Zen Of Design

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

A Follow Up, and a Note About Anonymity

About a month ago, I wrote an article about harassment where I noted as almost a throwaway comment, that harassment has been aimed at people on both sides of the Hashtag That Shall Not Be Named. It included a link to a GamerGate girl who claimed that she had been framed by someone for sending threats to Anita Sarkeesian, resulting in a visit from the FBI.

Welp, it turns out that pretty much everything this particular person said is in question, due to this person turning out to be not who she says she is. After spending a year as one of GamerGate’s most fiercely loyal NotYourShield denizens, proclaiming frequently and loudly her lesbian bonafides and her love for the oversized bosoms found in games (even being cited by noted antifeminist hack Christina Sommers as such), she made the mistake of posting a picture of someone else’s cosplay as her own. This led to a full-on shitshow, which involved both her initial evasion, allegations of fraud, and an eventual apology.

I’m not going to dwell on the specifics of these issues because, well, they’re still emerging, and to be honest, it’s petty, vindictive drama as KiA debates whether to cannibalize one of their own.

I do want to say that this is yet another episode that proves why political movements driven by anonymity are doomed to failure. For all its talks of ethics, GamerGate is pretty much incapable of acting ethically themselves, because their anonymity and their craving for leaders or celebrities they can glom to keeps leading them unable to separate themselves from people disseminating utter bullshit and calling it reality. Remember how they claimed that Anita was lying about going to the authorities? Or how Zoe Quinn didn’t give money to the authorities? Or how secret anonymous sources claimed that notable feminists were sending threats to themselves? Remember Chihirodev? How about when King of Pol was blatantly caught trying to smear Stephen Totilo and Nick Denton fraudulently, only to be exposed by Hot Wheels?

This utter lack of ethics, honesty and basic fact-checking has been going on ever since things blew up last August, and at this point, one is left with one of two possible conclusions. Either the core adherents of GamerGate believe so ardently that the ends justify the means that they will stoop to any level of dishonesty to attempt to push forward their repugnant world view, or they have been so fully infiltrated by trolls incapable from being seperated from the ‘good’ Gators, due to the anonymity of the cause.

In either case, this episode reaffirms what game companies, the gaming media and the mainstream media have suspected for more than a year now. GamerGate devotees and their wild claims should be treated with as much credibility as they have so far earned: none at all.


SXSW isn’t supposed to be a tech conference, dammit.  From its inception, it was always meant to be a music festival, dammit, and it’s a good one.  But in recent years, it’s expanded its coverage to include movies and technology.  Being the biggest con in town, SXSW frequently gets a ton of local coverage, but usually not an above-the-fold front-page story in the Austin American Statemen describing how the conference shit the bed (electronic version).

On Wednesday night, SXSW became the latest large tech organization to not fully understand the GamerGate controversy, and therefore fundamentally screw it up.  This has been an all-too-frequent occurrence, with Intel’s $300M mea culpa being, of course, the most noteworthy example.   SXSW’s clusterfuck began  on Wednesday night, attempting to play Solomon with two GamerGate-adjacent panels on their docket, cancelling both due to security concerns.

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Mad Max: It’s All About the Thunderpoon

It is the near future.  The world has been ravaged by drought and disease, leaving the human race a broken, fragile thing.  Bands of survivors are forced to abandon their lives of luxury and ease, and fight to subsist in a land of famine, violence and constant feudal warfare.  And yet, their worst fear is the psychopathic killer who seems intent on exterminating the human race, eliminating settlements one by one, committing mass genocide in order to claim their collections of hubcaps and postcards.

You are Mad Max.  You are this psychopath.

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The Ongoing Star Citizen Silliness

Derek Smart vs. Chris Roberts.  Who will win?  I’m guessing popcorn salesmen.

I recently wrote about Derek Smart’s ongoing crusade against Star Citizen, You may remember, for example, this piece, where Derek Smart asks politely for Chris Roberts and his wife to resign the company.

Give backers the opportunity to hire an independent forensics accountant, and an executive producer, to audit the company records, and give an accurate picture of the financial health of the company, and it’s ability to complete, and deliver this project in a timely fashion. I hereby offer to foot the entire costs of this effort. And I will put up to $1m of my own money, in an escrow account of an attorney’s choosing, to be used as-needed for this exercise. [Emphasis ours.] I will pay this price to prove that I had every right to seek these answers. So this money can either go toward a good cause (righting this ship), or to attorneys who are most likely to burn it all down anyway.

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Games Are Not Movies, And Shouldn’t Try To Be

Yesterday, Polygon printed a book exerpt by Phil Owen that made what I consider to be the ultimate rookie mistake in the ‘are games art?’ discussion.  They suggested that game designers and developers are failing at art because games do not do some things as well, such as storytelling, as the movies.  While this is, in fact, true, it’s also a very silly point of view.  It’s roughly akin to saying ‘movies can’t give detailed prose as well as books can, so they fail at art!’ or ‘music doesn’t do character development the way that television does, so it fails as art!’

Each genre or medium of communication and art has its own strengths and weaknesses.  Each has elements that are true challenges for that genre, and other areas where it simply crushes other genres.  Television didn’t really succeed until it stopped trying to be radio, for example, and embraced doing visual things that it does well.  It took a while for TV to mature as well – some would argue that the genre took sixty years to mature, and didn’t fully until the advent of premium television and rise of quality serial television.  Even that was a product of the times — binge-watching on Netflix makes serial television a net positive, where in previous decades it was more likely to bewilder viewers and push them away.

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Speaking Up About Harassment

I started writing on this blog again largely because of the issue of online harassment in games.  My experience working in MMOs has long convinced me that online harassment in games is off the rails, and is a serious issue that is preventing the market from growing.  This is not a theory for me.  When I worked on UO, we more than doubled our subscribers when we started cracking down on horrible people.  Bad people drive good people away, and they know it.  They revel in it.

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Reviewing the Review of the Reviews of Mad Max

Today, Total Biscuit released a video titled ‘I will now talk about negative Mad Max reviews for just over 40 minutes‘, and whatever the hell else you can say about it, it is an accurate assessment of what he has to say.  It is also quite silly (although to be fair, I agree with much of the last 15 minutes of him rant), but still there’s a lot in this that made me quite cranky.  Here are my thoughts: 

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The Sarkeesian Effect is Out!

You remember Skullboy and the Bathtub Philosopher, right?  If you don’t, then this video might offer a useful refresher.  “If Ayn Rand Shrugs any harder, he’ll fall off his dad’s fucking couch.”

Yes, the white supremacist MRA douchebags who hate Anita so much that they decided to invite Jack Thompson to talk about how Anita is evil and wants to take all your video games away.  You might remember me ranting about this tactic before.

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The Terrifying, Pathetic Case of Joshua Goldberg


On Friday, a hardcore GamerGate supporter named Joshua Goldberg finally crossed over the line between shitposting and real action, getting arrested by the FBI.  Critics of GamerGate may be quick to point out that this seemed inevitable, and not a real surprise.  However, very little about Goldberg’s case does not result in the raising of the eyebrows.

First off, fair is fair: Goldberg’s arrest had nothing to do with GamerGate.  Instead he was arrested for, while pretending to be an Australian ISIS member, attempting to help jihadists build pressure cooker bombs similar to those in the Boston Marathon attack, with the intent that they would detonate at a Kansas City memorial service for 9/11.  Earlier this year, he took credit for instigating the attack on the Muhammed Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Texas, which resulted in two would-be jihadists being shot dead by security guards.  Those really interested can view the 30-page legal indictment here.

Turns out, he was a 20 year old Jewish guy living in Florida with his parents.

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Dungeon Boss

Last Tuesday, I launched a game.  It’s doing quite well.

Boss Fight Entertainment released Dungeon Boss in a worldwide release on Tuesday in partnership with our publisher, Big Fish Games.  This marks my first foray into mobile gaming, and indeed my first serious work on a published title that was not an MMO of some sort.  So it was quite a novel experience for me, and quite frankly one that I needed.

The game has been doing exceedingly well so far.  Google featured it on their store on Wednesday, and Apple returned the favor and added on an Editor’s Choice award (and a really nice review) on Thursday, which has just resulted in our numbers shooting into the stratosphere.  It’s currently sitting as the #1 most downloaded RPG and the #2 most downloaded Free-to-Play game on the Apple store behind Happy Wheels .  Our revenue position still has a ways to go, but this publically available list here claims that we’re number 30, and we’ve been rising steadily as our population gets deeper into and more invested in the game.

According to AppAnnie, we’ve reached the #1 RPG spot for 70 different countries.  However, we’ve only taken the #1 game spot in one country – Latvia, oddly enough – though we’ve hit top 5 in 24.  While this is all incredibly heady stuff and the chart-watching makes for a pleasant way to spend the holiday weekend, when we get back it will be entirely about how to make the game even better, as well as holding our breath to see if the metric patterns we see extrapolate moving forward like they did in beta.  If so, Dungeon Boss is well positioned to be a huge part of the App Store landscape for years to come, and I’m very proud to have been a part of it.

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