Letters to T-Mobile: Call to Action

First I just want to express my deep frustration toward Comcast.  When COMCAST DECIDES TO DIE FOR SEVERAL HOURS on a Sunday night right after I already decided not to run an article the previous night to attend the birthday of a close friend’s daughter, it gets a little frustrating.  Just wanted to apologize for breaking my schedule and I will be on it again now.

GG_VJ

Some of the latest that I noticed last night: After the foot-biting of Pol, people started to calm down and remember that we have a mission here.  King of Pol reminded us that we should, in fact, watch what we are saying but not become the thought-police in the process.  I also saw this exchange of tweets cross my vision:

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T-Mobile seems to have stated, to some effect, that they will not be swayed by any number of emails and that they require an out-pouring of physical letters about the topic to flood into their offices.  Honestly, I chuckle and think of the scene in the first Harry Potter film where the letters explode in through their mail slot.  We need to make it rain on them, and I have an idea how.  Write 5 letters a week, by hand.  PLEASE do not use automatic mailers for this one, people, as they are asking for physical letters in order to see the human side of this conflict.  The human side of us.  Write with your own meat-hooks.  I know this is difficult, but do it.  Some of us may be dislexic or unable to hold a pen properly, please feel free to sign a printed letter.

For the rest of us, though, make 5 letters to send out during the week and mail one each day to T-Mobile.  I know it sounds silly, but this will have the effect we, and T-Mobile, are demanding to see.  It will help us make the change happen and it will show T-Mobile the human cost of doing business with these folks.

Here is the Address for T-Mobile.

T-Mobile Customer Relations

PO Box 37380

Albuquerque, NM 87176-7380

I will include a typed copy of my own letter for an example.  Please feel free to embellish, improve and personalize.  That’s what they are asking for!  Just no death threats or evil letters of angry anger-tude.  That will set us back in this.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen of T-Mobile,

My name is _________ and I am a blogger, gamer and supporter of #GamerGate.  Please hear me out.  I am writing to you tonight concerning a request, issued by your company, for physical, written statements concerning recent events with Gawker Media, Vox Media and statements of bullying.  First, let me give you a little background.

When I was younger, I received the brunt of much bullying from Elementary School all the way through High School to where most of my memories of being a child focus on being bullied at school.  It had a powerful influence on myself as a child and is still visible in me as a man.  It is one of the reasons that I loved Boy Scouts so much that I and my four brothers became Eagle Scouts.  Despite boy scouts being my only refuge from school life, even it got hard at times and many nights I would cry to myself.  I would stay home from school “sick” and have even considered self-harm.

I am a man now.  I am lucky enough to have found a spectacular wife (who I met in high school, funny enough X D!) who is excited to bear our children.  When those children go to school, I know, though it saddens me deeply, that they will face bullies as I did.  How they and others like them handle this harsh reality will be greatly influenced by the “real world” and its perception of these acts.  If they see in our society the same sort of ambivalence toward, or even support of, bullying, I honestly don’t know how many of them won’t commit suicide.

As a father, American and former military member, I will likely tell them what I will advise you tonight.  Fight them and others like them.  There is nothing bullies fear more than isolation.  Seeing those that once laughed with them and echoed their ideas walk away shaking their heads is always at the back of their minds.  They know that one day no one will care what they have to say.  My kids will be taught not to feed into them and, worse comes to worse, how to throw a mean left-hook; but the response I propose for T-Mobile is less straight-forward and immeasurably more effective:

Please discontinue any support and advertising for all Gawker Media Sites (Kotaku, Gawker, Kinja, Deadspin, Jezebel, io9, Jalopnik, Gizmodo, Lifehacker), all Vox Media sites (The Verge, Curbed, Racked, SB Nation, Polygon, Eater, Vox), Gamasutra, Destructoid and Ars Technica.  These sites and their staff have repeatedly bullied their consumers, at one point releasing a media blitz of 14 articles in one day – around Labor Day nonetheless – stating that gamers are dead, that we are evil and misogynistic.  They continue to state that we are part of some great misogynistic narrative, created by them to validate their extreme ideas.

Recently these groups, their sites and their staff have suggested that bullying “nerds” is acceptable and even that it should be “brought back.”  They have provided some apologies, but this seems to be a hollow-hearted reaction to losing money and financial backers for their sites.  Their constant rhetoric, damaging relationship with their (former) readers and constant harassment make the support of bullying the last PR straw that should break their wallets.  People this toxic shouldn’t be paid for insulting others.

In every way, as you may imagine, these words – especially as they come from major voices in my favorite hobby, gaming – anger and disappoint me profoundly.  I have been a regular customer of T-Mobile, enjoying your mobile products and accessories for many years.  They have brought myself and my wife hours of fun and good times playing games and communicating with loved ones.  For a time I even had a T-Mobile phone when I was in the Army, used to talk to the woman that would be my future wife.  If T-Mobile supports these individuals and their rhetoric, I will have no choice but to consider my time as a consumer of T-Mobile products at an end.

As a concerned business made of responsible, reasonable people and parents, please stand with GamerGate to relax their grip and teach them the level of their relevance.  Help us speak out against these bullies.

Signed and dated.

Now I will be including printed copies of tweets in question and other items that can be referenced as you might put links and such in an email.  Hopefully we can get through to them.

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Clockwork Empires, Wondrous Melange of Steampunk Insanity and Bugs

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It should come as no surprise, since this game is currently in Early Access, that Gaslamp Games’ latest title is buggy, broken and incomplete as fuck.  That being said, it is the most fun that I have ever had with a game this broken, and at some points I am having a hard time telling what is broken and what is actually supposed to be happening.  Overall, if you have been waiting for a good game that well-represents steampunk, but you were wholly disgusted with Bioshock: Infinite, then this game is one you should consider after a long debate about whether Early-Access gaming is a worthy direction for the industry.

Clockwork Empires is a game with personality and a lot of bizarre quirks.  You are a group of colonists starting a small colony of the Great Clockwork Empire – at least I think you are since this is never really specified, just referred to as “The Empire.”  But fear not! This is nothing like sitting in a Jane Austin novel set on a frontier!  You have to help your people to survive in a world of horrors! HORRORS!

So when you start, you’ll want to start assigning work crews by clicking the work crew button and deciding which people will do which jobs.  Trust me, division of labor is a pretty important concept in this game, since it will dictate which jobs get done fastest.  My opinion is that breaking things down like this bears some of the best results.  2 crews for farming and foraging.  This is most important.  Foraging is how you will get the initial glut of goods to sustain your people in the beginning and you’ll have some food from the Empire, but airdrops are too infrequent, sometimes inaccurate, to rely on.  You have to get farming or starvation will set in briefly before cannibalism starts.  These little bastards don’t even think about it either, they’re just like “What ho!  I’m rather peckish and Nancy just died.  Guess we’d best start rationing her out, hey chaps?”

Clockwork Empires 2014-10-14 10-47-07-71

Listen up, Steelwalker. You and your chaps will start looking for the best way back to the Empire, cause this place sucks!

After food income is determined, the next most important economy is the space economy.  This is handled mostly by one or two crews that are set to forestry, mining and hunting.  Forestry is a task that will have them chopping wood, removing terrain obstacles and other sundry natural objects.  Hunting will make them a useful source of occasional food.  The tasks I always break out are construction and workshop jobs.  Now, in the outset you can easily group these two together since there will be no workshops in the beginning, you’ll have to build them.  But if you keep your workshop crews constantly divided between construction and their workshops, goods production will go WAAAAAY too slowly.  Eventually construction will become its own job and given that there are so few people for all the jobs, and the more people you get the more likely you are to starve, it is something that will have to be done in spurts.  Of course, there are a few exceptions.

Exceptions are always important.  In the very beginning, farms should be among your first things you create, but farms alone aren’t great for producing food.  You’ll need workshops, and the two most used are the kitchen and the carpentry shop.  The tutorial actually recommends you make the carpentry shop first, and they are right.  The carpentry shop is where you will create planks that are necessary to build nearly everything else in the game.  After the carpentry shop, get on that kitchen.  Chances are that you chose wheat as your first couple farms.  Great choice, but without a kitchen you can’t use the wheat you’ve harvested to make bread.  Your people will die staring at sacks of flour.

Yes, just place that plaque of the imperial coat of arms above their dirty little workstations so they can look up at our ubiquitous hegemonic omnipresence at all times. Very good.

Yes, just place that plaque of the imperial coat of arms above their dirty little workstations so they can look up at our glowering hegemonic omnipresence at all times. Very good.

Construction in this game is definitely unique and undeniably irritating.  First, you have to build on the grid, but the grid doesn’t run everywhere.  Some areas are just not to be built upon.  No real explanation, but I assume there is a ditch or unstable terrain there or something.  Once you’ve cleared a spot to build upon, you now draw the outline for the building.  It doesn’t always have to make sense and it is the most impressive feature of the game.  You can make a thousand of the same building and each can be vastly different from the others.  Once you’ve got your blue outline, you then place your modules.  These are the things that give the buildings purpose and character.  Some are required, in the above case a door and a worktable, some are optional and the rest are decorative.  I like putting the massive bay doors on my carpentry shops.  Just gives the impression of industry.  And make sure you put one or two decorations.  It might just be a game, but it’s the little things that give a sense of immersion.  The most irritating things about the construction system is that you can’t add a few things in at the start and then finish up later.  You are building everything that is going to be in that workshop for the rest of the game.  That is irritating as fuck because gameplay develops as the player interacts with the game.  It is just restricting and never shows any growth or development.

So you’ve got the makings of a colony, and things are moving along.  You’ve got your basic workshops, goods are moving and you’ve finally gotten a few bunkhouses up for the lower class and the middle class.  You are going to start having issues.  Most namely among these issues are the foes: cultists, fishpeople and all manner of eldritch Lovecraftian horrors.  The best part is that the fishpeople will walk in at random intervals and menace your people.  Sure, you can forage their eggs as exotic caviar, effectively eating their children as a delicacy; but cogs only know why the beasts so hostile, amirite?

Charles, gather the basket.  I must defend the crown!

Charles, gather the victuals. I must defend the crown!

I haven’t really gotten very far with this game simply because it is so fucking broken.  Don’t get me wrong, I love this game, but the level of incompletion and inoperability make this game absolutely frustrating to deal with.  My biggest gripe is that saves don’t really seem to work.  I have saved games and come back to them with varying degrees of success.  Sometimes they work, other times reloading a save causes the game to utterly crash.  If this were the only issue I would be less annoyed with the game, but sometimes it just crashes mid-game.  All of my plays invariably end with a crash of some sort and then me sighing about everything that I didn’t save.  Then I remember that the saves rarely even work and go play something else.  Sure, you might be saying “But Crotchety, this is an early-release you ass-burglar!  Of COURSE it’s buggy, they are still working on it!”  Let me say this to you little shits, never judge anything by what it could be some day.  That is how Hitler managed to convince people into the Holocaust.  One day we’ll eliminate all the weaker genes in the human race and the world will be full of happy, healthy blonde-haired blue-eyed babies.  Sure sounds nice until you remember you had to kill millions of people to get there.  Also, the price of the game on Steam is 29.99$ AS IT IS!  That is 30$ that would probably be better spent on a portion of Civilization: Beyond Earth.

Malfeasant clawbulb.  Fucking.. what?!

Malfeasant clawbulb. Fucking.. what?!

Despite the issues, there are still a number of reasons to be excited about this game.  There are some surprises like random crops growing in your farms, enemies and content updates.  The art is nice and the music is fun.  Every so often you will get drops and immigrants from the empire that will help your colony thrive, but there are so many bugs.  I read about this game back in the April 2014 issue of Game Informer and getting ridiculously excited about what I was reading.  Finally, a steampunk game full of cogs, gears and fishpeople and its an RTS!!!!  The unfortunate fact is that this is a game whose release I am still waiting for.  The best way to play these Early-Access games, in my opinion, is to buy it, play it a little bit to get the impression then let it sit for some months and let it get updates.  Sure this suggestion might make developers nervous, but if you can’t release a full game, it is going to suck and hurt to play.  Just like every time I have to be punished for not saving and, saving, have to be punished for buying the game early when my saves don’t load but, instead, crash the game.  Well, at least the game is fun and quirky.  Even the crash messages say “What ho! The game has crashed!” or some such irritating nonsense.  If your game crashes, it shouldn’t be cracking jokes.  This is where your skirt has blown up.  Fucking apologize for your broken game.

Point Perfect, Rage and Cursors

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After years of neglect and self-hatred, Mavis Beacon of typist teaching fame decided to grow a mohawk, dye it green and donned her studded leather jacket.  She stole the Doc Brown’s Delorian before the 90’s ended, went through dimensions to a time where the 80’s were the space-age and began her conquest.  Now she has returned to wreak havoc on mousepads worldwide, and the effect is devastating.  Ok, so that’s not the story behind this game, but with all the anger and rage it created, you would think I was playing Dark Souls or something.  You can visit the Point Perfect website here.  By the way, young’n’s: the device stealing that child’s youth in the picture is a CRT monitor circa 1998.

This is not a game for the feint of heart.  It is the most challenging thing I have played yet this year.  Simple enough idea with some goofy pixel art to provide a story.  There is a world of people that use mouse cursors to fly through space.  They are attacked by aliens and space invaders, zooming into action.  You are this world’s elite pilot and you must rise to the occasion or retire your peripherals.

Prepare yourself, brave hero.

Prepare yourself, brave hero.

From the very start, you get the feeling this isn’t going to be an easy ride.  You have to choose between an increasing number of trophies, but the first three are a wider targeting range, increased points and three lives.  THREE FUCKING LIVES! You have to choose between a buff or the basic 3 lives!  Needless to say, I always chose the three lives because I knew I would never make it without the extra lives.  And there aren’t even any extra life pick-ups (that I’ve encountered) in the entire game!

So you are the cursor.  You have to move the mouse to dodge enemies.  In order to do battle, you have to click and drag to ‘target’ foes.  When enemies enter the green field, you release to destroy them.  Sounds easy, but fucking try it.  To start, you have a smaller targeting field range, but as you get ‘P’ pick-ups your range will increase, opening the opportunity to create larger and larger kill-combos.  Your power-ups will show up in the lower left corner, and if you die, they shoot out of you in a demeaning, Sonic the Hedgehog kind of way.  If you drag more than your range, your targeting field goes red and no kills are made.  All of this has to be done while dodging projectiles and enemies.

In the lower right hand corner you’ll see a weapon box.  As you fight your way through the alien armada, you will collect various weapons that help tremendously.  My favorite was the shield, which deflects weaker enemy fire – the yellow balls.  It won’t block other colors, but that is something.  There are all kinds of other weapons that increase points from combos, add points to your overall score and other fun things.

Drag and pray, mother-fucker.  Drag and pray.

Drag and pray, mother-fucker. Drag and pray.

Of course, with all the challenge this game provides, victory is a sweet, sweet bitch to get.  Usually you just manage to kill some enemies, but successfully giving it to bosses must be amazing.  I haven’t beaten any yet, but I have come SOOOO close that it was infuriating.  This game keeps giving and giving with numerous levels beyond just this starry background.  With no introductory info, though, this game is a pain in the ass to grasp.  I had it for a month and managed to figure out that I could kill enemies.  Yea, I am not a moron, but it just didn’t register to me.

PP_cry

This game is perfectly alright with telling you that you suck.

Fighting enemies isn’t the only thing to do in this either, Point Perfect also has a wide array of little skill games and challenges that provide a welcome respite from the chaotically cluttered masses of foes.  Retro graphics and an old school feel are a few more of this title’s strong points, but every element of this game’s design is created to unforgivingly teach players precision and timing.  You cannot fullscreen it.  So what, you say?  This makes it easy to drag off the screen, click other programs and push the game to the background.  It is an insane carnival ride of unremitting terrors, but it is the most fun I have ever had cursing relentlessly at my mouse.  I almost launched the little fucker undeservingly out the window…  I will be waking up in a cold sweat dreaming about this game for weeks to come.  I only pity the fool who tries to play this on a track pad. Poor, ignorant bastard.  Available on steam for only 4.99$, this game is well worth it, if you think you have the balls.  If you think you are man enough, woman enough… Gamer enough.

Internet Slow Lanes and Net Neutrality : Why Gamers Should Care

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About one month ago, numerous internet giants and companies, like Netflix and Tumblr, did a call to awareness known as Slow Internet Day to show people what they could look forward to in the future.  On May 15th, democrats voted up an FCC regulation that would allow major companies to prioritize their content by paying for faster internet service.  Now that doesn’t sound so bad, right?  It just means that the actual content that people want to see will get good service whereas unpopular stuff like child porn will go slow right?

Nope.  Think again.  The internet is unique in that all companies and organizations have an even playing field as far as speeds and tampering with that will ultimately start to slowly enforce a regulation on it.  Sure, some negative content will suffer, but at the same time upstart websites that are aspiring to overtake their larger cousins will have an extra obstacle to surmount: driving sales and ad revenue with the shitty internet connection that is left while their competitors can afford better internet.  This will maintain a distinct pecking order and help keep a ‘status quo’ on the internet.  I will allow money to dictate where the people go, rather than the current model which makes the money follow the people.  FUCK THIS SHIT!

This is a problem that I have been voicing my opinion about and writing imporant people about.  While the internet was still wondering who the fuck Zoe Quinn was, I was calling congress telling them that the proposed slow lanes were a bad fucking idea.  This is an idea that GamerGaters should really consider carefully, because if it is allowed to go through, it will murder the movement overnight.  Literally, overnight.  The worst part is, that it was voted on in May.  I received this e-mail from Pennsylvania state representative Mike Fitzpatrick about the issue:

unnamed

 

October 6, 2014

The Crotchety Old Gamer
Where he lives
Greater Philadelphia, PA

Dear Nathan,

 

Thank you for contacting me regarding your thoughts on the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) proposed “Net Neutrality” rule. Your input is a valuable part of the legislative process and I appreciate the opportunity to address your concerns.

A free and open internet is the best way to enhance commerce and encourage the free flow of ideas.  In fact, as we’ve seen in counties across the world, it can even facilitate revolutions.

On May 15, the FCC voted 3-2 to move forward with a new set of regulations with the stated goal of guaranteeing a more open internet. The FCC explains that these proposed rules are designed to prevent Internet providers from taking advantage of an unregulated system by knowingly slowing data.  At the same time, they would allow content providers to pay for a guaranteed “fast lane” of service.

Opponents of this plan are concerned that such a policy would discriminate against the content of those who cannot afford the “fast lane” service. Several lawmakers have expressed that these changes could create tremendous legal and marketplace uncertainty.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler intends to finalize the open internet rule making process before the end of this year. As Chairman Tom Wheeler stated immediately following the vote, “What we’re dealing with today is a proposal, not a final rule. We are asking for specific comment on different approached to accomplish the same goal, an open Internet.”  This month’s vote began a process that will start with a 120 day comment period.

The FCC openly encourages the public to share their views, as your remarks will help the Commission decide upon the final rules. You can submit your comments for the rule making to the FCC’s designated email on the matter: openinternet@fcc.gov. Please visitwww.fcc.gov to read more about the proposed plan.

I will continue to monitor this situation; keeping your comments and concerns in mind as it develops. If you have any questions or concerns pertaining to this or any other legislative matter, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (202) 225-4276.  For additional information, please visit my website www.fitzpatrick.house.gov. From this site you can sign up for my e-newsletter, access statements about current events or pending legislation and receive detailed information about the many services that I am privileged to provide for the 8th District of Pennsylvania. You can also connect with me on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/RepFitzpatrick, or follow me on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/RepFitzpatrick.

Sincerely,

unnamed

 

 

Mike Fitzpatrick
Member of Congress

 

Mike, you might as well have signed this letter “an out of touch old legislator who really has no idea what is going on.”  Think about it this way.  You are in your room, reading an article on your favorite low-level gaming news site and generally enjoying yourself.  Your 17-year-old little brother decides to hop onto his Xbox One and play some of the latest Call of Doody while playing his favorite teenage rage songs over Grooveshark.  Your mom is streaming the latest video posted on YouTube by Ellen Degeneres and your dad is watching the latest Rocco Siffredi porno in his office.  You go to click on a new article and you now have to wait for 20 minutes while it loads like you are in the goddamn 90’s on a 56.6k modem.

Now, yes, the family dividing up the bandwidth on their connection might be a slim example compared to the internet as a whole, but follow.  If major companies are able to buy up all the “fast lanes,” which are now voted into regulation, this means that smaller sites will really be usable since they will have a lower slice of the bandwidth and thus will be slower.  Now, I would say just log on at night, but putting in a permanent regulation that makes others move faster is outright PRIORITIZING THE GODDAMN INTERNET!  This is a load of horseshit because it means that larger companies will be able to dictate which sites you will go to just by paying for the better connections.  It almost sounds fair, but look at it like this.  In a system like this, you will be told where to go for content and forced to migrate toward major outlets simply because the connection is better.  They are using a technique of social engineer whereby they dictate the flow indirectly.

Example: there are three public water fountains in town from which the townsfolk get much-needed water for daily tasks.  We’re talking like a Roman fountain where you hold a bucket to collect water and not the standard “bubbler” as they call it in Wisconsin.  Now, the town regulates flow to these different fountains throughout the day, typically to provide water to each during necessary times of day.  One day they decide they will start sending most of the water to the fountain in the middle of town while the other two are left at a trickle.  They say, you can still go to those ones, but you will be waiting for an hour to fill one bucket, and that is without the lines that will likely form.  It makes sense, then, to go to the fountain in the middle of town to get water.  You later realize that this was part of a plan to eliminate the other two fountains in favor of one where they could watch everyone easier and limit the diversity of outlets of water, fully controlling the waterflow.  Now they can accurately tax the water.

Sure, that last bit about water taxation is my own little add-in, but if they are able to limit the internet, eliminate competitors for data-flow and get more people going to specific locations, it would open the internet to information regulation and social engineering.  They would be able to dictate where you go simply because of the excuse of “well what, they couldn’t afford the better connection!”  Quite simply, the internet needs to remain open to all so that the diversity of flow can continue, otherwise smaller ideas, which could explode into larger, more potent movements, would be allowed to founder and die.  Don’t let them use money to regulate the flow of information and, thereby, the internet.  Speak out against the slowlanes.  Call your congressmen!  Mail your senators!  Shit, these fuckers CANNOT be allowed to tamper with our connections.  They have been trying to do it with every acronym under the sun, don’t let some concept of data-darwinism be what renders the internet inviable as the pure source of free-flowing information that has toppled dictators, countered social strictures and enhanced the world.  Sure, there are horrible things on the internet, too, but are the few examples of horrible people and inhumanity an acceptable reason to allow internet regulation?  I hope you just said no.

I will be hashtagging this with #GamerGate and #NotYourShield because this is something that we should all be considering.  Afterall, our movement depends entirely on the even playing field that the internet provides.  Get rid of that and what are we?  Fight #datadarwinism.

Need a better explanation or more information?  Here is list of articles about the slow-lanes.

Time – FCC Votes to Move Forward on Internet ‘Fast Lane’

The Daily Tech – FCC’s New Fast Lanes, Slow Lanes Net “Neutrality” Plan Angers Everyone

Forbes – The Real ‘Slow Lane’ Threat to the Internet

Huffington Post – Fast Lane, Slow Lane — “No Lane” — End Game in Telecommunications


And add you voice to the support:


Open Media International – Say No To Internet Slow Lanes

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!

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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).

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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.

Labzat on the Future of Gaming and GamerGate

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Editor’s Note:

The work that follows does not represent The Crotchety Old Gamer, but I felt that it would be relevant to share the ideas of other gamers from around the world. This is a translated text from Labzat: a Mexican gaming blog. I have been working with these guys to get my work translated into spanish and shared with a broader audioence; and in the spirit of #NotYourShield, I thought it would be interesting to see how gamers worldwide viewed this conflict. It is a little rough at times, but I feel like we share a lot of the same views regarding the situation. The following article has been edited for coherence by myself and translated by a natural Mexican spanish-speaker. Some things may have still gotten lost in translation.

La futura industria del videojuego

Its been a couple of weeks (or more depending on when you are reading this) since the beginning of the game industry’s social media revolution, known as #GamerGate. Many already know what this was about, but now that polemic has been diluted and all that energy of change has been expended on useless discussions. I want to analyze, from my perspective of a foreign gamer (cuz I’m not in the USA), what it means and what it could (or could not) mean for the industry.

The “corruption” of the videogame press

The firs topic within #GamerGate is the corruption of the press. Let me tell you this: I don’t think there is any sign of corruption, yes they are partial but it’s not the same as corrupt. When you write about videogames or any other topic, you always make relations, maybe of friendship or love. It doesn’t matter, the point is that you always have people that you prefer over others. Every media has an editorial preference for some kind of information. For example, my blog Labzat gives preference to discourse about the game industry in México, Spain, and Latin America because it’s my interest to promote the game development in these regions. If there is a private relation between a reporter and a game developer, nobody has to care about it, that is an element of their private life, and it’s hard to say that it interferes with work. Why is that? You could easily say a certain game is “the best,” but the readers have their own voices and opinions; so if you are not objective, they will simply stop believing you and you loose your readerbase. And trust me no body that survives by writing about videogames wants to lose readers.

Where I see a true conflict of interest is in the sponsorship the big companies provide to the videogame press; you won’t care about being impartial when your income is provided, not from the traffic on your page, but from contributions paid by Microsoft or Sony to promote their games. Then you go from being a serious analytic reporter to the slut PR of a company. This produces a decline in the quality of articles: the very short space the indie developers have to promote their projects and the rising of fanboy trolls who just reinforce the idea of gaming as an antisocial activity. Yep, what they blame the whole society for is just the product of their own system. Also, this monetization model sucks because it means indie developers need to pay for reviews to get substantial attention. A couple of times, I have heard rumors in the Mexican indie scene that you have to pay to get reviews. I’m not sure if it’s true and I’ve never seen it directly; but if it is true, we are killing small studios and a lot of new perspectives on the future of gaming.
To solve this, we need to band together as a community and create a new press structure for the highly specialized sector of the infinite universe that is gaming nowadays. The press should also find new ways to monetize in order to be more independent from big companies. Trust me, much more impartial is the site that relies on Google Adsense and ads from other sectors of the gaming world than those who are branded by big companies.

The immaturity of the community and their opinion leaders

Yes, it’s true. Some gamers are just immature, aggressive guys. But don’t forget that most of the games are created with the belief they will be played by a public of 15 to 25, and I feel very conservative about this fact. Unless American teenagers at one point expressed their inconformity and arguments in a clear and polite way (something I have never seen in my life), I think it common sense to expect aggressive reactions to critics discussing videogames they love to play. In fact, I know adults that still react in a violent way.

But I care as much about the visceral actions of the masses as I care for the immature and superfluous declarations of the opinion leaders in the game industry. You can’t be a public figure (as Phil, Anita and Zoe are public figures) and talk without thinking or studying themes like sexism & harassment in a completely serious way. When I read the Phil tweet that states something like “Gamers are the worst, you should nukem them,” I should just remind him of that German dictator who said “the Jews are white collar criminals, lets persecute them.” It might sound like a joke, but declarations like this grant it a whole new level of gravity. A lot of wars have been started because of harsh and careless words.

On the topic of speaking without thinking, Anita basically seems to claim that all games which represent women in a way she dislikes are misogynistic. She sounds like a religious leader who claims her religion as indisputable truth, then sends her followers to vanquish all other religions from the earth. She just says a lot of things then blames gaming, seeing only the surface of topics. I want to see what she thinks of Shakespeare. You know, the part where Othelo kills Desdemona with his bare hands? Or how about Lady Macbeth being the evil force behind all the tragedy of Macbeth? She attacks videogames because developers are nerds who read comics, nearly anonymous to their own audience. I doubt she’d expect a truly intellectual level of discussion, but learning she was artificial and contrived, a lot more voices would likely rise.
Both sides of #GamerGate have made mistakes, but I’m optimistic because I believe that eventually the voices of the trolls and pseudo-intellectuals will vanish while the other side of the community, those without the attitude of children, begin to participate more.

The incapacity of the industry to reach a new market

The videogame industry probably grown the most in recent years; In fact, I’ll bet it’s bigger than pornography. Just imagine that. But when we read articles of the videogame press, it seems that the major industry is always on crisis mode. Like Third World countries, they have a lot of wealth while they simultaneously have a lot of economic problems. Fortunately, it’s easier to understand what is happening in the videogame industry than what goes on in the Third World. The industry is growing up thanks to the new models of distribution and the accessibility to tools to develop games.

But the ones who reap the benefits of this growth are neither the studios, the pulishers nor the gamers. So who benefits? Easy. The digital store owners. They just created a new consumption and production model. A lot of developers produce a lot of games that get distributed at a very low prices because supply is much bigger than the demand. So the gamer gets a lot of games at very low cost or free. They’ll log maybe an hour of gameplay, then forget about them. At that point, gamers don’t play games, they just store them.

When the press writes articles stating “gamers are dead,” they are writing about the gamers who play games and give them the value of a book or a movie. The ones who play to improve their skills on Street Figther, to collects pokemon: the ones who play epic adventures and share it with their loved ones because it was significant to them. It’s sad to read that we have no value to the major press or major companies because we are too few in economic impact for them. But it gets worse! They blame us for their mistakes, for their incapacity to reach the new public that Google, Apple and Steam do! We are not the problem. The problem is yours for generating shity games and reviews. We used to pay more for the games when the games were well-developed and the story, music and graphics were respectively epic, when they cared to utilize the best of technology, give us the best mechanics and polish their code lines to a blinding sheen: When they cared about the game experience. And, yes, we would buy fewer games, but paid much more for them.

It’s fair to recognize, though, that not all the fault lies with the companies, but that it is also ours. We accepted the new system of gaming, of being treated like thieves. We support incomplete games, and never complain about the laziness of developers or the ambition of CEOs. We just sat and and let the industry turn into a bunch of FPS with sepia tones and puzzles F2P. Now what can we expect for the future? I think the industry will turn into two: the massive, fashionable games and the elite games for a very specific public: mimicking the modern film industry.

Why do they fear indie gaming?

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In September’s issue of Game Informer the “esteemed” publication seems to be initiating its own quiet assassination concurrent with the #GamerGate wars of Twitter.  While they do not seem to have leapt on the “fuck all gamers” bandwagon with most major games reporting outlets, they do seem to be digging beneath the walls that separate major gaming from indie gaming.  Turn to the two-page spread on 31 and Behold! Matt Bertz throws down his wall-less theory of gaming entitled ‘The Mutating Meaning of the Word “Indie.”‘  I call offended and uproarious bullshit.  Indie isn’t mutating, it means just what it always has: independent.  What this should be entitled is “Why we want to destroy the meaning behind the term indie.”  Strap in, this another rant of bombastic proportions.

Bertz poses the following question in the first paragraph, which will serve as the thesis for the GI article:

“When the majority of games in the contemporary landscape are already coming from outside the walls of big publishers like Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Activision, what does becoming indie really mean?”

I am a firm believer that within each question lie the roots of its own answer.  In my opinion, the answer Matt wants you to come out with is “When the majority of games in the contemporary landscape are already coming from outside the walls of big publishers, being ‘indie’ really has no meaning.”  He then goes on to try discrediting the term indie saying that the number and style of the projects that fall into the category “indie” that the term is no longer “useful.”  That is a charming thought but being indie is more than just “breaking away from the standard studio-publisher” model.  Sure, that is a major centerpiece for the concept, but that is not the only thing it’s contingent upon.  Going rogue in the gaming industry takes serious balls, especially in the face of major publishers that are trying to muscle into the region of indie gaming.  The simple fact is that being an indie developer means putting in countless thankless hours developing a game that will likely be swallowed up by the sea of other small titles.  Sure, indie as a genre is useless, which is why people need to stop letting Steam make them think indie just means an artistic game with hand-crafted backgrounds and a bizarre concept.  Indie isn’t a genre of gaming; it is a community of indifferent rebellion.

Bertz then takes two indie developers, Cloud Imperium Games of Star Citizen fame and Lucas Pope of Papers, Please, lays them against each other and claims a multi-million dollar company, such as Cloud Imperium, and lone developers residing in the same sphere degrades the purpose of calling something indie.  Honestly, anyone that would make this claim is just fooling themselves.  I don’t wholly blame Bertz, either.  His misconception is one born of an artistic medium still striving against its own over-bearing identity to define itself properly.  Taking an example from the music industry, Eminem has his own record label and I would call it an independent record label.  At the time of its inception, Shady Records was not a giant in the industry, but it surpassed those lofty heights.  Just because he ‘got big’, doesn’t mean he ever stopped being independent.  Likewise, when developers such as Lucas Pope or Mojang become big they don’t stop being indie developers.  Sure, indie is a genre of music, and that community defines itself with easily identifiable features: retro glasses, a taste for music no one has heard of, flannel.  But Bertz is suggesting that gaming has to take on the same restrictive reasoning.  You are defined by an easily identifiable array of elements that collaboratively structure “how indie games are supposed to be.”  The point of indie development is that there is no structure.  You can create whatever crazy fucking idea you have concocted.  Like Minecraft, possibly the most successful indie game of all time.  Even those musical miscreants labeling themselves as indies listen to a respectable variety of musical types ranging from rock to chiptunes.  Trying to label them all as the same ‘genre’ is just as useful as stating indie games are all the same ‘genre’.

I reported on a fantastic game crowdfund which found itself on IndieGoGo called X-Tactics.  This is a game that will be developed by veterans of Square-Enix, Capcom and Sega, and, as far as I know, it will be an indie game.  This is because it will be a game developed under a name and publisher separate from the major development community.  Other major developers have broken away from the gilt Alcatraz of major gaming and gone rogue.  This sort of thing happens in music all the time with supergroups of famous stars that get together to form an awesome musical entourage.  They don’t feel the need to label themselves indie, although many found independent record labels, I would speculate this is due to a lack of oppressive horseshit experienced in the gaming indusrty.  They have their own struggles with record labels and within their industry, and I am not trying to diminish their battles.   But when you look at the size of the gaming industry and its unrivaled power to crush dreams, the music industry seems positively navigable.  Lorne Lanning, creator of the Oddworld series, is another of these major names, and Oddworld is a game that deserves to call itself indie.  In his interview on VG247 he goes into exhausting detail about why major developers would ever go indie, but my favorite line is:

“I’d rather not make games than go fucking be a slave for public companies who care more about their shareholders than they do about their customers.”

Yea he really says that, and more, but saying ‘established developers going indie would similarly render it useless’ is equally quaint.  The fact is that major developers are terrified of indie developers.  Scared down to their quivering, flaccid cores of achieving the same level of irrelevance populated by Leigh Alexander and Anita Sarkeesian.  But why would they be afraid?  Here’s why:

Some people estimate that Mojang made 84.2 million USD and 66.4 million Euros from Minecraft in 2012.  Sure, they are on the Minecraft forum, but they were estimating out of nerdy interest and had no real motivation other than spontaneous curiosity.   If a fraction of that is true, it still doesn’t account for the numerous other countries that play Minecraft and how much money they’ve spent on it.  When Mojang became a money machine overnight the collective bowels of major game publishers voided into unsuitably diminutive pants.  Mojang showed that a bizarre game with a solid concept and motivation can conquer the world, and they didn’t have to pass through the close-guarded gates built by major developers.  Simply put, major developers weren’t getting a share of that money.  That millions and millions of currency of your choice, and it hurt.  If not in their pockets, somewhere deep in their dark, dusty souls.

Turning back to Berts, he goes on to attack indie from numerous angles: big budgets, large staff, companies that make both major games and indie games, and honestly he continues attempting to discredit the concept of indie games.  It is a shoddy attempt to convolute the real issue behind the conversation.  See, major publishers see everyone jumping ship for this concept of “freedom.”  More and more, major developers are leaving them, and, like a jilted ex, major publishers try to bring them back.  This article points to companies like Ubisoft, which was responsible for Valiant Hearts, and says that the “easily identifiable elements” that make these games ‘indie’ are artistic, retro features of a game that make it bizarre or deviant from the norm of gaming.  Thing is, this article tries to make it sound like indies are becoming just as independent as major developers, when really major developers are just afraid of becoming as small-time as indie.  They are afraid of the change in the industry bringing about new giants and contenders and themselves losing relevance in the swarm of rising stars.  Mostly, this is just the result of gamers becoming largely disenfranchised by major publishers, who want to make the same bullshit over and over and have us swallow their crap forever.  The fact is, funding autonomous studios to make games for you is nice, but the fact is if your game is published and distributed by someone like Sony or Ubisoft, you aren’t independent, which is the source-word of indie.  You are just following the same tired model of the studio-publisher model except that they grant you a little more freedom.  Because that is what is making money nowadays, right?  Indie games are innovative and bold in ways that major publishers don’t have the balls to be, they’re creative in ways that major distributors can’t rely on and they’re unpredictable in ways that can’t be monetized by a massive company effectively.  Indie games are indie games because they succeed by their own virtue, not under the cultivation of a major publisher, which has all the power of a totalitarian propaganda machine at its disposal.

Then again, I am reading this in Game Informer, a magazine that is commonly perused by the Mountain Dew and Doritos abusing target audience of major publishers.  Not like they would ever publish an article that is biased in favor of the people who directly profit from the sale of games created by major publishers (who publish this rag mag), rather than the sale of indie games that sell through Steam or even indiedevs’ websites.  My suggestion is to refer to “indie” games that have been incubated and published by the likes of Sony, Activision et al as subbed indies:  Independent games that are subsidized by major publishers.  Granted, people will likely not care about the distinction, as long as the game is fucking fun.  I just find it annoying when they say the label is no longer “relevant” or “useful” just because major industry gaming thinks so.  Indie games should remain indie because it keeps them from being enslaved by major companies that just want to put their dick in it and soak up profits.

Have your own crotchety thoughts on this?  Join the discussion in my Steam group, Crotchety Gamers United!