Outlast & Whistleblower Late Review: It’s All About Journalistic Terror

I played Outlast and Whistleblower live in a single sitting for Extra Life 2014. You can watch my edited Let’s Play series here.

I’m a complete weak sauce when it comes to anything horror. I’ve never understood the concept of purposefully terrorizing yourself for entertainment. Obviously, a lot of people feel differently as it’s a successful, if niche genre in the scope of gaming. When I do Extra Life, I always make a stretch goal to play through a well known horror game, partially for the hilarity of watching me try to do it but also because it forces me to play a type of game I normally wouldn’t and helps broaden my experience. Two years ago, I played through Amnesia: The Dark Descent and while I found it interesting, it didn’t leave the impression on me it has on many others. Most people I read considered Outlast good but not in the same league. What I discovered was a game that not only scared me more but one I found much more enjoyable.

Outlast comes from small Montreal indie studio Red Barrels which is apparently largely seeded with talent from the AAA industry who are horror fanatics. Outlast was their passion project. You can certainly see that this is a game with a lot of love put in it, if by love you mean mental anguish that probably needs years of therapy. To put it mildly, this game and especially its Whistleblower DLC are fucked up, both in general subject matter and what your characters end up enduring through their different, yet parallel quests to discover the truth.

In the base game, you are playing a journalist who receives a tip from your character in Whistleblower that some seriously deranged science is going down at the Mount Massive Asylum by Merkoff, a stand-in for any number of real-life evil megacorporations. You arrive with little more than your infrared equipped video camera and a determination to expose and take down Merkoff. The story is not overly complex and your progression through the it is very linear but it sets a good tone and fiction for horror set in modern day. It’s peppered with plenty of deranged but unique characters and a twist at the end that surprised me, despite my thinking afterward that it was rather predictable. It’s also relatively short at about 5 hours (plus another 2.5 for Whistleblower) and doesn’t overstay its welcome. You can get the nuts and bolts just by watching cutscenes but there are collectible files strewn about the levels that flesh out the details and back story. You can get by without them but they’re a good way to learn more and best of all, they make collectibles useful and worth finding, as opposed to just something you grab to see some lame concept art.

Like many other popular horror games, you are alone most of the time and your interaction with other characters is only in cutscenes, after which they promptly take off. There are plenty of inmates to be found but not all of them are hostile and while an enemy will sometimes be clearly designated, you’ll sometimes get jumped by someone you thought was passive. Since you’re a journalist and not a supersoldier, all you can do when spotted is run and hide. On the normal difficulty, you have regenerating health and can take a few hits but this doesn’t diminish the terror you feel when running for your life, especially when the route to safety isn’t often clear. Sometimes, enemies will also check hiding spots and find you at random. Some areas of Mount Massive are lit and others require that you use your IR lights on your camera, which have a limited battery supply that depletes fast. Batteries are found randomly about for no particular reason other than “it’s a video game” and at least on normal, they’re common enough that I never ran out. I’ve been told that on higher difficulties, they’re both harder to find and you can carry fewer of them.

Where I feel Outlast really excels over Amnesia: The Dark Descent is in its pacing and the fact that it’s so linear actually helps this. What really bugged me about Amnesia was that too much of the game had nothing going on. There were large sections where there were no enemies (and you always had a clear telegraph when one was nearby) and beyond that, there were large puzzle levels where it was made crystal clear that you’d never be in any danger. The best kinds of horror are ones that keep you riding up and down from terror to calm but Amnesia had too much calm and made it too obvious. Outlast does rely a lot more on jump scares than tension (though it has plenty of that too) but it never lets you relax for very long. Even during some of the calmer areas, there are things that kept you on edge, like a passive enemy that just follows you around or bigger goons behind a locked door, chatting about what they’ll do to you when they catch you later. Even when there’s not much happening, you always feel a need to look over your shoulder. It’s this ability to calm you but still keep you vigilant that really makes Outlast a more enjoyable experience for me over Amnesia, even though I still think that’s an excellent game in its own right.

What I did find frustrating were its attempts at puzzles. These consisted of several points where something had to be activated and it always involved going to two different extremes of the level, doing the same thing in both locations, then returning to the middle and doing something else, all while avoiding patrolling enemies. The tasks you were given often didn’t make a lot of sense a real world context and these sections really felt like padding. They served their purpose as it was still terrifying to be spotted and hear the music swell but they also broke the immersion for me a bit. Some of the later objectives also involve meeting up with someone who refuses to stay in one place and keeps going on ahead, through areas that would really be easier to traverse as a pair. It fits with what the story is trying to do but it’s also kind of silly when you think about it.

The Whistleblower DLC thankfully doesn’t have any of this. It’s a shorter and further focused experience that I enjoyed even more than the base game, though the amount of seriously disturbing subject matter and imagery in it (even compared to the core story) made me really glad it wasn’t longer. The core mechanics are the same (though how it narratively justifies giving you a video camera is kind of hammy) but it’s a very different tale. Without spoiling anything, what I think really sets it apart is that it starts as a prequel to the main story but through some clever narrative tricks, ends up becoming a parallel story and concludes in what I would call a nice full circle with a great “Fuck yeah!” moment near the end as well. It doesn’t give full closure to the Mount Massive story but it does conclude nicely and isn’t a pure setup for a sequel.

Technically, Outlast isn’t state-of-the-art but looks good nonetheless. It’s an Unreal Engine 3 game and while it shows that it was made by a small team, they did well with what they had available to them and still created a dreary and terrifying environment. I played on PS4 and being based on older tech means it ran at 60 frames per second which is a welcome rarity on a console. There were infrequent but very jarringly placed and long load times that reminded me a lot of Half-Life 2 and it twice froze during these, requiring a force close and restart of the game. I would have liked to see these handled more elegantly. The sound design is top notch which I believe is a must in games like this and while the music isn’t something I really remember, it was well done and critical to the “tension and release” cycle they so masterfully executed.

I went into Outlast not really knowing what to expect and though it still hasn’t made me want to play horror games unless I have to, I think it was not only a good horror experience but also a good video game besides. Amnesia: The Dark Descent was good but had pacing issues and was too open for its own good in places. Red Barrels knew what their limitations were in making Outlast and they stayed focused within them, making the best game they could with what they had. What we got was something that played well despite some pacing annoyances, had a simple yet memorable story and without a doubt, scared the shit out of me many times.

Outlast 2 has been confirmed since I played through this and I can’t wait to see what they can do with a bigger budget and maybe newer technology like Unreal Engine 4. If they can get it out by next Fall, it’s definitely going to be my next Extra Life stretch goal. I don’t know if I’ll ever become a horror enthusiast but if stuff like Outlast keeps coming, I think I will enjoy the times I have to partake. If you actually dig horror, this is certainly not one to be missed.

Posted in Live Stream, Reviews, Video Games, YouTube | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Watch Me Play Outlast & Whistleblower Like A Wimp for the Kids

Follow the series playlist here.

At last, the time is upon us! My edited version of my November 1st live stream playing through Outlast and its Whistleblower DLC in one sitting for Extra Life 2014 is now on YouTube! Getting this edited down was a bigger process than I thought and pretty much took two weeks of lunch hours but I got er’ done! You can watch the first episode above.

I was a little worried that my “performance” wouldn’t be all that entertaining but having watched almost the whole thing in editing, I think I actually did OK and I laughed at myself getting terrified more than a few times. I’m not sure how well the series will do as this is an older game but I’m hoping people enjoy it. For now, there isn’t just a highlight video of all the times I freaked out as it’s a fair amount of work to put together but I may look at making one later.

Now for some more nitty gritty details. It’s going to be a 16 part Let’s Play series with the first episode going up today and one per day going up at noon for the following 15 days. Each episode is more or less half an hour in length (except a single episode that’s only about 10 minutes cause I couldn’t find a better cut point) and the away breaks I took and whatnot have been edited out. It’s only in 720p at 30 frames per second in lower quality than I’d like because I had to recording using Open Broadcaster and it will only record at whatever settings you’re also streaming with. I hope I can figure out a better solution in the future. I also interacted with my Twitch chat throughout and I wasn’t using an overlay plugin so you can’t see what they were saying but you can guess a lot of it from my responses.

If you want to keep up with the series, you can follow the playlist which will get new episodes as they’re added or better yet, just subscribe to my channel and follow all my stuff! I will still be doing videos from my other on going series as this one rolls out so if you already watch my other content, don’t worry, that’s not stopping.

I hope you all enjoy this. If you do, please thumbs up the videos, comment with your feedback, consider subscribing and more than anything, please tell others. I love doing my YouTube stuff but my channel is still tiny and growing at a snail’s pace given how much content I have and I hope this can push it forward. As terrifying as making this was, I actually had fun and I really enjoyed Outlast. I plan to do a late review blog post of it here before the series concludes. Outlast 2 is apparently in development so who knows, maybe that can be next year’s Extra Life stretch goal!

Thank you once again to the myriad awesome people who donated $1,580 at time of writing time to my Extra Life 2014 campaign. It means an immense amount to me and to sick kids at CHEO. I can’t wait to do Extra Life again next year!

Posted in Live Stream, Video Games, YouTube | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Game Industry’s Fall of Foulups (With Video)

2014′s Fall deluge of games is upon us. Stuff is coming out left and right and gamers around the world are super excited to be jumping into a whole pile of new titles and finally justifying their purchases of next-gen machines. Actually no, that’s not what’s happening at all. In a week chalk full of big releases, we’ve had just as many stories about said big releases being horrible messes, locking consumers into purchases of $60 products that don’t work as advertised or in some cases, don’t bloody work at all. This combined with my Xbox One woes this week and a really depressing story about a mobile developer daring to ask for money for something has made it time for a good old rant.

For several years leading up to now, a lot of people in the press and otherwise were questioning if this new generation of consoles and the AAA games that come with them had any chance at all. The mobile boom was in full swing and lots of clueless analysts were talking about how iPads were already as powerful as the last-gen consoles (hint for those geniuses: they still aren’t) and that no one was going to buy the new machines and everyone would be playing everything on tablets in five years. Indeed, I’ve been reading that many big publishers thought similarly and one of the reasons we don’t have as many titles as we’d like on the new machines is that a bunch of new projects weren’t greenlit until these publishers knew if anyone was going to be there to buy them. Once again, I was right and the people who said consoles were over were dead wrong. They’re selling better than the last generation did and supposedly, a bunch of new games are in development. For now though, we had to make due with mostly familiar stuff and I was OK with that but it seems this industry is doing everything it can to shoot itself in the foot right after showing that it was still wanted.

I’ve been an ardent Assassin’s Creed fan since the series launched. I’ve played and beaten every single game in the series except the one on the PSP. I even liked ones people weren’t fond of like Revelations (though I also thought 3 was pretty lame.) I think the stories are pretty dumb but love to explore and run around the incredible worlds they make. I pre-ordered Assassin’s Creed: Unity as I loved Black Flag and was stoked to get the first of these games built from the ground up for the next generation (the old consoles are getting one too but in the form of Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, a totally different game that’s basically more Black Flag.) Well, it turns out Unity is a fucking disaster. Massive performance problems on all platforms, a bad story (even by series standards), no new game play innovation like Black Flag and oh yeah, they filled the game was scummy microtransactions that they purposefully left disabled before launch so reviewers couldn’t know about them. Like Watch Dogs before it, the final product also doesn’t look nearly as good as it was shown in trailers. From what I’ve been told, Rogue (the game built on old tech for old systems) is actually a much better game. As usual, the press is being gentle to Unity and giving it good scores with one side of their mouths while screaming about its issues with the other side.

My copy is still in the shrink wrap and it’s going back to Best Buy for a refund tomorrow.

Congratulations Ubisoft, you’ve taken someone who enthusiastically played every Assassin’s Creed game at launch and turned me into someone who will at best, wait for a 50% off sale on Steam and even then, will only buy the game if you get your shit together and make it run worth a damn. I’m lucky in that I read and watched this coverage before I opened it. Plenty more didn’t and since you can’t return games once they’re opened (even if they don’t work properly), a lot of people are now stuck with a sub-par product at full price. Ubisoft’s many blunders this year are already getting them called The New EA by some people and not unfairly I don’t think.

Their insistence on making a massive open-world game an annual franchise (Hell, a double release this year no less) is clearly something they’re not up to, even with their army of worldwide studios. Say what you will about Call of Duty and I can say plenty but this year’s game runs like a top on every platform. Yet, Assassin’s Creed: Unity was still shoved out the door basically unfinished to hit their date anyway, with scummy embargoes to ensure they kept their precious pre-orders by gagging the press from talking about it until 12 hours after it was out. It’s a complete and total lack of respect for their customers, yet they did it anyway assuming that people will have forgotten by next year.

To follow that, we have Halo: The Master Chief Collection, an exclusive to Xbox One (obviously.) That game came out the same day and at time of writing, some people under certain circumstances might be able to get into multiplayer games. Matchmaking for this title shipped completely broken and though they claim to have been updating it all week, it’s still not properly functional. Sure, you can still play the remastered campaigns but most people bought this (and downloaded the 20 gigabyte day one update) for multiplayer and they can’t. Unfortunately, I stupidly cracked the plastic on this one so I’m stuck with it. I’ve no doubt Microsoft will get matchmaking in order and progress seems to be getting made every day but this is still unacceptable. A full price game was released with a key component broken and once again, the burden was placed solely on the customers, while the developer issues a PR-laden apology and swears they’ll get your product working.

Then there’s my experience getting Master Chief Collection even bloody installed, one which neatly fits in with the fuckups listed above. I bought an Xbox One about two weeks ago, just shy of the platform’s first full year on the market. One of the things I like about it over PS4 is that you can suspend a game you’re playing, turn the console off and when you come back, jump right back in where you left off without having to boot up fresh. PS4 promised this feature for its launch and we’re still waiting for it. Also, the Xbox One is supposed to do game installations from disc and patch downloads in the background, even while the machine is sleeping. After playing some Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare the other night, I put the Master Chief Collection in the drive, hoping to have it install and download the massive patch overnight. I put the disc in, started the install and update process, shut everything off and went to bed hearing the Blu-ray drive whirring away. The next day, I turn the console on, pop out the disc to put Call of Duty back in and see “Installation stopped.” It turns out it didn’t do the install or download the update in the background like it was supposed to. I checked online and a ton of people have this problem with the Xbox One on a regular basis, with no rhyme or reason to it. Microsoft keeps saying it will get fixed in new firmware updates and it never does. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I tried it again last night and it seemed to finish a chunk of the install but tonight, still wasn’t finished and I had to just leave the machine on to complete it. That’s also not including how when I put Call of Duty back in yesterday, it wanted to download an update for that game and froze the whole console after installing it.

These new consoles have been out for a whole year and they’re still riddled with stupid problems. The PS4 just fixed a major bug in the 2.0 firmware that rendered Standby Mode unusable for many (myself included) and my Xbox One still in many ways, feels like a machine in the beta stage. Beyond that, $60 (or $70 in Canada now) AAA games shipping in states many would consider unfinished seems to be becoming the rule rather than the exception. Only a couple of years ago, people said consoles were dead and largely, the console makers proved them wrong but they’re quickly stamping out any good will they still had with consumers. I’m a hardcore gamer and more tolerant of this stuff than many but I wouldn’t be surprised if some people who bought a new machine, saved up and bought Assassin’s Creed: Unity or Master Chief Collection are considering putting their consoles up for sale right about now. It used to be that the PC is where you went if you wanted a high-end experience but needed to tinker but for all its problems, Steam looks like perfection compared to what these “easy” consoles have been.

Maybe Ubisoft finally needs to realise that it’s not realistic to make massive open-world games on a yearly basis. Maybe the Assassin’s Creed teams should be given a year off to get their tech straight and get a chance to write a decent story and maybe they should think about not filling the games with more and more bloated features that no one asked for, take a lesson from Shadow of Mordor and learn how to make a great open-world experience with tighter constraints. If Unity is the best they can do with their current formula and new hardware, they need to do something else. In Microsoft’s case, you can’t afford to have a tent pole release by the company who makes the bloody console be such a broken mess when your system is in a very distant second place. The Xbox One needs to catch up and this isn’t how you do it. Personally, I think everyone who has Master Chief Collection registered on their accounts should get a free month of Xbox Live for their patience but that’s just talking crazy.

On the other side, we have the Monument Valley story. I’m on record as saying that I think most mobile games are creatively bankrupt crap (and they are) but though I haven’t played Monument Valley, it was apparently a bright spot in the mobile cesspool. It’s a pretty puzzle game that apparently has a touching story as well. It came out for $2.99 which on its own, makes it an outlier in the mobile space because almost no one succeeds charging more than $0.99 for mobile games any more. The developers announced an expansion that no one expected was on the way with a bunch of new content and they were going to charge $1.99 for it. Sounds more than reasonable to me. Well, I’m apparently in the minority as a bunch of people took to the app store and bombed the game with 1-star reviews, basically saying that the developers were greedy, they sold the base game with content held back to charge more for it later and how dare they charge more money for more stuff! The developers have been quite upset by it and are apparently now reconsidering their stance. EDIT: It’s since come to my attention that the supposed “review bombing” of Monument Valley consisted of a couple hundred 1-star reviews on a game with thousands of positive ones, something that had little impact on its overall score. Touch Arcade, Giant Bomb and a couple of other sites used a single tweet of the developers mentioning this as a reason to run clickbait stories about poor indies being treated like crap. I should have researched more but my core points made as a result of this story I still think are relevant. The people who wrote stories framing this as a huge deal should be ashamed of themselves and I for one expected a lot better out of Patrick Klepek.

This infuriates me for two reasons. Firstly, that most mobile game consumers’ priorities are so messed up that they will lose their minds about buying a $2 expansion (cheaper than a fancy coffee) for an incredible $4 game that they’re going to play on a $500 tablet that they replace every year or two. Secondly, that the mobile game industry complains about people considering anything that costs more than $0.99 to be a “premium product” when the industry itself made people think this way.

No one saw the rise of mobile games coming. When Apple opened up the iPhone to third-party applications with Android following shortly after, a whole new industry was birthed overnight. People started putting out games on these phones for fun and didn’t think of it as a business really so they didn’t charge much for them. Yet, as the games got more complicated and the technical capabilities of the devices increased, no one thought that maybe they should start charging real money for real products. Instead, they found ways to keep the games cheap but make the money elsewhere, largely through scummy microtransactions. Games that were about creativity first and didn’t want to fund themselves with nefarious micropayments were essentially pushed out of the market and made pariahs by consumers who went “How dare you think to charge money for your game when this other one is free!” Never mind that the free games are largely skinner box trash, casual game consumers don’t know enough to see the difference. It’s gotten so bad that many creative game developers are leaving mobile for PC or even consoles in some cases because on those places, people are used to paying money up front for a good product.

Yet still, this is a problem the industry made for itself and it’s almost the polar opposite of what’s happening in AAA. In mobile, the industry has made it so no one will buy good games for money. In AAA, the industry has people happily willing to shell out $60 or more for complete games but those games ship broken, underdelivering what they promised and in some cases, being filled with the same scummy practices the popular mobile games are! It’s something you almost never see in any other industry. They’ve actually managed to fuck up two complete polar opposites of the spectrum in different ways.

The industry as a whole needs to get its head out of its ass and start thinking about consumers first again. People are getting wiser than ever before and this isn’t going to get tolerated forever. Many have said for years that a new game industry crash was coming and it was mobile that was going to crash consoles. I don’t think that’s the case at all but I think both ends of the industry have got themselves in precarious positions right now. Consumers are wiser to this kind of crap than they’ve ever been and there’s only so much of this kind of corporate abuse they’re going to be willing to take. There are more ways to be entertained than ever before and there are a lot of people out there who play games but would just as soon do something else if gaming becomes too much of a chore for them. Us hardcore gamers like to think that we’re what sustains the industry but we really aren’t. We may be influential tastemakers and we may put more money into the industry per capita than others but it’s the massive army of “casual” players that sustain publishers and console manufacturers. You lose them, you lose everything. At one time, it looked like they were abandoning consoles for phones. It turns out that wasn’t true but right now, the industry is having to lie in the bed its made on two different fronts. They’re different beds, they’re made in different ways but they’re both really uncomfortable.

I’m very thankful that at least for now, I’m in a privileged position that allows me to be able to buy basically all the games I want. However, I feel for people who can only afford maybe a few games a year and got stuck with one of these broken stinkers. Those are the people the industry can’t afford to lose and yet, it seems to not care about making sure they’re happy. These people aren’t guaranteed customers for you, game industry. You need to continue to earn their business and just based on this last week, you’re failing miserably.

A crash could still come. Get your shit together and maybe, just maybe, you won’t be the ones who actually cause it.

Posted in Business, Coverage, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

60fps Videos Coming to My YouTube Channel

Announced earlier this year, 60 frames per second support has finally rolled out to YouTube worldwide for videos in HD resolutions! If you follow a lot of the more professional gaming channels, you’ve probably seen it in wide use already. I have to say, I was skeptical if YouTube could make it work well but they seem to have pulled it off very nicely.

I’d been considering whether utilising this new presentation method was a good fit for my channel. I principally cover retro games, many of which don’t run at 60fps or HD resolution for that matter. I also archive all my captured footage and project assets and am into multiple terabytes already, even though most of my first year of videos were only done in SD resolutions. The thought of doubling the bit rate made me wince at how much space that may require. Hard drives are cheap but they ain’t that cheap. One major limitation of this feature as well is that if a video is uploaded to YouTube at 60fps, you are forced to play back at that speed, unless you drop to SD resolutions. This means you have to have a faster connection and download more data in order to view those videos and I was concerned that would be an issue for some of my viewers.

After much thought, testing, reflection, testing, testing and more testing, I’ve decided what I’m going to do and I think it will balance everything out nicely. Going forward, I will record videos in 60fps and 1080p where it makes sense. If a game doesn’t run at 60fps the majority of the time, I won’t waste time and space recording at that rate. Also, if a game doesn’t run natively at 1080p, I also won’t record at that resolution.

I was actually surprised how little additional space is required to record 60fps footage, especially off consoles with my AVerMedia ExtremeCap U3. The files are most certainly larger but not twice the size at all and it’s quite manageable. Even at 1080p, YouTube downscales most of the video on their site to a much lower bit rate in order to save on storage and bandwidth costs. This is why you often see super high quality and most “artsy” videos on Vimeo, where the bit rate can be much higher, thus allowing much higher levels of quality. Most people watching videos on YouTube don’t care though.  By recording at the bit rate YouTube uses, even 1080p/60fps files are much smaller than I expected which is fantastic.

Similarly, I did some testing and while watching a YouTube video at 60fps definitely requires a faster connection and more data, it is also far less than I expected it to be. Clearly, YouTube has spent a lot of time optimising their player to make this possible, which makes sense when you consider they also have to send you more data and again, bandwidth is cheap but it ain’t that cheap. The more I see of how well tuned this is, the more I see why it took so bloody long to get it out there. I don’t give YouTube credit often but on this, they did a great job, aside from not allowing you to drop to 30fps at HD resolutions. Maybe one day, metrics will show this is a good idea and they’ll implement it.

So from now on, you’ll see 60fps and 1080p when it makes sense but only in those cases. Forcing more demanding standards on people for content that doesn’t require it is just wasteful and doesn’t serve the best interests of my audience. However, if I can maximise quality when appropriate, I will do so. The first video to utilise this is my latest Retro Flashback on Midway Arcade Origins:

This was recorded at 720/60fps because the Xbox 360 doesn’t run this game in 1080p and some of the games in the package run at 60fps. I’m very happy with how it turned out. If games I cover in the future normally run at 60fps most of the time (i.e. they don’t experience major slowdown), you can expect to see them at that speed. If you see future games at 30fps, you can assume that it’s because those games don’t run faster than that. Same with 1080p resolution. I have recorded everything in 720p minimum for a while now because I find even older games that don’t run at 720p look crisper and less blurry when presented in HD. I have no way to update older videos without deleting them first so those will remain unchanged. My StarTopia series also started at 30fps and I want to keep it consistent so it will continue to be that until it concludes.

I have a pilot for a potentially new series coming later this week (that will be announced here when it goes up) that’s probably going to be at 1080p/60fps more often than not. The pilot episode definitely will be. I also will start rolling out my Outlast and Whistleblower play through that I did live for Extra Life in the next couple of weeks but again, that was recorded at 720p/30fps (and a lower bit rate for that matter) so that’s going to be presented that way. Recording live streams at 60fps is very tricky and I haven’t figured out the best way to handle that yet. Lastly, the Geek Bravado Ramble will continue to be in 30fps because my webcam won’t do higher than that without dropping to abysmal quality and frankly, does a VLOG really benefit from 60fps? Personally, I don’t think so.

So there you have it. I hope this gives you guys some insights into both the technical challenges of this and my reasoning for approaching it as I am. I think this is a good balance of reducing my own storage requirements (which are substantial, especially for a channel that hasn’t made me a cent in a year and a half) and also making sure the most number of people can easily watch my videos, while also presenting things in the best way possible. I’d love to hear your feedback so please leave a comment here or on one of the videos. As always, I’m looking to improve and my audience is the best source of ways to do that.

Thanks again for continuing to watch my stuff and I hope you enjoy the silky smoothness!

Posted in Coverage, Video Games, YouTube | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Interesting Week Off

This is a rare personal post. Some people aren’t into those so if you aren’t, here’s your fair warning. I also couldn’t get my brain in writing gear for a bit so the week I’m referencing is actually that of October 27th-31st, not that the time particularly matters.

My current job is unfortunately temporary and only due to last until next Summer. Nonetheless, because it’s such a great employer (and unionised to boot), I still get a ton of vacation time. I’m likely not going to end up using it all so I get a little more financial runway when it goes away but after enduring the mental and physical beating that is Extra Life ($1,580 raised at time of writing, thank you all!), I decided to use a full week of it.

Truth be told, my mind was in a confused and distorted place for a variety of reasons. Extra Life was a big part of it but we also had the horrific shooting in Ottawa the week before and the ongoing GamerGate insanity was actually really taking its toll on me. I’m not invested in that conflict the way some people are but as a huge gamer and someone who takes the games industry, culture and history very seriously, it was hurting a lot and taking a mental toll to see said culture ripping itself apart from the inside, something still happening as I write this. I needed a break, one where I was free of most obligations and free to just relax and do what I wanted. Some people would call this a “staycation”. Horrible murderers of the English language, of which I am not one. Ahem.

I got some largely boring personal stuff taken care of. I started working with a financial planner, got some car stuff done and a few things around the house. I played some games (though not as many as I expected) and made some videos. I took Riley for super long walks every day and smashed my step count goal every day that week which was awesome. On Halloween night, my girlfriend and I went to a tiny event where a small food truck and an equally small microbrewery from our suburb did a food and beer pairing night. It exceeded all our expectations and we left stuffed and having met a bunch of great Stittsville neighbours. Then on Saturday, I did my single session stream of Outlast and its Whistleblower DLC because amazing people pushed me over $1,500 raised for Extra Life during the week. It was great, funny and torturous. If you missed it, fret not as the YouTube version is presently being edited and I hope to start rolling it out on my channel this week or next. I’ll announce it on here.

What made the week really interesting for me was some self-reflection I decided to undertake and the surprising results of it. As I mentioned above, the GamerGate insanity has taken a very heavy toll on me. It’s partially because I’ve seen a group once unified by common interest going at each other’s throats over something I truly feel can be talked out but that two entrenched groups refuse to let happen. It’s partially because I’ve begun to realise that while I’ll never identify as part of the larger GamerGate movement and its methods, there are real core concerns from it I believe in and that are being ignored and/or brushed off using false and defamatory labels by those who refuse to be accountable to their audience. The bigger trauma is how it’s brought out the true colours of many people and places I used to have a lot of trust and personal connection to.

I’ve talked many a time before on this blog about my love for the Gamers With Jobs community. I found the site when searching for new gaming podcasts back in 2006 and have used it multiple times a day literally every day since. It’s been there for me during some of the darkest times of my life and provided interesting conversation, debate and packed friends lists on every system. It’s been the only forum, gaming or otherwise, that I’ve used with any regularity for the last 8 years.

During my week off, I decided to ignore it completely. Save for posting a couple of times about my Outlast stream, I never went to the site at all.

I’m not going to go into a long diatribe about why I decided to do this. I don’t run the site and it’s not my place to tell the people who do how to do their job, one for which they receive little, if any compensation. What I will say is that especially since GamerGate but going back well before it, I’ve noticed a distinct shift of tone in the community.

Communities ebb and flow. This is not unusual and I’ve seen it many times there before. What’s happened the last while is bigger. Growing groups of people have become combative, dismissive, accusatory and sometimes just plain mean. It feels like camps are forming that see each other as enemies. Certain topics are not so much discussed as echoed, including in places they don’t necessarily apply. Those not with only opposite opinions but just non-binary ones are drowned out at best, ridiculed, attacked and shamed at worst. I’m not talking only about “GamerGate related issues”, this affects a number of topics. The tipping point for me was this year’s Extra Life when despite getting more promotion on the site than ever before, all but an amazing few completely ignored our efforts, despite finding time to keep on being angry about other things, not taking so much as a few moments out to help us do good (see the latter part of this post for more on that.) To simplify the point, it’s become a lot like other forums, albeit still much more polite and organised. Why this has been allowed to happen I don’t know but again, it’s not my site.

I honestly thought ignoring it for a week would be hard. For years, I clicked the button in my bookmarks bar multiple times a day out of muscle memory. I used to keep interesting and busy threads open on their own tabs and refresh them constantly to stay current on discussions. I’ve both given and received hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in Steam gifts during the holidays. I still mourn the loss of some amazing people from that site to this day. I said I would be strong in my resolve though and see if I could ignore it for a full week.

I also decided that I was going to implement a new regiment on how I consume Twitter for the same week. This is another thing I’ve used every day since I joined in July, 2009. When I had two monitors at my last job, I used to use the second one almost exclusively for MetroTwit. Every free moment, I was checking it like so many people do. I followed hundreds of people, more than it’s realistically possible to keep up on. In the last year and especially the last two months, I’ve trimmed that list down a lot which has helped but I also found Twitter was both distracting and frustrating me too much as I get too invested in what I read on there, a common problem. My plan was that I would do another culling of “noise” from my feed and that for the week, I would never look at it on a computer. I would only view it from my phone, which makes it impossible to follow in real-time and always builds the feed up enough that I have to scroll through it quickly, not having time to really process or get invested in anything being said.

The idea was that it would hopefully lessen my reliance on these places as part of my daily life and could start treating them as something I read casually instead of habitually. I’ve had many habits in my life and the only way I’ve ever found to get rid of them is not to wean myself to moderation but to quit cold turkey and build back up to moderation, if I attempt to build up again at all.

It turns out it wasn’t a challenge, not even a little bit. I haven’t been back to Gamers With Jobs since the 27th, nor have I used Twitter from anything but my phone, checking it maybe half a dozen times a day at most.

This came as a huge shock. These two things were as common to me a breathing for years and taking not just a step but a few dozen steps back didn’t turn out to be hard at all, especially considering I was on vacation and had few obligations to distract me. I expected a monumental challenge, one I felt I could consider overcoming to be a major milestone. In truth, I don’t feel like a challenge was overcome, it’s just kind of a thing that happened.

Shocking further still is how much better I feel having done so. A while back, I listened to an interesting episode of Freakonomics Radio on how quitting something can be good for you. Essentially, the theory proffered was that people often tend to get personally obligated to things they actually don’t need and don’t enjoy. They feel that quitting is either a defeat or that they’ll feel worse doing so when the opposite is often the truth. That episode spoke to me and provided a lot of the motivation to try this and the lesson is very apt. Having cut out Gamers With Jobs and significantly reduced my Twitter usage, two things that were to me, just things I did, has removed a huge stress and weight off my shoulders. I had a similar feeling a number of years ago when I decided to stop associating with some people in my life I had deemed toxic, yet that same reasoning never crossed my mind with these. Everything that was frustrating and upsetting me about those places still exists but I don’t see it any more, thus it doesn’t affect me. The break snapped the cycle my brain was in of fearing that I was missing out on something and that I had to keep going back to find out. Truly, this is a prime example of how ignorance is often bliss.

To some, this sounds pretty elementary and maybe it is. I have a great therapist but she is completely techno-illiterate by choice. She uses no social networks, invoices me with photocopies she writes my name on and loathes the few times she has to even use e-mail. I couldn’t discuss this with her first. I came up with this on my own and it was an experiment I had to try on my own with no idea what would happen. The results were revelatory.

This has taught me a lot about both myself and just how important these social vectors really were to me. I don’t want to coldly dismiss the impact many people from both Gamers With Jobs and Twitter have had on my life. There are many from both places I would call friends and my life is richer and better knowing them. The thing is, those are individuals and the whole with all the baggage that comes with it is not always necessary to keep them in my life. I’ve learned a method for dealing with situations like this in the future and at least this time, it was shockingly easy to implement. It probably doesn’t work for everyone but it seems to for me.

Both my girlfriend and I are only children and we’re very introverted and self-determined. We’re used to having to work for ourselves to get what we have and drawing energy from solo down time. We love each other deeply but we actually don’t hang out that much when we’re at home, yet we’re fine with that because we each get to do what we enjoy. Many people see this as odd, indeed some would probably see it as dysfunctional but it’s perfect for us and I think it makes our relationship stronger. In the past, I treated some difficult real life friendships with opposite thinking and it stressed me out and made me miserable, especially as infighting began among those friends and I was seen as the enemy by those I thought weren’t wholly in the right. I realised in this week off that I had got myself into the same horrible, emotionally draining cycle, only with online friends instead. The parallels were uncanny when that clicked. I feel like this is a major accomplishment and milestone for my personal emotional development and I don’t think I would have had it if I didn’t have this week off and make these plans around it.

I’ve thought many times about just being done with Twitter, certainly many more since GamerGate began. I still don’t think I’m there yet but I have come to realise just how much damage to discourse and communication that service and it’s ridiculous, dated limitations are causing. I have decided to tweet a lot less (getting there but I have some ways to go) and I’m continuing to check it only from my phone and only a few times a day. I’m also not hesitating to be ruthless with the unfollow and mute buttons to ensure noise and toxicity is not visible to me. If you’re someone I recently unfollowed and you’re puzzled by it, please don’t take it personally. It’s not a commentary on you, it’s just me curating what I take in. Use Twitter however you see fit, that’s the point. I’m just doing the same.

As for Gamers With Jobs, I don’t think I’ll ever be done with that place but I haven’t been back yet and still have no burning compulsion to return. That will probably change eventually and I’d still like to send a bunch of Steam gifts at Christmas, even if I don’t get any back. I look at the friends lists on my consoles and Steam and can’t deny how awesome it is to have so many other people to play and socialise with. However, I’ve also realised that I don’t have to be so invested in a place that a major shift in it I see as negative needs to burden other elements of my life. I can go there when I want and take the good and ignore the bad. If the bad gets too much, I can just go away for a while. My brain no longer feels that obligation and man does that feel like a relief.

I did indeed de-stress on my week off but I think I also learned some things that hopefully mean I won’t have to de-stress so much going forward. I wish I could find a way to hang out in places and not take so much of what I read personally but it’s just not how I’m wired. Maybe one day I can fix that but until then, this should do the job pretty good for now and it makes me feel a little better about the future. An interesting week indeed.

Posted in Culture, Internet, Personal | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

So That Was Extra Life 2014 (With Video)

NOTE: Fundraising for this year’s campaign is still open and I’m just a little bit short of eclipsing last year’s total and hitting my second stretch goal! If you or someone you know has even $5 to pitch in, please consider doing so. It would mean a lot to me to hit that second goal. My Outlast live stream will be Saturday, November 1st, 2014 starting at noon Eastern Time over on Twitch and I will also be recording it for my YouTube channel. It’s going to be worth it, trust me!

When I first did Extra Life back in 2011, I had no idea what to expect from it. Since then, it’s grown to a worldwide phenomena, experiencing epic levels of growth every year. This year was no different and I’m beaming with pride. The big day was this past Saturday and I already can’t wait to do it again. Every year, I like to do a little post-mortem, talking about the day itself, what went right and some things that can be improved. The news is largely good this year, though something has also left me feeling slightly disillusioned. First, the good stuff!

I wasn’t sure how the fundraising would go this year but it ended up doing very well thanks to some very special people. Donations are open until the end of the year so you can check the current total here. However, at time of writing, the campaign is past $1,300 which soundly trumps my first stretch goal of playing Outlast live in one sitting (gaming gods help me.) I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the total this year, either for myself or for Extra Life as a whole. It’s been a rough year on Planet Earth as we know and my girlfriend who works for a charity said that there was a chance the fundraising would decline this year because when there’s big pressing events in the world, people tend to donate to charities that will do the most immediate good. You can’t blame anyone for that, I certainly don’t. However, I’m happy to say that both my total and Extra Life’s are very healthy this year. So far, mine’s a little under last year but that could change and Extra Life knocked it out of the park. Following a record year with $4,000,000 raised, they have announced that just so far, over $5,100,000 has been raised for sick kids. That makes me so damn happy and you know what? This thing is mainstream now! It’s only going to get better from here and I can’t wait to do it again.

Before I talk about the day itself, I want to thank a great number of people. If you’re mentioned here but not in the video, I apologise but those are unscripted and I was still tired when I made it. Firstly, my wonderful girlfriend Sarah kept me fed throughout the day and looked after our dog so I could focus 100% on my efforts. You are amazing as always and I love you so much! Secondly, I want to give a huge shout out to my friend Andrew, also known as KeyMastar. I met this guy for the first time when I did 24 hours of Dark Souls back in 2012 and he happened to find my stream. Since then, we’ve become Internet friends and if you follow my YouTube stuff, you’ve heard him in some All Together Now content. He hopped into the stream when I started and just casually told me that he intended to hang out for the entire 24 hours! He wasn’t doing Extra Life, he just offered to hang out for a whole bloody day just to offer moral support. During one of the later periods, we hung out on Skype while I played and he actually nodded off for about 20 minutes. You could hear the snoring through Skype and myself and the Twitch chat had a great laugh. He woke up later and was embarrassed for it but seriously man, you needn’t be. I’m certain watching someone play games for 24 hours is even harder than playing them yourself for that long. That you hung around for so long means a great deal to me. You are an awesome madman and I’ll never forget this.

I’d of course like to thank everyone who donated. You’re the reason we all do this and if you contributed to me, you’re a great person doing good for sick kids. In particular, I’d like to thank my work colleagues who pitched in and especially, I want to thank my clients and retail partners who agreed to help me fundraise this year. Ivan’s European Deli & Carp Road Physiotherapy where I live in Stittsville and The Cake Shop in Westboro all agreed to put out coin jars and we raised a nice chunk of change from those. Ivan’s in particular brought in over $100. In addition, Wiches Cauldron and Big D’s Dog House, also both from Stittsville, agreed to donate their tips from Saturday and a portion of their sales from a big local event respectively. Wiches raised more than $100 as a result of their efforts and Big D’s has committed to donating $300 to the campaign. I was speechless when they told me that and I can’t thank them enough. We love living in Stittsville and the “support local” attitude that people have here and that was shown with this. You are all amazing people and from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for what you’ve done. I appreciate it, CHEO appreciates it and the kids appreciate it.

The day itself went pretty well overall. It’s weird, in past years, the hard hours for me when I start to feel like I’m crashing are usually between 1am and 6am. After that, I usually get a second wind that carries me to the end. This year was basically the opposite. I was fine throughout the night but fell down hard at 6am. I was playing Forza Horizon 2 then and I’m sure I drove like a mad drunk for a while. I endured though and after switching to Resogun for the last half hour, I perked up and had no problem getting to the end.

This year, I said I wasn’t theming the event on anything, I decided to just take it casual and play what I wanted. I purposefully hooked up every previous and current generation console at my desk, plus my PC so I had pick of what I wanted to play. I had intended to play XCOM: Enemy Unknown which I didn’t and sadly, I ended up excluded from the Gamers With Jobs Destiny raid because the past week didn’t leave me with enough time to do the immense grinding needed to prep for it. I am planning to write a review of Destiny in the near future for the blog but yeah, I think I’m done with that game now. I also played some League of Legends with Gamers With Jobs people, a game I’d never touched before. It was only against AI bots and while I don’t see myself starting into that game with humans, it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed learning some about it. I talk in more detail about the other games I played in the video above so check that out if you want to know more. I played a lot of stuff and really enjoyed it. This is absolutely what I plan to do going forward.

Beyond that, the Extra Life event as a whole just felt smoother and more organised this year. It began back in 2008 with just a few people and has experienced more than it’s fair share of growing pains but they’ve really come together and made it a well-oiled machine. Communication was much better, processing of rewards and events was much better and unlike last year when some scumbags DDoS’d their site, it managed to stay up the whole time. As I said, this event is mainstream now and they absolutely appear to be taking the responsibilities that come with that seriously and good on them for it.

Now we get to the problems. Happily, the number of issues were few this year but one in particular was a huge disappointment for me and is causing me to rethink some of the places I spend my time online. To be clear, these problems are mostly roadbumps to what is otherwise an awesome thing and none of these are deterring me in the slightest from doing Extra Life going forward. However, things can always be better and if no one says so, what changes?

The first once again is Twitch. I was kind of hostile towards Twitch last year for how lousy a job they did at promoting Extra Life, especially since they were and still are an “official partner” of the event. Not much changed this year. I use Twitch because it’s where all the people are but I’m on record as saying I think it’s a lousy service for many reasons, something that hasn’t changed yet since Amazon bought them. Combine that with how badly they promoted the event and yeah, I wish they had more serious competition. That said, my stream was largely reliable and never went down in the entire 24 hours. Credit where credit’s due, that’s impressive.

I have a pro-tip if you’re doing Extra Life on Twitch. When you set your channel title and game you’re playing, it’s suggested that you use Extra Life as your game name to make it easy to find people doing event streams. Don’t do that. Put Extra Life in your stream title but keep the game title updated to whatever you’re actually playing. My viewer count is always low but it was substantially better this year by doing that, especially when I started playing newer games like Bayonetta 2 and Forza Horizon 2. I saw spikes in the viewer count almost immediately after changing the title to those newer games. People usually come to Twitch to watch certain games being played and by going with that strategy, I personally think it leads to more viewers. Just make sure you have a text element in your stream that tells them where they can donate.

My biggest issue is more of a disappointment with certain places. Were it not for the awesome retail partners I mentioned above, my fundraising would have come in way under last year’s total. Were it not for those people, I wouldn’t be playing Outlast, not even close. I also said above that a lot of charitable giving is down this year and that I understand. I also had some amazing colleagues who donated but where I work now has a lot less people than where I was before. My old boss kindly sent an e-mail around that office but I don’t work there any more and I get why people might not want to donate to someone they don’t know any more, plus times are tough there.

However, some places like Gamers With Jobs that I have frequented for years and which were often instrumental to my previous efforts really fell short. A few Goodjers stepped up the day of and I thank them all for that. However, the event and the team were mentioned multiple times on the front page of the site leading up to the day and not only did we get basically no donations at all from the community until the end, no one even commented on the first story for over a week and those threads have been very slow. I get that times are hard and maybe even $5 is too much. Far be it for me to tell anyone how to spend their money. However, if you can’t step up financially, signal boosting via social media costs literally nothing. We asked people to do that and few did but a whole pile of people who said nothing about Extra Life still found time to snark and whine on Twitter about bloody GamerGate on Saturday. For that matter, I checked and only a small handful of major gaming news sites even mentioned Extra Life this year, unless they had staff members participating.

I’m not here to comment on GamerGate, I’ve done that in another post. However, Extra Life is a crystal clear example of gamers doing nothing but immense good. We put all the political fights aside and raised millions for sick kids, using the hobby we all love. Yet, many press outlets and individuals who can find plenty of time to complain about how evil gamers are because of the actions of a vast minority within a largely misrepresented movement, couldn’t find time to post a single tweet or story in support of us? That’s beyond disappointing, it makes me bloody angry. If you’re only interested in talking about what your audience and fellow gamers are being evil (even when it’s just because they disagree with you) and ignore when they do good, I think you need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask yourself what good you’re actually doing for this medium and this community. Frankly, a lot of sites and a lot of people’s actions (or lack thereof) spoke volumes to me this weekend and I didn’t at all care for what I heard. I’m largely staying away from Gamers With Jobs this week to think about whether it’s the right place for me and I may not be back there in the same way after this. A bunch of us did good, all we asked for was a little support and a lot of places we counted on for it let us down, nearly completely.

As a whole though, I think this was one of the best years for Extra Life and for me doing it. They hit a new fundraising record and while I didn’t, I’m still very pleased with the result. Even if I only raised $1, that’s $1 more than would have been raised if I did nothing and I take real pride in that. The event’s barely over and I can’t wait to do it again next year! I hope you’ll all be back and that you continue to enjoy it. I’m off work this week and have plans for both blog entries and a lot of video content to get my channel back on track.

Extra Life is important and it’s a big deal that’s only getting bigger. I consider it a great honour to have been part of it and here’s to many years to come!

Posted in Culture, Video Games, YouTube | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

My Final Rant On GamerGate

Alright, it’s time to address GamerGate. After hearing about this issue non-stop for the better part of two months now, I’ve had enough and I need to vent. I wrote about this in a pretty weak sauce way before because I was scared of being targeted but I’m done caring about that. There’s potential for good, meaningful discussion here that’s being completely choked and drowned out by people on both sides who have become little more than squabbling children. Writers and communities that should frankly know better have become little more than snark-ridden echo chambers. I’m now seriously questioning places I used to think of as Internet safe havens and that makes me both sad and angry.

I debated leaving GamerGate out of the title of this post because I didn’t want it to show up in Google searches and make me an easy target. I thought about it a lot and decided that would be a cowardly decision. If I’m going to post this, then I’m going to put it out there properly and take my lumps if they come. I will stand up for what I say. This post also assumes you’re up-to-date on what’s happened with GamerGate to time of writing. If you’re not, look it up elsewhere.

After this, I’m done with this bullshit. It has gone well beyond any realm of reason and it will never be solved until it gets a chance to cool down which has to happen eventually. This is my final peace on the topic as it is now. After today, I’ll be muting the hashtag, for my own sanity. I see valid points buried within the toxicity on both sides of this. If you’re someone who is going to read this and assume me as being with the extreme elements of either camp, you should stop now and unfollow me in whatever places you do. People who would do that are people I’m not interested in engaging any further.

My goal here is to speak to the more rational players on both sides of the debate. By and large, nothing I or anyone else says will sway any extremists. Yet there are still many who are open to alternative ideas, even in spite of being fairly locked in to what they think. My hope is to plant some seeds with those people. I probably won’t but I can at least say I tried.

The kernel of this issue is rooted in what I believe are valid concerns. There are major problems with the enthusiast press being too cozy to those they cover and I believe this is impacting the quality and neutrality of coverage in some places. I believe what games they choose to cover and how much coverage they give them shouldn’t be tied to relationships with and feelings toward their creators. I believe directly funding a creator you are responsible for covering is a patently obvious conflict of interest. I believe it’s actually OK if those conflicts exist and that recusal is not necessary but visible and plainly worded disclosure should be standard practice, as it is elsewhere. I believe that covering things based on personal preferences and desire/business need for controversial clicks instead of the consumer’s need to know isn’t journalism, it’s opinion and should be labelled as such. I believe a journalist’s role is to provide the info for people to think on, not to tell them how to think.

Many people still like to think that Zoe Quinn and her asshole ex’s selfish public outing of dirty laundry is what started GamerGate. They also think that this is still all about her. I don’t believe that, nor do I believe that Adam Baldwin is responsible for the momentum of the movement just because he was the first user of the hashtag. He may have spawned the moniker but if he didn’t, it just would have been called something else. Those events, along with the “Gamers Are Dead” articles were the catalysts that exploded an issue that had been simmering for years. Elements of the gaming press and gamers have had a cold war long brewing, this is simply what turned it into a hot war.

Since then, I have witnessed discourse sink to a level I’ve rarely ever seen, even for online discussions of gaming. The length it has persisted is incredible. I’ve seen otherwise mature people adopt the tactics of trolls and a level of organisation among opposition you don’t see that often over something like an entertainment medium. In Internet attention span time, that we’re two months into this with no end in sight is basically several eternities. In it’s horrible, depressing way, it’s fascinating.

At one time, there was potential to have some real discussions and debate about multiple serious issues in gaming, issues that should be discussed and that I think are important. Journalism, representation, curbing abuse, all these could have been talked about. That time passed a long time ago. The sides with the loudest voices have now dug trenches so deep, they’re halfway to the Earth’s core. No one cares about discussion, no one cares to try and learn more, or to empathise or to find solutions. It’s no longer about solutions, it’s just the need to be angry, outraged and to fight. It’s the personification of the worst elements of outrage culture from everywhere.

Many continue to insist this is a symptom of a larger problem in the gaming community but that’s crap. The gaming press had liked inflammatory narratives of late so perhaps it’s been more visible from that. Perhaps there’s also an argument to be made that since hardcore gamers tend to be more technologically savvy, it’s easier for a large number to get their bile out there. If you think this type of thing is strictly a gaming issue, then you should look at the social media and comment sections related to politics, or the NFL, or religion or whatever other contentious issue you can think of. This isn’t a gaming issue, it’s an Internet issue and to claim otherwise is a lie. It’s being used as one of many cheap ploys to dehumanise the other side to make it easier to hate them.

It’s been impossible to ignore this so instead, I’ve attempted to take in information and arguments from both sides in order to formulate a viewpoint as I almost always tend to end up somewhere in between both extremes. True enough, that happened here too. I’ve read and watched a lot of stuff that I found informative and much more that either made me angry, sad or just caused me to roll my eyes. Both sides feel they’re fighting for a medium and a hobby they love and that they have good and noble intentions. Different methods are being used and some of them are unsavoury but everyone thinks they’re fighting the good fight. I don’t question the belief but I absolutely question how both sides are going about it. They’re insisting on sticking to points and methods that are often intellectually dishonest and are not attacking points but the people making them. Everyone wants change to come from this but no one’s willing to change how they approach it to make things better.

I’ve no doubt many of you who read this will find many things to disagree with. Cool! If so, please let me know what you think and let’s talk about it. Unlike some, I’m fully open to changing my mind. I’m not going to bemoan the lack of discussion and then turn off my comments like others have. Just act like an adult please. Comments are held for moderation but I’ll let anything through that’s intelligently written. I’m not having an argument over Twitter though. That service is a terrible place for real discourse. If you tweet at me looking to start a discussion, I’ll be directing you back here to do it.

Lastly, this should go without saying but harassment of any kind from is fucking wrong, always. Both sides have engaged in this and those people are scum. Period. If you think otherwise, even a little bit, you’re a bad person and you should be fucking ashamed of yourself. I have nothing further to say on that aspect.

I think many of the people involved in GamerGate have valid points regarding recent demonstrations of journalistic integrity, or lack thereof. I also think consumers have every right and even the responsibility to speak out against what they perceive as unjust or unfair. In an era where it’s almost impossible to get consumers to do anything en masse, GamerGate represents one of the largest sustained consumer movements I’ve seen in recent memory and it’s done so devoid of declared leadership which is frankly astounding. That said, the group has a major image problem and a lot of that (though not all of it) is their own fault. This is the flip side of having no leadership. For the rational side of this movement to be heard in the way it should, some hard steps need to be taken. Many would call these admissions of defeat but I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. These are evolutionary steps and ones I think are vital for real change.

Firstly, the GamerGate moniker needs to be dropped. I know I’ve used the term several times already to identify the group but I seriously think this is the most important thing that can be done for the sake of the non-extremist side that’s fighting for real change and discussion. The name has become synonymous with hatred, harassment and bigotry. I can already hear people screaming that extremists don’t represent all of GamerGate but that doesn’t matter. Seriously, it doesn’t. Go look up the hashtag and see how much bile is in there. The movement would say that the press shouldn’t be telling people that’s all it is and to a point, I agree but that’s already happening. Perception is more important than anything right now. That you don’t like that reality doesn’t change anything. You can either try to fix the unfixable or move on and maybe be heard. Let the extremists cling to their old identity while you build a new one that represents the real discussion many of us want. Again, it’s not defeat, it’s evolution and it will ultimately be better for it. GamerGate is just a word and frankly, it’s a dumb one, just like all the other -Gates over the years. Pick something better and build on that.

Secondly, the movement needs to self-police better. Defenders say it is actually inclusive at its core and wants a wide range of voices. In my observation, I can certainly see places where that’s true. However, if you claim the trolls don’t represent you, then you need to work harder to stop them. Call out abuse and harassment publicly and loudly. Don’t downplay it and don’t tolerate it, even a little bit. People say 4chan/8chan/whateverchan aren’t responsible for this and as entities, they aren’t but it can’t be denied that the staging for some fucking nasty stuff takes place there. You can’t stop them from doing it but you can divorce yourselves from it as a group and declare publicly that they don’t represent you. You have to make it as clear as possible that the bad players don’t represent everyone. Be loud, be bold, be ruthless in stamping out abuse. If you believe yourselves to be inclusive, then be the change you want to see and be unrelenting in that goal. When the press says that the movement is just about harassing women, you can’t just say “No it isn’t!”, you have to be able to point to your efforts to curtail those people and show the press how they’re wrong.

Next, the movement needs to stop associating with toxic people. Of all those providing commentary in written and video form, certain ones are being held up as the unofficial spokepeople of the movement, the ones that are speaking from the heart of what gamers supposedly want. Yet some of these people are using the immature, ad hominem methods of argument that get cited again and again as why the movement is intolerant. Internet Aristocrat can’t make an otherwise valid argument without resorting to cheap personal attacks and accusations, often based on incorrect information he never corrects. Thunderf00t can’t just say why he disagrees with someone, he has to paint them as liars and scam artists. Adam Baldwin didn’t care about gaming at all until he started #GamerGate for self-promotion of his frankly hateful views. And come on, fucking Breitbart? An ultra right-wing, often hateful commentary site that makes Fox News look journalistically respectable? This place used to insult the gaming community but is suddenly on our side when it gives them a new conspiracy theory to ride? Give me a break. They’re playing you for traffic. Anyone who knows what that site is and doesn’t already follow it will see anything posted there as devoid of value. These kinds of people don’t know how to make an argument without slander and they’re not who you want representing your side. Putting them on pedestals is only harmful and damaging. You can’t say you want mature discussion while holding up those kinds of people as your representatives. That they’re willing to stand with you in some way doesn’t mean you owe them a voice. You can’t say your movement isn’t about toxicity and then point to people whose work says otherwise.

Lastly, you have to always take the higher ground when addressing the opposition. That means drop the fucking Social Justice Warrior bullshit. I’ve seen a staggering number of otherwise rational and intelligent people discussing this and using that to brand the other side, then wondering why no one listens to them. Nothing immediately turns someone from the other side off talking to you more than hearing that tired old chestnut. It’s a dehumanising move that instantly tells the other person you think they’re lesser than you. That’s not how civil discourse works. It doesn’t matter how much the other side pisses you off. If you truly want a real discussion, you need to be the better people and talk to those you disagree with like it’s a debate, not a fight. The people you call SJWs may infuriate you but they share the same passion for their side of the argument that you do for yours. If you don’t want to be insulted by them, you can’t throw insults yourself and make no mistake, your side did that first.

I don’t think GamerGate needs leadership but I do think it needs a code by which it operates. I think with a new identity centered around rational discussion and a community enforced code that keeps out the toxic elements and demands better from its participants, it could have a much more positive impact. There are real concerns at the heart of the movement that are being overshadowed by all the other bullshit. Cut that out, give it time and I think good can come from it. The problem with a leaderless movement is someone has to lead the charge. I hope one of the influential people in the ranks tries to do that.

The press end of the spectrum is a whole other ball of wax, yet it has more in common with GamerGate than it wants to admit. Frankly, people who consider themselves professional journalists should have standards far above what I’ve seen lately. Some very childish, insulting vitriol has been penned, always directed not at the small subset who may deserve it but indiscriminately broadsided to anyone who disagrees with them. We have a group who insist there is no collusion publish several vitriolic screeds within hours of each other, declaring dead an identity that many have proudly worn for 30+ years because of a minority of bad apples (and yes, it’s a vast minority.) It takes a special kind of arrogance to think people shouldn’t be upset about that. That many writers and game developers don’t dare come out contradicting some of these writers for fear of career damaging reprisal shows just how much undeserved influence some of them have.

I don’t understand how people like Alexander, Kuchera, Chipman, Allen, Faraci, just to name a few, think declaring that your view is the one true view and anyone who disagrees with it should be vilified and treated as an enemy is how you’re going to win both readers and arguments. They don’t want discussion or debate, they want compliance and obedience. You’re with them or you’re with the trolls and abusers. It’s bullying tactics 101. Don’t believe me? Follow them on Twitter for a couple of days, especially their replies to others. I did, I saw it myself. A large segment of an industry that’s already operating on razor thin ice has decided to lump anyone who disagrees with them in with the worst elements of the opposition. They are using an ICBM to take out a tent city and it makes no sense to me. This has gone beyond strong debate and into fear mongering. They claim they GamerGate isn’t policing itself sufficiently, yet they circle the wagons around writers who declare gamers to be worse than a barbaric terrorist group, or use childish terms like misogynerd. Calling someone a Social Justice Warrior is immature and stupid but calling someone worse than ISIS? How do you tolerate that?! It’s disgusting, it’s unprofessional and these people should know better. When you defend this kind of behaviour, be it from another writer or a darling indie developer like Phil Fish, you send a clear signal to people in GamerGate and people just observing that you can’t or won’t hold yourselves to the standards you demand from others. Yet you wonder why a growing number of people are upset? No industry can survive being in active opposition to its customers.

Let’s get a few things straight here. People can be in favour of equality for women without subscribing to your particular subset of feminism. People can criticise a female writer and not be misogynists. People can point out factual distortions in Feminist Frequency videos and not automatically hate Anita Sarkeesian. People can dislike Gone Home (like I did) and not be homophobic dudebros. People liking a game you think poorly represents women doesn’t make them all bad people, nor does it make the people who made it bad. A game that doesn’t represent women the way you want isn’t teaching everyone who plays it to hate women, just like video game violence doesn’t cause real violence. People pointing out blatant conflicts of interest in the press and a lack of willingness to do anything about it doesn’t mean the sentiment is based in hate. That an extremist, hateful, minority sect of a group exists doesn’t mean the whole group agrees with that sect.

Demonising anyone who has a different point of view is the same thing Fox News and Jack Thompson do. Are those the kind of people you want to stand next to when trying to fight for a just cause? Equality on your terms alone is not equality at all and a different opinion is not automatically hateful. To say otherwise is dangerously close to thought policing. I am a gamer and have been for 30 years. I support this industry financially and with passion. I and many others raise thousands of dollars for charity using my gaming hobby. I am not a bigot, I am not a misogynist, I am not hateful of people who are different from me. I welcome everyone who wants to play games and I will play with any of them. I don’t harass anyone ever and call out people I know who do so. Yet, your “Gamers Are Dead” editorials said I am no better than the evil minority for no other reason than I don’t think every person approaches these issues in the way that stands to best further those issues. It’s incredibly arrogant and it’s the same logic you say GamerGate uses, you just happen to have editors and a better grasp of writing than most of them. You speak with one voice and refuse to hear alternative viewpoints while saying GamerGate is wrong for the same reasons.

I’ve said it before of the press, of YouTubers and of gamers, you don’t get to jump into the sewers and then whine that it stinks down there. Insulting a group of people and then crying when you get insulted back is schoolyard bullshit, whatever side you fall on. If you think yourselves better than the opposition, then you need to actually be better. Just as I said of GamerGate, you need to stomp out hate when you see it. When Devin Faraci said gamers were worse than ISIS, you should have been publicly rebuking him for it. Yet you were silent. When supposed professionals called the opposition misogynerds, you should have told them to stop. Yet you were silent. Those of you who didn’t think that “Gamers Are Dead” (and I know there were several of you at least) should have written counterpoints. Yet you were silent. When people were spreading the idiocy that Intel, a massive company with hundreds of PR and marketing staff, pulled advertising from Gamasutra because of a few e-mails from GamerGate supporters, you should have pointed out how ridiculous a notion that was. Yet you were silent. Some of your sites that rightfully refused to cover Zoe Quinn’s sex life had no problem writing about Max Temkin being accused (not charged, merely accused over Facebook) of rape, a disgusting distortion of your mandate. Yet you were silent. But you wonder why people think there’s nepotism in your ranks and that you aren’t serving the consumers you’re supposed to be advocates for? An echo chamber is not going to get you more readers and the ones who are already in the chamber won’t grow your businesses. When you’re gone, what are you leaving for the people who are supposed to take your place?

I really don’t care to figure out which side is worse in this conflict. It’s pointless and aids nothing. There’s plenty of dirt on both and what’s most frustrating to me is that no one seems to care to make things better. No one wants to move on from tainted identities, stop the name calling, accept the Internet Reality and try to have real discussion. Instead we have snark on top of insults on top of hate on top of anger and an addiction to fighting that just makes things perpetually worse. If I could do one thing right now, it would be to press a button that forces everyone involved in GamerGate to not talk about it for several months and just let everything cool off. Maybe then, we could try again and get somewhere. For now, we just have people digging in harder, the smallest, most insignificant things are pointed to as the new thing to war over and nothing changes, there’s just more victims and more people who start to question if gaming is really for them any more. We used to be a community united against those who would try to tear us apart. Now, without a common enemy, we just kill ourselves from within. As someone who lives and breathes video games and has since I was old enough to read, this kills me. The community, the journalists, we can all be better than this. Why can’t we all just fucking grow up and do it?

That’s it, I’m done. I’m going to actually go find something to play now because I still remember when gaming was about fun, not fighting. War never changes.

Posted in Business, Coverage, Culture, Culture, Internet, Video Games | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments