Quick Comments

1) Hi, Reddit! It’s me, Scott. I’ve been doing this blogging thing a while now, as you can see from my mostly extant if broken archives. I’d fix them but, you see, I’m pretty lazy.

2) I keep fairly busy in my day job. In fact we are doing a major patch today – if the gentle call of sea lion barks becomes too distracting, I’ll turn off comments temporarily. You see,

3) I am under zero obligation to host your comments, abuse, witty repartee, accusations, threats or whatever. I paid for this microphone. You are free to pay for your own! Isn’t the Internet great? Now get out of my yard, I’m old.

I Demand You Listen To Me

what you find here is my own opinion only and not that of my employers. kindly do not blame them for my ravings.

One of the reasons I haven’t been writing blog entries in almost 2 years is that, well, for the past 6 months you would have to be literally insane to want to write about gaming. Because if you did, well.

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REASONABLE DISCUSSION KIND SIR DO YOU HAVE IT

When I’m feeling charitable, I like to think of the sea lions of Gamergate as inherently reasonable people who simply come at discussion from a different perspective. Call it Generation Chan – where everything is shouted at maximum volume, and from that a consensus chaotically emerges, in the most democratic of senses, and if you can’t handle a little chaos then get out because clearly your nethers are too tender for these pants. Jay “A Man in Black” Allen put it best here:

Anon culture is a decentralized echo chamber, but one that can produce interesting things through the work of many hands. Anons hold that whatever consensus emerges is the right one as an article of faith, even if that consensus becomes more and more toxic over time. One example of how hate can concentrate is 4chan’s /pol/ sub-board. Ostensibly for discussing politics and current events, it is now dominated by white supremacists. This toxicity isn’t necessarily contained to one board: usually-ironic, sometimes-not homophobia, racism, and antisemitism are common to almost all anonymous imageboards.

And Gamergate shares that toxic narrative – most obviously in how it is inherently hypocritical at its core. Those who disagree with them politically must be driven from the Internet (such as seen in “Operation Disrespectful Nod“, itself originating from a meme mocking someone who tried to be polite to a target of Gamergate’s hatred), while every comment from someone seen as an ally must be allowed, and any moderation of this is censorship (such as Anita Sarkeesian’s refusal to allow comments on her Youtube videos, which is seen by Gamergaters as fear of engagement and by normal people as a recognition of cause and effect.)

I bring this up because we now see the advent of Gamergate’s latest hero, Mark Kern, who apparently is being held in a black site by the CIA.

Well… wait… I got all these from Kern’s timeline. Maybe he’s not being held captive by the Islamic State after all.

Wow. It’s almost like someone familiar with social media is inciting a ready-made mob! What could prompt this awesome display of hashtag power? What can all this be about? Well…

That’s not entirely correct, (and France is not particularly a place denizens of /pol/ want to look to for their anti-Semitic meme publication needs) but regardless; what this is really about?

Well, you see, it’s about Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Yes, really.

They apparently did a Gamergate-themed episode, which was about as weirdly stupid as you’d expect. Mark Kern was offended by it (so much so, in fact, he made a change.org petition), and laid the blame for this at the foot of the gaming media for, well, doing their jobs.

Really.

The best response to this was from Cara Ellison:

VG24/7 published an article that basically said the same, just using more/less profane words.

You’re wrong, I’m afraid, Mr Kern. Your view makes no sense. As anyone who’s had anything to do with Gamergate will know, apportioning blame here is as constructive as sieving cheese. The issues surrounding Gamergate made it to the mainstream because it’s a ridiculous story about weird, dangerous sexists and the women they target. Not because Kotaku wrote about it.

Well, you’d think that would about do it – except that Kern demands the right of response – his honor has been tarnished by VIDEOGAME JOURNALISTS and he has to say something about it! So, you know, he went to wordpress.com, spent about 5 minutes filling out a form, and then said his piece, which he then promoted on Twitter as his response to what VG24/7 said. Much like, you know, what I’m doing right now.

Oh wait, no, I’m wrong, he went full Gamergate and decried VG24/7 for not giving him the chance to write a response ON THEIR SITE. Because you see, they wrote something about him which he disagreed, and if they don’t publish his response that’s CENSORSHIP, and didn’t you know that he personally is responsible for Diablo 2 AND Starcraft 2 AND World of Warcraft? VANILLA WORLD OF WARCRAFT, MOTHERFUCKER, NOT THAT PANSY-ASSED CASUAL CRAP BLIZZARD DOES NOWADAYS, HE’S MARK MOTHERFUCKING KERN AND YOU WILL RESPECT HIS SOCIAL NETWORK REACH AND HIS IMPECCABLE RESUME AND YOU WILL GIVE HIM THE HONOR OF RESPONDING TO YOUR READERS!

You see, the world doesn’t work that way, something you’d think a fully functioning adult like Mark Kern would understand. The media does not have the obligation to post your rebuttal. And trust me, if they did, I have about 50 articles lined up ready to post on returnofkings.com right now. Freedom of speech is not a business rule, it is a constitutional imperative; he is free to, as he is doing now, use his fairly large megaphone to make everyone understand how offended he is that games journalists write about things. Gaming journalists being what they are, this will raise such a hullaballo that at some point some fairly notable site (probably the Escapist, rapidly becoming the web’s number one source for Based News) will interview Kern about his thoughts. Maybe in person, he’s fairly important, he could fly out to their offices and they can film an in-person interview.

Or maybe he’ll just take the bus over.

(Edit 2/26 8:45A – comments on this post disabled temporarily because it’s a busy day at work and I don’t have time to babysit the KotakuInAction RESPECTFUL COMMENTARY incoming. Will be turned on this evening. Thanks!)

(Edit 2.26 8:00P – comments are back open. Feel free to tell me how horribad a person I am and how I got fired from every job I ever had!)

A Programming Note

The previous content-free post managed not to work within seconds of its posting. The author of said post has chosen to pursue other opportunities.

Look forward to more content-free postings on this blog soon!

Threat Condition VASHJ: No, Seriously, Guys

Every morning, I read the New York Times on my iPad, because I have become the yuppie I grew up hating and because my local paper is kind of awful. This morning, this article was on the front page:

Spies’ Dragnet Reaches a Playing Field of Elves and Trolls

Constant readers will remember that, as the meme goes, I wrote about this on my blog five years ago. No, really, I wrote about this on my blog five years ago. Mainly running with the concept of what a stupid idea this was. I had no idea.

No. Really. I had no idea.

[Cory Ondrejka, Second Life’s CTO] visited the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., in May 2007 to speak to staff members over a brown bag lunch, according to an internal agency announcement. “Second Life has proven that virtual worlds of social networking are a reality: come hear Cory tell you why!” said the announcement. It added that virtual worlds gave the government the opportunity “to understand the motivation, context and consequent behaviors of non-Americans through observation, without leaving U.S. soil.”

No. Really. I had no idea.

In one 66-page document from 2007, part of the cache released by Mr. Snowden, the contracting giant SAIC promoted its ability to support “intelligence collection in the game space,” and warned that online games could be used by militant groups to recruit followers and could provide “terrorist organizations with a powerful platform to reach core target audiences.”

No. Really. I had no idea.

…so many C.I.A., F.B.I. and Pentagon spies were hunting around in Second Life, the document noted, that a “deconfliction” group was needed to avoid collisions…

See, this is why I haven’t been updating my blog. The news is too stupid for me to parody.

This Is Not A Love Song

2000: I’m at E3. As it turns out, it was both my last E3 as a blogger, and my next to last E3 in general (the show went on hiatus shortly thereafter). E3 had just discovered what blogs were (though I don’t think the term itself had taken off yet) and had issued me a media pass based on my site having X number of readers. I was there with a few friends and we cackled occasionally at the irony of my using a silly rant site to wedge myself into the drink tickets usually soaked up by the more respectable chattering classes.

During one interview for an MMO about to release I ran into the head of the company outside their booth. He looks me up and down with a gaze that could make the wombs of virgins barren, and finally manages to spit out one word while staring at my chest: “Media”.

What an ass, I thought to myself all throughout the next hour’s carefully contrived smoke and mirrors show for a game that I didn’t particularly care about and had no intention of playing for a website readership that really didn’t want to read my recap of a game I didn’t care about and had no intention of playing. I’m not good enough for him? Fuck him. I’m just as much a writer as everyone else stumbling around the hall in a vodka-fueled haze, only I occasionally use cooler words.

But, what bothered me the most was that he was right. I wasn’t “media”, this wasn’t my career, I knew very well that all I did was post drunken Facebook rants a decade before Facebook actually existed. People didn’t come to my website looking for reviews or news, that was just a side effect to my daily snark on which GM was screwing which player (literally or figuratively depending on the day). I was, as I would sometimes yell at people at the top of my lungs, most definitely not a journalist. I was a ranter. Which, sadly, really did not catch on as a description. Blogger sounds better at parties.

It was popular, sure, and a lot of it was because I was doing not-journalism better than the supposed journalists. When everyone else just accepted free trips to studios to watch the dog and pony show for an hour and then indulge in preferred vices copiously on the publisher’s PR tab, I would occasionally actually talk to people and post what they had to say. It was new, I didn’t have an editor (actually I was kind of the editor for a lot of folks, though I usually did very little editing to the dismay of people who wanted more Lum and less Not-Lum), I didn’t have a gatekeeper, I just found Truth (or what I thought was truth, which really is the same thing when you’re intoxicated by the presence of an audience) and put it up for everyone to look at.

No one else seemed to be doing that, which alternately confused and astounded me, save some guy in a funny hat named Matt Drudge, who by 2000 was making his own headlines out of upending the journalists reposting spoon-fed press releases. I kind of liked him, even though our politics were a bit dissimilar (I still called myself a conservative in those days, this being pre-9/11, pre-Patriot Act, pre-bailout, pre-1%), because I could see the impish glee in his eyes when talking on a morning news show. I bet some politician probably sneered at him in the green room, too. Funny how that works.

2012: I’m at a cocktail party, feeling about as much like a fish out of water as one can be without gills, at a mansion that could be best described as fin-de-siecle Lifetime special, talking to a college student whose ambition in life is to be a cable news reporter. Not a newspaper reporter – print is dead. Everyone knows that. The real action is on CNN and Fox, but it frustrates her knowing that someone will most likely write what she has to say and whisper it in her ear in place of actual thought. I suggest that maybe she should aspire to be the producer doing the whispering but that doesn’t seem to go over very well. No, the real action is in blogging. That’s where reporting is happening now. That’s why they teach it in schools.

Wait, I interrupt. They teach blogging as coursework now?

Oh, of course, she says. The next day, still somewhat stunned at the thought, I find that yes, journalism schools do actually have you set up a blog as part of coursework.

I don’t think anyone would sneer at a name tag any more.

I am not merciful.

Not in a world where Sean Hannity interviews James O’Keefe about Andrew Breitbart’s legacy. Journalism is dying, and ranting has taken its place, because people are becoming Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus watching the gladiatorial games, demanding blood and circuses. It’s where the money is, it’s where the eyeballs are, it’s where the future is.

It’s not journalism. I am not a journalist, and I never was. I was (and to a lesser degree today still am) an opinion writer, which used to be understood as not the same thing.

Used to be.

The spark for this soapbox? A piece up on Gamasutra today, which should have been clearly noted as opinion, but which is posted as a “feature”, essentially ripping apart Star Wars: Old Republic’s free-to-play model. There’s some opinions I agree with, some I disagree with, but the whole thing is essentially a long rant about how Bioware killed the author’s baby. Said author, Simon Ludgate, is credited as an “MMO consultant”. Does such a thing actually exist? Do people need to pay ranters thousands of dollars to fly out, thoughtfully rub their chin after a demonstration, and say “yes, that is an MMO!” Because that sounds like a nifty gig, if not one with a really long-term future. Oh wait, it means he has a blog. OK, seems legit to me!

The core of his article, that a free to play player in SWTOR seeking to achieve parity with a subscriber, would have to pay $56 a month, is hilariously wrong. It’s poorly sourced, as he even notes himself breezily, before making it the entire subject the rest of his rant. And it’s a really bad rant, full of Internet slang that makes the whole thing look like it was ripped wholesale from a typical official MMO message board, complete with the author saying that Bioware should have instead implemented about 30 pie-in-the-sky features ignoring the fact that SWTOR’s team just went through massive layoffs and may have some limits in what is possible – something an “MMO consultant” with industry experience would, I assure you, be *entirely* too aware of. But of course, if you’re a ranter – er, sorry – blogger – er, wait – journalist, all things are possible, and the only reason Company X hasn’t implemented your shiny pony is because they hate you and are too busy rolling around in their own filthy money which they stole from YOU.

Which is fine. Not everyone can be Matt Taibbi. But Gamasutra hasn’t marked this as an opinion piece, but as a featured article. This is essentially Gamasutra’s editorial position on SWTOR’s monetization scheme – that SWTOR didn’t implement player housing, so it failed.

Am I biased? Of course. I play SWTOR and enjoy it. I know a good portion of the development team, past and present. I hope it succeeds because the Austin development community in general needs more successes. And I’ve been in the trenches myself on similar projects too many times.

Of course I’m biased. I am not a journalist.

And in game writing, neither is anyone else.

Democratic Party SUPPORTS Terrorist Attacks On Theramore! Vote GOP!

but… orcs actually
*like* Mitt Romney…

This one definitely goes in the oh-god-I-could-SO-not-make-this-up-file. Let’s hear it from the Maine Republican Party on one candidate for the state legislature, shall we?

Colleen Lachowicz, AKA Santiaga, is a gamer in the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft(WoW), which takes place in the make-believe land Azeroth. Today, Colleen/Santiaga is an orc assassination rogue playing at level 85–the highest level one can attain.  She and the members of her “Wreck List Guild”—Colleen/Santiaga’s WoW online alliance—post comments to each other on liberal online forums including the Daily Kos, where they discuss politics, military policies, and WoW battle tactics.

Studies have found the average WoW gamer is 28, and spends 22.7 hours a week playing in Azeroth.

Note that the Maine GOP feels it necessary to remind everyone that the world of Azeroth does not actually exist, yet then continues to attack Lachowicz for anti-social behavior in said fantasy world.

You’re in Blizzard’s world! Bad Democrat! No cookie! (click to enlarge)

Other things the Maine GOP attack Colleen for include being a slacker, reading Daily Kos, using bad language, taking Eminem videos seriously, participating in Brewfest as an ogre, and having a uterus.

In case you were curious on if this was an official initiative or just some Tea Party crank yelling at clouds for being so gosh-darned high up in the sky? The Maine GOP site is having technical difficulties this morning, but I promise this was there last I checked:

Democratic Senate Candidate Colleen Lachowicz’s Disturbing Alter-Ego Revealed
…“These are some very bizarre and offensive comments, and they certainly raise questions about Lachowicz’s maturity and her ability to make serious decisions for the people of Senate District 25,” said Maine Republican Party spokesman David Sorensen.

The Maine Republican Party will make an effort to give voters all of the information about candidate Lachowicz.  To that end, the party has established a website, www.colleensworld.com, where people can see Lachowicz’s online activity for themselves…

I think I can safely speak for everyone who reads this blog (which at this point consists mainly of other game developers and devoted inside baseball fans but STILL) that I firmly support a candidate for office like Colleen Lachowicz who actually is a connected and social member of society, whom, like millions of other happy and well-adjusted people, choose to be happy and well-adjusted by way of stabbing Internet Dragons in the face.

I’ve already contacted Ms. Lachowicz’s office asking for a link to really the only proper response: a link for donations to her campaign. Because, dammit, we NEED more mohawk Orc ladies representing us. Even if they’re not combat spec.

Edit: Her response to my request/this story:

Thanks for standing up to support me. While I cannot accept contributions personally (I am a publicly financed candidate), other organizations are raising money. For more information on how to donate, and learn about other ways to help the campaign, please head to my website here: http://www.colleenlachowicz.com/

I have no comment on Theramore at this time.

More coverage: Maine Online Sentinel, Kotaku, Wonkette

I Am Not Making Any Of This Up And Really Kind Of Wish I Were

9/11/2012: The US Consulate in Benghazi is overrun by heavily armed militants during a demonstration and several people are killed. Among them are the US Ambassador to Libya and one of his aides, Sean Smith, better known among Eve Online players as “Vile Rat”, chief diplomatic officer of Goonswarm.

While online Eve players (who previously were known chiefly for hating each other to the point of violence) united to commemorate Smith, the attack becomes a political football in the US Presidential campaign.

Glenn Beck figures out the real story behind Sean Smith’s death: Goonswarm Is Literally The CIA.

…and he noticed that they’re watching all three [exits]. What does he do? Nah, he doesn’t call the White House, he doesn’t call the State Department, the, uh, embasssy in Tripoli. He calls a gaming website. Which is the first thing I would do. I’m like, I gotta check with my pals on the gaming website. And he writes: “We’re in Benghazi. At a safehouse. If we get out of this one alive, I’ll let you know. There are people watching all three exits.”  Gang… he’s not telling his friendly gamers. He’s a CIA agent. He is telling people – this is where we are, help us! …

I don’t understand how anyone could ever even begin to…

Oh. Well, OK.

From George “the Mittani” Soros’ website comments:

Welp, guys. I’m going to have to find a new game to relay messages from. Glenn Beck is too smart for the ole CIA.

Longtime readers of this blog, of course, will know that I predicted this four years ago. I am still not making any of this up.

Sadly, Not A Gimmick To Reboot A Beloved Comic Series

NCsoft to close Paragon Studios and shut down City of Heroes due to “publishing restructuring”.

As a recent NCsoft employee it would be inappropriate for me to express my inchoate rage in writing. Suffice to say that I have nothing but pride and satisfaction for the time I spent supporting Paragon Studios, believe that to this day City of Heroes is the best MMO of its kind, that its most recent (and sadly not widely adopted) expansion pack truly made the game a great experience, and that roughly 80 very talented and very experienced MMO developers are currently on the job market.

You only have a limited time remaining to press the awesome button.