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About Kris Ligman

Senior curator for Critical Distance.

February 22nd

February 22nd, 2015 | Posted by Kris Ligman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off)

Hello! Did you know it’s National Cat Day in Japan? This is what Twitter tells me, and by ‘tells me,’ I mean it’s filling my timeline with even more cat pictures than usual. I can’t exactly complain.

That said, I’m here to perform a duty, catvalanche or no catvalanche. Let’s get to This Week in Videogame Blogging!

Racefail

We start with Kill Screen founder and PBS Game/Show host Jamin Warren, who in the show’s most recent episode tackles several of the extant issues of race representation in games. As Warren argues, people of color are still dramatically underrepresented in games, and what representation does exist often falls into stereotypes and tokenism.

Back on Warren’s home turf on Kill Screen, contributor Will Partin provides a good companion piece for the above video, going into further detail regarding BioWare’s Dragon Age and Mass Effect series and their failure to engage with (human) race issues in a non-abstracted way.

Cutting to the heart of the issue, over on Kotaku Evan Narcisse hosts a roundtable with an all-star panel consisting of Austin Walker, Shawn Alexander Allen, TJ Thomas and Catt Small, discussing the shortcomings of black representation in games from their own vantage points, issues which extend much further than (but certainly includes) diversity among developers.

She’s Not Playing It Wrong

Responding to the Kotaku roundtable, Not Your Mama’s Gamer’s Samantha Blackmon reflects on her recent experience playing Life is Strange and how her experience as a black woman subconsciously inflected how she treated the game’s authority figures. This dovetails nicely with a recent essay by Shawn Trautman, on overcoming the myth that there is a ‘right’ way to play a game:

Based on my experience with the game, the oft-lamented “giant fetch quest at the end” criticism [of Wind Waker] makes absolutely no sense. There is no giant fetch quest at the end for me, and there didn’t have to be for you, either. But here’s the twist: that criticism is still valid. If someone didn’t know that the Triforce shards could be gotten earlier, or they didn’t know that they would be important later, I suppose I could do what’s been done to me and say their criticisms are wrong because it’s their “own fault”: they made that annoying fetch quest happen by waiting. But the truth is the game is just as much to blame for not signposting these things well, and “blame” isn’t really the point, anyway. If a person plays a game the only way they know how, and the way that makes the most sense for them, their experiences are valid. Categorically. Full stop.

Elsewhere, as part of Aevee Bee’s always-splendid ZEAL e-zine, Joshua Trevett offers up a compelling essay on cs_gonehome, a mod which places Counter-Strike combat within the domestic space of Fullbright Company’s Gone Home. We soon find out that it’s more than a cheap gimmick:

[Counter-Strike] is a game about guns. CS loves guns. Conversely, cs_gonehome feels as though it’s fearful of guns. That’s because in three broad ways, cs_gonehome plays quite differently from Counter-Strike on a typical map.

And, over on 99 Percent Invisible, Roman Mars chronicles the demise of EA’s misbegotten Sims Online, and in doing so reflects on the challenges of games preservation to capture the essence of multiplayer and social games.

The Reason So Many Babies are Born in November

As Valentine’s Day covered the Earth in its rose-petaled grip last Saturday, the thoughts of many writers turned to… well, you know. You can consider most of these links not safe for work, just to be on the safe side.

For example, Damion Schubert took a look at — don’t giggle — a masturbation rhythm game titled Cock Hero. Meanwhile, following another (perhaps classier) thread of erotica, Emily Short surveys recent trends in the sphere of adult interactive fiction (“choose your own erotica”), much of it written by and for women and queer authors.

And naturally, the singular and sensual Cara Ellison has devoted the most recent entry of her S.EXE column over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun to… a search for good platonic male-female friendships in games, coming upon the LucasArts classic Full Throttle. You didn’t expect that, did you? Ms. Ellison will not be boxed in!

The Play’s the Thing

On As Houses, Leigh Harrison attempts to pin down just what it is about Far Cry 2 which has made it a classic:

It’s a game in which your main objective is to shoot things, but also a game which wants you to question the validity of its own existence and those of its contemporaries. It makes you feel insignificant and weak in a genre built upon power, forcing you into the arms of dangerous strangers to make up some of the deficit. […] Your final betrayal is the game’s way of making sure you’re listening when it tells you for the last time that war is horrible, that it corrupts and eventually makes liars and thieves – or corpses – of us all. In the end, the only source of true conviction is the game itself.

Meanwhile, on Play the Past, Gilles Roy looks to the strong Greek mythological aesthetic of Apotheon and contends that there’s something about it which perfectly suits its gameplay:

The action hero of the video game resembles, in many ways, the action hero of Greek mythology: typically masculine, bereft of psychology, projected into a universe of vivid happenings, quasi-immortal, yet in a perpetual state of existential threat, fighting for redemption. Perched between life and death, the mythical hero exists as an “immovable centre”, a bridge between immortals and mortals, story and audience, game and player.

Design Notes

Hamish Todd, who wrote our excellent Level Design Analysis Spotlight, here does a deep dive on a particular room design in the first Doom. Elsewhere, George Weidman shares his enthusiasm for the Resident Evil REmake, and in particular analyzes just what makes it so splendid to play.

Critical Switch, a mini-podcast in which Austin Howe and our own Zolani Stewart trade off hosting duties each episode to tackle a particular short subject. In this episode, Howe explores how party size in Japanese role-playing games can take on a symbolic and narrative meaning.

On PopMatters Moving Pixels, Scott Juster wonders why death, such a mainstay of the Game of Thrones television show, is treated so inflexibly in Telltale’s game adaptation. And over on Virtual Narrative, Justin Keever and Miguel Penabella exchange a letter series on Max Payne 3 and discuss how, in a subtle way, it seems to tap the fourth wall just as the first game did:

Max Payne 3 is perhaps best explained as the residual effect of that cognizance [of the first game]. Loosed from Remedy’s penchant for ludicrousness and absorbed by neo-Rockstar’s proclivity towards straight-faced drama, Max Payne is finally imprisoned in a world that’s less parodic than it is abjectly cruel. Max Payne 3‘s São Paulo is a world of puppeteers, where the poor and desperate fall victim to the whims of the rich and petty in the name of microscopic gains in power – a world of deep systemic corruption whose agents permeate every level of society, like sickly veins extending from a diseased heart. Self-determination is a myth, a falsity for all but the affluent and empowered.

[…]

We didn’t pay for Max, we paid for an avatar – a puppet with the capability of violence, without the means to protest the things we make them do. But the nebulous “they” that Max refers to doesn’t simply mean the player.

In a striking essay, Jeroen D. Stout identifies what we might call a ‘Frankenstein moment’: when the systems of a game coalesce with the game’s fiction to reveal the finely tuned yet awful implications of the player’s actions. Given that Stout refers to Alpha Centauri for much of the article, this pairs well with a recent essay by Civilization 4 lead designer Soren Johnson — which we also featured on these pages — on system design deviating from developer intent.

Robert Rath paints a picture on the difference between ‘realism’ and ‘truth’ in war-themed games — and how for as many games are about warfare, few seem to have much to say. Meanwhile, on Paste, Austin Walker bemoans the lazy design and ableism inherent in the ubiquitous ‘sanity meter’ of horror games, while also looking to more recent titles like Darkest Dungeon to explore how they might offer a more nuanced, culturally responsible representation of mental illness:

Every adventurer starts with an empty stress meter and a few quirks, both positive and negative. These quirks represent a wide range of characteristics, from personal preferences to physical capabilities, from special knowledge to (yes) psychological diagnoses. But mental health isn’t treated as more or less important (or pathological) than other personal traits.

[…]

[One quirk is called] “Guilty Conscience.” The mouseover text says that [the character] “bears the crushing guilt of deeds real and imagined.” I slide the mouse cursor over this long list of red words and sigh. “I don’t even know if ‘Guilty Conscience’ has a real effect,” I say, “but it sounds bad.”

The critique Darkest Dungeon is making is of critique of me, and of the culture that taught me to read words like “crushing guilt” and wonder if it has a “real” effect on a person.

Writing for Reverse Shot, Brendan Keogh muses on how sports games simultaneously deploy immediacy (a feeling of inhabiting the game) and hypermediacy (a feeling of witnessing the game as a televised event). In response, Higher Level Gamer’s Nick Hanford advances another question: does hypermediacy (or remediation, as he refers to it) really holds water in games over time, and is it the most interesting aesthetic feedback loop going on between games and television?

Remediation works really well when we’re looking at the design of sports games and how they are marketed as new experiences, but I wonder what happens when players start their hundredth or two-hundredth contest in these games.

[…]

What I’m more intrigued by is how remediation can be opened up and understood as flowing in both directions. Television has certainly impacted the design of games, but games have also affected the ways that sports are televised. The late-1990’s saw the introduction of the Skycam for American football broadcasts that provided a videogame-like, bird’s-eye view of the game. While not directly related to the presentation of sports, this year EA started filming NFL rookies’ reactions to their in-game statistical representations. Along with that, sports journalists and game companies have pushed the official simulations of championship games for a few years now. If we have these specific instances of change flowing from game to television, I wonder how the experience of games also changes the experience of television.

Ice-T Woodenly Mentioning Kotaku

We have to at least talk about Law & Order: Special Victims Unit‘s recent Gamergate-themed episode, unfortunately. And of those who talk about it, Leigh Alexander, unsurprisingly talks about it best. In particular, while she does spend some time recapping the episode and its various problems (a Content Warning is in order for descriptions of sexual assault, stalking and harassment), but more broadly, the piece serves as a reflection back on certain core ideas from her (widely misinterpreted) “Gamers Are Over” editorial.

Cats Though

Thanks for reading! As always, we value your contributions and hope that you’ll take the time to send us a link — your own of someone else’s — for inclusion on these pages, either by Twitter mention or email!

There is still a little time to get involved in February’s Blogs of the Round Table and our monthly Let’s Play roundup as well! When submitting on Twitter for these, please use the #BoRT and #LetsPlayCD hashtags, respectively.

A little signal-boosting: the most recent issue of academic journal Game Studies has gone live with six new articles for your perusal.

Critical Distance is funded completely by its readership! If you like what you see and want to help us advance our current and upcoming features and other exciting projects, consider signing up for a small monthly donation on our Patreon! We really do depend on you.

Finally, a personal aside: I will be in San Francisco for the Game Developers Conference the first week of March, so TWIVGB duties will again be handled by members of our formidable team! And, if you find yourself up by GDC as well, come and say hi! I will have our special exclusive Critical Distance pins with me, as well as some surprise goodies!

That’s all for this week. Happy Cat Day!

February 8th

February 8th, 2015 | Posted by Kris Ligman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off)

I hope you’re hungry, because I have a banquet for you this time around. And no, I’m not letting you go until you clean your plate. It’s time for This Week in Videogame Blogging!

Give Me That Old Time Country Formalism

We are now in our third (or 783rd) week of what Chris Franklin adeptly describes as “The Debate That Never Took Place.” Watch that video before reading the rest of this section, as it provides an excellent breakdown of the ludology vs narratology ‘debate’ of the 90s and early 00s, the one which forms the basis of the current (waning?) discussion over formalism.* You may also want to check out our coverage in previous roundups here and here.

If the whole thing is still clear as mud, I would recommend Matthew Burns’s stab at the subject, using mathematics education as a helpful analogy.

With our baseline established, the next place we need to visit is Game Design Advance, home of Frank Lantz, who apologizes for the off-the-cuff nature of his original blog post which sparked this discussion:

I don’t want my ideas to provide cover or support to ignorance and aesthetic & cultural conservatism, and I don’t want to be associated with anti-progressive ideas. […] I don’t agree with those ideas, I wanted to distance myself from them, and I wanted to signal to other people who think like me that I think they should distance themselves likewise. I wanted to suggest that there could be a smart, progressive formalism that was diametrically opposed to the vulgar formalism polluting the current environment.

So, how’d that work out? I’ll tell you how it worked out. It was a colossal flop. I would say pretty much the opposite of what I wanted has happened. Somehow, I’ve managed to create a situation in which the battle lines that define the landscape of contemporary game discourse have been re-drawn with me on the wrong side. I botched it.

Lantz also attempts to better articulate his original position, to mixed reception. The comments are worth a read as well.

I cede the floor to Ian Bogost for the final word on the subject, in which he contends that, while this ‘debate’ may be without end, it can still be conducted respectfully:

In fact, it might be worse to pretend that we agree on the right, best, most pleasurable, or most aesthetically redeeming aspects of games (or anything) rather than to acknowledge that real differences in motivation, aesthetics, and political concern are at work.

[…]

Nobody wants to be accused of being part of the hegemon […] And sure, there are interlocutors who are dismissive in a manner that demands critique or even scorn. But that doesn’t make the very idea of such critiques detrimental or problematic, unless the purpose of the objection is to reframe the conversation around the my-favorite-formalism just mentioned. It also doesn’t mean the two “sides” must or even can find reconciliation! History is full of legitimate, unresolved intellectual and aesthetic disputes.

*Franklin’s video also provides the first clear, accurate and useful definition of ludonarrative dissonance I’ve seen in quite some time, so I highly recommend it. It also plays into the following section.

Difficulty Curve

Touching off of Lantz’s piece above, Soren Johnson grapples with (actual) ludonarrative dissonance as it crops up in game design:

[G]ames make us all fascists and communists; anarchists and tycoons; kleptocrats and ascetics, so we better hope that games are not as powerful as we once dreamed they might be.

And yet…

What makes our totalitarian game rules so slippery is that often the dynamics that emerge from these rules are actually at odds with the beliefs of their creators. For example, Will Wright, an atheist, began making Spore as a game about evolution but somehow eventually shipped a game about intelligent design. Monopoly started life as The Landlord’s Game, a board game meant to teach about the evils of capitalist landlords, who unfortunately ended up being a lot of fun to play. […] Civilization was supposed to be a game about history but — despite my best efforts — many of the lessons it taught were somehow the opposite of what I actually believe.

Parallel with this thread, Chris Bateman introduces three useful terms to perform some of the heavy lifting regularly (and improperly) handed over to “ludonarrative dissonance”: ruptures, or fragmentations of the modes of play; inelegance, or disunity between main and secondary systems; and perplexity, “the experience of re-learning what has already been learned differently, or learning under conditions of insufficient information.”

At Game Bias, Jed Pressgrove expounds upon Bateman’s third term, perplexity, and the examples he gives (differing controls, poor tutorials). Pressgrove muses on the popularization of tutorials versus older games, where unique control schemes and paper manuals were both far more ubiquitous.

Coming at it from the opposite end, videographer George Weidman also touches on perplexity versus convention, criticizing the other extreme: the standardization of control schemes and gameplay grammar which he feels has left a wide swath of contemporary, mainstream titles functionally indistinguishable from one another. Certainly not a unique sentiment, but one he illustrates exceptionally well through gameplay footage.

Also talking tutorials and design, Gamasutra’s Alex Wawro interviews developers including Brenda Romero and Soren Johnson on pedagogies of tutorial design, while Silver Grinding’s Devon, responding to our January Blogs of the Round Table theme, has reposted a piece from November creating a rough taxonomy of types of difficulty in games.

Finally, Amsel von Spreckelsen recently played the (much-maligned) Aliens: Colonial Marines on its easiest setting and discovered it becomes essentially a ‘walking simulator.’ Von Spreckelsen muses on what exactly that even means.

Reaver Is Industry

Switching gears from design to business, Kongregate CEO Emily Greer posted the slides and notes from her recent talk delivered at Casual Connect Europe, where she takes to task the very concept of ‘casual’ games and the stereotypes therein. In a similar vein, Brianna Wu goes into the playtesting process of Revolution 60 and her team’s decision to engage a non-core audience.

Reacting to this recent piece on USGamer, Rob Fearon disputes the idea that the console market is only now in freefall — rather, he says, this is the result of conditions many years in the making:

AAA gaming was and is a small part of all the videogames ever made, its domination of the enthusiast press, of mainstream discourse a necessary side effect of the need for big businesses to stay big. There are many great big box games but over the years so many more crushed by it, hampered by it, left abandoned by it. Over the course of the last generation, we’ve felt the rumbles but rarely managed to put two and two together that we’re not where we are now because budgets were unsustainable, we’re not where we are now because the manpower required to power the AAA machine is just too much, at least not entirely. We’re where we are now because this is where the quest for money led us and we were too distracted to notice the changes as they happened.

Riffing on Wertpol’s Presentable Liberty, Stephen Beirne argues that the current state of big box titles should be a call for self-awareness:

On [Assassin’s Creed:] Unity‘s release, many folks were more interested in lamenting ‘patch culture’ than in calling for labour unionization, despite the clue being in the title. As examples go, it is just one raindrop in a torrent. I have to indict myself in this too, because we are a culture bred to consume simply in order to fulfil ideals of consumerism. There’s no time to consider the human cost of our purchases; we must feast.

And on Paste, Austin Walker engages Jacobin’s Ian Williams in a letter series concerning Funk of Titans, how it divorces its Blaxploitation aesthetics from their historical context as amateur and counter cinema, and what a real equivalent to that context would look like in games.

The Game’s the Thing

At Kill Screen, Ewan Wilson compares David Braben and Ian Bell’s landmark 1984 space sim Elite to its modern iteration and finds a remarkably intact ideological throughline. By contrast, on Game Exhibition Vincent Kinian digs into Dust: An Elysian Tail and decides that, in its attempt to play to large, mythic themes, Dust fails to provide a lush or engaging setting.

On the recently launched FemHype, Jillian takes a multi-pronged approach to Skyrim‘s representations of women and is underwhelmed. She writes: “I came up short on the way women were portrayed. And that bothers the hell out of me for a title that purports to be the be-all, end-all of open world games.”

At Storycade, Amanda Wallace pens a compelling review of Porpentine’s most recent Twine game, With Those We Love Alive, which asks players to draw ‘sigils’ on their arms as part of its interaction. And on PopMatters Moving Pixels, Scott Juster suggests, in roughly so many words, that Shadow of Mordor is the Lord of the Rings game that Sauron would play.

Kotaku’s Patricia Hernandez provides an (and I use this word under duress) explainer for Five Nights at Freddy’s and the rabid fandom it has inspired. It’s actually pretty interesting stuff. Not everyone is so happy about it, though: David Szymanski gripes that feels the popularization of indie horror games, especially through Youtube, has created a glut of the same design elements.

Players and Played

At Abnormal Mapping, Matthew Marko returns to the well of Ocarina of Time and asks if, in Zelda‘s attempt to give players a ‘blank slate’ protagonist to project onto, it ends up leaving behind more compelling stories:

It’s no surprise that people have been demanding a Zelda-led game with increasing fervor in the years since. […] She exists to be the Luigi to your Mario, but unlike that duo, the power dynamics are never righted by people coming and giving us the Luigi’s Mansions and deft writing of the Mario & Luigi games to allow the space for the support role to shine. Zelda instead is eternally frustrated, just as Saria is frustrated, and the games are content to never even question whether, on that forest bridge, maybe the game should have stuck with Saria after that moment instead of following Link onto bigger and presumably better things.

At Not Your Mama’s Gamer, Ashley Barry praises Among the Sleep for flouting a certain horror genre convention. And at Vorpal Bunny Ranch, Denis Farr — a dual citizen of Germany and the United States — tries out Wolfenstein: The New Order to see if its depiction of Nazi Germany really is as textured as its hype suggests.

Brett Douville is co-teaching a course with Michael Abbott at Wabash College this semester and shares his and their students’ reactions to This War of Mine. And this academic article by Jaime Banks appearing in peer-reviewed journal First Monday appears to be a promising piece on the interplay between players and their avatars.

The Nitty Gritty

On Level Design, Mateusz Piaskiewicz has written an exceptionally meaty, long-form guide on 3D level design composition. A great read even for the layperson. And in Gamasutra’s blogs section, Emily Thomforde shares how her local library ran a modified version of the Global Game Jam geared toward children and teens.

Gamasutra has also been featuring some exciting post-partums by developers in the past week. Failbetter Games’ Alexis Kennedy has released the first two in a three-part series on the studio’s newest title, Sunless Sea. And Young Horses’ Phil Tibitoski has embarked on a charming series on the studio’s debut title, Octodad: Dadliest Catch.

You’ve Done Well to Get This Far

Thank you for reading! Remember, in addition to scanning hundreds of articles on our own each week, we gather a great deal of our best pieces through submissions by readers like you! If you find or make something you feel would do well on these pages, drop us a line or mention us on Twitter!

Room for dessert? Be sure to pick up the most recent issues of Memory Insufficient, Five Out of Ten, Unwinnable Weekly and Arcade Review! Gosh, so many…

Oh, and don’t forget to check out February’s Blogs of the Round Table prompt, “Buddy Systems“!

Critical Distance is proud to be completely funded by its readership. Thanks to this continued support, we’ve been able to reboot our podcast, launch a new monthly feature and commission new Critical Compilations — and there’s much more on the way! So if you like what you see, consider signing up for a small monthly donation through our Patreon!

December 21st

December 21st, 2014 | Posted by Kris Ligman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off)

Here it is, the last regular This Week in Videogame Blogging of the year! It seems fitting that it should land on Winter Solstice — or Summer Solstice, for our friends down under. Stay cool and hydrated over there!

Anyway, as you might expect, we have a bit of a short one this week. Worry not, though, as next weekend we’ll be running our 2014 edition of This Year in Videogame Blogging! We’re still seeking reader submissions, so if you have something you want to get in, be sure to do that quick like.

Now, onto this week’s treats!

All Together Now

The crew of Shut Up and Sit Down (that is, the best board game blog happenin’ around these parts) have been counting down their top 25 board games of all time — and here’s the top five!

Kill Screen is running an interesting set of end-of-the-year features as well. Here are some highlights: Chris Breault on the (sometimes nonsensical) ubiquity of map illumination as a game mechanic and Gareth Damian Martin with a look at architecture in games, particularly in recent experimental works such as Shadowing, Abstract Ritual and NaissanceE.

On the developer side, Adriel Wallick (pioneer of the Train Jam) spent her 2014 making a game a week. Here’s her post-partum of the experience.

Design Notes

In his regular Critical Intel column, Robert Rath has a few notes on what Far Cry 4 gets right — and wrong — about its Nepalese setting.

Elsewhere, in Aevee Bee’s zine Zeal, Brian Crimmins has some fond words for Sakura Taisen‘s portrayal of Japan’s Jazz Age from 1912 to 1926.

PopMatters’s Jorge Albor, who is Chicano, found himself unexpectedly relating quite a bit to the complex racial politics of BioWare’s Dragon Age Inquisition. Meanwhile, at The Gaming Intelligence Agency, Nich Maragos finds pleasure in the ‘mundane heroism’ of Fantasy Life.

Gone Home‘s Steve Gaynor turned up at Matter this week as part of its New York Review of Videogames. Gaynor analyzes both The Evil Within and Alien: Isolation and finds that both, in their attempts to play to nostalgia, venture to strange places.

And this one’s good for a chuckle: at Playthroughline, Ed Smith does a snark-filled readthrough of Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption

Lastly for this section, I leave you with the always-incisive Liz Ryerson, whose newest post is a little bit about Brendan Keogh’s book, a little bit about Goldeneye, and a lot about Perfect Dark.

Beyond the Mat

(That’s the name of a very good WWF documentary, incidentally. I recommend it!)

Back with Matter’s New York Review of Videogames, author Kerry Howley pens a riveting essay on the complexities of EA Sports: UFC and how it, perhaps inadvertently, rings true of the hardships of its subject matter.

In a stroke of synchronicity, this week also brought us an interesting entry from Kotaku, where editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo has some complicated thoughts on playing through WWE 2K15 as a fan-made simulacrum of deceased wrestler — and murderer — Chris Benoit. (Content warning: Although it doesn’t get in-depth, this article does refer repeatedly to Benoit’s murders.)

Visual Novels

In her first guest piece for Polygon, my fujoshi partner-in-crime A.M. Cosmos makes a strong case for the localization of adult-themed visual novel DRAMAtical Murder. Meanwhile, the one and only Emily Short shares an in-depth narrative analysis of “pigeon dating simulator” Hatoful Boyfriend, noting that it seems odd that the visual novel scene and interactive fiction scene don’t seem to overlap more than they do.

That Old Canard

BioWare designer Damion Schubert — no stranger on these pages as of late — offers a firmly worded argument for why the supposed pervasive “progressivism” in games reportage does not actually exist:

As an example, IGN, Gamespot, Polygon and Kotaku all wrote dozens, if not hundreds of articles on every possible angle of Shadow of Mordor when it came out. One of those was the very silly ‘kiss vs kill’ article about the tutorial […] which is no big deal. But in this case, [certain readers] were led to think this was the norm – that most games writing was actually analysis like this.

This is not at all the case, of course. Most of the articles talked about the sick graphics, the incredible killer combos, the brutal death scenes, where to find all the easter eggs and paid lip service to the pretty-cool-but-really-unnecessary Nemesis system. Just like all the old magazines did when they were printed on tree pulp. These articles represent 95% of games media coverage, talking directly to gamers in their own language, and they rarely raise an eyebrow. That tiny 5% though, the people who decide to try to write about games with unusual perspectives are the ones who cause outrage.

Pairs Well With

Consider the following a red wine to go with the above’s butternut squash ravioli.

At The Atlantic, Laine Nooney pens what is, at first blush, a history of computer games’ first published work of erotica (and predecessor to Leisure Suit Larry). But it is more accurately a rumination on a period in the tech industry’s all-too-recent past where computers were not yet colonized as the domain of heterosexual men. (Content warning: images may not be considered safe for your workplace or your young relative reading over your shoulder.)

The letters [objecting to the adult ad] in Softalk, in some backwards way, show that the world of computing was once more diverse than we’ve ever imagined. Women were teaching computer literacy classes in the interstate outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia. Men were defending an ideology of computers as “sexless tools.” Softporn wasn’t the distillation of computing’s misogynist kernel. In 1981 the microcomputer and its allied industries were not already destined to become a space where women are violently harassed for discussing inequity, or simply presumed to have no native interest in technology. Its future was not yet determined, and need not have played out the way it did.

[…]

In some sense, Softporn is least interesting as a game, and most interesting as a piece of social theater. While Softporn seemingly affirms every long-suffering trope gaming has to offer — its latent misogyny, its middling cultural stakes, its limp internal humor — it was also developed under shifting social and spatial constraints within an emerging populist computer culture. Softporn flexed a predictable, uninspired muscle against disorienting technological and social circumstances that we long ago forgot were ever disorienting.

And to All a Good Night

While this marks our final regular weekly roundup for the month, you are encouraged to still submit your TWIVGB recommendations by email and Twitter! Normal roundups will resume the second weekend of January.

If you want to submit your links to our This Year in Videogame Blogging mega-roundup, remember that we are accepting these only by email. Go here to learn more. The deadline is December 24th!

Also, if you’re in the writing mood, there’s still a little time to get in on this month’s Blogs of the Round Table prompt, “New Game+.”

Critical Distance is proud to be funded entirely by its readership! If you like what we do and want to help us toward our next important funding goal, please consider signing up for a small monthly donation!

November 16th

November 16th, 2014 | Posted by Kris Ligman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off)

It’s half past five in the morning here, and I’m asking my phone’s AI if she obeys Asimov’s Laws of Robotics. She’s stonewalling me, I think. So, in the meantime, welcome to This Week in Videogame Blogging!

Design Notes

At Melody Meows, the titular Melody has published the third part in an ongoing essay series on Atlus’s Catherine, a fraught game which nonetheless invites some interesting analysis. Here, Melody attempts to tease out the game’s “true” ending and in the process makes a few pointed observations on how the game’s morality system is, ultimately, not representative of any morality we might know.

Speaking of our complicated relationships with some games, over on PopMatters regular columnist takes aim at the recently released Bayonetta 2 and how it is like attending a Beyonce concert in both form and function.

Meanwhile, on the Justice Points Podcast co-hosts Tzufit and the Apple Cider Mage chat with scholar and game developer Michael Lutz on the intersections of Shakespeare, performance and gameplay.

And at Kill Screen, Shonte Daniels compares the rise of ‘auteur’ games with a similar 20th century movement in the world of poetry.

Deep Dives

At The Digital Antiquarian, Jimmy Maher performs a meaty retrospective on Activision’s seminal 1986 Alter Ego and its key developer, psychologist Peter J. Favaro.

Elsewhere, Kyle Kallgren’s usually film-focused video series Brows Held High goes for the interdisciplinary approach this week with a fascinating analysis of the interplay of the visual languages of games and cinema — taking as its starting point Gus Van Sant’s experimental ‘road trip’ film Gerry and its unorthodox source of inspiration, Tomb Raider.

Gonzogunk

We’re seeing an observable downward trend in the frequency of thinkpieces on The Hashtag Which Must Not Be Named, but like any good horcrux, we’re still a ways from seeing it die off completely.

The first thing to keep in mind is that this wave of harassment is not new, and it is long from defeated. Pointing to several instances just in the last few months and just within games, scholar and treasure Katherine Cross highlights how minoritized individuals are still frequently targeted disproportionate to their voice or prominence in the discourse. (Content warning: misogynist and transphobic slurs.)

Ravishly’s Jetta Rae DoubleCakes has been running a series of fantastic interviews, including two from among Critical Distance’s own ranks, contributor Lana Polansky and alumna Mattie Brice.

There has also been a recent push within certain sectors of game design academia which has urged solidarity. Over on Gamasutra’s Member Blogs, USC’s Interactive Media and Game Design chair Tracy Fullerton has released a joint statement on behalf of much of her faculty condemning the harassment campaign which has dominated the discourse of the last few months.

Finally, for a good cathartic chuckle, the ever-reliable Damien Schubert has designed a highly accurate pie chart on the true influence of “social justice warriors” on game development.

My God, Pure Ideology

Thanks for reading! As always, we welcome your submissions by Twitter mention or through email.

The November Blogs of the Round Table is under way and looking for your contributions!

A signal boost: the Montreal-based Game History Annual Symposium 2015 has put out a Call for Papers for its 2015 conference. French and English papers will be accepted, deadline January 15th, 2015.

(Do you have a site, zine or conference looking for submissions? Let us know and we’d be happy to link it here!)

Finally: remember, Critical Distance is community funded by readers like you! We’re closing in on our very important $2,000 funding target, which brings with it more features and our proposed print anthologies, so please consider signing up for a small monthly donation!

November 2nd

November 2nd, 2014 | Posted by Kris Ligman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off)

Ahh, the weekend after Halloween. I hope you all had fun, dear readers? I know my cat did. Welcome to This Week in Videogame Blogging!

Design Notes

At Eurogamer, Simon Parkin has yet another gem of a feature for us, this time on the origins of the political utopianism undergirding every modern MMO:

Bartle gave [the source code for multi-user dungeons] away not to get famous and not to get rich. He did it because, in this virtual world, he saw a better blueprint for society. MUD was a place in which players were able to succeed according to their actions and intelligence rather than an accident of birth into a certain social class or fortune. “We wanted the things that were in MUD to be reflected in the real world,” he says. “I wanted to change the world. MUD and every subsequent MMO that has adopted its designs are a political statement. I should know: I designed it that way. And if you want the world to change, then making people pay to read your message isn’t going to work. So we gave it away.”

This was also a great week for horror-themed close reads, as you might imagine. At Normally Rascal, Stephen Beirne runs through Fatal Frame 2‘s projector room with a fine-toothed comb, while at Videogames of the Oppressed, Mike Joffe concludes his three-part analysis of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night with a meditation on the game’s setting as the childhood home of its protagonist.

These two sound-oriented articles pair nicely together. At Game Sound, Kenneth Young compares the auditory approaches used to introduce characters in two science fiction games, Destiny and The Swapper. And over at his personal blog, Harmonix’s Dan Bruno shares some notes on Mother 3‘s music-based battle system.

Context Cues

Taking notes from the recently released Bayonetta 2, Paste’s Maddy Myers argues that the term ‘male gaze,’ which game critics borrow from film studies, is in fact woefully inadequate for describing the ways sexualized game protagonists can be inhabited and made empowering by their players.

On the subject of sexuality and women, Todd Harper shares his impressions of the queer characters in Borderlands the Pre-Sequel, in particular how his impressions are inflected by how media has treated similar characters in the past.

On another subject, Marshall Sandoval showed up at PopMatters Moving Pixels again this past week to reflect on the recession’s influence on the recent uptick of cyberpunk in games.

Illustrated Herstories

Kill Screen’s Chris Priestman has a neat feature on Rachel Weil’s FEMICOM art installation, which Leigh Alexander also profiled earlier this year.

Actually It’s About…

At his review blog, Erik Twice notes that, indeed, games journalism is mired in very real problems, albeit ones which don’t seem to have crossed Gamergate’s radar.

Meanwhile, at Salon, Arthur Chu writes empathetically about the social ostracization and resentment behind much of the movement’s rage. And Zoe Quinn — who should need no introduction, if you’ve been following the Gamergate debacle at all — addresses latecomer ‘moderates’ to explain why good-faith discussion may no longer be possible, if it ever was:

This is not a debate with two sides. It never will be. It makes it really hard to have a conversation about anything when it feels like one side has a gun under the table. Even if the gun isn’t yours, even though you don’t condone it, it’s there all the same. Treating it as though it were a mere matter of difference of opinion when one group has been relentlessly ruining lives and trying to cover it up, and the other is made up of people targeted by that group, treating them equally is NOT fairness. It is NOT balance. It is falsely seeking the Golden Mean for the Golden Mean’s sake, while discarding the spirit of fairness it represents by asking victims of a group attacking them for weeks or months to defend their right to live their lives without that. Even if every single false justification that GamerGate has given for their existence was true, even if I was the Machiavellian hellbeast they make me out to be, no one deserves to be GamerGate’s target. No one deserves to have their real lives ruined over video games.

Someone punching you in the face isn’t a dialog, and it’s not something you should be called upon to prove yourself undeserving of.

Lastly, Laralyn McWilliams addressed her fellow developers in a Gamasutra blog, arguing that the games industry should look upon the hostility toward women it has created the same way it addresses a user experience problem:

These past few months have been challenging, to say the least. Personally, I hear more women in game development talk about leaving our industry every day than I usually see in several years. What has been happening and continues to happen is having a profound chilling effect on the women on our teams. It will be yet another reason women leave this line of work, and yet another reason many talented young women about to graduate will choose to use their skills and energy elsewhere in tech. Your opinion about whether those feelings are justified or correct doesn’t change the fact that the current climate and culture is alienating them. Your point of view on journalism and ethics and even on harassment doesn’t change their experience with the systems of our industry and the culture around it, and the impression left by those experiences.

Even if each of us didn’t make every element in the game they’re playing, each one of us is on the game development team for our culture as a whole. We’re watching the usability session in action — right now, today. Yes, it’s painful and frustrating. Yes, you may want to argue with the player on the other side of the one-way mirror who doesn’t understand your carefully crafted controls. Yes, you may feel shafted because a handful of malicious players are griefing a segment of the player base without your permission, and now you’re on the hook to fix it.

But as experienced developers, we all know the answer is not that “She’s playing it wrong.” The systems of our industry are failing her.

Speed Racer Was a Good Movie

Thank you to everyone for sending in your link recommendations by Twitter mention and email! Please keep it up!

The October Blogs of the Round Table has concluded and you can read its roundup here. And once you’re done with that, pop on over to November’s prompt post, “Home Sweet Home.”

Memory Insufficient has a new Call for Submissions, this time tackling the subject of alternative histories in games. Maybe we’ll see some more about Rachel Weil’s installation in this issue?

That’s it for this week! We’ll see you next time, and until the– hmm, what does the header for this section mean? Oh nothing. Just watch the movie. Here’s my cat dressed as the cat from Sailor Moon. Happy Halloween!

IMG_0161

October 26th

October 26th, 2014 | Posted by Kris Ligman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off)

Readers, I am tired. As, I suspect, are you. For months now, the discourse has more or less been held hostage by a vocal, angry contingent of self-described gamers who have rendered countless people afraid to engage in social media, afraid to speak publicly, even afraid to remain in their homes. Yes, Virginia, there is a terrorist element in games, and the introduction of national and international coverage in this debacle has put more lives at risk, rather than validate or protect the people this “movement” has already hurt.

Regardless of where you stand on the “issue,” to deny how it has ruined and endangered people’s lives is to turn a blind eye toward the stated, well-documented facts. This isn’t part of a “side” to be debated. You have people, many of them women, almost all of them already disinfranchised in some respect and hardly the movers and shakers of an industry, in fear for their lives. The time to respond to this was over two months ago.

Those who know me personally know I locked my social media accounts ages ago and have avoided making any public, personal comment on current events, outside of simply collecting and curating the words that others have put together. I still, even as I write this lengthy forward to the week’s roundup, feel too afraid to truly speak my mind about what has become all of our lives since August. Just collecting and posting others’ thoughts has been enough for my name to show up in conspiracy charts, accusations of ‘scamming’ our patrons, my private Facebook profile screencapped, nasty emails, the whole lot — just for linking, not even editorializing. Who knows what will happen as a result of my writing this?

The long and short of it, readers, is that something here has to break, and by the looks of it, it’s not going to be That-Hashtag-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named to fall apart first. It’s going to be us.

Now. Having said all that, let me try to muster one last brave face for you and get through this week’s roundup. Welcome to This Week in Videogame Blogging.

The Devil’s Backbone

At The Guardian, Simon Parkin offers up a profile on US politics’ recent move to include game developers in an ongoing conversation on future warfare, thus deepening the connection between games and the military-entertainment-industrial complex.

Also in the vein of military games, over at Vice the seasoned Leigh Alexander attempts to pin down that most inscrutable of creatures, Metal Gear Solid 3. In doing so, she reveals some of its least talked about, yet incredibly compelling commentary on the dirtiness of war.

Hollow Bodies High

At Polygon, Claire Hosking shares a solid takedown of the Damsel in Distress trope and just why, precisely, it’s creatively lazy. (Content warning: Polygon’s choice of stock imagery peppered throughout the piece features close-ups of terrified women tied up and gagged. Why this seemed a good idea to anyone, I’m not sure.)

Meanwhile, at Paste, Gita Jackson dashes off a missive questioning why, for a game which so heavily features fashion as a gameplay mechanic, the costume design in Final Fantasy X-2 is so awful. At Gamasutra’s Member Blogs, Tiny Cartridge’s Eric Caoili goes to some length to illustrate just what makes the card game Netrunner exciting from an inclusivity standpoint.

Finally, at Kill Screen, Dan Solberg has an excellent profile on independent game developer and artist Lilith, creator of Crypt Worlds.

Also, a brief shoutout, but Gaming Intelligence Agency has loads of coverage from IndieCade if you find yourself wanting more.

Dispatches from Vienna

First Person Scholar has begun a partnership with its German-language counterpart, Paidia. As our German Correspondent Joe Köller notes, the fruits of this cross-pollination have already begun.

Two strong pieces from Videogame Tourism: Agata Góralczyk muses on human interaction in post-apocalyptic games while Dan Heck entertains a thought experiment on a large-scale crossover game.

At Herzteile, we find a podcast interview with board game developer Andrea Meyer, while at Kleiner Drei there’s an exciting interview about Lady Internet, an upcoming communication network for women.

This Ain’t the War You’re Fighting, It’s the Red October

If you follow one link in this week’s roundup, let it be this one: Dan Olson’s latest episode of Folding Ideas is a whammy of a breakdown on the Gate of Gamer and why, even if only a minority of the “movement”‘s participants harass, all of them benefit. This line in particular is worth isolating:

The use of terror tactics, even if only by a minority, has created an environment of fear that all members enjoy the privilege of.

While not directly addressing the Gate of Gamer, developer Stephanie Bryant picks apart one of its popular retorts, which certainly predates the campaign: why “just make your own game!” is so oblivious.

I leave the final word to our own Mattie Brice, who more than anyone else has hit the nail right on the head on why the fight against harassment is more like provocation, largely playing into the same spectacle which has already hurt the industry’s most vulnerable members:

This line of thinking seems to come from a couple of factors from what I can see: the ‘logical’ one of if society can see that people in the hate campaign are awful people, they don’t get credence, and the selfish one, that they want to do something but can’t bring themselves to a level where they feel like they can make a real difference. There’s a lot that goes into these two feelings, but simply, society already sees games culture as aberrant and horrible, and therefore doesn’t need to see it get worse to be convinced, and this entire conflict isn’t about gamers and wanting to feel like you’re a good person, it’s about the continual victimization and marginalization of minoritized people in games. It was in the beginning, always is, and yet there hasn’t been any real, healthy effort to counter this. Instead, people waste their energy dealing with people who can’t be convinced, and make bloodsport of it.

It’s Not the End of the World, It’s Just the End of A Song

As always, thank you to our readers who send in submissions via Twitter mention and email. You make these roundups stronger.

Reminder, you have a few more days to get your submission in for October’s Blogs of the Round Table topic, “Masks.”

Critical Distance is community funded by readers like you. If you want to help us weather this brave new world with such people in it, please consider signing up for a small monthly donation. We are very, very close to reaching our next funding target, which is essential if we’re to move ahead on some of our larger projects like the print anthologies.

October 19th

October 19th, 2014 | Posted by Kris Ligman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off)

Someone still loves you, Jakob Dylan. Not, you know, for “One Headlight” or anything. Just because someone has to.

Anyhow, readers — it’s the weekend after IndieCade and I’m back in the saddle. Let’s tuck in with This Week in Videogame Blogging!

Come On Back to the Five and Dime, IndieCade, IndieCade

Speaking of IndieCade, if you didn’t happen to attend, you missed out on some great talks!

Over on Gamasutra, Bryant Francis has an excellent write-up on a well-received panel led by Shawn Alexander Allen (Treachery in Beatdown City) on issues of racism in tech and game development.

Ian Bogost, he of the perpetual mic drop, spoke during IndieCade’s Sunday microtalks session titled “Why ______ Matters” and has generously posted the full text of his talk online. Here’s a sample, in which he deftly deconstructs the ‘specialness’ of games on the level of culture creation:

Whereas previously culture fought, won, and lost its battles at the scale of mass media — think of Madonna and Bart Simpson and Murphy Brown — now we do so in isolated pockets of niche media hobbyism. [Washington Post writer Alyssa] Rosenberg sees this as an unexpected victory. “Everyone can win the new culture wars,” she declares, because “all stories have a chance to be told.”

The problem with Rosenberg’s account is that fragmentation becomes Balkanization, which becomes recuperated into Libertarianism. Mutual hostility becomes “do what you want, just don’t foist it on me.” Pushed to its limits, all fandom becomes apartheid.

[…]

This state of affairs ought to chasten us. It ought to revise our understanding of the scope of the work before us.

For example: if you want to fight for diversity in games, then absolutely you should fight to broaden representation among players, creators, and characters.

But there’s another kind of diversity: the diversity of our interests and our dispositions, of the company we keep and the influences that inspire us, the people and the groups and the industries and the materials that we contact. It has to do with having dealings enough with the world such that it is no longer possible to be seen as a parochial backwater not even worth opposing let alone supporting.

We have become too comfortable here in games.

Lastly, Liz Ryerson has shared a revised version of her talk from the ‘Influences’ panel, in which she discusses the hard road to really waking up to what games can do and be:

this “new flesh” [from David Cronenberg’s Videodrome] is as another way of looking at digital devices as extension of our bodies – and embracing them as body parts we exercise full autonomy over. because if we don’t, we can easily fall under the order of strong, powerful cultural programming that favors the aims of corporate ideology and the military-industrial complex.

[…]

the problem with fighting back against the tide of all this powerful cultural programming is we’re often bad at envisioning and embracing this new flesh as a tool of progress amidst these vast corporate structures colonizing the internet. in his movie A Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, Slavoj Zizek looks at the many apocalypse scenarios increasingly saturating popular media of the last ten years and asks: why is it so much easier for us to envision in the cultural consciousness a total apocalyptic collapse of society than it is to imagine a fairly minor-shift in our ways of understanding and constructing the reality of our situation?

the answer is that is the logical endpoint of the ideological path we’re following now. and there is something intensely painful about, in the midst of this, realizing our own bodily autonomy, and our ability to make even a subtle a shift in our understanding and construction of reality. it’s a struggle, and it involves experiencing a lot of pain.

Class is In Session

In Gamasutra’s Member Blogs, Felipe Pepe salutes the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons — which also marks the 40th anniversary of computer role-playing games based upon it.

Independent critic Lulu Blue has been replaying the original Kid Icarus lately and remarks that it seems to exist during a weird transition point in Nintendo’s 1980s design philosophy:

Maybe it wouldn’t be until Kirby’s Adventure that they’d finally let up and greenlight such a revolutionary idea such as “action game that isn’t prohibitively difficult”. While there were games like Dragon Quest before it, with similar staple ideas such as “a game anyone can beat****” they were often tacked on with a billion [contingency] asterisks that amounted to “a game anyone can beat by spending enough time repeating the same trivial task over and over again and smashing their head against a rock (and also pressing the A button in front of every rock)”. Kirby was maybe the first game of Nintendo fame to not have that gotcha, but regardless of whether it was, Kid Icarus was NOT that game.

Meanwhile, in the newest installment of History Respawned, Bob Whitaker sits down with history professor Michelle Brock, an expert on early demonology, to discuss the cultural and religious underpinnings of Blizzard’s Diablo franchise.

One Does Not Simply…

The new Middle-earth game, Shadow of Mordor, continues to inspire a lot of discussion.

On her personal blog, Carolyn Petit notes the game does poorly by its women characters, killing off many and damseling a woman warrior.

Over at Loser City, Jake Muncy digs deeper into the game’s innovative enemy AI system and how its potential is squandered on the narrative’s thematic contradictions:

[O]rcs don’t quite fit into the world Tolkien created. They don’t fit into the order of the world that Gandalf describes to Frodo, where mercy is absolutely right and redemption is always an option — however distant a one. Tolkien’s world is, after all, based irrevocably in his Catholic sensibilities; his non-Lord of the Rings contributions to the universe feature a benevolent creator God and make it clear that the wizards are maiar, essentially angels. It’s important that even Sauron chose to be evil, deliberately rejecting the goodness inherent in all creation.

Orcs are different. They’re evil simply by nature, inherently corrupted. In Tolkien’s rendering they have no culture and no language of their own. […] Orcs exist in a permanent state of exception, absolutely Other, nameless and killable in droves. They’re two-dimensional and infused with imported racist prejudice, given no depth in a world full of it.

[By contrast, Shadow of Mordor‘s] Nemesis system gives the orcs much-needed culture and depth. They have names, they make small talk. They have parties and feasts. They live in a constantly changing feudal society. […] Orcs are victimizers, but they’re also victimized, set in longstanding oppressive power structures.

[However, for] as much as the Nemesis System feels like a solution to the orc problem, it also reifies and even magnifies it. Orcs are still cannon fodder in the same way they’ve always been. It’s a bizarre double bind: our orcs are special unique snowflakes, now kill all of them.

Nuke It from Orbit, It’s the Only Way to B– Oh, I Already Used That One

Alien: Isolation is another game to see some sustained discussion in the last couple weeks, and it’s easy to see why.

Notorious list-maker Brendan Keogh shares his collected thoughts on the game and in particular, how it manages to show off far more raw personality than comparable big-budget games.

At Vice, Cara Ellison takes a few well-deserved potshots at Isolation‘s one major fumble with regards to its level design: the needlessly expository graffiti.

Meanwhile, at Polygon Danielle Riendeau has high praise for the game’s treatment of its protagonist, Amanda Ripley, as truly befitting the heroine template exemplified by Sigourney Weaver’s character in the Alien film series. And from a visual standpoint, PC Gamer’s Andy Kelly shares how the game stacks up next to the aesthetics of the original film in a side-by-side slideshow.

Finally, at Eurogamer, Jeffrey Matulef shares a bit of optimism that Alien: Isolation is but the latest in a broader trend in high-budget, first-person games (including The Last of Us and BioShock Infinite) to offer a more contemplative, sedate experience.

Listen and Believe

As we now enter our third month of the debacle that has come to be known as Gamergate (though in fact, it’s been going on since July or even earlier, for some of those affected), it’s important to keep the profile high and the dialogue open. With that in mind, like much of our Gamergate coverage, these links come with a General Content Warning for strong descriptions of harassment, stalking and slurs.

Let’s start with Brianna Wu, who became the third woman to be driven from her home in two months due to credible violent threats on her life. On XO Jane, she shares a first-person account of being targeted, including screencaps of threats sent to her.

Touching on Anita Sarkeesian’s recent XOXO talk (which this subsection also derives its title from), Damion Schubert has been busily collecting the stories from women from all “sides” of Gamergate, proponents as well as targets and others completely uninvolved, who nonetheless have been subject to harassment, doxxing and other attacks. On her tumblr, Secret Gamer Girl has also collated the experiences of many women targeted by the loosely-defined movement.

The Awl’s John Herrman takes a different approach, reprinting the comments and tweets from parents who have discovered their children are participants in Gamergate.

Also, on The Daily Beast, Arthur Chu (who has never actually written for Critical Distance, despite reports to the contrary) draws an astute comparison between Gamergate and the Disco Sucks “movement” of the 1970s. It’s all great, but here’s a sample:

Just look at the rhetoric used by angry 1970s rock fans to bash disco. It goes beyond just finding the music unpleasant, it invokes the rhetoric of legitimacy. Disco artists aren’t “real” musicians. They don’t play their instruments live, like rock guitar gods; it’s too “produced,” it’s too “studio,” it’s fake.

Moreover, guys who listen to disco are fake. They dress in expensive leisure suits and hang out at fancy clubs. They don’t get down in the dirt and tear it up like us hard-core, genuine, masculine fans. They’re not real men, and women like them for not being real men, which is unacceptable. […]

And there’s the aggrieved underdog stance, calling disco artists and producers “elitists,” spinning a narrative that rock was authentic music made by blue-collar kids in garages while disco was being “pushed on” America by corporate labels. (Are you kidding me? Led Zeppelin the hardscrabble underdogs vs. the Bee Gees? That’s as ridiculous as saying Call of Duty fans are oppressed compared to people who like indie text games about what it’s like to have depression.)

Gamergate reached the front page of The New York Times this week, due largely to a school shooting threat called in over a scheduled appearance by Anita Sarkeesian. With the NYT coverage, many game news outlets have come forward officially denouncing Gamergate. However, just ahead of this development, Jetta Rae DoubleCakes published this strongly-worded editorial at Ravishly which urges news writers to properly frame their Gamergate coverage, and it’s still relevant:

So eager [are some outlets] for that “big scoop” that they didn’t bother to look at what they were picking up. Or to check if it was toxic. […]

The willful ignorance of the media, both mainstream and “niche,” has fostered an antipathy without fear of reproach. […] And every second journalists sit there tapping their lip with their fingers, ahhhh I wish there was a word for people threatening to harm bystanders in public if their demands are not met, if only we’d gotten on this sooner—it emboldens the violence.

Soft Reset

It’s tough, but we have to keep moving. In light of some of the above links, and in particular Ian Bogost’s calls to diversify the critical and cultural landscape of games, let’s look at a few writers who are doing just that.

First, at Haptic Feedback, Austin C. Howe has a look at the recent wave of dismissiveness toward reflexive games (what he calls intertextual games; that is, games which comment upon or are “about” games) and concludes that by doing so we not only diminish these titles but risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Speaking of taking things one level above, here’s Stephen Beirne reviewing an interactive review of Dontnod’s ambitious but flawed title Remember Me.

And here’s a couple plucked from our own contributors. At Paste, Lana Polansky describes her recent venture into card gaming, in particular the simple 1965 game Nuclear War and its critique of the titular subject matter:

But one of the game’s best little touches is that, here, in state of war, there is a nonzero chance that everybody dies. When war is declared, it can’t be undeclared until the first player to launch a missile is knocked out of the game. That means genocide must effectively be committed before peace can resume—there is no going back. However, a losing player can go out by detonating all their playable nukes at once, and therefore has a chance to take out another player with them. There’s nothing in the game prohibiting every player from being taken out, losing their entire population. This means that, in all likelihood, you either end up with a pyrrhic victory or, quite literally, no one wins.

Also, our own Eric Swain is starting a project on his blog The Game Critique, aiming to start folding in criticism from other media forms as a means of diversifying how we approach games. Have a look.

Entering the Sublime

A couple hearty pieces for the road. At PopMatters Moving Pixels, Scott Juster takes a look at The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and the subtle ways it subverts player expectations.

Also from Scott Juster his long-time blog partner Jorge Albor, a brief podcast discussion on games and eating, from our gustatory traditions to our Soylent futures. Mmm.

And So I Send You Out Into the Night, Not, I Hope, Unarmed

That’s it for this week! As always, we value your contributions via Twitter mention and email.

There is still a bit of time to get involved in October’s Blogs of the Round Table. It’s a fun topic touching on Halloween, so I encourage you to give it a whirl!

Did you know we’re commissioning new features? Because we are! Head over here to learn more.

And a few more sites and resources to relax into your Sunday:

-Arcade Review is a quarterly magazine edited by our contributors Zolani Stewart and Lana Polansky
-Five Out of Ten, edited by our sysadmin overlord Alan Williamson, has just released its 10th (!) issue, “Heart.”
-Memory Insufficient is a great free zine edited by Zoya Street.
-Forest Ambassador is an important, free curated resource for small independent games, run by Merritt Kopas.

Did you know? Critical Distance is community funded by readers like you! If you like what you do and want to help us get our “BOTH SIDES” knuckle tats for when we get sent to Games Journalism Prison, please consider signing up for a small monthly donation!

We’re Commissioning Two New Features!

October 8th, 2014 | Posted by Kris Ligman in Announcement: - (Comments Off)

Hey, folks. Kris Ligman here, with a special announcement!

As many of you know, we’ve been community-supported since earlier this year. I’m pleased to say that we’ve reached a funding level that not only ensures the continued smooth operation of the site, but also allows us to pay all our contributors. This is all thanks to you, the readers, so give yourselves a hand!

Second bit: because of our current funding level, I’ve decided it’s high time we start ramping up production of some original features, such as our Critical Compilations and Spotlights. You may have noticed a recent Nier Critical Compilation, which was brought to us by First Person Scholar’s Michael Hancock. We’re looking to run two more such features, sourced from the community, in the near future.

If you have a game you are particularly passionate about and want to write up a Critical Compilation for it, or if there is a writer or gameplay subject you are interested in and wish to write a Spotlight on it, this is the time to send us your pitches!

Because our budget for features is generous but not in any way huge, we’re starting off commissioning just two features at this time (two Critical Compilations, two Spotlights, or one of each). However, we have plans to commission more down the line. So, if your pitch isn’t picked up right away, you’ll be put at the head of the queue for the next batch.

If you have any questions about the format of our Critical Compilations or Spotlights, check out our links at right to see how other authors have approached them in the past. Or if you have another issue, feel free to drop us a line.

There is no deadline for getting your pitches in, but the sooner is better, obviously. We would like to run the first feature as early as November.

In the meantime, if you want to support Critical Distance, please, consider signing up for a small monthly donation through our Patreon! Your contribution goes toward paying writers and maintaining a space for smaller voices within the ongoing games discourse.

October 5th

October 5th, 2014 | Posted by Kris Ligman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off)

I don’t know if the persistent heat wave has sapped us all of our wills to write, but I have a short but sweet one for you this week, dear readers. Join me, won’t you? It’s This Week in Videogame Blogging!

Design Notes

At his blog Just Delete It, James Earl Cox offers an interesting analysis on the four kinds of “metafiction” in games, which he defines as self-aware fiction meant to mediate player suspension of disbelief.

Meanwhile, at Kotaku, GB Burford shares a fascinating long-form essay on the Dead Space series and how the games, moreso than creating a language with its various components, create a unique and memorable “dialect” through mechanics, art, sound design and more.

Even though a crafting system [in Dead Space 3] sounds interesting and cool, it kills engagement. When players don’t have to think about what guns to bring, what items to carry, or what order to engage enemies in, the game reduces its vocabulary. It becomes flat and boring.

Dead Space 3 has the vocabulary of a caveman’s poetry. Dead Space 1 and 2, comparatively, were the combined works of Shakespeare.

And at Joystiq, Anthony John Agnello has a quirky series of interviews with some artists on the lost art of fighting game backgrounds.

Press X to Precious

On Polygon, Zach Gage draws focus to the tutorial for Shadow of Mordor, in which a skill introduced to have the player character kiss his wife uses the exact same mechanical grammar to later kill enemies. Meanwhile, at sister site The Verge, Chris Plante reflects how the game’s over-the-top brutality casts the player into the role of a terrorist:

The concept of this game is shocking when you think about what’s actually happening. As an ultra-powerful white dude, you use fear and extreme acts of violence to manipulate an enemy’s behavior, destroy its militaristic structure, and ultimately gain control of it in the form of living bondage despite being outnumbered by the thousands. Really, chew on this: This is a video game about a spurned man terrorizing an entire foreign culture, literally killing, branding, torturing and enslaving hundreds of living beings. And really they’re only tangentially connected to the man’s real enemy: another ultra-powerful white dude.

While we’re on the topic of Lord of the Rings, over at Paste Ian Williams has penned something of a living epitaph for the outgoing Lord of the Rings Online, Turbine’s seven-year-old MMO which now appears to be entering the last stage of its life cycle.

From Your Gate to God’s Ears

Rab Florence — yes, that Rab Florence — offers a passionate appeal to those sincerely interested in criticizing games journalism:

Okay, okay, look. Are the games press too close-knit, too cosy with each other? Absolutely. Are they too cosy with game developers? Absolutely. Do they circle the wagons when they get criticised? Absolutely. You’re right. You’re right.

[…] But how do you respond to that? By joining a gang? By entering another bubble? Fuck bubbles, man. FUCKBUBBLES. That’s why you think all the games websites are the same! Because you’re stuck in a bubble! Break out — look for games writers you love, and support little websites and blogs. Discover them! They’re out there, desperate for you to find them. I’m with you, dude. FUCK those big websites.

[…]

Sometimes when the barrel is sour you need to walk away from the barrel, y’know?

Scholar and seasoned critic Katherine Cross has been abuzz on Twitter of late, and this Storify of a series of tweets on the (actually quite common) human compulsion to see one’s own interpretation as factual, while all others are “forcing” a narrative, is a worthwhile read.

Lastly, lest you think there was any shortage of valid things to get angry about when it comes to games, Leigh Alexander has compiled a (non-exhaustive) list of actual ethical concerns in videogames, with relevant links.

Dispatches from Vienna

Our German correspondent Joe Köller has the latest for us from the German-language games blogosphere.

First up, Nina Kiel, Hendrik Thiel and Marcus Dittmar all attended the recent PLAY14 games festival in Hamburg and have come back with their report of the goings-on.

Also on Superlevel, we have this delightful Games Journalism Dummy Text Generator, complete with AAA-to-indie language slider. Nearly as good as the real thing!

At Kleiner Drei, Martin Pittenauer interviews game designer Henrike Lode, while at Herzteile, Helga Hansen interviews Nina Windisch, who has an interesting job: she develops games for German television shows.

Lastly, on Paidia, Franziska Ascher takes a look at the Souls games’ spin on the ‘unreliable narrator.’

All the Rest

It’s so thrilling when a site outside the usual games blogosphere stumbles upon something of interest. Over at Scenes of Eating, Sara Davis recently found her way to Memory Insufficient’s Food Issue as well as the Games and Food Tumblr, comparing what she found there to how she sees food used in film and literature.

Lastly, anna anthropy has shared another interview conducted for her recently released book on ZZT, this time with developer and author Jeanne Thornton.

Hello, Goodbye

That’s it for this week! As always, we welcome your recommendations via Twitter mention and through email, and yes, you are free to link to your own work!

The August-September Blogs of the Round Table recently concluded, and you can view the delicious offerings here. And there is a new topic for October: “Masks!”

Critical Distance is completely funded by readers like you! If you like what you see and want to help us continue cancelling the Apocalypse every time that little Ragnarok pop-up notification shows up on the task bar, consider pledging a small monthly donation. We now offer an exclusive physical reward tier for people who pledge a little more!

August 31st

August 31st, 2014 | Posted by Kris Ligman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (4 Comments)

Hey there, everyone.

Before we start today, a bit of signal-boosting: Digital Love Child is putting together an ebook collection on gun games and has put out a call for submissions, deadline sometime mid-September.

Also, the new videogame StoryBundle is out, containing books by Anna Anthropy and Zoya Street as well as the first six issues of Five Out of Ten magazine. You should get it.

Now that that’s out there, let’s bring it in close and get comfortable today. I have a long one for you and you might need to take a few breaks.

I don’t often dedicate This Week in Videogame Blogging to a single topic, but in this case it was more or less unavoidable. There were a few articles on other subjects, but they would be drowned out by the conversation which follows below, so I’ve bookmarked them for next week. Don’t worry, nothing’s been lost.

I also want to note that this edition of the roundup has a general content warning for at least the following: sexual harassment, stalking, rape threats, death threats, and misogynist slurs, with a liberal peppering of ableist slurs thrown in for good measure. Please use your discretion when proceeding.

Additional article-specific content warning markers will be noted after relevant links.

Tropes vs Anita Sarkeesian

If you haven’t seen it yet, Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs Women in Videogames series has released the second in its two-part episode on “women as background decoration.” (Additional content warning: graphic sexual violence.)

The release of Sarkeesian’s video, amidst the ongoing tensions and attacks on women in the industry, has led to Sarkeesian receiving credible death threats on her and her family, forcing her to leave her home. It’s also led to quite a bit of discussion elsewhere, mainly on the subject of the sustained harassment against her.

At The New Statesman, Ian Steadman takes a couple cues from Sarkeesian’s own videos to provide an excellent breakdown in the logical fallacies used to “debunk” and derail the criticisms present in the video series.

While not referencing Sarkeesian specifically, this post by former GameSpot critic Carolyn Petit does a good job at countering the argument that games are beyond cultural criticism:

Games are not politically neutral. Neither are mainstream romantic comedies, or action films, or any novel I’ve ever read. They may sometimes appear politically neutral if the values they reinforce mesh with the value systems of the larger culture, but our culture is not politically neutral, either, and it is not outside of the role of a critic to comment on or raise questions about the political meanings embedded in the works one evaluates. In fact, it is often impossible to review something apolitically, because to not comment on or challenge the political meanings in a work in your review is to give them your tacit endorsement.

At Not Your Mama’s Gamer, Jennifer Justice suggests that for a lot of the kneejerk negativity directed at feminist games criticism, something more fundamental is at play:

A lot of the fear I see about feminism comes from the idea that giving in to feminists means giving in to censorship. For some, that fear takes its shape in nonsensical arguments about threats to masculinity or stealing of power from one group to another […]

Those who fear censorship could read my posts as an argument to “clean up” narratives… to remove sources of conflict in order to avoid disturbing female gamers who play these games. But I believe women are made of tougher stuff than that, and most of us want a good story as much as the next gamer. It’s not that I want games to be without conflict or to always end with some moralistic theme. I just want more stories.

At The Verge, Adi Robertson also expounds on this theme, in particular the assertion that depictions of women in games can be defended as “realistic”:

“Why is it video games need to be politically and societally [sic] correct? The whole point of video games is to escape reality and have fun.”

If that’s the goal, games like Watch Dogs are failing horribly.

You know what’s not escapism? Having to wonder if any given game (or movie, or book) you pick up is going to include women primarily as prostitutes, murdered girlfriends, vulnerable daughters, and rape victims. […] Oddly, when someone raises these issues, the people who have been stridently defending their games as “just games” switch to explaining why having women in other roles is unrealistic. A gritty, stylized world built on the corpses of women is defended as a way for gamers to escape from reality, but if someone points out that it makes them uncomfortable, they’re told that they’re supposed to be uncomfortable.

XO Jane’s Lesley Kinzel adds that the attacks only drive home how relevant Sarkeesian’s criticisms are:

It should go without saying, but you don’t stop an activist or a critic by propagating the exact behavior that they are organizing or arguing against. In fact, doing so bolsters their cause.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Women in Games

In addition to these renewed attacks on Anita Sarkeesian, this marks the second week of a harassment campaign against independent developer Zoe Quinn. At The Daily Dot, Aja Romano has an effective recap of last week’s attacks and also showcases how the incident differs from the Josh Mattingly harassment scandal from earlier this year.

(Side note: You may have heard that actor Adam Baldwin is involved in this somehow now. The Mary Sue’s Victoria McNally has a good writeup on it.)

An interview with Quinn’s ex-boyfriend has also circulated a lot this week and was originally pinned for inclusion in this roundup. I’ve removed it, in light of this post by Critical Distance alumnus David Carlton, who warns of the false equivalence we risk creating in the press by covering the voices of abusers as valid:

[T]he media likes to find two sides of the issue to present, and to present those sides without any sort of context that might cause one to evaluate one side more favorably than the other. It doesn’t matter if one of those sides is supported by essentially all experts on the subject while the other is only supported by loons (sic) or guns-for-hire; it doesn’t matter if one of those sides is engaging in behavior squarely within our political norms while the other side is doing historically unprecedented attacks on the very concept of majority rule; and, as here, it doesn’t matter if one of those sides is behaving with simple compassion while the other side is lacking even a shred of simple human decency. False equivalence demands both.

At The Globe and Mail, Emma M. Woolley concurs, asserting that the claims of “corruption” only obfuscate a far greater problem:

Gaming’s most pervasive issue isn’t corruption, but the people who’ve taken ownership of something that isn’t solely theirs to begin with. In trying their damnedest to limit the appeal of the medium and use online harassment to achieve their goals, this group of toxic trolls are proving themselves to be gaming’s biggest problem.

In his tumblr, Australian media scholar (and definitely not Polygon contributor) Brendan Keogh covers this as well, in an open letter to a friend in which he laments that games journalism does indeed suffer from a kind of corruption, but not the kind in the Quinn “scandal”:

What all these people who are part of the attack on women who make games don’t seem to understand is that they are exactly the status quo that is fostered and served by games journalism and its problems. The good parts of games journalism (the critiques of the industry, the coverage of non-commercial games, writing on gender and race and the such) are a sign of games journalism getting better, but, to these people, it is their privileged position being brought down a notch so all they see is conspiracies.

Badass Digest’s Andrew Todd notes that apart from opposition to what “social justice” seems to represent to them, those involved in the attacks have no plan or goal:

Central to the self-centred psychology of these people is that they see themselves as the targets of a grand conspiracy of feminist, progressive journalists and game developers that seeks to destroy their ability to…something. They have no actual issue. It’s all perceived persecution at the hands of political correctness. These “theories” are so narcissistic, so devoid of substance, that the only way to explain them is through delusion. And I mean, I get it – justifying one’s shitty behaviour with a made-up conspiracy probably feels better than confronting the painful truth that one is an asshole. They think they’re part of a “silent majority”, but the real silent majority is the one that either isn’t aware of their ridiculous conspiracy theories, or understands that there’s simply no reasoning with [them].

Developer Elizabeth Sampat draws into sharp focus how Quinn is only the latest in a march of countless women who have been harassed in the industry, many to the point of being forced out:

I could tell you stories about the voices we’ve lost, the women we’ve scarred, the people we’ve left behind. I want to, but I’m not sure you’d get it. I tweeted earlier today, We should have a war memorial for all of the women we have lost to this. We should lay flowers and grieve and see our reflections in stone. And I meant it. I wish there were a way to honor the people our industry has wronged, and a way to visualize the enormity of what we have lost because of it— some representation of the gap between what games are and what they can be, and the pieces of the bridge between that have fallen away.

(Since its posting, artist Paul Reinwand painted a concept piece of what such a memorial would look like. I’ve included it below.)

memorial_reinwand

The subject of erasure turns up in the latest Not Your Mama’s Gamer podcast as well. Podcast co-host Alex Layne notes that while women in the industry have been terrorized in this way for years, it is only the recent wave of abuse coinciding with a bomb threat called in on a male Sony executive that the conversation has finally, seriously turned to acts of terrorism against members of the industry. This topic starts at around the 1 hour part.

Speaking of great podcasts concerning current events, the latest Idle Thumbs episode does it justice. I believe it’s Chris Remo who declares early on in the recording that trying to engage with the torrent of abusers has been “like Buzz Aldrin dealing with that Moon [conspiracy] guy.”

I leave the final word on this to Zoe Quinn herself, who weighs in with some self-declared final thoughts, washing her hands of the debacle. (Additional content warning: Quinn links to multiple screenshots which include 4chan-typical slurs.)

Beyond Nomenclature

In an empathetic post, Polygon’s Chris Plante suggests that games “culture” now stands on the brink, teetering between a new identity and its old familiar one.

This is a theme Leigh Alexander picked up and ran with this week at Gamasutra, saying in a strongly-worded editorial that it’s time to retire the ‘gamer’ paradigm:

By the turn of the millennium those were games’ only main cultural signposts: Have money. Have women. Get a gun and then a bigger gun. Be an outcast. Celebrate that. Defeat anyone who threatens you. You don’t need cultural references. You don’t need anything but gaming. Public conversation was led by a games press whose role was primarily to tell people what to buy, to score products competitively against one another, to gleefully fuel the “team sports” atmosphere around creators and companies.

[…]

Yet in 2014, the industry has changed. We still think angry young men are the primary demographic for commercial video games — yet average software revenues from the commercial space have contracted massively year on year, with only a few sterling brands enjoying predictable success.

It’s clear that most of the people who drove those revenues in the past have grown up — either out of games, or into more fertile spaces, where small and diverse titles can flourish, where communities can quickly spring up around creativity, self-expression and mutual support, rather than consumerism. There are new audiences and new creators alike there. Traditional “gaming” is sloughing off, culturally and economically, like the carapace of a bug.

[…]

Developers and writers alike want games about more things, and games by more people. We want — and we are getting, and will keep getting — tragicomedy, vignette, musicals, dream worlds, family tales, ethnographies, abstract art. We will get this, because we’re creating culture now. We are refusing to let anyone feel prohibited from participating.

“Gamer” isn’t just a dated demographic label that most people increasingly prefer not to use. Gamers are over. That’s why they’re so mad.

In a community post, Devin Wilson goes one further than Alexander and speaks directly to industry members about the things professionals can do, starting right now, to be better:

We need to consider the very real possibility that the offensive behavior displayed by gamers in recent weeks is not unrelated to the artifacts they rally around (which I doubt are especially obscure). These people didn’t come from nowhere to fight about nothing. They came from games to fight about games. They’re organic results of the medium we’ve all played a role in cultivating, and they won’t go away if the medium doesn’t change significantly.

Star Wars: The Old Republic lead designer Damion Schubert took to his dev blog Zen of Design this week to call upon communities — including but not limited to developers — to call out and oust toxic individuals:

I’m issuing a call to arms – a call to arms not just to developers (who in the last two weeks have risen heroically in defense of our comrades under assault), but also to the large contingent of ‘good guy fans’ that I know are out there, and I put it on them to work with us to address this issue. Call out the assholes as you see them doing assholish stuff. Welcome and foster healthy, mature, respectful debate on the forums. Kick players from your groups and your private servers who can’t treat other players with a modicum of genuine respect. Do what you can to create a welcoming environment for ALL new players, no matter their demographics.

Back on Gamasutra’s blogs, Robert Fearon issues the (almost radical) proposition that the real force “ruining” games for the hardcore set is, in fact, the AAA industry itself:

The death of the videogame is not at the hand of women, queers, PoC or more human white men, it did not happen at the hands of journalists reporting on the more disturbing aspects of videogame culture, it did not happen because people decided that “gamer” was maybe something not so great to identify as. It did not happen because someone made a video pointing at a few things videogames have the habit of doing.

It happened because the big box money machine found itself more people to make money from. The very people who pandered and supplied the wares shifted their focus. And that’s when the hardcoreiest of hardcore, the vocal screamers who just want to play videogames with none of this ethical rubbish or DLC or microtransactions or or or lost their fight.

Critical Distance’s own Mattie Brice raises a similar point, suggesting that our communities need to be built on sterner stuff than what products we buy:

Petitioning gamers, companies, and publications to make a stand for the values we care about won’t happen at a healthy speed without strings attached. Everything will be mediated by consumerism, and simply buying or not buying from certain places isn’t going to solve core issues. So the next time you’re wondering what to do when things seem so bleak, reach out to the people around you, and tell them it’s time to get together, and form a supportive community. One that has, from the beginning, at its center, the ideals and ideas we want missing from industry.

Dubious Ethics

Another recurring topic this week was Kotaku’s announcement that it would forbid its writers from supporting the Patreons of independent developers (but not other crowdfunding and early access platforms).

At Unite Youth Dublin, Stephen Beirne challenges the decision, asserting that it will have little effect but punishing already marginalized devs. Brendan Keogh is also skeptical, comparing the situation to a hypothetical one between a music critic and a busker.

At Game Bias, Jed Pressgrove doesn’t much like Keogh’s analogy, reminding readers that old media has no clear answers for this either:

To put this another way, ethical concerns involving Patreon or Kickstarter are relatively new; ethical concerns related to the review of purchased or free products are quite old.

But, as Samantha Allen points out in The Daily Beast, this goes beyond sites or individuals — the next social media technologies need to be designed with the safety of the marginalized in mind.

Hand in Unlovable Hand

I’ll spare you all the regular song and dance usually reserved for these ending sections. Though, as always, be aware that we welcome your submissions through email and by Twitter mention.

And to reiterate, anything that was submitted this week but was not included is being kept for consideration next week. This subject just needed its own space.

If this is all a bit much, I’d recommend this roundup on Ars Technica by Casey Johnston, which refers to many of the links above and many more besides.

Lastly, for newcomers who may be confused about the format or purpose of this site, I’d like to direct you to our Mission Statement and Support page, which contains our anti-harassment and funding policies respectively.

Be safe, be well, sleep. We’ll be announcing something cool in a few days.

-KL