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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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oblivion437 oblivion437's Blog
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A Brief Response to a Recent Upset
Posted on Wednesday, October 1 2014 @ 18:19:18 Eastern

The recent dustup between pissed off gamers of various stripes and pissed off journalists of various stripes has left me cold.  Commentary is solidly locked into two camps - one dismissing the complaints about corruption and collusion as either trivial or invalid, the other consists of the complaints themselves.  For that reason I present a short essay on the topic.  I will avoid personalities and discuss the issue in a general way.  I had initially planned a lengthier piece detailing the growth and transformation of the movement; its goals, subject matter and its increasing vindication on the face of the facts.  But this is not really about any of that.  Lastly, a note of disclosure before I get into this whole thing - I have been compensated by this site for past posts in the form of Steam wallet injections.  It's not exactly a salary or piles of goodies but it's something (for which I am grateful, by the way) and I'd rather be an example of the transparency I want to see.
I'm not here to discuss the spark of the dust up or even the content of the particular grievance.  While a particularly vivid example of the pattern of problems of which it is only a small part it is only one example and it involves digging into the bedroom lives of various individuals who are neither family nor friends nor lovers nor even acquaintances of mine; which activity is nothing more than glorified snooping and I absolutely refuse to do it.  A few points on the overall problem: Gamers have a valid bone to pick with a press which has served them very poorly. The bone would be far more valid still if gamers were paying for this press' activity. It has fallen to the subjects of this press to pay for this press.  It has treated them like a hireling and is justified in so doing for that is what they are.  The press is the industry's client and has been for over a decade. If gamers want a better press they, we, all need to learn that we get what we pay for in all things in life and this is no different. We were asking for this situation to happen.  We provided no incentives to do better and when doing worse became profitable did nothing to stem that tide.  This really is our fault in the end. To make an already overlong point short - the only way consumers as consumers can get what they want from the media is if they start paying for it.  Their failure to do this over the past decade and some change is what caused this situation and until they pick it up again it will not get better.

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On the Possibility of a Ninth Generation of Consoles
Posted on Monday, September 29 2014 @ 15:38:04 Eastern

As Mr. Osborn is wont to do, he posted a link to one of Michael Pachter's intellectual...movements and there was some discussion of the merits of his thesis.  For our purposes it's fair to note that Pachter's predictive rate is lower than a sports writer, which as Cracked helpfully informs us is already so low that by consistently betting against a sports writer's predictions one is virtually guaranteed to make money.  While this would not be a problem in and of itself Pachter is occasionally right no matter how off the beaten path his statements are.  This is not one of those occasions.

The upshot to Pachter's outlandish foolishness is that he says things which might otherwise be inexpressible - whether anyone wanted it expressed or not.  These eighth generation machines don't have the shelf lives of their ancestors and are already showing their age.  They cannot push the software available to meet the resolution of consumer TVs and talk of 4K support for actual games is just absurd.  A relatively cheap gaming PC is already more powerful than they are.  By the time the PS4 and X-B1 have substantial libraries (circa holiday 2015, at the earliest) which are more than tech demos like Ryse or microwaved leftovers from the last generation like most of the consoles' libraries to date it may be possible to build systems substantially more powerful than either console for less money.  The further problem of long run savings via lower software prices further aggravates the issue.  The 360 and PS3 were not simply weak PCs which had lower entry costs.  They had cutting edge technology to give them a substantial edge over previous gen systems and a temporary lead over off-the-shelf PC parts.

The new systems are, by and large, off-the-shelf PCs built with mid-range components circa 2012.  Their components are already entering obsolescence.  The GDDR5 in the PS4 made tradeoffs against conventional DDR3 system memory (lower latency connection to the BUS is paid for in slower BUS speed - GDDR5 is commonly used in video cards which are oriented around relatively many tasks done relatively slowly as compared to normal system tasks which are relatively few and done relatively quickly so low latency is more important to its design than high clock speed) and consumer DDR4 is on the shelves right now.  Will there be a ninth generation circa 2020, maybe earlier?  Probably.  But between now and then proper PC ports of console games and PC exclusives designed to push the hardware somewhere it has yet to go will quickly show the new machines to have been born old.  It's sad.

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Booth Babes as Prismatic Side Show
Posted on Thursday, March 20 2014 @ 12:18:06 Eastern

This post began life as a simple rebuttal to Daniel Bischoff's essay, "Join Game Revolution in the Fight to Ban Booth Babes from E3" and has since grown into something a bit bigger.

Concerns about the industry's image are, fundamentally, the industry's concerns.  Journalists writing about this and other issues seem to need a quick reminder - you are not in the games industry.  You are in the games journalism industry.  Colin Moriarty can't seem to keep it straight either but who knows who is really underwriting his paychecks anymore?  So one forfeits one's position of journalist when one tries to participate in or lead a campaign to transform some aspect of the thing covered.  One has clearly ceased to report on something and has become a part of the story itself.  A real journalist may cover that campaign but not take part.  One may even freely editorialize in the most grand fashion about it.  Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward covered Watergate extensively but they never testified at any of the hearings related to it.  They were journalists covering the story and not participators in the story.

Lastly, a couple paraphrased quotes from Joseph Schumpeter to illustrate my own stance on the issue:

"The prettiest girl in the scantiest clothes could never sell the world's worst game" --in other words, I think it's a stupid practice which should stop.

"The enemies of video games have the sentence of death in their pockets.  The only thing spirited defense will gain is a change in the indictment."  --Ten years ago it was video games cause violent behavior.  Now it's video games cause sexism.  In both cases the people making the claims are full of bull and they knew it the entire time.  It's hilarious to note that John McIntosh, Anita Sarkeesian's puppetmaster, sustains both lines of argument absent any empirical evidence to back his claim.  Hidden just out of sight is a desire for legislative control which will be imposed in waves.  First the industry would have to set up its own ratings and regulatory body.  Then it would have to start censoring itself for fear of negative PR.  Finally legislation similar to the Hayes Code or the Comics Code would be imposed by either statutory law or administrative law.  Video games enjoy only tenuous protection as speech so this could go on for a long time unless someone takes a case all the way to the Supreme Court and wins.

Addendum:

It is my perception that coverage of and participation in these relative non-issues enables, whether tacitly or overtly, several degenerate problems in the industry at large to go unscrutinized and the public remain largely unaware of them.  To wit, I can only offer a few token examples which are well known and which are part of storied histories of bad practice.

-Abusive work conditions.  Crunch modes including double overtime with no overtime pay is quite common.  Rockstar Games has become infamous for operating in perpetual crunch.  Team Bondi used up personnel like a McDonald's uses foam coffee cups.  Even during 'normal' work twelve-hour days are common, even though the resulting 60-72 hour work weeks are not in turn specially compensated. Working in games requires developing special skills to professional muster and in turn not putting them to the most profitable use.  The core programmers on big budget projects, for example, could increase their salary by switching out of games and going into general software development.  The working conditions are generally better.  Turnover rates are immense and due to the logistics of retention good people can be driven out even after shipping something which goes on to sell millions of copies.  The economically illiterate are calling for unionization which would almost certainly end in disaster.

-Power relationships.  Right now the cards are generally in the publisher or license holder's hands.  They enjoy a great deal of power for which they largely cannot be checked and abuse of which is not punished or even much scrutinized.  How many articles are there about Adria Richards?  How many about how Lucas Arts drove Free Radical into bankruptcy and illegally witheld milestone payments from them knowing full well that if FR sued they could simply tie them up in court because they had no money to pay for a lawsuit?  One is a serious problem and there are more skeletons in that closet.  Instead of digging into the industry's dark underbelly the journalist instead goes for the low hanging fruit - some guy made a dirty joke within earshot of a histrionic woman who in turn compared herself to Joan of Arc (who, if one is not keen to remember, burned at the stake for her beliefs) for being insulted on the internet.

-Industrial/Reportorial Incest.  No one wants to air fellow professionals' dirty laundry but the empirical evidence that, with the exceptions of smaller community-oriented websites like GR and Gather Your Party, games journalism and review is a bad joke with no punch line.

Ben Kuchera got his sleazy pseudo-intellectual blog for Penny Arcade fifteen minutes of fame and early hopeful notices by saying what everyone knows in a straightforward way.  If low-rent hustlers like Kuchera can earn applause by saying that, if only for a while, and the whole operation couldn't appear more corrupt if line-item financial records from EA's 2013 annual shareholders' report included dollar-amount and payment dates with attached memos for bribes to Colin Moriarty to defend Mass Effect 3's incorrigably bad writing while simultaneously attacking anyone who was stupid enough to pay to play it then where is the hard-hitting honest-to-God journalism unearthing this?  The problem is out there but reticence prevents productive discussion.

There is a gold mine of serious writerly work out there in turning over the stones and revealing the grubs crawling about underneath.  This is, by and large, not getting done.  Most of the content anyone can reference comes from obscure, often anonymous, always pseudonymous weirdos from places like 4Chan.  No one talking about this stuff in a serious way in print or other media is actually connected to the establishment of games journalism.  They're outsiders or amateurs, often both, and their lack of insider connections automatically commends their credibility if only because they can't be shown to ever have received money or non-monetary compensation from the same parties whose less than savory practices they claim to scrutinize.  While their position may be credible their claims may not be.  They lack the insider knowledge to back them up with who, what, where, when, why and how.  Someone with both of these two traits appears to be rarer than lips on a chicken.

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Hurdles to a Possible Final Fantasy VII Remake
Posted on Saturday, March 1 2014 @ 15:53:54 Eastern



In a recent post discussing Yoshinori Kitase's thoughts on possibly remaking Final Fantasy VII an interesting discussion broke out about why they would not and what might get in their way. 

First, let me be up ...   read more...

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Prolegomenon to Reviews for the New Thief
Posted on Saturday, February 15 2014 @ 15:07:04 Eastern

Eidos Montreal have released a seventeen-minute video of the upcoming Thief.  GR has it posted here.

Mr. Osborn, in his remarks on the post notes that while it appears to promise a competent stealth title in the near future, he is...   read more...

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Preparing for the Upcoming Thief
Posted on Friday, January 24 2014 @ 19:39:34 Eastern


When a new entry in a franchise comes along, it behooves us to acquaint ourselves with that franchise's past entries. Imagine, if one were alive in 1870, starting to read the serial edition of War & Peace at around chapter 240. About ...   read more...

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Adam Orth Resurfaces or, Gamespot Still Sucks
Posted on Monday, January 13 2014 @ 01:08:25 Eastern

Adam Orth needs and deserves no introduction beyond 'he's a jerk who said a stupid thing and it cost him his job.'  He produced a public apology which followed the Jon Corzine school of not understanding what he did wrong or why h...   read more...

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Empirical Evidence that Games Review is a Joke
Posted on Tuesday, December 24 2013 @ 20:14:06 Eastern

This is irresistable empirical evidence that competent research and analysis is the exception, not the norm.  It further helps to understand why - simple laziness explains it.

From the wonderful Slower than Slow, Thicker t...   read more...

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Ethics for Sale!
Posted on Monday, September 16 2013 @ 17:19:38 Eastern

So, the GTA V review embargo is up.  First I wish to discuss a badly written review, then I wish to discuss morally bankrupt reviews.

Universally positive reviews thus far (7:37 PM EST, 16/9/13) with but one exception and that rev...   read more...

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Sarkeesian, Revisited
Posted on Saturday, August 24 2013 @ 19:37:38 Eastern

The whole Sarkeesian episode has been interesting in a couple ways.  Much like the Zimmerman case large bodies of opinion built up on either side of a quickly dualistic divide which had little relationship to reality.  It then turns out the...   read more...

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