The other day, I did a rather gnashing response to a man named Dave Cook, who wrote an article talking about his experience in the gaming media, and how he saw things now. I was unrelenting. The truth is, it wasn’t Cook that I was angry at, so much as the media itself. Journalism in this country is broken. That fact cannot be denied. Is it broken beyond repair That’s hard to say. There may be hope. Part of that hope is sites like Tech Raptor, and the one I write for – Gambitcon. These sites do journalism the old fashioned way – finding stories and talking about them. Not having big game companies drop stories at their door, like some other sites I can name. They also don’t have an ideological axe to grind when they report on games and do reviews, unlike some OTHER sites I can think of.
Today, on Tech Raptor’s YouTube page, they posted an opinion video that got my attention. It was something that got me thinking about the current state of the industry, and what can be done to fix it. If anything, at this point. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it might be broken beyond repair. I suppose we’ll see. But let’s talk about the video first.
You start off addressing PR. It isn’t the most fun subject. Part of the problem with games journalism is that it’s become an extension of PR. Internet Aristocrat did a great job showing that in some of his videos about the early days of GamerGate. Collusion is part of what got us here. The line between who is reporting and who is advertising got blurred, It’s a problem that still exists. Look at some of the things that have come out about the IGF, and how the Indie scene is all about back-scratching. PR is a part of society, and I admit that it has a place, but the truth is, its place might be getting a little bit murky.
Then, you bring up Titan Souls, and the media blitz surrounding that, after Total Biscuit made a rather innocuous comment about how he does not find the game appealing. This brings you into something I wanted to touch on – how video games have become a battleground for social ideas, and you not liking this.
Video games are an art form. That’s a fact. Let the over-paid intellectual douchebags argue all day long, it’s an art form. Part of being an art form that is coming into its own is that people are going to talk about it. People are going to have opinions. Now, it can’t be denied that video games in their modern form have become tangled up in the political ideologies that are at war today. And you know what, I get why that would be disconcerting, for some. But the fact is – this is how it was inevitably going to be. Jack Thompson wasn’t the first, and Anita Sarkeesian won’t be the last. Video games being part of the political space is just the way things are, right now.
Your point about how the political divisions can absolutely hurt a game is well-met. I agree with you, 100%. I have done everything I can to not be a part of that. I think that Phil Fish is a terrible person. That can’t be denied. But FEZ is an awesome game. I think that Brianna Wu is a terrible person, but that didn’t factor in when I did a post on the reveal trailer for her game. Her politics didn’t tell me that that will be a terrible game. The god-awful voice acting alone assured me of that. For real, I have never heard worse voice acting, in anything. But you know, I will say that the politics is hurting her too. For example – when she went out to coffee with someone that her crowd didn’t agree with, they turned on her, and her game got so much ugly social media coverage that it wasn’t funny. Like one guy who said that he was glad that he didn’t have to pretend to like her anymore, and that her game looked terrible. The politics is a part of how people view games now, and on a lot of levels, I am with you. It can be frightening.
One point that I have to contend with you on is the loss of the childish mystique that gaming once held. Dude, gamers are grown up. The average age of a gamer, according to the ESA report for 2015, is 35. When you have a medium that is being made by grown-ups, for grown-ups, then the maturity that we see in games like The Last of Us and A Wolf Among Us is to be expected. This is the nature of the medium that we live in. If you want that childish mystique, go talk to Nintendo. Part of the reason that their company isn’t doing so well these days is because they haven’t been able to let that mystique go. They kept believing that the audience for their games is children, and haven’t let their company grow up. I’m sure one of their apologists will find this post and say that I’m so awful and how awesome Nintendo is. Nintendo is making a lot of mistakes. I wrote an article on that for Gambitcon (linked here). The companies that haven’t been able to change with the times are falling away. Nintendo will be the next to fall. It’s good to enjoy a game that’s tongue and cheek or cutesy and fun. But the nature of the medium and the audience it has dictates that things are changing. That can’t be stopped, no matter how much you want things to stay the same.
Next, you bring up how the individual is becoming a huge part of the conversation. I agree with you on that. As Total Biscuit also pointed out, too much of the discussion we are having is focused on a person, instead of their ideas. That’s something I figured out while going after Dave Cook’s article. I was mean, unnecessarily so, because it wasn’t Cook that I was mad at. It’s the games media industry. I have seen how broken it is. GamerGate has exposed the industry for how collusive it is. And that’s a problem, for sure. Journalism as a whole seems to be in bad need of repair. My mean-spirited response to Dave Cook was just misdirected anger, which should have gone where it is needed.
I find it weird that you condemn how we want a face behind our mediums. That’s always been the case. For real, take any art form, from film to painting to sculpture, and what do you have? You have the people who represent it. I can watch a great film and be amazed at it, but I also find the elements the director used, and why him/her used them interesting too. Why did Akira Kirosawa use geometric shapes characters in his films? Why does David Fincher not like doing hand-held shots? These are questions that people ask. This idea of having a medium without face involved is crazy. For the same reason as I can appreciate a game, regardless of who made it, I still find it interesting when I learn about why certain things were done in it.
You talk about how ideas can come into the press at times, but you don’t want to commit to that thought. Ideas have been a part of the press for ages. Look at hit-pieces like what ABC did with GamerGate. They even admitted that that whole deal was click-bait. By their own admission, they sold good journalism out for clicks. That’s what the media has become, now. Click-bait. And you know what brings in clicks – controversial opinions. Something I have worked long and hard to avoid is click-bait. I could have titled this article “Your Views of Gaming Are So Stupid! (A response to Teach Raptor), and you can bet that I would get a lot more clicks. But I didn’t. I gave it a fair title, so that I could talk with you in a respectful way. Because I do respect you, Tech Raptor. Even though I don’t totally agree with this video, I still respect it because it is done with an open mind and without feeling the need to get ugly. The press is so utterly guilty of what has been done here that it can’t be argued.
Another disagreement – the work does not, and should not speak for the person. I can separate the work from the creator, if the creator and I have ideological differences, but the work does not speak for them. Does “Ender’s Game” speak for the fact that Orson Scott Card is a virulent homophobe? Does Revolution 60 speak for the fact that Brianna Wu exploited the death of Amber Lynn Schraw to sell her victimhood, even though she wasn’t remotely connected to GamerGate? The work and the person should be separate, but don’t go thinking that the work and the person should be taken as one thing. That is wrong.
The last point I want to make is that the mob mentality has always been. Always. Well before video games, the mob opinion has been a force of nature. The mob mentality got Ronald Reagan elected, because the mob liked him. He was an actor. He talked about “morning in America.” Whereas Jimmy Carter talked about how we needed to change and do things different. The mob didn’t want to hear that. The mob still doesn’t! If you are unwilling to accept that the mob mentality is going to govern how people spend their money and how video games grow, then you are in the wrong species, my friend.
Video games are changing. The media and the entire culture surrounding it is changing as well. I get that part of those changes may not sit well with you, but here’s the thing – you can’t avoid it. It is the inevitable part of any culture. Nothing stays the same forever. That child-like love that we had for new games and new ideas wasn’t going to last. We all had to grow up. We grew up, and it’s harder to impress us. We grew up and we got opinions about stuff that will color everything we perceived. I may think that her ideas are anti-women and anti-lesbian and bisexual women, but I still see what Anita Sarkeesian says as part of a culture that is larger than herself. She wasn’t the first to get on her bandwagon. Once her con has played out, someone else will eventually arise too. Sarkeesian’s time in the spotlight is coming to an end, sooner or later. And when it does, she’ll be on the shelf (in view but not interacted with), just like Movie Bob. The cycle repeats endlessly. A cycle that goes back long before gaming or film. From when society was anything at all. That’s just what it is. You adapt and become part of that culture, or you do as Cook did and extricate yourself from it. No way is correct. We’re all just trying to get by. Do with that what you will.
Until next time, a quote,
“It is said that what is called ‘the spirit of an age’ is something to which one cannot return. That this spirit gradually dissipates is due to the world’s coming to an end. For this reason, although one would like to change today’s world back to the spirit of one hundred years or more ago, it cannot be done. Thus it is important to make the best out of every generation.” -Hagakure: The Way of the Samurai