anti-inclusion beliefs.  VICE.com recently posted an article about Vivian where they actually defame Vivian as being created for the sole purpose of spiting feminists. I also find her initials mildly comical since they sound like a euphemistic term for a woman’s.. ehem.  You get the gist.  Personally, I like Vivian since she resembles my own wife, who plays 3DS, iPad games and loves Mountain Dew all whilst wearing hoodies.

Major internet games media has a lot to answer for, really, but if there is some element of journalistic integrity that needs to be called into question, it should be openly discussed and investigated.  Harassing people is always wrong, and my heart goes out to those that have suffered in the wake of this shitstorm, because it honestly is a shitstorm.  There are plenty of people, famous and small-time, who want to see this situation calm down and seek to peacefully support progress in the direction of an inclusive gamer culture.  Support The Fine Young Capitalists and their IndieGoGo Campaign. Contact people and tell them it is time for transparency and serious discussion about inclusive gamer culture.  But don’t let the raging flame war continue, because it is hindering progress.  I know that I will no longer be reading Kotaku, RPS, Polygon and others since I no longer know who I will be able to trust.

Some things that have come out of this, however are good.  First, The Fine Young Capitalists are at 71% of their goal.  Second, girls in gaming now have a character, albeit fabricated by 4Channers, that represents them.  Honestly, someone should inspire them to make characters representing various faces contributing to gamer culture and turn it into a webshow.  There is also a petition being signed by developers, gamers, social media outlets and others that calls for combating internet harassment.  I don’t need to tell you that is a good thing, but as long as it is enforced equally there shouldn’t be a problem.  PC Gamer tried to say it was signed to support Anita Sarkeesian, but the letter itself just states:

“We believe that everyone, no matter what gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability has the right to play games, criticize games and make games without getting harassed or threatened. It is the diversity of our community that allows games to flourish.”

And they are right.  I would have signed this thing myself, but it was closed by the time I found it. (UPDATE: it has come to my attention that I did, in fact, sign this petition.  While some have said it might be a petition of the “major people” involved, the message is still one I wholly endorse. I remember sending my name in, but I also thought I was too late and not important enough anyways. My thanks to Vlak for the ) Finally, and most importantly, people are calling for gaming journalists to be held accountable for their actions.  To this measure, I will share with readers the games and campaigns that I have supported via Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.  Some I have already openly mentioned my contributions to, others not so much.  Either way, here they all are:

Elysian Shadows – I funded them worth 50$ and wrote an article about their game.

Goblin Quest – I funded them worth about 50$, but it is based in the UK, so I really gave them 30£.  I haven’t written an article on the tabletop yet, but I am considering doing so once I get my hardback copy of the book.

Beguile – I funded them worth 59$, which was about 65$ Canadian after shipping outside Canada and exchange rates applied.

Redneck Assassin – I funded them worth 15$ since I was really poor at the time.  I haven’t reviewed the game, but I plan to once it is finished.

The Fine Young Capitalists – I funded them worth 25$ and haven’t done an article on them.  I probably won’t write an article, but I think what they are trying to do is noble and pretty freaking cool.

I don’t think there is a problem with supporting campaigns that I like, especially when they’ve made so much already that my contribution is just a drop in the bucket.  From now on I will be posting how much I have contributed and whether I have a plan to do so, but sometimes it is just a spur-of-the-moment decision. And that is honestly it.  This is really all that I have to say about this topic for now, so hopefully it has been informative and gives readers that are still confused about this situation an idea of the arguments on both sides.  There will be more to come, including my own strong-armed opinions, but for now, objective discussion.  As per usual, I will be creating a topic to discuss the situation on my Steam group, Crotchety Gamers United.

Memories of a Vagabond Should be Repressed

MOAV_logo

 

I would say this is what happens when a game studio doesn’t hire dedicated writers, but looking at the DarkElite Studios website, they have several.  I think one of their staff is even from Blizzard, but even throwing a name like that around did nothing for MOAV.  Certainly one of the worst games that someone is asking money for.  I am not sure why the most terrible games I have played are mostly RPG’s, but this one made me shake my head in disappointment numerous times.  It wasn’t all bad, just mostly.  Come with me as I plow through this clusterfuck of under-utilized potential.  Wow.  What a keynote.

Let me start this review off by naming the many things this game did right.  The music in Memories of a Vagabond was pretty spectacular.  It was appropriate, enjoyable and I often found myself tapping a toe.  Battles often found themselves alongside the usual battle-music, while the boss fights had a badass metal riff going.  Music provided an acceptable variety with a new jam for each area.  Granted, there were one or two recycled songs, but they were still enjoyable.  Another fantastic feature of the game was the art.  If you are feeling nostalgic for the old days of RPG, a la FFVI or  Chronotrigger, this pixel art will definitely feed that craving.  Every sprite is lovingly crafted, the areas are imaginative and exotic and the characters are pretty fancy.  And when I say characters, I mean all the characters.  This leads to anther really great element of the game: its soul-mechanic.  Throughout the game, you get the choice of playing as 4 different characters: warrior, mage, bounty hunter and assassin.  Should you die, you also get the chance to change to another body.  Almost made dying worth your time.  I spent most of my time, however, as the Bounty Hunter.  That honestly concludes everything good that I have to say about this game.  Get your snorkel out, baby.  We’re going down into this shit.

You're right. Not everything on Steam is worth playing after all....

You’re right. Not everything on Steam is worth playing after all…

Oh my godness is right.  I have combed the Dark Elite site looking for evidence that they are primarily made up of people from a non-English-speaking country, but I have found nothing either way.  I can say that it seems they could afford to pay for someone to look over the writing on their site, so there is no reason they shouldn’t have been able to correct the gross errors in their dialogue.  And it is beyond a few adorable mistakes here and there, they literally have numerous instances of the most common errors in the English language.  It seems the editing was either done by someone who is not familiar with English, or the writers just didn’t care.  The main story-writers have  names seemingly of French origin, so I will give them some leeway here.  However, with a dedicated person for text-corrections, I have to wonder if she played through the game even once to pick up on its myriad English faux pas.  I will decorate this article with examples in pictorial form as Vlad the Impaler decorated his castle with corpses: to show others what not to do.  Granted in Vlad’s case, the message was “you should move to another country”.

Moving on from the language and toward the story, I have to say that this seems the biggest gripe I have over low-budget indie games.  They are willing to cut out story and writing in favor of mechanics and coding, which makes some sense on the surface.  Codeslingers are the ones that make the game playable.  Without them the mechanics, engine and other important elements won’t work.  Of course, if you skimp too hard on your writers, as MOAV seems to have done in spades, you get a game that isn’t tolerable.  Some fucking morons and reckless retro fanboys might be willing to overlook such “dispensable polish” as story and language, but one of the things that was so spectacular about retro games like Final Fantasy and Chronotrigger was the level of detail they paid to story, art, music and the entire package.  In this title, you have a game story that is a joke compared to those games.  Your character starts off proposing to his love.  No fault here.  After a night in bed with his beloved where they “sleep” (I rarely believe titles anyways), she is pulled from bed by some evil demon, who then kills you.  After a visit to hell you meet some soul-dealer that will rent you a new body for the low low price of any dignity you soul might possess.  If you chose the old man body, that shit is on you.  Later you find out, pretty unceremoniously, that the soul-dealer and the demon were working together.  The best part is that the soul-dealer is all prophetic when you meet him, then, after time traveling to defeat the demon and save your lady-love, you see him sitting out front the house with the evil demon as if they are both ro-sham-bo-ing for who will steal the broad.  I face-palmed.  Now they aren’t actually doing this, I am being dramatic, but then he turns to you and you shout something like “traitor!” and this soul-dealing demon of fate replies, “look guy, I don’t know who you are, but I have lives to ruin right now.  Take a number and get in line.”  Not an exact quote, a creative paraphrase.

Lift a.. what?  That sounds like it could be gross.  I wouldn't want a demon lifting his "finger" on my wife either...

Lift a.. what? That sounds like it could be gross. I wouldn’t want a demon lifting his “finger” on my wife either…

There is also the matter of your fellow adventurers.  The only one that gets any real explanation is the bunny-girl, who spends a lot of her time early on being inadvertently sexual, and she makes a big deal out of sleeping in a bed with you.  She tells her employer that she wants to explore the world, then you suggest she do it with you, to which she replies “that was my idea.”  So we have some cute, though awkwardly-handled war-of-the-roses banter.  Fun.  The other characters are sort of just lumped into your party after you do a mission with them.  Nothing is said, and you never tell them that you will be fighting demons.  Imagine that conversation “Yea, I am out to find my fiancee, kill a couple eldritch demons of screaming horror, then be home in time for tea.”  It almost feels like this game was getting down to the wire and they didn’t have time to throw in any real material for the characters.  They are all pretty flat, beyond a mission or a little feature here or there.  The hero doesn’t even allow them into the conversation most of the time, occasionally talking at them amidst exploration.  As long as they bring their gear to battle.  Sure, one is a mercenary, but treating that as an excuse to just have a character thrown into the party that sits there and attacks back is just lazy scriptwriting (not the code kind), and makes me think someone didn’t put more than a weekend into it.

There were also a number of 4th-wall breaking elements of the script that felt less like clever little “we’re making a game” jokes, and more like careless writing.  In some places it even felt like an outright refusal to give any fucks and arrogant dick-wagging like they thought they were creating some masterwork.  This is barely a finger painting.  Granted, it was hung on a billion-dollar refrigerator, but Steam needs to learn how to vet its selection.  This just shows low standards.

While we are talking about characters, there is this fiancee.  With all the attention paid to her side of things, she might as well be a Princess Peach life-size sex doll.  At least DLC Quest had the decency to call their lady “Princess McGuffin” and obviate the fact that she is little more than motivation for the hero to act.  I am not one to go all activist on a game, but she is a sex-token that does nothing for indie games and treating women with any kind of respect in gaming.  At the end I thought she would turn out to be the villain, but she just kind of lilts and says how glad she is to see you.  Y’know, like a good little Stepford robot.  See those bodies around on the ground?  They are, as I realized hours later, her fucking family.  The hero pays them no mind, nothing is said about them if you “interact” with them.  There is no dramatic elements drawn from the wholesale slaughter of her family, and they are not explored in any fashion to give you the feeling of them being anything more than randomly selected sprites on a rooftop.  There is a vague dream-sequence that I just now realized includes them, but they say these detached lines and mill about in a spectral manner.  It feels like they are just figments of the dreamworld, and they have as little relevance by now as possible.  Any drama to be gleaned from them is diluted heavily.

Man, these thatch roofs are fucked!

Man, these thatch roofs are fucked!

There is also the matter of ???? island.  Wander to the lower-right edge of the main continent, and you will find a row boat to ???? island.  It has a small town with some guy that buys journals and another lake with a fishing spot, one of two in the game that I found.  Go inside the houses, and the rain follows you.  Sure, there is some thatch roofing involved, but they were never this bad.  Seriously, it is like aliens invaded only to replace their roofs with holograms before disappearing without evidence of having been there.  At this point I realized the entire game is a broken, unfinished mess.  Or so it feels.  It’s almost as if the game has cardboard cut outs stuck up and put out.  Sure, you could argue that publishing unfinished games is now the industry standard for indie games, and you’d be right.  But that is for “pre-release” or “early-release” games, not supposedly completed titles like MOAV.  And with a name attached to this like Blizzard, I have to wonder where that guy’s influence was.  It must have been a case where someone knew the guy and he stood in the room and used their bathroom to give some credentials to the title.  Don’t be fooled.  This is not a piece of mastery, it is a shoddy piece of work that is scarcely better than the games that my friends and I made on pirated copies of RPGMaker 2000 back in middle school.  Before Steam.  Fuck you, shit was tough to come by.

Fuck you, guy.  I will gladly drink whiskey from your skull this night.

Fuck you, guy. I will gladly drink whiskey from your skull this night.

Overall, this game is pretty easy, non-complex and has a storyline with as much depth as a snack cracker.  The characters mostly feel like cardboard stand-ups and the language and writing is so god-awful unprofessional that I almost puked.  I feel like this is what CoD players see at the epitome of RPG gaming, because the other RPGs are too “complicated and wordy” for their tiny brains, although I am certain they would phrase that “fagit gamez for FAGGITZ!”  The best parts of this game are the music and the art, which seemed to get all of the attention.  The mechanics have a lot of potential, especially the soul-changing concept, but that could have been better employed.  I would have liked to see the developers give each body a different story that you had to help sort out before being able to find your own lady and resolve your own quest.  Instead, this plays like a twelve-year-old raging through the world after his sex-bot is taken, bashing in the heads of any nebulous foe that appears until he gets strong enough to fight the last bad guy.  There was also a battle arena, but that was literally like putting up a sign saying “grind here.  we were too lazy to make an actual game.”  I didn’t even bother to try fighting in there.  Another point of interest.  I didn’t want to purchase the services of the mercenary in the beginning, thinking “hey, the devs might have added more interesting and involved characters later.”  I mean, all I did with this guy was meet him and get his axe in exchange for armor.  Then at the end, each character gets a nostalgic little send-off, which would be great, except that there was no bonding with the characters.  There was no interaction.  Just, “I helped you so you’re now my friend that will help me get my sex-doll back.”  This game costs money , too.  It is currently 5.99$ on Steam.  5.99$!!!!  I wouldn’t give them a turd in a blanket for this game, let alone 5.99$.  This game should be 0.12$ on itch.io or Desura, not cluttering up Steam and making it dirty.  Not recommended, but you are certainly welcome to make your own judgments on this one.  Steam needs to get some standards, this game is evidence.

Dear Game Informer: You’re a Fucking Asshole

gibastard

 

Game Informer is a major gaming magazine that is apparently written by assholes.  Now, the reason I receive it is because my wife got the Powerup rewards card at Gamestop.  This was when she got our 3DS ‘s and Pokemon X and Y.  I pick it up and peruse it whenever it comes in, and it often shows me some surprisingly good indie games I hadn’t yet heard about.  But this month was different.  This month I got to pages 28-29 of the July 2014 issue and was met with this woven monstrosity called “The Indie Game Flowchart”.  I would tell you that IndieDevs are the sole reason for true ingenuity and without those with the balls to run free in the capitalist wilds, there would never be any innovation or progress in gaming at all.  We would all be playing COD and WOW rip-offs.  This is a rage article of crotchety proportions, so if you don’t like it, fuck off.  Game Informer needs to sit down and shut the fuck up.

This article, written by some mimsy tart named Joe Juba, has this text blurb to start you off:

If you want to make an indie game, you need to be driven by passion.  Maybe you want to tell a personal story, or experiment with a never-before-seen genre.  Realizing this dream might require years of work and your life savings, but it could be worth the struggle.  What is your reward at the end of the journey?  Follow our flowchart to find out.  You might earn instant credibility, vast wealth, or cheap statuettes from an indusrty awards show.

– Joe Jube, Game Informer, Issue July 2014, Page 28

You might think “O, that’s not so bad!  He just gave the indie devs some credit for drive and passion.  Not to mention experimenting with genres and some other things!”  Honestly, sure, he does, but then he cheapens it with a giant flowchart that mocks the entirety of Indie Developers and what the real goal is as an IndieDev.  While the article is a comedy-rag with sarcasm dripping from its pages, one should keep in mind that comedy is a form of philosophy where they cause you to laugh by showing you the truth (in this case Juba’s perception of the truth) and making you see it in an entertaining light.  Just watch Louie C.K. or George Karlin.  Hell, nearly every comic uses elements of real-life in their shows, and that makes them artists in a way.  This is just flat-out mockery of a people who have no real centralized way of responding.

Here is the map of mockery so you can follow along

Here is the map of mockery so you can follow along

At start is says “So you want to be an indie. What is the first priority?”  Move on to the first offense, “Fun, good gameplay“.  The next box after that just says “wrong” and directs you to the other option out of the gate “A cool art style.”  Now stop right there you fucking pricks.  Did you just see that?  With a quick flick of the goddamn wrist, this slimy little fuck says that indie games as a whole do not have fun, good gameplay and rely on art style.  FUCK NO!  I can name plenty of games off the top of my head in varying genres that have great gameplay with great art all the way to shit art and fabulous gameplay.  Minecraft, for instance, has arguably simplistic art.  Most Super Nintendo titles had more advanced textures.  The gameplay is the redeeming part of this game, and spawned several genres.  THAT was the work of one fucking guy in a goddamn basement, NOT the result of the industry’s method-at-large, which is typically “who fucking cares how mindless the gameplay is, just art it up with pretty graphics and fantastic visuals so that no on notices.”  Want another?  Sure.  Hard Reset.  That is a game with some pretty graphics, great ambiance and an artistic method of doing cut-scenes in a comic book style.  The gameplay, however, is a ton of fun, allowing you to blow shit up and use a variety of weapons with the same two “guns” and elminating the question of where you keep that bazooka.  Sure, the story is a little confusing at times, but Half-life 2 had as much story as a mass-murderer does.  Shit, Call of Fucking Duty has less story, but that is punching the retarded kid there.  I don’t know where Joe Juba thinks he gets carte blanche to say what he wants about the indie culture, but he is writing for a major fucking magazine.  That, along side his little opening to this masterpiece of douche-baggery, automatically takes away any credibility he truly has with the indie culture.  But he goes on, so, too, must I.

From that box you also see “it needs…” You can go to “blocks like minecraft” and that takes you to the minecraft clones.  This path ends in the Copy-cat award, success by association.  That is a bit funny, but the devs in those games are getting a little short-changed.  Often, the best way to get to new shades of genres are to take the major genre elements of something successful and apply them to other facets and ideas not explored by the majorly referenced work.  This is done all the time with fantasy, with Lord of the Rings as a start, and brings you to people like George R.R. Martin writing dark fantasy worlds that owe their lives and allegiance to Tolkien.  The next major issue I have with this article of short-selling +9000 is “first-person..” leads to “shooter” which leads to the David and Goliath Award, Call of Duty will destroy you.  STOP RIGHT THERE YOU SHITTY LITTLE FUCKFACE!  So, you’re telling me all first-person shooters are in direct competition with COD?  Your taste in games obviously has a diversity comparable to Iceland’s gene pool.  One massive collection of similar-looking people with a few sharply-contrasted elements floating around to emphasize the main body.  Hard Reset and ZenoClash are two indie FPS’s that are nothing like COD and thank god for it!  These titles add elements of diversity to a stagnant pool of genre degeneracy that is characterized by vastly acclaimed titles like Call of Duty, Modern Warfare, Black Ops, Battlefield…  Seeing some similarities?  And the best part is, the moment that this genre drifts away from the Call of Douchebags FPS standard of “kill da bad guy soljers” it drops in funding, quality and standards.  Don’t believe me?  Thief.  As if I needed to expound further this guy does a way better job at explaining the game’s shortcomings than I could here.  And he tries to defend it with lengthy diatribes of legitimately interesting discussion about how the game could have been better.  Genre diversity is a must, and indie FPS’s offer way more in this respect.

Another off-shoot from that “cool art style” box leads you to “A living painting. Like Braid, but with…” and this section leading to the ‘Too Indie, What about gameplay?’ endpoint that dominates the center of the first page.  This placement is no fucking accident.  This is the way that mainstream gaming stereotypes the indie gaming culture.  I do appreciate their implication that this is the home of the extremist indie games, and thereby not the bulk of them, but this still puts a smear on the community as a whole.  These are apparently the representative items of indie culture that the most people will understand and, thus, it is in a plce that the most people will read, with the bulk of readers giggling a bit here then moving on to their Culla’ Doodie circle jerks.  In this section they include Braid, and a number of weird modifiers.  They also catch these outliers by having First-Person also lead to “Pretentious Interactive Narrative Experience“, which is arguably a way of saying “artistic game experience”.  But another place first-person takes you is were you bought by Valve, in which case you end up at the “Gamer darling Award, Please stop saying the cake is a lie” or elsewhere.  If you say no, it moves on to the next page and “years later”.  This implies that every indie title will take years to complete.  This brings you to “Perfect! You project has the green light! When will it release?”  Two options after: One year, which leads to a delay show at PAX then the second selection, which is two years.  Then another delay show at PAX, and then four years.  This means, fuck you, even if you think that your game will release in a year, after years and not getting bought by Valve, you’ll actually take four years and tons of personal delays to make your game.  That is degraging.  Sure, it may happen to some, but this seems to imply that indie developers cannot adequately structure time schedules.  Because the major industry has ben SOOOOOO fucking good at doing that! Right?  By the way, what was the release date of Half-life 3 again?  Whatever, just play Duke Nukem Forever and you’ll start to get an idea.  In fact, just read this fucking Cracked article.  That should tell you.

But let me skip over to another point of contention.  Following side-scrolling games takes you to the inevitability of “Wait a minute… are you already a major developer?”  One option (No, then keep at it!) takes you to the aforementioned “years later” situation.  The other 2 are “Does Double-Fine count?” and “Yes”.  Yea, you see where I am going with this now.  This gets you to Nice Try, Decades of experience isn’t indie.  FUCK YOU!  You sit there and say that to me?! I wanted to just type a string of random angry characters but quivered with rage for a few moments instead.  Where do you get off saying that indie developers cannot have decades of experience? Do you realize that Sword of the Stars was made by people from Rockstar?  Just because they have been around for a while, doesn’t mean they are not indie.  My understanding is the Double-Fine got to mainstream game dev and backed out because they wanted, I don’t know, some GODDAMN FREEDOM!

Moving right along, there is this other endpoint of Indie Foul! That’s not how this works.  Among the things that lead here are third-person roguelikes with crop-farming and carefully crafted dungeons and collectible creatures.  That takes you to “Look, I don’t know what “roguelike” means”  There are also apparently Third-person roguelikes with spaceships and no permadeath, which also leads here.  Fuck you.  Now we need perma-death in spaceship games to be good?  Fuck you.  My angriest path here leads through the thoroughly convoluted “third-person zombie survival games funded by independent modders who have a well-organized business plan”.  This is apparently no one, as this goes to Indie Foul.  fuck you. again.  The option aside a well-organized business plan is apparently “who get massive community support” and this just has to be a joke.  Having these as separate options basically states that crowd-funding is not part of a well-organized business plan.  Honestly, asking the gaming community to fund your project isn’t the most sure-fire way to get it done, but Kickstarter is for gamedevs that have great ideas and none of the money required.  So I also suggest that, yes, crowd-funding can be a good element of a well-organized business plan.  Other ways to indie foul include an old-school RPG inspired by some N64 RPG’s with retro sprites that was considered as an Ouya exclusive.  There is also a mainstream audience that leads to Indie Foul, but that tells me that this guy thinks the main element of “indie” gaming is that only a couple assholes like it.  This is even more heavily implied by the statement that aiming precise challenges at a few dozen masochists will be enough to get your project the green light.  I am not sure which planet this Joe Juba asshole comes from, but it is one where “indie” means “pretentious dicks that think they know better” rather than, you know, independent.  Indie games can be aimed at mainstream audiences.  The retro style that many take on these days are made to appeal to what a lot of us older gamers played as children.  Oh, I am sorry, not every spoiled-rotten little rat bastard was able to buy games when I was a kid.  In fact, when I was your age, playing games made you the socially awkward nerd that got beat on.  On last path that takes you to Indie Foul! is Border Control Simulator.  I would say this is a jab at all those weird simulator like Rock Simulator, Streetsweeper Simulator and Papers, Please, but those games are a new genre that deals with allowing you to literally live different aspects of real-life.

So now your game is finished.  There are now three results for you left, having dodged the sweeping two-page morass outlined by some ass.  The only thing left is the name.  Three options: First, you can go with something slimy and geometric, like “Gooptahedron”.  The next thing is “that’s free to play, isn’t it?“.  The only selection is yes, or hell yes.  This leads you to the Zero Credibility Award, Money (is not equal to) Quality, which is the only place Joe Juba deserves to be classified.  Granted, he starts off with that whole gooptahedron crack, but this is the only location on the indie flowchart that features free-to-play games.  I can think of a couple really good free-to-play games.  Immediately I am reminded of Gear Up, a multi-player tank-shooter.  So, tell me, you relentless shit, are you saying that all F2P indie games have zero credibility as indie games? Fuck you, again, indie is not about money, it is about independence.  The other two options out of game-finishing are a weird sentence fragement and a single vague word.  Your game is then a success.  Either you say Fuck it, I quit, where you earn the Something Fishy Award, Don’t forget to cancel the sequel and the most insulting thing on this shit-sheet: “beg for money on Kickstarter and try again.”  Yup.  BEG for money you worthless little worms!  Then you can go back to start to begin again.  O, and you remember how, apparently, it takes four years after previous years of delaying to get it done?  Yea, that path leads here, too.

Now, if you read all the way to the end of this article, I give you a lot of credit.  This is a long wall-of-rage-text article with few visual stops.  The point I am making is as follows:  This convoluted two-page spread is just an insidious mockery that attempts to rob the indie gaming and indie developer community of its main source of undeniable respect.  Indie Devs want freedom.  Freedom from major developers to develop as they please, without the back-burner rejection that these types of games would receive from mainstream companies entrenched in the FPS standard, or whatever standard they prefer.  Indie means independent, and that scares the mainstream companies and their little turd-sniffing employees, such as Joe Juba.  Not because they think  we want to be like them and want the money that comes with it, but because we want nothing to do with them, we want to do what we want, and accept the money that comes with it.  This is where indie developers get their real power.  Alongside the fact that indie games are the testing ground for new and interesting concepts that push the industry forward and bend the boundaries of virtual experience like minecraft, which spawned crafting games and survival games like Rust.  For this reason, Indie Gaming is the source of true gaming diversity.  We don’t want our options to be between WoW, CoD and Assassin’s Creed without recourse.   We’re not a bunch of pretentious dorks sitting in a corner of a lunchroom wearing goofy glasses and handlebar mustaches making fun of the “cool COD kids”.  We are a collection of like-minded individuals that are tired of the same old horse shit that mainstream gaming presents.  We are tired of graphically fluorescent games with shit story lines or inept game-play.  We are ready to take gaming into our own hands.  And that scares the ever-loving shit out of them.  If I ever needed physical proof that mainstream gaming resents the indie community to the level that you might call it hate, this is it.