Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Online Life in a Post-Quinn Blackout

"Leave me out of this."
Over a week ago, an ex-boyfriend of Indi developer Zoe Quinn posted a massive blog filled with everything but pie charts to make accusations that Quinn cheated on him with games journalists, the entire Mongolian national football team, and the Rygel Muppet from Farscape. What followed was one of the biggest games media blackouts I've ever seen.

It started with the sub-humans skittering up the rafters to express how outraged they were that a woman allegedly did the wild thang with another man. Those comments were expunged from existence, but it didn't stop there. A lot of people wanted to know why developers and journalists were chumming it up till we’d reached a point where they’re literally in bed together. Those comments disappeared too. Other people wanted to know what happened to the comments.

The dance has been the same on every online community I've visited. I pop on, there’s a discussion going on about the controversy. Sometimes it’s civil; sometimes offensive, the entire discussion is removed either way. At that point someone who is not a regular sends me (and presumably anyone else who typed up as much as one word on the subject) a private message with the intention of recruiting me to a hate-site. I tell them no thanks, I've got my own.

Only 30 bucks! 60 if you have tits.
It’s really strange watching gaming websites close ranks against their own communities who clearly wanted to talk about this issue. There is a sorta kinda precedent. Back in 2012 journalist and presenter Geoff Knightly was seen sandwiched between a plaque of Halo’s Master Chief Mountain Dew slogans, and a giant packet of Doritos. The image evolved into an inquisition about inappropriately close relationships between journalists and games developers/publishers. The difference there being that while some sites did keep their mouths shut, others took up the hunt and used the situation to examine themselves and the conflict of interest that arises when publishers are throwing lavish parties, funding awards, and offering shady prizes to the journalists writing about them. Oh, there’s another key point – that incident was about the relationship between the gaming press and Triple A multi-million dollar developers/publishers, whereas the controversy surrounding Quinn is about the press and Indi developers.

They were nacho flavoured by the way. The Doritos. I know you’re wondering.

Perhaps the somewhat contradictory behaviour isn't so surprising when you see countless examples of Indi developers and games journalists having extremely casual personal conversations on social media, hanging out together on their off time, and even considering each other as good friends. With such unfettered familiarity it could've only been a matter of time before these journalists were in deeper with indi devs than they ever were with multi-million dollar publishers.

Thinking of gaming press corruption brings to mind an absurdly indulgent scenario where a journalist and corporate rep meet up in an abandoned garage to exchange a totally conspicuous glowing suitcase (the one straight out of Pulp Fiction because you watch too many movies). The reality (at least in this case) is a bunch of geeky like-minded people passionate about games laying about on a couch in t-shirts and jeans, enjoying each other’s company. The nature of their jobs requires both parties to get friendly, it’s just that Indi developers and games journalists have such an indistinct professional barrier to the point where they’re mixing their profession and personal lives constantly, and end up so entangled that you need to look up a Game of Thrones style lineage tree just to see whose affiliated and how much that potentially tarnishes their credibility.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Double Entendre Reflex

From time to time you may have heard me admit I enjoy hitting up the Internet Movie Database website and imagining movie characters saying their lines in an entirely depraved context. Take The Matrix for example, ‘Never send a human to do a machine’s job.’ Boom, I just turned Agent Smith from the tyrannical iron fist of virtual reality into an unsatisfied housewife. Here’s one from Harry Potter: ‘What happened down in the dungeon between you and Professor Quirrell is a complete secret. So, naturally, the whole school knows.’ Harry, you slut. Come on this is easy, give me a hard one (stop that, you’re not allowed to do it with my lines), how about Schindler’s Lis- no, no this ends here, you get the point.

Let me tell you what this is leading up to. I stumbled upon an old school report back from when I was 15, and was reading the teacher comments when the reflex kicked in. These report comments have to be quite diplomatic since they’re talking about somebody’s kid here, so it’s really common to see lines repeated and language so general that you’d have to keep glancing at the header of the page just to remind yourself what class they’re talking about.

‘Drake is reasonably involved and motivated, but relies heavily on teacher involvement. He has been generally attentive, sensible, and co-operative, and has worked with concentration and care most of the time.’ – Art

‘Drake shows good curiosity and has made a consistent effort, which has resulted in some pleasing marks. He has a mature involved approach, and deserves to do well.’ – French

‘Drake is mostly organized and brings the right equipment to lessons. His presentation has been good and he has used a variety of techniques imaginatively.’ – Physical Education

Nobody ever skipped class in my school.

There’s nothing else to this, I only wanted to mash the keyboard to let everyone know I’m alive in this draining heat wave while pointing out a strange thing I do to garner the response ‘That’s so Drake’, because I have thousands of unsold t-shirts with the phrase on after unsuccessfully trying to turn it into a worldwide catchphrase back in the 90s. I’m also giving you my once in a life time blessing to talk about your own idiosyncrasies in the comments. Don’t get used to it; the conversation never truly leaves me.

And neither do these damn t-shirts. 

Friday, 11 July 2014

PC Summer Sale Haul

The great digital summer sales have passed, and Gabe Newell returns to the depths to slumber till Christmas. So how did you do? I made off like a bandit, doing proud to the PC gamer tradition of buying dozens of games I will never find the time to play. Here are some of the goodies I nabbed:

Xenonauts lives up to the promise of being just like the original X-Com, except without an interface that is as outdated as the barbed wire tattoo. The aim is to fight off an alien invasion, building a network of bases across Earth and shooting down alien craft, then sending in the troops to salvage alien technology with the eventual goal of using it to go on the offensive. ‘The troops’ are squads of elite soldiers who fight via isometric turn-based battles. It’s worth mentioning that there are no shortage of X-Com clones, including the UFO series and the completely unrelated UFO: Extra-terrestrials which was featured in the short-lived ‘Bloggers in Video Games’ series I used to run. Regardless of the familiar ground, it’s still as fun as ever to customize a squad and name them after friends, celebrities, or pastries, only to watch them get vaporized. 

Lemon Muffin and Cinnamon Bun turn away in grief from the body
of Apple Crumble. She had gone to meet her baker.
What secrets could this
 ancient tome contain?

I am not without complaints as usual. Like in 2012’s X-Com Enemy Unknown (yes another one, I should make a chart) I still can’t alter the nationality of the characters, presumably to prevent me from reviving the British Empire. The interface could still be a little more helpful too, with the inexplicable inability to bring up the menu during an air engagement and nary a tooltip to spare. I had to look at the manual for a videogame. In 2014! What is this, medieval times? 

Nexus the Jupiter Incident follows space Captain Russell Crowe on an investigation of a space corporation’s sudden rise to power, leading to the discovery of lost space civilizations and alien space empires. Space. Russell Crowe isn’t really his name; only what I’m calling him since he happens to sound exactly like Captain Jack from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Good movie by the way, you should watch it instead of reading this drivel. 

The Jupiter Incident is one of those rare fleet commander games – limited number of ships mingling for some intense tactical combat. There’s a trusty old spacebar pause (not a space bar, spacebar, from the keyboard) and you’re going to need it because the difficulty curve is crazy. For a chunky portion of the game I only had a single ship, until several missions in when I was asked to command an entire fleet. Naturally I felt woefully underqualified. Maybe if they provided a workplace video (or a manual I wouldn’t read), I’d at least be able to fudge my way through.

"Hello, I'm Jean-Luc Picard, here to talk to you about the finer points of
Starship Captaining.  First challenge: selecting a trademark beverage."
"Earl Grey Tea is taken."