Zen Of Design

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

Category: Social Justice Stuff (page 1 of 11)

My Own Little Harvey

In the first year of my career, my promising but flailing startup was acquired wholesale, and I sold my car, packed my meager collection of shitty pressboard furniture and a very confused dog into a U-haul, and trekked across the country to report to work for my first corporate masters. 3DO was, in 1996, coming to grips with the fact that no one wanted to spend $700 bucks for a game console that didn’t have any games, and they were in the process of desperately trying to grab onto an Internet pivot as they swirled their way down the drain. We were part of that pivot.

I was pretty oblivious. Kept my head down, focused on my work. Young kid, unproven, working too hard. Still, I noticed that one of our executives, at the time, seemed to be kind of a real shit. I mean, I rarely had any reason to be around that guy, and only really was even in his orbit in company functions: Friday beer o’clocks, company retreats, holiday parties. You know, company functions with alcohol. And even in my extremely limited observations of the guy, it seemed like he was always finding a new way to be a creep to women. Like the time he told a young, fresh out of school animator that she’d look better naked in his hotel room. At a Christmas Party. In front of several other people.

Most of whom looked unsurprised.

Now, my social skills at the time were roughly on par with Laslo from Real Genius. Still, claxons were going off in my head. I asked around a bit, including women, and they just shrugged. He’s like that a lot. He’s a creep. We warn new girls about him on their first week. I had no idea whether or not his schtick went beyond over-the-line flirting to out-and-out harassment or assault, but I knew that a lot of my female coworkers were made uncomfortable about it, and didn’t want to talk about it.

HR knew. But 3DO needed the guy. 3DO was so supremely terrible at making video games that we were making about as much money suing companies for pretty much idiotic bullshit reasons this guy invented. And he was part of senior management. So nothing happened. I eventually left the company: I got a chance to follow my dream and work for Origin, and that seemed a lot more appealing than being part of the dance band on the Titanic.

3DO would, in fact, succumb to the inevitable and collapse a few years later. On it’s way to the grave, though, two women sued 3DO for sexual harassment and discrimination. Every game studio of a significant size has an ex-employees mailing list, meant primarily for feasting on schadenfreude, and 3DO was no exception. According to that list, the two women were both assistants to ‘that guy’. And no one on the mailing list was surprised.

In the wake of Weinstein, a lot of well-meaning idiots have been basically blaming anyone in the orbit of Weinstein for not DOING something. This ire is mostly aimed at his biggest directors like Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith, as well as people who ‘should have known’, like Hillary Clinton, Gwyneth Paltrow, etc. And all of them clearly felt like they could have done more. Much like I did. But here’s the thing: if you don’t have a victim willing to come forward – and offer some form of collaboration, you’re basically throwing accusations based on rumors at an individual and a company with deep legal pockets.

The best you can do is to try to call attention to it and hope the press asks ‘what is that all about’. Which everyone thinks is not nearly enough but, let’s remember, it was enough to take down Cosby.

So a victim needs to come forward, but for decades most didn’t. Why? Lots of reasons but most of them can be summed up easily: power differential. At 3DO, the targets I heard about getting attention were young & fresh out of school. Getting your first games industry job is hard. Getting fired for being a troublemaker is not uncommon. Also, if it’s your first job, there’s an assumption that “This is just how things are out in the real world.”

On top of that, there’s the feelings common with sexual harassment and assault of shame & fear. They take time to absorb. By the time a woman realizes that perhaps she SHOULD speak up, doing so means reliving the trauma. Demanding that women do so is deeply unfair to the women.

There’s also the factor that making such allegations can hurt your team or your game/movie/whatever. You can hate your boss but love your team and have poured your heart and soul into a project, and not want it derailed. There’s a very real chance that the Weinstein Company will be driven out of business by this shitshow. That’s a lot of people out of jobs because of one asshole.

I should note that Weinstein abused the heck out of this instinct, telling would-be accusers that going public would hurt their friends & their movie.

There’s also the factor that lodging accusations at a company likely means getting into an expensive legal fight with someone with near unlimited resources and connections. A girl right off the LA bus likely has close to no ability to meaningfully take on that fight, especially if the company decides to help.

And here’s the most important reason: the odds are likely it goes nowhere. The New Yorker article about Weinstein describes how Ambra Gutierrez did everything correct – went to the cops, took part in a sting, got pretty much an admission on tape. And the DA spiked the case.

Ultimately, the case didn’t get traction until the accusations came out en masse, with dozens of accusations coming out at once. Which took the diligence of the press, gathering all the leads together so it could no longer be considered just a ‘he said she said’ case. And even then, Weinstein was connected enough that NBC was pressured to kill the story.

So yeah, it’s unreasonable to ask victims to burden themselves with getting stepped on by Goliath if they’re unlucky enough to suffer an assault. And it’s also unreasonable to ask anyone who hears anything on the rumor mill to suddenly charge into the breach. Does anyone have responsibility?

Beyond Weinstein himself, of course, who should have been 150% less rape-y than he was.

Well, of course. Read back to what I said above about 3DO. HR knew. They fucking knew. I have no doubt at all that 3DO’s upper management knew as well. Weinstein’s board more than knew – they enabled his behavior, legally protecting his ass and being prepared to swallow the cost of paying off abused starlets as just a cost of doing business. Them firing him now is a case of way too little, way too late.

A victim of abuse at work should feel like they can go to HR, and know that accusations against a predator will be taken seriously. Will be acted upon. If necessary, will be elevated to the company leadership. If this doesn’t happen, if the machinery of a corporation decides to close ranks and protect it’s abusers, there’s precious little that a woman can do.

So if you want to demand that we do better, start by demanding better from the people whose jobs should have been to hold Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, Roger Ailes and the myriad of other creeps responsible for their actions, rather than providing them cover.

GamerGate Godfather Gets Banned From Twitter – Finally

Last night, Twitter finally got serious and banned the Godfather of the Gamergate Manchildren, the Liberace of Alt-Right Demagoguery from their service.  Sadly, after two years of him cheerleading targeted abuse on individuals, Twitter took action only because his target this time is famous, which made his exploits well-known.

But let’s back up.  There’s two sides of #GamerGate.  There’s the underinformed side who believes that GamerGate actually has something to do with Ethics in Games Journalism.  These people are typically naïve about how the industry works or even what ethics in journalism actually means, but if this is where GamerGate actually ended, they would have been ignored and moved on.

The problem is that there’s the other side of GamerGate, and that is the culture warriors who started GamerGate as a new front in the culture war against, you know, progress being made.  In particular, these were the people who used GamerGate to heap abuse on known, strong-voiced women in game development such as Zoe, Anita, Randi and Brianna, as well as attempted to shut down anything that would be considered progressive commentary about the games industry.  The actions of these dipshits did serious damage to the games industry and its relationship with the fans.  The actions of these dipshits is why no serious member of the Games industry treats GamerGate with anything short of utterdisdain or disgust.

Milo Yiannopoulos has long been the leading voice of this festering stew of misogyny and hate.

Milo doesn’t give two shits about games, and neither does the people he leads.  Two weeks before he claimed the baton and jumped to the front of the Parade of Misogynistic Basement Dwellers, he actually described gamers as being ‘wierdos in yellowing underpants’.  He only has two things that are actually important to him:

  • Bashing feminists.
  • Defending being an antisocial fuckweasel on the Internet as ‘free speech’.

That’s why the ‘alt-right’ defenders of freedom keep expanding their fight to dumb causes, particularly causes that are perceived as ‘social justice warriors’ attempting to expand the influence of feminism to all corners of the galaxy.  This spicy stew of misogynistic and reactionary game fans, mens rights activists and  white supremacists have been a ready-made army for Milo’s cause, and that cause is that they should feel free to load Leslie Jones’ mailbox with truly offensively racist shit, and that if Twitter attempts to address this problem, they are abridging their free speech.

This is an absurd argument that you’d either have to be an idiot or a full-blown shitbag to believe.  In truth, the first amendment does not apply to private companies.  You are free to say what you want, but you can’t be compelled to publish other people’s sick and twisted shit, and a company like Twitter is free to create and foster the atmosphere online that they want for their online culture.

Three other thoughts:

  • My Twitter feed is full of obnoxious gamergate and other alt-right shitheads trying to cherrypick examples of people who were NOT banned and compare them to that of Milo’s lesser crimes. Other than the fact that they typically pick minor namecalling to compare to rank sexism, it also ignores the fact that Milo has a record of Twitter malfeasance that extends more than two years in the past.  In January, Twitter shot a warning shot over his bow by removing his verification status, which hurt his fee-fees so much that he raised a stink about it in the White House briefing room.  He clearly ignored the point that Twitter was seeing this as a last chance for him.
  • There are other idiots that claim that Milo was banned for being ‘gay’ or being a ‘conservative’. This is bullshit – Twitter is still full of gays, conservatives and conservative gays who use Twitter without fear every day.  More to the point, what Milo keeps trying to argue is that racist and sexist puerile bullshit is the equivalent to ‘conservative’ thought.  True conservatives should be appalled and disgusted by this attempt to hijack their political belief system with this sewage.
  • It is depressing that it took an assault on a major Hollywood star to force Twitter to finally take action. Milo and his channer sewage farmers have been engaging in this sort of pathetic bullshit for years now, and it only became unacceptable once Leslie Jones put it on the front page of CNN.

Meanwhile, Milo’s fanbase has responded with the only way they know how to – harassment.

Milo’s Pathetic Two Month Tantrum Reaches the White House

Milo Yiannopoulous, the pitifully preening thin-skinned neurotic meerkat that has self-styled himself as the Liberace of the Alt Right Movement Dedicated to Preserving the Right for Pathetic Manchildren To Be Abusive Shitheads in between bouts of acting as the Pied Piper of the #GamerGate movement, managed to worm his way into the White House Briefing Room today, where he managed to ask a question.

We live in perilous times.  The economy is being buffeted by Asia, ISIS is still dangerous, and both political parties are in chaos due to unlikely primary challenges.  So what does Milo want to talk about?  Apparently, he is still butthurt about losing his blue checkmark due to his self-admitted, utterly despicable habit of being generally a terrible person to anyone who dares to recognize his awesome brilliance.

Anyway, he just happened to wander into the White House Briefing Room, where he asked a question about how him losing his checkmark showed how conservative free speech rights are UNDER ATTACK!  The clip is amusing partially because the White House Spokesperson clearly thinks its about the stupidest question that’s been asked of him in his tenure herding these cats.

There are, of course, a few observations to make here.

  1. If you ask the leader of the federal government to Orwellianly stop a private company from policing their userbase to their likelihood, then your small government/libertarian credentials are about as authentic as a super secret circle that tells you to drink your Ovaltine.
  2. If you can still post on Twitter, you still have plenty of free speech.  The fact that Milo’s patented brand of abuse of the Twitter platform (and, frankly, of the concept of ethics in journalism entirely) has only cost him this vanity adornment and not gotten him removed from the platform so far is, frankly, a testament to both Twitter’s leniency – or stupidity, if you ask me.
  3. Complaining you lack free speech after having managed to sneak into one of the most exclusive media invites in America, and being able to ask the spokes of the opposition party – when you work for a media outlet who despises this president and virtually everything he stands for – is pretty much the height of being so self-absorbedly out of touch with how your so-called issues conflict with actual reality, it’s a wonder you haven’t taken over a Bird Sanctuary somewhere.

This sort of shit has been flowing fast and fierce from those who have tried to turn Online Abuse into a cause for cultural revolution.  A year after the CEO of Twitter noted that they suck at  dealing with abusive shitheads, Twitter has since gotten more aggressive about banning abusive trolls and obnoxious shithead Neonazis, with said trolls and shitheads insisting that this was about the silencing of the conservative worldview, despite the fact that millions of conservatives can and still post on Twitter.  It turns out the common thread is being a troll or shithead, particularly one that engages in doxing, dogpiling or direct threats.  In short, Twitter is following the most basic rule of community management: people who cost them more money or eyeballs than they grant them are, frankly, bad for business, and Twitter is under no obligation to support the fetid swamp feces that they claim is discourse.

But do go ahead and sue Twitter, Milo.  Because I could sorely use the material.

Operation #BarelyADribble

Last year, I wrote about Fire Emblem’s poorly conceived romance option which involved drugging your lesbian companion so she would have sex with you — but only if you were male.  This was perceived by many observers as (a) creepy as fuck and (b) reminiscent of a barbaric American practice known as Gay Conversion Therapy, presenting the idea that homosexuality as a character flaw that can be fixed.  Ian Miles Cheong tried to handwave it away as normal for Japan, describing one of the most sexually repressive countries on earth as ‘sex-positive’.

Anyway, there was enough of a stink about it that Nintendo decided to change this quest when they localized the game for America.  This is, of course, completely a common process when localizing games, as Nintendo pointed out.

“Making changes is not unusual when we localize games, and we have indeed made changes in these games. When we localize a game we do so in order to make it appropriate for that particular territory. All our choices were made from that point of view.”

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The Myth of Political Correctness

Political Correctness is the bugaboo of many an idiot.  It’s a term that’s been thrown around by idiots for a long time in order to raise the creeping concern that somewhere, crafty sneaky liberals were going to make you listen to their opinions!  After which, of course, you would be helpless to begin taking bonghits out of a VW van in between patchouli baths and tie-dye parties.

The people who raise the specter of political correctness are comedians.  Most recently, it includes comedians Jerry Seinfeld and John Cleese, both of whom I consider to be comedy legends, but both of whom have in these exchanges betrayed themselves as either morons of the highest order, or craven cowards.  Dearie me!  I told a joke that I knew was offensive to people, and some people were offended!  Can someone loan me some pearls?  For I must clutch them!

Meanwhile, Deadpool opened to a $132M opening weekend.  It was vulgar.  It was offensive.  It was a superhero movie with a pegging scene. It was also a wonderful, wonderful movie.  And I’m glad it was made.  And I’m also glad they made it with the R rating and ignored idiots like this schmuck.  The results were so good that they’re now talking about giving us a Wolverine that actually uses his claws. Which is awesome.

We’re just a few years away from no one being able to say ‘shit’ on television.  It was considered a big fucking deal when Newhart showed a married couple in bed.  Lenny Bruce was arrested for doing comedy 50 years ago – and now Seinfeld won’t play campuses because he might hear a couple boos.  Psycho was almost censored because it showed a flushing toilet.  Now we have the Saw franchise. NWA was arrested when they played ‘Fuck the Police’ in Detroit.   Today, law enforcement wouldn’t bat an eye at that concert.  Back in the day, Elvis Presley got in trouble for pelvic thrusting.  MTV is pretty much filled with the thrusting of pelvises – and so much more – well, in those rare instances they still show music videos.

Today, countless comedians dare to tackle ‘politically correct’ topics, such as Louis CK discussing why some words are considered bad.  Or Sarah Silverman, who makes rape jokes a core part of her act.  I’m sure that some people are offended by their acts.  Or Amy Schumer’s whole slut schtick.  Or, um, a lot of the Chapelle Show or Chris Rock’s standup act.    The trick is to not care.

I grew up listening to and loving Sam Kinison, Bill Hicks and Denis Leary. My friends also listened to Andrew Dice Clay – I didn’t care for him, but man did he sell a lot of CDs in my dorm. At no point did these guys think ‘no one should be offended by my humor’. Hell, they REVELLED in pushing those boundaries. If no one was offended, they would have thought they were doing it wrong.

Cut to the real world, modern day.  GTA V is the top video game ever made, not just in sales but in critical approval.  South Park and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia still command solid audiences for saying ‘fuck you’ to anyone offended by what they have to say.  The Game of Thrones gives no shits that a segment of their population wishes it was a little less of a rape-a-thon.  And Deadpool.  Fucking glorious Deadpool. Clearly, content creators who don’t want to toe the line of political correctness are doing whatever the fuck they want to do as artists, and are reaping huge benefits from it if they do it well.

But people are going to get the vapors because they posted something they knew was offensive to some on a message board, and some people were offended?  The truth is not that political correctness is problem – it’s not.  The truth is that these people are just as thin-skinned as the SJW demons they have imagined in their heads.

RooshV Puts Me In the Uncomfortable Position of Agreeing With Greg Abbott

RooshV is a disgusting, sad sack of shit as a human being.  The founder of Return of Kings, almost inarguably one of the most despicable websites in the ‘manosphere‘.  Return of Kings is most notable for being so despicable that they reject the Mens Rights Activist label as not being despicably misogynistic enough.  They’re also the idiots who spearheaded the utterly failed “Star Wars as SJW Utopia” boycott and the Mad Max anti-feminism hysteria.

However, ignorant assholes are a dime a dozen on the Internet.  RooshV earns the prize of ‘man most deserving of getting his genetalia repeatedly caught in a 3-ring binder’ for going way beyond the realm of mere asshole – here he is saying that we should make rape legal if done on private property.  Apparently, he tried to pass off the article as satire.  Unconvincingly.  He also has a habit of writing ‘dating guides’ where he describes the best countries for raping passed out drunk women (and probably manipulates Amazon ratings to help sell them).  He also rates the countries by his DEFCOCK rating.

Completely normal male-female relations in a patriarchal society that believes in a binary gender system of man and woman. Homosexuality is persecuted. Casual sex is difficult (if not impossible).

Countries that have the best, most subservient women include Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.  On the other end of the scale, countries at DEFCOCK 1 having, and I shit you not, roaming mobs of witches.  No country is there yet, but America with its rampant feminism is close!  In short, he’s a piece of human-shaped smegma that has somehow acquired sentience.

Anyway, this fecal elemental was in the news recently for attempting to have RoK meetups simultaneously in 43 countries.  In a good sign that he knows that him and his followers are despicable human beings, he instructed them to use a code word to identify each other – in a public post on his blog, because RoK readers are not only misogynistic scumbags, they are apparently idiots as well.  This was apparently public enough that many politicians repudiated the meetups in their city, which led up to the one and only time I am likely to agree word-for-word with a statement from my very conservative governor.

“This pathetic group and their disgusting viewpoints are not welcome in Texas. I’ve spent much of my career protecting women from such vile and heinous acts, and it won’t be any different on my watch as Governor.”

At any rate, RooshV declared the meetups cancelled.  And while it’s good to know that broad and bipartisan outrage at least forced these bipedal cockroaches back under the refrigerator, it’s always useful to remember that these cancerous hobbits are just the most visible tip of an iceberg of rape denialism (defined as minimizing the pervasiveness of rape in modern culture) is still a big problem.  There are still, for example, vainglorious braggarts taunting women at rape rallies, for example, and morally bankrupt so-called feminists who attempt to minimize the prevalence of rape, especially campus rape, in order to keep landing lucrative Fox appearances even though these stats just keep getting reverified.  Sorry, rape apologists, but the stats make it clear that if the stats are off, it’s not by much, and that the incidences of false rape accusations are few and far between.

So anyway, congrats to the world at large at repudiating RooshV and his degenerate, pathetic worldview.  Just don’t forget to keep an eye on those who try to conceal their repulsiveness in a veneer of respectability.


Seriously, Are We Still Talking About Sad and Rabid Puppies?

Allum Bokhari of Breitbart claims that bookstores are purging their shelves of politically incorrect authors.

Allum Bokhari is full of shit.

Just like most Breitbart so-called journalists.

Criticism is Exactly What Freedom of Speech Was Meant to Protect

A reader of ZenOfDesign sent me this thread that he started on NeoGAF near the turn of the year.  I’ve found it an interesting topic to talk about, but haven’t had time to discuss it in detail.

I am very interested in creative processes and complex discussions around the creative freedom of artists as balanced against societal responsibility…. I have seen enlightening discussions amongst members around these subjects (the “butt-slap story” or “Quiet as embarrassing” being some of them). This is why I wanted to start this discussion around the role of the artist beyond his own creation as a “meta” topic.

– can [the Artist] do as he/she feels?
– should he/she be concerned by the social environment of his/her art?
– is he/she tacitly influenced by his surrounding status quo, so the idea of art of isolation is chimera?
– should he/she be entirely free but so are critics to point out the problematic aspects of the creation?

The answer is a big ol’ ball of wax to unwind, but in truth is fairly straightforward – at least to questions 1 and 4. Maybe I’ll take 2 and 3 later.

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No, Gamers Are Not The New Religious Right

Dear Jef Rouner,

Yes, there are some real shitty people in the games playing audience.  I’ve been writing about them for the past two years in particular, and beyond.  I’ve been policing them in the games I built (MMOs) for even longer.

They are not the norm, as your article would suggest.  They are aberrations and accidents.  Many – even most – gamers are good, standup, quality people.  Some are trolls.  Some are awful trolls.  Some of these trolls become celebrities amongst those trolls, despite the fact that they rarely, if ever game.

The truth is, it only takes a handful of trolls to make things seem poisonous. As I’ve written before, people used to think that 10% of the population of UO was griefers.  It was closer to 0.1%.  Assholish behavior just rises in consciousness, and we tend to ignore people who are decent human beings.

So don’t call these people you refer to as ‘gamers’.  That’s a term for good people.  Go with ‘fuckwads’.

“The Force Awakens” Proves Even Anti-Diversity Idiots Agree That Representation Matters

“When I was nine years old Star Trek came on. I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.” – Whoopi Goldberg

To me, nothing crystallizes the mantra of ‘representation matters’ quite like Whoopi’s quote about why she was so passionate about getting involved with the Next Generation. And it was echoed early in 2015, when a fetal amputee had this to say about Mad Max: Fury Road:

I am just about the biggest advocate for “representation matters” there is, but as a white woman I never really felt it applied to me all that much. Watching Fury Road, I realized how wrong I was. I’ve been this way my entire life and I’ve never felt “handicapped.” I’m disabled, yes – there’s shit I just can’t do, but an invalid I am not. For the most part I’ve always approached life with a “figure out how to do it and just get it done” attitude; I am loathe to admit I can’t do anything and I never give up without exhausting all the possibilities available to me. Watching Fury Road, I felt like I was watching my own struggle brought to life (albeit in a very fantastical setting), and I don’t think I ever realized how truly profound that could be for me.

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