Zen Of Design

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

Tilting at the DiGRA Windmill

This past weekend, DiGRA held their annual games conference in Germany, which can mean only one thing: clearly it was time for #GamerGate to send in the welcoming committee, flooding the hashtag with a load of unwelcome hate for the attendees to enjoy – a playbook that #GamerGate has seemed to decided to copy from their attempts to do the same to GDC and the Calgary Expo.  Because it turns out, if you are trying to reach a whole bunch of people who are skeptical about your cause, the best thing you can do is to hijack their hashtag and fill it with anime, porn, and mockery of their life’s work.  In this case, it didn’t work out so well – the usual cranks didn’t discover the conference was happening until it was almost over, and since they were on European time, most of the worst flooding happened while the academics were all out partying.   At any rate, it proved to be another excellent excuse for those of us in the know to educate people about the AutoBlocker tool.

DiGRA has about as much to do with ‘ethics in games journalism’ as a plate of oatmeal cookies.  The haters are merely riding ridiculous conspiracy theories founded by a YouTube eCeleb named Sargon of Akkad who attempted to forge a link between the organization and journalists last autumn, particularly the ‘Gamers are Over’ articles which the gamergate teeming throngs continually willfully misinterpret as an attack on all gamers, as opposed to an open condemnation of the minority of gamers who were attacking Anita and Zoe, followed by a call to the rest of gamers to not ‘give press to the harassers. Don’t blame an entire industry for a few bad apples.’   But I digress.

The point is that DiGRA has been  a tertiary satellite of this whole #GamerGate thing since late last year, when the hardedged footsoldiers of the Gate embarked upon military jingoistically titled “#Operation Digging DiGRA”, an op where they would fact check and peer review DiGRA’s papers in order to search for bias, error and, of course, the influence of the evil feminists in the world of academia.  As near as I can tell, they never found much – possibly because there was nothing to find, but in fact it probably largely due to them realizing that reading many academic papers is about as interesting to most lay people as watching paint dry.  Still, DiGRA had the all-time  best response to this – they offered and encouraged gamergaters to read their papers and send in or publish their comments, if those participants were willing to participate with academic rigor!  Probably because academics, too, know that laymen find reading academic papers about as interesting as watching flies fuck.

At any rate, I don’t want to cast any real aspersions of how dumb you’d have to be to have a lot of knowledge about the inner workings of the industry and academia’s relationship to it, and still think that DiGRA posed any kind of existential threat to the ‘Gamer’ populace as a whole.  So of course Mark Kern was involved, offering such chestnuts such as decrying some presentations as libelous, and implying that anyone who hasn’t shipped a game before isn’t worth listening to.  I think I also saw somewhere that he demanded to know how DiGRA is funded, but ironically, Mark has blocked me on Twitter, so confirming is a pain in the ass.

The truth of the matter is that we went from a world that had no game studies or game creation college programs, to fully fledged programs aimed at helping students build, examine and understand the mechanics, in a shockingly short period of time.  Hell, I helped create one of these college programs myself at a community college here in Austin, although the program I worked on had a lot more hands-on vocational skills we need in local studios in Austin, rather than the navelgazing that DiGRA excels in.  Still, this eruption of new college programs across the world actually demonstrates how games have fully risen from being a backroom oddity played by antisocial nerds to being massively important cultural forces that the whole world enjoys.  Which is to say, DiGRA is a result of the fact that games are, in modern society, a hugely important cultural product that merits that level of examination and study.  Which is to say, people who truly love games should celebrate DiGRA’s existence, not fear it.

At any rate, you would think that some Gators would be excited that one of the prepared talks was about a study showing that game use doesn’t correlate to increased sexism.  This study conflicts with the findings of some others, and clearly the methodology of the various studies will need to be compared and contrasted in order to explain the discrepencies between the findings, or identify the next study that needs to happen to resolve these differences.  Still, this is how knowledge is SUPPOSED to grow, not by choosing a stance and then ignoring all information that conflicts with your belief system.

 

27 Comments

  1. ….the ‘Gamers are Over’ articles which the gamergate teeming throngs continually willfully misinterpret as an attack on all gamers, as opposed to an open condemnation of the minority of gamers who were attacking Anita

    This is why the ABC interview, the first Anita media which allowed comments and ratings, received 97% downvotes out of 400,000 views and 55,000 voters and counting and every single gamer to comment called out her deliberate intellectual dishonesty and outright lies, because they’re the “minority”.

    I susbmit to you the obvious given the empirical evidence: the journalists and “researchers” who are foisting her, her ilk, and her extremist, jack-thompson-esque views on the rest of the gaming community are the “minority”.

    Still, this is how knowledge is SUPPOSED to grow, not by choosing a stance and then ignoring all information that conflicts with your belief system.

    This is an ironic statement given the extraordinary methods used in attempts to silence and marginalize Anita’s numerous and well-reasoned critics by her handlers and cult followers among DiGRA and the games media.

    • Damion Schubert

      May 22, 2015 at 10:35 pm

      This is why the ABC interview, the first Anita media which allowed comments and ratings, received 97% downvotes out of 400,000 views and 55,000 voters and counting and every single gamer to comment called out her deliberate intellectual dishonesty and outright lies, because they’re the “minority”.

      Yes, KiA and their ilk have shown that they can brigade vote counts. Hint: there are millions of viewers of ABC who don’t vote on videos, and literally millions of next-gen consoles out there. GamerGate is a tiny, tiny movement. So small they aren’t even indicative of what the bulk of gamer assholes are like.

      This is an ironic statement given the extraordinary methods used in attempts to silence and marginalize Anita’s numerous and well-reasoned critics by her handlers and cult followers among DiGRA and the games media.

      Silence? Silence? Let’s see, they put up silly, idiotic youtube videos, silly idiotic rantings on KiA, silly idiotic rantings on 8chan, silly idiotic rantings on Ralph Retort. Your problem isn’t that they’ve been silenced. Your problem is that these responses turn out not to actually be very ‘well-reasoned’ at all, and as such fail to catch fire.

  2. I’ve tried to be pretty hands off on all this shit for months now, but one thing you wrote pissed me off. The “Gamers are over” articles, or at least the one that started all the bullshit, weren’t about harassment or Zoe Quinn, at least in terms of what in the text itself.

    Fun fact: the Leigh Alexander piece you’re claiming was all about harassment or whatever uses the word “harassment” exactly once. Let’s see what follows the sentence you quoted above about not giving press to trolls/harassers.

    “Yet disclaiming liability is clearly no help. Game websites with huge community hubs whose fans are often associated with blunt Twitter hate mobs sort of shrug, they say things like ‘we delete the really bad stuff, what else can we do’ and ‘those people don’t represent our community’ — but actually, those people do represent your community. That’s what your community is known for, whether you like it or not.

    When you decline to create or to curate a culture in your spaces, you’re responsible for what spawns in the vacuum. That’s what’s been happening to games. ”

    She was essentially writing “Don’t give press to the harassers. Don’t blame an entire industry for a few bad apples.” as a setup for debunking that exact claim. She didn’t blame whoever decided to try and fuck up Zoe Quinn’s life. She blamed you, the content creator, and to a lesser extent, me, the consumer, for creating the culture that allowed “Gators” like me to pop up and start eating children/promoting rape on Mars or whatever idiots are claiming this week.

    The majority of the content in the piece is basically “gamers act like they have autism, and autistic people are bad.” She doesn’t use the word, but she describes many common symptoms and traits of people with an autism spectrum disorder and then demonizes people that hold those traits. Others, not public figures, just random ass holes, were more transparent when they called #GamerGate the autism army.

    Even if you ARE right, you’re basically just saying that these pieces were written to defend the right of a journalist to pressure a potential subject into having sex with him. The industry is so fucked up and broken that promoting hostile environments to women is just fine so long as you say you’re a feminist and talk about how Gators are evil, and actively opposing the visible causal factors involved gets you labeled as a misogynist.

    • C.S.Strowbridge

      May 22, 2015 at 8:18 pm

      Are you a Poe?

      • Would it matter if I were?

        I assume that’s in reference to the last paragraph, since most of the rest is just quoting Alexander and saying “she isn’t saying what you think she’s saying.” Maybe the autism comment too, but I don’t get why you’d think that demonizing traits of a group isn’t the same as demonizing the group. That’s akin to claiming that “I hate people with dark skin” isn’t stating a fucked up opinion about black people.

        I’ve toyed with the idea of out-lefting SJWs. That doesn’t mean that what I’m expressing shouldn’t be a legitimate concern. Anti-fraternization laws exist specifically to head off attempts at coercing people to compromise themselves in pursuit of career. Zoe Quinn supposedly took cheating seriously enough that she described it as akin to rape. This leaves 3 options:

        1. You can be a good person while doing what you consider to be rape.
        2. Zoe Quinn is a bad person.
        3. Zoe Quinn felt pressures that were strong enough to get her to violate her own standards on something as serious as consent.

        Near as I can tell, it seems like SJWs took option 1 and Gators took option 2. It shouldn’t be left purely to Poes to explore option 3, especially given how serious that concern should be if you give half a shit about how women are treated in gamedev. That opposing hostile work conditions for women in gamedev falls to Poes is just evidence of how fucked up this entire discussion has become.

        • Chaos-Engineer

          May 22, 2015 at 11:17 pm

          Maybe the autism comment too, but I don’t get why you’d think that demonizing traits of a group isn’t the same as demonizing the group.

          I think you’ve fallen for a Gamergate smokescreen.

          People who make rape and death threats have poor social skills, and autistic people also have poor social skills. Gamergaters want you to think that an attack on one group is an attack on the other. The fallacy is that those two groups have poor social skills in two very different ways, and most people can tell the difference.

          Zoe Quinn supposedly [gossip deleted]

          Her creepy stalker ex-boyfriend claimed that, but he’s got a really obvious motive to lie, and based on what I know about him I’m inclined not to believe him. Besides, I don’t see why his petty relationship drama needs to be everyone else’s business. You’d think he was the only Gamergater that had ever had a girlfriend, and that the rest of them are living their lives vicariously through him.

          • No smokescreen. You’re either willfully misreading what I said, or you’re just a bit dull.

            90% of the piece is literally about how people that go to cons and laugh about memes online are a shitty demographic. There’s exactly one sentence using the word “harassment” in the entire bit.

            Regarding ZQ’s relationship shit, you’re missing the point; defending the capability of someone with a lot of power over someone else’s career to have a sexual relationship is basically defending an environment that can (and realistically will, possibly has) lead to women being pressured into doing things that they don’t want to do.

            You don’t think that’s a tad too rapey to be okay?

            That aside, he had chatlogs, not gossip.

            It seems like you haven’t read either of the pieces you discussed in your post. That’s a bit silly, no?

          • Damion Schubert

            May 23, 2015 at 7:31 am

            You, too, fail at reading comprehension. The article is clearly about how gamer is no longer confined to that stereotype, since everyone games nowadays of every stripe and color, and how the industry still caters to them as if that’s the case, which results in people like those who were being abusive to Anita and Zoe being treated as if they were typical instead of atypical. Hey, I know Leigh’s stuff can be a little dense from people who don’t like big words, but it’s not that complicated.

            The other articles from the supposed ’12 gamers are dead articles’ , for what its worth, are even MORE plainly and MORE clearly about decrying the abuse aimed towards Zoe and Anita. People who claim that these articles are about all gamers are flat out lying, and people who claim that these articles are about them were… well, probably throwing abuse at Zoe and Anita, and deserved all of the shaming that the gaming press was willing to throw at them.

            Who someone sleeps with, and the manner in which they break up with someone, is nobody’s business unless you are also sleeping with one of the involved parties, and certainly did not merit consideration in the press, or by digra, and certainly not in this comment thread 8 months later.

    • If you’re concerned about how people with autism are treated, you might want to cut ties with people who use the word “hugbox” as an insult. Unless you like looking like a hypocrite, of course.

  3. “So of course Mark Kern was involved, offering such chestnuts such as decrying some presentations as libelous, and implying that anyone who hasn’t shipped a game before isn’t worth listening to.”

    Well when you’re right your’e right.

    Digra has been around for a while, but the only time I’ve ever seen them be seen as relevant(atleast enough to be a topic of conversation during work) was during GG. They should be happy anyone cares

    • Damion Schubert

      May 22, 2015 at 10:36 pm

      By this argument, 99.9% of GamerGate should stop talking about games as well.

      • Isn’t that what you wan’t? Less people to disagree with you at any rate

        • Damion Schubert

          May 29, 2015 at 3:44 am

          I don’t mind when people disagree with me at all. What I mind is whether or not they actually bring a decent argument to the table, and/or whether or not they take actions that border on being harassing, insulting or abusive to the table, or back up those who do.

          People can and should be able to talk very freely about how to improve games in every possible axes. This is actually important for games to grow and flourish as an art form. What I do not like is people attempting to silence with their words or actions people who try to engage new arguments and research. Especially when their own arguments amount to ‘intellectualism is bad!’

  4. I suspect it’s not just because academic papers are “as interesting as watching flies fuck”; it’s because, unless one masters the academic jargon in the correct way, one is dismissed as “ill-read and half-educated”, in the words of a university professor who had been conned by the Sokal hoax back in the day.

    Turns out academics are only interested in responses from other academics, and only if those responses happen to match their preconceived notions (in other words, not unlike Gamergate itself, if Gaters held PhDs in the humanities, that is).

    • Damion Schubert

      May 22, 2015 at 10:42 pm

      Oh, Academics simply have a problem where they don’t like to say anything in a sentence that couldn’t be said in a page in a half, usually in dense jargon that attempts to make an unpenetrable fog of buzzwords between you and the point of whatever they are saying. They also frequently go into la-la land as they explore new ideas. And while they do tend to be dismissive, it is usually primarily to people who are anti-scientific with their approach — who come with preconcieved notions, who don’t take the time to read the research, and who attempt to throw around terms they don’t understand.

      Which is pretty much #GamerGate to a T.

      My primary experience with Academics was with the site Terra Nova which was, a decade ago, simply a world-renown resource for ideas and research on virtual worlds. A lot of their stuff was utter bullshit. It would be very wrong to say that everyone on the site agreed with each other, as academics disagree a LOT and can easily reach for a wealth of research to back themselves up. But the stuff that was good was REALLY, REALLY good.

      • Yeah, I remember Terra Nova. I also have Castronova’s book somewhere, and my guess is that it’s a good example of academic overreach, in its attempt to apply lessons from virtual economies to the real world — which would make sense only if players confused a virtual world with the real world, or if they played a game where they could turn — legally or not — in-game earnings into RL earnings as their main source of income. If you go broke virtually, you can just log off, or grind off more mobs.

        I guess my view of academics is not only tainted by personal experience (let’s not go there), but also by those wickedly cynical Xtranormal videos that went, “so, you want a graduate degree in the humanities”. (Funniest one was I think the one about political science: “Nobody actually involved in politics is actually going to pay any attention to your latest paper. It will be read by the three people in your field whose only objective is to tell you how wrong you are.”)

        The thing, though, is that a discussion of ethics in games journalism is long overdue. But not with Gaters.

        • “If you go broke virtually, you can just log off, or grind off more mobs.”

          You can do those things if you go broke in real life, too. We just call them by different names.

          • Yeah, but don’t get me started on gamification. Suffice it to say that General Yamashita’s motto is gearing up to be very popular in years to come.

          • Damion Schubert

            May 23, 2015 at 7:33 am

            Gamification can be very good at improving a lot of aspects of life. Many improvements you see to modern non-game GUIs are somewhat gamification-like – one example is rewarding people through progressing through application processes. Games are really good at acting as testbeds for player psychology – savvy implementors can apply these lessons easily to the rest of the world.

          • “Games are really good at acting as testbeds for player psychology ”

            And that’s why gamification is dangerous. It seeks to find what people will do in a video game, and why, and transpose it to the real world.

            Any immoral action is made palatable by applying the fun factor to it. For instance, how far into the military-entertainment complex are you when you play a game like “America’s Army”, commissioned by the US Army itself?

  5. Hi! Long time reader first time replier. Love your articles. I’m a highly intelligent and currently drunk person that knows Gamergate is just full of morons.
    And in the morning I will no longer be drunk.

    Keep it up!

  6. I don’t want to sound unduly harsh but from the looks of it DiGRA have been outpaced by the rise of gaming and social media. Established in 2003 and their most up to date Hardcore column was 2007, their home site has the feeling of many good ideas that have long since been abandoned.

    Hasn’t the study of gaming just been absorbed into the established research portfolios of psychology, statistics, social science, et al. Not to mention courses tailored specifically to games development rather than the previously bland and all encompassing computer science.

    Just thinking about the metrics gathered from a normal MMO would be a researchers wet dream. All those numbers and juicy details about the duration of play time and the activity engaged in.

    To be honest I’m surprised more academic research doesn’t trickle out from within gaming companies, or maybe the information is too valuable to share freely with their competitors.

    • There’s also privacy-of-data and liability issues, I would imagine.

      That said, Riot Games is very free with its findings, if not the raw data, so I think you’re right that a lot of really excellent findings could be made. It seems to me the academics have the tools, but it’s up to the gaming companies to apply them.

    • “To be honest I’m surprised more academic research doesn’t trickle out from within gaming companies, or maybe the information is too valuable to share freely with their competitors.”

      The con-man does not reveal the inner workings of three-card monte.

      • I suspect there aren’t that many startling revelations to be made on the three-card monte.
        I guess a lot of the basics behind player psychologies can be found in psychology text books from as far back as the 60’s if not further. Skinner, Millgram, Zimbardo and many, many more all have research that I suspect correlates well with gaming.

        As to seeing the results of internal research (whether based on metrics (quantitative) or more specific focus groups (qualitative)) I can only imagine the seemingly slow incorporation of ‘what the players want’ into the next generation of games. Online games seem to be embracing the free-2-play with cash shop, the savage reality of the market place will hone the elements that work the best.

        • “I suspect there aren’t that many startling revelations to be made on the three-card monte.”

          I guess you could code a computer version of it in a few hours: When player wins, crash to desktop.

          “As to seeing the results of internal research (whether based on metrics (quantitative) or more specific focus groups (qualitative)) I can only imagine the seemingly slow incorporation of ‘what the players want’ into the next generation of games.”

          The film equivalent has given us the Hollywood test screening, the most anti-art device of a seemingly artistic medium. It might give you a great deal to chew on in psychology or sociology, but as for serious criticism, not so much.

          • I think Test Screenings are an important tool, and like most tools can be used well or badly.
            Good use helps to smooth out any rough edges to the product. Bad use it becomes a weapon for the financial backers to hold over the creative desire of the writers/director.

Comments are closed.

© 2017 Zen Of Design

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑