Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Age Of Master Unity: Why Video Games Aren't Worth $60 - But Could Be Worth More

More stuff on the horizon. Been too busy and crazy to form coherent writings the last couple weeks, and things aren't going to get better until Thanksgiving. Worst case scenario, this explosion of mental diarrhea is all you'll get for a while... hopefully someone finds some worth in it.

November is a shitty time to be a gamer, friends. It's that time of the year that publishers can smell blood in the water, knowing those on the fence about picking up a new console have a nice Holiday shaped chance to Trojan Horse their way into new homes, and as such, absolutely everything that could come out tends to between the first and second week of November. Just enough time for those who want it to have their copies on release date, and just enough time for every store to double-down and fill its shelves with fresh display copies for the shopping rush that'll crush a minimum of five Best Buy or Wal-Mart workers every year.

Basically, everything gets dropped all at once into the market in the hopes that they'll be "the" killer app for the year. Nobody wants to be the number two selling title for this all-important period, so we're seeing a huge push for tentpole franchises - Ubisoft with Assassins Creed, EA with Dragon Age, Microsoft with Halo, and Nintendo with Smash Brothers, all in the same goddamn two week stretch! It's crazy, but that's just the way things get every year in this market, for better or worse.

Black Friday is a bitch... but there's nothing quite like the smell of rioting shoppers at 4:30 in the morning waiting in line for 45 minutes just to score some shitty sweater at 15% cheaper than it will be two weeks later. If there's any better way to waste your life reveling in the excess of capitalism, baby, I don't know what it is.

Unfortunately, punching coffee-fueled mothers shopping for Little Jimmy in the face to get a copy of these games might be the more entertaining option than actually buying any of 'em. Every now and again, I remember how appallingly fucked up the video game industry is, and this last week has given us plenty to consider for the broader picture, whether you're into the games on display yourself or not.

I truly can't tell if this franchise giving users horse armor was blissfully ignorant of
Oblivion's own memetic fallout, or if this is some long con Andy Kaufman level shit...


BioWare's latest fantasy RPG, DRAGON AGE INQUISITION includes the DRM program known as "Denuvo". My goal is to mention this specifically to talk about the latter, rather than spend any time analyzing the former: As I've said in the past, I don't really "get" the appeal of BioWare's unique brand of player intergration that plays like part third-person action game combined with a dialogue driven visual novel, giving players a shittier version of both Dark Souls and Fate/Stay Night in one package, but whatever. I like Fallout New Vegas, I guess we all have our own fetishes, and I try not to judge people for their want to be in a second-tier Dragonlance book being far sillier than me living out my own personal Mad Max fantasy. Specifically, the good ones that happen long before the founding of Thunderdome.

That DRM is really something in its insidious design. In plain English, EA sells the game files encrypted and then decrypts them, asset by asset, as you play. The most obvious hiccup there is going to be raw performance, since a larger than normal chunk of your RAM and CPU are going to be wasted literally unpacking the fucking game. Forget actually playing the stupid thing at 144fps - you're going to need to spare every CPU cycle and RAM chip just to get the game out of the menus. How seamless all of that is will likely depend on what hardware you're currently running and where the bottlenecks occur - but that's just the nature of the modular PC beast.

Of course, how taxing that all is depends on a lot of factors, but that's... actually far from the worst part of it all. Far more troubling is the fact that this process is continuously accessing your hard-drive, effectively re-writing minute packets of data as it's accessed. Early reports from Slavic language tech-focused sites are suggesting that playing the game for about 40 minutes caused over 150,000 data rewrites - or  roughly 10,000 times more often than any other game in recent memory that didn't use Denuvo's copy protection.


Pictured: Solid... State?

Why is this a big deal? Well, to break it down so simple even I can understand it, a Hard Drive isn't simply a big bucket of ones and zeroes; it's divided up into small "blocks", typically 128k in size. Each of these blocks can be re-written about 100,000 times before it becomes unstable, at which point the data is transferred to the next block, and the "broken" one sits idle and impotent for the rest of the drive's life. In effect, while the game isn't going to magically kill your drive in a day, it is shaving off its life expectancy by constantly re-writing data that should be stable enough to simply leave as-is. Don't get me wrong, every HDD has a theoretically limited life span and this isn't exactly setting your SSD on fire and then stabbing it in the face with an olive fork, but this technology is literally driving SSD hardware to a premature grave, all in the name of preventing "Piracy".

The glorious irony? despite Deunvo's claim if their DRM being unbeatable, a mere three days after release you're able to download a fully unpacked, DRM free pirated copy from numerous sites tracking in warez. Seeing as how the hacked version of the game doesn't need Deunvo, the hacked version doesn't needlessly damage your expensive hardware, I'd recommend anyone who actually bought this game uninstall the "official" version and replace it with the filthy pirate copy just to avoid screwing over their hardware. I guess this is all irrelevant if you were planning to buy it on PS4/XB1 to begin with, but... why? Why the hell would you do that? Do you dislike having better graphics and simple modability options? I'm not even a hardcore Mustard myself, I adore my PS3 for what it could do for me when I first got it, and even I can't for the life of me convince myself there's anything about a PS4 worth spending the asking price for.

UPDATE: Curiously enough, after the game's wide release I can't find any other confirmations that the crazy Deunvo DRM is chewing up drives and spitting out the sectors like grape seeds. If these reports were legitimate, you'd think we'd have hundreds of them... yet at most I can see two or three dudes who are saying that yup, DA:I is totally destroying my machine. Christ, I can find more people who still swear that Animalities exist in Mortal Kombat II.

Was it bullcrap spread by some uninformed schlub who was seeing some malware shenanigans he couldn't pin down and chalked it up to the game? Or perhaps the method was tweaked with a silent day-one patch, as was the case with some glitches in Far Cry 4? Hard to say. For now, consider the above blue paragraphs to be innocent until proven fuckery.

Oh hey, speaking of franchises and pirates...

A friendly reminder that Assassins Creed Liberation stars a badass,
Afro-Native American woman who was less sexualized than her prior male counterparts.
And yet, being a Vita exclusive that quietly got an "HD Remake" later, nobody even noticed.
Think about that next time you see someone bitching about Arno in AC:U being a cracker-ass honky.


While Ubisoft's latest annual entry into the ever-expanding parkour simulation franchise with ASSASSINS CREED UNITY won't kill your system, it's unfortunate that their incredible new game engine is either a train-wreck to optimize for, or that the publishers didn't allow the debug team any time to optimize it in the first place. Both the PS4 and XBOX ONE versions are locked at 900p resolution and target 30fps, but the game engine is pushing so many lighting effects and useless crowd NPCs that the game regularly dips down into the low-20s for what Ubisoft is willing to defend as a "cinematic experience", bringing us all the way back to the mid-90s with that sweet, nostalgic slowdown that makes games feel like ass. I've said before that I'd rather have slowdown than screen tearing, but man, dipping down to single-digits when you start crawling around outside of the obvious path is pretty harsh... if I really want to play a game at the same speed as a family vacation slide show, I'll stick to my Hyrule Warriors co-op. At least that has the excuse of generating two completely separate 720p streams at once being pushed out by a goddamn toaster with a Nintendo logo on the front.

That's already a pretty poor showing for Ubisoft's first major release that isn't being ported to the PS3/XBOX360 the same day, but it's the massive, game-breaking glitches that are far more egregious. You can literally jump through the floor into creepy non-existent rooms, plow through downtown on a pirate ship for some reason, get stuck on objects forcing you to restart, or just wait for the game to crash and burn all on its own... it'll do that. A lot. Keep in mind this turd has already had a "Day One" Patch, suggesting that this game was kicked out the door half-finished by a publisher who just doesn't get that a massive, beautifully realized and awe-inspiring game might not be possible literally every fucking year. That's why The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was in development for three years, and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has been in development for five years and counting. Good games take time, damn it!

But nothing will quite beat the basic glitches, like when the game forgets how to load skin textures and, well... don't take my word for it. Let the Google-based nightmares convince you that this thing was shipped despite being so half-baked it was basically still a raw piece of dough.

 I'm not sure, but... is this Mr. Popo DLC?

So hey, whatever  - a shit game in a shit franchise is shit, right? What's the big deal? At least we can count on reviewers to tell us that it's... oh wait, actually we can't! Because Ubisoft knew it was a steaming pile, and thus tied all early review copies to a review embargo that didn't allow critics to post their review until Noon (EST) on 11/11.... which, incidentally, was the RELEASE DAY for this fucking game. To their credit, Kotaku announced they wouldn't be accepting any review copies for a game with such insane restrictions in the future, but the fact that they still abided by them here rather than make it a point to warn consumers early - and didn't clarify their new stance until the release day of the game anyway - leaves their indignation feeling a bit defanged. Sure, it could nudge some fence-sitters one way or another, but with more and more games prepping to come out at the same time this year - I myself am buying at least one title every month since about August, and for me that's damned unusual - any sane and not terribly wealthy person has to plan around that shit.

Not that it matters much: As we've discussed before, the video game journalism circuit is literally funded by ad revenue, directly generated by the publishers of the games they're reviewing, and since these critics know that the developers behind the games themselves (NOT the publishers, sadly) are the only people who tend to make or lose money on a game's actual review score, they tend to go easy on them. It's a horribly disgusting system, really; The Publisher demands a game be released in any given time frame, the Developer does everything it can to meet demands, and when the game is rushed and downgraded just to come out in time for the Holiday shopping spree, it's those same Developers that get blamed for the game not working. Really dragging the game through the mud could end up with the publishers less likely to advertise on that site in the future, and the reviewers are smart enough to know that their words don't impact the publisher directly anyway... and that leaves these poor bastards with Sophie's Choice. Do they continue going easy on the reviews to keep their advertisers happy knowing it could cut into their bottom line, or do they tell the customer when they're buying a broken heap for no real gain other than respectability?

To draw a perfectly parallel line between critical acclaim and consumer frustration isn't easy, I know, but let's look at the Critical vs User Submitted scores for each platform to get an idea of how incredibly strong the divide on this one really is:

PS4: 76% vs 44%
XB1: 73% vs 34%
PC: 75% vs 21%

That puts critical reaction between all three platforms at an average of 75%, with users averaging their satisfaction at... 33%.  That's a healthy "C+" versus a "Super F". I don't think I've seen a divide that vast since Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, and even then it was far closer to 70% Critics vs 55% Users. Even then, the major disconnect between the two was mostly explained by the value of the content (a $30~40 game lasting about 2 hours) versus the actual quality of the product, which was almost largely praised by both sides. For all the "missing" elements I myself take issue with against Ground Zeroes (seriously, fuck that game's non-functioning dumpsters), at least it plays like a finished game, not some early Alpha build of a game that needed another three months of debugging to make playable.

But what good were those middling-for-a-major-AAA-release scores to an audience that's been trained by the market to pre-order for some small, exclusive trinket they'll otherwise have to go without? The point of video game reviews for the last 25 years or so has been to serve as consumer reports - "this game is good, that one is crap, if you like X, try Y" - and it's only in the last decade or so that any serious criticism about the storytelling and aesthetics have come into play, in part because games themselves have become dramatically more complicated in that time as a result of the technology catching up to the imaginations of the people behind them. I'm not saying game criticisms have to be consumer reports - personally, I quite like a good two hour rant discussing the themes and memes and behind-the-scenes shenanigans that give us great games... but if that's what you're actually doing, "serious" artistic criticism rather than consumer advocating, there shouldn't be a fucking number attached at the end of the write-up.

For multiplayer games the incentive is even stronger, since god help you if you pop into a game a month or two in and the only people left are the hardcore crazies who will chew you up and spit out your goddamn bones. Also, you tend to get better trade-ins on pre-orders, so if - like most of the less affluent bastards who buy annual updates to beloved franchises - you trade your unused copies back to GameStop for a tenth of what you paid for it, it's only worth doing before the game comes out. The game industry at large treats Game Stop like some sort of Super HIV Cancer literally stealing from the publisher's pocket, but the fact that Game Stop is working with publishers to guarantee themselves pre-order bonuses has shown that all the bitterness the two have shown each other was simply a convenient scapegoat the public ain't buying anymore. What's that, your sequel to a modest-success didn't sell the 10 million copies you'd hoped for? Well, maybe you shouldn't have spent $100 Million making it in the first place.

Not Pictured: Steam's "Pappenheimer Rapier".
Goddamn, I wish I was kidding about that...

This isn't even including the fact that AssCreedUnit features micro-transactions. Yes, you can actually trade real world currency for the opportunity to buy fake Francs in a $60 game featuring a $30 DLC Season Pass, and a fancy-pantsy Collector's Edition for only $70 more than the standard version. Toss in the official Prima strategy guide - $18 for the soft cover, and $28 for the hardback - and then maybe you won't even need to spend real world money on in-game currency like some bullshit Facebook game. No, I'm not talking about DLC costumes - you can literally spend up to $99.99 on "Helix Credits" to buy shit in the game without the chore of grinding for it yourself. Holy shit, Ubisoft - how much do I have to pay you to simply not play this working piece of crap?

To be fair, not every major publisher has been playing a shell game with working content these days. Much as I'm not personally a fan of the franchise, and would pay less for an Xbox One than I did for my Wii U, I'll give credit where credit's due; Microsoft has outdone themselves on their HALO: MASTER CHIEF COLLECTION, cramming three Xbox 360 games and one "original" Xbox title into a single SKU, boasting not only a chance to seamlessly swap to the 'original' graphic elements, warts and all, by running dual game engines side by side, but they've even ported the multiplayer modes and maps to within an inch of their original life. They've even gone back to ever-so-slightly tweak various cut scenes to fix continuity weirdness for the inevitable Halo 5, presumably coming out next year! I'm just not a Halo kind of guy, but I know a hell of a deal when I see one. So hey, kudos to Microsoft for that one!

...this is awkward. I kinda' ran out of snark for this one.
Honestly, it sounds like 343 did a much better job than I expected.

There's just one little issue... The whole game isn't really on the disc. No, I'm not kidding: The BD-50 that you buy is packed to the gills at about 46 gigs of installation files, but the day one patch, which is literally required to play any of the online content. Now I can forgive trophies or some stupid shit being locked behind a patch, I can even understand the reality of patching out minor bugs down the line - hell, it's better than games always being glitchy, which is the obvious alternative we've had to live with for decades prior. But multiplayer in a first person shooter franchise famous for it? Are you fucking serious, Microsoft? Yeah, yeah, 20 Gigs is a small price to pay to have the whole game on one disc and still cost the nominal $60 MSRP, but what about poor bastards who have internet bandwidth caps? That 20 gigs could chew up their entire fucking cap, leaving them completely unable to play the online multiplayer they're grabbing in the first place! If that isn't bad enough, the goddamned thing still doesn't work properly, so there's a second patch currently in the works. The right thing to do here would be to have included a second BD-25 and a double-case so people could install the whole game in one sitting... but, Microsoft was ready to pull this "Always Online" bullshit with the Xbox One just a couple years ago, so "surprised" isn't even on my personal radar.

That's assuming you're willing to ignore that this is also, quite literally, a remake of four previous games. I don't think the HD Collection idea is a bad one, and there are plenty of examples - Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid, Shadow of the Colossus and so on - that do the concept justice. I just don't think it should be the ONLY thing worth considering on a new console. That goes for Microsoft's Master Chief Collection as much as it does Sony's The Last Of Us: Remastered. We can all joke about how every new Mario game is a rehash of the mechanics perfected in Super Mario World about 20 years ago, but at least those games have never re-used maps, much less tried to pawn it off as a "feature" rather than as a full-priced petri dish to test out their new game engines on the public.

How fucked up is it that the only major game release this Holiday season I'm expecting to work out of the fucking box is SUPER SMASH BROS. WII U? I think it's fair to say that, for all the goofy bullshit Nintendo's experimented with from the introduction of the Wii up until now, at least their bread and butter - the first party games, repurposing the almost zombified likenesses of Mario, Link, Samus, Donkey Kong, Fox and what have you - are, at their absolute worst, still pretty goddamn good. Even their desperate bid for third party exclusive content has born above average fruit, and while I know Smash Bros. is more than anything just an excuse to sell me ugly little Skylanders style toys, at least the game comes with 47 characters, with the promise of more as DLC lurking so far down on my list of priorities that nothing short of the chance to pit Bayonetta against Big Boss will probably convince me to bite.

Forget the Down Syndrome final face sculpt and sausage fingers;
THIS IS AN OUTRAGE I WON'T TAKE LYING DOWN!

And yet, as depressing a thought as this all is, we can still more or less trust that while Nintendo will, inevitably, make small updates to their games and start hawking Season Pass DLC like the rest of 'em, they're still firmly entrenched in an old-school mindset that quality is more important than raw numbers, and will make sure a game doesn't break the second you turn it on before they ship it. For all the minimal horsepower and the absolute barren landscape of third-party support it's going to get outside of shovelware bullshit like that Sonic Boom game that even Sonic fans know is trash, I'll give Nintendo and their Wii U this: I've yet to play a game on that ol' goofy ass touch pad that wasn't exactly what I thought it would be, and with Nintendo of America having more or less done away with pre-order bonuses in favor of Nintendo Club registration bonuses, there's no pressure to buy the product before I can look at Digital Foundary's dissection of the resolution and see whatever critic grabs my eye has to say about it. Just imagine, a world in which you can wait to know if a game is a broken pile of crap before you spend $60! Don't get too used to it, though. Not unless Nintendo chills the fuck out a little on their Let's Play policy - which, admittedly, may already be happening... in Japan, at the very least.

As you guys know, I'm a firm believer in the core idea that the Gaming Journalism sphere - the "Enthusiast Press" literally founded by Nintendo to push their own product in the late 1980s - is a joke. I also think the fact that we've reached the point of pre-orders being the norm at game retailers, of DLC Passes simply being a given for any major AAA title, of review scores literally dictating which developers do and don't make a proper wage, has formed a toxic sludge from which very little positive can escape. New and sometimes exciting games still exist, but they exist in such compromised and broken states that I don't want to buy anything until I can pick through some YouTube streams and 8chan threads to see what I'm actually getting myself into, because the very nature of this industry's ties to the advertisers and the developers pain criticism in very specific and unfortunate ways, even if it's clearly not as simple as "Polygon's critics are friends with Developer X" or "Kotaku was paid off by Publisher Y". That's just... depressing. It's weeks like this that are exactly why, three months later, people are still discussing "Gamer Gate" as a concept. It's why sales for these new consoles are stagnating - there simply aren't enough games, and what few do come out are broken and shitty anyway, unless (ironically) they're simply 1080p ports of games that already work on the last generation of consoles. This is the sort of grotesque nonsense those websites should be protecting us from, and yet they keep on chugging along, shrugging these massive issues aside along with the majority of their customers. We shouldn't need to shrug off 20 gigabyte day-one patches and DRM that chews up your fucking hard drive. We shouldn't see review scores that are "average" for a game that's proven to be a broken mess, just because they feel bad for the developers who are getting caught in the middle of a tug-of-war with their competition. We shouldn't be "okay" with buying products on the off-chance that they'll be fixed sometime down the line... and yet, we do just that.

The only other hobbyist press I spend much time with is for anime releases, but the comparison doesn't really work, for a number of reasons. Anime is, by its very nature, a Japanese product for Japanese audiences, and the actual community that supports anime are typically hardcore fans who have already pirated and/or streamed the content under discussion: virtually everyone who argued, for or against, Zac Bertschy's three part review of Puella Magi Madoka Magica had done so because they'd watched pirate fansub copies of the show as it aired, and virtually everyone who was going to buy the Aniplex English Blu-ray either was, or wasn't, going to spend $225 on the Limited Edition regardless of what the critic had to say on the matter. Similarly, I'm looking forward to buying Tokyo Ghoul on Blu-ray... even though I've already got Tokyo Ghoul, and expect there to be no particularly noteworthy bonus features on the eventual FUNimation Blu-ray. Why would I buy something I've already seen? I... don't know, to be honest. But I do. My shelf full of DVDs I've never opened because I've watched 720p HDTV downloads years prior is a testament to my combination of a guilt-complex and an OCD collector's mentality that basically keeps me paying for thins I'll never watch again. Terrifying, when you get down to it, but that's hardly Anime News Network's fault, now is it?

With video games, I don't have the luxury of having already played a title to completion before it comes out, so those reviews and honest assessments of its faults will help me decide whether to spend my money now, or later. Heck, the overwhelmingly positive response for Bayonetta 2 was a big factor in me deciding to pick it up the week it came out at full price: If reviews had said it were worse than the first game, I'd probably have waited. Having since played about 2/3 of the Wii U port of the first game, I'm glad I didn't. Besides, you can spend the whole game playing Nintendo Dress-Up at no additional cost - if that's not reason enough to consider re-buying the damned first game, what sort of normal are you?

Which is the best Nintendo themed outfit, and why is it Samus?
Ironically, these prevent Bayonetta from ever being naked.

The saddest part, here? Despite publishers willing to sell us broken, machine-destroying and re-purposed games for the full price of $60, I know that isn't "enough" to keep the market healthy enough to continue as it is - not if sales continue to wane. Not to funnel the massive, nuanced and technically empowered games that people like myself want to see poking up from between all the money that Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto makes for the industry as a whole. For all of the glaring technical and mechanical flaws in Assassins Creed Unity, the game is pretty impressive from a visual perspective, and had been released in a finished, working state I may have considered picking it up on a Steam sale down the line, just to see if they've ever fixed the franchise after the first two needlessly twitchy, intriguing-as-they-are-frustrating entries I quietly gave up on. But video games have remained at a completely stagnant $60 since the introduction of the Xbox 360 nearly a decade ago. Think about that; the minimum wage has risen from $5.15 to $7.25 in that nine year span, but the price of these increasingly expensive to produce luxury goods have remained perfectly static. With that in mind, it's not unthinkable that games should have creeped up to $70, or maybe even $80... but that'd scare off plenty of customers who already know waiting a few months with artificially lower the prices on "old" products, and it's far easier to suggest a customer pay $60, and then maybe spend another $20~30 down the line.

Personally, I'd be thrilled if they cut the bullshit, released the game at a justified full price, and then offer the DLC for free as it becomes available - you know, like Shovel Knight. The current system is absolutely broken and unfair, but it's technically funding the games we all want in the most Rube Goldbrick manner possible: As asinine as selling the tutorial level Beta for Ground Zeroes at $30 always was, if The Phantom Pain lives up to its own infinite hype, I'd argue it'll be well worth the $90 that both chapters together will surely cost. (That said, if there's even more DLC after that, I will be pretty salty.) That said, I trust that Konami is going to wait as long as it takes before they're convinced that The Phantom Pain is ready to be consumed by the masses. I'm willing to drop $90 on a game developer I trust to deliver me a product that'll thrill me for days on end. I trust damned few publishers at this point, and even a fantastic developer being held by the short and curlies by a studio that insists releasing it on a date long before it's ready is a legitimate concern to anyone who's being asked to shell out as much as gamers are, even for just the "core" game.

I'm not going to be buying any of the above titles besides Smash Bros., but I was never really that excited by them in the first place. I buy games that I like, as should anyone who genuinely likes them... but if you're not okay with the bullshit I've outlined above, wait. Wait a month, or hell, wait two - it's not like Arno or Master Chief is going to run any worse after a few more patches. I'm not advocating piracy (directly) and I'm not suggesting a boycott of anyone in particular (explicitly): I'm saying that if the market keeps lining up to be shat all over, the publishers have no reason to stop. Honestly, you know what title from this holiday season has my undying respect? Batman: Arkham Knight. You know why? Because they delayed it until June because they knew the game didn't fucking work yet. That sort of self-awareness and willingness to compromise for the consumer is all but lost now, and it feels weird to be complimenting Warner Interactive after all the shady bullshit that went on behind the scenes of their Shadows of Mordor promotion shenanigans.

Weirdly enough, Nintendo seems to has been shrugged out of the console race by many for their system basically being a 360 with an iPad attached to it, but goddamn if they haven't done a fine job of focusing on something Sony in particular seems to have forgotten about; quality games for a box designed to play games as its primary function. It's infuriating that these are the basic tenants from which I'll consider throwing money at a game box, but if it's on the Wii U, at least I expect a basic level of QA and competencey to have taken place. The Nintendo Seal of Quality shouldn't be a relic I have to remind myself meant something 30 years after its introduction, but hey, the more things change...


Captain Toad can go fuck itself, though. Honestly, of all the things to remove from a Mario game, why did they pick JUMPING? It'd be like removing bullets from Call of Duty, or tits from Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball. Honestly, what's the point?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Lying Evily By Moonlight: Viz Defends SAILOR MOON Upscale, Lies Through Their Teeth To Do It

IN THE NAME OF VIDEO QUALITY,
I WILL THROTTLE YOU!

Really, Viz? You're going to make me do this, huh? Alright then. I've had a go at Media Blasters, I've called FUNimation on their bullshit, I can't tell you how many times I've had to publicly shame Arrow Video on old shenanigans, so if you want in on the "fun", that's your problem.


To be honest, I wanted to be polite about this. I wanted to post those atrotious SD upscaled screengrabs from Viz' SAILOR MOON Blu-ray once it came out, sigh really loudly and post a facepalm picture, say "Welp, ain't that some shit... wubba-lubba dub-dub!" and be done with it. I'm a busy guy, they've got money to make, the disclaimer would be enough for everyone to be somewhat satisfied, people could judge for themselves... this should have been easy. Frustrating, depressing and ugly, but easy, none the less.

Don't get me wrong, those promo shots and video clips Viz has been been pimping since about Anime Expo were always a bloody mess - a clusterfuck or questionable decisions and limited resources, I know, but fans of this franchise have been so starved for a complete, proper presentation that I don't even blame a single one of them for knowingly buying a shitty release, because I've done it myself many, many times over the years. 'It is what it is', I told myself. No sense dragging Viz through the mud for a release even they, and everyone else already knew, is a shit-show by nature... heck, I'm honestly a little disappointed to admit I was late to this particular party, not realizing how bad things were going to be until a couple weeks after everyone else had seen the proof.

I certainly had my reasons for being out of the loop. But we'll get to that later...


BEHOLD, KENTAI'S INCONSOLABLE FURY!!

I figured that, much like The Great Humongous, I'd stop all the violence and just walk away... and then you had to lie through your teeth to our collective face. Why, Viz? It's not bad enough that you have to put shit on our tongues, but you had to look us in the eye and tell us it's delicious Belgian chocolate, too? No, man. That's where I draw the fucking line. You don't literally feed the consumer half-true information about the quality of your product, and more specifically, misrepresent the quality of competing products and expect me to hold my tongue. You don't lie to the internet and expect anyone to forget, much less forgive. That's an amateur move, and what's worse, y'all fucking knew it when you made it.

I'm not writing this because the new Sailor Moon Blu-ray/DVD release sucks. It does, but that's not the part I'm mad about. I'm mad because they suck, and Viz is willing to throw Toei under the bus to say it's not their fault their own in-house upscale is a miserable pile of ass. Not happening, folks. Not on this blog, at any rate.

The lie I'm talking about specifically is THIS POST on the Neon Alley blog earlier in the week, which includes several comparisons between the Viz Blu-ray, and the Japanese DVD. These DVDs are region locked, feature no English language options, and were until very recently the only legitimate way to purchase the entire series for playback on NTSC systems. Don't get me wrong, I love image comparisons - they're a great way to learn how to identify video anomalies, and help consumers who have an eye for said differences. In short, an honest, accurate A/B comparison is the best way for consumers to make an informed decision.

The problem here is that Viz did not use accurate screenshots. They went out of their way to make the R2 DVD screenshots look worse than the actual discs in an effort to make their absolutely abhorrent HD "Remaster" look better by comparison. They also claim early comparisons were from the "Japanese DVD Release" itself, rather than the "DVD Master" as later samples were called. It's bullshotting at its finest either way, but I want to establish how utterly full of it Viz is being before we get into how they're being dishonest.

If you're a visual kinda' Sailor Soldier, here's pretty much all you need to know about what a filthy, back-stabbing lie Viz is pushing to make their set not look like a steaming pile of poorly upscaled shite:

  This is what Viz Media wants you to beLIEve the Japanese DVDs look like.
Keep in mind this is the LEAST damning comparison they've made so far.


This is what the Toei R2 imports actually look like.
Note that it's not a pile of ass - not for a DVD, at least.

Worse yet, if this Anime News Network ANNCast Interview with Charlene Ingram and Julie McDonald is any indication, they're digging their heels in for the long haul, with zero plans to fix the discs themselves, or change authoringhouses for future titles. In other words, I hope you like all of Viz' future upscales looking like frame-blended and saturation-boosted butthole, because that's all I'm ever going to expect from them going forward.

 For further examples of just how ridiculous the funky frame-blending issues are...

According to Viz, this is all somehow not the direct  result of video processing.
I assume Viz also swears that rain is somehow not the result of condensation.

No, I won't be dissecting the whole discs for a 10-page autopsy: The above examples should be enough to prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that these are a train-wreck far beyond my already meager expectations. This wasn't hard, Viz: When you were offered SD materials, you should have done a DVD release, gauged customer interest in a Blu-ray and then double dipped a year or two down the line. Now customers are stuck with artifacts that are worse than the import editions, and for a release claiming to be a High Definition definitive remaster, that's unacceptable. In fact, it's bullshit.

And for the record, the DVD version is a 16:9 frame pillarboxed to 4:3, meaning about 25% of the frame is simply wasted space. Yes, most HDTV monitors at this point are 16:9, but that means resolution is limited more than it has to be. Yes, this is stupid. Yes, this was the wrong decision to make from a production standpoint. But it's so, so far down on the list of "shit wrong with Viz' release of Sailor Moon" that I'm not going to even give it the time of day.

Viz Media is lying to you. That's all there is to it. Straight from McDonald's mouth: "All I can tell you is that what you're seeing in terms of blended frames is not part of the post-production process." This is untrue; it's simply the result of an IVTC algorithm not being tweaked to handle unexpected 3:2 cadence changes, and yes, you bet your ass if I had been handed those gorgeous ProRes captures from Digibeta I could have been able to spit out a proper 23.976fps master without any consistent issues. Animation is one of the most problematic types of material you can work with, and it's become abundantly clear that Subatomic Digital - likely through inexperience more than a lack of sincere effort - have come up dramatically short.

The only possible reason this could be the result of the digital masters present to Viz is if Toei did something horribly wrong to produce them. Unfortunately, for that theory to hold any water, we'd have to assume any other international licensor was given the same shoddy materials to work with, since Toei has no reason to play favorites with anyone else. There have been numerous reports confirming that the progressive PAL DVDs released by Kaze Dynamic of Italy* are not only pulled from the same sources as Viz Media's 1080p abortion here, but that they managed to properly IVTC the source video and pitch it to 25fps without any issue. In other words, Kaze Dynamic did what Subatomic Digital didn't: Treat the footage properly, restore the original 23.976fps framerate without any frame blending, and leave the perfectly normal analogue film grain exactly as they should have.

"We're like, video passion on steroids here! That's how addicted we are to getting the best possible imagery..." she continues on the ANNCast. "I don't think there's a lot of ground we can cover by pointing to this or that image and saying, this is the right image, that's the right image... I can tell you without a doubt that myself and ten videophiles sit with me, 20 hours a day, working on this material know, and are providing Charlene and our Neon Alley folks with the images that we have access to."

Allow me to express my feelings in the only medium I find appropriate, under the circumstances:


Now, let me explain why I'm so incredibly pissed off by this answer, and why I was willing to try and ignore this sideshow since, franly, I don't have the time for it: This week, I finalized the M2V and AC3 files for a particular DVD release that'll hit shelves sometime next year after, quite literally, months of work I did over weekends and in the wee hours of the night after finishing my regular 40 hours a week doing what I do to make a living. I won't mention the title - odds are you all know what it is anyway, but I at least have to pretend Kentai is an anonymous parody of a shared autistic videophile sarcasm rather than a real human being with video processing credits well into the thousands now - but suffice to say it's a substantially less iconic piece of animation than Sailor Moon will ever hope to be. Honestly, if this title had been a dump of the not-so-great import DVD with no added work, the small fanbase for the sort of niche title we're talking about would have sighed, shrugged, and ponied up $20 just to show their support on principle. It's that kind of show... the kind that gets a release out of a combination of nostalgia from a small set of hardcore fans, and a morbidly curious subset looking for explosions of insanity they've somehow missed from yester-year who figure it's a fair price to peek their head into the freak tent.

The release took forever, but it's not exactly "pretty". Massively improved, absolutely, but those materials were a goddamn joke: I worked from the only surviving analog masters - certainly not fresh 2002 Digibetas that look like a perfect representation of the 16mm film they were shot on, but crumby analog tapes closer to VHS that DVD. We're talking NTSC masters so old they'd be legally allowed to drink! I spent an entire season fixing that two and a half hours or so worth of footage; color grading literally each and every shot for accurate flesh tones and exposure issues, manually removing scratches using matte plates to prevent eyeballs and drops of blood from distorting or disappearing, fixing major film and video damage that I found unacceptable, repairing analogue opticals with digital replacements when I had no other choice to avoid funky seams popping up as a result, experimenting for two weeks on DVNR algorithms that minimized the issues inherent to those god-awful sources without molesting any of the "real" detail underneath... this DVD is my fucking magnum opus. The sanity I've lost is something I can never get back, and honestly, the only praise I expect to see are one or two forum posts saying something along the lines of "Oh hey, that's finally out? Well, it looks better than my old VHS. Too bad there's no Blu-ray though."

My blood, sweat and tears are infused into that remaster, and yet I doubt it'll sell more than 2,000 copies before the license expires. For fuck's sake, I haven't even discussed payment yet because (and please, don't tell my boss this!) that's not why I do it, or at least that's not my primary motivation for doing it... I did it because it was the right thing to do. Because ultimately popular culture is our culture, in all of its kitschy, grotesque and embarrassing glory. Sailor Moon in particular holds a very special place in the hearts of girls who grew up on it - a show about empowerment that was still feminine, wrapped up in a charming bubblegum aesthetic and with a cast of defined, lovable characters? That's the kind of shit people eat up forever. This is a title that fans have been frustrated to only have abridged, incomplete, and heinous quality options for... and this is how their patience and love has been repaid. A botched pseudo-HD master and a bunch of carefully worded corporate deflections that all boil down to, we tried super hard, you guys! Honest!

"As a videophile yourself", Zac Bertschy asks, "Do you look at this and say: Okay, this is as good as this show can look?"

"You know, my feeling about it is I'm really happy with what we did to it, based on what we had to work with. I'm thrilled with it... these issues don't trouble because I don't think they make the product in any way less - I know the love and care we put into it. So am I happy with it? I am happy with it... I'm completely over the moon with it, if you must know!"

Zac later asks: "So fans who pre-ordered this set and get their copy in the mail. They aren't happy with the video quality. What do you suggest that they do?"

Charlene has an answer on that front: "Of course we take all feedback very seriously, but that's... It's up to everyone to decide what they want to do with what they bought. Given - to echo Julie's point - given what we had to work with, that's how it was able to turn out with everyone working on it, so, we just don't have any news on that at this time."

In other words, if you think this release is a slap in the face... you can eat a dick. In fact, you can eat a whole bag of soggy lukewarm dicks if you're still hungry. They're sticking with their partners, they're not changing the process, and we can expect similar results going forward. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Before I can go any further, I need to quote the following piece from the Neon Alley blog that raises further questions:

The original footage for Sailor Moon, being from way back in 1992, is also older than many fans who adore the series now. In 2009, Japan released the seasons on DVD using the best materials available, Unfortunately, the original film from 1992 just does not exist. In making our Blu-ray releases, we used the same masters used to create the those beautiful releases, but make them work for the modern Blu-ray format.


Waaaaaitasecond... let me re-emphasise the part that caight my eye, just to be clear:

"In 2009, Japan released the seasons on DVD using the best materials available, Unfortunately, the original film from 1992 just does not exist."

First of all, the SD Telecine work was done in 2002 - a minor correction, I know, but the fact that a 12 year old DVD kicked your shoddy upscale's ass is still worth pointing out for a total understanding of how hard this ball was dropped. More importantly though, why the fuck does the original film "not exist" for this series, exactly? Toei had no trouble pulling the camera negatives for Dragon Ball Z out to do their fascinating (if not entirely successful) Dragon Ball Kai experiment a couple years back. In 2009, the entire 152 episode Fist of the North Star TV series had a new HD master created from the original film negatives, creating an even higher quality DVD release that the previous 2004 edition. Toei has pulled 35mm negatives out of cold storage for feature films including the Saint Seiya and Galaxy Express and Sherlock Hound movies... and yet somehow, Sailor Moon - easily Toei Animation's most iconic and internationally beloved magical girl franchise, not to mention one of their top earning franchises of the 1990s - "doesn't exist"? Unless you can point me to some dramatic explanation for this one, I'm calling bullshit.

To put this into perspective, that company I worked with? They had a contract with a major Japanese animation distributor. They asked for an HD master, and were told one didn't exist. They asked if they could get a film print, and were told if they were willing to pay they'd make a new Interpositive. So yes, technically it's possible that whatever actual 16mm elements were scanned in 2002 have gone lost. But to imply that Sailor Moon is the one vintage Toei Animation show that simply DOES NOT HAVE FILM ELEMENTS? No fucking chance do I buy that. I mean, if this were some no-budget obscure OVA produced by a nobody in 198X for the faint hope of breaking even? Sadly, you might have something. But Toei somehow lost all of their film masters for Sailor Moon? Really? Come on, guys - this isn't Genocyber, Dream Hunter Rem, Roots Search or some other obscure mess I'd believe has been lost to the sands of time. Honestly, this would be like saying that Warner Brothers can't find the camera negative for The Shining. Because, reasons, don't worry about it.

I could criticize this stupidity for hours on end, but... honestly, I'd rather not. My office is in the process of moving, I really need to get some sleep at some point, and I'd rather just call this shit and move on with my life. Viz, you fucked up. Hard. You're on the shit list, and don't expect me to assume the best from you while you continue to squat down and let releases like this congeal out of your company's backside.

For those curious how this horrendous level of bullshit was accomplished, here's a list of exactly what's wrong with the Viz comparison: 

1) THE IMAGES ARE NOT PROPERLY SCALED.

The R2 DVD screenshots are presented in their 'native' 1.5:1 aspect ratio. DVD stores MPEG-2 video at a resolution of 720:480 at 29.97fps. That 720:480 file is then given a "flag" which tells the DVD decoder to play the file as either squished to 4:3 (ie: SDTV "square") or stretched to 16:9 (ie: HDTV "wide").

In short, nobody would ever, ever watch a DVD with a fat, distorted 2:1 aspect ratio as is being displayed in Viz' own comparison. Yes, technically the DVDs do store their data that way, but that's now how it actually looks when played back on literally any piece of software designed to play DVDs.

Also note that there's some pretty severe aliasing


2) THE IMAGES ARE SHOWN AS RAW, INTERLACED FOOTAGE.

The R2 DVD screenshots show interlacing. This is a trickier one to discuss because, yes, most anime DVDs are interlaced - that is, the 24fps film frames were converted to irregular patterns of 29.97fps video that show "combing" during motion. Interlacing is normal on NTSC signals, and isn't technically a 'flaw', just a normal part of the broadcast process.

When you watch an interlaced DVD on an interlaced TV, the set itself is refreshing in half-frame intervals, so everything looks normal. When you watch an interlaced DVD on a progressive monitor (like an HDTV), either the display or the DVD player is deinterlacing the signal first. Sometimes deinterlacing looks like crap and introduces jagged, aliased edges and blended frames; other times the deinterlacer is "smart" enough that it can reconstruct the original film frames and look like a proper, progressive image. It really depends on your hardware, and the content itself: Anime, due to its typically low framerates, is infamously difficult to convert from interlaced frames back to the original film frames due to limited motion wigging the algorithms out.

Is it difficult to remove interlacing on cartoons without leaving interlacing behind, or creating blended frames? Immensely. But it can be done. I know this because I manually tweak Inverse Telecine scripts every fucking week at the office. It's difficult to get the right mix and sometimes occasional frames are bound to get fucked, but as you can see at THIS COMPARISON, it's not impossible to convert the 480i broadcast signal on the DVDs back to 480p film frames... hell, knowing Toei's general lab work, I doubt this was even what I'd consider a "difficult" job.

3) THE IMAGES HAVE HAD THEIR COLORS BOOSTED.

There's really no proper excuse for this one. The chroma channel has been boosted on their "DVD" screenshots to the point where reds have become oversaturated and detail has gone missing completely - detail that is present on their Blu-ray release. The most obvious offender is the far shot of Usagi's house, in which subtle gradations of red and orange smear into a big neon blob on the "Master" shot, but look fairly natural and less... day-glo, on the Blu-ray sample.

Explain that to me, miss McDonald: How the heck do you show color information in a final encode that does not even exist on the master? Do you understand that this is why old film prints often have a nasty yellow push to them - because the pigment itself has simply ceased to exist? You've worked in the industry for over 25 years, so I'm sure you do. How do you show color information that's been boosted out of existance?

You fucking don't, is the obvious answer. Those screenshots - by malicious editing, or by simple colorspace ignorance - are missing color info that exists on the ProRes and Digibeta masters, because if it didn't, it wouldn't be on the fucking Blu-ray. FUCKING HELL.


...I could go on, but honestly, fuck it. It's 1 AM and I'm packing up HDCAM decks in the morning. Viz has confirmed that future releases will be no different, I'm sure a number of Sailor Moon fans will compromise with this turd of a release, five years later someone else will find some 16mm prints and do a proper HD telecine, double dips will be planned... world keeps spinning. I'd make a Dragon Ball Z comparison, but remembering how fucking good those "Level" sets were - and how we'll never see more of them - is still a wound too fresh to talk much more about without sinking straight into despair.
 
And uh, for the record, I couldn't be any prouder of Zac Bertschy for the way he handled this interview. He was left with the uncomfortable spot of being forced to ask - if not in so many words - why Viz was lying to their customers. He was honest, he was direct, and yet he continued to be polite and corteous while trying to drag the answers out that customers needed to know. Mind you, Justin Sevakis could have called them on this bullshit ten times harder, but... well, I guess that'd be too much like giving ANN a rocket launcher in a knife fight, while Viz had one leg tied to the other.

This is exactly the sort of thing I wish I saw in other circles I could, quite easily, draw numerous current parallels to. Yeah, I don't exactly "get" why Zac still writes about anime for a living when it's become clear he doesn't care for the medium's output 9 times out of 10, but I can't fault him for being absolutely spot-on in speaking for the customer when they've been given a raw deal. I only wish I saw honest, probing questioning from the video games media when they sell us broken, unfinished games brimming with DLC and app-purchase enhancements at full price.

UPDATE 1: Just to establish what an unmitigated shit-show this release is, here's a FAN-MADE COMPARISON between the actual Viz Blu-ray, and a fan-made "HD Upscale" using the already compressed, already chroma-subsampled, and (if I'm not mistaken) already-interlaced R2 DVD.

WHY THE FUCK DO I WASTE MY LIFE TRYING TO
MAINTAIN "IMAGE QUALITY" IN THIS MARKET?!

Fuck Viz. Fuck Sailormoon - in fact, until further notice, fuck Blu-ray in general. Processing imperfect video is what I earn a paycheck doing, upping my game to make sure even shitty looking content looks as good as it possibly can. To see this be the standard that not only Viz Media, but goddamn Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon is held to makes me physically ill.

Yeah kiddos, I mad. If you've missed seeing me sling shit at deserving targets after a long period of apathy, you might just get your wish...

UPDATE 2: Slight correction for my Continental Homies - the progressive PAL DVD release that came out in Italy was released by Dynamic, not Kaze. Kaze is actually the French/German licensor who used an interlaced NTSC-to-PAL conversion. The simple truth is that most PAL anime DVDs in general are crappy interlaced conversions, and not being English friendly to start with I have little reason to pay close attention to them either way.

Fun Fact: Despite Kaze being primarily a French/German distributor, they do occasionally negotiate for the United Kingdom. That's why the "UK" releases of Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, Roujin Z and Code Geass have subtitles and dubs in all of these languages. I don't know if Code Geass still has the (incredibly stupid) BBFC mandated cuts in the second season that affected the DVD release, though I suppose I should look into that...

UPDATE 3 [Jesus Fucking Christ Edition]: Never thought I'd have to clarify this, but no, I am not Justin Sevakis. Nor has he ever used me as a sock puppet. You'd have better luck trying to prove I'm the Lindberg Baby than ANN's founder, but the fact that people started playing Internet Detective and thought we're just similar enough is... kind of fucking hilarious. No, really! The thought of Mr. Sevakis sitting through Gutterballs just to talk about a rush of "Modern Grindhouse" movies would be so out of character for him you might as well suggest that Harry Knowels has been Roger Ebert the whole time.

Nor am I anyone else of note in the North American anime industry. If I ever became someone in a position like that, you'd probably see this site quietly retired to try and avoid any major clusterfucks down the road. To be frank, I'm in that awkward position where I'm just friendly enough with a handful of people in this profession that I don't want to shit all over them unless they really did something to deserve it: I've done this sort of work for years now. I know people have schedules, I know that handing anything to a third party can result in fuck-ups and miscommunications. I even know that sometimes Person X at the studio knows exactly what the problem is and could probably fix it if they had an extra three days to spare, but Person Y has already done an interview about it and wants that shit on iTunes yesterday, so... there you go.

The problem is oh so rarely that everyone involved don't care, it's that they simply don't have the budget or the time to fix it. And that's a far more frustrating feeling than that oversimplified smug dismissal that's so easy to give when you know that content in and out, and if you'd been there you could have had it fixed in no time.

At the same time, I'm not so friendly with anyone I won't call them when they've clearly fucked up. I don't want to trash on Viz, or FUNimation, Blue Underground, Shout Factory, Media Blasters or whoever happens to have screwed the pooch that week. Consumers are paying to own movies they've probably already seen, and they have the right to know if the product they're going to get is up to whatever their standards may be. If anyone reading this post sees those ghastly Sailor Moon screenshots and says to themselves - "Huh, that's a shame. But oh well, still looks good enough for me!" - well, that's certainly not how I felt about it. But if I've helped you make up your mind one way or another, hooray! Me bitching like an angry sociopath wasn't a total waste of time.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Open The Gates: Gamer Gate Post 2.0

Just so we're clear, friends... it's been a rough month. I'm sick. I'm broke. My car's in the shop. My internet died. About the only thing keeping me sane is the pure, undiluted greatness of Hyrule Warriors.

There's a lot I didn't cover, like the corpse of JewWario being exhumed by Todd in the Shadows for his own political ends, or the suggestion that Brianna Wu herself was involved in a false flag doxxing, or that Fox News actually managed to make me laugh, and that makes me feel dirty inside. There's simply too much, so I've tried to trim this down to the "important" stuff... such as it is. This will be the last time I comment on this subject on the Kentai Blog because this shit is exhausting, and I'd really like to use what little free time I have left to get back to playing Hyrule Warriors instead. Fucking free DLC came out like three days ago and I haven't even had the time to try it...

*Ahem*

Greetings fellow misogynerds, right wing recruiters, fedora tippers, neck beards, conspiracy nuts, shit flingers, manbabies, sockpuppets and domestic terrorists! Welcome to the daily meeting in which we uphold our reign of terror against all those who would taint our beloved history of vidya gaymes with their cries of "Social Justice". Please, take your seats, and don't forget that we're having a bake sale on Thursday, as soon as the Illuminati clear out of the skull shaped volcano lair. We were considering the swamp base shaped like a cobra, but they're spraying it for silver fish, so... y'know.

Oddly enough, these terrible, awful things I am? It's news to me. Thankfully, the world around me has made it no secret that a contingency of people known as "Gamers" - socially broken, emotionally underdeveloped, and above all else incapable of dealing with women who aren't sex objects or mothers - are all of these things and so much more. To be fair, I've been playing video games since I can literally remember; I can distinctly remember ads for the Nintendo Entertainment System before I could read, and articulating the thought "I must have it!" for one reason or another. I can remember my mother showing me how the pill strategies of Dr. Mario worked, and my mind being blown at the thought of The Legend of Zelda being so huge that you had to save the game and then continue the next time you turned it on. I can remember modding my Playstation console to play imported games, and learning about Emulation to play games for consoles I could simply not afford. I've 100% games from the time when pre-rendered 16-bit graphics were the height of photorealism, and I've re-bought minor updates in franchises - like fighting games - that the publishers had the gall to call "sequels".

In short, friends, I am a Gamer. It's not all that I am - it's not even the most obvious thing that I am - but it's part of me. Has been since long before the concept of an "identity" ever formed in my soft, adolescent skull. I like games - a lot. The games that I like, I take seriously enough to consider worthy of study, critique and sometimes even revisiting. I don't think movies and games should be judged on the same metrics, but I do think that games - particularly from console generation six (ie: PS2/Gamecube/Xbox) onwards - hold the capacity to be nuanced and affecting works of interactive art, equal to any other more respected medium available.

What I'm seeing is not only this medium, but those who have supported it being called out. Told they're no good, that they're violent,

I really, really hoped it wouldn't come to me needing to talk about this a second time, but the internet does as the internet wants, and all I can do is be the guy who can sift through the mountain of insanity and ask only one question...

How the hell did we get back in time to 1997?


It's funny how an explosion starts with the dumbest little spark, isn't it?

Before we go any further, I want to tell you guys a little story. This is something that's been discussed off and on in the last year and a half, but it's a more or less perfect little summary of why those who follow the bizarre cross-section of pandering and loathing that is Games Journalism have suspected something was horribly off for some time. It's the story of someone who lost his job for trying to warn people of a case of literal, blatant charity fraud, and it's something the entirety of the gaming journalism sphere did nothing to try and fix:

Alistar Pinsof, a former Destructoid writer, who was suspended - and later fired - in May of 2013 for publishing an article revealing that an IndieGogo campaign setup by developer Chloe Sagal, crowdfunding a game project called "Homesick", had a larger than usual project goal because she claimed a piece of metal lodged in her body after a car accident was poisoning her, and she needed surgery to remove it to survive. Tragic, isn't it? Well, the truth was that the money was actually intended for sexual reassignment surgery - a fact she had not shared with the gaming public, information Pinsof learned after becoming friends after the story ran, and was horrified to learn he'd been involved in publishing what, by all counts, was - by every legal definition - a charity scam. It didn't matter in the long term because IndieGogo took the project down anyway - legally speaking, they aren't allowed to be a charity, regardless of what sort of operation you're having, honestly disclosed or not.

Sagal actually tried to commit suicide on a live Twitch stream around this time, and once Pinsof knew the whole story he felt conflicted, asked his fellow staff members what he should do... the majority told him to publish the story, because it was, ultimately, the honest thing to do, and so - having penned it before he knew the extent of Sagal's depression - the article ended up going live while she was recovering in the hospital. Having outed Sagal as both a con artist and a transwoman while in the hospital over a suicide attempt, the backlash for this was swift and brutal from both LGBT sympathizers and fellow game developers alike. To try and clarify the stance on this, Pinsoft attended a Gamers Against Bigotry panel to explain that what he did was a matter of honesty to the public, not an attempt to shame Sagal for her personal life - that it was sincerely a matter of ethics with horribly unfortunate timing, not any sort of political or personal judgment towards a person he, up to that point, had considered a friend.

Regardless of his original intent or the validity of the information published, Destructoid owner Yanier "Niero" Gonzales turned to the GameJournoPros mailing list for advice on how to deal with this sticky situation. Among the people asked for input was Samantha Allen, herself a transwoman, an admitted misandrist who worked in game criticism, and is now infamous for writing an open letter to the game industry that more or less set the template for the now infamous "Gamers are Dead" article push published August 28th... so, you can probably guess where the conversation went from there. In the end this group of competing journalists agreed that he should be fired, and that none of them would take him after this - effectively blacklisting him from the over hald-dozen websites involved in the GJP. The details are all HERE, complete with the GJP eMails, should you be so curious. Some of the related commentary therein suggests this may be the reason Jim Sterling, snarky and self-professed consumer advocate who now works for The Escapist, left Destructoid in the first place; when asked if he'd consider suing, Pinsof confirmed that the website was on the verge of bankrupcy and simply wanted to distance himself from the whole affair.

So that's your "Game Journalists" at work, ladies and gentlemen. Do any actual investigative reporting, or whistle blowing on something as flatly illegal as charity fraud, and expect to be blacklisted by the entire industry as a result, since you're hurting the feelings of others in the process. Addendums over the whole situation were published by much of the gaming journalists scene after this, and in the end, Sagal set up a Go Fund Me project and got her surgery, which is - I suppose - the happy ending the story asked for. Can't say the same for Pinsoft, who's not worked in gaming journalism for the last year and a half, for having the poor sense to tell the truth in an industry fueled by outrage, cronyism and appealing to a mindset that protects certain industry types not because of what they've done, but because of who they are.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is obvious and unfortunate corruption in hobbyist media. This reaches far beyond the norms we saw in 2007 when Jeff Gertzman was fired from GameSpot for his unimpressed review of Kane and Lynch, or the memetic image of Geoff Keyleigh posing as a snackfood shilling "Dorito Pope" for exclusive coverage of Halo 4 in 2012. That shit's ridiculous too, but it's not the same thing. This sort of thing, this punishment of honesty and protection of people they know to be lying and committing criminal acts, is what the term "#gamergate" was started to discuss and expose to the larger public eye. This is the sort of thing the people who read websites like Destructoid, Kotaku, Polygon, Rock Paper Shotgun, The Escapist, EuroGamer, GameSpot, Joystiq and so many more should be aware of. Video Games, unlike most hobbies with an enthusiast press that are built up around them, are fast approaching being a $100 Million industry, with a culture dedicated to pre-purchasing products on good faith alone. They control the hype new titles generate, and their review scores directly impact which developers get their bonuses after the publishers. Their faults, their biases and their echo-chamber approach to coverage of a vast and unique industry directly impact both the businesses they represent, and the customers who keep them afloat. No, it's clearly not on par with Scotland or ebola or anything absurd like that, but as games continue to be one of the cornerstones of popular culture, it does matter - and it matters to a lot more people than it did a decade ago, on both sides of the business.


For those of you who have been keeping an eye on Gamer Gate - the consumer revolt against corruption in gaming journalistm circles - you can skip the following green text, if you so desire. For anyone who hasn't followed the last two months of ridiculous bullshit - or keep hearing about how it's some crazy hate fueled campaign to run women out of the industry - I'd suggest you read it. It's not the most complete or detailed timeline, I know, but A People's History of Gamer Gate exists for those who so desire every nook and cranny of this insane saga, and #GamerGate in 60 Seconds is always available for those with the ADHD.

To recap: Back in early August, an independent game developer Zoe Quinn - who's become so irrelevant to the larger discussion, most of the people forced to reference her now call her "Literally Who", just to fuck with Google analytics - was revealed to be having a sexual relationship with Nathan Grayson, a writer for Kotaku, either at or in close proximity to the same time he wrote a couple articles that feature her prominently through a tell-all blog post "The Zoe Post" her then boyfriend Eron Gjoni made, detailing how she was an emotionally abusive compulsive liar who continued to betray his trust for months on end.

Nobody at this point was sure how deep the connection between Literally Who and Kotaku went, and questions followed. Rather than offer up a generic statement about how integrity is important and they realize one of their writers may have fucked up... they censored all discussion of it. When YouTube bloggers pointed out the blatant scumminess and merely wanted answers on how this conflict of interests was never so much as mentioned, Quinn used false DMCA claims to remove discussion. When YouTube's largest LetsPlayer, Michael "TotalBiscuit" Bain caught wind of the illegal take-down and called it for the bullshit that it was, his entire reddit discussion was deleted. Discussion of this was dubbed #Quinnspiracy, or - on 4chan particularly, #BurgersandFries, referencing the fact that Quinn's ex knew of "Five Guys" she cheated on him with. Because of course 4chan would turn it into a snarky joke.


For the record, I gave The Fine Young Capitalists $5.
As you can guess, that makes me a biased misogynerd.

Around the same time, Quinn begins to be hacked, doxxed and harassed by an anonymous third party - the validity of which is still up for debate, make no mistake there - but LW's friends, including Phil Fish and indirect support from Anita Sarkeesian, lightning rods for justified hate if the gaming community ever had them, supported her and everyone harping on her personal life as "misogynists". At this time, the organization known as The Fine Young Capitalists took center stage, pointing out that he was doxxed and DDoSed by Quinn and her friends, costing him a $10,000 towards a feminist charity intended to put female game creators in touch with game producers. To this day, The Fine Young Capitalists hasn't been mentioned once by any of the "major" gaming news sites, not even after it was funded to the tune of $70,000 - with by far the largest donation body being members of 4chan, despite having been so gloriously dubbed the "Cathedral of Misogyny".

It was also uncovered around this time that Kotaku's own Patricia Hernandez had not only written positive press for her landlord, Anna Athropy, but had written multiple pieces for Christine Love's Hate Trilogy of visual novels - a person she had been in a romantic relationships with, but never felt the need to clarify this to the reader. It was also discovered that Ben Kuchera, who was also writing press about Quinn, had also been funding her work through monthly Patreon donations and didn't feel that was worthy of disclosure. This led to the broader discovery of a large number of journalists funding independent developers they themselves were being paid to report on, which has led more to further questions than any simple answers as to what the ethical line between friendship, sponsor and subject should be in this particular business... questions that still, largely, haven't been answered to the public.

Of all people, Adam Baldwin popped his head up to point out that demanding basic journalistic integrity wasn't anything but misogynistic about asking for basic ethical disclosures. He suggested the name #gamergate, to distance itself from Quinn, who - again - is little more than a footnote at this point. Around this same time, Anita Sarkeesian - infamous pop culture critic, and effectively regressive to the 90s "video games cause violence in teenagers!" bullshit, particularly in terms of her psuedo-scientific bullshit methodology - had her life threatened over twitter. Despite this lone psychopath not having used the Gamer Gate or Quinnspiracy tags, it was "good enough" for those who thought the consumer revolt was skeevy to write the whole group off as having created it.


The people you pay ad dollars to to give you honest, unbiased feedback on new products.
It'd be like if Consumer Reports told their readers "Eat lead paint chips! I'm sure it'll be fine".

The end of August should have finished it off for good, I know; the lack of any particularly notable new games left gamers with little else to talk about in the meantime, and it became clear that the gaming press had no incentive to apologize for their lack of transparency or behind-the-scenes collusion with who should have been their competitors... and then, something amazing happened. The entire gaming press published a dozen articles over a single weekend saying one thing: "Gamers" were an outdated concept that we had to move beyond. Gamers are dead. Gamers are over. The future doesn't have to be the hateful, misogynistic, and toxic community we have today. Kotaku, GamaSutra, Rock Paper Shotgun and so many more turned on their own audience, calling them sexist pigs and hate mongering racists in the most passive-aggressive language possible, suggesting that the culture they chose to be a part of - the same culture that these writers sold to them for ad dollars - was inherently toxic, and that they should be ashamed for being part of it, reject it, and create something new and more welcoming for an audience that clearly wasn't them.

What's far more troubling are the unanswered questions dredged up in the middle of the shit storm. YouTuber CameraLady and her assistant ShortFatOtaku unearthed a damning paper-trail connecting Phil Fish and his IndieFund game funding board to having potentially preferential treatment in the Indie Gaming Festival (IGF), which - if true - would be a blatant case of racketeering. Milo Yiannopolous, a reporter for the Breitbart UK website, initially focused on the "feminists killing games" aspect of the story to support his own agendas, but quickly kept digging and found the existence of the GameJournoPros mailing list, proving that representatives from most of the major gaming press were in collusion to cover and ignore certain subjects, even leading to suggestions that certain contributors may have been fired as a direct result of the GJP discussion board.

While many of the sites that support gaming enthusiasts ran with the story of how #gamergate was an organization dedicated to running feminist voices and even female developers out of the business, none of the blatant examples of Gamer Gate supporters being harassed, doxxed, insulted or threatened were even acknowledged, much less the admission that these sites themselves were the intended target of the revolt's ire. Hell, Christina H. Sommers, who put out a video supporting gamers as being no more misogynistic or antisocial than any other entertainment themed subculture, recently lost her husband. Upon hearing this, Gamer Gate members donated money to send her flowers and signed a card over her loss. Those monsters.


Sorry guys, couldn't find mootisacuckfag.jpg

Perhaps the most cataclysmic thing to have happened in all of this was the loss of 4chan. The site is still there, don't get me wrong, but once it was confirmed that Chris "M00t" Poole had no interest in allowing the organization of Gamer Gate discussion on his site and began letting mods whip out the ban hammer, there was a mass exodus from /v/ to 8chan.co, which fully supports the anonymous freedom 4chan was once founded on. Amusingly enough, MSNBC caught wind of this and ran a hilarious, nonsensical story about how 8chan was "too extreme" for 4chan. Keep in mind that it took /b/ years to get their own Fox News story with an exploding van; while I know the majority of normalfags will never know the pleasure of shitposting on bait and getting those sweet dubs, I doubt the mainstream press has any idea quite how hard they're making 4chan irrelevant, and how them having called 8chan "more extreme" is going to elevate it into the boogeyman they wrongly assume it is. It's glorious, if you ask me.

Detractors have come in all shapes and sizes, with celebrities ranging from Seth Rogan, Patton Oswald and Tim Schafer all decrying #gamergate as a solely misogynistic movement - heck, we've been compared to ISIS so many times in the last 8 weeks we've added "Reese's Law" t o the Rules of the Internet. Most recently, Gawker Media - who, let us not forget, owns Kotaku as well as Jezebel and Deadspin, the latter of which have run anti-GG articles despite neither site having anything to do with gaming - has allowed their writers to openly encourage bullying of "Nerds" to quell the revolt - during October, which happens to be National Bullying Prevention Month. Anita Sarkeesian's latest death threat - an anonymous eMail threatening Utah State University's feminist population - has hit the front page of the New York Times, with many writing this off as definitive proof that #gamergate is the hate campaign - if not an actual, organized hate group - that its detractors have been calling it for weeks. Few have picked up that Something Awful goons are taking credit for making the front page, with the only other notable story being Ebola... so either goons caused the virus' spread, or they sent an anonymous death threat to a noteworthy YouTube professional, take your fucking pick.

Things are only getting more heated; those who stand against GamerGate are publicly acknowledging the harassment from their own side, Gamer Gate supporters - long written off as right wing fantatics by proponent critics within the industry - are now cringing that Fox News writers seem to acknowledge they exist and might be on GG's side, and various news providers - CNN, CBS, Huffington Post, the BBC and more - are all hosting dialogues about the "online harassment campaign" that is Gamer Gate, with some shows willing to acknowledge the actual origins of the name and what it's supposed to stand for, and others riding the Hate Train all the way to the bank.

In other words, it's the bullshit fluff pieces about violent video games all over again - except "violence" has been replaced with the word "misogyny", and since nobody's actually shot up a school in the last few months they're using anonymous trolling as 'proof'. The same as it ever was, if not somehow dumber...

 As they say, This Ride Never Ends, so let's cap the current events there and go into details in just a few minutes... I've got plenty to say on the subject, but if this is, somehow, your first introduction, you've already got a metric ton of clusterfuck to digest.

Exactly what Gamer Gate supporters want varies from person to person - that, uh, that's, kind of the nature of an amorphous, leaderless consumer revolt. The majority of us - and yes, I say "us" because I am one of those assholes discussing it on forums, sending letters, and donating money when it seems appropriate, which makes me one of the unruly horde, so to speak - seem to think these few basic ideas are a good start, though:

* News, Reviews, Promotional and Editorial Content should be clearly marked as such. Promotional material paid for by the producer is fine, but everything about the arrangement needs to be disclosed in plain sight. This is (ironically) more problematic for "traditional" internet criticism than it is on YouTube, which has legally must disclose what is, and is not, a paid advertisement versus independent criticism.

* Review content should never be slanted either in favor for, or against, the publisher or developer. The grotesque system in which developers only get bonuses for specific Metacritic scores - and are only allowed to release reviews in very close proximity to the release date of the product itself - has made this a murky area to begin with. With those in mind, a reviewer should be honest about the content itself, and not punished if said opinions don't match what the publisher was expecting.

* Any connections - financial, personal, romantic or otherwise - which may directly influence a writer's impartiality of a subject should either be recused to another columnist, or a statement should be made in the piece stating the nature of said connections. This includes prior or current relationships, living with a person you're covering, and funding the subject in question indirectly (such as through Patreon support).

* No columnist or reviewer should be accepting gifts or incentives from the subject in question. (In my eyes, review copies of software and hardware are not gifts - they're the tools to do their job.) Anything else should be avoided, and scenarios where journalists are only given preview footage or playable demos at the end of an all expenses paid trip - which is not particularly uncommon in this industry - should be avoided if possible, and clearly marked as such if and when they occur.

* "Exclusive" rights to publish reviews before competitors should be avoided. If review embargoes are to continue (as I imagine they are), every critic's voice should be given the same prominence, and no single critic should be allowed to draw the initial narrative for others to follow, consciously or not.

* Personal biases are to some degree inevitable, but relevant subjects should not be avoided or ignored because of them.

Case in point on the last bit: Ignoring one game developer's harassment to respect privacy whilst covering the explicit details of another has led to stories in which multiple women being harassed and threatened are covered in the gaming media, despite threats and harassment being no less frequent towards men in the industry itself. Cards Against Humanity creator Max Temkin's rape allegations, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell's (entirely false) sexual harassment charges, and IndieStalk founder Josh Mattingly's (actual) blatant sexual harassment were all front page affairs for the gaming press - Kotaku, RPS, The Escapist, you name it. So, clearly the dirty laundry of game developers and journalists is something the public should know about, yes?

Pictured: All anyone really knew about the Zoe Quinn controversy circa 8/15.

Zoe Quinn's alleged harassment by the-forum-we-shall-not-name was similarly newsworthy; the fact that she broke international DMCA laws to illegally censor details of her sex life - which included both her boss and a writer who covered her for Kotaku, the details of which indirectly led to a charity literally being blacklisted by the gaming media - was not considered newsworthy, because they felt that slutshaming a woman who broke the law to cover her personal indiscretions was in poor taste. Noticing a double standard? Good. That means you have a pulse.

It's bullshit like this that's led to the outside appearance of the games industry and community itself being misogynistic, which is simply not the case when one factors in the larger picture and speaks to anyone with a presence in either game reviews or development. Misanthropic? Possibly. Hostile? Eh, no more or less than online discussions about politics or sports, but kinda'. But to argue that it's targeted at women specifically - which is the only argument AGAINST Gamer Gate I've ever seen in the wild - seems misguided, if nothing else.

After those seemingly obvious points, sure, it gets a little fuzzy. Plenty of people more fed up with this than I am don't want to see anything related to Social Justice - which, being the only real argument against the consumer revolt, is now seen as the primary antagonist, when in fact it's more a side effect of everything related to the journalism's other shortcomings - and while I do agree that talk of "progressive" social issues unrelated to most mainstream games has taken up a disproportionate percentage of the hobbyist press' focus in the last few years, not considering it at all is taking the request to avoid personal bias way too far. Really, that's just silly - you can be a full blown radical feminist who thinks every game should star a woman, just to undermine the patriarchal system that's been making games for decades for all I care - I don't know that I'll agree with you on that, but I don't see why you can't be paid to say it anyway, so long as it's marked as your own personal opinion, and not seamlessly blended in with the advanced coverage of - as a real world example - how The Puppeteer on the PS3 is sexist because the creator based the story on his own childhood, and stuck to the familiar in creating the lead character. Others think reviewers should be forced to buy review copies just like we normal schlubs - I can sort of see the argument for that in a naive way, but I know reviewers aren't paid shit to begin with - and in some industries, those promo copies are the only "payment" you get to start with, so I'm sympathetic to them being handed screener copies or advance codes. To summarize a point Total Biscuit once made, to an average person a video game is a gift - to a reviewer who has to play them to earn his paycheck, it's just paperwork. There's also the big, ugly question of review embargoes, basically not allowing a review to get published until a very specific date - this is kind of a mess, not allowing critics to do their job until a game is already on the market, but with so many games released today withholding content unless you pre-order, or even withholding content unless you pre-order from a specific retailer and in a specific timeframe, those reviews not being out as early as possible leave prospective buyers in kind of a shitty spot.

I'll take one Ethical Eight Ball, please!

But that bullet point list up there? Basic, clear, obvious ways to avoid even the hint of what you say being a conflict of interests? That stuff is so basic it's it boggles my mind that they aren't already in place. That's the stuff every single person who says the phrase "Gamer Gate" - and doesn't follow it up with a string of nasty insults - wants to see happen. That's what the tag was formed to discuss, specifically designed to pull as far away from the he-said she-said Zoe Quinn situation as possible. Lot of good that did it, but hey. That was the goal. Here we are, over eight weeks later, and stigma of "Muh Soggy Knees" clings tightly to the name with a handful of massively visible examples of threats and harassment cropping up, which has led to a no less massive - or mean spirited - backlash against its supporters who seemingly assume everyone involved in Gamer Gate is sending death threats and planning a shooting spree.

Now mainstream news outlets are discussing it, the brakes on the discussion over what Gamer Gate is, and why it matters, aren't just locked - they've been melted open. Called a "culture war" between gamers and those who want Social Justice - a battle line originally drawn not by the gamers themselves, mind you, but by the "StopGamerGate" regulars who won't put down their third-wave feminism buzzwords and do any research into what the people who gathered behind the tag actually wanted out of it - this has become a titanic clusterfuck so hilarious that not only has nerd culture turned on itself, but that certain assholes with a massive number of followers are openly comparing any supporters to KKK and ISIS, while others are openly condoning the bullying, harassment, and outright violence towards gamers - some of it not even Gamer Gate supporters (or "Gators", as we're sometimes called - I can't be upset, that's too cute!), just "Nerds" in general... in other words, the people who want to see Gamer Gate fail have gradually gone from being convinced of their own moral superiority, to blatantly just being Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds. I wish I were kidding, but the fact that Mercedes goddamn Benz pulled their ads from Gawker in less than 24 hours over "jokes" about this proves that not everyone thinks it's funny.

What does Gamer Gate want? To be heard. To be respected and treated like adults by the sites they support by their very patronage. To deal with a press that's honest, fair, and has the gamers interests in mind - not the interests of the publishers, and not a singular hive-mind colluded between competitors behind closed doors. We ask that serious allegations - like threats, alleged misdeeds and harassment - be corroborated before reported as fact, and that when something isn't explicitly clear, that the "games journalists" do some goddamn research to clarify it. (Case in Point: The fact that EuroGamer has to organize a massive, PR filled shitfest of an interview just to confirm that Rise of the Tomb Raider won't be an Xbox exclusive permanently is ridiculous, but at least they finally got the answer they were looking for.) We want an ecosystem of websites that talk about our hobby, the good and the bad - and if you can do that without being blatantly condescending to us in the process, well, that'd be a nice touch.

And on the other side, what does the Anti-Gamer Gate side say we are? Misogynists. Antisocial, pale, chubby, spiteful virgins so sick of women talking about our playthings that we're actively trying to harm them.They think repeating this ad infinitum will somehow make it come true. They think a handful of bastards willing to write long form threats - threats that are never even tagged as being written by Gamer Gate supporters - somehow encapsulate a group which has proven to have several thousands active members at any time, minimum. They think brow beating and shaming gamers will make them slink back to their toys and leave the websites that were designed from the ground up to cater to them will leave a better, smarter, more positive creation in their wake... but to get to that positively, they have to crush us first. To prove that gamers are subhuman scum, and that we must all be such immature, callous, harassment-prone douchebags that we deserve the barbs that we get flung at us, regardless of what any individual one of us may have actually said or done.

Let me tell you something about gamers... actually, allow me to clarify that word, first - when I say "gamers", I don't mean the assholes who bought a Wii as their first ever  console, or have dumped 2 hours in the last month into Angry Birds: Star Wars while taking their daily dump on an iPhone as the entirety of their time playing games. Yes, those people are, technically, "gamers" - in the same way that anyone who owns a car is a "driver". When people say the word "Gamer" they're typically talking about a gaming enthusiast. To put this another way, every asshole on the planet - well, besides me, but that's not important - every asshole on the planet knows how to drive a car. They're "Drivers". Not "Gearheads". A gearhead a someone who gets under the hood to up the torque, who supports specific models out of a deep seated dedication, who spends their weekends restoring their vintage ride to perfection, and can tell you exactly what year the Firebirds got ugly. Gearheards are car enthusiasts, not merely car owners. The gamers who play phone games and little else simply aren't the audience for Rock Paper Shotgun, GamaSutra, IGN and Giant Bomb - or any other digital entertainment themed website that's openly told "Gamers" they are no longer welcome. They're "Casual Gamers", and while I don't intend that distinction as an insult (Pac Man is comfy as fuck, simpler than a lot of "casual" games made today, and I dare anyone to tell me otherwise) when you want to start playing the dick-waving game of who actually supports the game industry outside of assholes playing on their mobile phones, it's absolutely an important distinction. Casual Gamers play different games from Core Gamers, and Casual Gamers *ARE NOT* being targeted by the Game Journalist circles. Simple as that. Do you know what a Main is, or what OP is short for? If so, you're the target demographic of those sites. If not, eh, I guess there's always NeoGAF...

 Something else you need to know about gamers: We all fucking love puppies. 
Especially when they have eyepatches and are part of the new buddy system.
...what, I can't be excited for The Phantom Pain now? GOATY, I'm tellin' you.

I'll tell you why, too. The most popular game in the world via total players is - and I friggin' hate admitting this - Candy Crush Saga. But the only thing you'll see mentioned about it on the websites that ran the "Gamers are Over" articles are what massive copyright trolls the game's publisher is, because - and here's the god honest truth - the people reading those sites hate those games. Not because they're bad games (plenty of them are - that's irrelevant), but because it means every Soccer Mom with an iPad can now call herself a "gamer", which leads to the inevitable, pointless volley of rhetorical questions, boiling down to PC-sounding drivel like "Why doesn't Assassins Creed: How The Fuck Is This Franchise Still Going Annually find ways to appeal to 40 year old upper-middle class latina housewives?"

For the same reason R-rated action movies starring 70 year old ex-bodybuilders, comic books about masked avengers, and green colored energy drinks that taste like shame don't try to target anyone but a young male audience: This mythical new paradigm of adult women gamers aren't overwhelming audience playing AssCreed, they've never been the audience playing AssCreed, and the oft-repeated ESA numbers confirming that HALF OF GAMERS ARE WOMEN NOW and MORE ADULT WOMEN THAN TEENAGE BOYS PLAY GAMES factoids don't change the fact that the games they're actually playing simply aren't AssCreed - or anything even vaguely resembling AssCreed. They aren't playing the same games that people who have been calling themselves "Gamers" for more than the last five years are playing. Asking why women don't play Battlefield is like asking why men don't wear pantyhose; there's nothing really preventing them from doing it, the majority of them simply don't want to.

 And that's fine.

And no, don't even think I'm trying to say that means "kek girls don't play games", or that any girl who owns a DS is a "fake geek girl" or whatever the fuck it is people try to spin on anyone who dares to point out that demographics are a thing in video games. Just like they are in movies, and television, and books and LITERALLY EVERYTHING RELEASED, EVER. The ESA is the group reminding us that half of gamers are women... and yet, even by their own numbers, less than a quarter of them are playing Max Payne 3, while two-thirds of them are playing Just Dance. Asking why women don't play Killzone or State of Decay is fundamentally equivalent to asking why more men don't watch Divergent or The Fault in Our Stars. They just don't care. With this in mind, the regular cloying discussion of how to make games "more inclusive" and "appeal to new audiences" just... doesn't really make sense. Women interested in the violent power fantasy scenarios that define the vast majority of the AAA market seem to be willing to ignore the shallow writing and occasional flash of boob for whatever else they find appealing in there, and as you can see, damn near half the people playing Kinect Zumba have balls. Probably well manicured balls that smell vaguely of vanilla and gym shorts, sure, but balls none the less.

My point is that having a penis doesn't make you magically like certain things - not even vaginas - so why would someone having a Tab V make them not like competitive or skill based digital entertainment? Girls play video games, and they always have. Anyone who argues to the contrary and isn't wearing a hockey helmet is a person you can stop talking to, immediately. But that doesn't mean that the majority of video games that sell to that Core Gamer audience changing dramatically would increase sales. And I say this as a guy who thought that Battlefield introducing female character models in BF4 was a good thing. Honestly, why wouldn't it be? Hell, even I have a friend who served in Iraq, and her having ovaries didn't medically get in the way of pulling a trigger, as far as either of us aware. Not to mention all those Carpet Bagging jokes pretty much wrote themselves...


So what's it gonna be: Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, or
Skyward Sword? PICK ONLY ONE, CONSUMERIST SLAVE! 
(And, of course, buy the other two later on for a nominal fee.)

No, what it means is that the girls who are already interested in Dark Souls and Battlefield and Guilty Gear have always been interested in them, and that dramatically changing the game design to encourage a new audience would push everyone who's already interested further away. People who like certain games like them for a reason; people who complain that certain games don't appeal to them were never going to play those games anyway. By far, the most popular game with people who would typically identify themselves as gamers is Grand Theft Auto on consoles, and Starcraft on PCs. "Gaming" means a lot of things to a lot of people, but "Gaming Press" only focuses on the 'Core Gamer' demographic, which doesn't give two shits about Flappy Birds - at least not enough to bother reading reviews and discussing the artistic merits thereof. See, the audience reading those sites are the same audience who want to know if the Xbox One will play Dragon Age 3 at 1080p or 900p. The same audience who will choose which retailer to order Hyrule Warriors from for their favorite franchise outfit DLC bonus, and then simultaneously bitch the whole time that Nintendo is falling to the same Ubisoft styled bullshit retailer exclusives*. The kind of people who will suggest you don't buy a broken port of a PS2 game, because why the hell should you when a used PS2 costs $50, even if Sony doesn't get a dime out of the deal? If this discussion is on a site not directly affiliated with publishers they'll tell you to emulate it, but that's... neither here nor there, I guess.

* The correct answer is "Twilight Princess Zelda", with Ocarina of Time Zelda being a fair substitution. At that point it's mostly a question of Blondes over Brunettes. If, for any reason, you chose Skyward Sword, you'd better be into dudes, because that game features the most shit-tier Zelda this side of a CDi.

Core Gamers are a unique breed - hobbyists who care just enough about the fun they have to trust other people to tell them if a game is an improvement on the last entry, to deduce if one platform is better at playing the game than another, to understand why certain games are better than other, seemingly similar games - but are also typically willing to engage in those sites. To disagree with other gamers over what a given game's strength was, or recommend similar titles that fill whatever specific niche they're looking for. If gamers weren't willing to engage each other - even if, more often than not, the extent of that interaction is basically "git gud, scrub" - there wouldn't be a gaming culture to begin with, and having spent so much time and energy on "core" games, the thought of wasting breath discussing whether or not a mobile game is worth your time is... kind of like walking into a room full of cinephiles into Ozu and Godard, and asking them which episode of The Simpsons is their favorite. They might have an answer, but that's not why they're together chatting about art films n the first place. The audience for those websites are almost exclusively core gamers, and I don't give a shit what you've read - the overwhelming majority of core gamers in the Western world today are men in their 20s through 40s, and amusingly enough, that's the same demographic who's working 9 to 5 and playing games in what little spare time they have left. Telling them they're bad people? On the sites they came to because the "mainstream" press doesn't give two shits if Dark Souls 2 has fast travel - or indeed, know what "Dark Souls" or "Fast Travel" even are? To prove that there are core gamers who fall outside of this white boys club the tag #notyourshield was used by women, people of color, LBGT and disabled people to show that the arguments that the gaming community itself was toxic, oppressive or somehow dangerous was a smoke screen, at best. Christina H. Sommers even posted a video explaining how gamers - while passionate and opinionated - are no more or less reasonable than any other group of fans that have built up their own community, and that anyone hand waiving them off as misogynists based on the actions of a handful of bad eggs would be to undermine any subculture.

Writing gamers off as woman hating sociopaths was a fool's mission, and they should have known better. Gamers still play games they like a decade after release, building emulators to upscale them to modern standards. Gamers grind away at MMO's until they get a Level 90 character, and then buy a new character so they can repeat the process over again. Gamers "git gud". Telling them they'll never win and then unveiling an even bigger challenge is what makes us dump quarters into arcade games. What makes us replay games on Expert once we've already seen every nook and cranny. The challenge is what makes us like games. The people who back down once they realize it's a lost cause and will take for-goddamn-ever? Those are the fucking casuals, man.

(Hey, don't give me that look - I'll finish Dark Souls eventually. Sucks when you can't co-op and your wife actually wants to play these silly things just as much as you do.)

"What up, bitch?" - Starbomb, 2014

Gamers don't die, friends - they just respawn. That's branding 101 shit, right there. The people that Gamer Gate were originally pissed off already knew this, but after Samantha Allen's infamous "Open Letter" prophecized we'd give up once the new shiny title came out a few weeks later, they dug their heels in anyway, fuguring that if we put up with day-one and on-disc DLC, annual expansion packs for sports games sold as original products and technology that flat out didn't fucking work right, we'd just swallow this bait, too. They made their choice, and we're already seeing changes; Operation Disrespectful Nod, a letter writing campaign targeting advertisers, have already stripped GamaSutra down from 4 advertisers to 1, which includes Intel, the single biggest CPU producer in the world. If Intel is listening, and Intel knows that "gamers" aren't dead - just pissed off - that's a huge win for those who were pissed off at being insulted and shamed for being associated-by-default with a handful of social degenerates in a business that's worth over $70 Billion. I'd miss EuroGamer's Digital Foundry comparisons and The Escapist makes me laugh on a regular basis, but at this point, the entirety of the old guard has become so toxic, so hateful of their own consumers that I'm willing to watch it all burn.

Behold! The opposition's playbook.
Study it, friends. It could save us all.

Really, let's think about that for a second; in the next decade, video games as an industry will be worth more than movies. The PS4 has sold over 10 million consoles worldwide, and yet it has about two compelling exclusive titles at this point - maybe four if you live in Japan. You're hard pressed to find someone alive today under the age of 65 who isn't a "Gamer", if only casually. Now, let's say the entire movie review press said "Cinephiles are over. You all supported those fascist Christopher Nolan Batman movies, so clearly you're all NAZI supporting fascists!" - how would the world have reacted? They would have laughed it off as the nonsensical verbal garbage that it is.

But somehow, that's not what happened here. Because the targets are "Gamers" - a medium that's been vilified since the mid 1990s by assholes like Jack Thompson, who saw it as a potential to milk a young and largely misunderstood market for an easy pay day, and is still largely written off as "Murder Simulators" and "Electronic Children's Toys", and have struggled to find critical acceptance ever since - games have forever been painted with the broad brush of being no more than adolescent power fantasy and grotesque escapism for social miscreants. This is hardly the first time that's happened, mind you., In the 80s before that, it was tabletop games like Dungeous and Dragons turning the youth to Satanism. In the 60s, it was the power of Rock 'n' Roll making kids smoke dope and have premarital sex. In the 50s, it was comic books making kids into serial killers and homosexuals. It's all part of the same bullshit cycle of moral panic.
The trouble is that this particular moral panic comes from a very different source than Jack Thompson and Hillary Clinton, who have lost all power to censor violence in the medium thanks to a Supreme Court ruling that it would be violating free speech: The opposition stirring the pot this time is far less blatant about their aims. They claim that they want games to be "inclusive", to tone down "inherent sexism", to "explore innovative ideas". At face value, nobody but a self-admitting asshole would say any of that is a bad thing. I like plenty of games in which you play as female characters, and typically choose them when offered**. I don't give a shit what race my character is, and thought the subtle use of potentially-racial tension in the Telltale produced Walking Dead game was an interesting use of it as both a mechanic and a storytelling concept. I'm not a socially regressive monster who demands murderous white men as leads at all times; I thought the new Tomb Raider was pretty damned great, and the only brown tinged military shooter I've given a shit about in the last decade was Spec Ops: The Line, simply because it was basically Apocalypse Now: Afghanistan Edition. I think I'm open-minded, and willing to try new things if they look fun.

** You have no idea how much it hurts me to know that Ruto, my personal fishwaifu, is slow, clunky garbage in Hyrule Warriors. Not quite as bad as Zant, I admit (WHY THE FUCK DID THEY PROGRAM TRIPPING IN A WARRIORS GAME?!?!), but not half as good as Darunia, who's already just a crappy Ganondorf. If you want to wreck that game, just stick with Shiek, Zelda, Ganondorf and Link. Big shock there, I tell you...


A sad reminder that Inafune just ain't the guy he used to be.

Now, you know what doesn't look fun? Dear Esther. The Path. Gone Home. Depression Quest.  And it's not even because those are lacking in mechanics, because I thought Journey was alright. Sadly, these are the sort of games that the people who are shaming games for being sexist and uninviting to alternative audiences, rolling their eyes at them being all flash and no substance, are holding these trite and dull experiments up as what games "could be" in the glorious future that Gamer Gate is fighting against merely to keep their status qou of annual sequels to murder simulators. Fuck that self-serving stupidity. Pushing agenda and personal experience through entertainment is fine - I'm saying this as a fan of the Blue is the Warmest Color comic and the Wandering Son anime. I see nothing wrong with anything, even pressing the ill-defined concept of Social Justice against the expected Caucasian hetero-normative standard in Western media, being the driving force behind a work of art... I just ask that the work of art has to be interesting to start with. This is why I never liked Brokeback Mountain - it's entirely because Ang Lee is a boring director, not because the story he had to tell was any less valid or interesting than the typical heterosexual romance explored in other Hollywood films.

I'm not sayng people with no taste can't continue to support boring crap if they actually like it, but I don't want a future of shitty walkway simulators to be held up as the critical norm when far more interesting games are released and then pooh-poohed for not being completely politically correct. I want Bayonetta 2 not just because it's hilariously over the top softporn-as-empowerment, but because it's a fucking Platinum designed action game that plays like a twitchy dream. I want Super Smash Bros. not because it satisfied my core lust for patriarchal control, but because it means I can use fucking Mega Man to punch Ganondorf in the balls. (And, for the record, I'm not such a fanboy that I'm not FUCKING PISSED at the dull, simple, badly paced level design, and baby's first mechanics that Inafune's Mighty No. 9 is showing. Fucking hell, Inafune, how did those Shovel Knight assholes so thoroughly destroy you at your own literal game! *Ahem*) I don't want a sequel to Metal Gear Solid 4 because MGS4 was particularly good - I want MGSV because it allows players to explore a villain's point of view, their gradual and immense fall from grace between being a man who fights using standard war procedure for world peace to being a sociopath who trains child soldiers and abuses nuclear weapons to accomplish his ultimate goal. Those are the games I want, as someone who's been playing games since before he could read - fun, unique, interesting games that sometimes explore ideas I've never seen before, and others merely polish the concepts we already know are good.

It's with this in mind that I find everyone standing against Gamer Gate - frustration towards a group who's only requested transparency and honesty from the industry that claims to be looking out for them, and turns around to shame them for daring to question their authority or motives - has no choice but to turn back to the origins of it all and claim misogyny. The fact that they have a wealth of people willing to threaten them, doxx them and generally shit on their every move only throws fuel on the opposition's fire to claim that we're all basement dwelling pasty neck-bearded manchildren who are one lost game away from picking up an AK-47 and shooting up a school auditorium full of feminists... which, incidentally, is exactly what some creepshow did to victim extraordinaire, Anita Sarkeesian. I'm not afraid to show a pile of shit when one of "our own" squats on the lawn, so here, take a peek:



Notice something, though? He doesn't mention "games" - not even once. "Gamer Gate" is nowhere to be found, despite an obsession with a fairly obscure spree shooter named Marc Lepine, and a massive hate-boner for "Feminism". Assuming this isn't just a troll milking an already present controversy for lulz (Protip: most of these "threats" are just that), this is the rantings of an unbalanced sociopath who'd just as likely draw a gun on a feminist who didn't like porn, or cartoons, or advertisements. "Gaming" hasn't entered the threat once. And yet, this is, somehow, the true face of "Gamer Gate". You know what else is worth considering? The Something Awful forum was snickering about making the front page of The New York Times over "drama" they manufactured the other day. You know what was on the front page of the NYT?  Yeah, you can already see where this is going. There's also been rumblings that the GNAA - that is to say, the Gay Nigger Association of America - has been False Flagging Gamer Gate for a few weeks now, but is planning to abandon it since it hasn't gotten the results it was hoping for. Evidently the Billy Waggoner Crew - no exaggeration, professional twitter trolls - are in the mix as well.

For those somehow even less hip than myself, a "False Flag" is when you pose as a second party and then troll a third party, hoping for as much drama and internet fireworks as possible. The fact that Twitter is ridiculously easy to create multiple accounts ('burners') means that one person could easily be posing as multiple assholes on both sides, either arguing with one awful thing or fake-arguing another and hoping to get the original side to look foolish. A duplicate account under another identity is known as a 'sock puppet', but the danger of false flagging and falling for sock puppets runs both ways. The second largest tag in this whole affair has been #notyourshield, in which female gamers, gamers of color, and gamers who fall under the LGBT rainbow have posted photos of themselves to prove that yes, there are minority audiences who like video games exactly as they are. A handful of idiots created sock-puppets to bolster the numbers... but, with over 150,000 tweets in the last 30 days alone, you can bet your ass that plenty of them are, in fact, women, minorities and non-heterosexuals who see that Gamer Gate has a point.

It's also worth noting that the some of the most notable Gamer Gate supporters and signal boosters - Total Biscuit, Milo Yiannopolous, Brad Wardell, to name a few - are no strangers to death and rape threats themselves. The Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory have more or less confirmed that anyone with a notable profile on The Internet is going to get random death threats from time to time, and it's been suggested through studies that men are actually more likely to be harassed anonymously than women... but, this shit gets complicated. Men get more hate targeted at them specifically, while women tend to get less frequent, but more generalized hate just because they're women. Apples and oranges. It's also worth noting that gay and bisexual people tend to get three times the harassment of their heterosexual peers in any given context, while transgender individuals get... well, you get the point. As I've said, this isn't specifically a "nerd culture" thing so much as it is an "internet culture" thing, and you're hard-pressed to find  anyone who's safe from blanket harassment.

With that said, perhaps the difference is that being a woman in nerd culture on the internet is still just enough of a novelty that a handful of them - like Sarkeesian, and Quinn, and most recently Brianna Wu - that their word is taken as more important than others in the same positions without the disadvantage of being women in a man's world.

Let's talk about Wu for a second, though. Brianna Wu - developer of the largely ignored Revolution 60 - is a nasty, heartless troll who literally used a photo from the Autism Speaks powerpoint of a kid with massive cognitive faculty problems and then made an "Advice Animal" meme pointing out how autistic Gamer Gate supporters are. When Camera Lady - notable supporter and internet detective who has legitimate, crippling autism - pointed out that was hypocritical behavior of someone who was standing against Gamer Gate because they were supposed to be a harassment campaign, replied "Leave me alone gross fucking aspie". When she was called on her general shittiness, she wrote it off as her 'account having been compromised'. Really, Wu? Your account was hacked for a total of 5 minutes before you had a media shit-storm and you've never ONCE mentioned it until someone called you out for being a shitty person? Get fucked, you hypocritical scumbag.

This is what the other side looks like, people.
If you want to reconsider, we may still have pie.

UPDATE:  Revealed to be one of the single most convincing troll accounts ever.
Stay alert, as both sides are prone to being false-flagged in these troubled times!

Oh, and for those curious, I've seen a handful of people defend Wu's use of "aspie", since it is a commonly used shorthand for Aspergers Syndrome. Here's the thing; Jew isn't a dirty word. Or Black. Or Oriental, really, since it's just pointing out timezones. But go ahead, try calling someone a "Gross Fucking Jew" and see if anyone isn't pretty sure you're a nasty anti-semite bag of wet racist garbage. You can be a racist prick, I don't really care. Just have the good sense not to pull the "I stand for socially progressive ideals and equality for everyone!" card with the same fucking hand.

Why does Brianna Wu matter? She's the one pushing for mainstream media over her anonymous death threat. She was humiliated in a KingOfPol stream in which Hotwheels told her "It's not all about you, Brianna.", and then cancelled on Milo Yiannopolous' pre-recorded radio show once MSNBC returned her called. This is a person who insults autistic people, and then plays the victim card once she gets some bile back. No, she didn't deserve it, but he only reason anyone gives a shit is because it plays right back into that "Misogynerds threatened Anita Sarkeesian, gamers hate women!" train of thought that's been the game media's go-to clickbait for over two years now. If Total Biscuit or Randy Pitchford or anyone who wasn't a poor, defenseless woman in a male dominated nerd industry posted a death threat as fact, people would laugh it off as him deserving it for being a gross fat nerd who makes money on YouTube anyway.

Pictured: An apparently great game that's been overshadowed
by the sleazy corporate bullshit that surrounds it.

[Not sure where else to put this: Before I forget - literally anyone who points to Shadow of Mordor to say 'See? SEE? Gamer Gators don't CARE about ethics, otherwise twitter would be flooded with people complaining about this bullshit! IT'S ALL ABOUT WOMEN WITH YOU PEOPLE!!' can shove it right up their own piss-holes. Twitter only ignored the skeevy promotional-deals-or-no-review-copies bullshit because, for once, the gaming press simply talked about what a skeevy, underhanded bullshit that WB Interactive was pulling - after TotalBiscuit broke the news, of course, because I doubt any other reviewer would have the stones to get a copy and then not follow through without it already being public knowledge. Gamer Gate supporters didn't complain about ethical journalism on that one because the journalists actually did their fucking job, and hooray for that! The fact that it wasn't a Twitterstorm doesn't mean that Gamer Gate didn't send WB and the PR company they partnered with on this title how gross the whole thing was a massive stack of letters saying, effectively, 'This isn't cool. You pulling this shit does more damage to a game's reputation than letting honest reviewers give honest, open criticisms about it.']

Curiously enough, YouTube personality Boogie2988 - perhaps the first victim of blanket harassment by the not-yet-named Green Tea Party, simply saying "Trust no one - not even me!" several weeks ago when questions of mass censorship and collusion had not yet been answered in any meaningful capacity - has said that the promotional contracts he's signed in the last week have been far less draconian than those before, proving that the publishers "get it", if only once they've already stepped in it. You know what else Boogie's had recently? Death threats. Several of them. As in several this week. But since he's a fat, straight, white dude who's more interested in talking about the mechanics of Smash Bros. than about how sexist Samus' Zero Suit is, you can basically rest assured that nobody in the gaming press is going to mention it.

That's the whole problem in a nutshell, really: Not that mere fact that a "Social Justice" bias exists in this cottage industry, but that it takes precedent over the bigger picture, and got us to the point where gamers themselves are willing to believe that all those "other gamers" are clearly just a pack of blood thirtsy vagina hating lunatics. Zoe Quinn is caught screwing a writer who's been giving her positive press, which in turn uncovers the fact that she and her PR agent worked together to silence an independent feminist charity, yet the entire gaming press ignores this clearly shocking and, dare I say it, socially conscious story - because the woman's private life is her own business, even if it cost The Fine Young Capitalists upwards of $10,000 and blacklisted the charity in the gaming media proper. Remember folks, a year before all of that, Brad Wardell - a game developer with over a two decades of experience in the undustry - was accused of sexual harassment, a case in which the accuser had to publicly apologize for fabricating such heinous stories - but the fact that he was cleared of all charges was never covered as "news". They simply slapped an addendum on the original piece, citing him as a rape happy monster - a story that was so heinous it not only led to him getting death threats, but threats that people would rape his wife and sodomize his son.

So, basically this, but in threat form.

You've not seen that information published until the last week, because nobody cares when a man is threatened on the internet - certainly not in gaming journalism circles, at any rate. And, no, I don't think pointing out the gross hypocricy in all of this is in any way standing against the progressive ideals that these sites clearly hold dear in the first place. I'm not a misogynist - I'm a misanthrope, if anything. While I don't consider myself any sort of politicized feminist, I'm certainly not anti-feminist in the sense: I think reproductive rights should be a given, I think what little evidence to support the notion of a wage gap is disgusting, I think that America treats pregnant women's work leave like a joke, and I for the life of me can't understand how any monster can be so offended by the sight of a titty that they'd request a nursing mother to recuse themselves from sight. Heck, I even agree that popular culture is kind of focused on a "male as default", which is just... silly, when you get down to it. Boys are easier to market to, I get that, but breakout oddities like My Little Pony suggest that the barriers of girls being comfortable playing with boy toys - but not the inverse - might finally be wearing down over time, and I fail to see the problem with that. I'm simply against bias in any one direction so thick it starts obscuring the truth, and allowing one side to be harassed without so much as a nod in their general direction while the other side is martyred, focused on as needing protection and special treatment. That's not feminism, which is the goal of usurping the status quo of women being treated as inferiors: The goal of any feminist is for women to be equal then men and have control of their own lives. Being treated better than men in any given situation is Benevolent Sexism, and is no better than when men are given preferential treatment - which, I guess, in context would be Malevolent Sexism? Wait, 'MalevolentSex'... damn, wish I'd thought of that years ago for my Steam user name.

So let's talk about that harassment - that vile, evil stuff that makes Gamer Gate look like such a bad idea in the first place. May I remind you, this isn't a Hate Group: We don't meet at the Town Hall in hoods or build bombs in Steve's basement. It's merely consumer revolt united under a single hashtag - no leader, no base of operation, no single manifesto, and thus is by default more or less incapable of policing individual and typically anonumous members to begin with... but  more importantly, most of the actual threats that crop up in this discussion aren't making them in the name of Gamer Gate to begin with.

That asshole who threatened Sarkeesian before the USU threat, sending her photos of her photoshoopped face covered in blood and bruises? He's either just a diluted madman, or - far more likely, statistically speaking - just a troll who sees that he can cause a disturbance in the community on both sides by literally handing Feminist Frequency free publicity. There's also the remote chance that it's an inside job meant to stir up sympathy, or even - as has been suggested to a separate threat - a particularly unscrupulous journalist literally creating click-bait bullshit to drive his ad views through the roof, but without proof, you run the risk of sounding like a goddamn maniac.

Curiously, one of the people who have been sending threats to Sarkeesian has been potentially identified as a Brazilian game journalist who's website makes money off of nerd related clusterfuckery. Who pinned his IP down? A Gamer Gate member. Because we'd rather hang the psychos out to try so we can get back to focusing on the actual problem, which is the gaming press treating us like shit - not women, not feminists, and certainly not the waste of protoplasm that is Jack Thompson 2.0 in a pair of hoop earrings.

 See that? You sww that this is? Internet Detective working to uncover the person responisble for harassing Anita Sarkeesian. Go ahead, tell us again how this is an organized Hate Group when we're the ones doing the legwork to stop the harassment of people we don't even like. It just makes you all sound crazy. Further adding to the hilarious severity of this situation, Men's Rights Activist side A Voice For Men is offering a $3,000 bounty on whoever finds the psychotic asshole who sent the threats that got the USU discussion shut down. We've basically hit the event horizon of Internet Crazy when Men's Rights people are willing to pay out of pocket to publicly shame someone who threatens Feminists.

That's not the only good thing to come directly out of Gamer Gate, either. We've already talked about The Fine Young Capitalists, but they've also raised over $5,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and most recently have been signal boosting the Extra Life cancer research charity, which all in all has made over 1.8 million dollars. When Eron Gjoni - Zoe Quinn's ex-boyfriend who inadvertantly blew the larger hypocricy of the gaming industry open - was dragged into court over the Zoe Post blog being an attempt to have her harmed - if not killed! - by the "vicious" gaming public, legal help was offered, pro bono, by supporters. When some creep tried to doxx Quinn yet again, 8chan called out for help, and the board was spammed with a constant flood of image macros for 5 hours straight to prevent the information from being on the site for more than a few seconds, until the moderators returned and could ban the IPs from where said sensitive information was coming from. When Anita Sarkeesian was being sent death threats by some anonymous piece of shit, he was tracked down by multiple Gamer Gate supporters, and all relevant information has been forwarded to the local police in the hopes that this creep can be brought to justice. But perhaps my favorite was when Gawker reporter Sam Biddle talked about how we should "Bring Back Bullying" and suggested we all "Smash a Nerd!", Michael Cernovich - a self-professed "law and fitness nerd" - immediately put $10,000 in escrow to donate to charity, if Biddle would box him for three rounds to donate to an anti-bullying charity. I SWEAR, NOT MAKING A WORD OF THIS UP.

Pictured: Gamer Gate Headquarters?

So tell me, everyone who says Gamer Gate is a mysoginist cult worth destroying and should all kill themselves in the deep, dark recesses of their mothers' collective basements... what the hell have you guys done to help others in this, exactly, except yelling at a bunch of self-professed nerds?

Oh hey, a cute observation: After China published an article on this nonsense, pointing out what a nasty little hypocrite Zoe Quinn was, they called her a "Geen Tea Bitch", which is a Chinese slang for a whore who tries to look good on the outside - unsullied and pure, as green tea, is the idea. With this charming new vernacular in mind, 8chan's /gg/ board decided that "Green Tea Party" was a cute enough name for the opposition. I rather like it. Calling them "Anti's" sounds like the worst family reunion ever, and calling them "Social Justice Warriors" makes them sound like a positive influence out of context. So, if you ever hear me bitching about Green Tea Parties, either I went to the worst tea ceremony ever, or I'm sifting through a thousand tweets, trying to separate the interesting news from the assholes. I rather like 'Green Tea Party'. It's also, if inadvertently, a jab against the baseless and, to be honest, somewhat confusing argument that most Gamer Gate supporters are simply right wing anarchists (the overwhelming majority seem to be somewhere on the Leftist-Libretarian end of the political spectrum when given basic tests).

That out of the way, I want to share something with you guys. Something that made me laugh so goddamn hard I nearly fell out of my chair. The other day, the Green Tea Party started the tag #StopGamerGate2014. Why 2014? I'unno, probably because they saw #Kony2012 and thought that did great... even though, y'know, Joseph Kony is still out there in Africa, training child soldiers, and fighting against an enemy that also uses child soldiers. The tweet trended for 24 hours, getting a massive number of interest from both San Francisco - where Anita Sarkeesian, the Silver String Media group, and Zoe Quinn's associates are all located - and from... Indonesia. That's kinda' weird, right? Didn't realize Southeast Asia was so into gaming, much less the related harassment suffered almost entirely by American women. Well, the most obvious explanation for this oddity is because these tweets were being made by bots, or independently operated programs that automatically re-tweet any number of things they're told to watch for.

Another thing that irks me - every now and again I see someone pop up and say "I agree with what Gamer Gate stands for, but the tag is too associated with negativity. It's toxic. You need to switch names for anyone to take you seriously." As I've pointed out, Gamer Gate was the switched name - pulling away from Zoe Quinn, only continuing to talk about her because Quinn herself had the nasty habit of never shutting the fuck up, and yet the group - who's stated goal was to expose and correct corruption in the hobbyist industry - was labeled misogynistic terrorists anyway. To clarify, according to the detractors of this revolt, being associated with a certain tag means the tag itself is toxic.

So after that, this happened.



Your eyes aren't deceiving you, friends: A bot hired by the Green Tea Party, to re-tweet "#stopgamergate2014, was one of the very same bots hired by the ISIS terrorist organization. In the same fucking tweet, no less. Let that sink in, and then let me all-caps this shit just to amuse myself:

ANTI-GAMERGATE PEOPLE HIRED THE SAME
TWITTER BOTS AS ISIS TO BLAST THEIR MESSAGE.

ACCORDING TO THEIR OWN LOGIC, BOTH ISIS AND THE
ANTI-GAMERGATE SUPPORTERS ARE NOW ONE AND THE SAME!

You hear that, everybody? Gamer Gate is not only too extreme for 4chan, it's too extreme for ISIS! WE'RE SO XTREME WE ONLY NEED ONE 'E'! ...I'm joking, of course, but this really is the sort of shallow, moral-panic drivel people are using to say that "Gamer Gate" = "Misogynists". It's simply not true. I despite Anita Sarkeesian, I really do, but that doesn't make me a woman hating beta - it just means I don't think poorly researched, emotionally manipulative and internally inconsistent criticism is worth giving attention to, much less be held up to the gold standard it is, quite blindly, by nerd culture around it being so afraid of being seen as social neanderthals as their pockets of cultish fascination becomes mainstream entertainment that they accept broken and misguided criticism as-is, warts and all, and don't have the balls to offer a second opinion on it either.

But if there's one thing I needed to remind myself where I stand, it's Alex Lifshitz' speech given at the Critical Proximity convention in April of 2014. Alex is credited as the associate producer for Disney-Pixar Kinect Adventures. THIS is the speech he gave, and this is a partial transcript of what the people who are against Gamer Gate actually think of the people who play the products they attach their names to:

"When [Grand Theft Auto 5] launched, Caroline Petit dared to give the game a generous 9/10, docking it a point for being exceptionally misogynistic- more than its presumed cynicism could really justify. A very real problem that threatens the enjoyment of anyone with an eye for spotting marginalization. For her commitment to her readership, she was pilloried by the internet teenage nihilist mosh pit. They deemed her too sensitive to get it, nursing their sense of denied grandeur with the implication of course being that they do. In their minds' eye, they're all very hard, enlightened cultural connoisseurs with sharp wits who enjoy ham handed, mealy mouthed, cultural shit kicking. Their minds and collective conscience honed to a steely indifferent edge by the brilliant satire of South Park. These people who so vociferously defend a quarter billion dollar technical marvel from a woman looking out for the best interest of others. They are mice that roar. Dishonest sacks of hot garbage that should be broken on racks. Their hissing should not be mistaken for love of games or ideological purity but what it is - insecurity. Hegemony in motion. A pleading request for the homogenous neurotypical mountain dew - easily ingested but utterly bereft of nutritional value."

This is the stream of bile that specifically starts around 5:30, but you get the idea. The only thing I'm willing to give him is that South Park's satire is brilliant. Well, that, and the Caroline Petit thing. Y'know what? Caroline Petit got far more than her fair share of bullshit for her review of GTAV, and yes, seeing the spiteful, unnecessary bile people flung her way - insulting every aspect of her they could find - pissed me off. I can fully understand why a transwoman would be more sensitive to gender issues than many people, but to be frank, she knew exactly what she was getting into with the Grand Theft Auto series. But being a transperson is bound to get you an inordinate amount of harassment, hate and bile. No, that isn't right. No, that isn't cool.

But it's not a gaming specific problem, either. Find me one transgendered person who hasn't been harassed, mocked, threatened and generally made to feel like shit just for existing, and I'll prove you're just quoting last week's episode of South Park. Petit has my sympathies for the bullshit she was given over a review for a game that, by the time it was published, nobody had ever played... but let's not pretend she didn't know exactly what sort of trap she was walking into. While this is playing to the other side of the fence and nobody's proud of admitting it, people have literally gotten death threats for changing the weapon balance in Call of goddamn Duty. Petit's gender identity was the lowest hanging fruit that anyone who wanted to hurt her could throw back, and that's exactly what they did. If she were Italian, they'd have called her a dumb wop. If she were Arabian, they'd have called her a Sand Nigger. She was a transwoman, and that's the insult they went with. It was gross, it was unnecessary, but it's not some uniquely grotesque aspect of gaming culture to insult someone in the easiest method to get a rise out of them. That's more "Trolling 101". Again, Greater Internet Fuckwad theory in action. If you think anyone, anywhere, hasn't gotten death threats on the internet for voicing an opinion the psycho at the other end disagreed with, you're a fucking moron. I've had numerous PMs insulting my weight, my job, my appearance and my sexual preferences from someone who literally knew one thing about me: That I disagreed with him on how good a particular Blu-ray transfer looked. Nobody's defending Caroline Petit's trolls. But nobody should be surprised by them, either - nor should they be more upset just because Petit was a transwoman. Remember when critics that gave The Dark Knight Rises less than optimal scores were harassed by anonymous assholes? Same sort of sociopaths. So unless you want to argue that Movie Culture or Nerd Culture as a whole has an issue with harassment, it's just more of the same old shit.

But y'know what else? Fuck this Lifshitz clown. Fuck him and the pretentious thesaurus this speech came from. "Mice that roar" and "Dishonest sacks of hot garbage that should be broken on racks"? But somehow we're the crazy people. Alright, sure, let's not question that or anything...

On the other hand, the industry is far and away more on our side than they're willing to admit in public with all the bad press kicking about. Case in point: Here's a fucking Senior Microsoft Executive showing anonymous support on 8chan.



Truth be told, I wish the Green Tea Party luck - I really do. Every time they try to pin threats on us with no real connection, every time they cite a doxxing we know is fake, every time they get 8chan mentioned on the news, it only adds fuel to the fire. Gamer Gate wants to see the ivory towers of a niche industry they've supported crumble under the weight of their own hypocrisy, and with Nintendo already having gotten rid of standard press releases in favor of spreading the word through Nintendo Direct streams and YouTube uploads, the sites in question that are starving for clicks don't need to exist. Frankly, the fastest way to get rid of this tag would be to pussy up and write a refined ethics code, and stick to it...

...which The Escapist did! HUZZAH! ETHICS, HONESTY, THE PRESS MAKING GOOD! Well, that was the idea, at least. The fact is they're already backing down over some of the content they published under the banner of "strong principles" usurping content. To summarize, they've published a total of 23 developer interviews on the whole saga - male and female, positive and negative, trying to get a wide variety of takes on what this is all about, and why it matters to people in the first place. It sounded great at first - an honest, open, unfiltered take on what people who actually create games think about the whole situation - but shit started getting weird, and since publishing the full spread, two of them have been removed over a dedication to stand against harassment. One of the developers - the head of Rouge Star Games - has all but admitted to being a troll, so that wasn't a big shock, and he wasn't too upset about the whole thing. The bigger concern is over the removal of the latter, which has the following quote - hand to god, this is what it says:

While we cannot speak to the legitimacy of such of complaints, due to our strong policy prohibiting harassment and abuse we thought it best to simply remove the interviews.

For fuck's sake, guys! Literally the only website of the old guard that's been priding itself on new and improved ethical standards pulled content critical of their industry because someone might have harassed someone? Might being the key word there - the concept of proof is optional. Because, Hell, what journalist ever asked for that! The net result? While I'm not one to defend Rougestar Games on this one, James "Grimachu" Desborough's name being associated with "potential harassment", the extend of which was him literally poking his head into an IRC chat to learn what the fuss was all about, asking to be directed to a stream discussing it, and saying "bye". That's fucking it. Sadly, with his name displayed prominently on the article as a "possible harasser", he's been the target of a harassment campaign so brutal that his wife had to assure the public that she was sitting by him the whole time to be sure he didn't do anything to harm himself.

Let's question that a little further. A developer gets called a "harasser" without proof, gets a torrent of hate delivered to his door as a result,  and The Escapist doesn't offer so much as an apology.Anita Sarkeesian, YouTube Critic - not even an actual fucking game developer! - gets harassed by anonymous dipshits, and it's fucking news. Because of course all gamers are toxic, but they'll only pay attention when it's a Damsel in Distress and makes a better biline. You can set your fuckin' watch to the fact that Desborough getting shat on by someone who doesn't like gamers won't be covered by anyone in the old guard of gaming journalism, simply because there's no pre-existing narrative for "Gamer Gate Detractors Are Sociopathic Trolls". It's be a contradiction, if anything, and then suddenly every site that posted one of those dozen "Gamers are Over" articles - or even simply shut their damned mouths over the whole thing - would need to admit that they were full of shit the whole time, or at best only telling half the story. Admitting something like that would require things like basic journalistic integrity, so, y'know... here we are, back where we started.

Ain't that just some shit? I wonder why those three lines of literally nothing even came up in the first pla--


Oh. Well. This is... interesting. Greg Tito, lead editor of the escapist, is being told by Alex Lifshitz - that "gamers are sacks of hot garbage" douchenozzle - that "this is not the hill to die on". Call me paranoid, but when the opposition's methods involve censorship and obscuring facts, they're probably not the good guys, no matter how hard they shout that you hate anything with a vagina.

What do we know about Alex Lifchitz? Not too much, curiously enough. Bit of a black horse in this whole affair. We know that the "biggest" title he was involved in was as an intern on one of the Call of Duty games, which means this is the sort of asshole who'd run donuts to Michael Bay on the set of Transformers 20 and then talk, at length, about how Hollywood is doomed and moviegoers should all be chemically castrated. We also know his father runs some corporation valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, so he has the resources to do whatever he pleases in his spare time. Why he's the guy making an editor for a Defy Media publication quake in his damned boots, I haven't a clue. I'd say that questioning what ties this jackass has to the industry in the first place would be tin foil worthy, but after the GameJournoPros list, the IGF having direct financial ties to Polytron and Silver String Media having proven to guide certain games towards the public spotlight in critical circles, I'm not sure what's crazy and what's not anymore.

Then again, much as The Escapist remains one of the damned few places outside of 8chan allowing open and uncensored discussion, that doesn't absolve them of any bullshit they themselves perpetuated. After all, we can't forget that The Ecapist still employs MovieBob. I wonder what he's been--


...wow. Really, Bob? This from the guy who called Megan Fox a blow-up doll? Who pointed out that Bayonetta's character design was an intentional inversion of the typical design aesthetic for female Japanese sex symbols, and a literal case of a designer Mari Shimazaki's female power fantasy? The man who argued in favor of Metroid: Other M's oddly submissive and cloying version of Samus Aran not being weirdly sexist because [game mechanics] > [storytelling], and the former is somehow an excusable cause to ignore the latter? Boy, it must be easy to buy a higher horse these days...

Again, The Escapist was important because the editorial staff itself was taking a Switzerland stance on the site proper, and they remain the only worthwhile place (barring sifting through 8chan) that's keeping tabs on the whole mess via the forums. It basically means that the Black List and White List are as important as ever. The more you ignore the former and the more you support the latter, the faster Gamer Gate has nothing to complain about, and the faster we can all go back to ignoring this retardation and waiting for The Phantom Pain to come the fuck out already.

The appearance of Something Awful, the GNAA and other literal troll groups all begs further questions, of course: Were one of them the same anonymous third party who hacked The Fine Young Capitalists, proclaiming themselves to be "The Head Mod of /V/"? Did they also doxx Brianna Wu on 8chan's lesser known /b/ board knowing she has ties to people working at MSNBC, just to see how far they could propel it? Were they hired by some third party to cause a big stink and elevate someone's career in the process? Nobody really knows. But if it turns out to be true, it confirms what I've suspected for weeks now - that 90% of the people flinging death threats don't really give a shit about either side of this debate, they just think watching gamers and the people who hate them flip out is hilarious... I'm sad to say it, but they probably have a point. Brianna Wu is such a nasty bitch that she creates new supporters just by being terrible in front of those who haven't picked a side yet. The masterstoke of all this, however, is they're stirring the pot days before Brianna Wu is set to go on CNN and CBS. I'd be more upset if she weren't so damned good at choking on her own feet, and accidentally converting more neutral parties to the Gate who don't understand why one woman they've never heard of getting anonymous threats somehow constitutes a Hate Group.

Honestly, I'm lost here: What the fuck did gamers ever actually do? All this talk of a sexist, exclusionary, toxic community didn't crop up until Anita Sarkeesian appeared on the scene in 2012. Now the gaming industry is so quick to lash out at anything it perceives as being exclusionary that we had endless debates about whether or not Assassins Creed Unity would have a playable female lead, despite literally every game in the franchise being the story of one character. We have an industry where tweets, even full blown editorials dedicated to the Far Cry 4 cover art being racist, despite both characters on it being Himalayan natives. (If anything, the image was supposed to be classicist - but, that's neither here nor there...) I've seen the God of War series swap out "offensive" trophy name making a tasteless 'Bros before Hoes' joke, despite it being a franchise in which you literally tear the eyes out of your enemies and then enter Quicktime Event mini-games to fuck multiple women. I've seen corrections about the Tomodachi Life controversy still be wrong, insisting that the Japanese version of the game allowed gay couplings (it doesn't), and insisting that adding a same-sex option to the game's code, a game which was already being localized on the cheap as an act of curious desperation, would be simple (it wouldn't). I must have read a dozen pieces pimping Remember Me up to be the second coming of Christina, an empowered heroine in a unique game environment that no publisher felt comfortable releasing because it had a cooties-infested gurl as the lead! Oh, wait... the truth is nobody wanted to release it because, despite a few really clever ideas, the game itself kind of sucks.

Yes, the majority of the gaming media reports tiny tidbits - new character nobody but Sakurai likes confirmed for Smash Bros., inevitable DLC pass for Arkham Knight detailed, Tomb Raider Rises exclusive to Xbox for, uh... a little while maybe - so the "majority" of news reported is just that, news. But such a large chunk of the editorial commentary is targeted at making people like me feel bad because I liked Manhunt - not because the game was actually the deplorable murder simulator Jack Thompson always warned us about, but because it didn't have a strong female lead or any positive depictions of Afro-Americans. It becomes exhausting. You want to complain about something that gamers actually give two shits about? Make a stink about how Hyrule Warriors lets you pre-order $20 worth of DLC a month before it's actually available on the main menu. Having had to punch in a code to get Ganondorf's skins and pre-ordered one of three specific costumes, I'm already wishing I could ignore the awesome allure of paying $8 to unlock Epona... as a friggin' weapon. (Yeah. Kinda' like Hyrule Warriors. Not entirely relevant, but fuck it, someone should know.)

The funny thing is, there's an instant kill switch on this: All Gamer Gate asked for was for their hobbyist press to stop gargling bullshit in front of them, so if every site simply acknowledged they may have made some mistakes, and here's a shiny new ethics policy to make for any misgivings we may have had in the past... hey. Gamer Gate has no corruption to fight. Report on Desborough's harassment, talk about the creepy think-tank bullshit going on behind the scenes at DiGRA, then let your intern write a piece on how he thinks the character designs of Mortal Kombat 40 are sexist wank fantasy and how Tim Schafer says we're all intellectual babboons - boom, all sides covered, nothing to hide, and nobody has any room to complain. There'd still be back room bullshit aplenty, we all know that, but even being paid lip service would be enough to give a large chunk of this revolt no platform left to stand on: The very second game joruanlists acknowledge there were issues with the way things have been for years in the second that Gamer Gate supporters have finally had their voices acknowledged, and then all of this mess can be put out behind us. It's just, so... simple.

Too bad that's not the road they've taken. As of Friday the 17th, Polygon, Giant Bomb, EuroGamer, GameSpot, and Game Politics have all published "Letters From The Editor" in various forms, all saying more or less the same thing: Corruption hasn't ever been isn't the issue, harassment is, and that's all Gamer Gate has cared about. To their credit, GameSpot acknowledge that only a small but very vocal minority of people are engaging in anything that's actually harassment, but the other four... hell, the last of them goes as far to defend the GameJournoPros list, despite the creator of it having compared it to the JournoList - which, if you've never heard of, is not seen as a positive thing by either side of the political spectrum. If we don't have a dozen articles all published by Sunday, I'll almost be disappointed. Get caught with your hand in the cookie jar? Double down, folks! It's the only way to get those nasty Gamers to go away - I mean, it worked so well six weeks ago...

It just doesn't end, either. Rolling Stone just ran an interview with Anita Sarkeesian, calling her "the most important critic in video games". Guess they never saw that presentation she game in 2010 where she says she wasn't a big fan of video games, or realize that the first video she ever did on the subject was her spouting off so many blatantly untrue "facts" about Bayonetta she may as well have been describing another game. The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified Gamer Gate an actual hate group along with the KKK and Black Panthers. CBS and CNN are on tap for next week, with some of the regulars threatening "big things" coming our way... and that's where it's all going to get a little crazy, isn't it.

Mainstream coverage is ultimately going to be the game changer, and I'm not convinced how thoroughly people on either side are conscious of it yet. As much as the vast majority of gamers - Core and Casual alike - are blissfully ignorant of this comparatively epic Nerd Scuffle... but the publishers? They're paying very close attention. You want to see an end to this one way or another? Just wait until 2K, EA, Ubisoft and Square-Enix see news reports about how video games are now directly linked to misogyny, harassment and domestic terrorism. This is an industry that's worth bank, sonny, and the moment that major publishers think that Gamer Gate being thrown about on CNN is going to cut into their Black Friday sales, that's the moment we'll see a massive PR push back against the narrative that gamers are basement dwelling autistic woman haters. Don't forget, Microsoft single handedly took games out of the basement and into the mainstream with the massive marketing push behind the Xbox line, bleeding money for years until it finally stuck. I wonder how they feel about all this...

While there was less direct feedback in the days before internet, I can pretty much guarantee you Sega, Nintendo and Phillips didn't like it 15 years ago when they were accused of sewing the seeds of violence in America's youth. They played the game, struck back at those damning accusations with the founding of the ESRB... and, once they could claim that a little "M" on the box confirmed that Doom wasn't appropriate for Little Jimmy, everything went back to normal. I can see Microsoft arranging charity events to donate to anti-bullying campaigns, and Sony starting a college fund for young women interested in game design and programming. Hell, Nintendo doesn't even need to do anything to convince its target demographic that it's just a box that people are supposed to have fun on - it just needs to remind people that the Wii U isn't a separate accessory for the damned system they bought seven years ago!

I mean just LOOK at that hateful, sexist, racist, homophobic sonofabitch!
(Also, seriously: Can I buy that Question Block pillow? Is, is that a thing?)

If anything is going to lead to a full blown nuclear strike for or against Gamer Gate, it's going to be the guys holding the purse strings. To that end, Chris Mancil, the public relations guy from EA, has already come out in support of Gamer Gate's frustrations towards a media circus that seems to have drifted away from its audience. Now, to put that into perspective, EA has pulled such ridiculous anti-consumer shenanigans that it was voted the worst company in America twice in a row in public polls -  and yet, even those assholes know not to piss off their money when it's suddenly made personal. Gamers are suckers for downloadable content and deluxe limited editions, we already know that... but we're don't take kindly to being spat on. For all the nasty, petty, dumb shit EA has done over the years - hell, Spore's DRM bullshit alone has had them on my personal shitlist for about half a decade now - even they're nervous that this consumer revolt could turn against them. What happens if Microsoft feels the pressure of Misogynerd Gamers giving their flagship console line a bad name? What happens if Ubisoft decides to try another whack at a viral campaign like they did with the Frag Dolls, but this time turns it against the spite-filled ideologues who are calling their bread and butter sexist trash?

And that's why this isn't just going to fade away. Video games have found massive commercial success in the last decade, but they've never been socially accepted as anything but a curious time-waster or an excuse to be nostalgic - go ahead, show me a single 25 year old who doesn't own a retro Mario shirt. Games themselves, however, are still seen as the inferior consumer product film criticism legend Roger Ebert said could never be high art, and they're still living in the shadow of Jack Thompson pounding the drum of Doom having created school shooters and Grand Theft Auto sitting on the verge of an outright ban for inaccessible code leading to an unfinished, shitty softcore porn mini-game at the very start of the last console generation. Gamers aren't second class citizens because they can be anyone - a privileged snotty WASP given a 3DS for his birthday, or a poor boy in the ghetto who's sole anti-drug is the latest annual release of Madden - but the hobby itself is seen as third rate garbage, even by the critics who are supposed to be pulling for them. Gamers who see this hypocrisy have nowhere to collectively call their own now, and they'll simply do what they used to do; buy games that might be good, play them, fuck around on /v/ for new titles to play, and try to focus on the fun part of gaming instead of the tedious bullshit that surrounds them.

You want brutal honesty on this whole affair? Ask yourself what sort of people are so hung up on video games being insulted that they're willing to write letters and parse twitter feeds and screencap fucking everything, just to prove a point they have no direct involvement with. Gamer Gate may not be mysoginistic... but it might just be a case of, to borrow the turn of phrase from the opposing side, Weaponized Autism. You're talking about an audience that beats Dark Souls, the masochistic console equivalent to masturbating with a cheese grater, more than once! How the fuck do even try you nuke that?

I'm not talking completely out of my ass on this one, either. As someone who was diagnosed as being on the spectrum a decade and a half ago myself, I can promise you that you're better off herding cats than trying to convince a hardcore fan he should change how he "feels" about something that means a lot to them. I know video games are stupid. I also know I've seen Jack Thompson's reign of terror before, twice, and it pissed me off then as much as this bullcrap is pissing me off now. Maybe I'm over reacting, who knows... doesn't matter. Because I am a Gamer. I'm sick of the way the press that's supposed to represent me has treated me and my own. And in this instance, I can't lose. The game industry will pull out of the sites associated with it long before Gamers will stop beating their drum. We've been trained to keep fighting infinitely, to literally play the same rounds over and over on harder difficulties to get better scores, or even unlockable costumes. The best part? The Gamer Gate DLC is all free, and with no sequel in sight there's no reason for the community to abandon it for the next entry. Gamer Gate wants to see the game industry reformed, and barring that, it'll just keep grinding until there's nothing left but a server crash.

Gamers will still be Gamers, buying new titles and complaining about how they suck anyway... but the gaming press? That's the only group here that should be afraid. Keep pushing back, and we'll strike at the vital point: Not the traffic, nor the columnists, but their advertisers, whilst poisoning the outside world to their value in the first place.  That'll be the final straw, and Black Friday is looming, even now. If the gaming media pushes this "Gamers are Violent Misogynist Scum" narrative any harder, it won't be long before the game publishers themselves don't want to be associated with them anymore. They'll be happy to let YouTubers and Twitter Feeds handle the news if they see the rest of the industry as a liability. If the gaming sites that have shat on our collective good will change, we win. If they don't, I've got two words for 'em:

GAME OVER.