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BxKJ1VtIUAAGN2bMisleading title, but that’s partially intentional as I want people who are against #gamergate to read this.

You think this is about misogyny, representation of minorities, about the maturing of a medium, about art etc and you think this is about some sort of pushback from a conservative cultural group that embodies – for some reason – everything that you hate.

You think your cause is just and so you think the ends justify the means. Those ends seemingly and possibly include twisting media representations, taking control of academic debate, avoiding peer review, applying pressure via various means, writing hit pieces and failing to question your own conclusions and positions. [See here]

Now, personally, I wouldn’t consider that a conspiracy, it’s just activists trying to do what activists do, but it does contain a lot of underhanded tactics, dogmatic thinking and ethical issues. Trying to avoid peer review? That’s a pretty serious breach of academic ethics that you don’t normally see outside of Creationism, who have also set up their own ‘journals’ to try and legitimise their ideas. This ties in with Anita Sarkeesian here.

I recognise that you think you’re doing the right thing and I agree with you on a lot of your ideas and claims – just not all of them or the way you go about it.

I don’t think there’s anyone in #gamergate who is against more kinds of stories, more kinds of characters, different stories, different approaches and all the rest. Flower, Journey and (less so) Flow all did pretty well with ‘conventional’ gamers. The Last of Us was praised (also damned, showing you can’t win) for its presentation of female characters and story. So this side of things isn’t really the issue aside from a very small fringe of actual misogynists and bigots who genuinely deserve to have those slurs thrown at them.

The issue is the tactics espoused by DiGRA, the dishonesty, the nepotism, the lack of journalistic ethics and – yes – the politicisation of game media and the censorship that goes with it. [See here]

And yes, I know you’ll claim that it’s not censorship because government isn’t involved and its not legally enforced, but I find that to be a very, very narrow understanding of what censorship can be. Self-censorship is a form of censorship and it stems not from government or law, but from the kind of harassment campaigns that ‘social justice warriors’ launch against anyone or anything outside their narrow, political and social ideology. Strangely we never hear complaints about this side of harassment, we only hear when someone gets harassed for ‘speaking out’ and then, usually, only because they’re a woman, the fact that they said or did something awful is never brought up and they’re ‘brave’ and to be looked up to for sticking to their guns, while a publisher who determines to stay gory or sexy in what they produce is not.

Still, this all has a chilling effect on creativity and free expression. People feel less free to make art (even if it is commercial art) that they want to and that is the opposite of your stated goals.

I need you to understand that we on the other side to you, whether devs, journalists, people working in related or unrelated media, and gamers themselves, also think we’re doing good and I happen to think our position is clearer, less muddled and lacks the hypocrisy of your side.

I genuinely believe in free expression and that that freedom includes ‘problematic’ expression. It also covers your right to criticise, of course, but pointing and shouting ‘witch!’, harassing the people who make the materials and infecting reviews with your dogmatic viewpoint is not criticism, plus it leads to shitty reviews. [Satire here]

So long as your agenda is going to be ‘you’re not allowed to like these things and we want to stop them being made’ you’re going to encounter resistance. So long as you try to push the idea that the fictive world of games (books, movies etc) has a real and profound effect on interactions in real life, you’re going to encounter resistance for the same reason Jack Thompson did.

The way you, and everyone, wins is to commit to a world of free expression where games of all kinds can compete in the marketplace of ideas, if not necessarily the economic marketplace. Games like Beyond, Heavy Rain, The Last of Us or the Lara Croft reboot do far more for your ’cause’ than any amount of ideological brow-beating or collusion to try and game the system or avoid peer review. Make good games from your perspective and broaden people’s horizons, rather than shitting all over what other people like and trying to constrict their ability to express themselves.

There’s room in the world for Depression Quest, Dysphoria and Gone Home alongside Grand Theft Auto, Dead Island and, yes, even Battle Raper. It’s not a zero-sum game.

Make more art.

5406911445_13b999a812_zNever, ever, ever, ever use this website to book flights or anything at all.

Here’s our tale of woe.

We’re supposed to be going out to visit a friend in the states this Halloween and in a quest for affordable flights, booked through TravelUp (via Travelsupermarket), without – sadly – doing a proper check to see what reputation they had.

Let’s just say it’s not good.

Let’s also say that it’s not good with good reason.

When we booked a small mistake was made resulting in us having a layover of 12 hours in Washington, we tried to correct this but nobody would call us back or respond to emails, meaning that even though we booked Saturday it wasn’t until today that we finally got through to anyone.

Surprise, surprise they’re not exactly cooperative with fixing anything.

If we cancel the flights we only get £51 back.

If we change our second leg, not even the whole flight, they want to charge us £750, for a flight that only costs £500 in the first place.

They even charge you to call them and deal with their inevitable shenanigans.

At every step they’ve been unhelpful, unresponsive, unwilling and it’s pretty clear they’re scam artists.

Nor are we the only people to have had similar issues. I’m linking to a few stories here:

Never Again

Rude and Unprofessional

Extortion

Please pass this on so nobody else gets suckered, and maybe ask Travelsupermarket why they’re still listing a company under investigation for fraud and extortion.

Safe Fiction

Oh-Bitch-Uary

Noteworthy game designer and pundit Internet arsehole James ‘Grim’ Desborough was found dead this morning in his home in Hampshire. James had committed suicide killed himself, like some kind of pussy following a long struggle with depression feeling sad, and being a huge burden to everyone he knew and was discovered by paramedics in the bathroom of the home he shared with his long suffering wife having slashed his wrists under the influence of alcohol shitfaced because he was too much of a fucking gaylord to cut himself without some dutch courage.

Born in 1975 to Norah and Barry Desborough brother to John Desborough and husband to Donna Desborough none of whom REALLY loved him, James had no children because he’s a pathetic loser but is survived by his wife who doesn’t really like him, his extended family who never understood him and the two cats that he doted upon because he’s a fag.

James will not be remembered for his devotion to the art of storytelling, role-playing games, his strong defence of the arts and of free expression and his forthright and candid views on many topics including advocacy for atheism and sexual freedom. He will not be deeply missed by his many few friends, who were fed up to the back teeth of putting up with his shit to whom he was often a source of comfort and aid, even when he had little to give himself.

In accordance with his wishes, his body will be thrown into a ditch for crows to eat his head will be cryogenically frozen, but a small humanist memorial service will be held in the village hall and the rest of his remains will be interred at the local woodland burial site to the village where he spent most of his life.

Depression lies to you. It will twist anything good into something bad and it takes enormous discipline and willpower not to listen to that dark little voice on your shoulder undermining anything and everything people say.

Robin Williams’ death was a surprise to a lot of people and a lot of people cannot seem to understand why a man so beloved and successful could or would do such a thing. Many of those people are angry at him and they call him selfish, before the body is even cold.

Worse, many papers are reporting in lurid detail what happened. Many anchors, pundits and others are opining on why and how he did it and what a selfish act it was.

That is not good and not helpful and it is going to set off people like me who have depression and who suffer from bouts of suicidal depression. It’s overwhelming. When people talk about the ‘easy way out’ and how ‘selfish’ such an at is, they are talking bullshit.

Bullshit.

Depression eats you up like a cancer. It steals everything good from your life and perverts it into something bad. It’s not logical, it’s not rational, it doesn’t make any sense. You will never be good enough for that black little voice, you will never be successful enough. No amount of money, or love, or family, or friends will work.

Maybe you seek out substance abuse as a way to silence the voice but drugs and alcohol only make things worse in the long run. Cutting yourself makes the pain real, something that can be seen, felt, dealt with, healed, but people understand that even less than they do depression itself.

Suicide isn’t the easy way out. It’s the last resort after years, decades, a lifetime of struggle. It’s what you have when there’s no fight left in you, no spirit, no willpower, no ability to reach out to anyone and say ‘I need help’, and people aren’t going to know you need help because you get so fucking good at hiding it, at smiling through, at playing the clown or talking earnestly about your art. You get good at alchemy, transmuting this deep irrational hurt into rage, fixation, anger, righteousness. You pour it into your work – when you can work – as a way of getting it out of you.

Good things don’t penetrate and don’t last, while the slightest little snide comment lingers in your brain for eternity.

Is it selfish? It doesn’t feel like it when you’re sitting in an ice cold bath, swaying drunkenly and drying to keep your hand steady enough to cut a vein. It feels selfless. Nobody should have to put up with your crap. Everyone would be better off if you were dead. So cut…

Cut you fucking coward.

Free everyone from worrying about you.

Free everyone from being bummed out whenever you enter a room.

Do it.

Don’t do it though. It passes – eventually – even if it does come back. There’s drugs that can help. There’s therapy – even if it’s oversubscribed. People aren’t as pissed off with you as you think. The papers and news might be being irresponsible but the rest of us, we can use this opportunity to reach out, to help people, to show that this big black dog can be survived and that we’re better than this stupid illness that fatuous idiots only see as news or an opportunity for a controversial soundbite.

Here’s some stuff I’ve written before that might, hopefully, help people out:

 

 

 

A response to Gia

Babys-Eye

He’s so handsome.

What a grip!

You’re so big.

You’re my little man.

Tough little guy.

Hey! Don’t cry!

Don’t hit girls.

Why are you picking flowers?

Slow down.

Be a man.

Finish your plate.

Shut up.
Stop running.

Boys smell.

Boys are stupid.

You’re too rough to play with girls.

Hahahahaha! You have a stiffy!

Look at his crotch!

Stiffy!

Stiffy!

Stiffy!

Stiffy!

Ewww, wet dreams are disgusting.

You’re a creep.

Stop looking at girls.

Stiffy!

Jesus, what have you been feeding it?

I touched it!

Disgusting.

Gross.

Creep.

You’re gross.

Peeping tom.

Let me touch it.

Pervert.

I only want to touch it.

He’s a stalker.

He’s a creep.

He’s a pervert.

Rapist.

Pervert.

Touch me.
Don’t touch me.

Look at that bulge!

Pervert.

Creep.

You only want one thing.

Take me.

Get off me.

Yes.

No.

Stop.

Why did you stop?

Don’t you want me?

Give it to me.

Be strong.

Take charge.

Pervert.

Not like that.

You’re all the same.

You’re all perverts.

Why do you want to work with kids?

But this is a woman’s job.

Women won’t trust you here.

We have to check your background.

We have to double check your background.

We have to be sure you’re not a paedo.

The parents wouldn’t like you working here.

Wouldn’t you be happier working somewhere else?

You’re making the women uncomfortable.

Could you be more circumspect.

We’re going to the coffee shop. Do you want anything?

Can you work extra hours?

Can you work weekends?

She can take care of the kids, right?

We could use the extra money…

Don’t stand so close.

She quickens her step to get away.

She hurries at the cash point.

She shies away when you say hello.

Pervert.

Creep.

Misogynist.

Let’s be friends.

This was a mistake.

I love you… as a friend.

It’s not you, it’s me.

Your sexuality intimidates me.

You’re too demanding.

All you’re interested in, is sex.

I’m sorry I cheated on you.

I just need more financial security.

I don’t want kids.

I don’t need a man in my life right now.

Ever.

You’re a bully.

You’re overconfident.

You’re intimidating.

Pervert.

You’re too calm.

You’re too rational.

That isn’t funny.

I’m serious.

I don’t care what you think.

I don’t want to fuck you.

Stiffy.

You dress like a teenager.

You look ridiculous.

Put a suit on.

Wear a tie.

Cut your hair.

Shave.

You’re getting fat.

Tidy up.

Put your junk in storage.

That’s not funny.

You’re so insensitive.

I have a headache.

I’m not in the mood.

It’s a school night.

They’ll hear us.

It’s too late.

Stop asking.

Why did you stop asking?

You’re pressuring me.

You stopped trying.

Why haven’t you fixed it?

Can you get more overtime?

You’re home late, can you…?

We need that money for essentials.

I make more than you now.

That’s my money.

You’re going grey.

You’re getting old.

You’re getting fat.

You don’t spend enough time with me.

You’re always working.

We need more money.

Why do you read this shit?

Why do you buy this shit?

You’re still like a child.

I don’t see the appeal of these games.

You never grew up.

Perpetual teenager.

Grow up.

Why don’t you join a gym?

Balding.

Grey.

Dirty old man.

Pervert.

Don’t you have any hobbies?

Let’s go see my sister.

But you don’t have any friends.

Dirty.

Old.

Man.

286257

Stereotypes are bad, right? We’re not supposed to consign broad categories of people into these simplistic kinds of caricatures and yet… we do. We all do it because it’s a kind of mental shorthand for how to react to and deal with people. Some of us make a conscious effort not to give in to the temptation but no matter how hard you try you have to deal with that stereotype and consciously overcome it.

Why do we do it?

The sad truth is that a lot of the time it’s perfectly valid to stereotype. Most blustering, red-faced religious conservatives are fairly interchangeable – at least on the surface. People dress, speak and otherwise present themselves according to stereotypes to express some aspect of who they are and how they want to be treated. We run into problems when the presentation and the intention don’t match, but it’s still true.

The OED defines a stereotype as: “A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”

That’s, perhaps, a little uncharitable. Another way to view it, if you’ll forgive me a little pretentiousness for a moment, is that of the Jungian archetype, which often sound more like an eclectic tarot set than a psychological concept. Some of Jung’s archetypes included the mother, the father, the trickster, the child and in motifs such as the flood, creation, the apocalypse.

In terms of stereotyping what you have there are stereotypes and clichés.

So should we banish stereotypes to the dustbin of history or should we embrace them? Archetypes and motifs, stereotypes and clichés have too much power and usefulness to be completely abandoned, though we may need to revise our lists somewhat. The ‘Uncle Tom’ stereotype of the past is probably no longer appropriate unless writing historical fiction, but that doesn’t mean others don’t retain their general usefulness.

A good stereotype or cliché, if such a thing exists, is a weapon in a creative person’s arsenal. Sure, it may seem lazy but in short stories, games and fiction with restricted amounts of text, dialogue or screen time you often need to convey a lot of information in a very short space of time. Stereotypes are a sort of ‘macro’, like stealing someone else’s piece of code and using it in your own programming to save time, or using stock footage in a film.

The thug, the whore with a heart of gold, the dumb guard, the gravel-voiced vigilante, these all serve useful purposes and whether you’re charitable and call them archetypes or uncharitable and call them stereotypes, they convey a lot of information in one go.

This is even more useful when you’re playing roleplaying games and the vast majority of people you run into are unimportant side characters. Without any personality they’re just a cipher, with a stereotype they at least have a little character and you have something to build on.

The ruddy-faced innkeeper, the greedy shopkeeper, the jobsworth guard, these can all be dropped into just about any game at a moment’s notice and they don’t detract from it by being a stereotype, they add an element of character and personality where – perhaps – there was none before.

A stereotype doesn’t have to end there though. While it can be enough it can also serve as a mere foundation.

Consider pretty much every character in, say, The Simpsons. Every single one is a stereotype from the motherly, disapproving Marge to the oafish, irresponsible slob Homer, to the somewhat dodgy Asian stereotype of Apu.

At least, they all started out that way and yet The Simpsons was, from the get go, a big success – once they were free of Tracey Ullman anyway. Why? Because everything was instantly recognisable and we all ‘got it’, because of the use of stereotypes. In 25 years though, every character has developed some nuance, some background (even if continuity is just something that happens to other people) and from those stereotypes have emerged more rounded comedic characters.

The Fast Show was essentially a string of these, centred around mostly stereotypical characters such as Rowley Birkin QC – who was based on a real person. These sorts of stock characters are not a remotely new concept, the idea of the ‘stock character’ a, formalised stereotype, goes all the way back to Classical Greece where, in 319 BCE Theophrastus wrote extensively on character sketches and character as a genre, with thirty stock characters including such recognisable tropes as The Talkative Man, The Coward and The Man of Petty Ambition. Later classical writers and playwrights added to this and the tradition survives to this day in comedy, much of it via the tradition of the music hall.

Returning to games, unless you’re working very intensely with a set character and a set storyline you’re going to need to anticipate certain stereotypes, even more so the case with many computer games which must anticipate and program for the actions of the players, but also within tabletop roleplaying games where the three main archetypes are the magician, the rogue and the fighter.

You can see that in Numenera replaced with Nano, Jack and Glaive.

You can see that in Cyberpunk with Netrunner, Fixer and Solo.

You can see it in almost every game, implicit or explicit, with character classes or without.

Every game starts with a baseline idea of a set of stereotypes, which you can then work with or against, exemplify or contradict.

And that’s where the fun really comes in, where you fill out the details, where you defy the stereotypes or sub-specialise within them to create something new and individual and that can happen over time as you grow more attached to the character and more versatile or powerful, learning new things about their background.

In designing my game Forever Summer I went looking to the source material – kids adventure movies and series, most especially the favourites I saw growing up like Goonies – and saw the use of stereotypes there. Whether it’s Stand by Me or Explorers you know largely all you really need to know about the characters within the first half hour of the film, if not before. Stereotypes get all that introductory mess out of the way, leaving the film free to get on with the story with some more detail about the characters coming out – as a form of character development but not really – as you go along.

Nobody said every game, every roleplaying session, every book, comic or magazine had to be completely stellar and groundbreaking or that you must avoid stereotypes, even when they really do exist in real life. There are people I know in real life who would be unacceptable characters in books or TV series because they seem like crass stereotypes, yet they’re real people.

Seriously, don’t worry about it. Stereotypes are just another tool in the toolbox and if you muck about with them and keep revisiting them, they won’t say stereotypes for long.

Said the long-haired, bearded, role-player with a house full of books…

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