Violence in games

Struggling with violence in games, and how I want to deal with it.

Since the Sandy Hook shootings I’ve played with the idea of reducing violence in my media. The worst music I listen to is LMFAO, which is sexist and stupid, but they have great bass lines. If they sang about shooting, I wouldn’t listen to it. Movies and tv are a mixed lot, but I don’t actually see that much violence, and when I do it is over the top, and often one side is advocating a stop to aggression (Naruto comes to mind). It may be that I just watch a lot of stuff, so the proportions are better.

Video games pose a problem. I don’t think that games make people violent, based on my experience and those of others around me. I played Dungeons and Dragons at a time when people thought we would go kill each other in steam tunnels. The actual game session is amazingly boring to non-players; if you didn’t have the audio, it would be like watching people working on an invisible puzzle together, but marking down notes and using grid paper as reference. I’ve also played many first person shooters, which are the obvious candidate for training people to be shooters.

Despite not believing that they are assisting people in murder, I wanted to give it a try, to see if I can get away from violence in video games. It isn’t easy.

There are genres that make it easy, like puzzles or racing simulations (though even those have popular titles that are laden with violence). When I look at my own favorites, it seems like the repetitive mini-game in each of them is to hit something with a sword. That isn’t great. And I am trying to figure out why. Is it conflict? Do we just naturally share stories that have people in danger?

I haven’t been exposed to real violence in years, and I feel like it fades from memory, the thrill and pain involved in suffering from or observing a human receive physical trauma. Maybe violence in media is a way that humans retain a cultural memory of just how bad things can get.

Regardless, I am troubled, because I have an opportunity to invest in violent games, or do something else. I am starting a new RPG campaign, using a system that seems to lean on violent encounters. At the same time, I will soon have a laptop that can play Guild Wars 2, a game that I’ve been excited to play for years, and which is basically grinding through violent acts for hours with friends online. I wanted to play because I am working so much it is useful to have a grindy and entertaining distraction to decompress before sleep. Now I am not so sure.

I am a gamer. The materials and processes that have emerged in my life time makes it easier than ever to create interactive stories for people. I love it. I want Clover to enjoy and learn from them. But I have a lot more thinking to do while I figure out how I want to be exposed to violence, and what it says about the stories we share.

「WORLD ORDER」の”AQUARIUS”

Whoo, been a long day! I almost didn’t make this post today, but it turns out like most World Order videos, it is the perfect way to decompress before resting.

This video starts out with some great shots of what looks like an area in Kyoto, kept up in a style from the past. Basically, where every highschool aged person goes to for festivals (in anime), and where every samurai rebellion happens (in anime, and sometimes for reals). I love it!

However, what really gets me about this video is that it is more tender and personal than the others, with the crew interacting differently than in past videos. Their hand movements and patterns, while still synchronized in a machine-precise way, are more intimate. I know, that sounds like a funny assessment, but I think it is part of the narrative. It could be that the robot salary men are becoming more human with each message. We’ll have to see how it develops. ^_^

Oh, and we got to see some ninja signing and techniques being done! Genki Sudo really held back, considering his background. That sequence was well done, especially considering how many times they had to perform it, in different locations.

Okay, next video in a couple of days, with a very interesting message, and their most intricate scene yet!

「WORLD ORDER」の “2012”

World Order in Mexico! Extended-arm bits, and kawaii families! ^_^

These posts are a little late, but it is time for another week of World Order videos! These are from the second album entitled 2012, which basically means there is no way to find out any info on this due to the search results you will find for “world order 2012”. Did you know that Genki Sudo wrote the Protocols of Zion, which will result in the end of the world?! No doubt that is why the crew is hanging out in Mexico, looking for secret Mayan/Vampire artifacts!

As usual, they are amazing, but this video is also really sweet. It shows many aspects of Mexican culture in one hyperkinetic montage. My favorite part is when they cut from in front of the church doing the extended-arm bit, and it goes to an elderly person holding a young child. The lighting is soft, and they look so happy; it snaps me back into realizing that World Order has a mission, and it is showing that we are all one. ^_^

A couple more videos coming later this week: synchronized martial arts action and one of the most intricate WTF moments of any World Order video!

Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

Tropes vs. Women in Video Games is a project by Anita Sarkeesian, to discuss the roles in which women are cast in video games. It is a cool project, and e has been harassed for it. gg, hate gamers.

I am a dork, I forgot to mention this until I was just reminded… by the message thanking me for funding the project.

Anyhow, Tropes vs. Women in Video Games is a web video series by Anita Sarkeesian, the person running Feminist Frequency. It is important to me, because by examining these tropes, we have a tool to expose people to what they mean, and give us a chance create new and positive ideas that encourage equality, as well as just being more creative.

There are a lot of great projects on Kickstarter, but this one was in particularly interesting and disturbing. You can read the full post on the harassment Sarkeesian received, here is an excerpt:

The intimidation and harassment effort has included a torrent of misogyny and hate speech on my YouTube video, repeated vandalizing of the Wikipedia page about me, organized efforts to flag my YouTube videos as “terrorism”, as well as many threatening messages sent through Twitter, Facebook, Kickstarter, email and my own website. These messages and comments have included everything from the typical sandwich and kitchen “jokes” to threats of violence, death, sexual assault and rape. All that plus an organized attempt to report this project to Kickstarter and get it banned or defunded. Thankfully, Kickstarter has been incredibly supportive in helping me deal with the harassment on their service.

The sad thing is this kind of backlash happens all the time whenever women dare to speak up about gender and video games.

That is unacceptable! It is difficult enough to have an active voice and share in a culture that marginalizes your contribution by default, but this is so over the top, it is painful to hear. In order to improve our collective quality of life, it is essential that we are able to hear everyone’s voice. This cast the broad and diverse gaming community is a shameful light, mostly because all the chilled folks are having fun and increasing their hand-eye coordination, rather than spewing hate speech at people.

Anyhow, be on the lookout for these videos, and next time I will be better about posting early enough for you to support a great project like this! ^_^

Game of Lances

Game of Thrones is getting more violent, and I am choosing to re-read Dragonlance, instead.

Lately I haven’t felt like writing much, but I am determined to not pay any iron blogger, so here goes! ^_^

I watched the first episode of the second season of Game of Thrones of (oops, one too many “ofs” than needed). I was excited to get back into it, since I generally enjoyed the first season; I haven’t read the books.

Everything was going fine until the last five minutes. It isn’t a spoiler that the show contains horrible things in, as well as the books it is based on. After I watched the episode I was upset. I told Susan about how much it bothered me. Talking through it, we decided to stop watching the show.

In our discussion, we explored what it was about it that we enjoyed, and it turns out that a lot of the elements Susan enjoyed were present in other stories as well. For me, I enjoy many fantasy tropes, but I don’t enjoy senseless violence. I am sensitive to violence, in particularly against children. This real world of ours has enough tragedy that I feel hyper-aware of, so I pass on stories that focus on it.

I feel kinda silly expressing that, because it seems that the Game of Thrones series caught people because it is brutal and dangerous in a way that most fantasy isn’t, where the ensemble cast isn’t really safe, and bad things happen to the so-called “heroes”. It isn’t that I need the heroes to win, or ensure that the characters succeed in the end. I enjoy a variety of endings, but I just think that my tastes in fantasy are more aligned with a fantastical setting, and less having to do with the physical challenges presented.

An example of this is the Harry Potter movies (based on books which I have also not read): I enjoyed the earlier movies more, because it was more about solving puzzles and self-discovery, whereas the later movies was about war and its struggles. I liked the later movies more visually, because we don’t have enough movies filled with spells and stuff, but I didn’t really care to see characters I liked die. This real world of ours has got that covered.

Our discussion made its way to Dragonlance. I’ve always loved Dragonlance, and I’ve read everything up to the Chaos War. I have the Annotated Chronicles, which is great for a fan of the series, but impossible to read for someone new, since it has spoilers scattered about in the sidebar. A few years ago I had started reading it to Susan, and we decided to pick it up again, this time with Emma.

So, I’ve gone from over-violent and HBO-sexualized fantasy show to reading about an intentional family overcoming governments with a focus on relationships, while also bonding with my family and teaching Emma the pleasure of storytelling.

Even Peter Dinklage can’t compare. ^_^

The LARP Effect

The LARP Effect, not just for goth-punks (anymore).

Does anyone even need to have LARPs explained to them? That is what Wikipedia is for.

I used to LARP, it was actually my first exposure to structured role-play. I played in a Mind’s Eye Theater game, which used White Wolf‘s World Of Darkness setting (vampires, werewolves, mages, fey and even some wraiths [depressing bunch]). I’ve tried to get back into it, but it didn’t work out.

The LARP Effect is how I describe certain types of scenes in media. Actually I say it feels “LARPy”, but not many people pick up on it. It is basically when characters are interacting, and they are fulfilling their role, but it feels like they are aware of their role, or that they really into that scene, but are otherwise incredibly immature.

It isn’t really bad, it is just jarring to me, and breaks my otherwise decent ability to suspend belief as my eyes glaze over in a fiction coma. A recent example that comes to mind is the latest show Susan and I are geeking out on, Once Upon A Time. The premise is pretty solid, despite it being an ABC/Disney show, and some of the characters are amazing (I started watching it in part because I will pretty much watch anything Robert Carlyle is in [but I won’t ever watch Ravenous again]). However, sometimes (okay, most of the time) the characters feel like they just rushed over to the scene and need to get through their lines so they can get to the next scene, and it is happening around the block and they really need to get this bonus XP tonight, before their ride leaves.

In contrast, Firefly had terrific pacing and character interaction, and that it felt so natural really sold the setting.

What I really find fascinating is when the meta-fiction is core to the show, and yet they make it seem so natural, like The Office, Parks and Rec (my favorite show, I think), and even Portlandia.

I am not sure what the qualities are that produce the LARP Effect, but I think I would like to avoid it in the fiction I produce.

I should probably not write tv scripts.

Writing a bible

I had an idea of biblical proportion. What a horrible pun.

I woke up this morning with a great idea: I am going to write a bible!

Obviously I am not creating a new cult (those days are behind me). Instead I was thinking of those big binders or databases they use for novels, movies or tv series.

Besides tossing and turning all night trying to work out a simple header design for a site I am working on, I was apparently also gathering the points of the 150,000 year fictional timeline I have floating in my head (and three private wikis; and eight full Moleskins; and dozens of text files in backups with backups within backups).

It isn’t enough to just have a bunch or interlinked articles detailing persons, locations and events. I need all the references that inspired me:

  • Links to Wikipedia articles
  • Snippets of dreams
  • Interesting wordplay
  • Long, long lists of anime
  • Photos I took and created a story around
  • Autobiographical elements
  • So much more

I blame Tolkien, Asimov and Hickman/Weiss. Lord of the Rings and the Foundation series told me I could obsess on something epic. The Annotated Chronicles told me I totally want to keep all that info handy!

I am not writing as much everyday, but behind the scenes I am trying to organize this stuff so I can open it up to others. If I could get folks to tell me the stories happening in our shared world, then that is almost as satisfying as writing it myself.

Almost. ^_^

Kill Hollywood. And video games.

A convergence of ideas, somewhat distilled: the past is in its death throes, and will fight to exert control.

I read two things in a small time span that sounded very similar. The first was from Y Combinator:

The main reason we want to fund such startups is not to protect the world from more SOPAs, but because SOPA brought it to our attention that Hollywood is dying. They must be dying if they’re resorting to such tactics. If movies and TV were growing rapidly, that growth would take up all their attention.

The second was a quote from a Namco Bandai VP:

Free-to-play games can’t be high quality. The business model for smaller, easier titles, is making an expectation to consumers that is whittling away at triple-A development. We need to put certain value on certain work. When you’re a big company… you can’t take risks too quickly, you can’t make a change just because there’s a fashion for a couple of years; you want to be there in 20 or 30 years.

I am reminded that while individual companies chose to back down from supporting SOPA, the Entertainment Software Association didn’t until it was postponed. Is that weird?

In reflecting on MegaUpload being taken down, Jonathon Coulton suggests, “Make good stuff, then make it easy for people to buy it. There’s your anti-piracy plan.”

Consider the second point of the Remix Manifesto: The past always tries to control the future.

My point is, we have companies and industries that largely benefit from creativity and an open exchange of ideas. That is what culture is. However, these institutions have become, well, institutions. Combined with the rather depressing human trait of having no sense of history, it generates the desperate tone that something unfair is happening.

Disruptive technologies aren’t described as such because they are bad; it’s because they break up the delusional security of “business as usual”. The writing is on the wall, photographed, enhanced and anonymously distributed. No amount of legislative black boxing will change it; but as YC says, “you can, however, accelerate it.”

Google Currents

Google Currents is a curated magazine app for tablets and other mobile devices. There is more potential here than Google is letting on.

One of the biggest “aha!” moment I had recently was discovering Google Currents. It is an app that turns RSS, social network, and video feeds into a tablet and mobile device formatted magazine.

There are other apps like it, but obviously not backed by a platform provider like Google. Even more interesting is the Google Currents Producer, which allows anyone with a Google account (but not Google Apps) to customize the so-called “editions”, beyond the regular rendering done to any feed.

I want to get this on your radar, because I have a lot to say about it. Namely, it has given me an insight into web typography and layout, how th