Ethical Gamer: Axiom Verge

I love retraversal games — games where, as you explore and gain powers, new areas open up. Metroid, and later Castlevania, refined the genre to an exceedingly high degree. Knowing that this indie game Axiom Verge, was made by one lonely dev named Tom Happ — including the incredibly atmospheric Geiger-like graphics and Metroid-influenced music — I should be fairly lenient on the parts of the game that I found to be less polished. I can’t help but fixate on some of them, though. They were few and far between, but there were several moments that seriously took me out of the game.

Huge spoiler warning for Axiom Verge. Can’t be helped, though.

(Notice how people won’t freak out about a spoiler warning, but might about a trigger warning? Yeah, that’s not lost on me either.)

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Ethical Gamer: Axiom Verge

Spoiler warning: douchebags think trigger warnings are bad

Quick linking post — was quoted over on Skepchick in re Richard Dawkins’ latest nonsense, wherein he rails against warning rape victims about rape discussion on college campuses. I need to write a fuller post about how exactly people are getting this wrong, but this is a great one-two punch.

Dawkins is right about one thing: Secular Safezones have an important place, especially in areas where being non-religious (or not belonging to the majority religion) can lead to marginalization. But if he acknowledges that, how can he argue that same care isn’t warranted for those coping with PTSD from rape, assault, or other trauma? Does Richard Dawkins think there isn’t enough oppression to go around? That if he shows compassion for victims of assault or rape, his pet cause won’t get enough recognition? Or is the reality more damning?

Spoiler warning: the contents of this post includes discussion about trigger warnings. Douchebag discretion is advised.

Spoiler warning: douchebags think trigger warnings are bad

A centrist Liberal Canada is miles better from a far-right one

All the major election-coverage news outlets are projecting a Liberal win tonight. Congratulations to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Better not screw this up, dude. Full results here.

Well, it ain’t Blue up north any more, and thank goodness for that. Mulcair had the best chance anyone could have gotten in his position and he choked, bigtime. Sorry.

And now for the traditional Canadian song as PM Harper et Entourage exeunt, stage right, though they will sadly likely form opposition:

A centrist Liberal Canada is miles better from a far-right one

On Hold: Investigating Transgender Health Access in Canada

Vice just released a documentary on trans health care access in Canada, and from the synopsis alone, I can already tell I’m going to be very mad about the state of access in my birth province, New Brunswick. I mean, they’re the most backward on abortion, why not also be the most backward on trans rights? Why not take every shat-upon societal group and mistreat them a little more than everyone else, just to make yourselves feel better about being the shittiest little lump of aggrieved conservatism in Canada that doesn’t even have Alberta’s money to splash around?

Haven’t watched any of it yet, so you’re going to watch it with me. Unless, of course, you only watch it this evening. I plan on listening to it this morning while I square away a bunch of work stuff, and I’ll hopefully have time to jot down more thoughts on the train ride home.

Below the fold because apparently it autoplays.
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On Hold: Investigating Transgender Health Access in Canada

John Oliver on mental illness and the gun lovers using it as cover

Every time there’s another senseless act of mass-murder by a gunman with easy access to guns and ammo and a heaping helping of aggrieved entitlement, that’s when everyone in the political sphere suddenly remembers that mental health issues exist. Not that they often even intersect — just the mere fact that the guy (and it’s always a guy, and almost always white) killed a bunch of folks doesn’t actually say anything about their mental health. In fact, the Oregon shooter a few days ago passed a psych eval before his mass-murder. And yet everyone’s quick to say the problem here isn’t easy access to guns and ammo, but rather the murderer’s mental health.

John Oliver takes apart this situational and blatantly self-interested concern about mental health readily. Not that it’s hard, but nobody in the media is doing it, what with vested interests and an entire 33% of your country who thinks “a well regulated militia” means owning thirty guns in a misguided effort to try to take on the US government because you don’t like what some Republican has told you is going to happen to your gun rights.

John Oliver on mental illness and the gun lovers using it as cover

Tony Hawk 5 is a disaster on four wheels

In fairness, I haven’t played it (ergo why this is not an Ethical Gamer post — that’s only for games I’ve actually played). I don’t know how prevalent these bugs are. But from all accounts, the physics engine in Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 is a complete mess. Never mind the graphical aesthetic, which is like if you took a photograph and tried to cell shade it, then make all the objects more pointy so they’d work in a last-gen rendering engine — I can get over a weird set of graphical choices and a blocky art direction and even, horror upon horrors, a frame rate under 60fps. What I can’t forgive, though, is a giant price tag on a triple-A release from a venerated game franchise like Tony Hawk that looks, well, like this. I mean, just look at this nonsense.

Also strangely, the game shipped with 4.6 gigs on disc, and its day one patch was 7.8 gigs. Generally, these are to patch bugs that have been discovered since the disc shipped, though some conspiracy-minded folks seem to think it’s to keep people from shipping a game early. By some accounts, the only things that were playable pre-patch were the tutorial and the editor mode; others say, the game is fully playable without the patch. Either way, the physics is apparently still a wreck even with all the patches. AND, to make matters worse, it shipped without ever sending review copies to reviewers — a move widely recognized as an admission that they knew it was a mess internally before shipping. Remember when Hollywood tried to tell us that texting during movies was responsible for their poor showing? Seriously, Hollywood tried to blame viewers’ ability to rapidly warn away their friends for Gigli’s flop, because if it weren’t for all those easily-accessible reviews, nobody would know the movie sucked and they’d have been able to grift more people.

Of course, SINCE early reviews aren’t accessible for THPS5, more people like me who remember the franchise fondly would be willing to pre-order or buy this on launch only to find a buggy mess that downloads patches that almost double the shipped disc. Tell me this — which is more unethical, being a woman indie dev who didn’t have sex with a game journalist? Or being a big company selling a grossly broken product for a gigantic fistful of cash? Cross-reference Batman: Arkham Knight on the PC, or Assassin’s Creed: Unity everywhere.

Also of note is that Penny Arcade is now decrying criticizing a medium that you love, where once they argued the exact opposite. They are rapidly descending into a spiral that will inevitably land them in the cesspool of other reactionary right-wingers who just hate, hate, HATE that anyone could possibly think anything’s actually fundamentally wrong with their beloved medium, or, say, with themselves, like with their own Dick Wolves nonsense. (Trigger warnings galore if you decide to Google that shit. Just don’t.)

I’m kinda heartbroken that my childhood memories of Tony Hawk Pro Skater were so, so much better, less glitchy, and — compared to its contemporaries — competitive graphically than what passes for a $70 game today. But, I wasn’t planning on buying this before — and I’m definitely not going to now.

The Forbes article, incidentally, quotes liberally from our good friend Tauriq Moosa‘s twitter account, which, while you should definitely follow because Tauriq is awesome, I’m sure isn’t being written for Forbes’ benefit.

Tony Hawk 5 is a disaster on four wheels

Guest post: Gametes don’t prescribe your gender either

A promoted guest post by timberwraith on this comment, reprinted with permission. It was too good to leave in the muck of some of its surrounding nonsense.

I see a variation of the usual cis-centric perspective of, “We just need to get down to brass tacks and accept the reality of male and female!” being trotted out in the comments. This time, it’s all about which gametes a person’s body produces.

If only it were that simple.

Look, if societies treated one’s ability to produce particular gametes in ways as neutral as nose shape, eye color, thyroid function, or hemoglobin levels, then the designation of male or female wouldn’t be much of an issue. No one would care if some felt compelled to employ medical procedures in order to assume secondary sexual characteristics and genital configurations commonly associated with certain modes of gametes production. It would be akin to changing one’s hair color or eye color—a medically intensive process, but still socially trivial.

That is not the world we live in.

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Guest post: Gametes don’t prescribe your gender either

“Woman” is a gender, not a marker of fecundity.

Leah Torres is an OB/GYN who tweets at @LeahNTorres. She was praised today on Twitter for being gender-neutral in her advocacy for trusting pregnant people with their rights to an abortion — a stance I share, back and categorically endorse.

Earlier, she wrote:

Our ex-colleague and recent embracer of all things TERFy Ophelia Benson sought this tweet out and attacked Torres for it, repeatedly chastising her for saying “pregnant person” instead of “woman”.
Continue reading ““Woman” is a gender, not a marker of fecundity.”

“Woman” is a gender, not a marker of fecundity.

Ethical Gamer: Rogue Legacy

(Content note: ableism, slimepitter and GamerGate bullshit.)

Gotta discuss some housekeeping first. Skip to the fold for the review if you’d prefer.

While I didn’t exactly go looking for it, incoming traffic on my post eventually clued me in to this thread on KotakuInAction (CW: transantagonism within the first few comments — this is Reddit, and a GamerGate forum on Reddit no less, so it’s bound to be awful, right?) announcing my first Ethical Gamer post reviewing Mercenary Kings. The thread contains people simultaneously decrying Freethought Blogs and me as being unethical, expressing outrage that a Skeleton Warrior could possibly play video games and want to review them from a social justice perspective, and, strangely enough, comments lauding my outright expressing my biases up front. A few of them even calmly point out that most of my problems actually came from Mercenary Kings controlling poorly and becoming stale way too quickly. Judging by the name, the thrust of the original post and subsequent comments, the person posting it to that subreddit is clearly a slimepitter well versed in Freethought Blogs’ history and their mythologies about us, so it’s replete with the sort of Googlebombing of character assassination you have likely come to expect from their ilk.

It’s one of those Big Lie situations where they repeat any slander they can about a person as often as possible and to as many audiences as possible, to poison the well against us potentially being right about their rubbish ideologies. The goal, naturally, is to get the fence-sitters and people on the sidelines, to destroy the credibility of anyone who might present a valid criticism of their philosophy. And of course, to achieve its goals, it’s full of the least charitable interpretations of a bunch of things I’ve freely and under no duress discussed about my own past, about what shaped me into the person I am today and what gave me my ethical compass, misinterpreting and reinterpreting these events in order to paint a funhouse mirror distortion of me that hopefully someone might get outraged about because, you know, I’m Fair Game for being a Feminist Suppressive Person on the internet. Because, you know, Freeze Peach for thee but not for me? It’s a bit funny that a Slimepitter tried to sic Gamergate on me as His Personal Army, thinking he’d get sympathy because I dared use the phrase “ethical gamer” as my name, and most of them wouldn’t take the bait. It’s a bit difficult to tank for their more vulnerable targets when not even the slimers hoping to sic them on me can convince them my Threat is higher than, say, Anita Sarkeesian. Oh well.

The reason I named my series what I did is actually quite simple, and it has to do with ethics as a concept — especially, as a concept that right-wing reactionaries do not have a grasp on. Ethics is about having a sense of right and wrong that goes beyond simply what is within the laws or customs of society, about more than preserving the status quo for people like you. Good ethics requires empathy to work at all. Having good ethics means attempting to maximize good for as many people as possible — it’s about more than just revealing your personal biases or keeping liberal political statements out of video games, as the Gamergate narrative goes. It’s certainly not about getting revenge on a woman who dumped someone you’re sympathetic with, especially not by lying to everyone repeatedly to maximize her pain. It’s about looking out for the people who are traditionally disadvantaged, trying to make sure everybody gets a fair deal out of a transaction — especially when those traditionally disadvantaged folks are being stomped on for no good reason by a medium that’s actually just supposed to be about fun and pleasure. That’s why I started this feature, and why it has the focus it does.

The thread is, naturally, also replete with misinformation about this effort, like that I’m getting any money for reviewing anything. I’m not. I am lucky some months to break two digits in ad revenue for the whole blog, since my flow of content is down to a trickle for the past year-ish — my last cut of ad revenue was ten dollars and some change. These two (now three) posts are an infinitessimal fraction of that total traffic and ad revenue, so you can take that unevidenced rationale for my focus and cram it. I am also not getting review copies of any video games, unlike most of Gamergate’s favorite Youtube vloggers, nor am I affiliated with any of the games I review, like TotalBiscuit, another Gamergate favorite. (Meaning, of course, these actions are perfectly acceptable when they’re done by antifeminists and Gamergate sympathizers. Shocking that they might be tribal, right!?) And in the event that I AM affiliated with a game, I will either abstain from reviewing it, or make that affiliation plain as day. I don’t pretend I hold much sway, but if I’m too close to a topic, I can recuse myself.

I buy these games on my own, with my own hard-earned cash, usually through Humble Bundle purchases. I review them from my own personal perspective, which, since I’ve been blogging for almost ten years, you folks should know pretty well by now if you’ve got the same sort of longevity in readership as I have in authorship. I do it entirely for fun, to tell you about games that I enjoyed or games that I did not, and to discuss aspects of them that I might have found problematic. Further, I do it entirely recognizing — unlike some people — that it is perfectly possible to enjoy a game even if you dislike some bit of pernicious sexism or racism or what-have-you within it. It is also possible to criticize that aspect of a game without wanting to destroy an entire industry (see the preamble to every single Feminist Frequency video, which of course these folks ignore as well). And most importantly to me at least, I’ve stuck to only reviewing games thus far that are playable on Linux, because I’m a huge open source nerd and I’d like to make sure those games that are playable on Linux get a fair shot at being reviewed and treated as being worth your attention.

Having stumbled upon that post reminded me to complete this review of Rogue Legacy and post it.

I’m going to pull a Psycho Mantis on you and read your memory card. So, I see you like Castlevania. You also like platformers generally. RPGs, yes, yes. Roguelike games too? Excellent. Here’s a game that you might find right up your alley: Rogue Legacy. Plug your controller into port 2 and join me below the fold.
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Ethical Gamer: Rogue Legacy