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FEATURED VOXPOP ryanbates
Respawning
By ryanbates
Posted on 09/25/14
I had planned to write something about the Borderlands series, but that will have to wait. I have something I need to get off my chest first. It's very personal, and I hope the two or three of you who follow my sparse blog will spare me this moment. I joked in my review for the bizarre...

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On #GamerGate and Journalism
Posted on Monday, September 8 2014 @ 07:31:05 Eastern

Man, this has been a messed up month has it?   All across twitter, you tube, reddit, and pretty much every other social media form under the sun has been going nuts over the #GamerGate scandal. We have seen lines drawn in the sand, people acting like dicks (which is par for the course on the internet, but moreso in this case) and a few folks desperately trying to stay neutral.    I was one of those neutral parties. Honestly, I didn’t really care too much about #GamerGate at all, due to personal life issues. Heck, my time in the sun as a journalist was over. The two year stint at Blistered Thumbs taught me a lot, in particular two lessons about being a journalist.    The first, is to realize no matter what you do, people will go against you. Countless reviews, investigative pieces, etc. were done, lots of blogs and ideas put forth, and not everyone agreed. To be honest, that’s the way it should be, this is a hobby and people have opinions, after all. Constructive criticism is a blessing when it happens, but people are passionate about what they know and love.   The second thing I learned, however, is that no one cares about you if they don‘t know you. I still consider my InXile piece the best journalistic job I ever did, but it was wholly ignored by the rest of the community, except InXile itself, which did leave a sort of sour taste in my mouth at the time. You work hard to investigate things, spend a week or two digging and formulating your article, only to have it shot down by the media itself and never covering it again.   What makes it worse is I actually reached out to many of them to see if they can spread it. Jim Sterling, a member of the press I do not like, I sent an email to see if he can comment on it.Despite my disdain for his style, he is still press and a peer, and would help spread the word faster than I ever could. I also tried to reach Gamasutra’s Leigh Alexander and Kris Leigman, but never received a reply. I felt like, despite accomplishing something, for good or ill, it was ignored completely, and I always questioned why.   Call me jealous, call me biased, but that’s my feelings on it. Yet, I can’t help but look at the whole picture of this #GamerGate saga, and feel a sense of shadenfreude against those very people for once. Perhaps they kicked the hornets nest one too many times at this point, and are finally getting stung for their troubles.    See, I look around and see the issues of social justice, flame baiting, namecalling and general internet bile that constantly flows from the frothing mouths out there, but none of that matters. We all agree, you shouldn’t be a dick to people. You could, but it doesn’t make you right in the end. So all the personal attacks and harassment happening to people like Zoe Quinn, which kicked off the entire mess, is completely wrong on both sides.     But, it is not about that. At least, it shouldn’t be. While harassment is happening, it is slowly becoming a Streisand effect with many groups that were in the industry. We see strong writers and activists calling it a quits over this. My friend Mattie Brice is one of those who has given up hope and packed it in. We see major websites such as Polygon block and ban comments regarding #GamerGate, and constant social media battles on twitter between two sides fighting, essentially, for the same thing. We see misinformed fools attack Anita Sarkeesian, Ben Kuchera, Brice and countless others who to be honest, have nothing to do with this issue.   I can’t stay neutral anymore though. For once, people out in the depths of the internet are doing digging beyond the typical milieu of animated gifs and name calling you kind of are accustomed to when looking at the internet. Just yesterday, news broke accusing Indiecade of a racketeering scam,one that is supported with documentation and questionable intent. Is it true? I believe it is, yes.    And honestly, why not at this point? The documentation revealed was professionally researched, not doctored as far as I can tell, based off of the investigations of one person known as Camera Lady, and recited by you tubers who are actually looking at the facts of the issue. They are questioning what is going on, as they should. As a journalist should.   To me, this is the straw that breaks my back. I love websites like Game Revolution, like Gamasutra, and even the occasional Forbes article. Yet, I question why there has been no mention of these findings or in-depth discussion. We have seen some articles that brush off the entire ordeal from the likes of Eric Kain, excuse themselves like Daniel Bischoff, or ignore it all together like Polygon. This morning Rock Paper Shotgun left a long-winded statement regarding these issues, eventually failing to address anything behind a smokescreen of purple prose. Maybe they are right in the end, it shouldn’t matter at all, but wouldn’t it behoove the writers of such websites to investigate this one time?    I know in some cases, they don’t even consider themselves journalists. If that takes them out of the mix that way, fair enough. Yet, many of those who idolize you, who trust you as a source of news or information outside the press-releases and catchy video presentations want to hear about this. I hate to say it, but it is being complacent with the problem, by removing yourself from it at this point. Justified or not, that is the stigma that comes with it. As to those who brush off the issues presented, there is no excuse, you need to simply do your job this time. It may not sell or even be popular, but for me, integrity and journalistic vetting is more important to find the truth of the matter.   If it turns out to be wrong, then it is wrong, simple as that, we recover, move on to the next scandal and go forward. Of course, people need to talk to uncover the truth, and chances are no one within the industry, be it major gaming websites, the parties involved with IndieCade, and so forth, will do so. Hell, for those reading this, they may see me as nothing but a shill in the end, and as per my lessons learned at Blistered Thumbs, it really doesn’t matter. I am not getting paid for this at all, nor do I have a stake in a side “winning” or “losing” when this is all over. I may be biased and opinionated, but you know that ahead of time, so form your own conclusions.    Which honestly is what a journalist should do, let us formulate a conclusion in the end. The reason why I am enamored with these videos is they make mistakes, correct them as they can, are honest about their bias and don’t force the message down your throat. It is raw and not forgiving yes, but also endearing and backs up their claims without much assertion. I feel that if real journalism can get to the heart of the #GamerGate problem, we would maybe solve this puzzle, learn from it, and grow as an industry for once, instead of ignoring the problem or blaming the victims for all the issues at hand they be guilty of them or not.     I also do not believe it should be about sides either. In the end, all of us enjoy video games. We like playing them alone, with friends, on the internet, we love deep RPG’s or action adventure titles, getting scared in survival horror or testing our plat forming skills. That is a strong connection we need to embrace, instead of letting #GamerGate take us apart because of the morass of cynical, deplorable behavior that lines the foundation of what is happening, from all sides of the argument.    I feel it is the obligation of video game journalists out there to actually dig into this story to find the truth yourselves. If there is corruption, racketeering, or any other accusations of collusion going on, why not look into the indie scene then? And why stop there, where you can turn it on the publisher/developer relationships or the metacritic scandals and sock puppet accounts that keep popping up every three years. Discussing games is a fun past time, but sometimes you need to take off the rose-tinted lens to see the dark underside of what built this industry up.

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Why EA Access is the Best Value Out There
Posted on Monday, August 4 2014 @ 17:36:24 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

Here we go again. Electronic Arts, why do you constantly make it so easy to poke fun at you for dumb business moves. I mean, this whole EA Access thing looks…   Hmm… you know what, it is actually a pretty good deal. In fact, dare I say it, it is probably the best deal to come out for consoles in a long time.    This is not a “project ten dollar” or the “season pass” shenanigans that people are decreeing it to be. Oh no, if you read the fine print you slowly realize that EA is saving you money in the long run, provided you take the leap and the service they offer is actually good. So much depends on it being really good, and having what you want, but there is a lot of value here.   That hasn’t stopped people from condemning it as another “enslavement” tactic. Once again criticizing the gaming as a service model that the gaming industry has been moving towards since Steam got popular, and Xbox Live became worth something. The standard cries of “its poor value” or “you are paying twice” being chief among them. Heck, even Sony got in on the act by stating: “We don't think asking our fans to pay an additional $5 a month for this EA-specific program represents good value to the PlayStation gamer.”

Interesting choice of words, considering their own service model, PlayStation Now, is set to launch and may have a much more restrictive purchase schemes than what EA is offering, if reports are to be believed. Still, maybe Sony did see something in EA Access that is not readily apparent. Perhaps, behind the fine print presented, EA Access is another pointless service model that is doomed to fail. Let’s find out by looking at the three major points of EA Access and the possible pitfalls they may have.   The first and foremost thing to discuss is the pricing scheme. $4.99 for a month, or $29.99 for a year. For those who are doing the math, that is about $2.50 per month if you get the year subscription, which is half of the $5.00 price tag being offered. Since EA Access is only on Xbox One, the service would be a second charge on top of the Xbox Live account, presuming it is required to use EA Access. Combined with a year subscription of Xbox Live, if one was to purchase a year subscription for EA Access, it would be around $90.00 a year altogether, without Netflix or other services attached.   Now $90.00 seems like a lot for an entry fee, but if you actually break it down it’s pretty decent for a deal. The combined prices for the first four games in this beta equate to $142.00 all together, with Battlefield 4 and FIFA 14 being the lions share at $49.99 apiece. So you already are saving $52.00 off the bat, which is close to a full priced game on its own at $59.99. This is also if you have an Xbox Live Gold account. If EA Access is treated like an application, then your savings become $112 a month.    The second aspect offered is the 10% discount on downloadable content. This includes DLC of course, but also full-fledged games which you can buy and play. So a fully priced title at $59.99 would become $54.00 before tax. $10.00 DLC would become $9.00 easily, while $12.00 games such as Peggle 2 would be priced at $10.00. The discount does offer a good bonus for consumers, provided they like downloading titles off of Xbox Live. Of course you need Live to fully take advantage of this discount. It may also become more lucrative if the games on Xbox Live that are discounted with the Games with Gold program further, stacking the two discounts for extra savings. Although that is just speculation at this time.   Finally, we have the trial access. Since EA is offering you trial runs of the game, chances are they would be complete versions of the game locked off, with a time stamp on it. Much like the demo to Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which gave you access to the in-game tutorial, the character creation mode, and an hour's worth of game time in the first area, I expect many of the early access trials to follow a similar pattern, with the difference being the ability to import saved data to the main game.    The trial runs also provide a unique opportunity to do something that is still hard to accomplish, a complete game demo. The “try before you buy” mantra is very much still alive for many consumers, so the ability to actually play parts of the game, albeit for a limited time, is a very enticing offer. It removes the restrictions found in most demos out there, offering a taste of what is to come, much like a kiosk in a GameStop. The potential can be further augmented, though. For example, every team is unlocked for an Exhibition mode in Madden 15, and you can change the parameters of the game in the options menu, instead of recreating as the latest Super Bowl in 5 minute quarters. Such control for a game that usually doesn’t receive a demo online has a lot of potential.    Now, there are some caveats. As mentioned, the pricing might be too steep for some people, and many of the scenarios presented are speculative, it honestly depends on how EA decides to approach them with the trial deals and the 10% discount. It is also a question of content, while there are four games and a bunch of DLC already available in their beta, the pickings are slim and favor fans of sports games over other genres, although if EA sticks with it we might see a large amount of games in their vault on the service. Plus, we still don’t know if it’s a rotating group of games that will be free each month, which is again similar to the Playstation Plus model of free games. We also don’t know if purchased, downloadable games from Xbox One are retained if you decide to cancel the service.   There is also one more, sort of intangible issue that is lingering as well, the “slippery slope” argument that is often made regarding gaming as a service. While access to games and downloading them are all fair positives, many feel, including myself, that the physical copies are valuable and more protected from EULAs. The “enslavement” argument being that the service model locks you into paying money for every aspect of the game, from the DLC to the release date, to what teams or characters you can play as.    It is a legitimate concern, and we constantly see that negative in many instances. Asura’s Wrath, Dungeon Keeper for the iOS, Sims 4, Diablo III, and countless freemium games both on other services provide the proof of abused content and broken promises. The potential of EA Access being abused is there as well, and for many, the fact that it is EA doing this is enough to condemn the service before it's proven. As it is presented, however, it’s a good deal on good faith based upon the current pricing and the current savings received for their beta launch.    Not to mention the final positive given, this is non-mandatory service. You don’t have to sign up for EA Access, and not doing so in the end is a choice the consumers can make. Unlike the “false choice” that poorly implemented season passes presented, EA is allowing the consumers to choose, and with Xbox One providing the service in the same way it provides Netflix and Hulu to consumers, EA has nothing to lose in testing out how successful it can be.    So I have to disagree with Sony in the end. Contrary to what they believe, there is a lot of value here, or at least long term potential. If nothing else this benefits fans of the EA Sports titles the most, because it gives them access to their yearly purchases for the low price of $30.00, but over time EA Access might include more downloadable and new titles, much like the Origin library is today. It would also be a coup if EA allowed other big publishers into their service, although it is unlikely this will occur.    For all the naysaying, though, at least right now, on paper, EA Access is one of the best service models you can get in gaming. This all of course heavily depends on your tastes in gaming, but once again, the choice is always in the consumer's hands.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of GameRevolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article, posted earlier in July 30, has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick Tan

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Where Did Makoto Go?
Posted on Monday, July 7 2014 @ 16:07:54 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.


Meet Makoto.   Like any character from an RPG, Makoto has his own quirks to stand out in his game, Enchanted Arms. For Makoto, he is a support character who uses the element of Light for most of his spell casting, along with a saxophone as a conduit. He is also impulsive and often acts upon it, throwing logic into the wind.   He is also gay. Annoyingly, flamboyantly gay.   So much so, Makoto is an extremely divisive character in the gaming world. Some see him as arguably the breakout star of Enchanted Arms, the character that was able to provide good comic relief in a fairly light-hearted RPG. Others, however, view him with repulsion because of how he represents the gay community and homosexual characters in video games themselves.    I admit, I am in the latter category, with Makoto essentially feeling like a stereotype: an ultra-feminine, campy gay character who essentially rounds out the cast to forcibly add diversity to the game.    Unfortunately, Makoto has the distinct honor of being the first male, playable homosexual in gaming, an honor that could have been a triumph all the way back in 2006, but instead was met with harsh criticism over time, and for the right reasons.   But why bring up Makoto? After all, Enchanted Arms is a modest hit at best, only memorable for being the first RPG on the Xbox 360 console and for including Makoto in the cast. Makoto is far from the first homosexual to be featured in a video game either; with gay video game characters showing up as early as the mid 1980s, both accidentally and on purpose. Makoto, though, is the last gasp of something that was present in gaming at the time: the stereotype of gay men.    Eight years later, that battle is won.   Well, that’s a loaded sentence. In truth, the fight for LGBT rights around the world continues in many countries, cities, states, and homes, and represents different struggles many gay and lesbian people have. That is the real life struggles many in the community face today, and we should never downplay them. However, acceptance in the gaming world has been won, if recent trends show anything about it.   We have come a long way from the same-sex marriages in Fallout 2 or Temple of Elemental Evil. We are past the debates regarding the genders of Birdo and Poison, and we certainly can see the good and bad that gay characters represent in the world of video games. The years since Makoto have been very kind to the LGBT community, with the likes of clever, non-stereotyped characters of all genders and sexualities to grace the gaming screen. We now have a plethora of diverse roles that break the stereotypes Makoto represented for gay men, from the flawed Gay Tony to the confused Kanji Tatsumi. Companies like Naughty Dog, BioWare, and Bethesda are leading that charge in different ways, and it’s a good thing.   That fight is over. The battles were long and hard, but regarding representation in a video game, it was well worth it. For every Kanji, Bill, and Traynor out there, there is enough hate and slander and ignorance to go with them. Yet for all their hate, their words are hollow due to the rising tide that has continued to gain ground since the late 2000s, and that too, is a good thing. Characters like Sera and Dorian from BioWare's next RPG, Dragon Age: Inquisition, represent the changing tide of gay characters. They are no longer defined by their sexuality anymore like Makoto, and anyone thinking otherwise will be in for a shock when the game plays on-screen.    So where did Makoto go?    A curious question I guess, considering the obvious shift in the gaming demographic the past few years. Perhaps it's best not to even search for Makoto anymore. He is after all, a specter of the past, a ghost that doesn’t exist. However, it is easy to see where Makoto is hiding today, if we really search for it.   See, what Makoto represents is stereotyping, yes, but not the stereotypes for those outside the gay community anymore. It is the kind of anti-gay, homophobic hate that is still touted against the community as a whole, and it is something that seems to be a social taboo in the gaming culture as of late. Simply put, the problems Makoto represents are now rarely found in the video games themselves, and while this is a good thing, it has become the focus of the fight for actual equality, which is not productive in any way.   What do I mean by this? Well, we have hundreds of instances of homophobia perpetuated within the game community towards the gay community. Blizzcon 2011 came under fire when Blizzard aired a clip of Cannibal Corpse front man George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, going on a rant that called alliance players “emo cocksuckers" who should “slit their wrists.” Earthworm Jim creator Doug TenNapel has made anti-gay comments regarding homosexuals and same-sex marriage. Jamie Durrant would go on to sue Lionhead studios for sexual harassment because he was gay and felt uncomfortable in the workplace due to this fact.   By the way, these are the open examples we know about. Countless others, both working in the industry or just playing video games, are harassed every day. If the statistics spoken about at the EA Full Spectrum Event last year are any indication, roughly 50% of those who work within the industry are still in the closet out of fear of reprisal and hate. Add to this the casual use of the word “gay” or “***got” when playing video games over the mics or in the text chat, the LGBT community has a long way to go before achieving full acceptance.    Yet it bothers me very much that, despite the efforts made by many within the community, and the journalism world for that matter over the past few years, it feels like the greatest fear of all is just another Makoto to contend with. We have seen this happen several times under the watchful eyes of activists and journalists everywhere, to the point of annoying persistence.    Take, for example, Michael Patrick. Patrick is a first-time game developer who created Ultimate Gay Fighter, a throwback to the crude, '90s Mortal Kombat titles chock full of gay stereotypes. Patrick, who is gay himself, argued that the point of the game is for comedic effect, not to make a statement of any kind.    “It’s not meant to be hateful,” says Patrick. “If you allow yourself to make fun of a stereotype in a way that isn’t cruel, I think you diminish the power of that stereotype. I’m gay, and although I’m not a stereotype, I have stereotypical traits. Why not laugh at that and enjoy it?”   Despite the well meaning intent of Ultimate Gay Fighter, many critics exhibited disdain for the title because of its stereotyping. People such as Mattie Brice, Todd Harper, and Toni Rocca are among the most notable to rightfully object to the game, mostly for the same reasons regarding the kitsch approach to stereotyping. Yet, Ultimate Gay Fighter, despite the laundry list of problems it may present in its execution and comedic quality, is still not the new Makoto. Parody, good or bad, is judged based on how clever it is, and bringing attention to Ultimate Gay Fighter over this fact is not defeating, but rehashing, a battle that’s already won.   In fact, Ultimate Gay Fighter is just one example of what feels like a misguided attempt at exposing the problems with the gaming community. For every article regarding Tomodachi Life, Dorian’s sexuality, or transphobia in GTA V, it feels as though the wrath of the LGBT world is slowly but surely losing where its actual focus should be, and that is the real world. These issues have become the new Makoto in name only, while bigger fish are waiting to be fried.    Efforts such as the ThinkB4YouSpeak campaign and the EA Full Spectrum Event represent a more positive approach to showcasing change within the gaming community. More and more, it is imperative for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people to be open about their sexuality while working in the gaming industry. People like David Gaider, Lucian Soulban, Tim Caine, or Jen Havens are, or were, able to openly work on video games without question of their sexuality. Why can’t others buck the perceived trend of gaming culture and eschew what is expected of them? Gaming culture is harsh, and oftentimes unfriendly, but is not invulnerable to actual change. It all starts, of course, from within.   Let us focus on these lofty problems, so slowly and surely, comments regarding sexuality will recede completely. It will certainly not change overnight, but if the first steps of awareness within the gaming community are taken, then perhaps the pipe dream of a curse-free chatroom will be less of a dream and more of a reality. A lofty goal indeed, but one that is possible the more aware we as a culture are to the diversity around us.   What’s more, why can’t game journalists start to recognize this, either? I understand the passions and oftentimes necessary zeal needed to point out stories such as those above, but if characters like Dorian or Ellie are any indication, Makoto will never come back again as the ugly stereotype he has become. It is more prudent to finally push forward and change the culture at large, instead of focusing on the small screen. The LGBT community needs to stop asking where Makoto went, and now draw their attentions to the next battle to be fought. Makoto may return every now and again, both for good or for ill, but it will be a short visit before he realizes he overstayed his welcome. 

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of GameRevolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article, posted earlier in July 4, has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick Tan

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The E3 Conundrum
Posted on Saturday, June 14 2014 @ 17:41:49 Eastern



Man, E3 sucks lately doesn’t it?
  Perhaps it is just my jaded outlook on the gaming industry as of late, but for the last few years, the Electronic Entertainment Expo has become a chore to sit through. Gone ar...   read more...

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The Managed Expectations of the VGX
Posted on Tuesday, December 3 2013 @ 13:44:43 Eastern

Is it just me, or do the game of the year nominees for Spike's VGX awards feel underwhelming? I mean, four of these games are critically acclaimed masterpieces, yet it feels like there is no fundamental difference between most of the nominees thi...   read more...

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Sandy Hook Slaying Turned into Gun-Control Video Game
Posted on Friday, November 22 2013 @ 15:26:43 Eastern

[b]*Note: this article was first posted on Blistered Thumbs and can be found in the link below.[/b] http://www.blisteredthumbs.net/2013/11/sandy-hook-slaying-turned-into-gun-control-video-game/

Can video games be political statements?<...   read more...

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Mike Krahulick, Dickwolf Bully?
Posted on Friday, September 13 2013 @ 12:43:34 Eastern


Is Mike Krahulick a dickwolf bully?   For those not in the know, or are like me and barely cared when this occurred because you find Penny Arcade to be unfunny, back in 2010 Penny Arcade got into some hot water over a strip titl...   read more...

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Seeing the Love: My Time at Video Game Fan Fest
Posted on Wednesday, June 26 2013 @ 12:30:01 Eastern

[Editor's Note: As LinksOcarina comments below, this article is on Blistered Thumbs so it won't be a part of the official Vox Pop competition (yes, I will soon amend the fact that I missed last month's Vox Pop due to E3). However, we thin...   read more...

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Is InXile Crowdsourcing or Outsourcing?
Posted on Tuesday, May 7 2013 @ 22:25:48 Eastern

[Editor's Note: This article was published on BlisteredThumbs and thus will not be eligible for the Vox Pop monthly prize. However, we believe it should still be featured as a part of our community.]

Update: InXile has gr...   read more...

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Remember Me and the Female Touch
Posted on Friday, March 22 2013 @ 10:23:04 Eastern


Why are there no female leads in gaming?    A strange question to ask after recently reviewing Tomb Raider, but it is a fair question considering that there are few female leads in gaming today. In fact, according t...   read more...

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