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 I was actually in basic when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed and everyone thought I was going to come out.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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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:

POL_MOBILE

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.

Terrance the Flying Eyeball, Disembodied and Ready to Rock!

ReleasePoster

Somewhere on the corner of creativity and the truly bizarre sits this little game that can be found on itch.io.  I have never played any games where I was just a single flying body part, but this is surely a whole lot better than some games where you play the disembodied head of an ancient samurai warrior.  Granted, this game is not a shooter, it’s just a simple little timed game where you have to get to the end of zones.  And it’s not easy.

Controlling Terrance is pretty easy: just hit the arrows or the WASD keys, whatever your preference.  He doesn’t stop immediately, so you have to prepare for a little bit of fishtailing.  You’ll guide Terrance through small obstacle courses filled with all manner of bizarre and inventive dangers.

Just don't touch 'em, just don't touch 'em..

Just don’t touch ’em, just don’t touch ’em..

If I were actually Terrance I would be a neurotic mess.  Without explanation and, from what I can tell, shortly after his creation in a lab, this little eye has to face some pretty harrowing obstacles seemingly crafted for him.  First, there are electrified walls and blocks that disappear when you run into them; they’re the orange ones.  These wouldn’t be so bad, but then at some point there are these purple mines that come into play.  Tap one and you have 3 seconds to vacate the area or be zapped to death by purple plasma.  Each time you die, you are sent back to the beginning of the level, which makes me wonder: are you one eyeball or do they just create another?  Each level is filled with equipment and what seems to be some Looney Toons version of measuring devices in the background, so maybe this is a series of test chambers not unlike those in Portal?

Each level ups the ante on level of challenge, too.  I am still having trouble getting to the end of the second zone.  See, there are these plasma-shooting blaster things, and after a while, they home in on you and fire a lot faster.  At one point, I have to break through these glass tubes in order to progress with the blaster shooting like there’s no tomorrow behind me.  If you run into it directly, you bounce just far enough back that you’ll get zapped, so you have to run into it and use the momentum to get you past the plasma balls.  You will not be at a loss for a challenge.

Fuck whatever mad scientists designed Terrance's horrible life... seriously..

Fuck whatever mad scientists designed Terrance’s horrible life… seriously..

As far as a game goes though, especially one on itch.io, you really can’t do better.  The art here is fantastic, resembling a sort of Dexter’s Laboratory feel.  For those of you not familiar with the old Cartoon Network tv show: it’s smooth and very professional-looking.  Terrance the Flying Eyeball is a game that focuses more on timing and skill than other game elements.  If you’re looking for a fun play with a simple concept to give you a break from all those deep gaming experiences that crowd the popular platforms these days, you could do worse than Terrance.  The music is peppy and fun, the gameplay is fluid and easy to pick up.  If you don’t get some enjoyment out of playing this game, even for a little bit, then you might just be expecting too much out of your games.  Hell, the game doesn’t even cost that much.  You can pay what you want for the game.  Mind you, this is a title that has a some work in it, so leave a few notes in the till, please.  I would say this game is worth at least 5$.  If more indie devs put out games like this, competition in indie games would be even closer than it already is.  Terrance feels like a game from a game jam and is just as delightfully creative.

Point Perfect, Rage and Cursors

PP_logo

 

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.

Efec and Death, Weird Like This is Tough to Find

Henry Sorren, I am finding, is a guy that created a lot of weird things.  This game is one of them.  There is much in this game that didn’t make sense to me, and I got the feeling that is the way it was meant to be.  Each of the Pulp Horror Games has a feel and tone of its own, and this one is just bizarre.  It is very creepy, and I feel like with headphones on in the dark, I would only have completed this game in pieces.  As it stands, I haven’t completed this one, but it has a haunting spookiness.

EaD_pool

Awful lot of birds…

Efec is you character and he is a vampire.  He has, apparently, been asleep for a very long time, so long that he wakes up and there is a pool on top of him.  Whatever, he doesn’t make any mention of it, Efec seems more focused on this hooded figure.  What does the figure want?  Well, this guy tells Efec that death has been hard on the town, and that Efec is their only hope.  He has to go find and kill death.  Efec responds, sure!  Right after I get something to eat!  Makes sense.  If I was locked in some ancient enchantment for years on end, I would likely want something to eat upon waking.

So Efec wanders out into town to find: absolutely fucking nobody.  Seriously, he says “nobody is in town.”  For half a minute I thought there would be a guy sitting there like “my name’s nobody,” but yea, I guess they all just fucking died.  The really eerie thing about this world isn’t the distinctly heavy side of the building to people ratio, but the ambiance of the world.  It has the same film grain that other Pulp Horror titles seem to possess, but this one has Ave Maria playing the entire time.  And it plays like it is coming out of some dusty old victrola in a haunted attic.

...yea seriously, cause I need blood.  Can I directions to the nearest blood bank?

…yea seriously, cause I need blood. Can I get directions to the nearest blood bank?

After wandering through the town like a groggy anemic, you come to a forest.  In this forest is a well, a house – which gives Efec a ‘bad feeling – and a giant, shrieking spider.  Approaching the spider reveals that someone stole its keys and that its kids are in danger.  Whatever, man, just shut the fuck up.  I will help you get free if you’ll only shut the fuck up!!!  Wandering around, you eventually find the keys.  This is a big relief since you have, like, zero visibility out there.  Of course, you get to repeat the process as you wander through the spider caves.  It feels like there is more distance to cover, all of it in pitch darkness.  At times I found myself using walls to guide myself only to realize that I was walking into walls after a while.  There are a number of doors with hidden keys to find and it is hard as shit; so, with the profound lack of visibility, I was unable to get past the spider caves.  This game is creepy as hell, and fits October perfectly.  Play it through at some point, I promise it will give you the jitters.  This title is another artistic piece by the Pulp Horror Games crew, and it costs only 0.99$ on itunes.  Check it out at risk of your own sanity!

Rebuilding Our Culture : Where Do We Go From Here?

games

 

(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.