Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

A Brief Comments Thread Related Note

I’ve tried to keep a very laissez faire attitude towards the comments thread on this blog.  It was a stance I took when I proposed GAMR – I felt that the best way to show off the idiocy that was eating at the anti-consumer movement known as GamerGate was to let their comments speak for themselves.

Along the way, though, the comments on this blog took a turn, from being a place where people with divergent opinions could healthily disagree to one where attacks were getting uncomfortably personal.

Today I started deleting comments that have, in my opinion, crossed the line.  This has centered on one inflammatory person, and some posts from people who responded to this person in kind and who, in all honesty, should know better.  One of those posts was, in fact my own.  Know that, definitely in the short term, my tolerance for that kind of bullshit is going to drop to about zero.  And to the nameless, faceless person who caused all this to happen by launching bombs at people from the safety of anonymity, I invite you to go start your own blog if you want to keep posting in the manner you are now, because the stuff you were posting most recently isn’t going to pass muster here anymore.

I still welcome those who have divergent opinions, and I still have several pro-GamerGate voices who post on here who I feel do contribute to the conversation in a way where the tone can still be civil, constructive and interesting.  I’ve in fact invited one such person to do a front page post (we’ll see if he accepts my offer.  I don’t want Zen of Design to become an echo chamber, but I also don’t want the comments thread to be a poo throwing exercise either.

 

Lum the Mad Pokes Head Up, Sees His Shadow, Chews Out Mark Kern

Scott has some kind words for Mark Kern.

My previous coverage of Mark Kern’s bizarre attempts to try to blame #gamergate on the gaming press despite all logic or evidence otherwise:  Here, here and here.

What’s Going On With the Escapist?

The Escapist appears to be going through a period of great upheaval in the last 6 months. Just to recap their last few months:

  1. When GamerGate started, the Escapist bent over backwards in order to make themselves home for GamerGate.  It started with them being the only major game site that didn’t close down #gamergate threads, and culminated in a befuddling editorial that vastly misunderstands the actual metrics and economics of AAA game development.
  2. This all led to the Escapist doing the disastrous interviews with developers about GamerGate.  One of these developers was one of the original harassers of Zoe Quinn in #burgersandfries (this one embarrassingly was removed from the site).  Another cheerleads rape as a game trope and had a financial investment from founder Alexander Macris for his Gor-themed RPG that was undisclosed. A third was repudiated by his employer Microsoft for saying that the games industry was 90% supportive of GamerGate.  (Full disclosure: I was also interviewed for this).
  3. During this period of time, the Escapist has just been cutting ties with some of their most notable talent, in particular their video talent such as Jimquisition, MovieBob, Miracle of Sound, I Hit It With My Axe (a series about playing D&D with porn stars) – I feel like I’m missing a couple, but it seems pretty much everyone other than Yahtzee has wandered off.  And at some point, Yahtzee has to realize he could probably put up a Patreon and make twice what Jimquisition does.
  4. The Escapist had a nasty layoff just a month ago, which hit several long-term employees including long-term Editor-in-Chief Greg Tito.
  5. Despite the need for layoffs due to budget cuts, the Escapist has managed to find some money to get some new writers contributing, all of which have a unique and curious slant of being decidedly more right-wing and/or blatantly pro-gamergate.  This includes Lizzy F, who described the ‘gamers are over’ articles as an attack on her 3-year old autistic daughter.  It includes Brandon Morse, who appears to have little or no gaming writing in his portfolio but was labelled one of the top 30 Republicans under 30.  It includes Liana K, whose somewhat befuddling takedown of Anita’s video series is mostly that Anita is too successful, and Anita’s followers can be kinda mean.  And it also includes reaching out to Oliver Campbell, who wrote this about one of the most vile extended campaigns of harassment in the history of gaming.

Um, right.  At any rate, I think it’s very clear that the Escapist has decided to embrace a certain editorial slant for their future content,  which is fine.  Game journalists SHOULD be able to have slants and biases – otherwise, every single piece of writing will read like the puff pieces that just regurgitate publisher talking points, which is what games journalism was back in the print days.  It is, I note, probably going to be roughly as fair and balanced as, say, Fox News.   Or, dare I say it, less objective than Polygon – just the other direction.

Pandering to this audience has created some level of excitement amongst the GG diehards.  Will it work?  Possibly.  Polygon is actually doing pretty well from all evidence I’ve been able to find, in stark contrast to the Escapist’s sinking fortunes (compare the 1yr data to see what I’m talking about), so clearly talking about games from a well-defined point of view can build a readership.  That being said, GG is not actually a very big movement – KiA’s readership of 28K is a rounding error compared to the 12M people that Kotaku reaches monthly, and the Escapist’s sinking fortunes overlap tidily with their embrace of GamerGate, meaning that the slow shift they’ve been making already appears to be alienating more people than they’re bringing in.

All that being said, I can tell you that I’m no longer the target market for that magazine.

On the Topic of that Silly Cartoon

The continuing saga of Mark Kern condemning the games media for #gamergate (part one and part two)

The Cartoon that Mark is referring to is this one.   Embedded image permalink Later, he tried to constructively egg on the people who were pointing out that this was basically him peddling GamerGate talking points while pretending to pursue an avenue of peace – which basically means he’s asking for everyone to just shut up and accept GamerGate’s demands.

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Mark Kern Doubles Down on Being Wrong

Earlier this week, I wrote an article about Mark Kern’s extremely bad interpretation of events over the last few months.  I was inclined to give him a pass beyond this.  I mean, it’s possible he’s been busy and not been paying close attention to what’s been going on.  People who are in the quagmire that is #GamerGate have no idea how soap opera-like   the whole thing is – I was only able to keep up for a while because I was switching jobs.  Seriously, I’ve been in start-up mode professionally for the last month or so, and I swear, after a full day of dealing with that insanity, I have no time and energy to read about which KotakuInAction guy is mad because which GamerGhazi moderator said yadda yadda yadda.  It’s got more daily twist and turns than a Mexican telenovela, with the added bonus of you have to learn and understand Chan culture to be able to make sense of any of it.   You come in a few months late, and its an incomprehensible mess.

So I figured, maybe he’s busy. Maybe he doesn’t fully grok the origins.  And to be fair, he is legitimately trying to prod these magazines to be agents of change, which is nice and idealistic.

The problem is that blaming Kotaku and Polygon for the events since last April is kind of like blaming Walter Cronkite for Vietnam.  And describing these events as Yellow Journalism is grossly unfair to the people who were the true victims of Gamergate.  Chief among these victims include three game developers: Randi Harper, Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu.  It includes many others.  Including, I note, myself.

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Cock Hero: The Gamification of Porn

This update is seriously Not Safe For Work, or for the sexually prudish.  Seriously.  This article is one of those.  It will be one or two clicks away from porn, and not the hazy filtered Skinemax variety.  That being said, if you’re interested in the gamification of man’s most basic instincts, then read on…. Continue reading

On L&O:SVU and Mark Kern’s Petition Thingy

Okay, it’s not as bizarre as Mercedes Carerra ranting about Anita, but Mark Kern’s petition against Kotaku and Polygon is strangely  uninformed, out of left field and… well, just plain wrong.  Patrick Garrett has some thoughts here.  So does Cara Ellison.  But they left a couple of things out.

1. First off, let’s make one thing clear.  Polygon, Kotaku and the other gaming sites have not been feeding this fire – they’ve actively been trying to ignore it.  I documented this clearly in this article here where I noted there was far more coverage of the topic on Verge, Breitbart, Forbes and motherfucking CRACKED than on any major games website – despite many commentators and activists (including myself) actively shaming them for it.  It wasn’t until the major media (MSNBC, New York Times, CBS, NPR) actually caught on to the story that the gaming press picked up on the thread again, presumably because it seems pretty shitty when a game-themed story hits the New York Times and your top five gaming site is pretending that shit doesn’t exist.  Here’s a great example of IGN explaining why they choose not to feed the trolls.  A week later, all these sites would drop that shit like it was a hot potato.

2. So this episode of Law & Order: SVU is gaming’s ‘Reefer Madness’?  Um, sure.  Look, shitty gaming related TV shows and movies have been on the television for YEARS.  Here’s a CSI: Miami from the Jack Thompson days.  The CSI: NY episode about Second Life is a wonder of badness that’s almost amazing to behold.  Neither really resulted in much more than uncomfortable conversation, and I doubt that last year’s #46th ranked show is going to make much of a blip in their lowest ranked show of the year.  If Furries can survive their CSI episode, I’m sure we’ll be fine.

3.  It was not “relentless and histrionic slander” against all gamers.  It showed a full game con of mostly peaceful, happy men and women playing and loving video games.  It showed an Anita analog standing before a conference room of enthusiastic fans, cheering for a game that could be played both peacefully and through might.  It tried to show the main protagonist of the show as being a hardcore, con-dwelling, Kotaku-reading, FPS-rockin’ gamer himself, even if the results of those efforts were unintentionally HILARIOUS.

4. The episode was eye-rollingly bad at times, and yes, the ending was downright shameful.  And yes, it clearly shows perpetrators who had taken things farther than any real life analog has so far.  Still, let’s not pretend that its not based on fucking nothing.  Some of the topics the episode tries to cram into a very short amount of time that are very much based on the reality that some people, particularly some women, have faced since last August include doxings, swattings, stalkings, constant rape and death threats, accusations of sleeping your way to successthreats of mass murders against public gatherings where prominent feminists are speaking, and lunatics screaming death threats to a camera to pander to an anonymous Youbute audience of nutballs, all of which, if you click on the links I’ve provided, link to some pretty clear analogs that have actually happened.   I’m sure that if they’d contacted Zoe, Anita, Brianna or observers like myself, they could have written an entire fucking miniseries.  It’s very nice that Mark Kern lives in a world where he hasn’t experienced any of this personally, but to be clear, this shit is still happening.  Yes, it’s a tiny, tiny group of assholes doing it, but its impact is still huge on the people in its crosshairs.

It’s an insult to those who have been victimized over the last few months to describe what limited press that HAS occurred as ‘yellow journalism’.  It’s even more of an insult to suggest that the press should be sweeping the very real fucking events of the last 8 months even more under the rug than they’ve already been.  If Mark Kern was serious, he’d be talking to the people who are actually DOING the damage, not the ones who are merely reporting it.

Anti-Collusion ‘Journalist’ Shocked To Discover Drinking With Colleagues At Professional Conferences

It’s not even Valentine’s Day yet, but we have an early frontrunner for the Stupidest Thing You’ll Read All Month: Ralph Retort’s SHOCKING REVELATION that people get drunk at GDC (and the comments thread is even more hilariously idiotic than the article), and then collude (i.e. drink with people we like, instead of presumably alone in our hotel rooms).  This article was the merit of widespread mirth and mocking on my social media network, mostly from people who, you know, are planning to go to GDC, and are probably going to FUCKING GET IT ON.

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Elder Scrolls Ditches the Subscription Model

Well, they didn’t TECHNICALLY go Free-to-Play, so I can’t say I told you so.  It looks more like they are going with the Guild Wars model.  I can’t say I’m a fan yet – from what I’ve heard the game would sincerely benefit from the massive influx of population that would happen if they ditched all barriers to entry — but I guess I can see the merit in getting what you can from what is hopefully a reasonably large console launch.  Console gamers still need to be taught how free-to-play works, so this is arguably a necessary hedge.

I still bet the entry price falls to below $10 by the end of the year.

‘Built From the Ground Up for DLC’ is Not a Selling Point

Jimquisition has something to say about Evolve’s seemingly all-consuming monetization focus.  Go ahead and watch, I’ll wait here.

Here’s one example of Turtle Rock saying that Evolve was built to support DLC “more than any game ever before.”  Now, I want to be clear: it’s great to hear of a team that had that foresight and that luxury.  Building good monetization infrastructure isn’t technically trivial, and adding all of that stuff late in development or even post-ship can often mean you’re jamming something balance-breaking into a game that wasn’t built for it or, in the minds of players even worse, ripping off a piece of the core gameplay and putting it up for sale.  So a company thinking ahead about this stuff well before launch, and addressing these issues ahead of time, is good.

And having a game built around the billing model is not crazy.  I mean, Magic: the Gathering is built around a billing model of selling packs.  Candy Crush was built from the ground up to be free and microtransact.  These are both billing-model centric designs, and they work BECAUSE of it.  So why is Evolve being forced now to defend themselves for their DLC plans?

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