Friday, December 26, 2014

Why We're in Gamergate...and What You Can Do to Stop It

A bit over a week ago, I wrote an article I intended to submit to Reaxxion.  I've been looking for my big break in alternative journalism, I wasn't too familiar with the site and its staff, and as they said they'd consider hiring, I decided to submit this article.  Roosh V emailed me saying it was too long and academic, but if I could shorten it up they would print it.  So I worked to shorten it, which was no easy thing, and then sent the finished draft.  Roosh applauded, but since sending, I saw some articles he had written, which genuinely disgusted me, so wrote him back, politely stating that I no longer gave him permission to post the article; I didn't want the association.  I do not wish to be associated with people who genuinely want to keep women out of video games, or shame them for the same sort of libertine behavior he applauds in men.  I thus posted the blog here instead, and up until now, I didn't reveal the history behind the article.

I am doing it now, because I have gained, among many approving watchers, a certain trouble maker who wants to call myself, and others in Gamergate, to terms; alleging the same old shit that we're some monolithic hate mob who are here because we have been brainwashed by people trying to manipulate autistic people and others into doing the far-right's bidding.  To this I say, no, and now offer up some history.

For roughly half of this scandal's duration, I had hardly any idea what it was.  I believe ToddintheShadows posting about it was the first I had ever heard the term, but as he advised people who hadn't heard of it before not to waste time watching the video, I didn't.  My real first acquaintance with this mess was on a certain Internet forum, which I used to support enthusiastically, but have become more critical of lately. (Because I'm a far nicer person than my critics allege, I'm not going to name names.)  The mods took the side of two psychotically anti-Gamergate members.  Had these people left it at condemning anonymous doxxing and threatening people, things probably would not have escalated; it's not like I disagreed.  However, they opted to make the discussion into a platform to push their views onto others, and attack them for the slightest disagreement.  I had no opinions about Gamergate up until that point, but I did have some about Anita Sarkeesian, and somehow, people did not like that I was questioning whether she had lied about being harassed--it was obviously motivated by misogyny, they said; never mind that she has a history of lying--or condemning her for using a school shooting for pushing her agenda.  They called me and others all sorts of horrible things, and the mods just stood by and let it happen because they, too, were anti-Gamergate.  Nothing but absolute conformity was good enough for these people; they even attacked suggestions that the best way to defeat Gamergate was giving people a more reputable, moderated space to air their grievances.

I had enough, and started watching a few of the videos the pro (or at least, not totally anti)-Gamergate people had posted, finding that I liked them.  I started researching this scandal, and came to conclude that this sort of abuse I suffered wasn't a new thing; it mirrored the sort of presumptuous, autism-bashing diatribes journalists hurled at people in their "Gamers are Dead" articles.  The logic behind each is exactly the same; come up with traits--mental, physical, or otherwise--you think are associated with the type who anonymously threaten people, and attack people for those traits in absence of any proof they did anything.  The result is preemptive fear-mongering that makes it unpleasant to look a certain way, dress a certain way, talk a certain way, or opine a certain way, without being seen as a potential terrorist.

So I'll repeat what I often have: The reason I, and many others, am in Gamergate, is because we felt we had no other choice.

Let that sink in, because evidence is mounting.  The mass-hysteria spewed by the anti-side means people are getting lumped into the other side, with all of its bad reputation, regardless of whether or not they voluntarily go into it.  Before there was Gamergate, there were Gamers, and the gaming journalists, more than anyone else, set this in motion by stating where they stood on these people.  They left them out in the cold, so what were Gamers supposed to do?  Accept that fate, when the majority of them had done nothing to earn it?  Lay low in hopes of proving them wrong about their nature, when there was already a huge risk of people everywhere being convinced of that nature because the media's able to make their spin the loudest?  Not seek out the support of the few others who care about them?  The choice was pretty easy, and I'm not the first to make it.  I won't be the last, and if the anti-Gamergate side wants it to stop at all, they had better take a good hard look at what they're doing to stoke this fire.

Returning to my earlier point, I've made attempts to explain that I do not condone the statements of Roosh V, and if I can make people disassociate me with him, that would be nice, but I can't; people make that choice themselves.  I suspect Roosh V is coming out in favor of Gamergate for much the same reason Anita Sarkeesian is coming out against it; because the journalists chose to conflate this into an issue of misogyny when it wasn't really, but now that genie is out and people's pre-existing grudges are fired up.  People see where the battle lines are drawn, and choose which side they'll fight on based on a lot of things.  I, for my part, would have originally liked to stay neutral; I thought of myself as Ricky Bobby at the end of Taladega Knights, having been abandoned by every sponsor, he paints his stock car solely with a picture of his pet cougar and the large font word, "Me".  Yet things have gotten to the point of polarization where I felt I had to choose where I stand, and sorry, but I don't regret siding with Gamergate; its people have showed me love for what I say while the anti-side hates any perspective that isn't completely in line with theirs and hates any identity tropes they've concluded lead to villainous acts.

I'm not in Gamergate because I like Roosh V.  I'm not in Gamergate because I share Adam Baldwin's politics; I'm still quite left-leaning.  I'm not in Gamergate because I'm unaware of where American Enterprise Institute and Breitbart fall politically.  I'm not in Gamergate because any of these people speak for me, personally.  I'm in Gamergate because I'm a Gamer, an aspie who possesses many of those "Gamer" traits the media is trying to paint as evil, and who's seen them belittled to a lesser extent for my whole life, a critic of Anita Sarkeesian, and I'm fed up with authorities who have a problem with those identity tropes.  So to whoever sides with those authorities, check yourselves before you wreck yourselves.  We didn't abandon you; you abandoned us, and it's up to you to quit making your presumptuous blanket statements about everyone who's not you if you ever want us back.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Press Paws: Pondering the World's First Video Game for Cats

Every once in a while, ideas come down the pipe that are so crazy, they have to work.  Then there's the ideas that are too crazy to work, but at least are entertaining in their failure.  Then there's the ideas that are just crazy.  Hopefully, this one of the first two.

Many of us know by now the backstories given to us by the likes of Shigeru Miyamoto and Satoshi Tajiri, about how as children, they went out adventuring in a wilder, more pristine world, and later, as that world became ever more pacified, paved, and pedestrian, decided that industry on the cutting edge owed it to the world to create a monument to the old adventurous world, and then some.  The result were video games, whose success proves that we really crave outlets for our old sense of strife.  So if this applies to humans, it stands to reason that it should be just as true; if not more, of more wild animals.

Cats certainly qualify as such.  Possessing the fine-tuned instincts of crafty predators beneath those cute faces and huggable fur coats, they have a way of getting into, batting, chasing and pouncing on anything that isn't fastened down, stowed away, braced, or considered boring as a result of it being familiar to them; especially if it moves.  We haven't bred these traits out of them (assuming we could) because face it; we love them.  We love that cats can help us get rid of annoying pests, and we love watching these adorable creatures beat up on yarn like it owes them money, charge after lasers, and other things that make for YouTube clickbait.  Still, sometimes we have conflicts of interest.  People in rural areas appreciate cats going out and chowing down on invading rodents, but I can't imagine city dwellers letting rodents loose in their apartments just so cats can satisfy their natural urges and litter the floor with blood and guts, and it can be irritating when cats decide that the mysterious lights in the magic box are there for them to play with.

Cute and funny, but irritating, and essentially ruinous to our ability to play with them.  My cat, Sunshine, has quite a fixation with TV, whether we're talking about actual channels, DVDs, and pictured above, video games.  I quickly decided that squirting him with a water pistol was too cruel, so for a point, I just waggled a feather toy for him every time he jumped up to the TV.  That got him off, but only briefly; once I went back to watching/playing, he jumped back right up, and I have some suspicion that he came to learn that if he jumped up there, he'd get the toy waggled as a reward.  So eventually, I just followed Jackson Galaxy's advice and put some double-sided tape on my TV table, and that has worked to keep him from going up there, somewhat.However, it got me thinking: What if, instead of punishing a cat for chasing things on TV, we could reward them?  Probably not with out own games, but with games designed for them.  The more I see cats go for such things, the more I think the idea is at least worth a try. 

Now, naturally, creating a video game for cats takes some doing; in at least some ways more than making just another for people does.  For example, because cats only are attracted to what's on the screen and not the controller--in the same way that they're interested in the projected laser beam, but not the pointer--a touch screen would need to control most of what happens in the game.  Furthermore, it would need to be the type that works with many objects; not just a specially designed stylus.  Finally, it would need to be considerably bigger than the touch screen on a 3DS, smartphone, or even an iPad, because cats need to move in their hunting-oriented style of play.

Another problem whose solution is probably more open-ended, but less obvious, is that cats can't think in terms of abstractions to the extent that we can.  Among other reasons, this is because cat eyes, though good at collecting light and sensing movement, don't perceive or distinguish as many colors as we do; recognition of things is thus a matter of them integrating sight with data provided by their other senses, such as smell and hearing, and vibrations sensed by their whiskers.  Up to a point, that isn't a problem, because as noted above, cats are flexible.  The question of whether they can recognize, say, a bird on TV, is less relevant when we remember cats will jump after things that aren't birds at all.  Still, for us to justify something being a game, as opposed to just a special cat-targeting video we play for their amusement, it must not only get cats' attention with interesting entities they can chase, but also provide rewarding feedback based on their input.  Exactly how this is to be done should be determined by some in-depth testing, but here are some ideas:

1) Nocturn.  This would be a scenario where much of the screen goes black.  Soon, though, a little light starts to blink.  The cat would go to it, and upon batting it, the light would shift a bit on the screen, prompting the cat to chase it.  As the cat hits the light more times, it expands, until light replaces the original black screen, at which point a level is complete.
2) Sparrow Hunt.  This would be a bird-hunting simulator, obviously similar to Duck Hunt, but with touch screen controls.
3) Wild Soundboard. This would be essentially a digital, feline version of those toys for young children that we see a lot of in doctors' waiting rooms.  Images of various animals known in the domestic cat's African homeland would flash across the screen, and upon being touched, sounds the animals make would play.

Because in many games, it's the journey that's fun, not the destination, it may be arbitrary, but an added option could be to give the cats rewards.  For example, food.  If a cat hits enough virtual sparrows, for example, maybe award it with some actually poultry.  With Wild Soundboard, it could various types of meat, based on what a cat hit.

Now, these are just suggestions.  I'm not a cat psychologist, and I don't have the mechanical know-how or money to rig up a big touch screen, or the software savvy to make a computer program run with a touch screen.  Yet I have observed what I think is the beginning of an innovative idea, so if you have something to add, by all means, speak up!  Meow!

Monday, December 15, 2014

What Problem Might the Far-Left Have With #NotYourShield?


            I will preface this article with an admission: I in essence fall into some of the same categories as the now-infamous social justice warriors at war with Gamergate.  I’m a right-brained, left-leaning, liberal arts graduate of California universities. (My degree was in History, and received at the particularly leftist UC Santa Cruz.)  That admission is important because I feel I can offer some insight into what the SJW mindset might be, and why they’re now very angry, if not scared.

            One of the aspects of Gamergate that I see getting very little attention—at least in what little public coverage the scandal receives--is the #NotYourShield campaign, wherein people who consider themselves gamers, but do not fit the crass definition the gaming journalists reduced the term to in their attack articles of August 28, 2014, take to Twitter to pledge their support for Gamergate, and hence, solidarity with those people who do fit the description to a greater degree, but with much less predisposition to misogyny and terrorism than the articles alleged.  The campaign is a huge success; it alone, though not nearly as loud on Twitter as the core #Gamergate, dwarfs the tag made by its opponents in usage.  Naturally, these black gamers, female gamers, gay gamers, etc, do not represent all of their given minority, but they nonetheless are far more common than the collection of loudmouthed journalists who claimed to speak in their name.

           The Gamers Are Dead articles had some deeply troubling odors of ablism and appearance-shaming; opting to associate common autistic traits with heinous crimes, but one could still, if he or she tried hard enough, conclude that these people acted in good faith, genuinely believing in the ideal of increasing minority involvement in game culture; even if miscalculating the degree to which they were already there.  Still, once the masses of the #NotYourShield adherents came out to play, surely these equality zealots would be happy for it, for whatever the reason; right?  Somehow, their writing the GAD articles did, in a roundabout way, lead to many minorities speaking up as undeniable parts of game culture, so the positive outcome should have outweighed any embarrassment about getting details wrong.  Yet instead, the same clique that essentially accused autistic people of refusing to accommodate other minorities, then went and attacked members of these minorities who were happy to be part of gaming culture; claiming they possessed “Internalized racism and misogyny” and the like.  Somehow, they felt, a minority wasn’t being all he or she could be unless they adhered to these self-appointed social-commentators’ views of such.  How can such a subjective, essentially undemocratic approach to progressive politics be rationalized?  My guess would be, the SJWs have seen their world-view wrecked, and they are now sore losers.

            That brings us nicely back to the point I made at the start of this article.  As a Liberal Arts major who studied History in two universities, under multiple professors, I have found much cause to be skeptical—which is a blessing I believe that those who took a more narrow curriculum may not have received.  I experienced rather contradictory narratives from one professor to the next, and between the rash of variously interpreted data and cited books, I came to conclude that even the best of us come to see that which we want to see, and don’t always think about the ramifications our own chosen world view has on those who have chosen another.  Yet nothing could foster skepticism like one outrageous statement by my mentor, that “Historians secretly rule the world,” except, perhaps, for the aftermath, wherein I, like many Liberal Arts majors, discovered that the business world, by most evidence, cares nothing for our abstract craft.

            For many now-jaded social scholars who have gotten used to the feeling that they had learned to understand, better than most, how people work, and why they do the things they do, I suspect the shock can be debilitating.  They spent four years of reading the exact books as prescribed by their professors--many of them old, possessing outdated views of the world from before the Cold War ended, that hold onto economic dreams that many others have moved past, possibly in the job only because they could do nothing else with the same education they now dole out, and still in the job only because they have tenure--pleasing them with papers and tests wherein they arrived at the sort of answers these professors wanted, surrounded by pamphlets printed by other students who are sure they’ve come to understand the world and solution to its ills, their socio-economic views growing up in an institution where reading The Motorcycle Diaries in their all-you-can-eat dining hall on breaks from splurging on still more food moves them closer to the abstract goals their curricula sets.  Then these people, with their limited, pre-planned, cushioned—and yes, often excessively left-wing—assumptions graduate, and meet the private sector.  A new world with new rules, wherein the subjects the students learned to write about so well are often the ones most consumers don’t care to read about, where left-brained (and not necessarily left-winged) thinking is en-vogue, where paychecks simply can’t be given to as many people as were given As.

            When these once-empowered self-assumed sociologists arrive at real adulthood and see how little use the big employers have for their voluminous but debatable social analysis, they have two options: One, they can, as I largely did, conclude that their alma maters were at least to some degree full of hot air, and wallow in painful but sobering self-pity, or two, they can fall back on the outdated, at least partially Marxist rhetoric that they inhaled in college like second-hand hemp, and go looking for what they think is a righteous intellectual fight worthy of their assistance.  For the latter group, it is easy to fit their newfound unemployment or underemployment into their outlook; they are but the latest victims of the capitalist system that, so they’ve concluded, seeks out victims everywhere.  In keeping with academia’s take on Marxist theory, this vile invention of the guilty white race has warped their consciousness, has subjugated their governments, and pressured those governments into going and subjugating those of non-white races who, in their primitive innocence, never came up with anything as vile as capitalism.  Thus may the mindset of social justice warriors be born (often without them bothering to check conditions anywhere else in the world); they seize upon the idea that they have joined the “others” in a presumed resistance to alienation and marginalization by the conventional power-brokers of society; in this case, straight male WASPs.  That the capitalist system of these straight male WASPs has conspired against everyone else is a base assumption, and hence, the SJWs see attacking the system and its presumed elite as the best thing that can be done for women, minorities, and foreigners, if these groups are ever welcomed into the lucrative market and culture of gaming.

            When the SJWs come to learn, as I believe that many already have, that the free market they’ve condemned for so long (even while many of them benefited from it) has actually managed to beat them and their overthought analyses to establishing the inclusive, universally marketable culture they proclaim as their goal, it’s very possible they get angry and scared.  In the case of Gamergate, that which was merely a haunting shadow of doubt they felt about themselves during their first post-college reality-check, which they locked away mentally to focus on careers analyzing others, suddenly became a real threat trumpeted by many of those others.  Their credibility is on the line; as are the inherently limited paid positions that people of their “specialty” can hold.  For years, they reaped a rich harvest out of their relationship with a beloved aspect of our culture, and up until now, few looked into exactly what that relationship was, but the moment people’s eyes are opened, it’s hard to shut them again.  The dread felt by this self-righteous clique of professional social critics may well be amplified by their having witnessed the dramatic fall from grace that SeaWorld has suffered since 2013. 

Why is he in the open ocean?!
            Having grown up in Southern California, I can attest to an era when, for the schoolchildren learning about animals, orcas were Shamu, Shamu was somehow the name of every orca, and Shamu lived at SeaWorld.  We loved animals, so we loved orcas, so we loved Shamu, so we loved SeaWorld.  Then, in 2013, Gabriela Cowperthwaite released her expose Blackfish, detailing how much abuse underlay the fun, and that chain of affection blew apart.  The shamed theme park did everything in its power to fight back against the changing tides, but it was a futile effort after decades of digging their own watery grave.  Their business model had played upon, and almost certainly amplified, people’s admiration of and empathizing with remarkable animals; their surrounding human purveyors being a minor detail in comparison, so once the conflict of interest between the two came out, many who had come to love their animals expressed that love by condemning the purveyors.  SeaWorld’s attendance and stock values have plummeted, forcing them to downsize dramatically, and despite what seem like endless talks about revising their business plan, there is no evidence that anything will succeed at mending their image.

           The same issue inherently haunts external critics (as well as, in fact, even appraisers) of anything that is widely-known; as Antoine Ego declared in his moment of truth towards the end of Ratatouille, that which they address, be it good or bad, is the only reason the critics get any attention themselves, and the thing will probably stay known while they who once professionally commented upon it tend to fade.  When audiences who already have a strong attachment to something--be it their hobbies, politics, sex, race, or other things in broad discussion these days—see it horribly served by commentators who have attached themselves to it and declared themselves worthy authorities, they know well that they can turn their backs on the commentators with no real harm done to the passion those commentators addressed.  Many gaming journalists, having already abandoned their credibility in addressing their original subject and its fanbase; have gone to work in favor of those self-righteous cultural critics who attack popular art in the name of the greater good.  While it may seem at face-value that this makes SJWs appear legitimate, bringing their spiel into the loud realm of consumerism has just given them the most brutal exposure yet to how worthless—and often, detrimental--the average citizen considers them, as both the archetypical gamers and the #NotYourShield crowd have demonstrated in tandem.
          The social justice warriors don’t acknowledge the success of #NotYourShield—seriously, at least—because they can’t; the revelation that people of all types have already come together in the free market of video games will probably demolish their textbook leftist claim that people like themselves, imposing “enlightened” restrictions on that market, are needed for the greater good. 

           Yet amidst all of these rude awakenings, the great irony of all the recent talk about “Cultural Marxism”, and how it’s now at war with Gamergate, is that there’s nothing fundamentally anti-Marxist about the video game industry; with the exception of that major error of Marx’s exposed since the bourgeois, rather than the proletariat, proved the class that grew larger.  Everything else about the way this expertly refined, infinitely marketable industry has brought in people of all identities, in fact has taken exactly the course Marx anticipated capitalism to take as a necessity for the ultimate unity of humanity; something it seems his most trigger-happy followers and their distant cultural descendants have consistently ignored.  Marx, unlike many New-Age leftists, did not see commodity fetishism as a bad thing; on the contrary, he felt that ideologically-prone facets of identity, such as race, were the real delusions, and that only capitalism’s major reinvention of consciousness along materialist priorities could bring all people onto the same page to act as a whole.  This whole could then act in concert against capitalists and allied cultural purveyors who betrayed their trust...which, thanks to Gamergate, has also happened. 

            Popular materialism has scant room for demagogues who claim they know better than the masses.  SJWs, by their nature, are antagonistic to capitalists, their forays into public debate have been met with disgust by the average consumer, the atypical crowd they claim to speak on behalf of is in the process of abandoning them (if they were ever with them to begin with), and when ultimately, it comes to light that they can’t even get right the Marxist sentiment that many of them picked up in college, it will be a wonder if they’ll have any substantive followers left.  Might Gamergate, ultimately, actually out-Marxist its opponents?  It sounds absurd, but it’s beating them in many places already.