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alanrickman_on_stroytelling

 

When you ask, “what is the oldest profession?” to a random passerby on the street, chances are the answer they will give you will be “prostitution.” To that I say, “fair enough.” However, I believe the aforementioned quote by Alan Rickman proves to me that storytelling and authorship has to be in least the top five. It also gives me reason to contemplate my appreciation for the fantastic—particularly superheroes—and my desire to craft my own tales about them. I very much agree with Mr. Rickman that stories fulfill a very human need. Moreover, I agree that stories reveal who we are, which particularly resonates with me because I cannot help but inject a little of myself into my works.

Without revealing too many intimate details of my past, I admit that I was the kind of child whose head was up beyond the clouds and somewhere in the stars. Superheroes where always a part of my daydreams; I used to imitate swinging from building to building like Spider-Man from the 60s animated show (and confused my poor grandmother in the process on trips to the playground.) The makeup of them changed throughout childhood as I found inspiration from other series like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Samurai Pizza Cats, believe it or not. The core fantasy around them remained the same: I was the hero and my friends would fight evil with me and we would save the world on a daily basis.

Very little of that changed over the years. Prodigious began life as a blatant self-insertion fantasy where I was the star of the show with my friends, family, and even psychological hang-ups along for the ride. Flare was my avatar in this universe and represented my own desire to returned to what felt were more carefree times in childhood—complete with amnesia for a blank slate. The story evolved over time as some friends drifted away and disappeared from my life altogether and thus the characters resembled my friends, family, and myself less and less. It was originally just about me and my friends, but the idea for a “superhero school” in a town that makes Eerie, Indiana and South Park appear normal crept in. It became less about my friends and I saving the world and more about whatever skewed thought crossed my mind.

It feels that Prodigious is becoming more about the absurdities I see in world where it appears that the lunatics are running the asylum. Case in point, the (seemingly) willful ignorance that afflicts the denizens of Apex Falls, especially the mayor, Norman Blanche who could see Bigfoot riding a chimera bareback in front of him and find a way to deny that it happened. I see that cognitive dissonance is pervasive throughout society such as those who claim to stand for “social justice,” for example. As I have stated in the past, I am sympathetic to #gamergate. Not because I believe that the movement stands for journalistic ethics (anymore, at least) but because of how their opponents lack any sort of self-awareness. Opponents of #gamergate claim that their opposition to the movement is to stop harassment and/or threats to women and minorities. Yet, as this video reveals, they will harass their opponents with doxxing and swatting; threaten them with violence; and attempt to incite mass murder with impunity in the name of ideology. People like them deserve savage mockery because they have no sense of irony. It is not just “social justice warriors” but humanity as whole, where groups refuse to turn that critical lens at themselves. It ties to what Rickman said about needing stories to tell us about who we are.

Despite how Flare and the world I created around him evolved beyond what I had intended as an indulgent self-insertion story, I was never able to completely separate him from myself. Perhaps it is possible that he is a facet of personality; I was a timid kid who never stood up for myself and instead retreated into fantasy to escape the bullies and taunts. Who is to say there is not an element of truth in that fantasy? After all, Aunt May said in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.

“I believe there’s a hero in all of us. That keeps us honest; gives us strength; makes us noble.”

Everyone wants to believe that they are the heroes of their own story and I like to believe that Flare is my heroic persona. He is able to be strong and brave when I cannot; he is brutally honest; and despite being an impulsive brat, he is still noble and selfless. The only times you comes out is when my fingers touch the keyboard. Men like Joseph Campbell have deconstructed the hero myth, which seems to have transcended the cultural boundaries that otherwise divide the human race. Stories are the one thread that ties us together as a species and it is for that reason that I write. Even when I feel distant and isolated, Flare is my way of bringing everyone else into my world where anything is possible.

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The Moral Hypocrisy of #StopGamerGate2014

I truly wish that I did not feel the compulsion to write on the unfolding GamerGate saga but recent events have given me cause to reconsider. Last night, the #StopGamerGate2014 hashtag trended on twitter after developer Brianna Wu had received threats from an as-of-yet unknown party. While there is no evidence that anyone affiliated with GamerGate issued the threats, that has not stopped the StopGamerGate crowd from painting all “gamers” with the same broad strokes. Prominent YouTube personality, MundaneMatt, recently had something of a Howard Beale moment decrying the embellishments and outright lies spread by the StopGamerGate movement. I leave my own tweet here for everyone else for see. I will be the first to admit that my comment was mean-spirited  and unnecessary. However, I believe that it I must show it and explain that it was out of sheer exasperation at the hypocrisy I see in it. Especially when you consider that many supporters of StopGamerGate are equally guilty of harassment as the people they criticize. Yet too few within that movement call them out on their behavior.

They have reduced the words “harassment” and “misogyny” to meaningless buzzwords to silence their critics. Do I believe that Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, and Brianna Wu were telling the truth? Yes, yes I do because the Internet is full of vile cretins who will hide behind their anonymity to harass, belittle, and threaten others. Do I need to bring up John Gabriel’s “Internet Dickwad Theory?”

dickwad-theory_2

The fact of the matter is that it is impossible to conclusive prove that the trolls who threatened these woman were associated with GamerGate because that movement is far from organized and is an unruly mob at worst. Moreover, to tar all gamers with the same brush is disingenuous. “Gamers” are not a monolithic or homogenous entity. My definition of the work gamer is simply a person who plays video game; there are RPG gamers, FPS, casual, hardcore, and it covers spectrum of people of different races, ethnicities, creeds, and sexualities. Hundreds of millions of people across the planet plays video games, and a maybe a few dozen threaten Ms. Sarkeesian et. al? Is it fair to hold those millions to account for the actions of a millionth of a percent? I suspect there other forces at play here.

I was born in the year 1984. I am all too familiar with the moral panic over the violence present in games like Mortal Kombat and Doom in the mid to late 90s. Many self-anointed moral guardians claimed that these games, along with other facets of youth culture, motivated or “trained” the Columbine High School shooters to carry out their heinous actions. Similarly, disbarred lawyer and activist, Jack Thompson, when on a similar crusade against games like the Grand Theft Auto series during the aughts. We are now in the “New Tens” and we have a new breed of crusader claiming that developers and gamers are fundamentally sexist and/or misogynist.

Yes, I have just compared Anita Sarkeesian to Jack Thompson, and I am not the first person to do it.

Do Ms. Sarkeesian’s criticisms in Tropes vs. Women have merit? To an extent, perhaps. Back in my misguided youth, my compatriots and I used to joke around about how you could solicit the services of prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto III and then kill them in a grisly fashion to get the money you spent on them back. However, does that inform my attitude towards women today? No. It does not because I learned such behaviors and attitudes are abhorrent. However, as JJ McCullough observed in his rebuttals to Ms. Sarkeesian, her methodology is spotty and allegations of her cherry-picking information to suit her confirmation bias exist.

I do not have a problem with feminism; I hold a great deal of respect and admiration for the first and second waves of feminists that struggled for legal and workplace equality the turn of the 20th century to the 70s. However, I have come to believe that third-wave feminism has become a toxic strain of a once-noble ideal. Sarkeesian and her ilk embraced an ideology that believes we exist in a “rape culture” where everyone with a Y chromosome is out to rape women and the fight against “the patriarchy” completely inform their world view. Ms. Sarkeesian’s confrontational manner in approaching a perfectly valid conversation on sexist imagery in video games has no doubt contributed to Gamers’ defensiveness on the subject. Not that it justifies the threats made against her and her compatriots, but this anger and indignation does not exist in a vacuum.

Like Ms. Sarkeesian, Jack Thompson had received harassment and death threats in the past but the reaction to it by the gaming press at the time was ambivalence. Granted, Mr. Thompson’s antics did not endear him to gamers or the press, but where was the outrage then? Part is has to do with my belief that Ms. Sarkeesian, Ms. Quinn, and other feminists inside the industry positioned themselves in a place within the industry that grants them a great deal of privilege. After the threats leveled against her when Tropes vs. Women first appeared on YouTube, all Ms. Sarkeesian has to do to deflect criticism is accuse her critics of misogyny and harassment.

What I find ironic is that while Ms. Sarkeesian criticizes the “damsel in distress” trope present in Super Mario Bros. with Princess Peach’s multiple kidnappings, she, as well as Zoe Quinn and Brianne Wu, show no hesitation in weaponizing the trope to suit their desires. People generally fear being labelled a misogynist or sexist in today’s increasingly politically correct atmosphere, hence many will gladly jump on the feminist bandwagon to appear “progressive” and “enlightened.” Ms. Sarkeesian, et al. exploit the well-meaning chauvinism of men like Bob Chipman, Joss Whedon, and several other prominent male celebrities out for progressive credibility and that is the problem.

#StopGamerGate, from what I have observed, is largely, if not entire composed of affluent white people. I have read personal accounts of how video games were a source of comfort for people who suffered abuse and prejudice in their childhood years. What touched me the most was the testimony of a user named Docheisenberg on the KotakuInAction subreddit.

Due to redistricting, I was assigned and had to commute to a public school in an affluent, largely white neighborhood. Wasn’t a great experience. I was bullied by kids with money and status. Being a working class vietnamese kid going to public school only a few years removed from The War was not fun. I caught crap from racist teachers just as much as I did from other kids. I got called a lot of things; a lot of them racist, but the one that stood out was when they’d call me “Apartment Boy” because of where I lived. That certainly drew a line in the sand. It and other things were why I got drawn in to games and geek culture so much; it was a chance to explore and dream of worlds better than reality. Better than having rich white people treat you as something less than human, or condescend to you about how inferior your culture is and tell you how they want to “help” you. I can’t decide what was worse, the blatant discrimination, or the half-assed ideological imperialism.

I bolded “ideological imperialism” because that is what #StopGamerGate is. The reason why the #NotYourShield hastag exists is because of minorities are tired of a small group of privileged, white, middle class children trying to co-opt their voice. GamerGate may not be perfect, but it is a diverse group that encompasses people of various persuasions whereas StopGamerGate is very much conformist in an ideological sense as evidenced when their gaming media circled the wagons in August. Combine that with their blatant chauvinism and hypocrisy, it is little wonder why I am exasperated.

Perhaps it is an unserious debate by unserious people, but maybe it is time for both sides to stop demonizing each, find some common ground, and discuss the issues as Boogie2988 proposed. However, that will require compromise on both sides, which is part of adulthood as well as an end to the accusations and threats on both sides. Given how polarized both sides are, I do not know if that is realistic.

Platypus Musings: #GamerGate, A Perfectly Valid Question

I never thought I would agree with the Guardian on anything, but this article by Keith Stuart makes a lot of sense. Particularly this quote:

And ultimately, those members of the gaming community who distrust the games press, have a really wonderful option: make the alternative. Instead of constructing strange conspiracy theories and flooding games sites with vitriolic comments, withdraw entirely. Make your own game sites. It has never been easier – or more viable. Because however much you mistrust them, the big gaming sites serve the needs of millions of gamers who don’t worry about the relationships between the press and the publishers – who just want approachable reviews, cool videos and funny list features; that’s their choice. They can’t be denied or derided either. So the best, most positive option, is to create something else.

I seldom visit Kotaku, Destructoid, or IGN and I never even knew Polygon, Gamesutra, and many other sites involved in this debacle even existed before Zoe Quinn’s ill-advised DCMA request turned the video gaming world into a raging inferno. Why even visit these sites when it clear that the people in charge of them have nothing but unbridled contempt for their audience? Maybe it is time for those on the gamer side #GamerGate to write their own “Declaration of Independence” and make their own websites by the people, for the people (so to speak) or look elsewhere for honest reviews. Many of the reviewers I trust are people like AngryJoe and  YouTubers like BalrogTheMasterKwing, and many others who are not involved in this, to my knowledge. In any case, the gamer faction should not patronize these sites at all, even if they have AdBlock on. Visiting these sites only lets these people know we are still looking at their articles. Why give them that pleasure?

As for another point Stuart makes:

The games industry is a global, multi-billion dollar giant, fuelled by money, not dogma. There will be no social justice revolution.

Let us be completely honest here. Is Nintendo really paying close attention to this controversy? Is Sony? Is Microsoft? I am guessing they are not because the “Social Justice Warriors” are a niche market at best. People like Zoe Quinn, Patricia Hernandez, and Anita Sarkessian by deride games as sexist and oppressive, but guess what? The late Roger Ebert (rightly) savaged Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, but that did not stop the film from grossing over $800 million worldwide. The impact Quinn and her ilk make in mainstream is akin to a ripple a pebble makes in the Pacific Ocean; not a big one. Perhaps it is time we, as gamers, walk away from this. There is nothing to gain by engaging with ideologues who compare gamers to ISIS and the Nazis. That only makes them look foolish in the end because gamers are not committing genocide like ISIS is doing to religious minorities in Syria and Iraq or what the Nazi did in the Second World War. There is no comparison to be made, and the “Social Justice Warriors” are losing the argument if they are making such claims.

The gamer is not going extinct despite those on the SJW side of the debate would like their readership to believe. Not any more than film buffs or bookworms are these days. As long as video games exist, there will always be gamers of various stripes. People like Quinn and Sarkessian may believe they wield a lot of power but their influence is negligible beyond their sphere. Nintendo will keep producing games where Mario and Link save the princess; people will still obsess over World of Warcraft; and Call of Duty and Battlefield will still sell by the wheelbarrow-full regardless of how much the SJWs crow about sexism or whatever their agendas. Let them have their indie festivals and let us go back to the games we cherish,