Shills of the week

Getting Started — Week 1

Welcome to a column that we’ll try to keep updated weekly, looking at moments in videogame writing and criticism we find particularly cringe-worthy, disagreeable, or simply worth highlighting.

First, lets begin with everyones favourite slash-fic hack, David Gaider, and the recent result of him mashing his partially-solidified fists on a keyboard: his male perspective on the female perspective in game development.

Then one of the female writers went, and she brought up an issue. A big issue. It had to do with a sexual situation in the plot, which she explained could easily be interpreted as a form of rape.

It wasn’t intended that way. In fact, the writer of the plot was mortified. The intention was that it come across as creepy and subverting… but authorial intention is often irrelevant, and we must always consider how what we write will be interpreted. In this case, it was not a long trip for the person playing through the plot to see what was happening at a slightly different angle, and it was no longer good-creepy. It was bad-creepy. It was discomforting and not cool at all.

For some reason he seems to avoid stating that the gender of the writer was male, perhaps as it was Gaider himself. Then he marvels at the amazing perspective that females bring to his writing team, as they all pointed out that someone’s g00d-creepy writing was in fact rapey as fuck. Those clever females — really earning their place. The biggest idiocy of all is his conclusion that —

if this had been a team with no female perspective present, it would have gone into the game that way.

Here, he takes a big logical leap in the first premise, it really wasn’t hinged on the respective genders of his team. For example: If it been a team of actual writers (rather than unaware hacks trying to one-up themselves with terrible innuendo) tasked creating characters (rather than 3D dolls that can be arranged in any fuckable configuration) then creepy rape situations would have been left out, regardless of gender.

This is a failure of members of Gaider’s team, and the fact that all the bad writers were male is hardly a stunning endorsement of females, or even a good argument for female involvement in the industry. They should be there for diversity, not only to act as some kind of filter for all the misogynist idiocy that the man-children currently populating the industry spout. It’s the same old patriarchal “we could do with a woman’s touch around here!” bullshit.

Some dude on Twitter, an experience designer or something, decided to go off the deep end and post the following:

Peter Silk ‏@KestrelPi
Games are exciting NOW. Stop belittling the efforts of modern game devs by promising a way back to the old times when things were better.
Peter Silk ‏@KestrelPi
@Ketchua I’m not saying there were no good games between 1995-2005, mind. But compared to before and now, it was the dark ages.

Is this guy fucking kidding me? And I don’t mean to pick on this one person, because it’s obviously a sentiment shared by many, inclulding Ben ‘Everything is Amazing’ Kuchera, but seriously fuck. Look how fucking narrow mainstream games-development is these days. All of today’s successes were BUILT on top of the games from that era, many of them pioneering the videogame innovations that are still simply carrying the industry today. And what of all the dead genres, fallen by the wayside of multi-million dollar marketing campaigns. Where are the RTSs, the 4Xs, the platformers, the arcade shooters, the management games, the simulators? Where are the videogames like Black & White that, at least,  looked for all new directions? Where are the developers like Shiny, who produced MDKMessiah and Sacrifice? Look what’s happening to the industry itself: Pay-to-Win, the commodification of online gaming that is already dampening ethusiasm for Company of Heroes 2, and the debacle that saw games like Mafia II hacked into pieces and sold separately for a quick buck.

It’s like this person doesn’t even understand what the Dark Ages were. They were a long period of intellectual and social regression. Look at the way that the smaller, more innovative, and knowledgeable studios have been smashed by bigger studios that churn out sequel after regressive sequel. The dark age in gaming is right now, and I take issue with people belittling the efforts of both modern and past developers who view videogames outside the narrow and restrictive focus on storytelling.

People that say videogames are more exciting now are either blinkered, new to videogames, or content with shilling for an industry that is more than happy to let them continue to act as copywriters.

There was a bit of a fuss over at MCV: The Market for Computer and Videogames when they got called out for “uneven reporting” (read:  blatant shilling) on the critical reception of the new Hitman game. Was it really that surprising given the name of the site? The backpedalling is a really fun read however.

UPDATE 1: The internet masses seem to be up in arms that we dared to neglect to mention the reviews from the likes of Videogamer, GameSpot and PC Gamer which were more in line with Eurogamer. The truth is we hadn’t seen them. So feel free to hunt those down for a broader perspective.

UPDATE 2: OK. After lots of comments and people engaging with us on Twitter, it’s probably right to point out that other outlets have indeed scored the game along the same lines as Eurogamer or lower. These include PC Gamer (66%), Edge (7/10), Gamespy (7/10), Gamespot UK (7.5/10) and Gametrailers (6.9/10).

We should also add that other positive reviews have appeared on the Metacritic, too, including GamesRadar (4.5/5), Spong (8/10) and GamesMaster (9/10).

The game currently has the following Metacritic scores – PS3 (83%), Xbox 360 (79%) and PC (79%).

UPDATE 3: We have changed the headline from “Critics delighted with Agent 47’s return in Hitman: Absolution” to “Reviews go live for Hitman: Absolution”.

UPDATE 4: We have now added links to every review mentioned here.

Our bolding. Note: if you haven’t played Blood Money, buy that instead; it is light years ahead of Absolution in every conceivable metric.

Finally, the highlight of the week was the long anticipated release of Killing is Harmless, a 50,000 word close reading of our much loved videogame, Spec Ops: The Line. We are not going to do it the disservice of simply writing it off in a paragraph here. No, we’re currently compiling a four-volume encyclopedia that truly deconstructs this epic work. You’ll probably see something posted here about it later down the track. For now, we’ll just show you a morsel from the excerpt posted on Kotaku for your rumination.

Towards the end of this project, in the conclusion, I call The Line a “post-Bioshock” game. I typed that weird, pseudo-academic, and somewhat pretentious neologism and then just stopped and looked at it, trying to figure out what I meant by it. Bioshock, through its “would you kindly” reveal, made a statement about videogame play. It noted how, as a player, I have never made a choice in a videogame. It noted that every time I thought I was making a choice of my own free will, I was, in fact, just doing what the game permitted me to do. This is as true for Sim City and Minecraft as it is for Final Fantasy VII and Dear Esther.

Ignore the insipidness of the term ‘post-Bioshock’ for now, and focus on the last three sentences, particularly — I have never made a choice in a videogame. I have never made a choice in a videogame. He speaks it as a truth. I have never made a choice in a videogame.

Fucking really?

This is the great flaw in this work. Keogh never defines what he means; he never justifies or supports his axioms, he simply soldiers on to the next, hoping the reader is nodding his head thoughtfully in time with his musings, but never critically engaging with what he is saying. This is not a good critical, academic undertaking. There is no attempt to engage in any critical lit review to help him define terms or a focus. He simply surrenders to his own biases and free associates his way through the text. Like I said, more on that later.

But let’s not end this week on a sour note; intrepid soul and youtube user, Chubzdoomer, has released Part 2 of his DOOM Done Today series. A worthy attempt at bringing a clanky, junky, and ugly videogame into today’s Golden Age of Visceral Gaming.

Could you even consider it brash satire these days?

If you would like to bring anything to our attention for next week’s column, please send us an email us at theshillinfield@gmail.com

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