“Freedom of Speech Doesn’t Mean Freedom from Consequences” or “When Does Discrimination Stop Being Polite and Start Getting Real?”

We live in strange times, my friends. Some people have dubbed this the “worst of all timelines”, and while that has yet to be proven (unless you’re a time traveler, I don’t know how it would be proven), it’s true that shit keeps piling on shit and it’s exhausting. However, this is the world we live in. One of these more recent offenses has brought people from all walks of internet life into a debate on free speech and if “political correctness” has gone too far. Spoilers: it hasn’t.

For those who don’t follow YouTube news or have managed to avoid all mentions of the popular YouTube gamer PewDiePie (real name Felix Kjellberg), ripples went through the internet earlier this week when Kjellberg was dropped from his contract with Disney’s Maker Studios and subsequently had the second season of his YouTube Red series, Scare PewDiePie, cancelled by YouTube itself. Kjellberg, who has more than 50 million subscribers on YouTube, was dropped/cancelled due to comments on several on his past videos, most notably two that were released earlier this year. On January 11th, he released a video where he ventured onto the freelance site Fiverr trying to see just how ridiculous his requests could get before people would refuse doing them. This unfortunately ended in a group of Indian men dancing around with a sign that read “Death to all Jews”; later, the Indian men explained they had no idea what the sign even meant. Later on January 22nd, Kjellberg released a similar video in which he had someone dressed as Jesus say “Hitler did nothing wrong.”

The comedy scene on YouTube, perhaps especially the gaming comedy scene, is no stranger to attempts at humor in this vein, and presumably Disney wasn’t ignorant to this when they hopped into the YouTube game, but these two offenses were the final straw when it came to Kjellberg. It’s really no surprise that other YouTubers began to jump to Kjellberg’s defense, claiming YouTube could do the same thing to them if they “spoke out of line”—having a smaller audience could mean financial death to some channels should this happen—and working themselves up about free speech being “under attack” by the mysterious, oversensitive “SJWs”. But honestly, the real worry here is: why do y’all wanna be racist/anti-Semitic/whatever so badly? Kjellberg being dropped was a necessary response, and an incredibly important one at that.

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Pumpkin Online: The MMO that the World Needs

Today’s guest column comes via LGG&F reader Brielle Pritchard. Brielle spends her days putting her English degree to use by crafting stories and comics with characters of color in main roles.

As someone who has dealt with her fair share of MMORPGs and games with player created avatars, I’ve noticed a huge lack of real representation in the choices of avatars. You want to create an online version of yourself? Okay. Pick either a girl or boy base, make your skin one of the 5-8 shades available, pick one of the various hairstyles to choose from (unless you have natural hair then your options are even more limited). But do you want wings, horns, plushies? Go for it! Have tons of them! But what about the people who want an avatar exactly like them, along with the fancy stuff? Pumpkin Online may just be the MMORPG that they—and the rest of the world!—have been waiting for.

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Beyond Female Harassment: How Gaming Can Stop Eating Itself


Anita Sarkeesian

I’ll begin in the thick of it: a week ago, feminist video blogger Anita Sarkeesian (@femfreq), notable for her Tropes vs Women in Video Games series, left her home in fear for her safety in the wake of violent threats against her and her family. You probably already know this. You probably already know that Sarkeesian has long been the target of threats and harassment, including a 2012 game entitled Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian. I will not link to it, but suffice it to say that it is self-explanatory. She has documented some of it here. You may even know that this most recent bout of threats of violence, sexual and non, came from an individual who made it clear to Sarkeesian that they had acquired her address, and that of her parents. This individual declared their intent to murder them.

carolyn petit gamespotIf there was any of that you did not know, please take a moment to sit, mouth agape, in rage and horror. However, if you’re barely surprised, no one could blame you. Not after thousands demanded that Carolyn Petit be fired for so much as suggesting that GTA V’s treatment of women is problematic, to say nothing of transphobic threats and harassment. Or after Miranda Pakozdi was harassed into quitting a video game tournament by her own team’s coach. You could probably name a million other incidents where someone in the gaming community has been abused, threatened, demeaned, or had their privacy invaded. All those events, recent and more distant, are tied together by the fact that the targeted persons dared to criticize or declare real the once-troubling-now-terrifying misogyny of “gamer culture”. Or they simply dared to be women in that culture.

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A Cry for Action at GDC 2014: A New Dawn for Diversity in Gaming?

If there’s one thing we gaming reviewers at LGG&F can agree on, it’s that there needs to be more diversity in video games. This isn’t some revelation I’m pulling out of my ass: we’ve been saying it since the start, whether it be more people of color placed in the spotlight, women being allowed to have characterization beyond the easy pitfalls of tropes, or any representation of the LGBTQ+ community. Basically any character that’s not a chiseled, cishet, 5 o’clock shadow-ed white dude. Cries for a wider cast of characters have echoed across the subculture for what feels like eons, but the fact remains that until the industry decides to take up the mantle, the opportunities for change will be limited to break-out indie hits. However, my conscientious readers, we may be on the precipice of a new dawn. That is to say, the industry may have just had a breakthrough.

Manveer HeirJust a few days ago at the Games Developer Conference in San Francisco, Manveer Heir, a gameplay designer for BioWare Montreal, took the stage in front of a packed room to deliver a panel entitled ‘Misogyny, Racism and Homophobia: Where do video games stand?’. During the panel, Heir called out the Western games industry for clinging too closely to the AAA game formula of white straight dudes saving the girl and doing cool things, and called for a change in not only how the games industry forms their future stories, but also how they view their audience. In a wise move, Heir reassured his audience that his speech wasn’t made so he could waggle a disapproving finger at his fellow game devs; instead it was to be seen as a nudge to an industry that has grown all too comfortable in their safe little niche. It’s a nudge well-needed, however.

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On Gamers and Entitlement

In the past month, two well-known figures in the gaming industry have departed for apparently a similar reason, causing a noticeable disturbance in the force. At the end of July, the producer of the quirky indie game Fez, Phil Fish, halted production on the anticipated sequel, packed his bags, and left. Just like that. More recently (as in last week) one of Bioware’s senior writers, Jennifer Helper, left her position to pursue freelance work. While of course there are many differing aspects to the reasons why they left, I think it’s safe to assume that both occurrences, while not the reason in particular, share one unfortunate similarity: they were both being harassed by fans.

Fez BannerIt’s really a double edged sword when an audience realizes how much power they have over content providers. The same audience that can let developers know when and where a game-breaking glitch occurs can also be the audience that tells the developers that their children should have been aborted and that the world would be much better if they killed themselves. But what causes such a disparity? What is it that allows people to think that this kind of negative activity is allowed? I think the problem is two-fold: anonymity and entitlement.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Video Games Awesome

There are a lot of gaming videos on the internet. A lot. Each day gives rise to countless new Let’s Play-ers and reviewers, and with sites like YouTube becoming more accessible and more lucrative for those that gain a following, it’s easy to get swept away in mediocre and just plain terrible videos. The question remains, though, how does one “make it”? In such an oversaturated market, what does someone who’s interested need to set themselves apart from the rest? Obviously luck plays a huge factor in getting those views, but I feel like many people forget one simple thing when they start out: they forget to have fun. Today’s webcrush, Team Video Games Awesome, hasn’t forgotten that and I think it’s their uncontained excitement for the medium that brings them the popularity they have today.

vga_logo_punchoutThere are two main reasons why I enjoy watching this group of friends outside of the aforementioned uncontained excitement. First, and the more important from a gaming community standpoint, is that they play a wide variety of games. This probably sounds like a no-brainer, but there are tons of people who limit themselves because they feel that their system is superior. There’s nothing wrong with liking a specific system or series, of course, but when it gets to the point where one thinks that a game is inferior just because of the platform it’s on or the genre it’s in, that’s when we start having problems. To put it bluntly, if you think the console wars ended after the 90’s, you haven’t been paying attention.

Video Games Awesome hops back and forth between consoles, genres, and even generations, having just recently completed a series on Earthbound for the SNES. Having the title of each episode be “(video game title) is Awesome!” helps to create the sense that, well, every game they play is awesome, regardless of the differences. Even if it’s not. If you really think about it, every video game, even the terrible ones, is awesome. Consider the effort that goes into each one: the way the character moves on screen, the user interface, the controls. …I’ll stop here before I start waxing poetic about frame-rates, but it remains true that each game, even if it turns out terrible, still takes a tremendous amount of effort and that in and of itself is quite awesome.

Secondly, and more importantly from a sociological view of the gaming culture, is that one of the regular members of the group is a girl. Yes, okay, I know that we all know that girls play video games. This is not a surprise. However, it still remains a disheartening trend that in video game reviews we don’t hear much from the fairer gender, and it’s even more disheartening that we rarely see girls playing video games on larger productions such as tournaments and review shows. Even though the female voice is becoming progressively louder in the gaming community, it’s still relatively easy to ignore because women are not seen. In most cases there are no faces to put to the words. I’m not calling having a female player in the Video Games Awesome cast a strategic business move or a huge win for girl gamers, but I will appreciate it for what it is: a normalized look at a certain girl who plays games. I’ll appreciate the hell out of that.

Video Games Awesome may not be the best at video games, but I’ll be damned if they’re not having fun. And lest we forget, that is the only reason games exist: to have fun. The community at large may not agree on many things; from guns to use in FPSs to builds to have in RPGs, there are naysayers to every facet of the games themselves and issues in the community. However, there is something we can all agree on and that’s that video games are, without a doubt, awesome.

Rin Plays: Magicka

Somehow I managed to do it. I managed to avoid being drawn in by the amazing deals as I experienced my first Steam sale. I may have bent under Skyrim’s pressure, and Remember Me is still leaving a bitter taste in my mouth, but I now understand fully why people hide their wallets during these summer sales. In lieu of shiny big-name games at low prices, I was asked to instead fill my plate with an indie game that’s half teamwork, half memorization, and all chaos. This game? Why, none other than Magicka.

magickaWhen I first heard about this game, I was a little undecided on it. Sure, mixing magic together to make differing spells sounds really fun, but no one hides the fact that the fun is not in doing it correctly, but in fucking it up. As a perfectionist, this completely goes against my life’s motto. However, when asked to take part in a collaborative venture between three of my other friends and myself, well, how could I rightly refuse?

Just because a dude's name is Vlad and… he drinks blood… doesn't mean he's a vampire?!

Just because a dude’s name is Vlad and… he drinks blood… doesn’t mean he’s a vampire?!

Magicka takes place in the pseudo-Norse land of Midgård where the capital city has fallen under siege by an unruly band of orcs and golbins and maybe even vampires (what I am talking about, there are no vampires in this game). So taking your robe—but no wizard hat—and your trusty staff, your wizard heads off to the capital city to protect… no, who am I kidding. These wizards aren’t protecting anything. Your wizard heads off to the capital city leaving a wake of destruction behind them in search of a little respect.

It’s a really simple concept, but that by no means makes it a simple game. The controls by themselves are a little rough to get the hang of. Maybe it’s just me, but having move and attack both be on the mouse, just on different mouse buttons—move is left click, attack with magic is right click—is a little hard to get the hang of. I’m still shoving people off stages with my push spell (the spell that’s automatically queued up when no other magic is selected) because I’m too used to other games where right click and hold is changing camera positions. This is made even more embarrassing by Magicka not having any other camera angle than the 3/4ths overhead angle. I don’t know why I keep trying to change it!

Outside of that, the spells created from combining are rarely ever intuitive and impossible to know unless you’re 1) the one who picks up the scant spellbooks lying around or 2) have a guide open. I usually just stick with using revive (heal + lightning) or fire 5 because I don’t know what else to use and my spell prompt always tells me to use ‘crash to desktop’ which randomly kills one thing on screen, friendly or not. Let me tell you, I was really popular with my friends after using that a couple times. Who knew that people didn’t like dying randomly?

The only real problem I have with this game is that there are no real instances of females anywhere. I think in our time playing we’ve only run into one female NPC, who ended up dying so she was ultimately unimportant anyways. Given the setting and the presumed time period, I can understand that there are no females leading the armies and such, but it’s still a little disappointing. However, to the game makers’ credit, the playable wizard aren’t gendered, so feel free to let your mind wander and make a little backstory for them.

If you do end up picking up this game, I would wholeheartedly recommend going through the tutorial first. Rather, I would suggest playing it by yourself before asking anyone else to play with you. That way you’ll be able to get a handle on the controls rather than being forced to move on without knowing what the hell you’re doing. But, I do recommend playing this game. It’s fun and its humor keeps the game interesting.

Also friendly fire is definitely… a thing…

Also friendly fire is definitely… a thing…

If you want to see some gameplay, I’ve embedded a video of my friends and I playing below. If you think this article was an excuse to promo my LPer friend, you’re right. I’ve tricked you all, ha ha ha!

The Good, The Bad, and Then There’s Sony: An E3 Summary

Just as soon as it started, E3 has come to an end, leaving us with fantastical highs and long side-glances of apprehension. But what was good and what was bad? Certainly I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll give my opinion on the games that I think should be watched with much interest.

Unfortunately, my fears about Microsoft and the Xbox One were not alleviated, but neither were they exacerbated. It seemed like there was a general sense of hopelessness about the whole conference, and really, not too much stuck out to me. At least nothing that made me want to buy the damned Xbox One. Though the controversies I brought up last time weren’t exactly mentioned, they were more than content to make some new ones. During a play demo of the upcoming re-vamp of Mortal Kombat, one of the female developers, who was losing the match (playing a fighting game on a touch pad against someone using an arcade stick isn’t exactly a fair playing field), was told to “just let it happen” because “it [would] be over soon”. Something I absolutely do not watch game expos for is rapey side-comments about women losing games. It was gross, and it was clear that the developer wasn’t having any fun—which, when people already don’t like your system, is not the best way to go. All around, Microsoft came off as extremely unsupportive of their female playerbase. No one is amused.

However, Microsoft did have a couple good games at their showing. The ones I’m most excited for are Sunset Overdrive, a Borderlands-esque shooter which takes place in Titanfalla futuristic setting that almost reminds me of Jet Set Radio, and Titanfall. People are already getting excited over Titanfall for two reasons: it’s developed by a sect of people that left the Call of Duty camp (people who were the good part of that camp, some would argue) so it’s clear they already know their way around the genre—and it stars a non-sexualized female in a position of power. Unfortunately, from the gameplay it doesn’t seem as though she will be a playable character, but I’m happy that she’s there, at least. In such a male-dominated genre, baby steps are definitely the safe method to integration, but we’ll see if it’s more than just a novelty in the coming years.

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E3 Has Me Shivering With Antici……Pation

Those winds are blowing again, my friends. The winds of a new generation carrying with them the remnants of fanboy and fangirl tears alike as brave gamers prepare their wallets for the blow that they’ll inevitably receive. Tomorrow, once more the e3logodoors of E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, will metaphorically open to the public and we’ll see what these big name developers have been hiding up their sleeves.

Already this year things are a little bit different, and drama already arisen. First off, and most notable in my eyes, is that Nintendo isn’t going to be holding a conference in earnest. Certainly, they’re still going to have a presence with a Nintendo Direct panel—a more general panel encompassing more than just the new system—going on Tuesday and a panel dealing with the newest Pokémon games, X and Y, happening later on in the same day. However, I don’t know if it speaks more about Nintendo itself or its competitors that they don’t feel as though it would be worth it to hold a panel as normal.

If you’ve had your toes in the water of the gaming world at all in the past few weeks, you probably already know the other drama. Word’s out: no one is really overly impressed with the Xbox One. Especially with its lack of backwards compatibility, need to be hooked up to the internet more often than any gaming system, save for PC, should, and the seeming vendetta against used games and sharing games in general. The viral advertising against Microsoft concerning this, legitimate or not, hasn’t helped matters much either. Of course, words are cheap and for many, waiting until the One was shown at E3 would be Microsoft’s defining moment. However, it’s rumored that due to the widespread unfavorable opinion on the console (as well as an assumed inability to dispute said opinion) Microsoft has canceled their post-show media roundtable. As much as I’m side-eying the company right now, I sincerely hope that this isn’t true. Not only would this look poorly on the company and the system, it would also be confirming my worries that this system is not something worth investing in. And with titles like Banjo Kazooie: Grunty Land and Mirror’s Edge 2 tempting my spending, I’d really like there to be something redeeming about the One.

To the surprise of no one, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for any news about Dragon Age III: Inquisition and The Last of Us, but more than that, I’ll be looking especially hard for how this new era of games is going to present their characters. Of course, there’s still going to be our Halo’s and other series that have long since overstayed their welcome, but with the current release of Remember Me—an action adventure game staring a (hopefully) un-sexualized female character—and even the past release of the new Tomb Raider, I maintain the hope that females will overcome their tropes and companies will create more and more diverse characters that do more than just look pretty. (Although other aspects of the industry are continuously still trying to ignore that half the gaming audience is, indeed, female, which is a little disheartening.) With games such as Bayonetta 2 being listed—despite there being no confirmation if the title will actually make it to the E3 showroom—I think this is a good sign for progress on that front. It’s impossible to know for sure, however.

For Once Can We Have Nice Things?

For Once Can We Have Nice Things?

If you’re interested in looking at the state of the union, so to speak, you can watch the IGN stream here or the YouTube stream here. E3 starts tomorrow, Monday the tenth, at 9AM PST (Noon EST), so to make sure you hit the video streams you want, make sure to check out the schedule. I’ll be liveblogging on my tumblr (tagged “E3pocalypse ’13), so feel free to drop me a message telling me your opinion, or simply leave me a comment here.

Web Crush Wednesdays: Gourmet Gaming

In the past several years it’s become more than apparent that gaming has much to offer the world at large. Such as an almost immediate testing group for a budding (with the influx of popular indie games recently, we may have reached the “blooming” stage) community of developers. A drive to keep expanding the limits of graphics and hardware capabilities. Not to mention enlightening discussions on not only the themes and morals of the game itself, but how these games make an impact on the sociology of our non-digital community. And delicious recipes. …Yeah, it doesn’t really seem like that one belongs, does it? Yet, if this week’s web crush has anything to say about it, cooking and gaming will have a much more symbiotic relationship than just deciding what flavor of ramen to eat when hunkering down for a twelve hour gaming marathon. Today, we look at Gourmet Gaming.

webcrush picThe concept behind Gourmet Gaming is simple: pick a food item from any game imaginable and try to recreate it in real life, along with your recipe. In fact, this premise is so simple that I’m surprised that no one else has done it, or at least has done it well enough to get the following this site has gotten. This may just be my designer sense tingling, but I think one of the reasons why this site has done so well is because of how neatly everything is laid out.

Each recipe (placed behind a polite ‘read more’) is usually accompanied by an image of the finished product, and if not, it is accompanied instead by the picture of the item in game.

More importantly, however, is that each recipe is given a ‘difficulty’ rating. So as much as I may want to make something called a ‘Moogle Pie’, the three and a half star rating tells me that I might want to clear a little time from my day before I attempt it.

Although the author seems like an extremely lovely person, one of the most heartening things behind this entire website is that they state outright in their FAQ that they don’t come from a culinary background:

I have no training and I work from my very tiny kitchen in a very tiny flat with little to no supplies! I’ve only been able to cook for a few years, so if I can do it you can too!

I don’t know about you guys, but I find a lot of hope in that. If they can make something amazing, than someone like me—with roughly the same amount of experience—can also make something that looks that good.

Whereas this site hasn’t gone so far as to inspire me to scour through my own games to pick out pixelated foodstuffs to recreate in my own kitchen, it has inspired me to actually try cooking rather than settling for boxed dinners and other such things. In fact, tonight may be the perfect night to try out one of these recipes I’ve had my eye on for a while: Persona 4’s ‘Aiya Rainy Day Special Mega Beef Bowl’. Wish me luck!