It’s not every day that you wake up to find that the asshole brigade on the internet has been utterly humiliated beyond all expectations, but that appears to be what we have today. Last night, the voters of the Hugo Awards utterly rejected the attempts by a conservative reactionary mob led by one of the single most influential racist, misogynistic assholes on the internet to game the nominating process of their awards, opting instead to give the awards to nobody rather than their handpicked slate. In doing so, the Hugos maintained what integrity they could, and also proved what people like me have been saying about similar controversies like #GamerGate – they claim to speak for a silent majority, when in fact they speak for a loud minority – albeit a loud minority who leverages outrage to mobilize better than any other group.
Tons of good coverage of this, including at Wired, Yes! NPR and BoingBoing (and GRRM has been covering it closely since it all started). Short summary is that earlier this year, two groups of people (the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies) figured out they could game the nominating process for the Hugo Awards, long considered one of the most prestigious awards in speculative fiction, in order to fight against what they percieve as the scourge of ‘SJW’-themed novels that have continued to win of late. They succeeded in the nomination process, but in the final ballot, voters blew their slates out of the water with an unprecedented five ‘no awards’ in these categories. This is an institutional repudiation on par to the mocking that #Gamergate took at GDC’s awards dinner this year.
Over at KotakuInAction (which is really more about anti-SJW hysteria than games at this point), they’re trying weakly to spin it into a positive, or alternatlvely trying to find a way to be outraged about the utter collapse of the anti-SJW effort. Million_dollar Bus Aficionado Mark Kern compared the results to book burning, Ian Miles Cheong nonsensically claimed the results ‘prove’ that the awards were rigged and Milo Yiannopoulos tried to blame the ‘SJWs’ on tearing down the awards rather than, you know, the assholes who tore down the awards. This is a weak sauce argument – the ‘No Award’ vote totals clearly included not just far lefties but moderates as well, which suggests that many people were offended and opposed to the naked attempt to manipulate via brigading one of the most storied awards in Sci-Fi. It was appalling enough that even some of the authors who were nominated by the Puppies to back out rather than be associated with the effort and even the ones who didn’t rejected the tactics.
All of these #gamerGate diehards, by the way, seem utterly unconcerned that the founders of the Puppies movements were enthusiastically pushing their friends, or that Vox Day gamed the rules in order to push himself and his magazine’s contributors to the top of the nominations. Apparently, ethics are only important when SJWs are involved.
All this being said, this is not as rosy as it appears, as legitimately good art was forced off the ballot by the Sad Puppies brigading, or felt compelled to reject their nominations to distance themselves from Vox Day. The Hugos have a real problem to solve in figuring out how to keep this from happening next year. Looking forward, here’s a proposal for improving the voting process, so it can’t be gamed again next year.
Raph Koster pointed me to an article of one of the most infamous moments history in MMOdom – the moment where Sony Online Entertainment decided to entirely redo the entire game, cutting entire character classes, and replacing the core combat mechanic with ‘clicky combat’. This event was known as the New Game Experience, commonly referred to as the NGE. I have in the past described it as one of the largest mass-scale fuckups ever perpetuated on a large-scale MMO – it was a truly catastrophic event, both in terms of what it did to the game experience players loved, as well as what it did to the game’s population.
Of particular interest was Gordon Walton claiming responsibility for the whole thing, and community manager Tiggs going on an epic rant about the revamp, which ultimately cost her her job. From my part, I was working down the road on Shadowbane at the time, and I can remember two things. First and foremost, I remember a steady stream of Sony people suddenly flooding me with mail, friend requests, phone calls, looking for a life boat out. In the trenches, faith in the NGE was apocalyptically low.
Secondly, I remember this event that shows the danger of pissing off an established community. The NGE was not long after WoW was starting to show signs of real success, and made decision makers reevaluate what success looks like in the MMO genre. Lagging slightly behind EverQuests numbers went from seeming pretty good to seeming anemic as fuck for a major licensed MMO almost overnight. The logic behind the change was that getting rid of the Sim and replacing it with more conventional combat might alienate some of your existing customers, but their defections would be swamped by new people signing up. What the logic failed to account for was that the existing community wouldn’t just quit. They went to the press and poisoned the well. It’s hard for your recruitment initiative to pick up steam when you’re battling perceptions like this Wired article, which seemed everywhere while this was ongoing.
You may remember Mark Kern from his little temper tantrum from earlier this year – a temper tantrum that may or may not have resulted in him being shown the door from the company he founded. Whether this was due to his spending all of his time shitposting rather than getting work done, or whether there were more egregious problems, who knows. All I know is that this time around, they didn’t involve a $3 Million dollar bus for what was probably the most awesome planned Speed update of all time.
Welp, he’s back and he’s declared that he’s…. no longer neutral!
Yes, previously, he was being neutral as he slammed the press, coddled idiotic conspiracy theories and then cheered on the trolls of GamerGate as they brigaded the #GDC hashtag with insults, ad hominem attacks on game developers and anime porn, among other filth. But now he’s committed to #GamerGate because some people saw that the new Deus Ex is using the term ‘mechanical apartheid’ to describe their story, and some tiny number of that thought that merited a conversation.
For what it’s worth, I think that ‘mechanical apartheid’ is an awesome starting point that’s completely appropriate for the Deus Ex I know and love, and ties directly into the time-honored tradition of using alleghory in sci-fi and geek culture to discuss tricky and controversial subjects in modern society. Where Deus Ex’ narrative was going in their previous release was reminiscent to me of how Marvel Comics used the X-Men as an alleghory for the struggle of the Gay Rights movement. In a note to KiA, the game devs discussed how that was actually their plans. But hey, it’s just the start of a conversation, and if some are offended, we could actually listen to them and see if they have something worthwhile to say, right?
Ha ha, just kidding. Instead people like Mark are just going to freak the fuck out. Once again, the outrage from the Perpetual Outrage Machine that is KiA and GG vastly outstrips the supposed outrage from the other side. Seriously, I have a fair number of supposed SJWs in my twitter feed, and saw nary a kerfuffle in casual observation. Certainly nothing that compared to KiA’s utter shitstorm, or Mark Kern’s continued meltdown into nonsensical blather.
You know that guy I was talking about over the weekend, whose hobby is to be as ridiculously thin-skinned and hyperbolic as the imaginary social justice strawmen poisoning the gaming press and industry that he’s invented in his head? Well, he’s back, and he wants to help out all you imaginary haters who want to write clickbait reviews !
A few things there, Adrian.
- Saying that a game missed an opportunity to be more diverse or inclusive is not the same thing as saying the game is racist, and claiming otherwise is being needlessly hyberbolic and alarmist.
- Saying that the world is misogynist does not necessarily mean that the game is misogynist. As one example, the recently released Mad Max is a world that has interesting and strong female characters who solve things in interesting and inspiring ways, despite the fact that the world is deeply, DEEPLY misogynist. You know who loved that film? Your old buddy, Arthur Geis. That being said, even if you believe that sexual violence is important for a story or game, how that sexual violence is handled is deeply relevant to some audiences
- If you are the sort of person who thinks that women dressing like harem girls for battle is inappropriate, then the fact that the women who rule the world are dressed in dental floss is not going to impress you. I’m going to stress, I’m not one of those people – what can I say, I came of age to my dad’s hidden stash of Vallejo books. However, it is a sizable, SIZABLE number of the people – mostly but not entirely women – and considering that the audience for RPGs is now believed to be majority women, actually giving a shit about their opinion may be worth something a designer interested in expanding the audience of their AAA game might want to, you know, at least not mock. It certainly merits a mention in a review, as it is the sort of thing that these women may choose not to buy a game over.
Oh, one more thing: I do tend to frequent more than a couple of SJW hives of scum and villainy and you know what? They’re all super-excited about the Witcher 3. Even as they discuss, criticize and explore these issues deeper, the excitement for this title has been building for weeks. Because progressive gamers are still gamers, too, they just place valuation on different things. Many of them loved the previous two Witchers as well.
It turns out that it is possible to enjoy and even love a work of art that you criticize. But Adrian knows this. His twitter feed is currently filled with criticisms of the game collected from the first day of play – opening area may be too long, and bad quest design results in lost time. Standard RPG issue of failed sense of impending objectives clashing with side objectives. A lengthy discussion of the failure of art direction driven mostly by the foliage of the game. A general sense that it’s not as polished as it should be. These are all valid topics of criticism and discussion amongst adults.
So is that social justice stuff.
Welp, I was hoping that the last post would be my last word on blocklists. However, there’ve been a couple relevant and interesting bits to share. First off, notorious libertarian legal snarkmeister Popehat has given his opinion about Why Mean Blockbots Probably Aren’t Defamatory. He does close with a couple of caveats.
I speak here of the rule of law, not the rule of feels. I understand many people feel as though BlockBot designations are defamatory. So they have that going for them, which is nice.
Meanwhile, the team that did The Block Bot (this is the Athiesm+ blockbot, not Randi’s GG blockbot) announced that Blockbot will undergo a significant rewrite, to help it deal with it’s unexpected popularity.
In this developmental stage, the following features for this new platform are being discussed:
- Facilitating the formation of more than one blocking team.
- Allowing users to opt-in or opt-out of individual blocker’s blocks.
- Creating clear policies for adding and removing blockers and admins.
- Handling appeals more consistently.
- Expanding users’ block-list choices.
- Soliciting feedback from users more effectively.
- Providing a more robust system for users to suggest blocks.
Meanwhile, Richard Dawkins (who is on the Atheism+ blocklist because, well, he’s been Richard Dawkins on twitter lately) is not impressed.