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Jumping the Shark Podcast Roundup: #220-223

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I’ve been negligent in re-posting JtS episodes here. (You’re all subscribers anyway, right? Right?!?!) It’s been nutty. So, with all due apologies, here’s a giant wrap-up post for the last four episodes of the show, with the most recent, 223, embedded at the end.

Episode 220:
This week Brandon goes full on hate for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and starts on the high scenes of the Northern Atlantic in Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, Todd takes Dragon Age 2 for another spin and Holly looks into the Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

Direct Download #220

Episode 221:
The gang took full advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday to put in some serious lap time on some new and old games. Brandon rides the elephants in FarCry 4 and proclaims himself the Elephant King. Todd gets his Inquisition on in the the latest Dragon Age opus. And Holly hate plays a whole lot of Dead Rising 3 for PC. Along the way there’s also Turkey baking mastery, Shadow of Mordor wrap-up, and much indy dabbling.

Direct Download #221

Episode 222:
The last JTS of 2014 has Holly walking the Forest, Todd asking for Papers, Please and Brandon navigating the snowy peaks of Far Cry 4. How exciting!

Direct Download #222

Episode 223:
The first JTS of 2015 features a lot of looking back at 2014. Find out how Brandon, Todd, and Holly marked the passage of time with their most memorable gaming experiences of the year. Plus, much ballyhoo about Fry Scores, Holly’s much-awaited cookbook, which is a real live product now. The phrase “food porn” was invented for association with this stunning piece of work!

Direct Download #223

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Social Justice Warriors and The Grand Conspiracy

The Gamasutra/Intel debacle cannot possibly be summed up better than in the pictured tweet. I’ve blacked out anything identifying because I’m specifically leaving individuals out of this post. This is not about any one person. If you need a broader primer, this article at The Verge is a good place to start. For actual, non-fantastical ethical concerns in games journalism, this is a pretty good start. (Edit: And this, because GG is not about ethics.)

So, how’ve you been?

Let’s talk about social justice warriors and their grand conspiracy to… well, I’m not sure what. But it must be bad for so many people to get all riled up. All I can say for sure is that I’m with you! (I’m not.) These people, these SJWs, must be stopped! (Nope.) We must not have social justice in gaming. (Because why?) Because justice is bad. Inclusion is bad. Diversity is bad. It’s a grand media conspiracy to destroy gaming because gaming must never change. It must never be criticized. It must never evolve. It must never engage in self-examination. It must never grow or broaden, it must only double-down on what it’s been for the last ten years or so, because that is the only history that matters. More guns. More explosions. Bigger tits. These things must not become an endangered species just because a bunch of chicks who are barely gamers to begin with, and the dudes who want to score with them, think games can be more inclusive.

If you support the ideals that you believe the Gamer Gate movement represents then that paragraph is going to sound belittling and misrepresentative. And that’s okay. It was meant to be. I know, being a large-ish (maybe?) group of people, you’re not actually all of one mind about this, and what GG represents from one person to the next isn’t identical. I believe there are good people (probably) who support GG and what it represents to them; people who are genuinely fair-minded (probably); are not racist or misogynistic (probably); people who are not inherently hostile and believe with every fiber of their being that they are on the right side of the issue (probably). I believe these people exist because they have to. No movement of this relative scope can legitimately hinge on making sure vocal women can’t sleep soundly at night. I have more faith in people than that. For the life of me, though, if you’re one of these “reasonable” Gaters, I can’t begin to figure out what “issue” you think you’re on the right side of.

Seriously. I have questions…

Your so-called group of SJWs? (As if there is a some card-carrying universally like-minded SJW organization. Hint: There isn’t. They’re every bit as individualistic as you are and you should stop thinking of “them” as some kind of swarm. “They” are not your enemy.) But taken as a whole, I can understand what many, who are ascribed that label, want. It’s pretty simple stuff, really. Generally speaking, they want gaming to be more inclusive of women and people of color. They’d like AAA publishers, in particular, to stop drinking quite as often at the well of overused tropes. They want to see less use of obvious degenerating gender and racial stereotyping in games because they believe these stereotypes are harmful to the perception of women and people of color in the real world. (I wonder what could possibly give them that idea ?)

Yes, I can see why you would be afraid of what havoc these warriors for social justice can bring to gaming. These are some dangerous notions, so much more dangerous than the onslaught of hostile and threatening criticism they face for the crime of speaking up.

Except you know that’s preposterous. You know that if mutilated hookers disappeared from games tomorrow that it doesn’t mean gaming as you know it is gone forever. I am going to go ahead and assume you are not that stupid. So please explain to me, what is your line in the sand? What damage are your so-labeled SJWs or anyone like them doing to society or the world of gaming? What games have been cancelled and what titles have completely tanked in sales because someone suggested that a female protagonist would’ve been better? How does an opinion column, one that argues the label “gamer” is no longer particularly useful, damage your quality of life or that of anyone else? If games don’t have a problem with misogyny or detrimental stereotypes then what changes are you afraid of happening? You do know that the stoic, white male hero isn’t going anywhere, right? Go ahead and explain all this to me. I’m listening.

Okay, so let’s approach from the “journalistic” side (while trying to remember this is not the New York Times; this is enthusiast press, like Entertainment Weekly). If what concerns you is the editorial direction of websites that feature games writing, maybe you’re not aware that there are like a billion of them, catering to every possible style under the sun? Maybe you’re not aware that these sites are not democracies? They get to choose their content. You may not like their choices, but, the beauty is that if they consistently choose poorly, people won’t go to them and your problem with them is solved. (See: High Scores, No.) And if people do go to them, then maybe the work and viewpoints they espouse aren’t as outside then norm as you’d like to believe. Maybe –and stay with me here– if you, specifically, can’t find an outlet that adequately reflects what you like about games (because the only good writing is writing you agree with?), then you’re either looking in the wrong places or you must acknowledge that it is your views that are increasingly outside the norm in 2014?

This, to me, is the biggest mystery in the entire Gamer Gate fiasco. It’s a movement in search of a cause. It is misplaced and unrestrained anger looking for a punching bag and it’s not particularly picky about who it’s punching. “Look! This gal thinks differently from us and she’s saying so publicly! Get her!”

That is, perhaps, the biggest difference between the Gaters and those of us in the pro-inclusion crowd. I don’t see people in the latter group trying to bully anyone out of the industry or out of the hobby (and I follow a lot of the people near the epicenter of these debates). The vast majority of what I’ve seen written, tweeted, or recorded, has been in advocacy for how gaming could be better for more people if it were more inclusive. You can’t say that about the Gaters. This is a movement that is entirely about silencing voices. Boycotting something is not how you express disagreement with a perspective. Boycotting is how you say that something is so beyond the pale awful that it must be ended immediately, and until it’s gone you won’t do/buy thing X. That has its place in our society, but that place is not because Chris Writer, who happens to write things like, “Game Y would be better with more women in it,” belongs to a group of professional colleagues that –Gasp!– actually discusses issues in gaming and games criticism.

The stupidest part of all this bellyaching that writers (and developers) have opinions and a tendency to express them is that gaming –you know, the actual games– is experiencing a renaissance at this very moment. Today. It has a long way to go, so don’t conflate this with me saying awesome = above criticism when it’s not, but it is getting better and it’s becoming so much more like it used to feel when I was a kid — hugely diverse.

I remember walking into a software shop as a ten-year-old and marveling at the sheer volume of options at my disposal. Not just the total number of games, but the variety of them. For a kid to walk in the software aisle in 1986 as your dad told you, “You can pick out just one”? That was a flipp’n holiday. And a huge giant matzo ball of stress because how can you possibly look at this wall of stuff and pick just one?

And then gaming got popular. Like, really popular. Like you were no longer the weirdo because you played games. And when something gets popular, more money gets involved. And when more money gets involved people who like to make money get involved. And these people don’t actually give a fig about games or gamers, just money, so they’re only going to fund the games that they believe are likely to make the most money. Simultaneously, the machines on which we play got more advanced. And as they got more advanced, games got a lot more expensive to make. And then, one day, you suddenly had to pull up giant armored trucks full of money and pour it out onto a table to get games made at all. And with all that up-front money required, you kind of had to be hugely, ridiculously successful in order to make it worth being a ginormous publisher in the first place. We have stockholders to appease, dammit!

(Hey, look at all those sentences that start with “and!” Suck it, 8th-grade English teacher!! I’m living the dream right now!!! Exclamation points for everyone!!!!)

As this played out, the variety and types of games narrowed and it narrowed some more and it narrowed some more. We call this the Golden Age of AAA Publishing. Or I do. Except I don’t mean it because I’m a sarcastic git. It’s really more like a ginormous, burning mound of coal, the kind that’s putting more carbon into the atmosphere and slowly killing us all. (Ooops. That was liberal. I apologize for my embrace of a giant consensus of edumacated climate scientists and their desire for the human race not to die out within a millennia. They’re worse than the SJWs.)

AAA publishing produced a lot of good games, so don’t get me wrong. But it didn’t produce a particularly broad variety of games and the script just a few years ago had become so beyond the pale rote and boring to me, that I very nearly gave up on gaming altogether.

A quick synopsis of me from 2011 to 2013.

A funny thing happened, however, while I was busy lamenting that $60 boxed copies of games were becoming more and more homogeneous. People, a whole lot of very creative and talented people, were making and utilizing tools that could make independent and small studio game development plausible again. A hobby that started out as a few of guys or gals in their basement or garage dreaming up something cool and different, and turned into something that only a team of hundreds could build, began returning to a few guys or gals in their basement or garage dreaming up something cool and different.

Only these folks? There are more of them and they’ve got the Internet now, not to mention a couple of very popular delivery platforms that will host and sell their content. I don’t know if gaming has gotten bigger as the indie and small dev scene has exploded, but it has absolutely gotten broader. I’ve watched gaming evolve for more than 30 years. There is more stuff out there today, and a greater variety of it, than at any time I can remember. As a gamer, even if that broadening means that there’s also a preponderance of stuff out there that you wouldn’t play if your life depended on it, that’s something you should celebrate, not something to fight against. It’s okay for some things to be for people who are not you.

The other thing that’s happened as gaming has broadened, is that so has the media that covers them. Guess what happens when the people who write about games become a more diverse group? Yeah, you get more and different opinions about games. And you? You’re not going to like all of those opinions. Some of them are even going to say mean things about games you like.

I KNOW!

Scandalous.

The beauty is, you don’t have agree with any of it. Nobody is forcing you to carry a placard and decry the evil AAA publishers because maybe not every single shooter in existence needs to have a set piece featuring strippers. Mostly, this cabal (not a cabal) of SJWs just wants to be able to speak about this stuff without you calling them in the middle of the night with orders for Five Guys, or, you know, issuing vile epithets, rape, and death threats on Twitter. And if you could cut out the doxxing that would be swell too.

I know that’s asking a lot, this request to behave with some shred of basic human decency, even in the face of people saying things you don’t like. It is, sadly, the world we live in. But we’re not talking about you, right? Because you, Rational Gamer Gater, you are probably staunchly opposed to this behavior too. For you it really is “about the principles.” Well, there are two things here:

1. Whether you like it or not, if you align yourself with this whole GG thing, this harassment campaign is something you’re aligning yourself with. It’s not avoidable.

2. People writing things you don’t like is not corruption, nor is it, in and of itself, a reason for those things not to exist. More to the point, people writing things you don’t agree with doesn’t make them wrong.

Game reviews and opinion columns are not supposed to be objective, nor balanced, nor must you agree with them to get something out of them. Some of the best game writing I’ve ever read took positions with which I didn’t agree. (A favorite quote: “If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. If you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.”) Writers who can paint a clear picture and substantiate what they love or hate about a game (or gaming) in an eloquent way are hugely valuable to the gaming community because they do, in fact, allow you to make your own informed judgment about what to buy and who to follow. If you’re looking for a game review or an opinion piece to be objective, or if you think something is bad purely because it engages in ideas or perspectives you don’t agree with, then your problem isn’t the writer or the outlet, it’s you.

Now, say I’m wrong about every last thing I’ve written here. It wouldn’t be a first for me. Guess what? Even in that case, all you folks who are upset because you’re convinced gaming journalism is corrupt can still sleep soundly at night in the knowledge that games writers really don’t move the needle all that much and when we do it tends to be in a way that spurs sales, not spurns them. Publishers determine what and how games get made, not critics. Publicly traded AAA publishing companies, in particular, go where the money is. If gamers buy a game en mass, then no egghead writer is going to stop the publisher from making another one just like it. Boom. Done. Ballgame.

As long as publishers feel there is more money in bigger guns and dead hookers, that’s what we’ll continue to see. However, many of us in the “pro inclusion” crowd believe there is actually more money to be made in being more inclusive, and opening more doors to more and different people, than there is in a potentially harmful status quo. And there is at least some evidence to suggest that needle is moving. Slowly, yes, but it feels like it’s happening and, if so, it’s surely in large part because games criticism, development, and publishing are gradually becoming more diverse. More smart women and people of color are finding places for their voices to be heard and it’s a travesty that so many people would ally themselves with a movement whose sole purpose is to extinguish those voices.

A good chunk of the time when I hear something from one of those voices, I don’t even agree with them. Or, more accurately, I agree with some bits of it, but not others. Yet I’ve learned more in listening to those voices and giving them my consideration than I have from bandying about with a bunch of people who already think like me. I hope this trend of fresh new voices, and old voices finding new and more platforms, not only continues, but accelerates. We can only learn, grow, and benefit from them. And if it just so happens that it leads to publishers and developers pushing harder to make their games more mature, more consistent in acknowledging women and people of color as something other than stereotypes, then remember that they’re doing it because they think there’s a larger audience for them in doing so. It’s not because of censorship (maybe look that term up before you start bandying it about), it’s because the market always wins eventually and sometimes that means you lose.

It’s an outcome that I can only hope comes to pass, for the simple reason that this hobby is at its best when it’s by everyone, for everyone.

I Wrote the Wrong Post (on Misogyny and Gaming)

Civility

A few months ago I wrote a piece that was ostensibly about maturity in the game industry, but that was really about trying to define what is and isn’t sexism and misogyny in games. Yes, I uncategorically condemned online harassment. Yes, I absolutely supported the idea that the gaming industry desperately needs to grow up and become more inclusive. But I also wrote that the mere appearance of sexism doesn’t make something inherently sexist. I wrote that it’s impossible to avoid stereotypical pitfalls 100% of the time and that its surface appearance, which absolutely should be open to analysis and criticism, also shouldn’t come to define the entirety of the work. I wrote that we can better see the real problems the industry has with inclusion by looking more at the aggregate than the specific.

I was making the wrong arguments…

Don’t get me wrong, I still believe those things, but as I actually open my eyes and pay more attention, and in light of some of the truly abhorrent events of the past weeks, I can see just how much this argument truly does not matter. Not right now. There is no point in debating the topic at that nuts and bolts level when the peanut gallery can’t even agree that it should be out of bounds to threaten the bodies, lives, and families of women who dare to have publicly-expressed opinions about gaming.

I was naïve as to how bad it can truly get. There is no other word for it. Sure, we’ve all seen horrifically moronic, hate-filled comments posted beneath all manner of articles on all manner of subjects. It’s disgusting and depressing, but that is nothing new and we’ve largely managed to get by in growing a thicker skin and understanding that words only hold as much power as we give them. But that attitude can only take you so far. There are lines being crossed that go beyond sticks and stones. There aren’t words to describe this…

FemFreqHarassment

That’s from Anita Sarkeesian’s tumbler. That hate is coming her way for what reason? Because she had the unmitigated gall to create some thorough, professionally produced, and thought-provoking work on Women as Tropes in gaming. Work that was crowd-funded in a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign that rose to six figures against goal of just $6k. (I’ve embedded the first two parts of the most recent set, Women as Background Decoration, at the end of this post. You don’t have to agree with every example used in these videos to understand the accuracy of the broader point and these videos are required viewing if you want to even begin to form an opinion on this topic.)

This harassment isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. At best it’s a few steps from the base. The tip is where people, decent people who are getting by doing the best work they can in and industry they want to love,  are having personal accounts hacked and publicized, the accounts of friends and family members hacked and publicized, having their home addresses published alongside threats to their lives. It’s surreal. Most of you already know the most recent events, and if you don’t there are plenty of quality places to go to learn more. Try here and here if you want to get started.

So why am I writing this? What do I have to add? Unfortunately, not nearly as much as I’d like. I suppose I’m posting this in part because although I don’t specifically disagree with what I wrote before, I can’t in good conscience let that be my last word on the matter; not when I’ve come to realize that half the core argument is irrelevant. It’s minutiae that, in this climate, is not worth the page space I gave it. I mistook the forest for the trees and I regret it.

Mostly, however, I’m posting this because I want to do and say something and I don’t know what else I can do. Even standing on the distant periphery of it all, this ongoing savage injustice frustrates and saddens me on so many levels I don’t really even know how to process it. I feel impotent and less than useless in the face of it. So, however small this particular pool, it’s the most public place I have to say that I stand with the people calling for tolerance and inclusion. I support them in word and I’m going to begin supporting them by whatever other means I can, including backing their work in venues like Patreon and Kickstarter. I hope that you do as well.

This has also all been a sharp reminder that I’m raising two young children who are growing up in this world and that guiding them to be better than all of this is perhaps my most important contribution. I want my daughter to know that her dad has her back in whatever she chooses to do in life and that she’s strong enough to face down whatever or whomever would stand in her way. For my son I want very much the same, but I also want him to understand that this cacophony of Internet hate-mongers do not represent what it is to be a man. I want him to understand that empathy, patience, and tolerance are not weakness, nor are faux-bravado, intimidation, and threats strength. If you have or will have children you have a responsibility to guide them, as best you can, not to be a part of this problem. Sadly, our most realistic path to a future better than the present is to grow our way out of it.

One final note, the latest straw man from those who don’t like what these women have to say is to call them corrupt; to call the entire games journalism profession corrupt. I’ve only ever skimmed the surface of game journo circles, but I can tell you with 100% conviction these arguments are asinine. There is shoddy work out there, yes, but the notion of widespread corruption is a fallacy. Isolated examples will always exist, but don’t confuse the poor work of some with corruption. There is a difference. And what’s truly bizarre is that it’s the best, most brilliant work people out there that are, perversely, under the most severe attack. It’s that their work that, if you agree with it, needs your support in whatever way you’re able to offer it. If you don’t agree with it, at least stop and think about how you respond to it. What cause are you furthering? What message are you conveying? If you have (or someday might have) a daughter  (or son) would you want her (him) to see what you’re putting out there? If your only goal is to tear something or someone down by any means necessary then I sincerely and wholeheartedly beg of you — just back away from the keyboard and let it go.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #209

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This week Brandon and I welcome back Troy Goodfellow to the show, for a long overdue update on yon Mr. Goodfellow’s happenings and his landing with Paradox. It was also E3 week and that meant we spent our time talking all things E3. Dragon Age 3. Witcher 3. Ubsioft shenanigans. Nintendo’s gambit to keep the Wii U relevant as well as thoughts on the Sony and Microsoft pressers. It’s all here. It’s all good.

Enjoy!

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Maturity, Inclusion, and the Game Industry in 2014

Microsoft E3 Presser

So, E3 is happening. Over Monday and Tuesday there were pressers and demos and a Brinks truck loaded with video. There’s always one or two things to stand out to me from these events, but the topic that’ll stay with me for awhile is maturity and the strange dichotomy in which this industry (fans included) needs more of it yet sometimes fails to recognize it when it appears. There are two catalysts for this post. One is the all too predictable trolling of Danielle Riendeau’s 100% on-point and valid piece on the lack of female presenters during the major press conferences. (Hat tip to the excellent work Danielle is doing at Polygon. We miss her a ton!) The other is a post from “Ashelia” on her Hellmode blog, defending the teaser trailer for the next Tomb Raider game against attacks that it’s made a victim of Lara Croft. (Apologies that I don’t have a real name to attribute to Ashelia.)

Originally, this post was mostly about Tomb Raider and a bit about Brothers and not laying charges of sexism where they don’t exist because it does disservice to those examples of brilliant work this industry is capable of producing. I can’t, in good conscience write on this topic without first calling attention to this sort of abhorrent behavior and state outright that when someone like Danielle speaks out on this topic and meets an ill-considered, reactionary response like this that it is all of our responsibility to condemn it in no uncertain terms. I don’t want these troglodytes, these soulless imbeciles, carrying the torch for who we are as gamers. I know we’re better than this. You know we’re better than this. But unless we slam the door on this sub-human behavior we’ll remain defined by it. And in case you think I’m overstating, enjoy this piece of human filth:

TwitterHate

You stay classy, asshole.

Now, the flip side of the coin is the Lara Croft: Rise of the Tomb Raider teaser:

YouTube video

Evidently the reveal of Lara Croft sitting in a therapist’s office, clearly dealing with trauma has somehow struck a nerve with some people who think the character is being diminished for the sin of being human. Now, before I go further on this, let’s all agree that we don’t know what kind of game this will be. Sure, Crystal Dynamix isn’t going to leap miles away from a very successful formula they established, but you can’t watch a 2-minute clip that doesn’t show gameplay or story and have any idea what the game’s merits are going to be. The problem is that the ideas expressed in this trailer should be celebrated by those who want to see more maturity in gaming. We need more games in which the protagonist pays a price for enduring trauma, yet carries on. Again, read Ashelia’s piece on this. (Update: Susan Arendt just posted a good one as well.)

This question of how you can or can’t portray women, races, or any other group, minority or otherwise, in games an important one. And nobody, no matter how deep their insight, has all the answers. Just as importantly, no one answer will suit every scenario. It’s in these, often well-intentioned cases, that the mere appearance of anything resembling a stereotype in a game automatically equates to that game embracing misogyny or racism. It’s a red-herring we should avoid embracing at all costs.

A few months ago, I read through an online discussion in which several participants (of both genders) felt Brothers is a horribly sexist game because the primary female characters in the game are victims (the mother and the captured ogre) or, by her nature, a deceitful predator. And, yes, these are very nearly the sum total of female involvement in the game. But does that make it sexist? Is one of its subtle themes that women are weak and duplicitous? I’m sorry, but no sale.

The tricky part regarding accusations of misogyny and racism in games is that they’re serious business. People put their heart and souls into making these products happen. If you don’t like a game, it doesn’t speak to you, or you think the design is bunk, that’s one thing, but to accuse people of engaging in something so ugly is entirely something else. That’s an accusation that sticks fast and is very hard to remove, so if you’re going to do it, you damn well better be certain about it. And the fact that Lara Croft is in a therapist’s office with obvious symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or that a game called Brothers is focused on male relationships doesn’t mean some group of white dudebros in a writer’s room are telling you that women are weak or deceitful.

It’s impossible to avoid all potential stereotypical pitfalls, 100% of the time. What matters is context and the benefit of the doubt in any single case should be the rule rather than the exception. (And, no, Assassin’s Creed: Unity does not get benefit of the doubt for the all-male cast of player characters. Opportunity… blown.) The rebirth of the Tomb Raider franchise does not diminish Lara Croft by giving her depth and perhaps a little human frailty. It’s those very additions to her character that make her so much more amazing than in any previous incarnation. This is a Lara Croft that feels pain, fear, and desperation, and still she pushes forward, beyond the bounds known to the rest of us lesser people. Did anyone think less of the Tony Stark character in Iron Man 3 because he hadn’t gotten over the events of the Avengers? This glimpse into the next Tomb Raider makes Croft ever more the hero, because we know that whatever the adversity, it will be a story about her overcoming it.

There are obviously exceptions to the rule. The Witcher 2, much as I love that game, falls into some uncomfortable areas. It is possible to make a game that takes place in a misogynist world without endorsing misogyny and I think Witcher 2 largely succeeds in that. There are moments in it, however, lingering scenes where what should be clearly repugnant behavior makes you wonder if some in the design department instead found it titillating, which is troubling and awkward and the mere moment’s reflection upon it immediately takes away from the game. I can’t state how how much I want to be wrong about that.

In other games there are elements that are more obviously shameful and the work of minds in desperate need of maturation. Dead or Alive, anyone? I know, I know. Too easy. I also know Bayonetta is largely regarded as a strong female heroine, but I could never get over being told by a male designer that, “her clothes are her magic hair,” and that’s why she seemed to turn nude every so often. Because, magic! And why exactly did Bioware, a pretty progressive developer, feel the need to give Flemeth this particular makeover in Dragon Age 2? Crazy sack-wearing swamp lady to smoky dominatrix because, oh, that’s just the unreliable narrator of DA2… err.. fluffing up his imagination. Riiiight.

But this is where you have to be fair too, because for every bit of cheese DA2 has plenty of moments that deftly and maturely handle a range of human drama. And that’s why this gets so tricky. There’s only so many open and shut cases of actual Hate or bigotry in individual games. It’s the same problem acceptance of global warming has. It’s extraordinarily hard to look at a single weather event and say it’s evidence for or against climate change. It’s only in the aggregate that we know we have a very serious problem. Likewise the role of women and people of color in games. The industry doesn’t have a woman problem because Two Worlds or Heavenly Sword show ill-proportioned women in skimpy outfits completely ill-suited to their surroundings and role in the world. The industry has a problem because you can’t throw a rock without hitting a game that shows ill-proportioned women in skimpy outfits completely ill-suited to their surroundings and role in the world. The comic book industry is even worse in this regard and it makes the whole industry look awful.

That is what makes the piece Danielle wrote important and relevant. There was nothing wrong with any single white male being up on stage to tout game X at E3. But when you look at the whole thing, the balance is unmistakably off. And don’t tell me it’s because dudes play games and chicks don’t or because it was all design leads and CEOs making the presentations. Make that argument in 1992, if you must, but it’s outdated in 2014. Change does take time, but by now we should see more heterogeneous representation, especially at the highest level of game publishing.

Wherein, then, lies the balance? When do wet let the innocent go without comment and when do we speak? Damned if I know, but it’s a line we should all be working together to define because, yes, we need better examples of strong women in games. We need to see better portrayal of people of color in games. We need more authentic depictions of homosexuality in games. But not in every game, all of the time. What we need is balance. And in the mean time we should praise efforts to raise the bar for maturity (real maturity) and inclusiveness in games while still poking the industry with a stick at every corner, because, yes, they absolutely need to know when they feature more decapitations in their press presentations than women speakers on the stage. And when the worst offenders of the worst sorts of stereotyping sludge out from their depressed hovels, we absolutely should call them out. But as progress is made, as it has been, as it will continue to be, let’s not throw under the bus those games and people who’s only crime are telling a story that doesn’t have room to address every cause. If we truly want a big tent, there should be room for a little bit of everything.