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YukoAsho Blog

Assassin's Creed and the Gaming Press.

Yes, this topic gets me in trouble regularly, but I'm quite moth-like at times, and it's such a pretty flame...

As we all know, Ubisoft rushed Assassin's Creed: Unity out the door in a pathetic state, which anyone with a lick of sense could tell was going to happen by the fact that embargoes were in place until 12 hours post release, most likely in order to make sure no pre-orders got canceled.

Now, unlike most, I don't particularly harbor any ill-will at Ubisoft. At least no more than usual. I don't buy their games until I've seen media on them, simply because they, along with EA, have proven incapable of consistent quality. However, while their business practices are deplorable, they're not unexpected.

Unfortunately, the games press' compliance is also not unexpected. We can go on and on and on about how Ubisoft was scummy for issuing the embargo, and of course they were. However, a corporation is, at the end of the day, looking out for itself beyond anyone else. In theory, the games press should be on the side of its readership, or at least beholden to the most basic principles of honesty. Instead, the industry agreed to this embargo. While Ubi might deny review copies, embargoes aren't legally enforceable without contract. Therefore, the problem here isn't Ubisoft being jackasses, but with the games media being completely on the take.

Here we are, presented with yet another example of how the games press isn't looking after the best interests of its readers, but instead playing along with the industry standard of appeasing the publishers in exchange for access. This isn't a good thing, and seeing reviews only pop up after millions of dollars have been collected on a travesty such as this only serves to support the notion that there are no ethical standards in the press.

So, what should the press do? Don't sign the damned contract! If you're denied access, say so. Put it on the front cover that Ubisoft refused to work with you because you wouldn't play along with its marketing team. At least everyone will understand ahead of time when the review comes late because you had to buy the game yourselves. Show a bit of backbone and stand up to someone at least once!

Of course, that will never happen. With a press that's obsessed with keeping the flow of easy access and free goodies going, we're never going to see a games outlet say "No, we're going to do right by the reader." Indeed, we're the last thing on the gaming press' mind, at least until the time comes to paint us all as misogynist babies.

Thankfully, I had the good sense to stop buying AC games a long time ago, but it irks me that a press that's supposed to stop people from being hoodwinked like this was instead helping by agreeing to the embargo and putting nothing at all on their front pages until Ubi said it was OK to go ahead.

At least it wasn't an indie game by a woman, I suppose. The press would be ripping into anyone daring to criticize it then...

What I've Learned

Might as well get this out of the way. A few people will get told about this post, but I don't plan to link it to the Giant Bomb forums for fear that an overzealous mod will get at it. Maybe I'll link it to the forums over at GS, I dunno, but for the most part, this is just me rambling.

I made a blog on the 19th, discussing how the discussion regarding the issues that led to the creation of #GamerGate, has consisted of nothing more than crazies yelling at one another.

Those of you who were able to see the succeeding blog before it was deleted from GB (or those of you here on GameSpot) know that users who disagreed with me karma-bombed me into a week-long ban, maybe because they thought I was supportive of GamerGate because I've been open about my distaste for the lecturing, politically-bent agenda pushing and overt cliquishness in games press. Those of you who haven't seen it can go here, and I'll likely have this on my GameSpot blog as well in case this one gets cut too.

I want to make a few things clear - I'm no GamerGate supporter. From the beginning, they've been nothing more than an angry mob, much like Occupy Wall Street or the Tea Party, a mostly indistinct blob of rage, with pockets of concentrated bigotry here and there. However, there are many things that I've seen discussed here and there that I do agree with. Games press has taken to looking down at its audience, more concerned with lecturing them on how they should think and how they should act and what they should like than with actually discussing anything with them, let alone games. Even here on the Bomb,@jeff feels more like a curmudgeonly old man whose long tenure in games press has made him disdainful of the medium at large, and @patrickklepek seems more interested in political pursuits and protecting his friends in the industry than anything else. And this is part of the issue that we have in the press as a whole. People are more concerned with protecting their own interests and getting on soap boxes than actually serving the audience.

I've felt for a long time that the games media has been far out of touch with its audience, with more than a few examples emerging from the last few years. From heckling people who were miffed about Mass Effect 3's ending, to the almost supportive tone regarding the Xbone DRM after that disastrous announcement, games media at large seems content to tell gamers what they want and who they are, rather than asking. Unlike many, I don't think the big companies are lining the pockets of games press. The two need each other, unless of course a company wants to double its game budget on advertising. However, it's clear that much of the press, cloistered in two or three population mega-centers, are only exposed to a very small group of people, and have come to think that everyone is like that. It happens. Hell, I catch myself doing it from time to time, assuming everyone has similar experiences to my own when the reality is vastly different even ten miles north of me with regards to urban development, internet speeds, the types of people, and the like.

Now we can't expect them to spend time exposing themselves to all the different types of people who play games - While the market outside of mobile is still heavily male, there are enough differences in life experiences and worldviews and gaming likes/dislikes that it would be a fool's errand to try and develop a complete understanding of them all. Nor does any reasonable person expect or want the games press to act simply as an echo chamber. That would be boring as all fuck, at least to me (though I suspect more than a few gamers would agree). What is wanted, however, is respect. Most of us aren't children. More than a few of us remember the NES, 2600, or maybe even the Odyssey 2 and older. We come from a wide variety of political, religious, racial and cultural backgrounds, but most of us have a fundamental respect for each other's humanity. Yes, there are bigots, as we learned from the way Carolyn Petit was SAVAGED for the crime of not declaring GTA V a flawless game, many of whom insulted her for being a transgender woman instead of talking about the merit of the game. There are bigots and sociopaths in every walk of life, however, as a quick look at a Youtube comment section for a news video will quickly prove. However, the vast majority of us aren't the monsters we've been made out to be recently.

Most of us would rather see women included in our hobby than excluded, but don't want it to be forced, and certainly don't want game content to be limited by a hard-line agenda of political correctness that tolerates no deviation. Most of us want games to come as advertised, and when calling out games that were sold through clear and obvious lies, that doesn't make the people complaining into whiny, entitled brats. It's OK for consumers who spent a considerable amount of money on something only to feel like they've been sold a bill of goods to have something to say about it, especially when the games press proves more forgiving. Gamers who aren't lock-step with Anita Sarkeesian or Zoe Quinn or Brianna Wu aren't all misogynistic neck-beards who don't want women in the secret club. Maybe they just don't like being talked down to, being painted with a broad brush, having their hobby misconstrued as this breeding ground for all the ills of society, especially by people with an axe to grind. Not supporting the militant leftist ideology of political correctness doesn't equate to a hatred of women or an unwillingness to accept people who are different. Many, including myself, are sympathetic and supportive of mainstream, equality-focused feminism, but also see a problem where discrimination is going the other way and won't stand for that either. Most of us don't believe that sexually provocative is the same as sexist, the way many hard-line feminists seem to.

More importantly, being against the pushing of a hard-left agenda does not immediately make anyone a right-wing nutjob. Many of us hover left or right of center, but without any particularly extreme views. There may be disagreements on things, but that's to be expected. All we want is for people to listen, to spend less time talking at us and more time talking to us.

However, I hold no hope of that happening soon in the games press, if ever. If the last few months have taught me anything, it's that no matter how much we protest, how peaceful or violent we may be, we're not going to be listened to. When they're not busy ignoring legitimate concerns, the games press is content to openly mock their audience. The chumminess we see with developers, especially "indie" developers, is something so ingrained in the psyche of the gaming press that there mere suggestion that it might be a problem sets them off. The core problem is that the gaming press has moved beyond taking the audience for granted. It's almost like we're hated simply for being as passionate as we are about gaming. Maybe it's because many are only in this as a stepping stone toward a PR or development job, maybe the loud jackasses have warped their view of the audience as a whole, I don't know. However, I don't see it changing. The culture of the games press, I fear, has been set in stone. For whatever reason, they just don't like us.

So where does that leave us? Don't know, really. I know a few bloggers have left, and honestly, I wonder if I'm just spinning the wheels by staying here myself. Maybe I should just figure out where Video Game King went and go there as well, or maybe just give up entirely. Maybe I just sit back and see, if the community recovers from this bullshit enough to where we can at least talk about video games among ourselves until the next shitstorm hits. I just don't know what my head is at regarding gaming press in general, and GB in particular. Gotta do a lot of soul searching, I suppose, considering most of the press itself isn't exactly into me anymore.

If this felt like it was rambling, that's because it fucking was. I just needed to get my head clear for a bit in the vain hope that it makes me feel better. Whatever I do from here on out, this will be the absolute last post I make about this topic. I'm sick of brooding on this topic every time I read about games.

On the Silencing of Different Opinions.

Before I start this, I want to be clear. I harbor no ill will at all to the Giant Bomb moderation team. I've no reason to believe that they were involved at all in what I'm about to discuss.

On the 19th, I wrote a blog about the GamerGate situation, and other than a request to edit some questionable language (again, perfectly justified), that was the end of it. Some may wonder why I wasn't talking much on the thread. The reason was that I was unable to. I was blocked from any posting on any public parts of Giant Bomb, as I found out the following day. When I asked a moderator why I'd lost posting privileges, I was told that I was flagged enough times that the ban had happened automatically. I was unable to post until the 27th, and spent the rest of the week wondering whether I should post this or not. In the end, I felt it necessary.

If what I was told by the moderation team was true, and I've no reason at all to believe otherwise, then I was targeted by elements of the community that are intolerant of anyone that can be seen as being even slightly sympathetic of GamerGate. It is not the first time this has happened. Indeed, I'm only the latest in a long line of people who have been censored, harassed, had their names smeared, and/or otherwise marginalized for not towing the "all of gamergate is misogynistic neckbeards!" company line that the ultra-progressive movement, including most of the games media, have tried to present.

You know, one of the more reasonable users on the site, @truthtellah, tried to present the notion that this wasn't a situation where both sides had a faction of people who were going over the line. That the GamerGate movement was a legitimate enemy, and that any support for them is misguided. While I completely disagree with the notion that GG is just a smokescreen for sexism, I entertained the idea.

After what happened to me, however, and what's happened elsewhere to others, including TotalBiscuit, Internet Aristocrats, and others, I cannot entertain that notion any longer. Whatever side you're on, or if you'd like this all to go away, it is impossible to claim fairness and maintain that there isn't a problem with fanaticism on both sides.

As for me, I know that only reasoned discussion can help move the needle, and will welcome it with anyone. I won't, however, stand idly by and let those intolerant of dissent silence views they disagree with. Nor will I sit here silently as reverse discrimination is enshrined into our culture. Hate won't end hate.

(Second disclaimer. I don't believe @truthtellah was involved in the flagging. He's one of the most reasonable people in the community, and I always welcome discussion with him, regardless of how much I may disagree on any particular issue.

Twitter is Garbage, and Rumors of the Death of Gamers Have Been Greatly Exaggerated.

Well, it's been a while since anything excited me enough to write a post.

As most of you know, two sets of extremists - militant far-left hardliners and worthless internet troglodytes - have been waging a war for the last month or so, with normal, run-of-the-mill gamers in the crossfire.

One of the most intense salvos in this war was every Giant Bomb member's favorite writer, Leigh Alexander, declaring that "gamers were dead," or that people with a passion for gaming are no longer relevant, because they're all sexist pigs and the industry is better off not focusing on them. The problem isn't the blatantly inflammatory language, but rather the flawed premise.

the ESA likes to trumpet around the stat that over half of people playing games are female, and that's true... If you include social and mobile gaming. Now, ignore the issues that plague mobile and social gaming for a moment, how most who play will never pay, and how saturated the F2P market is. By putting every part of the gaming market under a catchall umbrella, the ESA is hiding the ugly truth - that most people buying games and paying most companies' bills are men. This is a problem, because the ESA is effectively putting up a smokescreen for AAA developers to hide behind. "Nope, nothing to see here, plenty of women play games! We don't have to do more to get people in!"

Fact is, you're not going to find a lot of ladies who spend enough time (or, more importantly, money) on games to make a dent in traditional "Men first" thinking. Honestly, I don't think it ever will, especially now with industry folks essentially saying - and the ESA endorsing an attitude of - "women can stay in their mobile ghetto, we've done enough."

However, some people who may or may not have good intentions are seeking to purge sexuality from games as a means to bring women in. Spearheaded by female supremacists like Anita Sarkeesian and leftist clickbait rags Kotaku and Polygon, a large movement has emerged, equating sexuality with sexism. From Dragon's Crown to Bayonetta 2, games where women have low cut dresses, tight-fitting clothes and sexy struts have been branded with the scarlet letter of sexism, which only serves to anger people who maybe do want to see more women playing games, but don't approve of the witch hunt we've seen relatively recently. Yeah, there are games that are just stupidly pandering, games that truly do push a sexist worldview, but they're nowhere near as prevalent as female supremacists on the far left would have us believe.

On a side note, the Anita Sarkeesians of the world conveniently forget that many gamers joined the chorus of attacks on Metroid: Other M regarding the degrading way Samus was portrayed and her "battered wife" relationship with Adam.

What needs to be done isn't some purge of sexuality, but rather a broadening of what can be done in the media. The existence of Bayonetta doesn't exclude Alien: Isolation, the Super Mario Bros. series doesn't exclude The Last of Us. The issue isn't to make women into a perfect feminist mold, but to make games that feel authentic, like the stories come from the heart, that the people in them are people. If a woman is scantily clad, she shouldn't be a shy gal, or a general in a unit that's generally fully-armored, or other nonsense like that. This I think will happen eventually, as the medium continues to mature.

Lastly, I think both sides would do well to stop holding Twitter users and forumites as the representatives of the opposing view. I read a very interesting article on the BBC about the toxic nature of online interaction. Yes, the GamerGate war was mentioned at length, but the overriding point was that, for the most part, online debate is poisonous, to the point where people who aren't screaming little shits are leaving forums and social media because it's more trouble than it's worth. The fact is that, for a discussion this important, we have to push away the screamers, the intolerant, the agenda-pushers, and filter the noise out to the best of our ability until the only thing left is people willing to have a conversation. And for everyone's sake, stop using Twitter and social media! For any hope of serious discussion, we need forums to be moderated, and for those moderators to be as impartial as possible. Otherwise, only the status quo will survive.

So I Got the Super Retro Trio...

A few days ago, my Super Retro Trio arrived in the mail, and I've been playing with it.

Play ALL the games!

The system's a pretty good piece of kit, but there were some small issues.

First off, all the cartridge ports are astoundingly filthy. There's this weird, oily black grime deep in all three ports that have to be resolved for proper function. Seriously, in the Genesis port, I couldn't use the lock-on feature for Sonic and Knuckles until this was resolved, and many NES games just wouldn't run on first try, or at all.

To clean the ports, you can either use the original systems' cleaning kits if those around, or you can use a game cartridge as a cleaning kit instead. You'll want to make sure to fully clean the game you intend to use for the purpose before beginning. Once done, it's a two-step process. First, insert and remove the game five times, clean the connectors with alcohol-soaked Q-tips, and then repeat until the black gunk you're cleaning off with the Q-tips is not as jarringly black as when you started. The cartridges will have a far, FAR tighter grip as a result, which leads me to believe that this was meant as some form of lubricant, and you'll likely have to do this for a half hour on each port the first time you go, and you'll still have to Q-tip the games after use. I might just make cleaning these ports a weekly thing for a while, see if I can't really make a dent in the remnants of that junk.

Also, the insides of the control pads have a similar issue. Upon taking one of the controllers apart, I noticed that both the boards and the pads had quite a bit of grime as well. Cleaning those is done with Q-tips and alcohol as well, though it'll likely take a long ass time for the boards, as it's layered pretty thick. Thankfully, the rubber pads were easier to clean, but they weren't of the highest quality either. I'm probably going to get some new SNES rubber pads, as the shell is designed just like the OEM controller, and the replacements should fit right in. However, even with the stock rubber pads, the controllers will feel great after they've been cleaned.

Lastly, the reset button. I had to press it a ton of times to get it to work reliably. I can only assume that they're using the same shitty lubricant as the ports, meaning I might have to take it apart and wash the button and spring.

Once all that's done, you have what is a pretty damn nice system. Like I said, once the ports are clean, it fully supports the lock-in feature of Sonic and Knuckles, and all the other Genesis games I've tried so far have had no issues. The SNES is equally impressive. While I don't have the Megaman X games to try out, I can play Super Mario RPG (made in Japan version) and Earthbound with no issues whatsoever, which impressed the fuck out of me.

The ONE issue I have is the NES portion. While it's mostly just as great as the other two, the standard Castlevania III and Dragon Warrior I incompatibility persists, and while Dragon Warrior III runs, the sound is absolutely atrocious. The sound for Crystalis is also mangled. While I don't have Journey to Silius, I can only assume that also has issues. Thankfully, these issues can likely be addressed through modding, and I look forward to seeing what Satoshi Matrix and other modders do to address the issue.

While the OEM controllers have an SNES layout, it's important to remember that they connect to the GENESIS controller ports, so they can't be used in an actual SNES the way the Retro Duo controllers can. I sent my Genesis off to get repaired, so I can't say with 100% clarity whether the controllers will work in an actual Genesis, but I imagine they would. If you'd rather go original, though, you can switch between Genesis and SNES/NES with a flick of a switch. It's important to remember that, while the Genesis port can play all three systems (playing SNES with a Genesis pad sucks, BTW), the SNES and NES ports cannot be used to play games other than those originally intended for those pads.

The button layout when playing NES and Genesis games on the SR3 controller takes getting used to. For NES games, NES B maps to Y and NES A maps to B. For Genesis, Genesis ABC map to buttons YBA, while Genesis XYZ map to buttons LXR. It takes some getting used to, and you WILL likely have to go into the options screen for the Genesis Street Fighter games, but after a while, it'll become second nature.

Lastly, the video quality. It's only Composite or S-Video, but the quality is pretty damned good for those connections. No jail bars, and the NES portion isn't over-saturated the way it was with the Retro Duo.

Overall, the Super Retro Trio is a fine bit of kit, and worth a place in any gamer's library. Be warned, however, that it's going to take a bit of elbow grease to get the most out of the system.

Oh, and the smell of plastic is strong with this one.

Harbingers of the End, and why they're so damned ridiculous.

There's been a bit of discussion... Actually, there's been a shit ton of talk about whether the eighth generation of consoles will be the last. The idea that we're never going to see a real PS5, Xbox Two or whatever nonsense Nintendo cooks up is an asinine one that is, unfortunately, shared by many short-sighted pundits (are there any other kind?). Let's examine three of the most prevalent reasons people are predicting the death of the console market.

Number 1: Cumulative console sales are down in 2014 compared to 2007.

Cumulative sales compared to 2007 are a bit of a false correlation, because it ignores something that was happening in 2007, mainly the mad frenzy that people had for the Wii. Seriously, that system was hard to find for much of the year, even going into 2008. In reality, as Machinema points out here, the PS4 and Xbox One have both outsold their predecessors quite handsomely, comparing the first four months of each system's life. There is a huge, HUGE demand for this stuff, so why would any company turn down free money? This is especially true of Sony, for whom the Computer Entertainment division is one of the few bright spots in a relatively bleak landscape.

Number 2: Smart phones and tablets are taking over!

Are they? Without concrete software/micro-transaction sales or ad revenue, it's hard to say, but for this statement to be true, it would have to be a guarantee that everyone buying smart phones and tablets are gaming on them. Obviously that's not the case. There's probably more than a couple of smart phone and tablet users who have no interest in playing games on them. Maybe they're using them for music, or movies, or web browsing in Starbucks, or - GASP - actually calling people and doing business-related things. While there may be some consumption of passive media on game consoles, people buy them mostly for gaming, as Microsoft is learning now as Sony builds a large, commanding lead in the race.

Furthermore, smart phone and tablet gaming is a different beast. The free-to-start model, as Satoru Iwata so eloquently termed it, is far and away the prevalent business model for phone and tablet gaming. The problem is that, rather than getting money from a large number of people, they tend to rely on whales, or people willing to spend a very large amount of money on a game. That's why so many phone/tablet games play similarly to Facebook games, with energy bars, absurd grinding requirements, or other ways to make actually playing without giving money on a continuous basis a chore. And the games that don't use that tactic? The "cheap app mentality" has been engrained in many people, and they won't buy something unless on the iOS/Android stores unless it's extremely cheap. It's even showing in PC gaming, where more and more people won't buy games at full price, opting instead to wait until some stupidly low Steam sale hits. These aren't really a problem in the console space, as AAA games rarely go on sale, and even more rarely end up selling for pennies on their original price.

In addition, while smart phones are becoming more and more powerful, are we truly to believe that more powerful home hardware won't come out to match? PCs are already more powerful than the PS4 and Xbox One if you're willing to pay a whole bunch of money, and in six-to-eight years time, those prices will come down enough for a stupidly awesome console to come out in the future.

In reality, smart phones and tablets haven't even killed off the handheld gaming market. The 3DS is a juggernaut. It's served to prop up Nintendo, who would be in a far, FAR worse position right now if not for the dominance of the 3DS.

Number 3: Digital distribution, cloud gaming, etc...

This is perhaps the greatest fallacy, that most users don't want to go to the store anymore. This despite hundreds of millions of CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays being sold yearly. The problem with many who make this particular argument is that they're coming from the view that most people are highly connected individuals like them, who have absolutely amazing internet and no trouble downloading or streaming anything at all. The problem with that is, in large parts of the US and much of the larger world, that internet speeds are somewhat lacking for increasingly bandwidth-intensive tasks such as HD streaming and game downloading. Also, there's definitely value in increasing the options for impulse buys and the like by having things on a shelf. Look at the Vita, for example. The system has a large, vibrant selection of digital titles, but the selection of physical titles is nothing less than abysmal. By contrast, the 3DS is the reverse: not a very great eShop, but a large selection of physical games. Perhaps its coincidence that the 3DS is so far ahead of the Vita that the latter isn't even worth discussing, but I can't help but wonder if the small selection of physical games, and the resulting smaller retail space it receives (seriously, go to a Wal-Mart or a Toys R Us, it's sad to see the Vita tucked away in a tiny corner like it is) are perhaps effecting exposure.

Then there's cloud gaming. Look at the sad state of OnLive right now. It's mostly been derided as a laggy, lower quality experience, and it never really caught on. PlayStation Now has had good reviews, but so far, the only servers people have tried it on have been in the convention centers where Sony's been showing it off. Where the rubber hits the road is whether someone in Miami, probably connecting to a server in St. Louis or something, can play lag-free Call of Duty multiplayer and not have the image look like someone smeared Vaseline on the television.

Of course, this all ignores the currently hazy outlook for net neutrality in the United States. If ISPs are given free reign to discriminate against certain types of traffic, the prospects of digitally downloading large games are going to look even bleaker for most Americans. Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and the like fighting like mad for the right to extort internet services, mostly to protect their cable services, and the price might be too high for Sony, MS and even Valve to pay every single ISP the potential millions, if not tens or hundreds of millions of dollars needed to get on the "fast lane." Without that privileged access, downloading that 13GB Dead Rising 3 update's going to be a lot more of a hassle...

Put shortly, consoles (and physical games) are likely to be here for a long time to come. The pundits are making the classic mistake of assuming one thing will destroy the other, rather than compliment it. Remember when the Wii came out, and everyone was having a similar discussion? About how, rather than making large, immersive games, companies would instead focus on cheaper, gimmicky waggle titles? Did that happen? No, it didn't. TV didn't destroy radio, internet hasn't destroyed TV, and the prospects for tablets to kill off consoles are pretty damned low.

Put short, consoles aren't going away any time soon, and I'll see you all in six or so years for the PS5 launch.

Gender, Equality and the Search for Common Ground.

I hate this topic so very, very much. I spent way longer than maybe I should have contemplating whether I wanted to type this here blog out, but here goes.

Sexism in gaming. Yes, I'm going into that tornado, even knowing what I'm about to subject myself to.

See, the second-to-last The Point has me once more thinking about this topic, and while I agree that it's something that needs to change if gaming is to ever evolve, I also think that the topic has to nuance itself a bit more.

See, while there are discussions about what happens in the workplace of gaming - where the real issue is - so much of our time is spent talking about character appearance. Once a woman in tight outfit or a low-cut blouse comes on screen, that's what they are. No one talks about her personality or role in the story (save when a Mario game comes out and the tired Princess Peach rants are recycled). Nope, it boils down to tits and ass, because heaven forbid women be beautiful, right?

I find it funny because the PS3/360 generation has given us some of the most interesting female characters in recent memory, from Bayonetta and Morrigan (Dragon Age) to Oerba Yun Fang and Crystal Dynamics' recent re-imagining of Lara Croft. Even characters like Sheva Alomar, Anya Stroud and Princess Hilda have their moments.

Unfortunately, when the discussion only ever goes negative, when the Anita Sarkesians of the world turn every low top and pretty face into some attack on all women everywhere, it obscures the real problem - that women working in the industry have a shit time in a lot of companies.

Also, the assumption that "dudebro" games are somehow what men want to be is pants-on-head retarded, not to mention very, very selective. The assertion that games like Gears of War are "power fantasy," or that all - or even most - men want to be the sort of mindless slabs of beef that detractors think of the Gears characters is a prime example of the misandry that prevents either side from finding common ground.

On a side note, the word "misandry" wasn't in the Firefox spell checker. That should tell you everything you need to know about how one-sided the sexism debate is.

So what common ground do all gamers, male and female, have?

1. We like video games. No shit, right? We don't like being pigeonholed into the nonsense of casual/facebook/social games.

2. We're getting increasingly tired of the increasingly iterative business model of so many games companies. We like variety, so long as the games are still fun.

3. We'd rather not have characters in larger games be cardboard cutouts or tired ass cliches. Interesting characters make for better game stories, which helps with long games, especially marathon-length RPG games and similar.

4. We want the most qualified, passionate people making these things, as that's the best way to make better, more thoughtful games.

I'm sure we can come up with more common ground, but that's a good place to start. None of these things are helped by women being made unwelcome or uncomfortable in the gaming industry. Nor is it helped by harassing and punishing female gamers. Indeed, quite the opposite is true; by narrowing who is allowed to work in gaming or play games, stagnation will reign supreme, at least until gaming dies entirely, which is entirely possible given how shaky many game companies' financial standing seems to be.

None of this precludes women (or men) who dress or act in a sexually provocative manner. Sex, as we all know, is pretty cool too. The issue is when sex appeal is all that a woman has, which is what makes games like Scarlet Blade such a chore to play. Fun, interesting ideas, depth, these are universal things that both men and women enjoy.

We also enjoy being respected. No one wants to feel like they don't matter or, worse, like they're being pushed out because of their gender (or religion, sexual orientation, etc, etc...). A welcoming industry integrates diverse people into it, and thus has more and more diverse ideas, which helps to combat stagnation as you have different people coming up with ideas to please more and more diverse audiences.

That, in the end, is why sexism in gaming needs to be approached in a deeper way than "this character has huge tits, BURN THE WITCH!" Ending sexism in the gaming workplace helps us all, making for more and more diverse ideas. And ideas, in the end, are what gaming requires to survive.

On Nintendo.

I got a Wii U in April of this year, when we were all still reeling at Microsoft's DRM reveal and convinced that Sony was in line with them. I bought the basic, mainly because I didn't really need Nintendoland (or the extra storage, as I don't really partake in digital console content), along with New Super Mario Bros.

I've since built up a decent library, certainly more than I had for the Wii in the same number of months since purchase. However, with Sony crushing any ideas that they were following Microsoft's path, and Microsoft in turn backpedaling so hard they might just slip and fall on their asses, the Wii U has lost its one potential advantage. And now, with both the Xbone and PS4 out, it's time to assess the Wii U.

Despite the click-bait headline, Danny O'Dwyer made several strong points in the most recent edition of The Point.

Put short, the lack of system-selling games on the Wii U, combined with Nintendo's failure to create a second fad, have put the system in a bad position now that the eighth generation is in full swing. PS4 and Xbone will almost certainly outsell Wii U globally by some time in 2014, and third party support will continue to dry up. Sure, Ubisoft will drop the occasional dance and party game on the system, but it's becoming clear that 3rd parties aren't bothering this time. EA has burned bridges with Nintendo, and the near-crippling silence from everyone else with regards to the Wii U speaks volumes. I imagine that, were it not for the 3DS' continued domination, we'd see a lot more companies going the EA route with Nintendo. Thus, Nintendo's going it alone on Wii U.

So, how did we get here? Well, the beginnings of Nintendo's downfall can be traced back to the height of their success. In the years following the video game crash of 1983, Nintendo rebuilt the industry in their image, using their NES monopoly to strongarm 3rd parties for all the money they could get. Carts could only be manufactured by Nintendo themselves, so the price per cart was artificially inflated, and companies were only allowed a limited number of releases per year. Despite unlicensed outliers like the Sega/Atari/Namco front Tengen, Nintendo ruled the industry with an iron fist, abusing their position to tie 3rd parties into loyalty pacts that served to kill the Master System and Turbografx-16. Even the Sega Genesis and a lawsuit ending some of the more blatantly abusive aspects of their business, Nintendo never treated 3rd parties like partners, instead running their games business like a dictatorship, angering many 3rd parties.

Third parties like Sony.

After Sega released the Sega CD, Nintendo looked into making a CD add-on for the Super Nintendo, but backed out well into development with two different partners. Their partnership with Philips resulted in the long-forgotten CD-i and a quartet of the worst games ever to bear Nintendo mascots. Their partnership with Sony, themselves a 3rd party previously, resulted in a cultural phenomenon.

Sony took the technology from their SNES CD project, enhanced the hardware for revolutionary (at the time) 3D graphics, and proceeded to steal the entire games industry from Nintendo, whose hubris led to the N64 being a huge commercial flop. Nintendo was clearly caught flat-footed by the sudden change in the pecking order. Suddenly, they were no longer the top dog, and were really only the second place console by default, owing to Sega's prolonged implosion. With the PlayStation, and then the PlayStation 2, absolutely decimating all competition in the console hardware space, Nintendo systems became known for droughts of quality software between their tent-pole franchise titles. The 3rd parties they treated like servants were gone, and even with the domination of the Game Boy line, Nintendo was unable to secure meaningful support for their home systems.

The only bump in the road downhill was the Wii. With the novelty of motion controls and Sony's own moment of hubris, Nintendo was able to sweep in and relive the amazing successes of the past... Sort of.

The problem with the Wii, other than Nintendo's ego once more inflating, was that it sold to people who didn't really care for gaming. It sold because people were curious about motion controls, and drawn in by Wii Sports. The people who bought the Wii for Wii Sports never bought anything else, and Nintendo failed to see that gamers were going to the 360 (and later the PS3 as Sony turned the ship around) in droves, while Nintendo was stuck with a fickle group of users who quickly forgot about the Wii as the next mainstream fad came. Thus, while the Wii itself was practically everywhere, 3rd parties had treated it like the last-place console anyway. Save for a few fantastic games that failed in retail, the system became a dumping ground for all the worst software in existence. Shit like Ninjabread Man became the norm, and the pitiful signal-to-noise ratio became the stuff of legends.

All the while, Nintendo ignored gamers, to the point where a massive campaign that basically amounted to begging was needed to release arguably 2012's best Wii games. Put short, Nintendo repeated the mistakes of the SNES era. They were riding high, and they didn't care one iota if people were dissatisfied.

So that leads us to the Wii U. After an initial, promising holiday 2012, things quickly went downhill. In the year that they've been the sole eighth generation console, the Wii has sold just over four million, and those people have been treated to a lackadaisical release schedule, mainly populated with hand-me-down ports from 360 and PS3, while Nintendo's post-launch offerings were delayed repeatedly. Worse yet, the people who'd been captivated by the Wii either got over it, or believed the Wii U to be simply an updated controller for the Wii. Either way, the non-gaming market did not want, and the gamers stuck to the 360 and PS3, waiting for something to capture their imaginations. Nintendo squandered their year in the spotlight, and when the Xbone and PS4 hit the scene, the Wii U's fate was sealed.

So where does that leave Nintendo? Before we go on, let's stop talking about Nintendo going third party. They've got massive amounts of income coming in from the 3DS, and the Wii has built them an impressive war chest. Nintendo would have to have multiple decades of straight losses for them to be in any position to question their solvency, and with 7.2 billion yen worth of profits for fiscal year 2013, that's not going to happen. That said, the Wii U itself sells at a loss, while the competitors sell for a profit, and software isn't moving on the Wii U, so things need to change. If Nintendo wants to be a player in the home market and not just handhelds, there are going to have to be some major changes. First off, third party relations are going to have to become a long-term project. Between the oppression of the NES and Super NES eras and the gamers' rejection of the N64, Cube and Wii, Nintendo needs to slowly rebuild their relationships. For the eighth generation, however, they are mostly going it alone, with whatever exclusives they can develop or buy. Given how much money they have, they need to massively build up their first party development. Most important, however, is that they need to diversify their lineup.

See, after the release of Pikmin on the GameCube, Nintendo stopped trying to make new IPs, content instead to feed its young base and most rabid fans a steady diet of established mascots. This is just fine for those who have already bought in, but it's not going to win over detractors. While it would be suicidal to abandon their bread-and-butter franchises, Nintendo needs to do some serious outreach. That means making more titles out of their wheelhouse; shooters, RPGs, strategy... Nintendo themselves need to make games for people who aren't fans of the core five mascots or party games. A company as stupidly rich as Nintendo shouldn't have any problem financing the needed first party expansion to do this.

Lastly, online. It's been said that Nintendo has no idea how the internet works. Nintendo have also shown a willingness to gimp their online services in order to protect its position as the electronic babysitter. In response, those looking to play online games have moved on. If Nintendo wants to move in on the lucrative core gamer demographic, they're going to have to loosen up the restrictions on their online network, and make it easier for people to meet, and play against, each other on their services. As it stands now, Nintendo's arm's-length attitude to online interaction is failing them, and will continue to do so until they change.

Hopefully Nintendo will make the needed changes to become a relevant player in the eighth generation. However, I don't see it happening. How about you guys? Any hope for Nintendo in the future?

Every Generation is Exactly the Same

Well, here we are. The eighth generation of consoles is officially upon us. I've just played the ever-loving fuck out of Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack, and already have plans to pick up Injustice's ultimate edition next week along with the sweet accidental damage insurance Sony's selling. We see a generation in front of us, full of opportunities for great games, amazing moments and overall excitement. We're also going to see lots of disappointment, rage and the standard idiocy from all sides: publishers, media and fans.

Put short, it's another generation of games.

We're already seeing the beginning, really: people selling up the coming of cloud computing, the end of physical media, artistic gaming, garage developers actually meaning something in the broader marketplace, and this potentially being the last console generation. Talking heads from all over are talking, and the likelihood of any of this being anything more than marketing bullshit is hilariously low. Especially that last one. Let's be honest, we're all going to be here again, talking about the PS5, Xbox Two and Nintendo's next attempt to catch lightning in a bottle, come 2019-2020, and the cycle will begin again. This will almost certainly be preceded by another failed Sony attempt to bite into Nintendo's handheld dominance around 2016-2017. We'll also be enduring another few years of fanboys trying to convince us that tablet and mobile gaming really is more than failed ports and pay-to-win drivel or how PC isn't a totally different market and are totally going to destroy the console model.

We've yet to see the first true stinker of the eighth generation, but we already have a divisive title. We already have people grumbling about features and games that didn't make launch. In a week, we'll be seeing the alpha nerds of the fanboy tribes scanning every pixel of every multi-platform title for any "evidence" of one system's inferiority to the other, and we're seeing Nintendo fanboys try to talk down the next generation, as though only their chosen faceless corporation is capable of compelling gameplay experiences. As the current generation reaches more and more people, we'll get called all sorts of horrible names and be thankful that both PS4 and Xbone share party chat capability so we don't have to sit there muting everyone individually. There will be people saying the most vile, disgusting shit toward each-other, with gamers often being as racist, misogynistic and homophobic as possible, and the media will try to paint these fuckwads as the whole of the fandom. A few gaming-related laws will be passed by state governors, a few studies will be issued by the federal government, and we'll probably see an amulance chaser or two launch a crusade against the sick filth that is GTAVI.




We're also going to see games that leave our mouths open, make us jump and cry out to the heavens in joy and reignite our oft-battered faith in this wonderful pastime of ours. We're going to fall in love with new characters, worlds and music. We're going to save the world a few times, maybe have a laugh or two at some caricatured larger than life figure, or skip a heartbeat or two, maybe even shed a tear as a character we'd grown fond of bites the dust in a horrible way. We'll watch walkthroughs and commentaries, both serious and funny, that bring a smile to our faces. We'll find the one or two machinema darlings, bang our heads and laugh at some hilarious meme that a game starts up, and talk about awesome moments with our friends, be it around the water cooler or over our headset. Some crazy e-sports showing will rock our worlds and leave us hype as all fuck. We'll be pleasantly surprised by a sleeper hit every once in a while, a game or two will spark some interesting debate, and @zombiepie is going to have a shit-ton of awesome blogs to look through for the Community Spotlight.

The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, bears crap in the woods, the Pope wears a stupid hat, and the eighth generation will largely come and go like all the others. Some of it is bad, some of it is good, but so long as console gaming is a competitive market, it's going to be one hell of a fucking ride.

Maybe the seventh generation lasted too long. Maybe it ended too soon. It really depends on who you ask. But no matter what you feel about that, we can all agree that it was one crazy ass ride. I expect no less from the eighth, and I'm glad to have got on right at the start.

The End of Blockbuster and the Insular Tech Press.

Blockbuster recently announced the closure of all its remaining US retail outlets, as well as their by-mail rental service, by the end of the year. It's a bittersweet end to what was once one of the most important names in the home entertainment video. Unsurprisingly, many media talking heads have laid the credit exclusively at the feet of digital distribution, failing to see the full range of issues that doomed Blockbuster to the position they ended up in.

Now, I want to be clear, I'm not discounting the rise of digital services, especially the all-you-can-eat juggernaut Netflix. However, this was only one of many issues that Blockbuster failed to address.

Now, first and foremost, Blockbuster was shit to go and rent at. Particularly in the late nineties and into the 2000s, Blockbuster had become more and more dirty and unattractive, with movies getting harder and harder to find on store shelves, usually due to not being placed properly. This was mostly because the concept of customer service had been forgotten by Blockbuster seemingly immediately after they pushed all the smaller rental stores out of business. Hell, Netflix was founded by a guy who'd gotten fed up with Blockbuster's legendarily stupid late fees. Not only that, but true to their name, it was not that easy to find anything that wasn't a blockbuster, which we'll talk about later. Put simply, they beat the competition and then proceeded to get all kinds of lazy. Sounds familiar....

Hella cheaper than VHS

Second, the movies got cheaper. I mentioned the lack of variety in the last paragraph, but this is where it really started hurting them. When DVD hit mainstream at around 2000, it was a format designed with user purchase in mind. Even back around the PS2 launch, it wasn't unusual to see new releases at $25-$30, and that price got cheaper and cheaper to the point where new releases on DVD are $15-$20 nowadays. When Blockbuster came up, it wasn't unusual for a new release movie to be around $50-$100, due to the cost of producing VHS tapes. Now, what does this have to do with the variety at Blockbuster being an issue? See, back in those days, people would go from store to store looking for the movie they wanted. It wasn't unusual for people to have BB accounts at more than one location (as the stores weren't networked, another service fail). Fun story; as a young gal, I actually walked half a day to a Blockbuster several neighborhoods away, looking to rent The Professional: Golgo 13, back when I was really into anime. With the advent of DVD, it became easier to just go to Best Buy or Wal-Mart or what have you and just buy a fucking copy of that less-than-blockbuster movie you wanted to see with the crew over the weekend. The cheapening of movies would not only make purchase of movies a viable idea for the first time since CED, but would also give rise to new competition...


This was the next pillar in the fall of Blockbuster. Even before streaming, Netflix began eating Blockbuster's lunch with their fantastic rent-by-mail service. Instead of having to deal with getting reamed by Blockbuster late fees and not being able to find the movie you wanted half the damned time, you just ordered a movie from their catalog, got it in the mail moderately quickly, and sent it back when you were done with it to get the next film in your queue. In their hubris, Blockbuster dismissed Netflix as a passing fad. It wasn't, and the money made by Netflix's mail-order business funded the streaming service we know and love today. Then there was the automated kiosk, which was pioneered by Redbox. I'm sure you've seen these little bastards everywhere at this point: a red box (thus the name) with a bunch of movies/games in it that can be rented for a buck a day, and even if they don't have the movie you're looking for in one kiosk, it's entirely possible they can have it in another one just a stone's throw away. Seriously, I don't know about you, but 'round here they're all over the place. I have one in my grocery store, my drugstore, the local Wal-Mart, and a few places I'm sure I've forgotten. Because DVDs are cheap and compact, the cost of having a Redbox in your establishment are minimal. As with online streaming, Blockbuster ignored the threat posed by mail-order renting and automated kiosks until Netflix and Redbox had snatched up huge swaths of their market share.

In reality, the writing on the wall was written for Blockbuster before online streaming even became as large as it is now. Between lack of variety, poor service, and cheap ass DVDs, the chain had no way of surviving into the 21st century. Indeed, that it lasted into the 2010s is little short of a miracle, despite the fact that there's still a thriving disc rental market. Had Blockbuster simply been more agile, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Now, what does this have to do with gaming?

Plays many different games, in many different ways, for many different gamers.

There's this narrative, spun by corporate types with a vested interest in taking away ownership rights (along with their fanboys), that digital will completely replace physical distribution in gaming, rather than co-existing the way it does with both movies and music. This ignores the one fundamental truth of the consumer market: different people want different things. Just as not every gamer plays the same games, not every gamer plays - or buys - them the same way. Broadband penetration is still a joke in parts of the US, to say nothing of the world at large, and ideological disputes over DRM will persist for the foreseeable future, and the attitudes consumers will have will by and large vary from person to person. The console market clearly didn't approve of the all-or-nothing mandate Microsoft had initially proposed for the Xbone, but going digital will appeal to probably as many people as it revolts. Options are everything, and those who provide the most options will be king, simply by virtue of being able to appeal to the broadest amount of people for a sustained period of time.

Make no mistake; the time of monolithic, dictatorial retail is over. However, it's not being replaced by monolithic, dictatorial digital distribution. It's being replaced by a cornucopia of choices, both online and off, catering to a consumer base that is becoming more diverse rather than less. The company that makes the most consumers the most comfortable will be the winner. That company was not Blockbuster, and it won't be any company that believes they can make one size fit all.