Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


Prompting More Thoughts

Posted on November 12, 2014 at 2:50 AM

Prompting More Thoughts

A couple of random thoughts as I work on other bigger things, including Gamergate, Catcalling and Lazy Movie Reviews.

Ok, So…Once Upon a Time There Was This Gamergate Thing…

So this whole fractured weird thing called “Gamergate” seems to finally be dying down. Thank God. I feel like I can say something now that it’s all cooled a bit. If you want a detailed explanation, you can read it here , but basically it was a movement erroneously founded on a lie from a whiney ex-boyfriend that claimed to be about “ethics in games journalism” then nothing about actual “ethics in game journalism” actually came from it or was uncovered. It was a lot of hot air that actually only exposed the frustrated underbelly of disenfranchised male gamers trying to find something to complain about that eventually evolved into the only thing complaining about being women that are, somehow, “misrepresenting” them and their favorite games. It went from one thing and eventually turned into another thing, but either way it all began from the roots of the poisonous tree so it was doomed from the start.

The fact is, I like games, but I haven’t for years identified with “gamer culture.” I just saw, thanks to the internet, that even though there were a lot of gamers, there weren’t a whole lot of good people out there, but in their defense that can be said about the internet as whole. For gamers, it had entirely to do with their attitude, with the nihilism, with the hyperbole and with the overall meanness that seems to stem from it. I used to to be a part of it, back in the old days I loved my consoles and once the internet hit I found some cool homes to hangout on and chat about video games. Usually Final Fantasy or something.

I like to play videogames, but now I second-guess myself when I say "I'm a gamer." There's an ugliness to that term now.

But lately? I think I’m over it, and it has entirely to do with the supposed “gaming culture” that so many identify with, as though there’s one singular way one could identify with something so broad-sweeping. For GamerGate, though, it was all kind of focused because it exposed the ugliness of a subset of people who, even as of this writing, are still insisting it’s some sort of good cause and is about “ethics in journalism.”

You can’t sit there and cry “it’s about ethics in journalism” in some attempt to have your games validated or taken seriously while simultaneously lambasting people who are doing rather journalistic and critical thought towards your games. That makes no goddamn sense. You want to claim games are art and that they should be taken seriously then, the moment someone writes and article or makes a video taking it seriously, you cry foul because you feel it’s “being unfair.”

Fuck fairness. You want serious analysis and respect of your medium, you have to accept it’s flawed and imperfect parts and that it can be improved. That’s what allowed cinema to grow and learn come the 1960s and 70s: a lot of those films were reactionary to the way the previous generation of film and filmmakers did things up until the dissolving of that entire monopolized system in 1954. The studio system was broken down. The rise of independent cinema gave us new voices. To become great, to become art, you have to critique the hell out of the old and learn from it, grow, change and understand that some things are right and some things are wrong.

The video game industry was destroyed once, 30 or so years ago now, but it was too early. It burned bright and fast and eventually ate its own tail, so in reality the entire industry is still relativity young since it resurfaced by the late 1980s thanks to Japan. Now its reached that threshold where people are looking at what it’s doing and saying “hmmmm…you know that’s not kind right.” You know, like how minorities were depicted in film pre-1965. I mean, it took a dozen Charlie Chan movies and Mickey Rooney for people to say “Hey…so that Yellowface, huh?” Then people called it out on that bullshit and it slowly stopped.

Totally not racist, guys.

So it’s all growing pains, but you need those pains. The game industry is having those troublesome teenage years of trying to figure out what it wants to do and where it wants to go. You have some that don’t want change yet still want credibility, then you have those that want change and critique to get to that credibility. Guess what: the former doesn’t work and the latter is actually doing something rather than sitting around bemoaning the fact a woman dare make a video series about women in video games.

The problem with GamerGate is that there is no dialogue. There’s no conversation. There’s only ambiguous “sides” and how can you even have a conversation when the entire crux of one side was founded on a lie by an angry boyfriend and that vitriol has continued on and on to this day with GamerGaters still labeling and calling out people and making "plans" to take on the supposed people who are against them while still not realizing the reason so many are against them is because of all those "plans" and vitriol. It's a paradox.

Fruit form the poinsouness tree, folks. The seed was planted by some piece of shit upset at his girlfriend, those rumors were quickly squashed, but it kept growing into an ugly tree of hate and misogony where I expect someone to write the GamerGate equivalent of Mein Kampf - thinking there's a serious issue at hand when there really is none and hiding behind it while pointing fingers....

Oh, wait...someone already did just that and even bring an allegory of World War I into it themselves. And I thought this asshole was bad.

Sure, that apple may have “It’s about ethics in journalim” printed on its skin, but take a bite and you’ll realize it’s just full of shit. No delicious apple here that makes you smile and say “oh yeah…it is about that.” Nope, just rape and death threats because hey…if you want to be taken seriously just start threatening people, right? It works for the KKK so why not and those guys are totally legit.

Seriously, there’s white supremecy groups taking up the torch now because the rhetoric is similar. “Torch” was probably a bad word to use here…or maybe a perfect one. Film Crit Hulk does a great job explaining how GamerGate has more in common with a cult than anything - delusions supplanting reality.

But here’s the thing. In the case of both the “GamerGate” BS is really just a name put on something that’s been brewing for a while. There’s a ton of bottled up hate and frustration in the gaming community, most directed towards women. Anita Sarkeesian’s latest threats received are just the latest that happened to correspond with the the GamerGate movement, she and a lot of other women have been putting up with that shit for years as they’ve been analyzid, dissected, demeaned, harrassed and threatened for a long time now - so the fact Anita can go on CNN or Colbert or articles can be written by Felicia Day going over this type of stuff so publicly is a beautiful thing to see - from all that awful shit the good can come out of it.

Now, it’s done. Over. The “haters” have lost. Their skin peeled back to expose the ugly lizard alien underneath - a lizard that was, quite honestly, there all along but they tried to peek out their heads under a guise of “concerns about journalism in gaming” and got knocked back down under the bridge until the next time three billy goats attempt to cross it.

There will still be those few stragglers, I’m sure, kind of like how the Empire will still be struggling to regain power in Episode VII, but we’ll use the force and tell them to go away. The fallout, arguably, isn’t just that they’re exposed and the entire industry showing a problem with how it treats women and how the culture itself is some teenage playground, it might have set back gaming a good decade or so. A lot of torch-bearers became fed up and left, some (especially women) now question if they even want to be involved in the industry in any manner and nobody can blame them. The blame falls solely on those that dehumanize and marginalize and simultaneously bitch and moan that nobody it taking them seriously so they resort to threats because that’s the only “seriousness” they can conjure up and any hint of anything good becomes awash.

The fact is, you tried to do something, the vast majority of people exclaimed “no.” So please go away.


In Addition....Cat Calling

On a side note, a recent video depicting “cat calling”

No, not that one, or that cat there, not the third, though that is one adorable cat...

Some argue that stuff like “have a nice day” and “hello” and even “smile” are inconsequential little greetings on the street. Here’s the the thing: they’re only directed at that woman. Those men aren’t saying that to every person on the street. They’re not being friendly for the sake of being friendly, otherwise they’d do that to everyone, they’re doing it to a woman because they have a sexual attraction towards her. They’re saying it to her because they’re trying to evoke a response because they find her attractive. The alteier motive is to get her to notice them so, in their minds, they “got a chance” with that woman.

It’s sexual harassment put on to someone in a public space because they feel they can and the woman, not knowing the intentions or personality of this person, has no choice but to just let them do it. If they say something, it could lead to the man feeling rejected, getting angry or even turing violent. Keep in mind: these are strangers. This isn’t a social situation. She’s not putting off a “come hither” aura of sexual desire. It’s strangers harassing someone.

Oh, you leered and gawked and hit on a girl. Congrats? I guess?

Plus, saying “smile” to someone is just creepy as shit. Show some empathy, if someone saw you walking down the street and they said “smile” wouldn’t that just be really freaking weird? But that’s the thing, men don’t have to deal with that and a lot can’t put themselves in a woman’s shoes.

Look, sometimes a “hello” is just a “hello.” It can be innocuous, certainly. Sometimes I’m walking down the street, I’m super happy I’m going to the Famers Market or something on the weekend and I say “good morning” to someone because I feel super awesome I’m going to by some goat cheese or something. Might be a man. Might be a woman. Most times I don’t, because this is LA and saying “hello” to strangers is weird in general, but sometimes I do without thinking that.

But if you honestly think that any of the men in that video’s “hellos” are just “hellos” without something more behind them, you’re an idiot. A flat-out idiot. I’m a guy and I can say “Oh…I know that tone of a hello alright” easily. They’re not asking for directions, they want to get her to speak to them when it’s pretty damn obvious she doesn’t want to. Do they expect her to stop and say “Oh, I heard you calling me baby…I wanna fuck right now” or something?

Here's what they really want to say...

But they can't because the threat of violence that women worry about is real and something men can sympathitze with, but never fully empathize.

Most importantly, is nobody should ever assume that saying “hello” is innocuous to begin with. It might be to you, but that’s you. That’s not another person and you shouldn’t assume that just because something is fine for you that it should be fine for everyone and no man should assume a woman wants to even be greeted on the street (she's a stranger afterall, nobody really does that) much less hit on.


Lazy Reviewing

I was noticing a disturbing trend the past couple of weeks as Interstellar, the latest Christopher Nolan movie, was about to be released and reviews began to emerge: man people were noting that a lot of those reviews were containing spoilers.

Now I have a love/hate relationship with the term “spoiler” to begin with, so allow me to digress before I jump into things. What is a spoiler to one person isn’t necessarily a spoiler to another. Something relatively small that might have even been in a trailer can be a spoiler to someone who wasn’t paying attention to the trailer and think it is something that matters when it doesn’t. Every person is different because every life experience is different and while I don’t think there’s one formula or answer to make sure nobody is every spoiled for everything (other than just don’t read or listen to anything ever again) I do take umbrage with people who are paid and have the profession of relaying information to people before a movie comes out and not think twice when relaying it.

In other words, they don’t ask themselves “Hey, if I knew this going into Interstellar would that have hurt the movie-going experience for me?” For them, they don’t need to worry about, they’re seeing the movie days or even a good week or so in advance. Their movie-going experience isn’t anything like the “normal” movie-going experience because nothing is ever spoiled for them. It can’t be. That’s a luxury they have.

So I have to assume that, because their movie-going experience is vastly different, that asking questions about “spoilers” and thinking about their readership or viewship is something that can escape their mind once in a while.

But then I think “Wait…you’re professional writers…it absolutely should not.”

It's your job, so there honestly is no excuse to just flat-out spoil a movie that nobody has seen yet.

I’m reminded of an article last year which I unfortunately can’t find that claimed “movie reviewers can say whatever they want, spoilers and all. If you don’t like it don’t read.”

I ripped that article to shreds because the logic just made no sense, so it’s on this site in this random blog post but to summarize I say that it shows a complete lack of respect to not even give a second thought about your readers or viewers and just flat-out ruining a movie, a movie you saw way before anyone else, just to make some point.

I call the writer a “pretentious asshole” with a “film-school douchebag mentality." That’s half of it.

The other half is this: If you’re giving out spoilers in your movie reviews, you’re a hack.

And not the cool 1980s hack where you're sippin' on Tab either.

If you want to go deep into a plot analysis and give away major things that happen in a movie, then sit your ass down and write some essays, put those essays in a book or a blog and publish it. Or go and cut together a bunch of video to discuss the elements of that movie you wish to discuss. That's what that form of film cirticism is for and it’s readily apparent from the start that’s what it is. Readers and viewers are aware and they can choose to continue on or not - it’s all self-explanatory.

Reviews, a completely different form, isn't for that. You can’t put out a review of a movie not even out yet and then blindside the audience with “oh, and this guy dies” or “then he’s actually the father” or “then there’s this twist where water kills alines” or whatever. If you can't talk about the plot without giving it away, unable to understand broad strokes and work with ambiguities so as not to reveal it all to an audience that has yet to see it, then you're a hack.

Whether it's in a national paper, a blog or some local rag, if anything it's about respecting your reader (or viewer if you're doing it on video). A review is your educated opinion on film (or music, games, whatever your focus) relayed to an audience that values your opinion and values your ability to convey it - to put into words what maybe they cannot or, simply, to say whether or not they should spend their few hours of their limited lifespans seeing a movie. You know what you're talking about...they tend to agree with you on views...let's inform them, shall we? That'll keep them on the course of good and away from the bad as best can be done. It doesn't solve everything (NInja Turtles was a big hit this year afterall) but at least you're doing your damn job and not giving it all a way.

Hell, you know what else? It's also respectful to the people that make the movie. They labor over years to create something that you can completely ruin in a matter of a few sentences or a drunken tweet. They want to share something with an audience and nobody should just toss it out there like it's simple water-cooler talk.

You know what, super-underrated 9th Doctor? It's not supposed to happen. Film critics have a lot of paths open to them and not giving a shit if they spoil a movie to their audience is just ego taking precedence over craft.

Hell, the best review I've read that does a great balance comes from Devin Faraci. He's, quite honestly, a master at doing this - making great points without revealing a ton of stuff. You can read his (Inter)stellar review here (zing). And to think I wasn’t the biggest fan of his when he was writing over at CHUD. There was some article, which I thought was a joke but apparently wasn’t, where he was trying to prove Aliens a bad movie or something…I don’t know it was weird. I mean, I like comparative analysis in stuff, and I also prefer Alien over Aliens, but it came across as kind of mean-spirited and didn’t really make a lot of good points (essentially, Alien did everything great, Aliens did everything right, there wasn’t a lot of middle-ground if any)

Sorry, I lost the plot there. Point being, if you read that review, you see how he “gets” how to review Interstellar. You can say a lot with reactions, mood, simple deconstruction without pinpointing specifics, understanding that broad-strokes and smart wordplay can go a long, long way. Then, to dive deeper into it, he follows it up with an essay (here, which is a little weird) and doesn’t call it a “review.” He knows better because he’s not some jackass who thinks just because he can write about movies that everyone should just “deal with it” if he spoils it. He respects his audience and it shows and even if you don’t agree with him, and I don’t always do, at least he’s respecting you enough. That’s why I keep going back to the guy - good film criticism is discussion and different viewpoints, agreements and disagreement. There’s never “one right” view, it’s all about discussion and consensus over periods of time.

Hmmm…been reading a lot of Badass Digest lately I guess. Here's Film Crit Hulk hard at work.

If you are a writer and you can't tell the difference and wonder if something is a "spoiler" or not, simply say to yourself "Hmmm...if I knew that going in, would it have lessened the impact?" If you have to think more than five seconds to answer that, the answer is "yes." Now I'm not saying to consider anything and everything a spoiler. If you review a movie a decade old, the mormetorium has passed, but reviews are, mostly, movies that are a week or so out. So show a little class. Hell, show a little talent. Show you can work in a certain sphere and not have to recklessly give away major plot points that can be detremintal to a viewing experience.

Everybody wants to see movies. Nobody wants it ruined for them. You didn't have it ruined for you, so if you're a writer and writing reviews keep that in mind. Don’t be a hack.


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