Tag Archives: media

‘On the internet, no one still knows you’re a dog’

John Markoff,  former technology reporter for the New York Times, in an interview on Kara Swisher’s Recode Decode podcast:

On the internet, no one still knows you’re a dog. I think identity and the fact that you disconnect [real] identity from your internet identity has proved incredibly vexing for society. It played out in this election. It played out in Brexit. (It was a factor in both—I don’t know if it was a deciding factor—but I actually do blame the internet.)

I grew up with John Perry Barlow and his manifesto in WIRED in which he argued that cyberspace would be this “Socratian” abode above the grimy politics of the world. Then I realized I was wrong.

The internet is simply a reflection of all the good and the evil in the world.

[…]

What’s striking to me is that what the science-fiction world saw in the ’80s and ’90s has actually come to pass; the cyberpunk sensibility. There was a book written by Vernor Vinge in the early 1980s called True Names. The basic premise of that was you had to basically hide your true name at all costs. It was an insight into the world we’re living in today.

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Intel, Vox Media, Re/code and the Born This Way Foundation Launch #HackHarassment

Kara Swisher, re/code:

The first knee-jerk reaction of those who think completely free speech is the paramount rule of the Internet is simple: Stop whining, you stupid girl, and take it, because everyone should be able to say exactly what they want, however they want and in whatever way they want to say it.

It’s a canard of an argument, designed to turn a complex issue into a reductive black-and-white debate where no one can come to any agreement.

Still, it’s always set up this way when anyone attempts to make the more obvious point that free speech is not as free as all that in the real world, where there are numerous social repercussions for behaving in a rude, obscene and appalling manner.

Simple example: If you loudly tell a woman she deserves to be raped for speaking her mind on any subject in the public square, at a party or at work, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get ejected from there and, at the very least, you’ll be subject to much-deserved derision and censure.

Not so on the Internet, where such talk is all too common and much too tolerated. Which is why Intel, Vox Media, Re/code and the Born This Way Foundation are coming together to co-create Hack Harassment (#hackharassment), a new, collaborative initiative to fight online harassment and provide safer, more inclusive online experiences.

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Polygon Skips Star Wars: Battlefront Review Event

Polygon:

Review events are a reality of the industry, and in the case of multiplayer-oriented titles, they make sense — it’s very difficult to organize 20-40 people in different locations remotely at the same time, and we introduced provisional reviews this year to account for server uncertainty. We’ve attended review events this year when it made sense to do so, including events for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain and even Battlefield Hardline.

But we will not participate in review events that tie our hands in ways that restrict us well after the general public has full access to the game in question. With that in mind, we’ll be playing the full version of Star Wars Battlefront on EA Access this week, along with many of you, without support from EA. As we have not agreed to any advance access or accepted any coverage restrictions, our provisional review will be live once we are confident in the opinions of our pair of reviewers.

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Fun v. Experience

Justin McElroy on the Dying Light episode of Polygon’s Quality Control podcast, edited for clarity:

I think in our profession, our desire is to have an experience and then be able to move on to the next one. There is a pressure on us to be comprehensive in our knowledge and awareness of the medium. So, for a game that can reveal everything it has to say in three or four hours, there’s a real attraction because we can have the entire experience and move on to the next thing.

I think that people who are playing games for fun maybe don’t have the same sort of voracious compulsion to get to the end, which I would separate from rushing through a game. I think it’s more of a desire to have had the full experience and then be able to move on to the next thing.

This describes exactly the reason I play video games now. Unlike McElroy, I am not expected to have comprehensive knowledge and awareness of the medium, but for the sake of my blog and personal interests, I try to. I certainly love writing about video games and the industry at large, but actually playing video games has become more about connecting with the zeitgeist rather than enjoying and immersing myself in the experience.

In my gaming heyday, I could pour countless hours into Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Starcraft, and Heroes of Might & Magic III simply for pleasure and to perfect my strategies. I played Star Fox 64 over and over just for fun. I spent an obscene amount of time playing Final Fantasy X just to be swept away. Today, there are plenty of video games I enjoy (see my reviews of Monument Valley and Rocksmith 2014), but it has been a long while since one has repeatedly beckoned to me to spend hours playing for fun. Instead, I find myself dipping into a game for a few hours to understand it on a mechanical, design, and experience level just to be part of the conversation. Hell, I spent $60 on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U only to tap out after 2 hours. (Queue Nani McElroy.)

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There is No End

Ludwig Kietzmann, Joystiq:

How can you envision an end when your purpose is to be in motion, always? Where do you stop if what you make, write and think is inextricable from the moment? We poured a bit of our heart and humor into each little vessel – a news story, an opinion, a review – paraded it for thirty minutes and then watched it fall off the page to make room for the next one. And the next. And the next. There is no end.

I just compared blog posts to heart vessels, by the way, and you should know how irritated I am by that. It’s just reporting. It’s just video games. It’s just … what we did.

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Greg Miller, Colin Moriarty, Nick Scarpino, and Tim Gettys Quit IGN

Kinda Funny Games Patreon:

In September, you changed our lives. We launched a Patreon for Kinda Funny, and your response was beyond (BEYOND!) our wildest expectations. The support, the Tweets, the shares — it all showed that we really had built the community of best friends we’re always talking about. And, once we knew that, all we wanted to do was make more content for you.

Enter Kinda Funny Games. Now that we don’t work for IGN, we can talk about the stuff you’ve always wanted us to talk about on YouTube — games.

I was initially taken aback by this news. Four iconic personalities leaving IGN?! There must be bad blood. I was wrong. After 3+ decades of experience at one of the leading video game publications, backed by 1755 patrons at the time of this publication, and a deep desire to speak their mind at any given time, these guys are braving the unknown and entering into an excited new era of media.

I thoroughly enjoyed Keza MacDonald of Kotaku UK’s (ex-IGN) thoughts on the news:

This reminded me of some thoughts I posted in June 2014, derived from Griffin McElroy’s interview with The Indoor Kids:

Baseball diehards can tell you the subtleties in team dynamics. There can be diversity under the same umbrella. Many more sites need to embrace the privilege of instant and educated opinion. If the games community cannot foster intelligent conversation on its own, someone must lead the way.

As an employee of a large tech firm, I deeply understand the desire to freely speak about the industry you are a part of and the prohibitions instated. The benefit Kinda Funny Games has over other would-be media personalities is an established fanbase; however, that makes it no easier to cast aside benefits, workplace friendships, and security.

While I can’t say I am a fan of their humor, I do enjoy their critique of video games. Godspeed, Miller, Moriarty, Scarpino, and Gettys.

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2014: Zero Counts Launch + Greatest Hits

In April 2014, I realized my blog TheStarrList had taken a hard turn into gaming. It was time to start something new. I gathered up those gaming-centric posts from TheStarrList along with several lengthy comments I had made on Polygon and IGN articles and stuffed them into a blog formatted after John Gruber’s Daring Fireball. In May 2014, I launched The State of Gaming with the intention to focus on business, controversy, culture, education, history, health, and other topics in the gaming industry. After a link on Daring Fireball, I decided to cool-down the blog’s pretentious title into something more personal. I recalled a childhood debate: When considering “lives” in video games, does “x1” mean you are on your last, or does zero count?

Writing about games has long been a dream of mine, but there has always been insecurity in indulging in entertainment critique and commentary. For lack of better terms, Zero Counts has tapped into a rich well of inspiration, passion, and creativity. By surrendering my inhibitions about games writing, I have written more frequently and published more on varied topics than ever before.

Without further adéu, here are the most popular posts from launch year, 2014:

  1. Hail Mario (linked by Daring Fireball)
  2. Humanity in Hearthstone
  3. Club Nintendo stuck in Mario Kart traffic
  4. Old School Hip Hop is the new Golden Oldies (retweeted by Ben Thompson (@monkbent))
  5. Save developers and you will save your soul

Looking forward to even more writing in 2015.

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Embargoes and Appetites, Simplified

Ben Kuchera, Polygon:

This is how publishers should begin looking at their launches: Players with set time and budget concerns are looking for reasons not to buy a game, and the better your game works at launch, the more reasons we have to pick it up.

There is always a choice to be had, even if that choice consists of playing the things we haven’t yet finished. A bad launch takes you out of the running, and stressed-out players may almost be happy to see you go.

This is another reason why pre-ordering games is a terrible idea, and waiting to buy is so smart. If you’re not locked into a purchase you can simply buy another game, or wait for things to become more stable. There are people who ran out to pick up Unity yesterday only to get to work and read the reviews. Or worse yet they opened it, played it and are now stuck with a product they can’t return.

A simpler way to read yesterday’s rant.

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Assassin-in-the-room

Polygon’s Quality Control is a fantastic short-form podcast hosted by Justin McElroy in which video game reviewers (primarily from Polygon) offer insight to their review of a particular new release and answer listener questions.

On today’s episode, Polygon Reviews Editor and guest Arthur Gies elaborated on his review of Assassin’s Creed: Unity.

Upon reading Gies’s review, I was taken aback by the lack of mention to the E3 hubbub surrounding Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio’s comments regarding the lack of playable female avatar’s in co-op:

It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets. Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.

I posed the following unabridged question to Justin via email:

“Arthur seemed to avoid the elephant-in-the-room regarding female playable characters in co-op. While Polygon (and Arthur) has/have made sexualization and representation an impetus for review scores in the past (see Bayonetta 2 (albeit, on the opposite side of representation)), why was this not addressed? Did Arthur feel that female representation did not affect AC: Unity’s overall review? Did he feel the damage had already been done and no more worthwhile discussion could be added? Or was it that Arthur simply wanted us focus solely on the end-product, sharing the detail we may miss when distracted by the elephant?”

Arthur’s response, time stamp 8:20, edited for clarity:

I mean Arno is the character in the game. And I don’t think women are treated particularly well in the game; It’s certainly not even close to the most egregious misstep that I’ve seen in a game this year with regard to that kind of subject matter. And honestly, the game has so many other problems to discuss that at a certain point I feel like I’m running out of reader patience or attention span to get to the heart of the statement that I’m trying to make.

With Assassin’s Creed: Unity, the traversal problems that the series has had for years and the massive technical issues and a really underwhelming story are all things that undermine Unity very seriously. I could go on at length at various things in the game that bother me but those are the most substantive things that hurt the game. It could still have been a fantastic game despite the absence of women in it as playable avatars. [If that were the case], that might have been a discussion I could have had, but that wasn’t as material as everything else.

Thanks for the time and clarity, Arthur.

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Embargoes and Appetites

Ben Kuchera, Polygon:

When a game’s embargo isn’t up until the day of launch you need to be careful. If it isn’t up until a few hours after the game is launched you should probably run screaming the other way. That’s not a signal that the game may have middling reviews, that’s a signal that the publisher is trying to sell copies before the word hits the street.

It could also meant the game is still being worked on, but any embargo past midnight the night before is sketchy as hell. It’s a way to weaponize embargoes, and the best thing to do is to hold off until you can read about the game in detail.

[…]

You should always be on the lookout for these situations. The earlier a review hits, often the more confidence the publisher has in the game.

Earlier this year, I commented that Nintendo “gambled for positive reviews two weeks before launch”. Looking back, this was definitely less of a gamble and more a projection with confidence.

From a publisher’s perspective, I understand careful consideration over embargo dates. However, if a consumer cares deeply about a reviewer’s opinion, there should be no problem in waiting for a trusted opinion. The day-and-date state-of-mind is poison.

This does not, however, address the problem of protection from broken product. This is not film or music— botched playback would never escape manufacturing; a bad bounce would never escape the studio. Pre-orders for products so deeply rooted in real-time mechanics and engineering, notoriously subjected to time crunches and annual release dates, cannot wisely be considered for pre-order without subjection to reviews. While I implore patiently waiting for reviews on this type of product, release date and post-release date embargo lifts, as Kuchera implies, are cowardly and bullshit.

Pre-release embargoes are important, as is our appetite for new product.

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