Talk about anything and everything Squad-related here -- what you've been playing, what you're looking forward to, and how big your Pile of Shame has grown after that last Steam sale...
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Re: Molyneux, and the pummelling interview

by Beige » Wed Feb 18, 2015 11:05 pm

Man, wasn't expecting Peter Molyneux to randomly pay out Squawkbox gold, but hey.

The game journo vs game blogger thing is kind of interesting, having been one myself back in the old 1UP days of yore. I have always basically assumed that a person claiming to be a Garme Journalist is a person who wants to attach a fancy title to themselves to make themselves feel legitimate in some way or other, journalism once upon a time being a respectible profession now fallen into disrepute like lawyers or politicians.

Writing news for 1UP was a fun little run. My entire relationship with Ziff-Davis amounted to basically nothing more a paper route which I serviced for fun and a little pocket change as a side project after 1UP message boards encouraged me to throw my hat in the ring alongside Luke Smith, Kollar and Klepek.

Ziff paid me... what... $10 a 'story' and my daily routine involved plucking 'stories' from a list of 'news' posted daily to a communal Wiki? For the love of the game indeed. I certainly wouldn't have described myself as a Journalist... though I would tell you that I 'wrote about games on the Internet' if you asked me. Actually that's not true -- I did occasionally refer to myself as a game journalist at parties and social events because I was in my twenties, full of beans, and I thought that statements like that added extra fuzz to my upper lip. I know better as an adult of course but now whenever I see people getting stroppy about GARME JOURNALZM on the Internet I just cast my mind back to those halcyon days and remember how douchey and irritating me you and everyone we knew was about EVERYTHING.

Writing about games: Pros: I enjoyed the feeling of being down in the muck of the games bizznesz during the workday, though now it is astonishing on reflection that my employer put up with me writing 1UP news articles during company time. It was fun to engage with the games business in a way that felt one step above base consumer or Internet Long Post Writer. Like I was *doing* something, giving something back to the medium I loved in a useful way. I had a voice and people were READING that voice, even if all they did was post hate in the comments about my writing style and un-impartiality, yadda yadda.

Cons: One thing writing about games did for me was cultivate an aura of Weary Chef syndrome surrounding vidya games. Chefs do not typically come home and desire to cook a 12 course meal and when I wrote about Call of Duty day after day the last thing I wanted to do was to write, think or discuss Call of Duty. Somehow my love for gaming endured through all this -- I credit a lot of that to the Squadron of Shame -- and this fact is doubly relevant now. What is self-evident is that I will always probably enjoy writing about and discussing games with likeminded folk and it was fun to pretend to make an income off that for a while but I don't need to make it my professional career. I certainly COULDN'T have made it my professional career at ten bucks a story, fuck that.

This whole discussion reminds me of the conversations we were having when the SoS eventually became a website and a podcast as to whether or not we should attempt to monitize our little enterprise here. "No", I argued, "keep it a hobbyist thing. We are hobbyists and this is the basement where we show one another our model trains and talk about them eagerly." Working at 1UP taught me not to shit where I eat. Want to start hating anything you do in your free time? Structure it, have someone yell at you about it, force yourself to have to do it at times when you'd rather be doing anything else. Make it a chore, not a choice.

Considering these points, I think it's a fair criticism to say that most if not all gaming journalists hate their audiences. I totally understand this and and generally agree with their perspective as most of the time I hate their audiences too.

The typical profile of a person who writes about games tends to resemble my own: Educated at institutions of higher learning, generally well-read and well-spoken, tolerant (by and large) and ususally liberal in their politics. They are for the most part introverts who read a lot as kids, typically maturing from larvae first planted first in art rooms, D&D basements, drama clubs and soforth, grown up playing Blaster Master more often than kissing girls. Sensitive souls - ultimately the kinds of folk who study subjects like English at university while writing long essays about Shodan. They aspire for games to be AAAAAAARRRRTTT, or at least did before games became self-evidently Art. I get these people.

Compare and contrast these snowflakes to the mouthbreathers who used to post Internet Hate daily to my comments feed when I wrote news. I make no apologies for having a somewhat aristocratic tastes about games and gaming. I believe aristocratic sensibilities and the desire for Quality in Things is more often a positive than negative, so if I must choose between zerg and protoss, protoss it is. Darkest Dungeon over Candy Crush. I'm not sipping chardonay here though - my idea of 'aristocratic quality' includes lowbrow things like God Hand and Saint's Row. Die Hard can be Aristocratic. It's just about drinking deeply and really taking the time to *savor* and reflect. If you're going to drink plonk than go whole hog about it. Write deeply about plonk, think deeply about plonk. TOFTs has demonstrated that you can get Very Very Elitist about something like Pro Wrestling, though they'd probably punch me for calling them out on their elitism. I'm OK with standards, they keep the barbarians in check.

These are traits I see in the gaming media. They're stifled novelists all, forced to spoon chum at pittance wages for people who hate everything they do and who shout at them 24/7. All they want to do is write long Squad Posts but some corporate policy makes them write top 10 lists. Of course they're bitter people. When I hear that journos are "alienated from their audience" I always think "Well, DUH." Have you looked at humanity lately? The type of person that wants to write about games is quite specific but the morass of man is less so. The kind of person who wants to stick it out and get paid nothing is a True Believer in the Medium. To subsist off ten bucks an article you HAVE to be. They are very much the clove cigarette crowd, not counting the Seanbabys and Shawn Eliots and soforth who are honestly the most fascinating 'people writing about games' out there. I wish there were more of those -- I love those liminal space folks. Give me people like Todd in the Shadows who comment on things from a perspective of not-quite detached tough love.

Over on Penny Arcade today, Mike Krahluik advocates just un-bookmarking all the gaming journalism sites and going Full Reddit. I understand his populist plea but don't share his sentiments. I think it's a tragedy that we can't pay our Best People enough of a living wage to just write long New Yorker Style squad posts and make the rent. Don't hate the people who do this, they love you. Hate the system that puts banner ads between their rent and your free time. Fund them on patreon, not rage against them and scream Conflict of Interest when oh-my-god someone who knew someone else who knew a game dev throws five bucks in the Patreon Tip Jar.

Here we get back to Molyneux and the 'hard hitting' interview. I honestly don't know what the fuck people want out of their 'journalism'. It's easy to say that people who bay about Objectivity are just people who have never held down a real job in an environment where relationships matter. Try working in Advertising where networking is all and everybody knows everybody and EVERYONE know your reputation before you even meet up. Spoilar: Personal Relationships are precious -- you might even say EVERYTHING in the professional world -- YOUR MORTGAGE DEPENDS on maintaining them. Fuck those kids, seriously.

Anyway, I believe Peter aught to be called on his nonsense, sure. As we've said the goodwill gravy was going to run dry. I also believe it's hard not to get emotional when you're some dude. It's no skin off my nose what dude did or did not say and in what tone, but if I were Peter AND Mr. Interview I would be sick of the whole rediculous dog and pony show tip to tail. It'd be hard not to be frustrated on both sides.

There are no emergencies in Video Games Journalism.
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Re: Molyneux, and the pummelling interview

by A.I Impaired » Fri Feb 20, 2015 5:12 am

Granted, the world has shit going on and perhaps the worlds minds need to be focused elsewhere.
Doritogate,Gamergate,Godusgate...whateva.

Sad as it is though, as a product of consumer culture, I am just looking for what I read to insight me to crawl back into my nerd cave again, and have something interesting to obsess over. There was a time where "Games Journalism" in the form of a roundtable discussion was that for me. We carry on that legacy as hard as we can while keeping things in free flow... not forcing it out.

The history of that industry isn't a bunch of enthusiasts getting together and rapping however, its the maintenance and production of a canon. Its the ugly graffiti tapestry of the adventures thus far as a medium, a sphere of influence, and production. It has created some interesting characters along the way. We got our expectations molded by overly zealous PR jockeys and doctored screenshots, before we got all secular on this bitch. As media fought against the authority of the publisher, the reader now has the means to fight against the media authority. I see the remnants of the old system lining up for the firing squad.
The revolution here has brought many things, but is it all better? PewDiePie might be Che Guavara, but certainly is not Che Chou.

Was there any one thing to claim as "games Journalism"? Not for all times and places. Maybe the PR spin did need to be crucified, and maybe we needed to tell Molyneux to shut the fuck up. There was a time where he was not that abnormal, and we wanted to believe as much as he did, but we are sobering up now and are fucking pissed. So I am going to come at you with all the immature rage of 100 internets! RAAARGH!!
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Re: Molyneux, and the pummelling interview

by Angry Jedi » Fri Feb 20, 2015 5:54 pm

Much as I hate to admit it, I can see traditional "games journalism" or whatever you want to call it circling the drain right now. The audience is disillusioned with the creators, and the creators hate their audience. It's not sustainable.

I've gone on record as saying I'm not at all happy about this -- it was my lifelong dream to write about games, after all, and it turns out I get into a position to do so just as it's all collapsing. That said, having taken a bit of time to look at the work of some prominent YouTubers and try my hand at making things myself, I can see the appeal. There's a "personal" connection you get with a YouTube personality that you don't get with someone writing; a bit of an Ivory Tower syndrome. Watching and listening to a YouTuber is, much like a podcast, like having a friend sitting with you explaining something; written work, meanwhile, is increasingly being produced from the perspective of "authority", often with subtle (or not-so-subtle) implications that "if you don't agree with this, you are a bad person.

I don't know if games journalism will pick itself up, or be destroyed and reborn anew at some point in the future. But the current situation... well, it just doesn't really work for me at all, and I'm far from the only person to feel that way. Right now, I'm in a situation where I'd much rather talk to people I know and trust rather than hear someone preaching at me, which is how a lot of modern games writing comes across.
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Re: Molyneux, and the pummelling interview

by A.I Impaired » Fri Feb 20, 2015 8:34 pm

I don't know whether I can make any fair estimate on how many are out there, but I feel that like the SoS itself... there are refugee's with a taste for something that is not being catered to widely. I often wonder what has changed in the gamer consciousness that has made for such unrest. Was this Ivory Tower of elite opinions not the respected norm for many long years? Did we not look to these 'Personalities' for a kind of consistent authority? The dismantlement from expert opinion to the opinion of independent consumers is an interesting shift that has broke the very idea of 'Gaming Literacy' of which we are quite familiar. Yet we vanguards are not completely passive either, and so I hope our voices help shape the new form of game enthusiasm as much as those who provide commentary videos or those who crap on feminist/intellectual critique of the industry. Its tough going though. The 10 dollars a story Beige described doesn't feed the troops of a counter revolution. At least youtube/itunes is free for all.
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Re: Molyneux, and the pummelling interview

by Beige » Fri Feb 20, 2015 11:34 pm

I hate to say it, but there's a FOX News of TV, there's a FOX News of Paper (in the GTA it is the Toronto Sun) so it is inevitable that there would be a FOX News of gaming. Le Sigh.

Sub in Huffpost I guess, or your ideology of choice. The New York Times? CITIZENFOUR?

I have a friend who says that the greatest tragedy of the Internet age is that people can now can and do super-easily surround themselves pretty much full-time with individuals and organizations who already share their worldviews, never coming into proximity to those who think otherwise. As a result, over a generation we have lost the ability to functionally debate or disagree with anything Other. Everything which does not meet the soft edges of our bubble globe of preconception is hurtful and alien - Azathoth, screaming and piping away: the mad idiot god. We hates it.

As a result, people who need to read articles like this aren't ever going to read them because they're already made their mind up about Polygon being a bunch of pretentious and insufferable cork sniffers. I, likewise, am not likely to be swayed by the opinions of shitfaucets such asTotalBiscuit because as far as I am concerned, the earth is pre-salted sufficiently before the dialogue begins. It's self reinforcing.

When I studied sociology at university I read a lot on the subject of the Cult of the Self which is a concept penned almost a hundred and fifty years ago by the sociologist Emile Durkheim. He was writing about religion at the time, but we can extrapolate it out to "religion" in our modern times. I actually wrote my fourth year undergraduate thesis on the subject -- the cult of the self and its relevance to online communities. Aside: Researching this subject is how I met my wife, true story.

Anyway: Cult of the Self. First up, you have to understand society as a place where for the longest time there were no such things as subjective opinions about things like religion. There was The Truth (which varied based on your book of reference) and then there were heathens and devils. As we are forced closer and closer into communities of not-homogeneous people we sort of fall back into this world were the things we understand stop being True and being the much more vague True-For-Me, which is not the same at all.

If you ask a Christian an Athiest and a Pastafarian where we go when we die you will get three different answers. Durkheim posited that as Modern Times advanced (remember, this is like... 1860..) we would be forced closer and closer together and these sorts of inalienable truths would break down into a world where Truth became more and more individualized. It's a natural response - again, he saw this in the realm of religion and mind that Durkheim himself definitely believed that there WAS a correct Heaven and Hell being a man of his 1800s time.... but Durkheim forsaw that we would arrive at a point where Jews, Irish Catholics, Protestants and Muslims would all be packed together in the same block through simple population-based social migratory ebb and flow and we would all have to find a new belief framework or die.

Truth is very hard to maintain in that context. Everybody sees it differently, so we must develop a new framework for dealing with one another. You believe I am going to hell if I do X, I believe you are going to hell if you do Y. We cannot agree, but we must live across the hall from one another and not kill one another, somehow. As a result, we slip further into I'm OK, you're OK true-for-me is not true-for you. Taken to its ultimate extent, this is the The Cult of the Self.

Cult of the Self is when I believe we go to Sugar Hills when I die and YOU believe you go to Nifelheim, none of us have any way of determining who is right so we create a 'religion' where the ten commandments basically amount to "Everybody has the right to believe what they want, let's all believe in that." Essentially a religion similar to the principles America is nominally founded on where one man carries one worldview and that we all agree that everybody has the right to their own worldview, E Pluribus Unim let's draw collective morality from that concept.

You see this on the Internet a lot. Since from the dawn of Netscape the web has had a definite religious bent -- a moral code based largely around the ideals of one man one voice one vote. The hacker ethos, the Free Speech No Censorship advocates, Net Neutrality, etc. "Web morality" has been intertwined since forever with the right to speak up, the right to be heard, the right to be free and not be silenced. The right to troll, the right to post free of fear. The right to chart your own course and the rights of others to chart theirs as well.

I'm not sure if I entirely agree with the practicality of the Cult of Self as a moral code. It's worth noting that the second thing Durkheim studied was ennui and sadness of alienation that comes from going "full tribeless" Which is to say that as humans evolve, we need those communities of belief to keep us oriented. The ten million dollar question is whether humans could find a way to get to a place where they really drew sustenance from the Cult of the Self, Star-Trek style. It seems rather high-minded, like pure Communism. Great on paper.

Practically speaking, it tears at me. I remember a gaming culture that existed before gaming shattered into shards along with the rest of the postmodern world. This is the Eden that GamerGaters yearn for as well -- a simple time when we were all Bible and homogeneously pure, not Bible, Koran, Torah and Bob's Burgers. Back when MegaMan was something, dammit.

I have sympathy for this argument and its adherents, as I remember those times very well. Like growing up in the '80s, you had binary choices: Watch Thundercats or Not. Watch Transformers or Not. Listen to Megadeth or not. There was a homogeneity in our culture and that homogeneity brought strength and meaning. Duran Duran was on the radio and the radio was everywhere. Cheers was on TV at 8:00 PM. If you ever wonder why the Jews still culturally huddle up even today, this is why. Safety and clarity inside, the hostile world outside. Mario 3, Castlevania.

I think of the 1UP days as sort of the last days of this Atlantean time. It was pre-cellphone, pre DLC connectivity, pre iOS app. New releases were still universally watched from the same Billboard List, the world made sense. John, Garnett, Luke and Shane were its apostles and we all tuned in to hear them like people tuning in to hear Elvis on Ed Sullivan. They were at the forefront of this idea -- that a person could be a Gaming Authority -- what Durkheim would have identified as a Priest Class. Someone to whom all eyes turned to set the tone of What Kind Of People Do We Sound Like. We were young then and (having been at PAXes at the time) I can vouch that the idea of standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of "your own kind" after 20 years of walking alone was electric. Tuning in to discover that, oh my god, I am not alone, there must be Others like Me. You guys, at least those who remain, are remnants of those Others, many of you remember.

Ten years on, rapid pace has continued. Where once we were unified, now we are divided. Same people, same companies, different ecosystem. Just loving video games isn't enough glue to bind us together culturally any more. Games have diffused out into culture like ink. Everybody is a little bit inky now, but the ink isn't concentrated in any one place with sufficient mass to create a discernable blot. The time of Ico will not be seen again.

Even in the Squad we no longer rep this homogeneous model. We stopped issuing mission badges simply because there became too many games and too many missions. The Canon became too broad, the Pile of Shame too diffuse. Nobody could agree on playing communally, so in Cult of the Self style we play separately now, coming together to discuss and then moving apart. We still like one another and enjoy each other's company in this place, but our frame of reference is wide wide wide with lots of dark in between the stars. Wide enough that we lost good people in our tribe despite them still playing video games.

I see YouTube celebrities as a symptom of this further fragmentation. They are their individual Cults and we are their cultists. Assemble a playlist of your beliefs and interests, try to believe that it defines you as a person.

As I've said before, I'm not sure that I agree with the model of the Cult of Self and I'm not sure it can hold ultimately. I know personally speaking that when I was in university and casting about for a moral framework I could hang my hat on (as all 20somethings do) I was basically unable to rest easy until I found an organized structure of meaning and belief that I could subscribe to and actually *believe* that was also recognized by a chunk of society. Something larger than myself, which could honestly answer questions like What is Good and What is Right in a way that let me sleep. When these are small, they are called cults when they are large they are called Religions but they are the same thing.

I see a lot of similarities between a "religion" like GamerGate and an orgainization like a street gang. Bloods, crips. Latchkey kids who are willing to subscribe to some terrible shit and rep colors out of sheer loneliness and lack of parental oversight. Gangs offer kids meaning and identity and a sense of belonging. They have priests, signs, symbols, taboos, insiders, infidels. They are, in the Durkheim sense, Religions. Sociology has a checklist, you can just go down the list from top to bottom. Provides moral framework for understanding the world? Check. Supports individual code of conduct via social and community participation? Check. Signs and Symbols? Vivian James says hi. Priest class? Just subscribe on YouTube. Allows participant to answer the question of "what's right" at any given point in time in a way that's sanctioned by a community of peers? Check.

We need to understand these things as reactions to ennui. As they said in the end of Deus Ex, if there was no God we would be forced to create Him. These are the gods that we created after gaming, and culture in general, blew up.

Lynette likes to say that we aren't actually beset by MORE social friction than we were before, it's just that communication technologies make us more AWARE of them now, and therefore the Other FEELS closer. In other words, in Durkheim's day you knew the Orientals and Savage Heathers were out there somewhere but you didn't feel bothered by them because you could go your whole life without having to worry about bumping into one. Everybody went to Church, so everybody was good. Everybody played Mario, everybody was Good. Sega and Nintendo were Catholic and Protestant, Neo Geo were the Mormons, we knew where we stood.

I guess I'm willing to believe this. Gaming, previously, was insular. Assholes were always there but before the age of twitter I didn't have to interact with any of them. Columbine Kids? Around but we didn't see news stories of them every day. Now this is not the case. Communication tech brings us closer together, the bone-nose savage is no longer an abstract concept , he is there in my YouTube comments, bone in nose, posting my personal information to Encyclopedia Dramatica. We are forced to encounter.

One of the things that was striking about the Squad in its early days was that we managed to find a niche enough place where people...

a) Who were smart
b) And who listened to 1UP yours
b) And who wanted to talk about games like those guys on the radio
c) And who wanted to feel a sense of community through this action

...could get together and hang out. That was all that was required. You wanted to play games and talk about them with other smart people, the end. Politics never came into it. But the games were few. We got a chance to know one another, we saw each other as people. We supported diversity of opinion for the most part, it was Elysium, Jocks and Nerds together bound by the code of something greater and shared.

It's sad to me, and perhaps inevitable as we go into this brother-vs-brother shit, that we'd come to this. As gaming diffuses the ink thins. Once upon a time in the days of Icons there was a common banner and it stood for something. Instead of Thundercats vs GI Joe we now have a thousand channels on Steam alone. I can surround myself with Todd, but I am not Todd. If none of us even play the same games anymore, what then binds this Arthurian band?

As AI Impaired (whose True Name is also Nick, I have known this for almost 10 years) says we are more than newcomers here, we are elder statesmen of Gaming here in the Squad. The name means something, or aught to at least, whether we be the commons or the rabble. If we have no code, do we create one? Or else lose authority to those that do.

I have benefited so much from my association with this host. I wonder in this new world without a polar star, would I have fallen in here? Here, in the Squadron of Shame? Would there be enough glue to bind us? I am not sure. Being intelligent and into video games is by no means exclusive anymore. If I passed you -- my friends of almost a decade -- on the street, would I recognize you as brothers? Today?

I don't know. In this world of YouTube stardom, does the SoS banner unite with the same lure as these new Bushido Codes? ...I don't know. If I didn't already know you, would I take the time to?

I have no answers for you. This thing runs deeper than video games.
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Re: Molyneux, and the pummelling interview

by A.I Impaired » Sat Feb 21, 2015 4:27 am

Image
*Tips sociological hat* Ah, the life in anomie articulated! If there is no "god", how can I attach any objective meaning to my existence? I see the existential crisis underpinning the gamer identity. How disenchanting. If I cannot believe Peter Molyneux's lies anymore, the magic is kind of dead. Our gods are dying. I see the sad old man behind the head of the great OZ.

Cliff Bleszinski I remember saying in an interview, that before this issue of PC Gamer (pictured above), he was just a game designer. Somehow the media was able to create an alternate identity to promote UT, of which was eventually manipulated for the purposes of promoting Gears of War. The media actually still looks to him on the odd occasion for commentary. He was to avid enthusiasts a part of the gears of war mentality. Chainsaws and guns? Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter. That was Cliffy B. The man, and the embodiment of what gears of war was meant to be perceived as. Of course Gears of War taken as its raw components had nothing to do with this perception. Im sure Cliffy B himself, as a mundane human being, has little to do with this perception. Yet we had the media circus that just loved the man and the myth. Its a personality cult many people wanted to be a part of. That is what many of us still look for as an extra part of our games. Look at the personality cult of Gabe Newell, and the injection of him into so many memes. We crave these game gods, in order to make stability in a world where stability is not gauranteed. Its like we are doing our rain dance, trying to manipulate through chants the coming rain. Its what Malinowski describes in his studies on use of magic in native cultures, that we seek to control the world by making it knowable.To Gabe we pray desperately for the mecca of Half Life's reign over PC gaming to return, and for steam to provide us the platform for our daily gaming bread. Amen. Durkheim's study of religion is relevant here, not because religion is the dominant force in society, but because religion and society were never really different forces. We can see how a society organizes itself by what it finds sacred, and what it deems profane. The solidarity we create around these kinds of organizations is important for us to feel purposeful.

Now of course we come down to the question as to whether you want to live in a world with fabricated idols that we make into objects of ritual worship, or whether we try to see the world that defies such simple abstraction and permanence.Or whether you see both and see the merit in choosing a particular path. One could reject that there is even a conflict here, and go on like nothing happened while the world around them changes.

I see the value in an entertainment that paints a world for its consumers, because a world that is created is still a world. Its has tangible effects like any other aspect of society ... at least if you see society as a constructed thing. So I think its really interesting to see the squadron of shame floating out here in the internet, something that has created a platform for expression, creating its own sphere of ideas, identities, and creativity... carving out its own definition of this hobby. We have, I am sure, a field of influence we may not quite realize. Its exciting!
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