Leslie Jones, or I Got Questions ‘Bout Your Life If You’re So Ready to Kill

25 08 2016

I have a couple of questions for the people attacking Leslie Jones. Read the rest of this entry »


What to Expect from Me, or The Ethics Manifesto

3 11 2014

I’m hoping (not at all promising) to write more frequently going forward. With #GamerGaters still insisting that their movement is all about ethics in game journalism, it seems appropriate that I set out my own code of ethics. I wouldn’t call myself a journalist – I’m definitely more of a critic – but it still seems like a good idea.

  1. I have never been given promotional material, gifts of meals or entertainment, review or preview copies of games or access codes for such, or sweaty piles of cash by any game developers or publishers that I can remember. Should any developers or publishers wish to offer me any of the above, I will accept them quite readily – contact me at your earliest convenience, publishers and developers! That being said, I will do my best to keep any such largesse from coloring my opinions, and I will disclose such gifts in any articles touching upon the entities that gave them.
  2. I will make absolutely no attempt at writing “objective reviews.” First off, unless you’re writing a spec sheet (“This game runs at 1080P as advertised. The multiplayer features listed on the box are indeed present.”), a review can’t be objective. As soon as you express any opinion, you’ve abandoned objectivity. Beyond the semantic silliness of the idea, I have no interest in writing what seems to be the goal behind the impossible banner of “objectivity,” a simple numerical grade that tells you whether you should buy a game or not, like the GamePro reviews of a bygone age. For one thing, I don’t know you. I have no idea what you like and don’t like. Given that I’ve recommended games to people I know quite well only to find that they hated the things, I certainly don’t think I should be telling complete strangers how to spend their money. Furthermore…
  3. I will not keep my politics out of my writing. Games are cultural currency, and they both reflect and shape the sociopolitical reality in which they exist. I’m going to comment on that. Games completely devoid of political content are vanishingly rare, even if their developers intended no political message. I will talk about issues of inclusiveness and representation when I see fit. I will apply my personal politics to the games that I examine, and I will express my opinions of the sociopolitical state of the industry when I feel it is appropriate to do so. If the fact that I am staunchly liberal and progressive is likely to bother you, the writing you find here is likely to bother you. Fairly warned be thee, says I.
  4. In criticism, authors assemble examples from the criticized text to support their thesis. They should at least acknowledge elements in the text that undercut the thesis, hopefully explaining how these elements are outweighed or are otherwise insufficient to prove their thesis wrong. There are plenty of valid reasons that such acknowledgements may not be included or may only appear in passing – this does not invalidate the criticism. It is not the job of the critic to present every possible viewpoint, and it certainly isn’t the critic’s job to undercut his or her own thesis at every turn. In my criticism, I will do my best to explain my opinion and how I came to it, citing examples from the text. I will try to acknowledge things in the text that don’t fit with my thesis, and I will welcome comments by people who see things differently. If someone points out that I’ve made a mistake in my citations or arguments and I agree that it is actually a mistake, rather than a difference of interpretation, I will write a correction if I feel that it is appropriate to do so. That being said, mistakes and omissions do not automatically invalidate a thesis, and I won’t behave as though they do. I am always interested in honest discussion of differing viewpoints, but discussion has to start from somewhere other than screaming “YOU’RE WRONG!” and nothing more.

I may add to this over time, but those four things are unlikely to change at any point in the future, so they’re a good start.

News From Under the Banner of the Rat’s Anus, or The Beat Goes On

17 10 2014

In the days since I posted about #GamerGate, another female game developer, Brianna Wu, has been threatened with horrific sexual violence, murder, and the murder of her family, with the person making the threats publishing her home address. Anita Sarkeesian cancelled a lecture at Utah State University when officials told her they would not be able to keep the forum gun-free, despite someone threatening to commit the worst school shooting in US history if she spoke. What horrible crime did these women commit? They expressed their opinions. For nothing more than that, Wu was threatened with strangulation with her husband’s severed genitals, followed by brutal rape. Sarkeesian has seen herself made the subject of an app allowing people to beat her face unrecognizable. She’s received countless threats of physical violence, often with a sexual component, and threats against her family. Again, all they did was voice their opinions.

It is absolutely reasonable to boycott businesses you disagree with. I’m disappointed by the fact that Intel pulled their ads from Gamasutra over Leigh Alexander’s posts, but they have to respond to their market, and apparently enough people voiced their opposition to Alexander that Intel took notice. There’s nothing wrong with that. I have boycotted businesses I disagreed with, and I’ll probably continue to do so in the future.

Boycotts are a valid form of expression.

Threats are not.

I thought my last post would have cleared that up. I don’t understand why the internet hasn’t fallen in line.

Unfortunately, I have a pretty strong feeling that more disgusting examples that demonstrate just how slight the notion of “humanity” really is will pile up between now and when I make my next post.

You Don’t Get to Be the Hero, Or Are We the Baddies?

9 10 2014

There’s a great sketch from That Mitchell and Webb Look in which an SS unit is preparing for a Soviet attack during the German retreat. As Robert Webb’s straight man coolly anticipates the coming battle, David Mitchell’s funnyman asks about a new discovery he’s made. He’s just noticed that the badges on their uniform caps are skulls, and he can’t help but wonder if maybe that means they’re the bad guys. “Maybe they’re the skulls of our enemies,” Webb suggests. Mitchell counters with “Maybe, but is that how it comes across? It doesn’t say next to the skull, you know, ‘Yeah, we killed him, but trust us, this guy was horrid.'” He goes on to point out that the symbols of the Allied powers “are all quite nice – stars, stripes, lions, sickles […] I mean, I really can’t think of anything worse, as a symbol, than a skull.” Webb suggests “A rat’s… anus?” and pulls up a skull-shaped mug. The two look around and see the SS Death’s Head all around them, and promptly realize that yeah, they’re the baddies – at which point they run.

I thought of this sketch just now as I was reading Kris Ligman’s August 31st “This Week in Videogame Blogging” at Critical Distance – an excellent collection of commentary on the recent horrific spasm of harassment and abuse directed at feminists involved with games – most specifically aimed at Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn. The many pieces Ligman calls out (along with plenty of others) do a great job of explaining, lamenting, debunking and excoriating the breathtakingly wrongheaded fury, hatred, and threats being poured forth by “gamers,” so I won’t spend any time echoing what has been said so eloquently and effectively elsewhere. Instead, I want to focus on a thread that I’ve noticed a lot, in arenas as disparate as “Gamergate” and the 2008 presidential campaign. Read the rest of this entry »