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Diecast #36: Battlefield 4, and Gaming Culture

By Shamus
on Tuesday Nov 12, 2013
Filed under:


You know what we need more of around here? Controversy. Nothing livens things up more than gnawing on the old bones of a horse that was flogged to death in the flamewars of yesteryear. If we’re lucky, we might get through this without having some kind of rage-driven meltdown.

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Show notes:

00:30 We talk about Battlefield 4 and how the matchmaking / server browser is cutting-edge 1996 technology.

18:00 Chris talks about the single-player aspects of Battlefield 4.

24:00 The Telltale segment: Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead.

This is a non-spoiler discussion, mostly talking about how Telltale is moving TWD forward and discussing what we hope / expect / guess will be in Season 2.

35:00 Mumbles talks about Agents of SHIELD.

Related: This Penny Arcade strip.

Chris references this gem: MST3K – Space Mutiny – The many names of David Ryder

48:30 Shamus is playing vanilla Minecraft 1.7.2.

If you’re curious, the map project I mentioned is this:


49:00 Mailbag:

Neil (or Neal? Or perhaps Kneel? I don’t have the email handy) asks:

“How much do you think the bad behavior of and reputation of so-called “gaming culture” has to do with it coinciding with the transparency and anonymity of the internet?”

This might be our favorite question so far. It certainly launched the most discussion, and I’ll bet we could have filled an entire episode on the topic if we wanted.

During this discussion I mention this episode of Jimquisition, talking about how most game journalism is simply relaying information provided by marketing. We also discuss Neil Gaiman‘s Angela character. The business side of her character is a lot more interesting than the narrative side.

1:04:30 Why gender-based discussions suck so bad.

Hoping we can get through this topic with minimal loss of life.

Comments (156)

  1. Mersadeon says:

    Thanks Shamus. Because of you I now know that the new Minecraft update is out. I didn’t want to work on anything important ever, anyway.

    • The game still has a few problems. For one, if you like NPC villages, I hope you enjoy building them yourself, because that’s the only way I’ve been able to get them to work. Since 1.7, the only “natural” ones I’ve found have been in Savanna or Desert, and the people there are on permanent freak-out, as if it were raining (even when it’s not). This makes them crowd into one building over and over, constantly opening and closing the doors. I was able to make my own village with ‘sane’ residents by making one out in the plains from cured zombies.

      There’s also the issue with nether portals making new portals a random distance away from the original one you built when you return from the nether. Both this and the one above have been around for quite some time with no apparent effort to fix them.

      It’s still fun, but they should especially fix the NPC issue.

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard this mod is great for improving NPC villages:


        The only other mod I’m looking for is to make the world a little bit flatter. I especially feel like the hills/mountain biomes are too extreme, no lonely mountains or flat savannah.

      • Mersadeon says:

        Weirdly enough, I have none of the village-issues you described. Weird. I spawned pretty much right next to a green-hill-biome village, and everything is ok.

        (Except, did they somehow make the noise the villagers make more frequent? Seriously, guys, shut up!)

  2. Jeff R. says:

    Two comics notes:

    I. Usenet existed at the time you were talking about, so those kinds of discussions were happening, online, if somewhat less anonymously, with less traffic/volume than the internet as a whole but more than pretty much any individual forum/community.

    II. Angela was created by Neil Gaiman (in collaboration with Todd, sure, but he was a significant part of the visual design process as well as the directly writerly parts), and if you don’t think there’s a sizable contingent of comics fandom ready, willing, and able to defend anything he’s done vocally and stridently, you’ve got another think coming.

    • Mike S. says:

      And anyone who somehow missed that would have been clued into it by the nigh-Jarndyce v. Jarndyce-length legal proceedings over the rights to Angela, which got tied up with Gaiman and McFarlane’s struggle over Miracleman into one of the longer-running feuds in comics.

      (Though Marvel’s recent announcement that it would be republishing Miracleman suggests that it finally came to an end while I wasn’t watching.)

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    What are you talking about Shamoose being an old guy?He is just a youngster by DC standards.

  4. Jeff R. says:

    Two comics notes:

    I. Usenet existed at the time you were talking about, so those kinds of discussions were happening, online, if somewhat less anonymously, with less traffic/volume than the internet as a whole but more than pretty much any individual forum/community.

    II. Angela was created by Neil Gaiman (in collaboration with Todd, sure, but he was a significant part of the visual design process as well as the directly writerly parts), and if you don’t think there’s a sizable contingent of comics fandom ready, willing, and able to defend anything

  5. Klay F. says:

    Grrr. I typed out a veritable essay earlier, but the internet came and swallowed it whole, along with the entire site for a while.

    Anyway the gist of what I was gonna say is that gaming culture is in a wholly unique position, due to a combination of things all coming to fruition at the right time to form a kind of maelstrom.

    Firstly, is the massive growth of the internet during the past decade. This is growth on a level that makes even the dot-com bubble look small. But the one thing that has basically defined the culture of the internet for the majority of its lifespan is that of a cesspool.

    Second is the almost equally massive growth of gaming in general.

    IMO its pointless to talk about why gaming culture sucks so much without also talking about why general internet culture also sucks, as the two are so intermixed at this point they are basically the same thing. That being said, gaming culture specifically isn’t any worse than the rest of the internet, and in most cases, is actually better.

    On a related note, I think how the internet turned out has GOT to be one of the most unassailable arguments for Hobbesian philosophy ever conceived. At least thats my personal feelings. :)

    • Klay F. says:

      Aaaannnnddd can’t edit my post:

      In addition, I wanted to say that gaming culture obviously wasn’t always like this. Even during the early days of the internet, it wasn’t even a fraction as toxic. Its only been during the last decade, when the accepted etiquette was basically laid in stone, when this stuff became prevalent, but by then it was too late for anyone to do anything about it.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, the site was down for a while for me as well. My guess is that Shamus’ entire fan base tried to download the podcast at the same time. I always do a Ctrl+a Ctrl+c before I submit a comment… saved me a few times.

      On the topic of internet/gaming culture, I would speculate that this isn’t a unique problem. As Shamus said, there are fools and snobs in every hobby. The internet just tends to give every one of these people the possibility of visibility, and our corporate “news” mentality tends to elevate the poorest examples of behavior to the highest notoriety.

      People have played games, and shared their experiences about such play, since time out of mind. If there’s a fundamental problem with gaming, then it’s a problem with humanity in general as well.

  6. Corpital says:

    Hurray, time to post angry! And I am angry at Shamus. Taunting us with the doubtless delightful chicken Josh is preparing and then not posting the recipe in the show notes? Come on, that’s just mean.

    Also, the site’s been a bit rebellious to me around this time, refusing to load and stuff.

  7. Hal says:

    I’ll admit it: I like Agents of SHIELD. I’m not going to claim that every moment of every episode is flawless, but it’s a satisfying watch all the same.

    • Nick says:

      Yup, me too. I’m interested to see where it goes and I’m liking the way it’s going so far even if it isn’t the best thing in the world

    • ? says:

      Not only I like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I think I prefer current approach rather than “marvel character of the week”. It’s more accessible to people who don’t read comics, and can be it’s own thing without baggage of decades of continuity. I can see the appeal for creators of new series to use characters tailor made to stories they want to tell, rather than bending and twisting existing characters to fit their needs.

    • Wes1180 says:

      I am also one of the people that have been liking it, but I really enjoyed Eureka and Warehouse 13 so maybe it’s just scratching that same itch for me.

      Or maybe I’m just viewing it at a different angle with regards to where my expectations are.

    • Retsam says:

      I also really like Agents of SHIELD, and disagreed with a lot of what Mumbles (and also Chris, I think) had to say about it.

      Perhaps the reason we disagree so strongly is the “purpose of the show”; I don’t ever remember hearing that the point of this show was to “explain the movies” as Mumbles suggests, and if it ever was, I’m glad they’ve seemingly gotten away from that. I like connections to the movies as fun little Easter eggs, but I want this show to exist as it’s own entity, and not simply be an extension/advertisement/explanation of the movies.

      I like that the action doesn’t revolve around superheroes all the time, and doubly so that there aren’t any in the main cast. The main theme of this show, I believe is meant to be how normal people deal with a world suddenly gone crazy, (though admittedly this is a little undermined by the main cast all being Badass Normals). Having any superheroes in the main cast would pretty much destroy that.

      Regarding Skye; I’ll admit her hair being glamorous despite living in a bus is likely a plot hole. But I don’t know if I’d really consider it a sexism-motivated “we can’t have women unless they’re attractive” plot hole. My take on Skye’s character design is actually somewhat the opposite. My early impression of her character was that it was a deliberate attempt to portray a computer-savvy female as glamorous, since computers are generally viewed as a “guy thing”. Having Skye be disheveled and less hygienic would have undermined that.

      In fact, come to think of it, perhaps I should be offended as a computer programmer; as you seem to be suggesting that the most unrealistic part of her character is that a computer person could have such good hygiene. This stereotyping and discrimination needs to end.

      • Retsam says:

        (Long rant post split into two sections for your convenience/annoyance)

        Regarding the most recent episode; yes, the ending was rather ridiculous, as any ending involving people jumping out of planes always is. Because physics. But it was a lot more fun than I think most resolutions would have been (and seems like the sort of thing they’d get away with in comic form, though perhaps I’m off on that one).

        And I really disagree on principle with the idea that there’s no way two characters of opposite gender with the possibility of romantic relationship “would have already banged” (as I think it was so delicately put). Any combination of “only viewed them as a sibling/friend” or “not looking for romance” or “interested in someone else” or “too caught up in SCIENCE” would pretty well explain a lack of previous relationship. As for why one might be starting, the recurring theme of the episode was “near-death (or actual-death) experiences make you a different person”. Sure, that’s a trope, but tropes aren’t bad (especially not where Whedon is concerned), but you know, I don’t think I’d mind seeing “long-time friendship develops into something more” story. I don’t know if I can even really think of an example of that in television.

        Also another side point on the Fitz/Simmons thing; and countering the “this is just lazy romantic tension”, note that they’ve pretty strongly established a Skye/Fitz/Simmons love triangle at this point. Fitz looks pretty conflicted in his last scene of this episode, notice how the camera lingers on him for a good 5-10 seconds after Simmons leaves. Moviebob, for one, even suggests that the epsiode also suggested Simmons/Ward (A.K.A. “basically Robin”) which might make this a full love rectangle, (since Skye/Ward has already been pretty blatantly hinted as well) though I don’t really buy that yet.

        • ehlijen says:

          I also like the show. It’s clearly not a superhero show. If anything, it’d make more sense to see it as Firefly, attempt two, with a bit more Buffy (because that worked better than Firefly did) and some Avengers (because that’s what’s in right now).

          I don’t think it deserves any awards, but it’s a fun watch. It’s understanding of physics is laughable (yes, having two engines be fed by the exhaust from the front engines totally works!), but it’s a Amazing Science! show, so that’s excusable.

          I’ve gotta ask (in general), what’s so robin about ward? I saw him more as the grumpy veteran who now has to look after the actual new guys which he’s never done before. As in, more a batman than a robin (not actually, but as far as the robin metaphor goes).

          And why can’t we have longterm friendhships between a man and a woman without them having to have banged? I was rather glad to see them be friends rather than lovers and hope it’ll stay that way. Yeah, maybe they’re shipping them, but I’m still chosing to believe they’re just really good friends because that’d be something less cliche at this point.

          • It’s been a while since I read any comics centering on SHIELD, but how often did they get involved with the Shockers/Electros of the Marvel U? That wasn’t their problem. AIM and Hydra were, and they had their “payroll” roster of heroes to help handle them or other threats that weren’t solvable by a person with a double-life that involved a costume and a “real job.”

            They might run into supervillains, but they’d be ones that were doing stuff that Spider-Man wouldn’t get into, like James Bond-villain shenanigans. Shocker is just some guy with some tech. He’s not selling it, he can’t spread it to other people, and he’s basically just a guy with some uber-tasers strapped to his hands. He’s a law-enforcement problem, not a national security problem.

          • Andy_Panthro says:

            “What’s so Robin about Ward?”

            I guess the connection would be Burt Ward, who is best known as Robin from the Adam West Batman TV show. The actual characters aren’t similar.

    • Count me in on those who like SHIELD. Some notes about what was said:

      1. It seems to be an homage to a lot of the action-team shows of the 80’s, only with more modern tropes and (mostly) reversals of expectations.

      2. I’m not sure what Shamus would think of the hot-looking elite hacker chick after the episode where we find her hot-looking elite hacker dude boyfriend. Besides, it’s not like hackers are known for helping themselves to cash via, say, hacking, is it?

      3. Spider-Man may make an appearance, as Disney/Marvel got the TV rights for the character away from Sony recently.

      4. The fascination with Agent Coulson isn’t really about him being a badass, since everyone is a badass in one way or another. Most of us want to know what happened to him between the movie and the series, where he spent some time in “Tahiti.”

      5. A lot of the cast seems to be treating this like these guys are ALL of SHIELD. As we’ve seen, this is just one team in a larger organization.

    • False Prophet says:

      I’m trying to like it, and recent episodes have made that easier, but I’m not quite there yet. And I say this as someone who’s seen and liked every Joss Whedon TV project except Dollhouse (because I’ve only seen half an episode), and made a special effort to see the world premiere of his Much Ado About Nothing, but has never really been into superheroes outside of some animated series and recent feature films.

      And I’ll admit, there were incredibly high expectations going in, given Whedon’s TV track record and The Avengers.

      But the show’s hanging a lot on the four younger characters, and I haven’t been given a lot to like about them yet. Coulson I already like from the movies, and Melinda May exudes an annoyed demeanor of “I can’t believe I have to take care of this kindergarten class” that I sympathize with but the rest of them aren’t doing it for me yet.

      I don’t really get a sense that Skye has access to special knowledge unobtainable by SHIELD. I think it would be an interesting take on her character if her “hacking” was less the usual cypherpunk encryption-breaking you usually see in fiction, and more about social engineering, contacts, finding important whistleblowers, and leveraging hacktivists online (i.e., she’s not some script-kiddie grunt, but more of a rallying point for hackers). That would be a more modern approach to “hacking” and make her stand out from the Lisbeth Salander/Abby Sciuto-types out there, and help justify why she puts a premium on her appearance and presentation.

      The scientists haven’t been fleshed out enough yet. I think it was the Badass Digest review that summed up my feelings: the last episode would have been really great–if it had come later after we’d been given a good reason to care about Simmons. Or even if in that episode, she had contracted the affliction while risking her life trying to save the firemen. Instead, she got infected for not taking precautions, and we’re supposed to care about her curing herself after no one really broke into a sweat trying to save those firemen.

      And the Agent Ward character–he’s a take-charge, ready-for-action, alpha male type. Whedon’s work is not kind to this type (except maybe Captain America in the Avengers, and even there it took him a while to get on his game). They’re either bad guys, or when they’re good guys, they are the blandest of the bland (e.g., Riley from Buffy). Look Joss, maybe guys like this beat you up in high school, but not all of them are assholes. Some of them are pretty good guys. And there a few promising bits with Ward–the interrogation scene in the pilot, and when he’s pretending to be the girl with the camera in her eye–those were pretty good. I’d like to see more of that from him.

      I haven’t given up yet. I know I’ll be watching at least until the episode that deals with the fallout from Thor 2 (which I liked a lot).

  8. thesnowking says:

    Well that was probably the best conversation on female representation in games and the gaming community I have heard in a long time.
    I think what you were saying essentially boils down to is that we should be conversational rather than adversarial in our discussions and disagreements. Which we should probably be doing anyway everywhere else to.

    • ET says:

      Yeah, the world would be a lot better off if more people would have conversations instead of arguments.
      Mumbles pointed out that it’s a lot easier to be hostile on the internet than in real life, so you really have to be a jerk-hole in real life to argue the same way IRL as online.

      One other point, which I hope wasn’t already made in the diecast (I was listening late at night :| ), is that it’s also very easy online, to accidentally anger people.
      Pretty much, all parties in the discussion will have a hard time reading each others’ emotions and conveying properly their own emotions.
      You really have to make an effort, to add extra descriptive words and phrases, or add emoticons, to really make sure you don’t get misunderstood.

  9. Nyctef says:

    The server browser in BF4 isn’t anything to write home about. The live interaction between your currently playing game with things like editing your loadout, viewing a live minimap or even playing Commander Mode from a tablet is pretty awesome, though.

    Also, Josh is mistaken about trying to join a full server. The game reserves a slot for you on the server before it even starts booting the game, although it is possible to get kicked out if internet shenanigans happen

    • Nyctef says:

      Replying because I can’t seem to edit: The server browser in BF4 doesn’t really take away anything from the game. Loading a level from the browser seems to take about as it would if the game was already loaded (since most of the time is just spent loading the massive maps that you have) and it works about as well as you’d expect a server browser to.

      I think the reason they might have gone for it for BF4 (and maybe tried to do for BF3 as well but been less successful at) is using the same interface to run mobile/tablet apps as well.

    • aldowyn says:

      Yeah, I don’t think it’s as awful as Shamus construed it to be. It was in the early days at least of BF3, but if that hadn’t gone reasonably well I’m sure they would have changed it for BF4. They’re not THAT dumb.

    • Ilseroth says:

      While plenty of people have put their point out, and probably better…

      A Hipster as it is currently is someone who expresses interest in things only as long as they are generally not extolled by the community as a whole. They take their “interest” in these unheard of things and use them as a way to set themselves “above” a community and are generally vocal as to why their niche thing is better then those who aren’t interested in said thing.

      The thing that sets them apart from a “geek” of that thing is that if lots of other people start taking interest in it, rather then getting excited about the increased interest in the thing they like, and the acceptance that will occur due to the increased interest in the general community, they abhor the thought that their interest is becoming mainstream.

      After it does become “mainstream” they will immediately abandon or even directly hate the thing. Not necessarily that what they were interested in has changed in any way, but simply because they are no long “exclusive” or “unique.”

      I think this style of thought arose primarily from my generation (late 80s, early 90s) where the common schooling method was to tell everyone that they are special and unique. If they can’t find a reason for themselves to set apart from society as a whole, it would go against ideals they embraced in their formative stage.

      The difference is that while others would take this ideal and push to make themselves exceptional, they take their “uniqueness” as a given, and thereby they must be better then others. The easiest way is to separate themselves from others by interests. Interests don’t necessarily require any particular skill, or require any long term effort. You say you like something, and thereby you like something. Something becomes common, you can just as easily say “nah, I don’t really like XXXXX because it changed.”

      Sorry long post but essentially, if you like something strange, it doesnt make you a hipster. If you *stop* liking something simply because it became popular (you can argue other reasons, but look inside yourself and you will know it to be true.) *that* is the generally disliked hipster.

  10. Thearpox says:

    Uh… what’s wrong with being a hipster?

    • Klay F. says:

      Its too mainstream.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, I’m not even sure there’s a clean way to tell what/who a hipster is, let alone if it’s a good or bad thing. It seems like a quick and dirty way of invalidating someone’s viewpoint by labeling them with a vague category. I’d be interested in hearing a clear perspective on the topic, if someone has one to offer.

      • Klay F. says:

        Traditionally, a “hipster” was someone who only liked music other people had never heard of. As soon as a musician starts to gain notoriety and success, a hipster will usually magically flip a switch in their head and actively dislike said musician. Over time the word has expanded to cover mediums other than music. And like the internet is predisposed to do, it drove the entire concept into the ground, and the word into meaninglessness.

        • Thearpox says:

          It’s just that as someone who has been frequently labeled as hipster by my buddies, I… don’t really see what’s wrong with being one.

          After being called so multiple times, I went online, and lo and behold!, I do indeed share many traits (or should I say stereotypes?) with hipsters. And yes, my music taste in indeed very far from mainstream, at least to Americans. (Because Charles Aznavour is not known at all in America.)

          So I don’t exactly identify myself as a hipster, but it wouldn’t exactly be wrong to call me one. And I don’t see a problem with it.

          • Thearpox says:

            More specifically, I’d like to hear from Mumbles what the comic book fans have against hipsters. Because that baffled me.

          • The Rocketeer says:

            At it’s core, being a hipster has nothing to do with that. Being a hipster means putting extreme effort and time into appearing effortlessly smarter, cooler and more cultured than the people around you; appearing to disdain the opinion and tastes of these people despite tailoring your identity to goad their reactions and affirmations; and surrounding yourself with things and activities not due to genuine, healthy interest but due to what you think those things and interests seem to say about you and how you can leverage them to gain the social status you desire.

            In short, it’s simply a lifestyle of people who are both narcissistic and insecure, who demand attention from and acceptance by people they scorn and to whom they believe themselves superior.

            Every community has its particular breed of hipsters, which is why the term instantly became meaningless as every community began ascribing their own myriad, superficial emanations of the underlying ego, and as people began accepting these superficial tells as immediate proof of that ego’s existence or as the entirety of the term, with no respect paid to the personality that begat the term.

            Liking French lounge singers doesn’t make you a hipster. Excitedly letting everyone you know you like French lounge singers doesn’t make you a hipster as long as it’s true- though it probably makes you a geek. Getting off on the feeling of telling oblivious plebes about your deep, longtime appreciation of French lounge singers when that genre is actually only your current means to this end makes you a hipster.

            I had to stake all this out because I have Hipster Personality Disorder, and I have to carefully check myself periodically to keep in proper line.

          • Eleion says:

            My understanding is that ‘hipster’ is used derogatorily in order to denote being inauthentic. ‘Hipsters’ like things purely because they’re not mainstream, and begin to dislike things when they become popular, not because it holds deep, personal value to them. There’s also a sense of superiority: “Oh, I knew them before they were cool” is an attempt at cultural one-upmanship , because if they knew about it before you then they must know more about it than you (and their opinions are thus more valid). Using hipster as an insult is also implying hypocrisy, because hipsters are bucking the mainstream while creating their own likeminded culture instead of acting truly on an individual level.

            Like Klay stated, it’s usage is too broad to have any real meaning anymore, but when used it often seems to mean “Someone who believes they have more knowledge on a given subject and act condescendingly to others because of it.” This seems only somewhat related to my attempt at a definition in the previous paragraph.

          • The Rocketeer says:

            Oh by the way, I can’t help but point out that fans on Gundam might think the name Charles Aznavour sounds a bit familiar, and it should: Char Aznable was named after him.

    • Shamus says:

      Sadly, The term “hipster” is a complete train wreck. It’s got so many meanings that it doesn’t mean anything. But if we’re being really broad, I guess we can divide it into two broad ideas:

      1) Someone into retro kitsch. Old tech, flannel shirts, thick glasses, archaic facial hair, etc. Also someone into really obscure stuff: Rare music, unusual ethnic food, exotic pets, etc.

      2) Someone with an “I was there first” personality tic. They used this gadget before you heard of it. They liked this band before they were popular. They studied this obscure body of knowledge, ate this exotic food, or lived someplace trendy long before anyone else thought it was “cool”.

      #1 is clearly fine and is nothing more than a quirky personal style. Strongly in favor of that sort of thing myself. #2 is obnoxious and tedious.

      People often fail to make any distinction between the two, which leads to ugly sneering and mocking. They see a guy in a flannel shirt and assume he’s a #2 kind of hipster.

      Note that when I use the word hipster I’m always talking about a culture snob and not about someone with esoteric tastes. I admit that other people won’t hear it this way, which only adds to the confusion.

  11. a guest says:

    One rather banal and simple point that probably aggravates the percieved negative aspects of “gaming culture” is inherent to the competetive nature of multiplayer gaming.
    As far as books, comics or movies are concerned – there is no “winner” or “loser” – and no gankers, trolls, griefers, etc.
    Well, there are sort of, but they interfere in your enjoyment of the medium in a far less direct way.
    Obviously, the mentioned aspects of internet-culture, its anonymity and the gender-related issues play a large role here. But the above issue probably leads to a lot more intrinsic potential for anger and frustration in gaming than in other media.

    And unlike Warhammer, Magic or DnD you can’t just stop inviting them to your sessions (at least it’s a lot harder).

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      I was actually going to make this point. Gaming started, at its core, as a competitive form of entertainment and to a large extent continues this trend, whether directly through multiplayer or indirectly through high-scores or achievements, and competition causes tensions and emotions, just look at sports. Attacking the competition itself brings danger of invalidating our achievements and our work put into it.

      On top of that experiencing a game requires constant participation and extension of effort. You go to a movie you put your ass in the seat and you get it up 2 hours later. You open a comic or book you page through it. You start a game you need to actively participate through most of it, sometimes it requires considerable effort to progress, which implies that you want to experience it, you’re willing to sacrifice time, to train certain skills specifically for this. This does not help when it comes to discussing the problematic sides of a game.

      • still a guest says:

        Reading a comic doesn’t take a lot of long term participation, but being part of “comic-culture/fandom” does – the point about investment and required effort during “consumption” of the medium hits the mark though…
        We can’t just take the developement of movies or comics and equate it to the developement of gaming culture.
        Games are not just a new medium, they are a new kind of medium – combining elements of movies, etc. and elements of more interactive, competitive sports or tabletop/parlour games (take risk as an example – lots of frustration and passion here).

        So this, combined with rather problematic aspects of internet-anonymity and the like… Well, it could explain a lot.
        On the other hand – it doesn’t explain the rampant chauvinism and a design oriented primarily towards male power fantasies.

    • What Sleeping D said. It wasn’t until after I’d sent the email that it occurred to me a large part of the apparent nastiness of the culture may be a result of the fact that no other form of media has rule sets and win-state, which automatically create a competitive atmosphere. After hearing what the DC had to say about it, I’m with Chris. I think it’s a little bit both this inherent competitive aspect and the amplifying nature of the internet (aka the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory) that have lead to the situation we have now.

  12. anaphysik says:

    “He’s a robot and he’s bad.”

    Shamus, quickly!, send a cease-and-desist order to these “Marvel”ous mountebanks, demanding that their “Ultron” character stop infringing on your- oh, wait, nevermind, your thing is *Good* Robot. No alarms here- Wait! I just heard about some dastardly creations they term “Otto-bots”…

  13. Paul Spooner says:

    Since we’re addressing ticklish issues in this episode, here’s one that I noticed come up several times during the discussion.

    “Those guys are the minority” referring to “the assholes” or people with low-brow tastes, or exclusive hobbiests, or hipsters, or whatever. The implication being that we don’t need to worry about their opinion, or address their arguments. It seems really strange, considering that the whole discussion was about addressing minority concerns. “But they are clearly idiots!” you might say. Well, if you were in the minority, would you like to have your perspective dismissed as idiotic by the bulk of the people you wish to address? It just seemed rather surprising, considering the context.

    I’m fine with hearing “I don’t agree with group X” but to hear “Group X is the minority” as a point of rhetoric sounds really strange in a context of inclusivity.

    • The Rocketeer says:


      I don’t even know what to reply to that, so instead I’ll just say that the typical “there are assholes in our community but they are the minority” argument is invalid on its face, anyway, and I have to roll my eyes every time I hear it. Just because they are the statistical minority doesn’t mean that they can’t or aren’t a serious problem that does and will continue to plague the larger community and characterize it for the worse from the perspective of insiders and outsiders alike.

      To be really crass about it, if you have pancreatic cancer, you don’t get to shrug your shoulders and mumble that the tumor is an extreme minority of your body as it puts your ass in the grave.

    • Klay F. says:

      There are minority concerns, and then there are dumbasses on the internet spewing hate out of every available orifice. There is a large difference between the two.

      I’ll be honest. I’m not even totally sure what you are trying to say. Are you saying we need to treat idiots with the same spirit of inclusiveness we treat actual minorities with?

    • Syal says:

      You missed the implicit second half of that. “They’re the minority, so they won’t be as loud as us.

      See, because they’re assholes, they don’t have well-developed opinions or weighty arguments. All they have is noise. And when they’re the minority, that noise is entirely manageable.

    • hborrgg says:

      If what you’re getting at is “How can you be inclusive towards one minority group, but not another, just because you don’t like it?” Then yeah, that does seem a tiny bit contradictory. But I don’t think what they were talking about follows that. Rather they were saying that arguments which focus more on inclusivity might be far more effective then simply shouting “this game should not exist!”, “Y should be completely different!”, “Anyone who likes this sort of thing is evil!”, etc.

      • hborrgg says:

        Or arguments that come across sounding like one of those I mean.

      • Paul Spooner says:

        Yes, that is basically what I’m getting at. Specifically, I’m in favor of ignoring trolls and including more interesting, diverse, three dimensional, cliche-free characters and settings. What I’m addressing here is a particular method of rhetoric used to support this goal, which seems to be to be fraught with difficulties.

        While “arguments which focus more on inclusivity” are more effective, they also tend to welcome a lot of things that people seem to want to avoid. For example, such an argument would be equally valid (and equally rhetorically compelling) in favor of misogyny, fish flavored cupcakes, and child labor being portrayed in games. It’s a less offensive approach, but it cuts both ways.

  14. The Rocketeer says:

    I had to laugh out loud at the idea that anyone could think that women are “trying to take over the games industry.” If that’s true, then let me tell you, they are not doing very well at it, and I think the paranoids could easily just shrug their shoulders and stop worrying about it. Holy crap, if there really was some grand feminist conspiracy to usurp the reigns of the game industry, then the degree and scope to which they are utterly botching it would ironically prove inarguable the direst kind of chauvinism.

    About the, “is the community’s perceived negativity the culture itself or its Internet-era baggage,” the answer is obvious: yes.

    It’s true that the Internet has made the problems of the community louder and more bald-faced than it is in other communities, even to the extent of making it seem like an innate element due to the fanbase’s growing up with the technologies that made their hobby and the Internet possible. By existing in large part online and appearing genetically linked to online culture for better or for worse, the demons of one will seem intrinsically the problems of the other even if those demons are present to an equal or greater extent in other communities, as they are and as they have been in every artistic, academic, etc. community since ancient days.

    But this is the mantle that the community bears and the identity that people within and without will ascribe to it, regardless of the reasons why. It’s our problem to deal with, and it will be until gaming gets a lot, lot better or until our supposedly classier peers begin acting visibly even worse.

    We will have to work twice as hard to appear as legitimate and intellectual as communities who make death threats when they find out a musician is going solo or flip cars when their city’s team loses or even people who read fucking Star magazine. Why exactly we bear that cross is largely immaterial, except to the extent to which it helps us get rid of it; and curing the Internet of its reflexive cruelty and pettiness is a lot bigger problem than the gaming community is fit to deal with on its own.

    • bloodsquirrel says:

      “I had to laugh out loud at the idea that anyone could think that women are “trying to take over the games industry.” If that's true, then let me tell you, they are not doing very well at it,”

      The latter part of that is basically the truth.

      There are a number of feminists more interested in forcing games as a medium to be an outlet for their politics, but they’re mostly part of the tumbler crowd and have little ambition or chance of actually becoming part of the industry. If they’re lucky, they’ll get a piece on Kotaku. They’re good at starting the occasional internet shitstorm, but they aren’t a significant market and as such actual publishers couldn’t care less about their antics.

  15. Nano Proksee says:

    I was going to comment on the woman in games and comics thing but everything I type comes of as too feminist so I’ll keep myself to myself. Anyway, great talk guys.

    • DTor says:

      Shamus, it sounds like what you’re saying about discussions of feminist issues in games is an extension of your site policy: “Be nice, don’t post angry…” I think you like the tone that commenters generally use here and you wish that more forums of discussion looked like this – like polite disagreements between people who respect one another. I sympathize; I like reading comments here too.

      On the other hand, I think the above post is a symptom of the unfortunate side-effects of this policy. When you ask people to be nice, you may silence timid commenters. When you ask people to speak from their own experience and not bring up things they learned in women’s studies, you may prevent them from educating one another about interesting statistics, useful vocabulary, or valid science.

      I think that you have made your site a pleasant place to visit but you have also made it unlikely to be a forum for ideas that are important but controversial. I enjoy it, but I wouldn’t want the entire internet to be like this because, to paraphrase Pleasantville, there is so much more to life than pleasantness.

      • Trix2000 says:

        I’m not sure if that follows – I don’t think anger and hostility are necessary to any sort of useful discussion/conversation, so the only effect of the policy should be to make people think about how they phrase things. It’s taking the time to be reasonable and understanding with your arguments rather than taking potshots and throwing insults because others disagree.

        You might be right though, at least to an extent, but I don’t think it’s so significant as to be a real problem. At least not so much as compared to an environment that doesn’t encourage friendly level-headed discussion.

      • BenD says:

        This is where the Benderson/Bendy/BenD moniker is going to get me in trouble, so let me clarify this real quick: I’m a woman. I am also not a gender studies student. So I’m going to share my (kinda mad) perspective, but I am going to try to avoid sounding like I know what I am talking about in any kind of academic sense.

        So yes, ‘post nice, don’t act angry’ is a silencing maneuver (not that the Diecasters meant it to be). I am not a timid commenter, and I have a lot to say, but the ‘be nice’ message makes it sound like my comment isn’t wanted here. It says, ‘if this offends you, you need to suck it up and be nice anyway.’

        Again, I am sure that’s not what the Diecasters wanted to accomplish, but if I were hearing this from people I hadn’t been reading/listening to for eight years or so, I wouldn’t know that.

        That said: suggesting that the minority/oppressed group limit their speech is part of the problem. It comes from a place of privilege, where you don’t see why everyone doesn’t just make the choice that you think is sensible.

        Yet, if I were to say: “Hey, this perspective is privileged and offensive, it’s part of the problem that feminism is supposed to exist to combat,” would I be sounding angry? Would that be not-nice? Well… that’s a shame, because it needs to be said.

        And at the extreme end of things – sure, if I want to ingratiate myself to some group of male jerks on the internet, it serves my purpose not to get in their faces about their douchey behavior, whether it is douchey because it’s sexist or just generic douchey. My guess, however, is that people who enter those environments to point out sexist problems in a loud, forward way aren’t interested in making friends – they’re interested in trying to improve the world they have to live in. Being quiet and nice in the face of oppression doesn’t do that.

        • BenD says:

          In retrospect, this whole thing is more or less covered, for better or worse (and some of both), in the ‘tone policing’ thread below. And there Shamus jumps on combative language, calling out ‘male privilege’ as an example.

          Ugh. Any accusation is combative in isolation, and sure, that’s more severe when language stems from outside the mainstream; if I call someone a toad-licker, I need to put my accusation in context.

          So I’ll just hope that I included enough context above to not be considered needlessly combative.

  16. ehlijen says:

    The anonymity is the main factor in this phenomenon, yes, but I do think it would be less pronounced in other mediums than it is in gaming. Gaming brings out people’s competitive tendencies by design. Movies, books and comics don’t do so by design. They don’t really stop it either, of course, but I believe that the effect is stronger in gaming.

    Sure, not everyone is a meany when playing a competitive game, but the tendency to become one is increased.

    You’re supposed to try and beat the other guy, it’s the point of the game. You are supposed to be a good sport about it, too, but the first seems to come naturally to more people than the second (and that’s where anonymity kicks in and drives it into a downward spiral, as it does with every medium). If you didn’t have the inbuilt intent to pit people against each other, even though it’s meant to be on a friendly basis, anynomymity would have less traction. Still some, and probably enough to make a good chunk of people go mad, but less. Or so I think.

  17. TheCornman says:

    I find this to be relevant to the mailbag for this week.


    Aside: I’m so sorry for linking TVtropes. I hope you escape soon!

  18. If you think Spawn was bad, try reading Witchblade. It’s like someone put oversexed fashion models in every role and any excuse to shred clothing was happily indulged.

    What’s worse, I only read the first trade after seeing the Witchblade TV show, which I think was canceled far too early. The plans they had for the series sounded pretty cool (the weapon would change over time and become more organic, less medieval, for example) and it only had what seemed like a few clunker episodes at the time (the dude with the flamethrower, the remote-control snake, etc.). Anyway, I saw this halfway-decent TV show and thought, “Oh, the comic must be pretty good, too, so I shall go forth and read it.”

    Nope. It’s T&A with magic thrown in.

  19. M. says:

    One of the better discussions I’ve heard on this issue, definitely.

    It can’t be emphasized enough that the approach should not be “get rid of that X, or change it so thoroughly it’s not X anymore,” it should be “enjoy your X, but let’s have some Y around too so everyone can be as happy as you are.” A lot of pushback on the inclusiveness-in-games issue comes from people who erroneously think the inclusiveness side is trying to eliminate things they like. Make it crystal clear that this view is incorrect, and all of a sudden a lot of enemies will become neutrals or even allies.

  20. Tychoxi says:

    I’m actually concerned for TWD: Season 2. You guys raise some interesting points, but my main problem is that I’m confident Clementine will essentially be a blank slate, what I did and said as Lee in Season 1 will have left no meaningful impact distinct from other people’s Lee. I’m sure she’ll reminisce about Season 1, but the changes will be cosmetic, that’s gonna cheapen the experience and also be one of gaming’s biggest missed opportunities.

    Regarding “gamers” and sexism, this guy made a very cool video I think (his other videos are pretty cool too!). He also talks about in-group / out-group shiet you guys touched upon.

  21. Imskeletor says:

    Mumbles a couple questions. Favorite current wrestler, favorite current tagteam, and most under rated member of the roster. My answers are Kane, The Rhodes Brothers, and Curtis Axel.
    Anyway good podcast and the best mailbag yet. However I would have liked to have heard Buttskarn’s thoughts on the subject.

    • Mumbles says:

      favorite current wrestler: alberto del rio, cm punk. both are pretty entertaining and VERY fucking impressive on the mat. kane is a favorite, too (i named a neopet after him when i was like 12 lol) though i wouldn’t consider him a current wrestler and more of a personality since he probs won’t get in the ring on the regular for a while.

      tagteam: i actually REALLY like SHIELD because they know what they’re doing and they’re the most insync 3 man tag team I’ve seen in a looong time. But, I’m a huge Rhodes fan. Which is funny because I didn’t start liking Cody until he teamed up with Golddust. Also, next time you watch wrestling, notice how many people do Golddust type moves ala faking dudes out and slapping them. I think a LOT of people are glad that he’s back in full force and it’s made Cody a lot better, too.

      what do you like about axel? i thought for sure they’d bury him. i like ryback a LOT more, but he got dropped by paul heyman boo ;[

      • Imskeletor says:

        Solid picks mumbles. But, I like Axel because he had Ziggler are the two best mid card workers in the ring. His suplexes and drop kick are absolutely “perfect”. As of now he’s basically Lance Storm 2.0. Very fun in the ring boring on the mic and has little “presence”. While IMO Ryback is the opposite of that. He can hang fairly well on the mic and has an imposing presence but is pretty lame in between the ropes. He works well off of Cena but against just about anyone else he feels not ready for prime time. I’m glad Punk/Ryback is over because those were extremely disappointing.

  22. Sean Riley says:

    Well, I’ll be the outlier again.

    That’s the most infuriating gender discussion I’ve heard in FOREVER. The whole thing was just an extended tone policing argument.

    The only person I really agreed with was Josh: No matter how it’s phrased, there will be (mostly) young (mostly) white (mostly) men violently opposed to letting gaming be anything other than catering entirely to their demographic. There’s a time and a place, and yes, good, careful, reasoned discussion is absolutely the best way to go. But there are plenty of women who don’t feel part of the community, who can’t honestly make the arguments you’re trying to make. They do feel excluded, and they should be allowed to be angry about that.

    • Imskeletor says:

      I gotta say that is the new worst website I have been exposed to. Thanks Sean. I will know to avoid it from now on.

    • M. says:

      “The whole thing was just an extended tone policing argument.”

      Writing a label on it doesn’t make it wrong.

      Yes, there are people who feel excluded and angry and their feelings are as valid as anyone else’s. But from a utilitarian point of view that’s completely irrelevant. If you want to convince the persuadables to come around to your point of view — and there are lots of them, no matter how much you think the dead horse has been beaten there are always huge sections of the audience who don’t know much about an issue, haven’t thought about it in depth, or don’t care enough to get in your way if you don’t give them a reason to — getting angry at them for not instantly complying is highly counterproductive. It creates opponents and closes their ears.

      Do you want a transient emotional release or do you actually want games to be more inclusive? I want the latter, personally.

    • Syal says:

      Of course they’re allowed to be angry. But there’s a big difference between being angry and venting. Venting at young white males who don’t give a crap about your opinion just serves to make you look like them, and everyone who dismisses them as ignorant jackasses will do the same to you.

      Be angry at home. Be calm in the crowd. Otherwise you won’t move them.

      (The idea that everyone should separate the tone of a statement from its content is like saying I should eat every plant that looks poisonous because it might not be poisonous. Fun fact; I’m not eating it.)

      ((It also carries the connotation that civility is something to be pushed aside whenever it becomes slightly inconvenient, which is an attitude that needs eradicating.))

      • Klay F. says:

        This bring up another issue which happens all the time, not just on the internet, that I absolutely bloody hate.

        This idea that “Well of course [angry person] acted that way, because you said [controversial thing], what did you expect would happen?”

        The more I see this shallow justification for reactionary behavior, the more it pisses me off. It not only shifts all responsibility for a person’s actions onto the words of another person, it effectively reduces the person to nothing more than a feral beast because “Well of course that lion is going to maul you if you get in a cage with it. What did you expect would happen?”

        At some point one party or another is going to have to stand up and be the adult.

    • Shamus says:

      “Allowed”? I never said anyone wasn’t allowed to get angry. I even said some people had a good reason to get angry. I just said that if you enter the fray with the voice of an angry outsider, you’re going to make enemies of people who would otherwise be allies.

      Also, reducing my position to “tone policing” is overly reductive. I wasn’t talking about tone as much as content, and I gave several examples of both good and bad arguments.

      • Sean Riley says:

        As I noted to another response, yeah. No, you’re right on this one. I disagree (quite viscerally) with your arguments. To my mind, you’re still arguing that feminists would be taken seriously if they’d just compromise a little, be a little friendlier, be less combative. And I wholeheartedly, completely, utterly disagree with that. To my mind, it’s become brutally clear that a hell of a lot of gamers completely understand what feminists want from gaming (i.e. a more expansive, equal, diverse space) and are very, very opposed to it. (The classic wording of this is, “This is the last place where guys can talk like guys!” and the like.) No. The anger is justified and it can do a lot of good.

        But you weren’t tone policing, you were trying to suggest a strategy. You weren’t doing it to derail an argument, to shoot down those who were opposing you, or anything else. I disagree with you, but I shouldn’t have impugned your motives, and for that, I genuinely, truly apologize.

        (Even if I was still tearing my hair out in frustration listening to it. That’s my problem.)

        • Shamus says:

          To be fair: I completely agree that there are guys who are NEVER going to stop pushing back, no matter how you sugar-coat the argument. I’m not saying feminists could convert the world with a different tone / approach.

          • Sean Riley says:

            I guess a lot of it comes down to what you perceive the percentages to be. :-/ Since my default state tends to be a misanthropic humanist (ie. Humans are a bunch of assholes while still being incredibly, impossibly wonderful) I wind up feeling very conflicted in this space.

    • Klay F. says:

      As Shamus said, the people who feel excluded have every right to be angry. Lets come back down to reality for a moment. Getting angry on the internet over a perceived slight against your person is about as effective as pissing into the ocean. In the end you are only contributing to the internet culture that made this situation possible in the first place and against which they rail.

      Lets face the facts here. No game developer is sitting down, giddily dreaming up ways to exclude women from their games. The sooner the people pretending to speak for all women everywhere come to accept this, the sooner they can get around to doing some ACTUAL good in the industry. Game developers will continue to make games as they’ve always done (barring a crash, that is), they will continue to focus on their core demographic, or rather the demographic they imagine is their core. They will continue to do these things either until it is financially clear they can no longer afford to do so, or until more women enter the industry and start making their own games. Or both.

      • Sean Riley says:

        But that’s just IT.

        More women will not enter the industry if the industry is still perceived as a hostile environment. (In Australia, the percentage of women entering the gaming industry is dropping notably, and it wasn’t high to begin with!)

        The way you make it feel safe isn’t by trying to be friendlier. It’s by calling out the bad behaviours and attitudes and fixing them.

    • Exetera says:

      This isn’t really an useful way to apply the “tone policing” concept. Sure, you can cite an expansive definition that would probably include Shamus’s speech, but you’re missing the actual harm in tone policing – the way it’s used to barge into a discussion about actual issues and “derail” it into an argument about those mean feminists and their nasty language. Shamus is clearly not doing this – he started the argument, and it was always about the difficulties feminists face in getting their message out. So, pigeonholing him into the “tone police” box doesn’t really help anybody, even if what he said does resemble tone policing arguments quite a bit.

      • Sean Riley says:

        Actually, that I agree with, in hindsight. While a lot of the discussion there was very, very similar to what goes on with tone policing, the DAMAGE in tone policing is the way it’s used to derail an argument, and that wasn’t what was happening here.

        So for whatever it’s worth, I do apologize, Shamus. I should have not snapped at you that way.

    • PAK says:

      Like others above, I disagree that Shamus’ argument counts as “tone policing.” It was made in good faith. Generally, Shamus’ points recently about managing perceived tone on the internet have been good. I think this argument in some ways dovetails nicely with the posts a few weeks back about how to behave on programming forums. Neglecting civility is an outright failure at understanding how people really communicate.

      Having said that, I was struck by one of Shamus’ statements, which I think might be re-examined. It’s possible I am taking it the wrong way due to some of my own past experiences, but Shamus, to my ear you implied that using “feminist” academic language was intrinsically combative. If that’s really what you mean, I think it’s an assumption worth questioning. I agree that people shouldn’t post angry, I really do, and I think your larger point was spot-on, but why should the selection of technical terminology be assumed to connote angriness?

      For example, I know I sometimes put people off both in person and over phone/internet/etc. because someone who doesn’t know me will assume I’m being snooty and show-offy with some of my word choices. But man, that’s just how I TALK, you know?

      By the same token, someone interested in feminist issues is likely to have absorbed a lot of standard terms simply by virtue of spending time in those kinds of dialogues. If those terms effectively capture meaning, doesn’t that make them useful?

      • Shamus says:

        “but Shamus, to my ear you implied that using “feminist” academic language was intrinsically combative.”

        To certain extent, I think it is. A few examples:

        “This contributes to rape culture.”

        The average person doesn’t know what you mean by “rape culture”. (Looking it up, I see that it’s a system where rape is overlooked and tolerated.) Your typical reader doesn’t understand this term, and is likely going to translate it to “This contributes to rape.” Is that really what you want to say? Are you willing to take the time to educate the other person about what you really mean?

        Using the term without explanation results in the other party feeling like you’ve accused them of participating in or encouraging rape, like so: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2010/08/13

        “This objectifies women.”

        Objectification is a really thorny one. Depending on who is saying it they might mean, “Looking at a woman in a disrespectful way.” It might also mean, “Looking at a woman in such a way that your man-powered oppression beams cause her to become subjugated.”

        Is this where you want to take the argument? Do you really want to open up a side-discussion on when looking is “okay” and when it is “bad”? It might be. But if you’re just disapproving of something because it’s crass, mindlessly pandering to males, and excluding to women, then it’s better to just say so than throw the word “objectify” in there, because your opponent is going to want to defend the work not because they approve of it, but because if they let the point slide they are somehow pleading guilty to oppressing women by finding them attractive.

        Using this term without properly explaining it results in the other person feeling like you’re saying that their enjoyment of the female form is inherently evil and oppressive. This is where guys get the impression that “feminists hate men and think they are evil.”

        “Check your male privilege.”

        It’s completely true that by being a man you don’t experience or even perceive a lot of challenges faced by women. Male privilege is a real thing. But we use the word “privilege” to describe careless, heartless rich people who are ignorant and indifferent to the struggles of the underclass. All you’re trying to say is that they lack the perspective to see the other side, but this language makes it sound like you’re accusing them of being Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.

        If you want to open up a conversation about male privilege, fine. But if you’re just saying that the other person doesn’t know what it’s like to be a woman then this term will put them on the defensive. (Or even the offensive. I promise that the average 20-something male doesn’t FEEL “privileged”, even if he is.)

        All of these terms carry the accusation of harm or indifference. If you’re trying to educate someone, fine. But if you’re just discussing a videogame in a public place then these terms will compel participants to defend themselves against the charges. They will feel accused of hate / rape / subjugation and will escalate accordingly.

        Again, use these terms if you want to, but there are a LOT of cases where using less jargon will lead to a more educational discussion.

        “For example, I know I sometimes put people off both in person and over phone/internet/etc. because someone who doesn't know me will assume I'm being snooty and show-offy with some of my word choices. But man, that's just how I TALK, you know?”

        This leads back to the age-old argument. When someone misunderstands you, is it because you’re bad at communicating or because they’re bad at listening? Or both?

        The answer is, of course, “It depends.” Still, I’m confident that with the right approach a lot of adversaries can be turned into allies. I say this from experience as someone who basically “changed sides”.

        • Paul Spooner says:

          Another frustration when encountering these arguments is that they all have a gender swapped equivalent. There is a “shame culture” which is just as real as a “rape culture”. Objectification of men is often based on their pecuniary and social standing, but is very much as real as objectification of women. There is a female privilege as well, and it goes back just as far as male privilege. That these things exist may be good or bad (and I’m guessing we don’t want to have that discussion here), but often the discussion is framed in such a way as to ignore half of the difficulties, which is not a very friendly way to have a discussion.

          I agree that a lot of the exclusivity is unnecessary, and that we could be making games which are much more equally attractive to all kinds of people. However, as you say, constructing arguments based on inequalities rarely seems productive, as there are nearly always similar inequalities enjoyed (often un-examined) by the “injured” class.

          On top of all of this, the militant approach seems misguided in the particular case of forwarding the “cause of women”. Men have been, seem to be, and probably will continue to be simply more willing to endure suffering, devote energy, and enjoy the fruits of securing a violent victory than women are. I predict that “fighting” for women’s rights will continue to be a losing battle as long as it is framed as a battle at all.

          Which all comes back to your point, that diplomacy and friendship are far more potent strategies for advancing this cause than are ire and antagonism.

          • Disc says:

            “I predict that “fighting” for women's rights will continue to be a losing battle as long as it is framed as a battle at all.”

            I’m not sure if the alternatives are that much better, unless they’re willing to make certain sacrifices. I suppose the Western World could use a few modern day Gandhis and Jesuses these days, but that’s a path of some serious freaking commitment. Plus you need a heckofalot charisma.

            I’d say fight, but be smart. There’s no need to burn all bridges immediately when you meet some resistance. Less emotional investment and more strategic thinking could go a long way for a lot of minorities in their fights in my opinion.

        • PAK says:

          Thanks for taking the time to write this response. For me, at least, it’s a valuable clarification.

        • Sean Riley says:

          OK, this? This, I wholeheartedly agree with. We’d do a lot better if we tried to do more to educate on the theory, educate on the concepts, and find ways to make all the speech clearer.

          But for crying out loud, the Geek Feminism wiki is a site trying to do JUST THAT. And look at the responses to it here when I used it.

          I’m with you on being better explainers. But there are people trying to do that, and the results aren’t exactly fruitful.

          • M. says:

            “I'm with you on being better explainers. But there are people trying to do that, and the results aren't exactly fruitful.”

            Well, for one thing “explain” isn’t what you want to be doing. You need to convince. That means engaging with people’s arguments personally, not dropping a link to some random wiki page somewhere and expecting that’ll do the job.

            There’s no royal road to social change in a free society. The only way to do it is to talk to people you disagree with, over and over and over and over again.

        • MichaelGC says:

          I am really impressed by this post and these examples. This, the hipster post further up, and Shamus’ oft-demonstrated ability to explain complicated programming concepts to people (like me) who could just about pull off ‘Hello World!’ in BASIC definitely show a huge talent for explanation!

    • Spammy V says:

      I’m not sure how I feel about the knowledge that I am being a priveleged asshole every time I tell some screeching ragebot to calm down because no one is listening to a word they say because they are a screeching ragebot and everyone who is not a troll tunes those out thanks to years of multiplayer games.

      • BenD says:

        Explaining to an angry newcomer that the established community that they’re trying to engage with will not engage because that community habitually ignores anger is helpful, not assholery. If this is what you’re attempting to do, great! Thanks for helping folks.

  23. Testostrogen says:

    Hi, I may be missing something, but the recently none of the diecast are playing for me… not a huge deal I’ve just had to download them instead. Just wondering if anything changed or if i’m doing something wrong…

  24. sam says:

    I listened to Mumbles’ rant about Agents of SHIELD nodding my head and occasionally bugging my roommates with shouts of “Yeah exactly!” and “How the fuck do the people making that show not see that!?”.

    I think the problem was they wanted to go as safe and mainstream with the show as possible to get a wide audience, so the characters are all super generic and the episode plots aren’t allowed to be too interesting in case seniors or children get confused. It’s definitely competing with stuff like NCIS – the TV equivalent of a bowl of white rice with nothing on it in case it doesn’t appeal to someone.

    • bloodsquirrel says:

      The show has kind of an identity problem. I think, in the process of putting it together, the core concept of the show was either lost or never really figured out.

      It’s supposed to be part of the MCU, but while the MCU is very bold and unapologetic about its source material, the show wants to go in the Smallville direction of very, very loosely adapting ideas while downplaying the more colorful parts of them to make them more “believable”.

      It’s very, very obviously a Whedon product (Much more so than The Avengers, which definitely had his fingerprints, but was more rigidly framed by the other movies), but the goals it’s aiming for aren’t the kinds of things Whedon is interested.

      It’s was originally kind of sold as the man on the ground’s view of the MCU, but it seems to be more interested in establishing its own mythology. There are a lot of references to the movie, but it rarely goes farther than that.

      Overall, the show launched without a solid foundation and it’s been struggling to find one.

    • Volfram says:

      Same here. You say “Agents of SHIELD,” “ordinary humans,” and I think something like Sam and Dean from (the earlier seasons of) Supernatural. They were ordinary humans. Sure, they had a little knowledge, and a couple of tools that they could use to fight the supernatural, but they were WOEFULLY outclassed, and a couple of times, it really shows.

      I like that. I like the idea of the ordinary guy who pulls aside the Masquerade(whether that masquerade involves demons, vampires, or spandex-clad superhumans), gets sucked in, and finds himself woefully outclassed. And then, like Agent Coulson, he manages to pull an upset.

      Apparently, this is not what Agents Of SHIELD is presenting. If that’s the case, then any questions as to whether I would be watching the series have been answered.

  25. rrgg says:

    To expand a little on what you guys said and what makes issues like these really difficult to talk about and how many arguments tend to play out.

    If, for example, a game doesn’t include a female protagonist because the developer hates women, then the surface effect of that is still going to be the same as if a female protagonist because of a legitimate artistic/design decision, development issue, random chance, accident etc. -that there is no female protagonist. Yet “because of sexism” still makes that act far, far worse than the other reasons because it feeds into a larger systematic problem of games making women feel demeaned or excluded, and taken as a whole we know that this is happening within the industry. Yet when it comes to laying blame at the individual level it is really hard to pin down with certainty. If you ask the sexist if he is sexist then of course he is going to pretend like he isn’t.

    And here’s where a divide starts to happen: generally men (usually but not always) will tend to conclude “well, there’s no certain proof that you are guilty, so I guess I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt”. Of course we do, if guilt is immediately presumed with no strong evidence support it and no way to disprove it, then we would have no means of defending ourselves if we were to unjustly end up in the exact same situation. And that is something really scary!

    But for the oppressed party, the conclusion is more likely to fall along the lines of “we know there are sexists out there and that he is probably guilty, but we can’t take the risk that he is!” If absolute proof is needed in all cases it severely muzzles their ability to actually call out their oppressors which is a scenario that is also really really scary.

    So as for which sort of position is right or how they should be balanced I really have no idea. Nor do I know if I actually managed to say what I was trying to say, but yeah, stay mindful of the other side and their concerns.

    • Syal says:

      You have to look at the cumulative work. One game is ambiguous. Three is suspect. Eight is enough to demand an explanation. Depending on the explanation, one more is enough to indict.

      (Unrelated: I object to “oppression” being used to talk about making or not making a fictional character in an entertainment medium. It’s exclusion at worst. Oppression affects daily life, like not being able to vote or show your face in public, or having to wear certain clothing in public. Not having a recreational activity include you can be sexism, but it is not oppression unless you are required to take part in it.)

  26. Daimbert says:

    I’m not very fond of Agents of SHIELD right now, but for completely different reasons. I think that it’s good that it isn’t “hero of the week”, because I do like the premise of having non-superheroes looking after things that regular heroes aren’t doing, or can’t do, or whatever, and seeing the Marvel Universe from their perspective. That being said, my biggest problem has been that most of the episodes so far have been all about character development, with the MacGuffins and guest stars just there to support that. Which means that potentially interesting stories get dropped in service of character development. Which is not only completely obvious — and good character development shouldn’t LOOK like character development until you’ve done it, meaning that you should not be looking at a scene while you’re watching it and saying “Hey, that’s done just to develop the character”; you should be swept along with the character and see the change when you both come out the other side — but falls flat if you don’t like the characters being development (Ward and Skye, I’m looking at you here). The good Whedon shows developed character WHILE having interesting plots going on that were there and developed for their own sake, and only doing specific “character development” stories infrequently and AFTER we’d already come to care about the character, and so would be willing to watch just to see how they reacted.

    On Skye’s hair, the male “living in a van” archetype Shamus mentions would only look that way for one of two reasons:

    1) They were living in their van only because they didn’t have the resources to do otherwise, which would make styling an issue.

    2) They were so obsessed with finding heroes that they just didn’t bother with the normal social niceties as that would take time away from their obsession without gaining them anything.

    Skye is in neither position. She was part of an actual organization that did have a fair amount of resources, and so she was living in her van as far as I can tell mostly so that she could go where the action is. There’s no indication that she was short on resources, and seeing what her boyfriend had that’s actually really unlikely. As for the second, while she was likely somewhat obsessed, as an attractive woman looking attractive is actually a big benefit for her in getting what she wants, and so taking the time to make that work out for her is worth it, and she has the resources to do it. Add in that appearance is generally more important to women than it is to men — whether that should be the case isn’t really relevant to a character analysis — and you can see why she would take more care with her appearance than a man in a similar position might And note that in one episode she manages to infiltrate a building that SHIELD would have trouble getting into by calling up someone and wrangling an invitation to a party, something that her looks would certainly aid in. So, her looking good is a benefit to what she does, and so she has an interest in ensuring that she, well, does look good.

    Unfortunately, my view is that looking good is about the only thing that Skye and Ward have going for them as characters [grin]

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      I dunno… there’s nothing in the opening episode(s) that indicates that the organization’s resources extend to things like “funding hotel rooms, laundry, etc”. Even if the resources were available, the implications of “living in the van to go where the action is” are pretty much that this search is taking ALL her time and attention. It’s not a 40-hour-a-week gig. If it were, SHIELD would have been picking her up at her hotel after she finished at the laundromat and got dinner at Appleby’s, like any other “road warrior” businesswoman. But no, she’s got no hotel, she has a van. Not even an RV with a shower. A van.

      • Daimbert says:

        I’ll admit to not paying that much attention to the pilot, but the issues with the hotel room idea are:

        1) It isn’t a 40 hour a week, like you say, so she has to be ready to move at any time.

        2) She needs her equipment with her and couldn’t just store — and pack that all up — whenever she needed to move.

        3) She did need to keep a low profle since they were considered a terrorist organization.

        Thus, the resources extended mostly to her being able to get to places where she could shower, or get hairstyling or various things to allow her to be able to keep up her appearance. Also being able to buy clothes for parties and the like. Being able to do all of that might be a little unbelievable, but I take that as more of a “fantasy unpragmatic” than as being truly unrealistic.

    • Zombie says:

      The thing I’m hating about S.H.I.E.L.D is that I’m having to rely on Moviebob’s run through of the episode to understand what was so big about the episode. I shouldn’t have to be a comic geek to understand a show in prime-time. The only reason my family isn’t watching NCIS instead is that NCIS became a really shit show a couple seasons ago.

      Its also very hard to take all the character development that’s going on and then realize “I came here to see Agent Coulson be awesome and pal around with superheros”, and we’ve seen all of two “kinda-sorta if you stretch it” superheros and both of them have died. I don’t care what Robin (I’m SO stealing that Mumbles) or Skye or anyone else is doing, I want to see Agent Coulson kicking butt and taking names. Or at the very least acting like he did in the movies. Thats all I want this show to be; The Avengers, but on T.V.

  27. Steve C says:

    Speaking of SHIELD, I didn’t like last week’s episode much either. But I hated this week’s episode with a passion. Every single scene was an eyeroll moment.

  28. Phantos says:

    On the one hand, Season 2 of TWD is going to sell a lot. And when it does, no one can fall back on the excuse that games can’t sell without a white male protagonist.

    On the other hand, Clementine was written as if she were a hand-puppet for Lee. She was the least-convincing part of a game where zombies happen. They clearly know HOW to write kids, as we saw with Duck, but they always treated Clementine as if she were a talking puppy. And I’m not convinced that the people responsible for “No Time Left” have figured out how to write this character.

    I’m faced with that conundrum Shamus mentioned: I wish more people would try this stuff, but when they do it badly I think: “Why did they even bother?”

  29. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You know,people often say how the imbecile loudmouth bigots are a harmless minority that can be dismissed,but thats not really the case.For example,look at Sarkeesians campaign:She deliberately goaded a bunch of idiots in order to play her part of an innocent victim and garner sympathy support.So was she called out on her sleazy tactic by the majority?Were her poorly constructed points challenged by the majority?Was she called out on her contradictions by the majority?Nope,everyone focused on the flack she got from the bigots and the few that did challenge her in a smart and mature way were dismissed as part of that group as well,and praised her on her bravery and whatnot.

    • Phantos says:

      As much as I despise her actions, I don’t think Anita Sarkeesian herself is a negative influence on video game culture. I think the people propping her up as a shining example are the real problem. She’s not a threat to video games, but her fans look to her slimy behaviour and say it’s acceptable. They emulate her refusal to engage intelligent discourse, ignore when she acts in a way that abuses the trust of her followers, and happily throw out helpful, calmly-spoken constructive criticism as if it were a pile of snakes.

      These are the same people who idolize the likes of Bob Chipman, Jim Sterling, Mike Krahulik, Russ Pitts, Ben Kuchera and Ben Croshaw. They call Ken Levine a visionary artist. We worship Gabe Newell because his company sometimes commissions funny Team Fortress comics. Heck, we elevate people like Shigeru Miyamoto to the level of sainthood, just for the technical competency of his products. Not because he had anything important to say about video games, or about human beings. We treat a man like a God, because he oversaw games that didn’t spontaneously catch on fire.

      This is why video games suck. Again, that’s not the fault of Sarkeesian, or Kuchera or any of those folks. They’re just people with bad opinions(or in Shiggy and Gabe’s case, people who aren’t interested in making art). They’re a symptom, not the disease.

      George Carlin said that “If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you are gonna get selfish, ignorant leaders.“. When we give authority to the people least responsible to wield it, is it any wonder the discussion surrounding video games is in the toilet?

  30. Velkrin says:

    On the subject of Superhero TV Shows:

    I’ve found Arrow to be to my liking. What really struck me was that the show tends to handle relationships in an adult manner (for the most part, by TV standards). It doesn’t have the ‘Oh, you slept with my ex-roommate that I had a crush on for a week in the 3rd grade? I hate you and your family 4evar! GTFO!’

    It’s more of a ‘I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that your ex and I are dating.’
    ‘#1. I was missing, presumed dead for five years. #2. I have no say in whom you or she date. I’m happy for the both of you. It’s fine.’

    Which is a nice change. Other than that it tends to go for a Nolan feel (no capes).

  31. postinternetsyndrome says:

    So I haven’t played Battlefield 4, but in BF3 (which uses practically the same engine) you could absolutely just alt+tab out of the game and switch servers without having to reinitialize. If the new server was on a different map, you would still have to load that, of course, but if it was the same map, you could start playing almost immidiately. Can anyone confirm the situation in BF4?

    There are definitely a lot of problems with the whole battlelog/origin circus and a lot of people have – historically – had a lot of technical problems with various aspects of it, but I think you are being a bit hasty in dismissing it all outright without even having personal experience with it.

    Battlelog gets a lot of hate. Some of it is definitely deserved, a lot is not. I don’t know exactly how you go about playing multiplayer games, but I often spend a lot of time fussing about, getting my friends organized on IRC or Skype and generally doing internet things during the leadup to a play session, and being able to browse around for servers and then starting the game only when it’s actuallly time to play works fine for me.

    I think there is a healthy discussion to be had about the obsession with stats and unlocks in modern multiplayer games, but from a perspective of “we want loads of stat tracking and customization”, battlelog absolutely fulfils its purpose of being a battlefield facebook. There’s also the idea that all or most of DICE’s upcoming games in this nieche are going to use the same system. Remember the HL2 launch. It may look silly to begin with, but if they are serious about playing the long game it could pay off greatly down the line. Medal of Honor: Warfighter uses battlelog too.

    I do however wholeheartedly agree with all the origin hate. The separate friends list is an excellent example. It’s telling that semi-independent EA studios like DICE (that are high-profile and profitable enough that they are probably allowed some creative freedoms of their own) are steering clear of EA:s trainwreck as much as they can, favouring their own solutions.

    Regarding the achievements, BF3 actually has two separate sets of achievements. The Battlelog ones are tied in with the progression system, unlocking various weapons and such. The origin achievements I was not even aware they existed until after hundreds of hours of play. They are not advertised at all in the actual game or on battlelog, and are completely vestigial. (I guess they are telegraphed by the origin overlay when you get them, but that I naturally turned off on launch day.)

    TLDR: I’m conflicted, as might be gleaned from above ramblings. I’m a massive fanboy for the actual games of DICE, but I disapprove of a lot of interface and meta-game design decisions, and hate EA as much as anyone. The day DICE buys free of EA will be marked in my calendar for yearly celebrations.

  32. Volfram says:

    So apparently, I now need to get and play The Wolf Among Us, as well.

    I pre-ordered The Walking Dead 2 during the Halloween sale. I was a little on the fence(the “buy” side of the fence), so I watched the trailer to make sure it really did follow on from Season 1. The implications that I would get to play as 12-year-old(I had remembered her being 12) Clementine are what sold it for me. I am LOOKING FORWARD to getting to play as the little girl who went through all of that, and is now alone, having been orphaned a second time, in a world filled with soulless monsters, people who will think they know better than her, and zombies.

    Marginally sexual presentation of female characters in gaming and media doesn’t really bother me. Oversexualization is bad, but I’m a single, adult male. My opinion is that it should be balanced with nonsexualized female characters and sexualized male characters. I mean hey, girls need eye candy, too.

  33. Phantos says:

    The most popular post I’ve made on Tumblr reached 18,000 notes yesterday. It was a set of pictures listing video game mascots from the last three decades, and how they become more and more homogenized, bland and sterile as influence in the industry shifted west. And how women, minorities and even more surreal choices like animal mascots don’t exist anymore, phased out to make room for Captain White Guy and his clone army.

    It was a flawed argument, I’ll admit. A few people called me out on some characters I forgot(Lee, Lightning, Faith, Sackboy, Super Meat Boy, etc.). But I still think the basic point I was making has merit. And I was hoping more to start a discussion than to “win” an argument anyway.

    Probably 90% of the responses were reblogs from outraged, entitled white people. Most of what I got were people calling me a retarded idiot for saying we can and should make more diverse main characters in games, because representation matters.

    The “loud minority” is too optimistic. The reason we’re not doing better in regards to gender and race representation, or even with discussing it isn’t a problem with gamer culture, or jargon or the internet. It stems from an overwhelming corruption of the human race. Gamer culture didn’t ruin my faith in mankind, but it did show me that you can’t hold an intelligent debate with barking animals.

    • Volfram says:

      After a little bit of thinking, I determined your comment about mascots and protagonists is entirely valid, though I did particularly like Lee and Lightning(and I really hope TTG don’t screw up Clementine).

      Exactly this has been bothering me about the player character in the game I’m working on, actually. I wanted the main character to be different from my usual fare of young-ish redheads, so I designed… TA-DA! 40-something white military guy.


      The good news is that I’m pretty far off from final run on sprite creation, so I’ve got plenty of time to workshop him, but it’s not so easy to just spawn an iconic character if said character didn’t drop into your head almost fully-formed already. And I can’t just make him a woman. Nintendo did that already, given it’s a Metroidvania style game.

      Really though, if a character doesn’t HAVE to be a 30-something brown-haired white male, there’s no reason he SHOULD be a 30-something brown-haired white male. At the same time, if the only interesting thing about a character is that he’s not a 30-something brown-haired white male, the character isn’t so interesting after all. In fact, it’s actually a bit racist/sexist.

      The issue is slightly complicated by the fact that for multiplayer, I wanted to allow players to choose from 4 characters with a separately-selectable color scheme. To save on spriting time, the 4 characters were going to be 4 ethnic groups, all the same sex: white, black, asian, and “brown.”

      I just feel like I could do better.

    • Will It Work says:

      So what’s the link? It’s rather unfair to reference something without making it accessible.

      • Phantos says:

        It’s a little embarrassing to look at now, since a few people mentioned some characters I forgot. Not nearly enough to counteract the wave of bland, gritty, 18-35 dudebros everywhere in video games, but the original post does look a bit alarmist to me now. -_-;

        It’s not that I don’t agree with it anymore, but I probably wouldn’t have felt that strongly about it if I remembered Jade from Beyond Good & Evil, or Connor from AC III.

        (I also think I wasn’t clear enough that Chell from Portal being in the last column was a good example, that just happened to show up in a very monotonous time for character design).

  34. Rick says:

    The one thing I would add to the women in video games discussion is that advocates should phrase the issue as “There should be (more) games that [do X]” rather than saying any particular game should “do X.” Otherwise people instinctively get on the defensive and think that you’re trying to change something they like.

    For example: Saying
    “The next Call of Duty game should have strong, non-sexualized, female protagonist.”
    Might make a CoD fan feel like he’s being asked to sacrifice something.
    While saying: “There should be games LIKE Call of Duty, except with a strong, non-sexualized, female protagonist.”
    Puts the same fan in a much more accepting position, and may even bring him to your side.

  35. Deadpool says:

    I am super behind, I know, but nerd moment: Shocker’s “powers” have nothing to do with electricity…

    Well, they are machines, so I suppose they run on electricity, but still… He doesn’t shoot it, he doesn’t control it, he doesn’t do any of that.

  36. absn1th says:

    I am fine with Women being abused in fictional art. Why shouldn’t I? It’s the artists choice. There is no evidence to suggest fictional depictions cause real-life problems and even if there were I’d still bring an argument for why artistic freedom is more important than those theoretical harmful effects.

    I’m absolutely for more games that are aimed at women, games that explore different kind of paradigms are made from a different perspective etc.
    Being more inclusive however can never happen by EXCLUDING other things that are being enjoyed by other people. That’s would not actually be being inclusive, would it?

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