Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Southfield Citizen Observer Crime Bulletin September 14-21, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I'm Out. I'm Done. I'm Tired So Very Tired (Gamergate Round 2)

So for the past week I've been doing rhetorical battle with Gamergate and losing.  For the sake of my sanity.

I'm giving it a rest. But before I do I feel I owe it to myself to write down exactly why I feel the movement is so loathsome. Oh and I absolutely hate Gamergate.

I'm Sorry But Yes It Is Misogynistic
That isn't to say every person advocating the #Gamergate tag is a misogynist but the movement itself is. The tag was created in order to hold the video game press and industry "accountable" for a series of DISPROVEN scandals involving Zoe Quinn. First off the spark that set all this off was a blog that qualifies as hate speech as well as a hate campaign designed to make her life miserable, both of which were pretty blatantly misogynistic.

Now several in Gamergate want to leave all that stuff behind but 1.) I'm sorry you can't without completely disassociating yourself from it which means dropping the tag. and 2.) There are still a whole lot of guys who are in Gamergate for that reason. They see nothing wrong with the post or any of the stuff that followed it.

But let's for the sake of argument say we're past all of that stuff.  The second spark was a series of articles based on this blog post with headlines amounting to  "Gamers are Dead"

Yes the headlines were incendiary but the articles themselves were warning gaming culture about this sort of reaction. The point of the articles was that whether the traditional game audience like it or not more women and minorities are playing games and that the games industry should and is going to have to do things to appeal to that broader audience. Specifically they are going to have to deal with harassment in the form of things like Zoegate and on a more generalized level Xbox live.

And the writers making that point, many of whom were female were hit with a slew of some pretty foul stuff. Rape threats, death threats, hacking of websites, the posting of personal information. And this bile spread to anyone who was defending them again often women in the industry who wanted to take note of various double standards within it.

When somebody says hey guys you don't like women much the movement responds by (metephorically) hatcheting up the woman who pointed it out even if she is generally on their side about everything else.

That's A Problem but It's Not My Big Problem
Yes people can be douchebags to women and yes I should get off my fat ass about it more but that's not made me react.

What made me react was that in the hubub Gamergate was silencing writers who they disagreed with through intimidation.

They frame it as wanting games journalism to be objective and in reportage I don't have a problem with that I would even laud it, but as I see it most of games journalism is opinionated commentary on art. And the objectivity they want is to allow the writer's views to be divorced from that commentary.

Even with actual reportage there is a debate about how strictly objective a reporter can be but when the point of the writing is specifically for them to document their opinion about any given game or event in the community taping their mouths in that way just seems illogical.

Furthermore most of this is a backlash to SJWs or social justice warriors. Critics and writers who analyze games, video game culture, and video game news through the lenses  of social justice, feminist film theory, post-structuralism, critical race theory and politics in general.

My feeling is that it's not so much they want politics out of games journalism but they want politics they disagree with out of games journalism.  But again let's take them at their word.

It's very seldom that art is apolitical.  First off art is always interpreted by it's audience which is never a tabula rasa.  And if that audience's experience is affected by their perception of the art regardless of if it's clouded by personal politics that perception is still relevant to the discussion. And pretending otherwise is foolish because while art imitates life, life also imitates art.

And even if that were not the case video games are getting to the point where some them do have explicit political messages. Bio-shock for instance is a pretty hard condemnation on Randian Objectivism.

Part of what makes that game so interesting (I haven't played it yet it's on my list) is its poltics and they deserve to be discussed in the public. I don't like the idea of saying to writers. Nope can't talk about that.

It also strikes me is hypocritical that the movement is so offended when web administrators and moderators act to, on websites they own, silence voices they find distasteful when that's exactly what the movement has been trying to do as well except in some cases with more than a ban hammer.

That's not to say anti-Gamergate is completely blameless I just feel as cliched as it is to say Gamergate started this nightmare.

Even if that were not the case I feel that it's distasteful that rather than a strict boycott in which the consumer would forgo the convenience of a product in order to deprive the company they dislike of capital Gamergate is still reading work from the publications they hate by using archiving sites and adblock.

Look I'm no saint. I've pirated before I'll probably pirate again, but I don't like that these guys are declaring said piracy political activism, especially when some of them are using imagery and language from the Montgomery bus boycotts.

You are not Malcolm X because you are fighting for your "right" to use the N-Word and the C-Word and the other F-Word in the comments section.

And Now For An Apology
In my previous post I spread the idea that there might some truth to the Zoegate scandle. I was wrong. Horribly wrong.

The or rather a new conspiracy theory is that a group of journalists after debating it in a series of emails decided not to report on Quinn in an attempt not to spread the story. This is a pretty common thing with stories involving violent crime, or rape. But currently Gamergate has latched on it to as a sign that reporters made a collective decision not to report the news. To singularly push a narrative. I disagree with that profoundly when in the emails the journalists explicitly explained their logic for not covering it.

At first I'll admit I had a problem with such a  mailing list but I'm a member of several linked in groups and if I were smart I would try joining SPJ. Talking to and getting advice from others in a professional field isn't a sin. In fact it's what people should be doing if they want to get better at their jobs.

Moreover in general gamergate is full of untested rumors presented as fact. It's almost impossible to know what the hell these guys are mad about today as yesterday's rant becomes deemed untenable and a new outrage is found.

I dislike that these guys are talking about journalistic standards in absolutes often claiming to be more expert than the reporters, the editors, and in some cases even thier legal departments. They lash on to subjective opinions as lies and tie their authors to the flogging post.

The Harm

Here is the rub. Each article and each game is endowed just a bit with the soul of its creator. Each voice that decides they would rather leave the industry, both developers and writers, than deal with the fans is a loss. It means that we probably won't see what ever ideas lead them to sticking it out this long. And that's something we should all take heed of. We aren't just hurting them but ourselves as well.

When does it end, when every writer, developer and artist who disagrees, or has an unpopular thought is either run out or completely disillusioned about their passion. When all joy they had has been crushed and they are souless husks only left  in the business because they need the money,

And it's spreading. A lot of these people don't just work in games but in other fields and as they go to defend their friends they get clobbered. #Comicgate is already brewing. I can't do this. I spent a good week trying to argue sense but I can't anymore. I'll let Edward Murrow do it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Southfield Regular September 22, 2014 City Council Meeting

Southfield City Council September 22, 2014 Regular Meeting

Topics Discussed Include

  • Various appointments
  • The Coasting The Baseline Project
  • Changes to Council Communication Rules

An agenda and related documents can be found at here.

Southfield September 22, 2014 City Council Committee of The Whole Meeting

Topics Discussed Include

  • A Public Works Long Term Improvement Plan
  • Education Efforts Regarding the Upcoming Millage
  • The Purchase of Homeland Security Vehicle

An agenda and related documents can be found here,

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Southfield Board of Education Meeting September 9, 2014

Southfield Board of Education Meeting Held September 9, 2014

Topics Discussed Include

  • The Resignation and honoring of Darryle Buchanan
  • Information Regarding Applications To Be Appointed to The School Board
  • Technology Updates
  • Digital Textbook And Materials Update
  • Transportation Problems During the Beginning of the School Year

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Southfield September 8, 2014 City Council Meeting

September 8, 2014 Southfield City Council Meeting

Topics Discussed Include

  • Emergency Damage, Operations, and Brush Pickup Update After Local Storm
  • Flooding and Power Outages
  • A Contract For Detention Facilities and With G4S For Felony Arrests
  • A Proposal For A Power Pro Services Faculty
  • A Proposal to Make The Arbor Loft Project More Feasible
  • An update on Road, Water and Sewer Plans and Construction
  • The Establishment of A Public Arts Commission
  • An Update on The Southfield Base Line Obelisk
  • A Proposed Monitorium on Oil Gas and Mining Operations Within the City

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Storm Update From Southfield Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Bill Johns

Over the course of August and Early September a number of storms have taken place though out South East Michigan resulting in power outages and flooding. Southfield Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Bill Johns Updates Southfield City Council regarding issues relating to the storms throughout the City on September 8, 2014.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Terry's Friend Dates A Robot

So I have it set up so that my Facebook page automatically posts stuff from Twitter but it got cut off and that made me think about what I was saying at the time.

A while back I cut Weird Science some slack due to Lisa's personality but on it's own, it's Frankenstein's monster as a sex doll.

I was in the middle of my mini-Batman Beyond marathon when I hit "Terry's Friend Dates A Robot"

At first I thought it was one of the weaker episodes but as I ruminate I realize how influential that episode actually was. Its themes and basic set up influenced  both Futurama with "I Dated a Robot" and Buffy The Vampire Slayer's  " I Made love to You"

It's something I didn't realize.

Almost all of these episodes can be seen as a commentary on Weird Science.

I disagree with the commentary on the movie but not the idea. Which shows up a lot due to the Galatea archetype.

 Or in case you were born after 1970

 It was just something interesting on my brain.

(Oh and yes I'm aware that the original play both these movies are riffing on was actually a subversion with a different ending.)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Videogame Review: Grand Theft Auto V

You know what. #Gamergate and #Notyourshield are actually starting to make me lose sleep. Last night I tried to take the edge off by watching some old  Batman Beyond episodes because Batman is kind of awesome. But eventually I couldn't do it.  So I started tweeting and ended up doing a quasi-review of GTA V so here you go somewhat edited. Keep in mind I haven't finished the game but there is some stuff to talk about.


This is how I've felt for the last 72 hours.

 I'm getting pissed watching this stuff a lot of the journalists who were harassed into quitting their jobs were women and it's downright stupid to say they don't have a right to discuss these issues in games.

Sure I'm a guy and if #notmyshield wants to come after me for speaking for women eh they have a point. But everybody else, I'm furious about that.

By the way that's an song based on a blog post by Leigh Alexander about a year ago.
As a black guy this on the other hand is why we need to talk about this stuff.

GTA V is a satire of Los Angeles and everything is exagerated so I generally cut it some slack.

But Lamar Davis crosses some lines. And in case you guys haven't figured it out Jimmy is a parody of what the Rockstar thinks of you guys.

Don't prove them right.

Lamar is basically Snoop's character in The Wash.

Except there everybody was in on the joke. Every character with the possible exception of Dre's is playing dumb for laughs. Look I'm not going to hold up The Wash as a cinematic masterpiece. Some of the jokes fell flat but at least it was clear it was a joke. But almost everything in GTA is an exaggerated version of some real life thing. There is going to be some portion of the audience who looks at Lamar and thinks that's how black people are. It's the difference between laughing with black folk and laughing at them. It was one of the reasons Dave Chapelle left his show.

Now while all of that is a reason why I dislike GTA V it's not the reason I dislike GTA V. I dislike GTAV because the flight controls are ass and I had to spend 6 hours replaying the same mission as the ignored cricket on Trevor's shoulder.

The entire point of Trevor is that he's a crazy insane sociopath. And in many ways he is self aware metaphor for the worst of gaming. None of the protagonists of the games are likable. Micheal rationalizes his anger, Franklin is an enabler, and Trevor revels in destruction for its own sake. And that's part of the point. You are not suppose to identify with and cheer on these guys. Yet it seems like that went right over people's heads.

The are moments in the game that seem as if the developer was testing the audience. Providing subtle ways for them to subvert the actions thier avatars would have them take. For instance the torture scene.

Even playing the game straight it gives you a what the hell hero. But it also provides you a third option. The government guys don't care who they get as long they get someone. The entire thing is a farce. If you take the shot as soon as you can the game isn't going to call you on being wrong.

Far from it.


The game wants you to desperately find a way out before you kill this guy. It wants to make the audience feel as uncomfortable as possible about torture, but also bets that the audience doesn't give two shits and just wants to play with nipple clamps and baseball bats.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Southfield Citizen Observer Crime Bulletin August 25-31, 2014

What Can I Say I'm A Static Fanboy

So as you might have realized I'm a nerd. And as a nerd I'm often disapointed that there are so few minority voices in nerd culture. Oh they're there but they have an uphill battle to climb, but I kind of want to take a second to talk about two of my heroes.

The late great Dwane McDuffie was a titan of new millennium genre fiction and he gave me hope. He's mostly known for his work in comics and their television adaptations but he also gave me one of my favorite superheros.

Static, and I'm kind of in the mood to get my nerd on. I mostly know Static from his three four season cartoon run but he was an original creation of McDuffie to be a modern update of Spider-man. He's basically a nerd who got superpowers in a freak accident.

I don't really know McDuffie outside of his creations, but I really related to Static. I've always considered myself as a nerd but the older I got the more I viewed the the traditional stereotype as just that, a stereotype. Virgil Hawkins more than that, was nerd but was a realistic nerd. He regularly hung out at comic shops. quipped when he was getting bullied and overall was kind of guy I could relate to skirting between the edges of nerdom  and African American culture in a way that helped me bridge different aspects of my personality growing up which always tends to balance me out a bit. It didn't hurt that McDuffie grew up in Detroit and "Dakota City" looked kind of familiar to me.

It's one of the best genre depictions of a rustbelt city I've seen. And they even did an episode where Virg basically ended up transferring to Dakota's equivalent of Cass Tech. I mean they returned to the status quo by the end of the episode but Vanmoor is so Cass Tech.

Everybody says that there is stuff in the comics that just couldn't make it into the show like Richie, Virgil's best friend and eventual sidekick in the show coming out as gay.

I've been meaning to read them for a while but eh.

For better or worse when it comes to superheroes I mostly stick with TV at least until I get the fundage to buy that DC back-catalogue I always wanted speaking of which.

Eventually static and his crew got enveloped into DC's line up, and yes he's hanging around the new 52 but again I need fundage.

What interests me more as that his show was airing, and got assimilated during the age of the Timmverse the writers had to work pretty hard to integrate his normal wacky monster of the week antics into the more narritive driven DCAU. There were a few good ones but what really got nuts was a cross over with Batman Beyond.

I love Batman Beyond. When I decide to be the snarky cynical version of myself I basically have Will Friedle's deadpan "annoyed jaded baddass" voice in my head, now that I mention it my manic goofy voice doesn't seem that far off from his either.

Right, Right Batman. It is one of the greatest television shows of my youth and I spent a great deal of it in front of the tubes so that's saying something. The premise is Bruce Wayne gets too old to be Batman and passes the torch. And since it takes place in the future it brings one of my favorite depictions of cyberpunk.

See other episodes established that Static was indead in the same universe as the rest of the DC crew. But this one established that eventually he was going to make his way up to the big leagues as a regular member of the JL.

As a kid that meant everything to me as an inspiration with yeah life gets better as you grow up, something I needed to hear circa 2003.

But once they establish that they did really cool stuff in Justice League Unlimited's "Once and Future Thing" which transfer's Batman, Green Lantern (John Stewart) and  Wonderwoman to future Gotham.

And well yeah since I saw myself in Young static.

You know I also really dug Young Justice I should probably review it seeing as it's on Netflix but you know what really made by brain explode.

Like I said there aren't a lot of Black super heroes out there. Black Panther and Luke Cage were before my time and apart from being Black I never related much to them so my favorite was always Static, but after his JL cameos I hadn't seen him in a few years but Young Justice gave him and his crew an entire subplot in season 2. They even spent time on character development which took real effort considering the size of the cast of that show.

Oh and yes they actually managed to make Apache Chief badass.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Angry Black Man: Oh Gamergate. Why?

I'm proud to be a gamer. See when I was a kid I sucked at sports, and while I won't argue that reflex time has nothing to do with skill in games I was better able to understand and adapt to the systems inherit to them than in physical sports where at least for me it was really hard to come out on top by outthinking the other guy. To this day I still can't describe exactly what a point guard does but I do get the idea behind spearmen/footmen/calvary.  With video games it felt like the playing field was level and that I had chance even if I wasn't the most naturally strong, or tall, or fast guy on the court.

Video games always felt fair!

Heeeeehhhhh, we got to talk.
I have some issues with games journalism especially Youtube funding and, "sponsored" let's play videos but #Gamergate is stupid. It's making us all look like assholes. Please stop it.

Okay what is Gamergate you might ask?

I'm Sorry Yes It Is News
So roughly two weeks ago the ex-boyfriend of a female game developer created a blog to write about her infidelity. Kind of scummy, but he also insinuated that she slept with a guy for a review. If true, its all very dubious, but if true yes it is a scandal. I'm sorry but if this thing happened in political journalism with a reporter sleeping with a politician they were covering that reporter would probably be fired on the spot at least in theory.

That said since she's not a journalist why is everyone focusing on her instead of the one guy mentioned that's actually of consequence in that whole thing. Oh wait. I know why. God damn it.

But anyway video game journalism is in a weird transitional state and ethics need to be talked about and I will in a bit.

Update: Here is Kotaku's response to the controversy. It's pretty old and I'm surprised I didn't find it sooner. And the ex made another blog post clearing up the time frame. Still a douche though. 

But things do not happen in a vacuum.

That's Not Okay
First off reading the blog it's clear that this guy didn't write it because his girlfriend slept with a reporter and he's concerned about the journalism ethics of Kotaku. But because she wasn't sleeping with him!

Seriously that blog is one of of the most entitled, fucked up things I've read on the internet and I've been around the bend, and that includes crazy conspiracy and neo-nazi sites. It's that bad. Short of actual violence or physical destruction I got nothin' worse I can think of.  And all of that bile became entangled in whatever other discussion was to be had about video game journalism ethics.  Meaning we aren't talking about video game journalism ethics but rather slut shamming somebody most of these idiots didn't even know about before it became "cool" to send her death threats.

Also all of this happened around the same time as the Hollywood 4chan leak so there is also that baggage especially considering the douchebag posted screenshots of her facebook messages and photos.

Gamers Against Bigotry
All of the crazy really came out of the woodwork. That is so not okay. And evidently a crap ton of video game professionals agreed and signed an open letter against that type of crap.

Again things do not happen in a vacuum

Harassment has long been a problem in the video game community and a lot of people have addressed and opined on it. Over the last few years that discussion has morphed into a larger discussion on the media theories regarding race and gender in games and one of its figureheads is Anita Sarkeesian creator of the webseries Feminist Frequency and Tropes vs Women where she discusses how women are portrayed in fictional media.

She has long had to deal with that crap and the letter can also be seen as in support of her.


And back to video game journalism and its weird transitional state. I'll be honest while part of this is stuff I lived through I'm kind of cribbing from a really good Guardian article and while I am writing this I eyeballed the first few paragraphs of a slate article published about an hour ago.

As I mentioned before I kind of got into video games because I was a young nerd and it was something I was good at, or at least competent at not related to school.  And for a really long time that's how both video games and video gamers were perceived.

Then about a decade ago something weird happened. Video games started gaining mainstream success. That changed the video game journalism landscape.

Wait let me back up.

In the Beginning in the Long Long Ago
So the "traditional" landscape has basically been made up of three forces. Promotional marketing, consumer reporting, and fandom. And in a weird way all of this hullabaloo is being stirred by the fracturing and infighting of those or at least the successors those three forces.

Promotional Marketing

Moviebob explained the importance of Nintendo Power a long time ago so here's a link. But it was one of the first gaming magazines and set the tone of what game journalism would look like for roughly two decades.

And it's weird. See Nintendo Power was a promotional tool of Nintendo but due to it's quality it became more than that, affecting how the gaming community and culture discussed games before it was even clear that there was a gaming community and culture.

It and magazines like it projected the self image of gamers. In a way it told us who we were or at least who we wanted to be. MARKETING. Though kind of cool marketing.

I'll get to this later but, yes there is a gamer culture beyond person who plays games and the jackasses on Xbox Live, just like there is a film culture and a literary culture and thanks to Nintendo Power and other industry created magazines like it the makers of those games and their companies had a say in what that culture would be from the consumer's perspective since gaming's birth.

Consumer Reporting

Most of that stuff happened when I was too young to think about it. My experience with the gaming press came much later around the early 2000's tech boom. See to me and many at the time video games were just another facet of that tech boom. Ask any PC gamer what gets them to upgrade their rig and they'll tell you games.

And thus was the primary role of the gaming press at the turn of the century, telling gamers which hardware, peripherals and games were worth their money and maybe also how to get the most out of all that stuff.

Remember a lot of the tech magazines and even televisions shows dealt with the explosion of consumer technology and games fit the bill, especially when the cheapest DVD player on the market was Sony's Playstation 2.

A Brief Aside
And this is where I kind have do a keyboard headbutt. Yes. Consumer reporting is and always has been generally too close to the industries they cover. And I might as well say this now and get it out of the way.

To the small sliver of people who are not being misogynistic assholes using this as an excuse to bully anybody they don't like and/or getting on a meme bandwagon they don't understand issues of journalism are important to the industry and are being discussed, but some of these "scandals" are how not just video game but technology and entertainment journalism have operated for decades.

The reason why it still goes on is because nobody has thought of a better way to get consumer information quickly out to the masses without the cooperation of the various industries themselves or really deep pockets. The ads to the audience are of the same products being reviewed. In order for the products be reviewed cheaply and timely arrangements need to be made with the manufacturers. It's the type of thing everybody knows, everybody is mad about but nobody has a really good solution to, except for maybe excluding the entire tech/gaming press to the obscenely rich which comes with its own set of problems.

And yes this is where I have to flash my angry black guy bonifides.


My point is that while that stuff is a problem it's not one born out of the sort of malice the twitter rants would have you believe and that even if it were some of the crap that's gone down can't be justified. The most depressing part of this to me is that a valid argument that was already being had got entangled with various personalities and degenerated what can best be called a clusterfuck caused by selfrightous dicks.

See all of that stuff got latched on to the arguments after the fact. Gamergate originally started out as a reaction against two women who had the "audacity" criticize the medium and the industry after an ex of one of them did some stupid stuff and the game professionals who decided to come to their defense when the idiots came out of the woodwork.

Where was I right.

Fandom and Nerd Culture
It was the 90's. How I miss them. While internet 2.0 will have bigger consequences I'll explain in a moment the old school internet exposed people to new ideas and media they otherwise wouldn't have access to, the economy didn't hurt either. And older forms of media adapted to these new niches creating the birth of what is now known as nerd culture.

And video games with their connection to technology became a huge part of that, especially once it became clear that modern video game systems are basically modified computers.

Web 2.0 Changed Everything
Okay. There was a time when I would have shrugged off web 2.0 as a kitschy buzzword but it really did change everything. Web 2.0 is the collective name of a number of innovations that happened roughly around 2004 that radically changed how the internet looked and operated.

The availability of internet video, commenting sections, social networking, and blogging took the conversation away from the traditional journalists and created a new breed of internet commentators. And they came in a few distinctively new flavors that the old press limited to the page just couldn't.

Youtubers and Bloggers
Okay almost everyone of these categories involve Youtube and Blogging in some way, but I want to talks about a very specific subgroup. The explosion of the internet like in other forms of journalism has supplanted a lot of the old guard. A lot of the stuff they used to do, interviews, reviews, computer benchmarks, and strategy guides are now being done by anybody who is passionate enough about this stuff with a computer.

But right now the internet isn't as young as it used to be. These guys are becoming more and more savvy about advertising, production, collaboration, business and the industry.  There is an old joke, well new old joke that if you want to get rich on YouTube time travel back to 2006.

Let's Players- Oh these guys probably deserve a whole post to themselves. In case you don't know let's plays are playthroughs of video games often intercut with commentary. They are really new and are being discussed elsewhere with Pewdiepie's Let's Play channel being on the top of the Youtube heap.

In a way being able to play a game and discuss it as you're playing it is a new form of video game journalism but since it's so new and because as stated ...consumer reporting, there is a concern regarding the transparency of funding for the people who do it. Especially those who do it regularly. Youtube has a not unfounded reputation of being the people's medium and there is a concern marketers are going to try leverage these guys reputation as being just a bunch of college kids having fun. That's not cool and is kind of depressing. Especially considering I really find let's plays both entertaining and informative. Again the cure here is sunshine. But again new form of media so yeah.

And then there are the copyright issues.

A while ago I said the internet was basically acting as a public film school, allowing serious conversations to be had using popular media as a common reference pool. Same dealie.  And this is largely part of the conflict. These guys want video games to be taken seriously as a medium the same way film is and right now they feel the key to that is the audience taking the medium seriously asking questions what it all means. And there is a vocal subgroup of the gamer culture that's screaming at them to shut up so they can go back to playing Call of Duty. Since this thing is so long which group do you think my sympathies lie with.

Like with damn near every other form of manufacturing the guys who make stuff can now directly communicate with everyone else and that's interesting. If a server's down or patch is coming there is a chance you might not be talking to a marketing team or even a Twitter intern but an actual programmer. Quickie aside I know it goes against every instinct marketers have but talking to and engaging with an actual person is so much better than a team warts and all.

Broadband and new genres like tower defense and MOBA have really seen the pro-gaming scene take off. I have mostly ignored both genres but I shouldn't have.

Everyone Else
Look it's the internet between twitter and forums everyone talks, and everyone listens. And I might sugest that that's kind of part of the problem. Let me put on my misanthrope hat for a second. 90 percent of humanity is made up of douchebags it's just that we don't notice because in normal life you can avoid idiots, to a point at least but on the internet that stuff is harder and harder to avoid as everyone has a megaphone.

The Bro Factor

I don't hate bros. Heck depending on what day of the week it is, I kind am one. Why is this relevant? Well again Bob said it best but the early days of video games they were very much influenced by Japan as that was the country that housed Nintendo, Sega and Sony the biggest video game companies of the 90's. But Microsoft threw thier hat into the ring.

The Japanese audience hated the Xbox and this one isn't doing much better but it and it's killer app, Halo found an audience as one of the go to time killers in American college dorm rooms and frat houses. And that audience and its image has been integrated into gaming culture as a whole.

The problem is that this is the audience Microsoft has. For all it's weight in the industry Microsoft has never made much a dent in the old school Japanese market and this is the audience they feel they have to deal with, so more and more they pander to it making bros the new image of gaming culture.

And a lot of people feel this is where a lot of the stupid of the scene is coming from. It may be or it may not be but it's something to consider.

Not all bros are jerks.

Again part of where I'm coming from is the perspective of an African American and marketers have been insultingly pandering to us since... well since the civil rights movement forced them to no longer exploit or ignore us which they do anyway but allow me to go on.

It takes a while for the intended audience of the marketing to filter up into places where they can actually make decisions about it. So you have a whole bunch of guys who are only exposed to a culture from outside of it trying to communicate and resonate with it.

But again as a black guy I also realize that when it does connect it can create a negative feedback loop as people cop elements of that culture without really realizing what they mean.

For example it took me a long time to like rap because I conflated the powerful sincere anger and angst of early 90's and late 80's rap with the posturing and peacocking of early 2000's rap.   Oh who the hell am I kidding, "Party Up" is decent musical junk food as long as you don't make the mistake of taking it as anything other than that which a disturbingly large number of my generation did.

Or on a more serious note.

It's the difference between the Black Panthers of the 60's and the Black Panthers of the 70's.

As a response there is a segment of the gaming community more and more ashamed that that's what people think when they view gamers or even the gaming community. So there has been several campaigns by well meaning people to abolish the term gamer. Even Nintendo ran a "I am not a gamer" ad campaign for the 3DS... then hastily backtracked when people hated those ads.

I kind of disagree with that. For better or worse gaming culture, i.e the social infrastructure, tradition, perceptions and conceptions, surrounding games exist in the same way they do with other forms of media like film and literature. And it seems to me the options are to either pretend they don't or come up with some new arbitrary and potentially clunky word.  And neither option makes sense to me. I never liked film goer. A film is not a place.  I like gamer. I play games. I know about the mechanics of games. I know video game logic.  Gamer works.

The Rise of The Indie and Casual Scenes

So you know all that stuff I said about Microsoft adopting the bro audience. Well Nintendo took the opposite approach and a lot of "The Analyzers" love them for it. Justified or not Nintindo assumed their traditional aesthetic wouldn't fly with the new audience of modern gaming.

So their strategy was to engage... everybody else. This was financially successful for them but it served to fragment the gaming market. With the major players of my generation persuing the "bros" and Nintendo going off and doing its own thing.  Right now I would say we have basically three different game markets and by extension four different gaming scenes a lot of which don't get along.

The AAA Market

For most of video gaming history, this was it. As a matter of fact I consider most of the old guard to be in this catagory. In gaming lingo AAA development mostly refers to the the amount of resources the game developers have to work with but there are also a lot of trends and tropes here.

AAA development can further be sub-divided into the western and eastern scenes. Which also at times kind clash because of cultural and aesthetic differences. Also known as "Stop with the spikes Square-Enix!" pique

The Retro Scene

Remember how I said the perception of gamers changed. Well these are guys who for whatever reason prefer or at least dig the aesthetics, gameplay or even culture of times gone by. And while time machines don't exist digital distribution and online shopping has in a lot of ways made getting your hands on older games easier. Sonic 2 costs 5 bucks on XBLA.

A lot of these guys resent the older perception of gamer as geeks but also dislike the perception of gamer as bro and feel like nobody really truly gets gamer culture anymore or know if they ever did. And AAA marketing and pandering isn't helping the cause of that self reflection.

The Casual and Indie Crowd

Like I said before Nintendo decided to eschew the normal AAA audience in pursuit of everyone else. Exposing a lot of people who might not have considered gaming because of all of the cultural baggage into trying it.

At roughly the same time smart phones and digital distribution created an explosion of independent game studios and creators.  One of but not the only things that's attractive to the casual crowd is that they can enjoy games divorced from gaming culture a lot which they are rightly apprehensive about. They don't want to get into Xbox live screaming matches. They don't want people to think they want to get into Xbox live screaming matches.

They just want to have fun.

And all things told I think everybody wants to have fun. But everybody thinks that's somebody else's fun will mess with theirs. The AAA crowd is afraid that all the focus on the casual scene will dramatically change gameplay and auestics into something they hate so they spew vitrol and everybody else reacts to it.

Especially when attention is brought to the elephant in the room.

Fiction is a Luxury

I will argue the power of story telling until I am blue in the face. But art, and I believe that all fictional media and even some non-fictional media qualifies as art is a luxury, a toy, a thing not strictly necessary for the continuation of life.

As such it's often experienced and controlled by the privileged who can afford to produce, purchase and comment on it. That's kind of shitty but for most forms of media eventually a time comes where the cost of production and communication comes down so it can be experienced by more people. The moral arc of the universe and all that. We are at that point, that glorious point.

My Point
Okay the reason why I occasionally jump on the feminism bandwagon is because I see a lot of similar issues with race. I love anime. I will champion as a serious medium until I die but I can only think of two not insulting black main characters off the top of my head.

See growing up while I liked video games and anime I was also aware that I wasn't the audience they had in mind. I dealt with it, but it kind of disappointed me that more of my friends weren't willing to give it a shot and to a degree ostracized me for doing so.

But part of me doesn't blame them when the the industries and the media they produced refused to think of them as a potential audience and in some cases dismissed them so thoroughly as to straight up insult them in the products they were buying.

See these aren't new issues. Hollywood already did this.  You want to know how Blaxploition happened.

Hollywood finally realized that black people were spending money in the cinema and wanted to appeal to and then include them Were some of the attempts misguided and embarrassing? Sure. Was Hollywood completely disinfected of racial bullshit. Hell no!

All the same it's kind of hard for me to take even the best stuff Hollywood had to offer prior to Raisin in The Sun seriously.

It's long time the same thing happened for all my other favorite forms of media and that's only going to happen if there is a diverse range of voices passionate about media being heard.

Video games, not just the games, but the press, the culture, the industry should be fair.

Also note that since I live under a rock I didn't start paying any attention to this stuff until a few days ago.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Are We Talkin' About the Same Thing?

Okay so the big thing in the news, well the big thing the news that doesn't involve the possibility of WWIII is that numerous celebs had thier icloud accounts hacked. While, there is a lot of stupid going around what interests me is that a lot of the conversation are reactions to different perspectives on what I'll call four different but related and very necessary debates we need to have.

Public Private Binary
Okay a lot of older people I know view public and private life as a binary. I live on the internet so I don't. I kind of wanted to have this discussion with the Anthony Wiener thing but he and that situation kind of tarnished the intellectual discussion I wanted have. There was just way too much baggage there.

But here is a pretty black and and white case of what I was thinking.

While stuff on cloud accounts are on the internet and can be shared they are at least intended to be more or less a convenient place to store what would otherwise be private data.

As I was saying people of my parents generation view public and private as a binary

Allow me to digress for moment. On the internet and as a guy chasing internet media celebrity I've found the only way to stay sane is to live life by the following paradoxical axiom.


The internet gives me access to audiences I just don't have in real life. Half the time nobody knows what the hell I'm talking about and that can be a mental strain. But on the internet exists people who may get it and that's a beautiful thing.  However I don't know that audience well enough to just send each and everyone of them a private email. Why would I? It's the internet everybody is a radio commentator, columnist, and stand-up comedian here. So instead I have to put that stuff in the public where everybody can see it in hopes that it will find and connect to an audience. But that's a risk. It's a risk that somebody who is apathetic to, or worse offended by it will see it.

I hate the idea that the solution to that problem is just to shut up and never put anything someone might be offended by out there. The great thing about the internet is that you can find anything, and if everybody was afraid that this or that person's sensibilities would be stepped on, the internet would be a much more boring, much less interesting and yes much less useful place.

You can say the same thing about television and any medium but I'm willing to give the uptight brigade that since the pool of television channels is smaller than the VASTNESS OF THE WEB the general audience should be considered a little more.

All of this has lead me to the principle that the internet should not be considered public in the same way television is, especially since different parts of it are locked.

It bugs me every time someone is fired for something they said on a personal Facebook account as if that personal account somehow represents or even affects the entire company.

We have to have both legal and social degrees of privateness.

There are a lot of folks going "Well these woman should have put these photos on the internet" but as most media reports have pointed out they put them in a very private place on the internet. And so that assertion seems ill suited for the situation.

The Miley Cyrus Scenario

The next discussion is a discussion that's been had a lot of the last few years so I won't dwell on it.


It exists. Deal with it.

Persona vs Person

Okay fine. Let's do the gender neutral version of the same discussion. But not really. Hollywood tends to have a Madonna/whore thing going on where society views almost every female celebrity through the good girl/bad girl lenses.

A lot of these women at least in public persona tended to fall on the  "good girls" side of things and people can't seem to deal with the dissonance.

That isn't or at least shouldn't be their problem. All the same it's something they're going to have to deal with.

Like I said this isn't just a female problem it's why nobody watched the Majestic. But for them it also gets tangled up in sexual double standards.  So a lot of people are coming to their defense against the stupid.  But that's running up against what I consider another wholly valid discussion that needs to be had.

Cloud Storage Is Not the Same as Local Storage
Okay a crime has been perpetrated and you should never blame victims. That said I do hope this causes us to have a larger discussion. The cloud is a relatively new concept brought into being because of the availability of increased speed and more portable devices but up until now people have thought of the cloud as being analogous in most ways to local storage.  And marketers wanted it that way.

I hate that commercial so much. Why am I sharing it!? Quick tangent remember when video game commercials were like, "Hey this game, it's fun. Play it. It's fun." This one is like 2 and half minutes before we get to anything involving the game, instead we get a bunch Seltzer and Friedberg style "parodies" that stopped being funny three years ago.

I'm not kidding.

It's still harmless compared to most of the stuff EA puts out these days.

Anyway back to our regularly scheduled programming.

A lot of the tech intelligentsia are using this case as way to discuss the ways cloud storage is less secure and less personal than local storage. That discussion needs to be had especially as the law catches up with the tech in the hope that it falls on the side of the angels instead of the men with the ear mics.

And the people who are saying that right now data in the cloud can be more easily hacked are not necessarily the same guys who are slut shamming... though some totally are.

That discussion needs to be had as behind the scenes companies are indemnifying themselves against liability and are also handing over data to law enforcement agencies without warrants.

You don't own your cloud data in the same way you own local data.

This is something people people need to know and need to talk about as we're having these legal battles right now.

Sure The Supreme Court ruled that cops can't look at your phone, but what's stopping them from pressuring Google into giving up emails and photos?  And even without that if Google or in this case Apple gets hacked how responsible are they for damages?

All that stuff is iffy right now but soon it won't  and like I said I want the angels to win.

Even apart from all the law stuff my main point in both the first and last sub topics is we need need to change how we view the internet and that's not going to happen over night. It's only going to happen by stopping, thinking, and talking. The rules of the game not only need to, but are changing and if we don't sit down and codify them all of us are going to be playing different sports where what I feel was a legal check puts me in the penalty box ref.

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