Problem Machine

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Everything posted by Problem Machine

  1. Plug your shit

    I made a blog where I try to write funny/interesting things about game design and development. Been updating for a few months now. I think the things I've been writing are pretty interesting, but hey I might be kind of biased. Also, a few days ago I used that blog to announce and completely commit to developing a game that I've been thinking about for a long time: Super excited about it, to the point I've been having difficulty sleeping. Guess that's the authentic game developer experience!
  2. Okay well I'm pretty sure everyone here is super fucking sick of the girlfriend mode topic but just in case anyone isn't I wrote a thousand words on it last Friday: Insensitivity and Marginalization In it I discuss how, while I still don't believe the phrase 'girlfriend mode' is sexist per se, it is super insensitive to the current climate of categorical dismissal and diminution of women in gaming. I think it turned out pretty okay!
  3. Steam Greenlight

    First 10 games got greenlit: Black Mesa: Source Heroes and Generals Cry of Fear Routine Kenshi Towns No More Room in Hell Project Zomboid Dream McPixel
  4. Steam Greenlight

    Pretty sure I do. Submitted games aren't indexed but the submitter gets a url he or she can distribute. Once it hits a certain threshold of up votes, it gets listed on the page for public rating. So, no money changes hands, but you have to build up a certain amount of word of mouth before it even gets listed. ARE YOU LISTENING VALVE?
  5. The Idle Book Club 1: The Sense of an Ending

    Personally my affection for physical books started strong and waned with each move. Nothing like packing up 10 boxes of the things and lugging around what are basically huge blocks of wood to make you reconsider the benefits of digital reading. Right now, I'm just hanging onto the rare books and the ones where illustrations or layout are important (e.g. House of Leaves). Also Vonnegut. I will never discard Vonnegut. All of this discussion about high school English makes me glad I managed to avoid ever attending. It's sad that somehow people have started to think this is the proper way to read and discuss books. I can only imagine it emerged as highly educated and intelligent individuals explored the books they'd been reading in depth extemporaneously, out of pure enthusiasm for the works, and less educated and articulate people said 'ah, so that's how smart people discuss books' and set about aping the form without understanding the context. I'm sure that all sounds snobby as fuck, but I suspect that's basically how it went down.
  6. Ludum Dare

    I didn't see a topic on this elsewhere, sorry if I missed that. But yeah. Ludum Dare! I'm super excited. Anyone else doing it?
  7. Idle Thumbs 72: Crazy Crane's Deceit

    I'm actually completely cool with that, I just dislike the term roguelikelike because it's absurdly clumsy. Though honestly I doubt there would be another generation-- if there were it would probably be called an Isaaclike or a Spelunkalike (which actually seems super fun to say. We should just call them that.)
  8. Idle Thumbs 72: Crazy Crane's Deceit

    Re: The Binding of Isaac: I'm not a big fan of the nomenclature 'roguelikelike'. Sounds too much like a Zelda monster. Personally I like the term 'second generation roguelike', and I'm kind of trying to popularize that. Also the exploit Chris talks about was one of my major complaints about the game, since it provides a system that's both highly time consuming and exploitable, the end effect is that if you want to play the game optimally you end up playing for an extra 15 minutes of tedium. You don't need Cain to do it though, any of the characters can do it just fine as long as they get a decent buffer of money or health.
  9. It's a very good point, and I wish that was the dialogue that we were having with the industry. Instead of explanations, I usually see excoriations, which only puts people on the defensive. Oh well. All I can try to do is to do better myself and foment dialogue where I can.
  10. I think that gets to the heart of what's so tricky about debates like these, so much of it is up to the perceptions of the individual involved. But that's communication for ya. It's entirely possible that just because I tend not to occupy quite the same space as most other people culturally my interpretations are super divorced from reality, or the commonly accepted reality. I think in interactions like these I tend to employ a highly literal mindset, because otherwise things tend to devolve into, well, internet arguments. So maybe I'm deaf to the connotations that are apparent to other people-- at the same time, I feel like those connotations often override the actual communications that could be happening and turn things into fights that never should have been. I don't know. I'm rambling.
  11. I don't think the analogy to minstrel shows hold up, because they weren't made to make fun of racism, they were made to entertain white people by reaffirming their stereotypes. There's a lot of 'humor' around that consists entirely of referencing a stereotype without commenting on it in any substantial way: I like to call this Mencia humor. This sort of 'joke' is super not useful, but it's worth pointing out that's it's also not very funny, so maybe that works out. Conversely, actual intelligent jokes tell us about ourselves, how sometimes we can be surprised to be shocked by something (or surprised by our implicit assumptions being laid bare by comedy). Comedy, as with fiction, can tell subversive truths we aren't willing to hear barefacedly. I really don't want to get into freedom of speech issues here since that often tends to get into weird conflated arguments about legal freedom of speech vs ethical speech. However, I would never say 'chill out, it's just a joke.' I don't think humor should get a free pass because it's irrelevant, but I think it should never be verboten to be humorous because it's an incredibly important element of social interaction. Humor is powerful, humor is dangerous, humor changes the world, parody pierces our problems, satire shows us the scabs. By sacrificing this for pointless solemnity we sacrifice much of our ability to change minds which weren't already receptive to our message. So, yes, comedians have an ethical obligation to reflect on their jokes, and the great ones do. However, if I never again hear someone unironically say 'no laughing matter' it will be too soon. PS: The joke is that the gravity of the crimes on the wanted poster is at odds with the frivolous and self-interested behavior of the photographer.
  12. Well, but doesn't that mean it also reinforces that sexism exists and raises awareness of the issue? Then again, airplane food doesn't seem to have improved much by the awareness increase of people joking about it. Then again then again, I've never actually heard anyone joke about airplane food. I tend to be super leery about humor being made a target. I think it shuts down discourse in a really creepy way. Dunno.
  13. Well, I was responding to that particular thing. It's kind of sloppy thinking to conflate two separate things, particularly since the things you're talking about seem to be entirely relegated to marketing materials. Is it fair to judge a game's merits and demerits based off of marketing materials? Perhaps. But it is a different process, and not necessarily super pertinent. I'm arguing on the internet! If I can't misrepresent my opponent's arguments to push an ad hominem attack I don't want to post! Seriously. What the fuck was that? I'm lashing out at people by suggesting people justify assumptions they seem to be treating as axiomatic? Try to contribute something.
  14. Is making jokes about how sexism exists sexist?
  15. Ludum Dare

    Kind of disappointed. There's so many games based on that theme already... but there's some room for interesting ideas there too, so we'll see.
  16. Ludum Dare

    Well. It doesn't have to be a good game.
  17. This is actually a super interesting example! What it brings to mind right away is how racial humor tends to get interpreted one of two separate ways-- either as making fun of a race or of making fun of racism. Unfortunately, lots of comics who start out on the basis of making jokes about racism end up getting laughs from racists who think they're making racist jokes (see: Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle). In this case, I read this poster as a joke about sexism, and was intended to make fun of the behavior of the (hypothetical) photographer rather than titillate (heehee!) the viewer. The line on this tends to be always really hard to draw, though. Man... lots of other good discussion here, but Ludum Dare starts in 25 minutes so I'm probably not going to be able to keep up on the discussion for a while. I'm really glad people are talking about this stuff though!
  18. Okay! First, I have to say this is a great, thought-provoking response. And, before I dive in to agree with what I agree with, disagree with what I disagree with, and generally, you know, talk, I'd like to point out that if this was the kind of analysis that preceded the declaration of 'girlfriend mode' to be sexist I would have never felt the need to speak up. My concern resides almost wholly in that people seem to take it as given that it definitely is sexist and base the debate on that basis, whereas I see this as reactionary and not necessarily justified. So, yeah. Moving on. I'd like to see the same kind of analysis as to how, exactly, Borderlands is misogynist, particularly in comparison to, you know... video games in general. Again, before I see a debate predicated on this assumption, I would like to see it justified. If you don't feel I gave you enough credit, it's because the entire conversation about sexism seemed to assume the nature of the sexism in question. Chris seemed to completely dismiss the idea of that as a valid, intuitive interpretation of what the developer said. David Jaffe seems quite the cockbag, but I see your point re: covert vs overt prejudice. However, I'm concerned that the perception of such covert prejudices can reflect just as readily on the perceptions of the audience as the speaker. There's not really a reliable way to control for such cases aside from constant debate and inquiry about why we are offended about the things which offend us– as Jake says, it's ugly, it's uncomfortable, but we need to know it's there. Well. I've never felt qualified to provide concrete answers except to the most trivial questions, and moreover I distrust certitude in general. All I want to do is ask the questions which I think can be revealing, even they just reveal freaky little blood monsters. (Apparently I need to see that movie)
  19. Well this jumps freely between my feelings about discourse in general and my feelings about this case in particular. Regarding general discourse, I think that if you say something that is true and relevant and upsetting, you shouldn't have to apologize. Actually, I don't think you should apologize for something unless you agree that it's something you shouldn't have said. If you're apologizing just to mollify someone it doesn't mean much. You can empathize with them, but without regret the apology is empty. That's in general. In this specific case, I don't think he was trying to impart a truth so much as relate to people through an analogy, one which was, justifiably or not, received poorly. As I mentioned in my response, I would ideally like to see him clarify his intent, and apologize for his glib and tone-deaf phrasing. I am certain he regrets it, though perhaps not for the reasons we would choose.
  20. Conversely, from my life experience, my first assumption was simply that the guy's girlfriend didn't play many games and he viewed this as a way to share the game with her. To me this is the obvious interpretation, and the perception of sexism seems, to me, hypersensitive. I find it a little bit off-putting that the narrative here seems to be that I'm trying to get him off on a technicality. Do you think it's implausible that I actually feel this way?
  21. I'm not sure it's reasonable to say that people are entirely and solely responsible for how their words make others feel, nor do I subscribe to the belief in 'good' feelings or 'bad' feelings. Feelings of discomfort can lead to introspection, self discovery, debate... This is beside the point though– we cannot take full responsibility for how our words make others feel, because particularly in open forums it's something we have extremely limited control over. I know that many of these discussions of sexism have lead me to feel depressed, confused, angry, etcetera, and these feelings have lead me to explore the problem in more depth. I entirely encourage people to feel however they feel, but if they don't feel happy that isn't necessarily a good enough reason for someone to apologize. Now, in this case I think he probably should apologize or at least clarify, but I doubt Gearbox will let the guy in front of a microphone ever again. So it goes. I absolutely believe it, and the fact that you seem to believe that I don't I think reinforces my point about how our preconceptions about the character of others colors how we hear their words, no matter how carefully they may be phrased. And, yes, I agree that any debate on the topic is good, which is exactly why I feel the need to point out when, in an industry rampant with actual sexism, I think it's ludicrous that people have jumped on something so incredibly borderline instead of looking at the actual problems (I think this issue came up a bit on the podcast as well). I fail to see how inferring "girlfriends... who suck at video games" is intrinsically more justified than inferring "my girlfriend... who sucks at video games."
  22. This is an argument entirely predicated on presupposing the developer as sexist. He didn't call it girl mode, which would definitely have been sexist, he called it girlfriend mode– would there have been an uproar if he had called it 'spouse mode'? I suspect not! But people are reacting as though he did call it girl mode, which I don't think is justified based on what he actually said. I can't state too strongly that, particularly in communicating with strangers, it's incredibly dangerous to process all communication as though it were coming from the sort of person you conceive them to be rather than simply take it at face value. I don't think it's fair to, for instance, lambaste someone for saying they believe in natural selection because you're concerned about the rise of eugenics. And, to clarify, I don't think people can control when they are or aren't offended, and thus I would never claim it's wrong for them to be thus affected– however, I would urge anyone who is offended by anything to do their best to actually think through, critically, why they feel that way, before they proceed on the presumption that someone definitely said something wrong. And, no, I'm not brushing aside people's feelings for the purpose of forwarding my own argument, I'm saying that their feelings, as important as they are, still come in second to the vital importance of reasoned debate, the true basis of the actual long-term progress we claim to be fighting for.
  23. Girlfriend mode discussion was interesting and thought provoking (I loved the The Thing analogy), but also frustrating since I really think that some of the criticisms I hear are misguided. I'm having a hard time articulating my thoughts on this point further than I have elsewhere, so let me start by quoting a (humorous) tweet I twatted a couple of days ago: "I find your denouncement of 'girlfriend mode' as offensively sexist to be offensively heteronormative. WHAT NOW MOTHERFUCKER!?" And then my (less humorous) explanation of this stance to my mother, who was helping me review a related short essay before I posted it on my blog: "Regarding 'girlfriend mode', it's only gender-linked if one presumes a male-female pairing, if one were conversely to assume a female-female pairing then 'girlfriend mode' would be just about sharing the game with your significant other who isn't as into video games as you. If there was a not-incredibly-clumsy gender neutral equivalent (like 'spouse' but for the unmarried) then I suspect that would have been what the developer thus-interviewed used, but there isn't." I feel like people are going on gut instinct here, assuming that because you can't spell 'girlfriend' without girl and because it was a discussion of a less traditional-gaming-skill-oriented play style that it implied that female gamers were less competent at their hobby than male gamers– but it wasn't about female gamers, it was about non-gamer partners brought into gaming. And, yeah, I can see why people would perceive that implication, but I think it says as much about their own biases (as noted above) as those of the unfortunate developer who was interviewed. Also, and perhaps this merely speaks to my naivete, but I'm not particularly seeing where this consensus on Borderlands as misogynist is coming from. The only playable female character is cut from the exact same generic hilarious sociopath cloth as the male characters, and the supporting female cast (Tannis, Steele, Pierce, Moxxi) are all varied, interesting (well, except for Steele, though I did like her character design), and self-determinant. Just because Moxxi has her tits sticking out does not, I believe, a misogynist game make. Of course, it contains many of the casual sexisms that seem to be accepted as good game design- a single female playable character whose primary unique characteristic is that she is female (though she is the most fun to play), hordes of disposable male enemies with no female enemies and women only dying in cut-scenes, etc. I don't see any particular reason, though, aside from the girlfriend mode discussion, why Borderlands would be particularly singled out for this. Anyway. Sorry to brain dump. I'd love it if this started a discussion, but if people would rather dismiss me as sexist and move on then that is their prerogative. Obviously. I just found it super frustrating to be listening into a conversation so directly related to things I've been talking/thinking about and not be represented. Thanks.
  24. Left 4 Thumbs - The Homethumbing 2

    I'll be there if I can. Sunday might be a weird day for me and I may be unable to show. We shall see.
  25. Odd quotes that stick

    Wow it's like a more douchebaggily nationalistic version of George Carlin's joke. Awesome.