45

Listen, I need a very specific combination of escitalopram and tetrohydrocannibinol in my system in order to be able to face the day, and I’m, you know, in the Twine scene or whatever, so I’m very aware of Depression QuestI don’t particularly like the game–which quite likely is  because I don’t exactly care to go through the exercise of simulating a condition I’ve spent years learning how to manage, but that doesn’t matter: The simple fact that Zoe Quinn is campaigning to get the a Twine game on Steam is huge. As a fellow game writer, although a much less established one, I have kind of a vested interest in that particular door opening. It would be a very strong statement about Twine’s commercial potential, and that’s a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Unfortunately, Quinn has been having an unnaturally busy week, and it seems to be one of those 4/chan or whatever based attacks that’s premised on Quinn being a woman with a game on the internet. If there’s anything resembling a light to the end of this tunnel, it’s that Quinn is making damn sure that everyone has an idea of what’s going on, and good for her: Already, a lot of prominent supporters have spoken out against how she’s been treated, and while this won’t necessarily stop or mitigate the effects of the harassment, here’s hoping that at least the attention given to the game gives it the signal boost it deserves. Given that it has been fairly well-received since its released, it’s a little more likely this story might have a happy ending.

But I look at this and I see–like Foreskin Correspondent Jim Sterling wondering where this attitude of harassment comes from–and, gee, Jimmieboy, I don’t know any prominent figures who put this kinda feeling into the world. We’ve all forgiven him for his ne’er-do-well past–perhaps there’s even hope for Holkins and Krahulik!–but this is a culture that has been encouraged. In other words, Sterling and his ilk kinda opened a Pandora’s box.

I mention Anna Anthropy in the article I linked above, and I’m reminded of an incident a couple months ago, when she answered some questions about game designer Jonas Kyratzes and his politics. Anthropy privileges sexuality and gender, so she didn’t seem to feel bad about throwing terms like “manarchist” around (a term along with “brocialist” that Kyratzes has repeatedly stated bothers him very much, as he considers his politics to be a very intimate part of his identity and “manarchist” a misandrist mocking of them) or talking about his political stances in a way which completely misinterprets and discredits them, but perhaps he ought to stop being so sensitive.  I mean, isn’t that where this is going to go, there’ll be some weighing of privilege and whoever comes out as more oppressed earns the right to feel bad? I can already see scores of tweets saying at dismissive “NOPE” at the thought. It’s not even up for discussion. Banish that thought from your mind. It is an Untouchable Subject. Forbidden to question.

At least Anthropy gives him the respect of using his full name. Kyratzes and I became friendly after I wrote “A Man Obeys“, which was spurred by some of the discussion surrounding a Mattie Brice article. One of the points I made was that an article by Kim Moss did not refer to Kyratzes by name even once: It only referred to him as “some dude” or “some guy”–an attempt to essentially “unperson” Kyratzes.

I saw that “some dude” this week during an incident involving an admittedly lame joke between Alan Williamson and Leigh Alexander (who is, herself, no stranger to slurs against Kyratzes) that Courtney Stanton decided was misogynistic. I would be extremely surprised if anyone reading this blog has not heard of either Williamson or at the very least his magazine Five out of Ten. Whether or not her ignorance of Williamson was a pose, it kind of paints her as a little clueless about her own scene, especially considering that some of Alexander’s writing has appeared in Williamson’s publication. It was a fairly big Thing in any case: Many people jumped to Williamson’s defense, and Williamson himself seemed fairly put out by the whole incident; either way, it was an attempt at–

–I’m about to say “bullying”, that’s the word on everyone’s lips these days, it’s one I’ve felt important in my life, I mean, I can tell you stories about my freshman year of high school that would make your hair curl. I mean I sometimes don’t think it’s bullying after all: I think it’s just good old fashioned nastiness. It’s so hard to love or even like videogames or the videogame scene or whatever you want to call it, because I’ve had so few days in my life where I’ve felt it was anything but a bunch of horrible people. Maybe it’s one of those cycles of abuse things, that we were treated wrong and so we’re lashing out at others. Maybe it’s a sense of finally feeling vindicated, like we all want that moment where we beat the shit out of Billy Zabka and we end in a dance party. We all really just want to beat someone up.

I mean I’m supposed to probably go into a plea for tolerance and empathy. Let’s all get along. But, you know, I never liked putting out fires, and I never was really good at starting them. But I don’t think I need to anymore: Everything’s just kind of rioting nicely on its own. All I want to do is grab some beers and a couple sandwiches, find a hill overlooking the city, and watch that motherfucker burn.

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2

I’ve lent my friend my copy of Bioshock Infinite. He loved Bioshock, which was his gateway from jocky shooters to games like Fallout 3, which was his gateway to games like Skyrim; I’m thinking Mass Effect is the next logical step for him. He was disappointed by the initial stages: Infinite, he said, is kind of ugly, and the story isn’t nearly as compelling from the get-go as Bioshock was. I can’t disagree with him.

“I got a little farther in Bioshock last night,” he tells me. “I just met Elizabeth.”

“And how are you liking Elizabeth?” I ask. My opinion of her is not very gracious: She’s a slightly-better-written-and-animated CG robot than the other CG robots are. Did I mention that one of my theories about Infinite was that Elizabeth was the only human and that the citizens of Columbia were all robots or holograms or something, explaining why they only spouted one line or sang one song and then remained silent and dead-eyed at you until you shot at them. Now THAT would have been a twist–even though Elizabeth doesn’t act fully human, she’s so much moreso than the rest of the NPCs that one could extrapolate, but alas, it’s just poor writing, a game whose characters’ personalities fall squarely in an uncanny valley–everything’s realistic enough that their glassy stares become extremely disconcerting.

“Elizabeth is…something, all right,” he says. He shrugs.

“She’s a fucking Disney princess,” his girlfriend says.

“Yeah, a lot of people were saying that, I think that was the Penny Arcade strip on it,” I say.

“She was watching me play and it was the part where we were on the docks…”

“The dancing scene?”

“Yeah!” his girlfriend says. “I was watching him and I was like, what the fuck is this?”

“It’s kind of a stupid game,” he says. “I mean I’ll play it, of course, but I think I’m gonna play Bioshock again cause it’s making me miss that game.”

I am finding, more and more, that Bioshock Infinite reminds me of that old saw about being shocked about President Nixon’s election, given that Pauline Kael or Susan Sontag or Joan Didion or whomever hadn’t met a single person who voted for him. For all of the perfect 10s that the game has received, I don’t really know anybody who wholly liked it.