IC2S Playlist Update 30/12/2015

Good news – the Metal Gear retrospective is 100% complete and ready to go in the new year! I’ll be posting the first part on the 1st of January, and then a new post every second day thereafter, so be sure to tune in! It has been a lot of fun to go through the whole series and write up these analyses, so I hope you find them enlightening and enjoyable as well!

First up this week is “Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen” by Santana from the album Abraxas. There’s a good chance that you’ve heard this song before, as it is a classic (plus it was in Guitar Hero III). There isn’t really much of a story behind me picking this song, I just really like it, it’s a great example of a guitar-driven song and a good demonstration of the oddly “spiritual” quality to Santana’s music.

Secondly we have “My Allegiance” by ILIA from their EP Reborn. Back when Weathered Steel was still in business, they used to play ILIA all of the time… which was annoying, because they are distinctly not a metal band. It isn’t that their music is bad by any means, but when you have an upbeat Christian rock song sandwiched between 2 angry death metal songs, it makes them feel very out of place. However, “My Allegiance” was their only song that felt like it might have a place on Weathered Steel, in part due to the bridge where lead singer Suzy Martinez just suddenly starts roaring for a couple verses. It’s unexpected considering how low-key most of their music is, but it’s a cool, passionate moment which puts the punctuation mark on an already-enjoyable song, cementing it as something special to me.

However, I recently bought Reborn and discovered that there’s a “radio edit” version of “My Allegiance”. As someone who enjoys heavy music, I knew exactly what this meant – a “screamless” version. Lo and behold, that is exactly what the “radio edit” is, an otherwise identical version of the song, if not for the screams being replaced with watered-down, regular singing. It’s a really disappointing difference to me, which just deflates the song in my opinion. I enjoy when an artist is willing to scream in a song as it often gives them a further degree of passion to express themselves with. Furthermore, I have a sneaking suspicion that ILIA felt like they had to water the song down in order to get “My Allegiance” played on Christian “rock” radio… with heavy quotation marks around the “rock” bit. Christian rock tends to be musically neutered in comparison to real rock, which probably goes some way to explaining why it has such an awful reputation. I wouldn’t be surprised if ILIA agrees – after all, they did make the “official” release the one containing the screams.

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IC2S Playlist Update 23/12/2015

We’re going for a Christmas theme this week on the playlist (for obvious reasons, I would hope). Considering that this is a year-round playlist though, I’m going to be using the idea of a “Christmas song” fairly loosely in order to make my selections not feel very strange when you’re listening in late August.

HONOURABLE MENTION: This being the year we lost Christopher Lee, I think now is the best time to check out his metal Christmas carols. If you’re on Spotify, they have all of them there and they’re pretty enjoyable… in a rather cheesy way. Considering this is Christopher Lee we’re talking about, I think that’s the most appropriate way for it to be.

First up this week we have “Christmas at the Zoo” by the Flaming Lips from their album Clouds Taste Metallic. At first glance, this song seems to be a pretty typical (presumably coked-up) Flaming Lips song. Setting free talking animals at the zoo on Christmas eve? Umm, okay… That was more or less my feelings about the song until I started to think that it might be an allegory. That line of thinking led me to think that perhaps the song is about US foreign policy (seriously). I might be way off-base with this interpretation, but the idea has made me like this song quite a bit. Basically, the singer’s desire to free the animals is meant to represent America’s “democratizing” efforts. Conversely, the zoo animals represent the nations which America’s attentions are drawn towards. While democracy may be a thing that they ultimately desire, they need to acquire it on their own terms or it’s never going to work out. I doubt that this is the actual intent of The Flaming Lips when they wrote this song, but I have found “The New Criticism” method of literary interpretation to be very useful in many circumstances, as it is not about authourial intent, but rather what the text says to the reader – which, when it comes down to it, is arguably the most important consideration, right?

Secondly, we have “Old City Bar” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra from their album Christmas Eve and Other Stories. There’s no other Christmas album that I have listened to more this year, and “Old City Bar” has quickly become a favourite for its great story. To put it simply, this song (and the album as a whole) are about how people do good at Christmas, but this season does not have to end if we continue to do good all year round. “Old City Bar” is a very Christ-like song in my personal opinion. It slowly tells the tale of a bunch of social outcasts spending their Christmas Eve in the titular old city bar. The song then details how the seemingly cold-hearted bartender’s life is changed, as well as the person he helps and the lives of those around him who witness his actions, through one good deed. It’s a very heart-warming song and one which is a great year-round as far as I’m concerned.

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So… What’s the Point?

There’s a recurring argument which seems to occur within my family every couple months. Most recently it was triggered by Rajon Rondo’s anti-gay comments to a gay referee in an NBA game and his two subsequent non-apologies. On one side, the argument was being made that Rondo was being an asshole, but how was this different than player ribbing one another by making comments about their mothers/sisters? There was also the free speech argument being tossed around (even though this is a case where an employee is being punished by his employer because of a positive image that they want to project, not an opinion in the public forum). One particular party was also arguing that people are just too “soft” these days, love to complain about stupid bullshit and need to grow thicker skin (this party, for the record, is only 22 bloody years old). These comments did get me thinking though – when we SJW-types stand up and make a fuss about something, are we just doing so because we’re a bunch of cry babies? Are we doing anything productive? When I write about womens’ representation in pop culture, what am I actually trying to achieve? To put it as simply as possible: what’s the point?

Well let’s make one thing clear – for all of my feminist criticism, I don’t think that any one example of objectification is going to be the tipping point where someone becomes a misogynist. However, I’m not sure if that’s an excuse to go entirely the other way – in one of his videos, TotalBiscuit says that he doesn’t believe that video games cause real-life violence, so it would be hypocritical of him to believe that video games can cause misogyny. In my mind, this is not an equivalent analogy. Violence is something which our society looks down upon, whereas (if you’re a feminist at least) negative attitudes towards women are still quite prevalent – just look at a few of the things I have written here for some examples in “liberal” Hollywood. As a result, it would seem to me that examples of sexism are not the problem, but rather the social perceptions which they help to foster. Actually, Robert Evans put out a very interesting article on the mindsets of mass shooters while I was writing this post which helps illustrate the difference between causation and cultural perception.

Considering that pretty much all of western society has agreed that racism = bad, it’s probably best to demonstrate perception in that area. First of all, getting to the point where we could agree that racism was bad in the first place required a shift in social perception, which we’d all look back on and consider to be a good change, right? People also seem to be fairly familiar with examples of racism within culture: black guys are criminals, love fried chicken and have huge dicks, Asians are all geniuses with tiny dicks (it’s all about the dicks in racism), Muslims are women-hating savages, terrorists and have wild beards, etc. These sorts of things get passed around in our culture, but they are not necessarily true (and even if they are on a person-to-person basis, the fact that they colour our perceptions of a whole race is definitely problematic). I have seen this sort of mindset still persisting on white supremacy forums over this last week. This sort of hateful ideology must be stamped out and the only acceptable way to do so is through proper education and social dialogue.

Perceptions change over time. Islamophobia is not a thing which necessarily “is”, it is based on a perception that has developed based on the narratives put forth by various sources. For a non-SJW example, look at the Ebola panic last year. The American media threw people into a frenzy as they worried about whether this disease would come to America, go airborne and then kill millions of people… even though basically every expert agreed that there was basically no threat of an outbreak in America (not that they gave a shit about helping the 5000-10,000 people who died from the outbreaks in West Africa). Furthermore, before this story hit the news cycle, the public wasn’t worried at all about Ebola or pandemics, at least not since 2009’s Swine Flu “scare” anyway.

So how does all of this relate to blogging about Quiet’s sniper-stripper outfit then, for example? The point is quite simply to change the existing perception. Keeping it in the video game sphere, I have stated numerous times in the past that the status quo for female representation is to objectify, to damsel or to fridge them. By blogging about such representations and drawing attention to them, combined with all of the other feminists who are doing the same, we hope to create a shift in the social perception. The same can be said in other areas where people have been questioning why people even care – from sexual harassment in the military, to Black Lives Matter, to Caitlyn Jenner becoming the face of trans-rights. We are creating a dialogue by questioning the status quo. After all, if we did not speak up about an issue, the issue would never change.

The secondary consideration is that a change in perception will also (hopefully) lead to more diversity. If the status quo is never questioned, then most of our media will never even think to try something different. This is why so many video game protagonists have been white males, especially in the past console generation. Diversity also means that certain “negative” portrayals can also be totally acceptable. For example, in an early post on the blog, I questioned why it was wrong to objectify women, but men were fair game (eg, the Wolfpack in Twilight, Magic Mike, etc). I have come to realize that objectification is not inherently the issue here, but rather that women have been disproportionately objectified for decades. As a result, we need to rein back the objectification and make it more egalitarian. This is also why most SJW-types don’t give a shit about DOAX3 or Pirahna 3D, these are experiences which are really obviously little more than a softcore fantasy with a very limited audience. Conversely, The Phantom Pain‘s Quiet is problematic as she is the sole female character in an otherwise-serious, high-profile release who is dressed very inappropriately for her supposed role.

With all of this in mind, I don’t think my criticisms are going to suddenly turn you into a feminist/progressive Christian/etc either. However, my hope with this blog is that I can help push you in that direction, little by little. After all, that’s how I ended up where I am now in basically every walk of my life. Very few people just radically change in one instance, it took me years to understand why we still needed feminism, that dogmatic evangelicalism was killing my Christian faith and that I should value other people rather than being a self-interested prick. Just remember to keep an open mind and be willing to listen to other peoples’ opinions.

Postscript: I have this article scheduled to post within 2 and a half hours, but even in that time new supplementary material has presented itself which I felt that I must share. The article from To Do Justice on the Patheos network lambastes Christian misogyny, along with our culture’s casual sexism which stems from the perceptions of what is acceptable. Even if you think that binding and gagging women and saying “Peace on Earth” is “just a joke, don’t take it so seriously”, you have to admit that it is both an extremely tired joke and in really poor taste (you bound your freaking little daughters’ mouths as well!?!?!).

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IC2S Playlist Update 16/12/2015

First up this week is the famous title track from “American Pie” by Don McLean (no, not the 90s teen sex comedy). This is another one of those selections that everyone knows and loves, and for good reason – it’s fantastic and a cultural milestone. A lot of people have been stuck listening to the shorter radio edit, but for the IC2S Playlist I chose the full-length version, because it is simply better, full-stop. Definitely one of the better known “long songs” out there, and a good case for why songs should be allowed to go over 4 minutes more often.

Secondly, we have “Healing Subconsciously” by Volbeat from their debut album, The Strength / The Sound / The Songs. It’s kind of hard to believe that it’s now been over 2 years since I became a fan of Volbeat. The Strength / The Sound / The Songs is definitely my least-favourite album of theirs, but “Healing subconsciously” is one of the more hypnotic tunes in their catalogue. Volbeat’s lead singer, Michael Poulsen, has a really weird way of singing in which I can’t even tell what the hell he’s saying 95% of the time, but it still sounds amazing. Seriously, listen to the song and then check out these lyrics: I caught maybe a third of that, tops.

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IC2S Playlist Update 09/12/2015

I just want to put in a post-script to the SJW posts before we get into the playlist for this week. I feel like I might have come across as arguing with a “no true Scotsman” fallacy in regards to what SJWs want/don’t want. This would be especially hypocritical considering that I have written in the past that we should own up for the misdeeds of individuals in our group. I do condemn the bad things done by SJW-types and hopefully I got that across well enough in the two articles. It is also worth reiterating that “SJW” is not a term that the people it’s referring to have any control over. As a result, the “purest” forms of SJW (small minority who maybe actually do try to censor media and get games banned) get conflated with all stripes of social justice types as the term becomes more and more meaningless. Hopefully this makes things a little clearer, since it’s a rather annoyingly complicated situation.

First up this week is “Hurt” by Johnny Cash from the album American IV: The Man Comes Around. Within a day or two of me putting up “The Man Comes Around” on the playlist, I instantly regretted my “6 weeks” rule and wanted to include this song. It is absolutely fantastic, and one of the few songs that I know which is extremely highly regarded by everyone familiar with it. It is also just a really strange fit too – a Nine Inch Nails song covered by a 70 year old country and gospel singer? It works though, and brilliantly at that. Check it out and be sure to listen through all of American IV: it’s a fantastic album.

Secondly, we have “You’ll Be In My Heart” by Phil Collins from the Tarzan soundtrack. I’ll admit, a pop hit is a bit of a weird choice for the IC2S Playlist, but we’re going with it. This came up in my MP3 player the other day when I put it on shuffle and it hit me with a wave of nostalgia. Ever since it came out, I have regarded Tarzan as my favourite Disney animated film. I watched it again a few years ago and it made me want to cry. Between the childhood nostaglia and the fact that it was resonating with me at a formulative time (I was in school and had moved out from home), it is just a really powerful film. I don’t know what it is about apes, but between this, King Kong and Planet of the Apes, many of my favourite movies have them involved in a major capacity. I’ve always loved this song as well, it was one of my favourite songs as a kid before I stumbled across hard rock music. I hope that its inclusion on the playlist awakens some nostalgia and good feelings in you as well.

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SJWs Part 2: Xtreme Beach Volleyball

Depending on how much attention you pay to gaming news, you might have heard about the latest controversy to engulf SJWs. Koei-Tecmo’s refusal to release Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 outside of Asia has created a torrent of ill-will, the ferocity of which is hard to fathom. So how about those SJWs, amiright? Taking away our erotic volleyball matches and cartoonish breast physics! Well… the I think that the truth is far more complicated than the prevailing voices in this controversy would have you believe.

First off, I need to make one thing clear: unlike most people on either side of this controversy, I am actually a fan of the Dead or Alive games. I bought 3 different DOA games in the past couple years. I have actually played one of the Xtreme spin-offs. I follow Tecmo’s Facebook page, meaning that I actually got to see the progression of this controversy. I also have been mulling over a blog post about how the DOA franchise actually has some very positive and progressive elements about it for the better part of a year now. Hell, I even thought the DOA movie was a hell of a lot of fun. If there’s someone qualified to comment not only on this controversy but also on the DOA games themselves, then I think I’d certainly fit the bill as a reasonably educated party.

Hitomi is my fav! <3 I also really like Momiji and Ayane though, probably because I got into the series through Ninja Gaiden.

With that in mind, let’s look at how this controversy game about. From its very announcement, it was obvious that Koei-Tecmo was targeting the Asian market with DOAX3. They had a character poll to determine which girls would make the cut, and it was only open to Asian voters. Furthermore, while they did leave some possibility of a western release, they iterated during its reveal and all subsequent marketing that the game was going to release in Asian territories only. There was certainly some complaining and disappointment among people interested in the franchise (not to mention a petition to drum up interest in a Western release), but it was fairly muted and there was an assumption that these fans would just import it or create a Japanese PSN account to play it.

So what were SJW-types saying during all of this? Honestly, very little. When the game was announced, there was the expected head-shaking and “oh look, another one of these games are coming out”, but that’s more or less where the media coverage began and ended. There were no calls to ban the game or anything like that. This was not another Hatred-level controversy – people just didn’t care.

Context: you should learn it.

The problems began when someone asked why the game wasn’t coming to North America on the “Dead or Alive Game” Facebook page. A Koei-Tecmo employee responded with:

“Do you know many issues happening in video game industry with regard to how to treat female in video game industry? We do not want to talk those things here. But certainly we have gone through in last year or two to come to our decision. Thank you.”

Obviously, this is a pretty poorly-translated response which makes it hard to discern the exact meaning. However, based on what is there, I can actually understand why people would assume that the comments meant “SJWs took away your bewbs!” There also seems to be an undercurrent of wanting to avoid controversy in these words. However, it’s hard to be sure how seriously to take this, between the bad translation and the fact that Koei-Tecmo have since put out an official statement distancing themselves from this post (albeit, one which is extremely non-committal and unenlightening).

Even then, things still didn’t truly blow up until almost a week later when PlayAsia threw in their own 2 cents. Looking to get some sweet, sweet controversy dollars, they put out the following tweet:

“#DOAX3 will not be coming to the US due to #SJW nonsense. However, we will have the English Asia version available”

At that point, the floodgates absolutely poured open as DOAX3‘s lack of localization was no longer a point of consternation for what few fans of the series existed – it was now a political battlefield because damn those SJWs for taking away games that I never even planned on buying!

Oh, and by the way, during all of this SJW were still saying “guys, we don’t care about DOAX3, Koei-Tecmo can release it if they want to and you can play it if you want to as well”. There were no calls to get the game banned, meaning that all of this “SJW nonsense” was merely an accusation or a scapegoat rather than something which was actually happening. However, there was one troubling response which helped to fan the flames of the controversy. Likely in response to PlayAsia’s attempt to bait anti-SJW-types by creating another wave of controversy, a former IGN employee “Carolyn Velociraptor” tweeted that they had industry connections with PlayAsia who would be boycotting the company. This sort of strong-arming was obviously the wrong approach and just gave the anti-SJW crowd more things to complain about. Look, I’m not going to Carolyn Velociraptor’s actions here because they were ineffective, thuggish and out of step with the average SJW’s position on the whole controversy. If you have a problem with her response then that’s fair enough, but don’t think that this is concrete evidence of your crackpot SJW conspiracy theory.

Dammit Anita, we were so close!!!

Normally, when a controversy like this happens, it stems from the actions of one extreme individual or from some stupid action which ends up colouring the whole group as a result. For an opposing example, think of how feminists were shouting down all MRAs for the comments of a single blog poster who thought that Mad Max: Fury Road was going to be propaganda. Normally this is how these kinds of controversies come about, but this case is a little more interesting for a number of reasons. First of all, it stemmed from the poorly-translated and unsubstantiated words of a single community manager, which were then passed on with the “SJW” hashtag thrown on to foster controversy. Secondly, we see that the hate for SJWs has hit such a boiling point that people will oppose them just based on principle. By and large, non-fans of the DOAX games didn’t give a shit about the franchise until someone publicly associated it with SJWs, at which point it became volatile as all hell. Thirdly, it demonstrates that “SJWs” and their actions are defined by those who are opposed to them. SJWs got our game banned! Oh wait, they didn’t actually do anything of the sort? That doesn’t matter, SJWs have created an environment which kept the game from being localized! When you have control over the label, it becomes… er… “xtremely” difficult to prove or disprove these sorts of grand assertions that have made up the bulk of the controversy – in the anti-SJW ideology, they already believe that they’re right and can spread the hate amongst themselves easily.

When it comes down to it, the SJW argument just seems to be incredibly overblown, especially when compared to the economic factors. Despite what the controversy would have you believe, DOAX is a niche spin-off of a second-tier fighting game, a relatively mediocre sales history at best, subject to poor reception in the West and hasn’t seen a proper sequel in almost 10 years. The fact that they’re even bothering to make another DOAX game is shocking enough to me, but the decision to not localize it actually does make some economic sense.

First of all, let’s look at some of the realities of game localization. There’s a pretty interesting thread on Reddit which has some info on the costs associated with it, from which I pulled this quote:

“Some publishers like releasing niche games in the west and such, but remember this is the industry obsessed with low risk-huge sales formula. 10-100k sales in the west even if localisation cost a fraction of what you earned or just reclaimed it’s budget? Fuck no, too few. 300-500k sales are more like it for a niche game in eyes of big publisher. That’s why we don’t see Yakuza 5 localization from Sega. These games just don’t sell a hundreds thousands copies.”

Koei-Tecmo is a relatively small publisher whose focus is clearly on the Japanese market – most of their games don’t even get an international release at all. As a result, they don’t really have a ton of money to throw around on a release that won’t earn them much of a return, especially with the rising costs of development, distribution and (especially) marketing. You also need to keep the market potential in mind – in Japan, hyper-sexualized voyeur minigames are far more economically viable than they are in North America. This isn’t necessarily a consequence of SJWs destroying the market, it’s just because we as North Americans aren’t all that interested in beach and pool party minigames, we want action, shooters and other traditional genres (such as RPGs, platformers, sports games, etc). In fact, I think this might have actually been what the Koei-Tecmo community might have been referring to in that fateful Facebook post. Is it so hard to believe that these comments might mean “the west has different views on female sexuality, which I believe make voyeur minigames and dating sims economically unviable”? I mean, if you’re freaking out about DOAX3, how many games like this have you picked up over the years? Perhaps the market might be more welcoming if we were exposed to a more diverse assortment of game types…

Hardcoregamer has some pretty interesting stats on the DOAX games’ sales figures and how small the North American market share is compared to Japan:

“According to VGChartz, 2003’s Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball has sold 0.59 million copies worldwide to date. Here’s the breakdown by territory:
North America: 0.36 million
Japan: 0.14 million
Europe: 0.08 million
Rest of the world: 0.02 million
By the time we get to 2006’s Dead or Alive Xtreme 2, the numbers drop precipitously. Xtreme 2 has sold just 0.25 million worldwide to date, less than half of what Xtreme Beach Volleyball sold. The ratios by territory are roughly the same, but the numbers are much lower for each.
At first glance, you’d think that means that North America is the obvious market for the game. After all, it sold more, right? Well, take a moment to consider that while Japan is a single country of 145,000 square miles and 126 million people, North America is an entire continent of nearly 10 million square miles, made up of 23 different countries and has a population of 565 million people. Simply put, it costs a lot more to market and distribute a game in North America than it does in Japan; it’s not a 1:1 comparison of sales figures.”

This is why I’m surprised that the game is being made at all. If the North American market wasn’t there back when the original DOAX games were released, how much worse will it be now? To get an idea, I used VGChartz to look into the sales of the most recent game in the DOA franchise, Dead or Alive 5. After I added up the sales of the 4 separate releases this game has gotten on various consoles, we end up with a rough worldwide aggregation of around 1.15 million copies sold. Looking at the regional breakdowns, the North American sales are usually only slightly more or slightly less than the Japanese sales, but considering the costs of localization and the much wider distribution that is required to actually give the game a chance of selling, this is pretty wretched. If you factor in the fact that the DOAX games tend to sell even less worldwide, then the economic prospects for a worldwide release of DOAX3 looks pretty grim for Koei-Tecmo. As a result, it actually makes some sense to release it in only one territory, go through certification and distribution expenses only once, focus your marketing, allow those who are interested in the game to buy it via import and, yes, avoid any potential criticism that might come its way, if that’s really something they care about.

With all the economic factors which are almost certainly the primary issue with the game not receiving localization, can we really pin any blame on “SJWs” for Koei-Tecmo’s decision not to release? Perhaps, but I’m really not convinced. For one thing, I can’t recall the last time there was a major feminist outcry about a video game since Dragon’s Crown. Anything since then has basically boiled down to criticism, which is something that you just have to deal with if you’re going to put out a piece of art. On the other side of the coin, you didn’t see Anita Sarkeesian stop her video game tropes series over the criticism she received, which was significantly harsher than anything that has ever been said about the DOA franchise. If she can stick to her guns and put out a product she believes in, I have a hard time believing that Koei-Tecmo can’t, especially if there’s a significant amount of money to be made.

If Koei-Tecmo were concerned about the opinions of SJWs, then why would they have released Dead or Alive 5: Last Round just this past year? In this release, they doubled-down on the fan service by adding Honoka, easily their… er… “biggest”* slice of fan service ever. Even with Honoka, DOA5:LR really didn’t make much of a splash amongst the SJW-crowd, who basically just shrugged their shoulders as they have with DOAX3 (and DOA5:LR even received reasonably good reviews which were more critical of it being a cash grab than anything else). If Koei-Tecmo were truly concerned about SJW backlash, then I doubt that they would have put out DOA5:LR in the first place, or especially made it “sexier” than ever.

Which brings me to my final, and definitely most important, point: guys, please stop freaking out about this game. I can guarantee you that DOAX3 is not worth your outrage. I seriously question how many of these angry people have actually played a DOAX game, because they are utter shit. For a laugh, I tried out Dead or Alive Paradise, and it was absolutely wretched. If all you wanted to do is oogle girls in bikinis, you should realize that that is barely a feature in the game. Most of what you do is boring menu-based busywork until you decide to play a minigame for about 30 seconds. It has more in common with dating games than you would expect. Now obviously there is a certain niche market for that kind of game, which is fine, but I doubt that they’re the ones doing the bulk of the complaining here. The extremely creepy tone and general pervy-ness are just a veneer over a husk of a game which very quickly goes sour. At least the DOA fighting games are build upon great game mechanics which make them very fun in their own right, even if you aren’t interested in the voyeurism. DOAX lacks that though and ends up being nothing more than sexploitation in the same vein as such esteemed “classics” as Bubble Bath Babes or one of those pornographic Tetris machines you see in the especially seedy bars.

As if that wasn’t enough, Koei-Tecmo have demonstrated through DOA5:LR that DOAX3 is going to be packed full of many of the corporate practices that gamers have been rallying against for years now. If your favourite part of the old DOAX games was unlocking all the skimpy bikinis then prepare to be disappointed – DOAX3 is going to be a DLC factory. Every re-release of DOA5 has been packed with a glut of DLC. DOA5:LR alone had over $200 worth of DLC available on day 1!!! Want to know what’s even worse? A significant portion of that (around $90 worth) was already on the disc and available in previous releases of the game as DLC. Usually when you put out an enhanced re-release, you pack all of the content that was available in the previous release, not sell it to everyone again…

Arguably the absolute worst offense they have committed though is releasing a $90 season pass… which literally was good for only a few months of mediocre costumes. Without warning, they launched a second season pass for the next year of content for the exact same price, meaning that super-dedicated fans of the franchise can be looking at upwards of $240+ to get the “full” experience of a game which came out years ago. Koei Tecmo is just taking the piss and this is almost certainly going to carry over into DOAX3. Oh, and all of those characters who failed to make the cut for the game, including such main characters as Tina Armstrong and Lei Fang? They’ll almost certainly be added in as DLC in the future as well.

After all of this controversy though, I wouldn’t be surprised if Koei Tecmo relents and announces in the next couple months that they’ll release the game exclusively via PSN and Xbox Live. Anti-SJWs will declare it a victory for free speech, while SJWs will just continue to sigh, shrug their shoulders and not care. Personally, there seems to be room for games like DOAX3, similarly to how we can have movies like Piranha 3D and Magic Mike. At this point, we’re more concerned about female representation in AAA games like Watch_Dogs and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, rather than the business of softcore porn fantasies. If you’re looking for someone to blame for this controversy, here’s where I would direct you: Koei Tecmo. If they really are being strong armed by us nasty SJW-types, then they should just have the balls to stick to their guns and trust the market.

And anyway, if they don’t release it in North America after all, then that’s what Rule 34 is for, right?

*Man, I’m really killing it with the puns today.

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SJWs Part 1: Warriors, Come Out to Plaaaaay!

The amount of hate out there for SJWs at the moment is insane. I haven’t seen this much vitriol directed at a social group since around 2010 when “hipster hate” was just beginning to hit its stride. The backlash against SJWs has been playing out quite visibly lately, which has made me feel a need to put out a more comprehensive post on it than I have in the past. I had originally intended to put up one big piece on the current situation, but it ended up being really sprawling and incoherent, which has prompted me to split this into two parts. In this part, I’m going to try to unpack some of the issues people have against SJWs, while also pointing out some of my own criticisms about both sides of the divide. If you’re reading this on the publication date then be sure to come back in a couple days for my response to one of the current controversies that SJWs have been dragged into and some conclusions on the matter.

The cynical viewpoint… about half of these were cherry-picked from less-important titles and a couple of them are actually player customizable. It is emblematic of a the wider problem though when you consider that these are just game heroes from around 2005-2010.

This is the million dollar question, isn’t it? Believe it or not, it is actually harder to define what an “SJW” is than you would expect. This is mainly because it is an insult thrown around by people who disagree with people advocating social justice causes. Naturally, I like the Rational Wiki’s definition which claims that it is “used primarily by right-wingers on the internet […] to describe liberals, progressives, feminists, and supporters of political correctness. The term is used to insinuate pretense and to label opponents as disingenuous people engaging in social justice arguments to raise their personal reputation”.  In many ways, this makes it seem to be similar to the “check your privilege” phrase used by some of the shittier SJW-types to shut down opponents without actually engaging them.

On a more neutral note, Know Your Meme has a brief article about the rise of social justice blogging (basically the source of SJWs as a group) and has some very fair criticisms of the movement. They state that “the group has been criticized for propagating unreliable information and espousing slacktivism and herd mentality, as reflected in the pejorative term ‘social justice warriors'”. That said, they acknowledge that “the influence of online activism on public opinion has grown significantly with the emergence of social justice bloggers”, meaning that these “armchair activists” are actually contributing to social change and aren’t as useless as your average flash-in-the-pan online outrage (anyone remember Cecil the Lion?).

Now to be fair to the anti-SJW side, I have also looked into the definition posited by Encyclopedia Dramatica… which, if you’ve ever been there, is about what you would expect. If you are curious about the mindset of someone who is against social causes, filtered through the voice of an angry, sarcastic teenager, then Encyclopedia Dramatica puts forth a very informative sketch of what you can expect anti-SJWs to think. This also helps to show why the term is so hard to nail down, because anti-SJWs range from people who just don’t care about social justice causes to full-on misogynists, Dugger-style proponents of patriarchy, racists and the like – in such an environment, “people I don’t agree with” can vary significantly.

That brings us towards the heart of the issue though. The big disconnect between “SJWs” and the people going around calling them “SJWs” is a difference in worldview (the ol’ ideological divide which has popped up on this blog many times in the past). Specifically, that SJWs are interested in advancing various causes, whereas their opponents don’t feel the need to change their worldview, could care less about social causes (or are actively opposed to such a thing) and want SJWs to shut the hell up. Obviously, “SJWs” are not the ones who came up with this label, nor are they the ones who affix it to people. This make it more difficult to properly pin down what makes a SJW. After all, a feminist will self-identify as a feminist based on their belief, whereas a SJW is defined by a third-party opinion as a reductive label. In many cases, there seems to be a strong vein of left vs right politics in the arguments – traditionally, the left tends to advocate for social justice for marginalized groups, whereas the right tends to want to maintain the status quo and are averse to change. Obviously, this isn’t always the case (I happen to know some moderately left-leaning individuals who tend to clash with SJW ideas), but it does give a general idea of how the lines are drawn.

I also feel that I need to say that I have always felt that “social justice warrior” is a pretty wretched blanket term for socially conscious people. Whenever I see or hear someone using this term in a serious manner to describe a group of people, it makes me cringe. I understand that there’s supposed to be a certain amount of sarcasm to it, but I think anyone who actually could be called a “social justice warrior” would see it as anything but insulting. I actually like that the Rational Wiki points this out, with many probable-SJWs (myself included) “reclaiming” the term and self-identifying with it, making it into a label of pride and robbing it of its intended power. That said, it is also just horribly unspecific, covering the causes of gender relations, LGBTQ rights, racism and ableism, amongst other things under one umbrella. Considering that there are already sub-factions and differing opinions within each of these movements, it makes SJW an extremely useless and potentially ignorant term.

It’s also worth pointing out that SJW is a term that is almost inextricably linked with video gaming. It seems to have its roots in Tumblr blogging about various social causes within the wider culture, but it really became a mainstream term thanks to feminism and LGBTQ voices that have cropped up in gaming within the last few years and the resulting backlash. As a result, I’m mainly going to focus on the SJW label within video games, but it is worth remembering that it can apply to a much wider cultural context as well (although with considerably less backlash in those areas).

The wishful thinker. When you think “video game protagonists”, many of the “diverse” options on display here are from unsuccessful or only moderately-successful, non-AAA games (eg, Gravity Rush, Brutal Legend, Rayman Legends, Guacamelee!, etc). This means that, again, the meme-creator was cherry-picking hardcore.

As much as I am obviously ideologically biased in favour of SJWs, I don’t think that they are perfect by any means and certainly have their flaws. For one thing, a lot of backlash against SJWs seems to stem from an exhaustion of activists constantly pointing out flaws in society and media. Considering that one of the main breeding grounds of SJWs, Tumblr, is seen as “the place where teenagers go to air their causes”, I can see how this would happen. In such an environment, social justice activism will often be reactionary and poorly educated as posts go viral, not unlike the shitty, unreliable image macros that make their way around Facebook. This sort of social justice activist is also responsible for such irritating argument-enders as “check your privilege” – a phrase which, while perhaps true, is extremely uninformative and only serves to jerk off the ego of person spouting it rather than actually inform the person they’re arguing with that they may have been brought up in an advantageous environment. To such individuals, I would suggest that they need to learn how to pick their fights, write more eloquently and try to avoid sounding frivolous.

Let’s be honest as well, as much as we decry the death threats, doxxing and other strong-arm tactics employed by anti-SJWs, these tactics are also employed at times by misguided SJWs who haven’t heard of the “moral high ground”. Let me make this clear – I don’t give a shit which side of the ideological line you place yourself, if you’re utilizing terrorist tactics to try to get your point across, you’re an utter asshole.

This segues into the next point though, that the group is defined by its worst constituent parts. This applies equally to SJWs and anti-SJWs. I am trying to keep my words in general terms throughout this post, because there probably are some SJWs who want to see everything they dislike get banned and maybe even a few who are radical feminists or full-on misandrists. However, in all of my experiences within a culture which would certainly be considered “pro-SJW”, I haven’t seen anything of the sort and they do not have a prominent voice in the culture of the various SJW groups. Most of us are reasonable people, so long as you have the presence of mind to consider “someone who disagrees with me” reasonable, and are just acting out of a belief that our actions will be more beneficial to others in the long run. Whether you agree with the details of that assertion is your own business, but if you’re one of those people who thinks that liberalism is a mental illness or that SJWs are just trying to get into womens’ pants (an assertion which says more about the accuser than the accused in my opinion), then you’re being disingenuous.

Similarly, many anti-SJWs aren’t MRAs, misogynists and crazy conservatives as they are often portrayed to be. As I wrote earlier, I know some people who at least seem to be rather anti-SJW, but this seems to stem entirely from their negative interactions with SJW-types. I was hanging out with these friends on the weekend and one of them said that he had been accused of being an “ableist” because he didn’t have a problem with movies using able-bodied actors to portray people with disabilities. Throwing around such labels isn’t exactly conducive to a dialogue, especially when they had a pretty damn reasonable argument to begin with (you can’t exactly get a severely autistic person to portray such a character on film, for example, nor can you get a paralyzed individual to portray someone who is seen walking elsewhere in the film). I also have a brother in the Canadian Forces who is strongly opposed to “keyboard warriors”. With the Canadian Forces starting to crack down on sexual harassment, he has been whining about how bullshit these policies are. In my opinion, these complaints stem from a self-centered aversion to change, as he has expressed many complaints about how he’s sick of hearing about how everyone else wants things to change – it’s not the arguments that aren’t swaying him, it’s just the fact that some people have the audacity to want things to be different and a rather ridiculous expectation that this might work out for him. In both of these cases, the individuals in question are not crazy, regressive individuals – they are just normal people like you and I who have different priorities and experiences which have coloured their interactions with the SJW crowd. We should keep their kind in mind when we attempt to spread our ideology.

No discussion of the “bad apples” would be complete without Anita Sarkeesian though. To the anti-SJW crowd, Anita Sarkeesian is The Devil. It’s hard to go through an argument about feminism in gaming without having her name pop up and driven into the ground as they decry what an awful person she is (and I have literally seen people say that she is the absolute worst person they can think of). With all the shit she gets, she is basically seen as the face of feminism in gaming… by the anti-SJW crowd anyway. The fact of the matter is that most feminists don’t seem to actually care all that much about Anita Sarkeesian (myself included). I think you’ll find a general acceptance of her basic points and some respect for her attempts to further feminism in gaming, but from everything I have seen, your average feminist could care less about her opinions and even criticize her for some extreme views and for her inaccurate, cherry-picked examples. The only reason that she has any sort of clout at all is because:

  1. She receives a disproportionately severe amount of abuse and harassment.
  2. Anti-feminists won’t shut the hell up about her, keeping her in the public consciousness.
The realist. This is probably the most accurate (if somewhat outdated) distillation of  major video game protagonists, but even then you’ll notice that there’s only 1 woman represented (although, to be fair, Samus could have easily made the list as well, not that that would make a real difference).

I can’t really speak for the other side, but I feel that a lot of hate against SJWs comes from a lack of understanding of their positions. I was reminded of this recently when a friend of mine tried to make a joke about how SJWs are trying to boycott Starbucks coffee because they don’t have “Merry Christmas” on their cups. Myself and a couple friends respectfully let him know that that is not an SJW cause, to which he replied that he had been put under the impression that it was something that they cared about. This friend has complained about how much he dislikes SJWs in the past, but this revealed that he really has no idea what SJWs actually stand for. Obviously this is anecdotal and speculative, but it does help paint the picture that there is a good deal of ignorance being fostered and used to fan the flames of the conflict. For another example, the Encyclopedia Dramatica definition claimed that SJWs “are currently the biggest hindrance to the arts, and are overall a cancer to society that needs to be put down”. Obviously, this is a completely idiotic claim (I’d say that mass market homogenization, lack of funding for artists, studio-enforced censorship, etc are all far worse for the arts), but it does show a lack of understanding of the driving ideology behind SJWs and the “destructive” power that people seem to think that they wield.

Just a couple weeks ago, I made a blog post about how feminism has been gaining influence within gaming in the last few years and how it has positively impacting female representations. Since I don’t want to repeat myself too much, put simply representations of women in gaming have often been ridiculously objectified or marginalized, if not completely absent, since games were traditionally marketed towards a young, white, male audience. However, since feminist and LGBTQ commenters have begun to receive a voice in gaming culture, we have seen strides made in their representations (Mass EffectSaints Row, Tomb Raider, The Last of Us, etc are some of the quality experiences which have been positively impacted by these efforts). Other SJW-types have begun speaking up as well, and we’ve even seen PlayStation implement control remapping on PS4 to allow greater accessibility for people with disabilities.

Now, just the simple act of writing about this is enough to have some people frothing at the mouth, but if that is the case then they’re probably missing a key point of context which runs through most social justice commenters: they generally aren’t calling for flat-out bans or censorship on things that they find objectionable. This is a point I have hammered home in the past whenever I write about feminism and pop culture. For example, Ninja Gaiden Sigma is one of my all-time favourite games, and it ticks off pretty much every negative female portrayal trope in video games. Would it utterly ruin the game if Rachel, our supposed action heroine sidekick, wasn’t dressed in stripper/bondage gear? Did she need to be rescued by Ryu on two separate occasions, despite the fact that she’s hyped up as a badass demon hunter and gets to do a far bit of ass-kicking in the Sigma rerelease? Asking for this sort of consideration isn’t a call for censorship, it’s a demand for better writing. Damseling the main female character and then giving them enormous boobs is probably not a key artistic choice, but it is extremely lazy writing and artistic direction used to shuffle the player from place to place and is directed at the lowest common denominator in the male demographic. Is it so bad for us to hold game writers to a higher standard, to think of the wide variety of audiences that are going to consume their product, or at least to make them consider their choices when they choose to use a trope? Or what about the glut of games on the market with white, straight, male characters in their lead roles? That said, I still love the Ninja Gaiden games, but I just think that they could be improved if they weren’t so juvenile in their approach to female sexuality and could stand to make their “badass” female characters more than MacGuffins in need of rescue (now much an uproar would there be if Ayane, Rachel or Momiji had to spend a good deal of a Ninja Gaiden game rescuing Ryu Hayabusa?). If that’s enough for you to still think that social justice-based criticism is nothing more than censorship, then maybe you should reevaluate whether “censorship” is such a bad thing after all, or whether you are just opposed to “censorship” as an concept.

Put simply, SJWs want gaming to become more of an even playing field which is directed at everyone, not just the young, white males that are generally the assumed demographic. As I have said, strides have been made in the past few years and we have begun to see developers respond with new IPs and sequels with better representation in them (such as Horizon Zero Dawn and Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate). I have a feeling that those who push against this often just don’t care about SJW-causes, are sick of hearing about them and are afraid that they might somehow make games worse. In response to this, I will put forth this great little quote I found by Kelly Flatley on Link Saves Zelda:

“It doesn’t stop there either as these people also disregard the push for equality of race and sexual orientation in games because “who cares?” I typically see this type of argument placed before me by white, straight, cisgendered males. I know it’s hard for some people to see the other side when they have privilege. […] Take a step back and realize that simply because your demographic is most often represented in games doesn’t mean that other people’s demographics shouldn’t be recognized because ‘oh well, I got mine’.”

What this quote demonstrates for me is that people need to broaden their horizons and realize that other types of people like the same things that they do. If you’re apathetic to SJW-causes, then you shouldn’t be opposed to more female representation, right? You also shouldn’t be surprised that those who are interested in female representation are advocating for it. Maintaining the status quo isn’t the neutral choice, it’s giving the middle finger to tons of people who would like to see it improved. Think about transgender rights for example. Up until a year or two ago, I had some pretty poor views on trans people just because I knew basically nothing about them. They got absolutely no representation in media outside of being the butt of jokes. When a person I knew from school had gender reassignment surgery, I made the (idiotic, in hindsight) observation that it felt like I had walked into some sort of sitcom because I had never been faced with this sort of thing actually happening. However, with the lives and stories of trans people becoming more and more visible in society, I have become aware of a whole kind of experience which I had never even thought about before. What this all says to me is if you’re just annoyed that people won’t shut up about things that you don’t care about, then they aren’t the problem, you are.

SJWs don’t necessarily want to take away you stuff, they just want there to be media that acknowledges them as well. There will, after all, always been macho shooter games and there even is a place for fan service and objectification to some degree – it just requires some balancing out.

Well what about Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 you might ask? Didn’t the SJWs get this game banned? If you did think of this, then I’m glad because that is what we’re going to be covering in Part 2…

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IC2S Playlist Update 02/12/2015

Good news: the Metal Gear retrospective is proceeding very smoothly. I have only 4 games left to go in the series to play and review (although one of those 4 is Ground Zeroes, which should take only a fraction of the time that the others will). As a result, I figure that the retrospective series should likely be finished and ready to go by the start of the new year. I’m getting really excited for this, I have put in a ton of work on each of these entries and hope that people enjoy them!

First up this week is “Jesus of Suburbia” by Greenday from their landmark album American Idiot. Back when I was starting high school, American Idiot made Greenday HUGE amongst my peers. As a result, I got bombarded with their music, which turned me against them out of sheer annoyance. However, the one song that I couldn’t help but love was the song which has gone on to be recognized as arguably the best from the album: “Jesus of Suburbia”. It was a bit of a formative song for me, back when my taste in music was just starting to move beyond “what my parents listen to”. It helped set my love for really long songs, especially ones which evolve quite a bit over the course of the song. As someone who grew up in a rather dogmatic household, this was also one of my first “transgressive” songs. After all, in my mind at the time, this was a “taboo” song due to its references to drugs, swearing and that it seemed to be belittling Jesus. Also, y’know, it’s just a really great song.

Secondly this week we have “Whore” by In This Moment from their album Blood. I have been getting into In This Moment recently, which has stemmed from two sources. First of all, Metal Rock Radio plays a fair bit of their music. Secondly, Maria Brink appears on “Criminal Conversations” from P.O.D.’s The Awakening, which can make a strong case for being the best song on the whole record. These two sources have made me really start to like the band. For one thing, a female-fronted hard rock/metal band is really unusual outside of symphonic metal, which already makes them stand out. Supplementing this is the fact that Maria Brink has a really distinctive singing style. In a way, it kind of makes me think of a heavy-metal version of Caro Emerald – she has a very great singing voice which she can use to effect to make herself sound extremely sultry… before immediately breaking out into a scream. “Whore” demonstrates these dimensions quite well and just makes for a very enjoyable song.

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The Christian Jihad

I have been kind of withholding a post on the Planned Parenthood shooting because I have been waiting for more details on the shooter’s ideology to be confirmed. However, I read a pretty great article this morning about the theology of Christian terrorism which has prompted me to make a response. I want to make it clear though that I cannot confirm the motivations of Robert Dear and, as a result, cannot be certain that it was a terrorist act. As a result, I will try to keep this in general terms, speaking on the social structures surrounding this event and the responses that it has evoked.

Luckily, it seems that the vast majority of people seem to condemn the actions of Robert Dear, even those who would identify as “pro-life”. However, in certain right-wing circles of the US, the response has been disturbingly muted. For example, most of the GOP Candidates have been avoiding giving an opinion on the shooting, or have deflected the blame. You could make the argument that they haven’t commented because we can’t confirm whether it actually was a motivated terrorist attack yet or just a crazy guy committing a mass shooting at random. However, this is clearly a weak argument, as a lack of facts wouldn’t have stopped them from immediately commenting on a more “convenient” event, such as the Paris massacre, which fits into their message. Put simply, I have little doubt that the GOP Candidates would condemn this shooting in a heartbeat, but the bullshit of American partisanship is forcing them from being seen as defending Planned Parenthood, because there is a sizable contingent of their voter base which is sympathetic to Robert Dear.

For a laugh, I decided to check The Blaze’s responses to the shooting, as I expected them to have the most publicly toxic responses and to provide me with a window to the mindset of the militant American evangelical crowd. I was actually happily surprised to see no outright sympathy for him, but there was (predictably) a ton of deflection of blame from the right. One particular article caught my eye though, by IC2S veteran Matt Walsh, which claims that “Abortionists and Planned Parenthood shooter are just two sides of the same coin”. Now, thankfully Walsh actually states in the article that he does not approve of the methods that Dear used against Planned Parenthood, he also states unequivocally that he feels no need to publicly condemn it either. He also makes the incredibly bizarre assertion that “the Planned Parenthood shooting only proves that Planned Parenthood is evil”. I find these points to be equal parts strange and extremely callous. Presumably, Walsh feels that this shooting is a case of a murderer murdering mass murderers. Within Walsh’s conservative, “eye for an eye” morality, this makes Dear’s actions difficult to condemn… which is the whole problem.

Look, you don’t have to be a left-winger to condemn the Planned Parenthood shooting which, in all honesty, looks likely to be a case of domestic, Christian terrorism. You don’t have to be right-wing, or even “pro-life”, to oppose abortion either. However, partisanship and tribalism has soured our morality and taken away our humanity when we can’t even acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, terrorism is something that we can commit as well. If it turns out that Robert Dear was indeed motivated by Christian anti-abortion rhetoric*, then this is pretty clearly a case of a Christian committing an act of terrorism not unlike the Islamic terrorists we have been condemning and killing for so long.

This brings me to the heart of the matter – if you kill innocent people in order to bring about an ideological end, you’re a terrorist. If you support Robert Dear then you’re on the same level as those who support Al Queda or the Islamic State. The only difference between the two comes down to ideology. If you support the Planned Parenthood shooting but cry out for us to keep Syrian refugees out of the country because they might be terrorists, then brother I would suggest that you remove the plank from your own eye. I pray that we may learn how to come to understand and reconcile with our enemies and become a culture in which such acts of violence can be rightfully condemned without fear of oppression.

*Even if he was insane, this rhetoric still matters, as it would be what influenced him in the first place. I’m not entirely convinced that it should shoulder the blame per se, but they should at least acknowledge that maybe their messages were a part of the problem.

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IC2S Playlist Update 25/11/2015

First up this week we have “Kashmir” by Led Zepplin from their album Physical Graffiti. I know that you know this song. Everyone knows this song. It’s just so damn good and the usage of middle-eastern-style sounds was just inspired… and there’s not much more I can say than that. I didn’t intend for this entry to be so lazy, but it’s occurring to me while I’m writing this that there really isn’t much that I can add to the conversation on Led Zepplin or “Kashmir” which hasn’t already been said. As a result, I will say “enjoy!” and move on to the next entry.

Secondly we have “Long Live the Party” by Andrew W.K., from his album The Wolf. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been really getting into this album and have been listening to it almost every day. As much as I like I Get Wet, The Wolf is just a more interesting album in almost every department. The songs do skew towards Andrew W.K.’s reputation as the “god of the party”, but there are also some which show his current status as a “positivity activist” of sorts, such as “Never Let Down”, “The End of Our Lives” or “I Love Music”. Apparently telling stories about positivity is what his whole radio show on The Blaze is about which, considering the rest of The Blaze’s raw sewage output, is rather strange and just baffles me on how Andrew W.K. managed to secure it.

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Circular Logic (aka, Let’s Blame the Feminists for Gaming Sexism)

So recently my morning started off in fantastic fashion as one of my friends on Facebook shared a forum post by Merlynn132 which blamed feminists for the issues with female representation in video games (click on the picture for the full-sized image):

Now admittedly, I actually found this guy’s points to be quite interesting at first glance and there may actually be some kernels of wisdom in here. However, the more I thought about the points that he was actually making, the more I realized that his argument is fundamentally flawed and falls apart under just a little scrutiny. So you know what time it is then, good reader: it’s time for yet another I Choose to Stand feminism post!

One big disclaimer before we move on though. I get the distinct feeling that Merlyn132 is directing some of these criticism specifically towards Anita Sarkeesian, but unfortunately its context has been removed to make it “shareable”. Admittedly, I haven’t looked into Sarkeesian’s criticisms myself, although I have found some of her examples to be at least somewhat suspect. If this post is intended to be a direct response to specific criticisms that Sarkeesian has made, then that’s fair enough (I would still disagree with its ultimate conclusion, but I could at least get behind some of its points). However, the tone and body of the post is written in such a way that it ends up being directed at feminism in general, which makes it fair game for a general response as far as I’m concerned. The lack of overall context for the post is unfortunate, so be sure to keep that in mind as the reality of the original post may somehow be shifted if we could see the whole conversation it was a part of.

As usual with this kind of criticism, Merlynn132’s first problem seems to be a lack of understanding of what feminists are actually campaigning for. His critique opens up with a statement that female characters aren’t allowed to have negative traits or feminists will cry out “sexism”. This could actually be the case with Sarkeesian based on some of the examples that I have heard her use for Feminist Frequency, but even that could be a misunderstanding of her intent when using these examples. As I have written previously, these examples are likely not intended to be blanket moratoriums, but rather ways to make writers make more deliberate choices when they write characters and to avoid lazy stereotypes (such as objectification, sexual violence for shock value or the desire to “fridge” a female character to give the male lead a motivation). An example of this in action would be the Tomb Raider games. Critics (not just including feminists) complained for a long time about how ridiculous Lara Croft’s boobs were, for good reason. However, they also praised Lara Croft for being a great character, in spite of the game constantly sexualizing her. Consequently, when Crystal Dynamics rebooted the Tomb Raider series, their much more realistically-proportioned Lara Croft was praised as she was still a very interesting character with a much less garish visual design to go along with it. Despite what Merlynn132 would suggest, this actually earned Crystal Dynamics two separate purchases of the game from me (not to mention that I’m eagerly anticipating the end of the Xbox One’s exclusivity deal on Rise of the Tomb Raider, whereas before I wouldn’t have even looked twice at a Tomb Raider game). All of this is comes down to Crystal Dynamics deciding to listen to their critics and making a better product for it.

Let’s tackle Merlynn132’s assertion directly though, that women can’t have a negative trait or it will be deemed sexism. Merlynn132’s own examples are less-interested in physical traits and more in reference to their character, so we’ll leave objectification out of this. I’ll address his second example first because it is just flat out wrong. He claims that women aren’t allowed to be mentally unhinged as they walk across a hellish battlefield, but this is just not true. Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot is made far more interesting as she feels remorse as she is forced to kill for the first time (although the gameplay-narrative dissonance in this aspect is annoying admittedly). I also just replayed Metal Gear Solid for my upcoming retrospective series, and found Meryl Silverburgh’s admission that killing for the first time made her not want to be a soldier anymore to be a fantastic character moment. If anything, I find it offensive that more men aren’t given this sort of treatment, as most big shooters just force you to stupidly mow down hundreds of enemies like a psychopath (with the Uncharted series being one of the most egregious offenders in this regard).

The first example that Merlynn132 gives is that men are allowed to be lecherous drunks, but women are not, because “sexism”. “Sexualizing women and what all” as he puts it. This is an example that I can actually see possibly happening, but the context of the character is probably the most important part in whether it will be accepted or not. Does her character start and stop at “lecherous drunk”, or does she have some actual depth? Are they a main character? Or are they background dressing that exists just to give the player something to ogle at? Such considerations make all the difference in this sort of situation, as there is no quick-and-easy answer. It’s also worth pointing out that there’s a contextual difference as well, since men are rarely sexualized in video games whereas women are quite frequently. Since it’s so prevalent for women to be reduced to sex objects, it can come across as very lazy if you put in a lecherous drunk background character unless you’re being very deliberate when doing so. Think of it this way: if I made a white character who loves watermelon and picks cotton, it would be fine. However, if that character was instead black, it would obviously be ridiculously offensive. This is because meanings change based on the contexts that they are placed within, so you have to be aware when you’re falling into a stereotype and, if you are aware, you have to have good reason for doing so.

Merlynn132’s third example revolves around a theoretical situation where Guybrush Threepwood is replaced with a female protagonist in Escape From Monkey Island. He is convinced that “Galwood” would never be allowed because she would be a cowardly, weak and socially awkward character hated by everyone around her. Personally, I’m not entirely convinced that this would cause a feminist uproar or even be considered sexist for that matter (depending on how the game handles these elements in a female context, as I said before). For one thing, this sort of character actually sounds rather interesting and would fit into the very different sort of characterization which feminist critics have been asking for for ages. I can’t be the only one who thinks that this description fits Amanda Ripley, the extremely well-received heroine of Alien: Isolation, right? Ripley is a strong, positive female character, not because she is a Markus Fenix-style meathead, but rather because she is absolutely terrified, avoids confrontation as much as possible and just tries to stay alive by being resourceful.

Secondly, Escape From Monkey Island was just a poor example for Merlynn132 to use for this argument. The main thrust of Merlynn132’s overall argument is that feminists are actually being sexist, and by being sexist they are making female-led games economically unviable. Using the Monkey Island games to support this idea is very strange to me as they are hardly a mega-selling franchise. In fact, the Monkey Island games have far more in common with the modern day indie-game scene where female-led games are far more common and interesting than in the AAA blockbuster space. I can’t even remember the last time that we had a proper adventure game, although Quantic Dream and Telltale-style narrative adventures seem to be the closest analogue… and what do you know, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Beyond: Two Souls and Until Dawn all tend to have pretty solid, flawed and interesting female characters without causing a feminist uproar.

The third, and probably most ridiculous, aspect of the argument is in regards to Merlynn132’s conclusion. Basically, they believe that feminists force female characters into a very specific mold, which makes female characters boring, which doesn’t sell, which is why we don’t have female characters leading our games. This is just so obviously bullshit that I shouldn’t really have to explain why… but will, naturally. The games market would be boring if there were more female-led games? Seriously? The market has ALWAYS been dominated by male characters, many of whom are the exact same macho-fantasy repackaged over and over again (Contra, every Call of Duty ever, Gears of War, Booker in Bioshock Infinite as the generic/requisite action game hero, etc). Despite featuring the same stereotypical leads over and over again, they still continue to sell and are often some of the highest-selling games of the year. It’s not feminists’ fault that female-led games are in the minority, it’s because publishers believe that their teenage male target demographic won’t play unless they offer them a male fantasy.

Just to look into this claim a little further, I decided to check the list of best selling video games of all time. I was actually surprised to discover that most of these games feature no distinct characters at all, either being 100% gameplay-based (Tetris) or 100% player determinant (Minecraft). Only three franchises dominate the list. Mario has the most entries, with 8 games selling over 15 million copies each. I think you’d be hard pressed to say that Mario has a personality that is anything other than boring, not to mention that the franchise formulas of his various franchises have been nearly the exact same for well over 20 years now. Call of Duty comes in second with 7 games selling over 15 million copies. The franchise is notorious for featuring paper-thin characters, iterating very lightly from game-to-game and for its macho-fantasy, male-dominated plots. While I, along with many others, would definitely argue that this franchise has gotten extremely tired in the last few years, the fact that the series still continues to sell is proof enough to me that the claim that “boring” female characters are the reason why they don’t get any representation is bullshit. The third highest-selling franchise is Grand Theft Auto with 5 games, and it’s a bit of an oddity since these games actually are known for their interesting characters and writing. However, I have a strong feeling that this is not the main reason why these games have had so much success, but rather that their core gameplay is extremely appealing. If this is truly the case, then the picture that these three franchises and the characterless mega-sellers paints for me is that characters are not a major factor in determining the success of a game, but rather fun gameplay. As a result, whether or not a “feminist conspiracy” caused female characters to end up being a bunch of bland copies, it shouldn’t matter because we already have a bunch of bland male copies running around and raking in the cash. Of course, if the actual argument being made is that “real gamers” don’t want to buy games with female protagonists, then at least be honest…

As I said in the opening paragraphs, I don’t really know the exact circumstances that prompted Merlynn132’s original post, but I kind of wish that I could understand where his perspective is drawn from. Is he directly responding to arguments made my Sarkeesian? As I have hopefully shown, his arguments will still end up being incorrect in the end, but if Sarkeesian’s arguments are just as flawed then that might make a difference in the way that this is all handled. Or perhaps Merlynn132 just misunderstands the whole point of feminism, having equated feminism with the opinions of its more extreme or unlearned factions, or worse, with the gigantic strawman feminist which is so often evoked in these sorts of rebuttals. In all honesty though, I’m glad that I came across this post. While I think that the overall argument is extremely flawed, it is quite interesting and is a good reminder that feminists could actually hurt their own cause sometimes with their critiques. I hope that Merlynn132 is open to this sort of critique, as I think that both sides in this debate could learn things from one another and hopefully come to a point where we can understand one another.

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IC2S Playlist Update 18/11/2015

If you’ve been reading the blog for a long time (hi Matt!), then you might find it sort of conspicuous that I haven’t written anything on the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday. The simple truth is that I have tried on a couple occasions, but everything I’ve come up with just feels hollow in the face of the enormity of that evil. It also doesn’t help that the story has still been unfolding and, while we seem to have a decent grasp on what happened now, it’s hard to say what the repercussions of this attack may be. I might write up something eventually, but at the moment I can’t say for certain.

First up this week we have “Whip It” by Love and Death, from their album Between Here & Lost. This is actually a cover of a song by DEVO, which I hadn’t actually listened to before picking this for the playlist. It’s… wow, it’s such an enormous difference that I’m having a hard time articulating it properly. The DEVO version is a really fast, silly, goofy-sounding 80s pop track, whereas Love and Death’s version is a very heavy, crunchy, serious and slower-tempo track. It makes me wonder how the heck Love and Death got the inspiration to cover this song, because it’s just so far removed from the original version.

Secondly, we have the title-track “Nostradamus” by Judas Priest. Last week I was going on about how I was (finally) starting to get into Iron Maiden, but still wasn’t a big Judas Priest fan. However, I am a big fan of this song, which just so happened to play on Metal Rock Radio when I was thinking about how underwhelming I found Judas Priest to be. This is just the sort of metal that I love: dark, epic and lengthy. It sounds more like an Iron Maiden, Mastodon or old-school Metallica song rather than what I’m used to hearing from Judas Priest, but maybe I’m just not familiar enough with their discography yet.

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IC2S Playlist Update 11/11/2015

It’s Remembrance Day here in Canada, and if you haven’t read my Quick Fix related to it yet, then you might find it interesting. Naturally, it’s going to be a sombre and respectful day around here though, especially since I have family in the Canadian Forces.

On a more positive note though, I’m making quite a bit of progress on the Metal Gear retrospective. I’ve completed 4 games in the franchise thus far and have their retrospectives all written up and ready to go, with a 5th game maybe an hour away from completion and the writing portion should take an evening to put together. It has been pretty fun thus far and I’m glad that I decided to take the plunge, because I doubt I would have gotten to experience the MSX Metal Gear games without it. It’s also giving me a better appreciation for the series, but I’ll leave any formal analysis for the retrospectives themselves. It’s going to be pretty great and I’m putting quite a lot of work into this, so I hope that you guys enjoy when it’s finally ready to go.

First up this week, we have “The Sneaking Chair” by My Heart to Fear from their album Algorithm. Back when Weathered Steel was still on the air, this song just dominated their Top 40 playlist. Most songs only last a week or 2 before disappearing entirely, but “The Sneaking Chair” must have been the #1 song for at least a month. It’s a pretty great song, I’ve been meaning to put it in the playlist for a really long time. In fact, the last time I put a My Heart to Fear song in the playlist (“4th Dimension Opera House”, way back in May), I had originally intended to use “The Sneaking Chair” but made a last minute switch. On an unrelated note, I have no idea how My Heart to Fear comes up with their song titles, some of them are just all over the place. Some will be really straightforward (“Wish You Were Here”, “Angst”, etc) and then others are… well, “The Sneaking Chair”.

Secondly we have “Blood Brothers” by Iron Maiden from the album Brave New World. It had always been a bit of a secret shame for me that I considered myself a through-and-through metalhead, but wasn’t really into some of the genre heavy weights, such as Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. However, since Weathered Steel shut down I have switched my Internet radio over to Metal Rock Radio, which plays the metal classics and modern metal all the time, and has been getting me quite into Iron Maiden. “Blood Brothers” might be my favourite thus far, it’s just a really badass song that makes you want to sing along. As someone who likes Sabaton and Disturbed, you can probably tell that this sort of “comradery”/battle song really appeals to me and is making me want to have an “Iron Maiden week” where I just fire up Spotify and blow through their entire discography to find all their gems.

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Quick Fix: Advances in Poppy-Wearing Technology

So Remembrance Day is coming up here in Canada, that transitional period between Halloween and the Christmas blitz where we honour our veterans. There’s one little squabble which seems to flare up more and more in the past few years though, and that’s in regards to the “proper” way to wear your poppy. If you aren’t familiar with Remembrance Day traditions, basically you give a donation and receive a poppy in exchange (not a real poppy though, obviously) which you pin onto your clothing to show your respect for the veterans. However, the pin which is used for the poppies is notoriously problematic and causes quite a few painful jabs every year, which prompts some people to replace the default pin with something more secure and without the exposed pin, such as a “butterfly clutch”.

In fact you will notice that the style of pin used with the poppy isn’t even offered from this custom pin website. The long pin is the closest analogue, but even then it is far more secure and safe than the traditional poppy pin.

However, Veterans Canada has stated that they do not condone replacing the pin, and this has caused many people in the public to shame those who do so. In fact, this whole post was inspired by this one Facebook picture someone had shared:

As you can probably tell, I’m totally in favour of relaxing the standards of what “acceptable” poppy-wearing should be, but the whole situation as it currently stands leaves me conflicted. On the one hand, the whole point of the poppy is to show respect for the veterans, so I feel a need to wear it as they would like us to when it comes down to actually displaying the poppy. That said, I also feel like veterans should be more open to improvements in poppy-wearing technology, since these pins are notoriously inadequate and rather unsafe.

Maybe I just hate adherence to tradition for tradition’s sake, even when there’s a better way to do things. After all, wasn’t one of the key lessons of WWI that soldiers died due to the generals’ insistence on adhering to old, outdated traditions? Or what about our modern veterans whose injury and death is kept at astonishingly low levels thanks to technological increases, innovation and efficiency over the past few decades?

Again, if the vets say that it’s disrespectful to wear the poppy any other way then we’re probably going to have to deal with that, but I do think that they should be open to the possibility of change. I’m sure that there are some people who will bristle at my position on this, perhaps justifying the poppy’s current pin by saying that the pain is nothing compared to what the veterans suffered. That’s true obviously, but it’s a pretty poor justification as far as I’m concerned and is little more than a shaming tactic to try to eliminate any questioning of potentially outdated tradition. As innovation has helped to improve the lives of soldiers, so too should innovation improve the lives of us who don’t want to get pricked every November for choosing to openly support the vets.

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