PixieJenni talks GamerGate with both 'sides'

Game Reviews and Pushing Agendas (part 5)

on September 18, 2014

Some answers may have been merged – ie, where I’ve been given the same link/article/answer multiple times, I will just include link with a note of how many people answered with this in the format: [article](x5)

Some answers may not be included if they misunderstood the question – they may instead have moved to ‘bonus’ as a section. Will highlight if that is the case.

People are anon if they didn’t explictly say “call me x”. Email me again if you want to change that 🙂Anon referencing consistent within this topic, but not with others.

1. What do you count as “pushing an agenda”? Can you give me an example?

Anon36: “For me, “pushing an agenda” would be critiquing games because someone feels like it shouldn’t have or should have something in it.
The biggest one is game devs changing their games because of sexism. An example would be how the devs from Divinity changed their promotional image. They had a woman who had the much-spoken armour on that wasn’t really very defensive, and because they got a lot of critique for it, they ended up making it less revealing.”


Anon37: “Mostly what comes to mind is people putting out support for certain games with a financial or personal interest in mind, not concern for the demographic’s need for information regarding a pricey purchase that they have to scrape together funds for. First thing that comes to mind is Brink, a game that was supposed to be a parkour style FPS. I was thrilled at the prospect and read many reviews giving it awesome scores and how it would bring a new element to FPS gaming. It released with no storyline, shoddy servers and horrible gameplay modes that resulted in stalemated online games. I played it for hours to give it a chance, but I felt completely let down by those that were supposed to give sufficient information about a game to merit a decision to buy or not. It left me wondering what kind of benefit they received in promoting this shoddy product, and how they actually had their demographic in mind when they pushed it.

The other agenda that comes to mind is the progressive views on social issues. Is there an issue with the gaming community in regards to acceptance and treatment of minorities and women in the gaming scene? Yes, absolutely, without a doubt. But these issues are symptomatic of our culture outside of the games, not the games themselves. The blowback to critics of this aspect is unwarranted and reprehensible, but the dialogue needs to remain open and the critics also need to remain open to critique of the evidence they put forward. Labeling any response critical of the information provided as sexism and racism shuts down any hope of open dialogue, either through fear of being labelled sexist/racist or inciting rage at being personally attacked for responding to it. “


Anon38: “An example of what I believe to be “pushing an agenda” on a review is Carolyn Petit’s review on GTA V from gamespot: She included a paragraph or two on how the game treats women and how it’s insufficient to become satire, my problem is that it barely (if at all) affected the score, so it felt less of a critique and more like she added it for those who are aligned with her on this political aspect. Let me clarify that this in NO WAY justified the kind of bullshit she went through, and it’s nowhere near the crime some people are pointing it out to be. As TB wrote “Bias is extremely useful to the consumer if it is properly disclosed”. With this quote I answer 2, I don’t mind if you want to push whatever you think it’s right, everything is done with an agenda, however not everyone might want to hear it, a possible solution to this might be split the review between what the general public might be interested in (franchise fidelity, graphics, controls, fps) and an aside with the reviewers political point of view in it, the first section with it’s own score and the second with one with this angle included.”


Anon39: “I would say that one is “pushing an agenda” if they inject that agenda into places where it doesn’t belong, especially without consideration for context. For example, Kotaku seems to have decided that Dragon’s Crown is a vehicle for pushing a feminist agenda. This is a review of the game from Kotaku: http://kotaku.com/dragons-crown-the-kotaku-review-977366436

This seems pretty balanced. It makes mention of the character designs, but also understands that those character designs are part of an entire work and are an expression of the artist, not just a shallow attempt to titillate male fans:
“It’s the context that changes the perspective. Presented in a short trailer or a series of screenshots, these fantastic characters certainly draw the eye and invite criticism. Once I spent some time in designer George Kamitani’s highly-stylized fantasy world, these otherwise freakish figures fell into place. They became the subjects in a fabulous interactive tableau, where every screenshot is a work of art (minus the user interface and damage numbers, of course).”

But here’s what Kotaku wrote before that: http://kotaku.com/game-developers-really-need-to-stop-letting-teenage-boy-472724616
This was published when very little media about the game was actually available and it is a really short article. It’s pretty difficult to see it as anything other than an unfair jab: “As you can see, the sorceress was designed by a 14-year-old boy.” No mention of the dwarf, who has similarly ridiculous features but is male. No mention of how that style meshes with the overall art style of the game. And on top of that, it calls the artist responsible a “14-year-old boy.” All of this leads to the perception that the author had a clear axe to grind about female character designs in games and was using Dragon’s Crown to do that, rather than talking about the game itself.”


Anon40: “Simply look at the 10 or 11 articles that came out on or around 8/28 that declared the “death of the gamer”. If that wasn’t a coordinated PR assault, then I’ve never seen one. ARGH! ”


Anon41: “Using your platform (and insinuation of fair, unbiased reporting) to try and convert people to your system of beliefs, no matter how far a stretch it is. An example? Fox News is notorious for spinning things to cater to a far-right crowd despite their claims of being “fair and balanced”. So when Robert Florence wrote a piece on Max Temkin, it was heavily biased, citing SJW/Feminist buzzwords (buzz phrases?) like “rape culture”, “white privilege” (he doesn’t use the term white privilege but clearly says that he’s privileged because he’s white and male), etc. While it’s perfectly acceptable to believe these things, I go to gaming sites to hear about upcoming/recent games, not to be lectured on how I’m a bad person because I’m male and play games that don’t “portray women” correctly. Representation of women in gaming and the discussion about it have their places, sure. Anita’s video series is actually a good idea, but VERY poorly executed.

Another example was when David Jaffe made a one-off, tongue-in-cheek joke that “Twisted Metal is the best game ever and being released on Feb. 14th, girls will love you if you get them this game as a Valentine’s Day gift. And if you let her win, she will give you a blowjob!” (this is paraphrased). Kate Cox of Kotaku took this out of context and published an article about how he was misogynist, homophobe, et al. In doing so, she connected quite a few dots that weren’t there just so that she could talk about misogyny and homophobia.”


D.A: “Everyone has an agenda to push at an individual level, but when someone or a group in power is unified behind an agreed agenda and actively tries to silence those whose views may vary, it becomes a problem that must be addressed. Currently, I believe that the gaming media is interested in pushing a social equality agenda. While well-intentioned with beneficial goals for society as a whole, it is hurting those who wish to offer constructive criticism on how to strengthen the narrative. This relentless “push” is breeding animosity between the consumer and the producer of the content as the lines of communication are being cutoff.”


Anon42: “TBH the agenda pushing is such a minor issue to me. Of course people are pushing an agenda everyone pushes their agenda. Professional people know when it’s appropriate to do so and when it’s not. IE: Game review = as little agenda as possible OP-ED = have at it. Looking at the industry cynically no matter what your opinions are someone is going to share them and make a game about it. “


Anon43: “The only “agenda” I am concerned with is when a viewpoint is pushed not out of moral concern, but because of undisclosed personal relationships and financial interests. A journalist addressing a social issue is not inherently a problem, nor is it bad to address out of personal gain as long as all the cards are on the table. However, in cases where names like Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn are brought up in defensive pieces that don’t give an equal voice to even their most sensible critics, and nothing is mentioned in regards to donations and personal/professional relationships, it does become cause for skepticism.”


CurrencyChampion: “”Pushing an agenda” comes into play when it has no reason to be there. For example, if you bring up sexual orientation and identity issues in every review, even the one about space fighter combat with no real characters, you’re not acting as a reviewer, you’re acting as a single-issue writer masquerading as a reviewer. I can understand someone having an axe to grind, but a game review isn’t the place to do it.”


Anon44: “Journalists are pushing an agenda when they publish their socio-political opinions. While it is perhaps unrealistic to expect them to keep their political beliefs entirely out of their writing, it shouldn’t be making it into the headline, or consuming the bulk of the article. Or being the entire article. http://kotaku.com/5937012/how-women-could-easily-lose-all-their-rights-as-told-by-a-game
Patricia Hernandez is a frequent offender, as is The Escapist’s Jim Sterling and Moviebob, but their video format makes it a lot harder for me to search their content to find the links.”


2. Do you think there are any “agendas” that are okay to push in game reviews, or not at all?

Anon36: “No. Not at all. A review is not a place for something like that. A game is a game, it’s like a book. You don’t call a writer and say “hey, the people in your book are harming the environment too much! Rewrite it and make them recycle actively!”. You just don’t do something like that. To me, a game is a story. It’s not how someone thinks, it doesn’t promote any kind of view, it’s just an interactive story. Some games more so than others.”


Anon37: “Reviews should remain on topic: readers are not there to hear about how a game promotes vile undercurrents in society, they want to know when it releases, how are the controls, how are the graphics, will it be online, will there be updates, is it couch co-op, are there constant glitches, how big will the online games be, is it a persistent universe or instanced, are there demos to try, is it on PC/XBOne/PS4 etc etc. Personal injects are OK (The controls were awkward or unresponsive, load times felt especially long, enemy AI is poor and detracts from the fights) as long as they remain within the scope of the game itself.”


Anon38: Combined with above.


Anon39: “I think “agenda pushing” is a disservice to gamers reading gaming news sites. Gamers are a diverse audience and don’t see eye-to-eye on every issue. I feel that game reviews should try to remain balanced with respect to the game’s themes. Not every game which takes on “challenging” issues is a masterpiece and not every game that follows the “same old tropes” is awful.”


Anon40: “1. Quality. 2. Quality 3. Quality”


Anon41: “Again, I’m wanting to read about games, how they play, etc., not to hear someone start dancing on a soapbox about how a game reminds them that the world is a bad place because of whatever reason. “


D. A: “Personally, I believe it should be avoided as much as possible in reviews. A reviewer should aim to leave as many biases behind upon reviewing a game. Critique the game from multiple perspectives, including those that contradict your own. In the end, there’s nothing wrong with pushing an agenda, but each side must be ready and willing to accept input. Otherwise, there will be conflict.”


Anon42: “The agenda of higher quality gameplay. I feel social issues belong in clearly marked OP-ED articles. “


Anon43: “Anything in relation to criminal allegations of the private lives of prominent individuals should be avoided at all costs if there are no actual criminal charges on record. Besides that, I believe games journalists should be free to explore any topic relevant to the industry and the culture. ”


CurrencyChampion: “Bluntly, no. Your beliefs may inform your opinions and writing, but they should not govern them. I consider this a bit of a truism for life (even if I don’t always follow it myself).”


Anon44: “In contrast to his marxist-feminism-pushing videos, Jim Sterling’s videos that expose and push against anti-consumer practices of some developers and publishers are absolutely needed in game reviews. The gaming press should serve gamers, not political ideologies”


3. Do you have an issue with any of these three things, and if so (or if not), why?

  • Statement a: “I think this game has poorly designed female body types and it’s somewhat sexist in how it portrays them” -> Game changes body types
  • Statement b: “I think this game has poorly designed weaponry and I find it very boring and unintuitive” -> Game changes weapons
  • Statement c: “I think this game has made poor choices in promoting actual weapons and linking to arm manufactures in doing so and it’s glorifying war by doing this” -> Game changes weapons


Statement a: “It depends. Does the body look weird because e.g the upper body is supershort compared to legs and armsl? Or is it simply because they made female bodies skinny and curvy, with big boobs? If it’s the first, then I completely agree. If it’s the second, however, then I have a very big issue with it. I think it is sad that devs are pressured into changing the looks of their games, simply out of fear of being labelled sexist. Do I think it’s ridiculous when I see female characters with huuuge boobs? yes, I do. But usually those characters aren’t really in the games I play. Or, the characters aren’t all that important to the story. ”

Statement b: ” It depends on the game. If the game is all about realism, then no, I have no issue with it. But if it’s a game where you shoot with fire and your bullets can bend, then Yes. You can’t really say it feels unintuitive – if it doesn’t really exist.”

Statement c: “No. If a game is actually promoting real weapons and linking to places where you can buy real weapons, that’s just wrong. Do I think they promote war? No, but they shouldn’t be telling people where they can buy real guns. I don’t think they should change their weapons, but they should definitely stop linking to them.”



Statement a: “First part: no problem. People are allowed to complain, although I would argue that this is lacking in detail or constructive feedback. (How is she supposed to fight with DDD’s and metal high heels?!) People are always welcome to their opinion. Part B: I’ll admit that I take issue with what I perceive as a game developer feeling unable to maintain their original artistic vision due to outside influences, especially if the influences are from outside the scope of gaming. This goes across the board, whether they change it because the ones funding it don’t feel it’ll sell well enough as is or from those outside the process putting pressure on to make it fit within their own social sensitivities. I personally feel this is a hindrance to free speech, albeit the “funding” example is just a reality that has to be negotiated with. Nothing makes me happier than hearing that a game dev team will have complete control over artistry, story (or lack thereof) and mechanics. “

Statement b: “If weapons are central to the actual gameplay, it would only make sense to alter them based on the feedback you’d get from a beta tester and such. Weapons are tools, not characters, so they should be relatively easy to change without altering the original intention of the developer. “

Statement c: “(Nice, I’m really liking these questions!) This is not really a hindrance to the artistic team so no free speech issue here, but the criticism is based on, once again, a social issue from outside the scope of games and not constructive. If enough of the demographic that they are trying to sell this game to has an issue, then they are marketing to the wrong demographic. It would be like marketing Call of Duty on the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence website. At the same time, they would be wise to note the reaction in consideration of future projects and investigate new untapped demographics. Under the above mentioned example, I would disagree in the action being taken.”



Statement a: “Yes, if the body types were made so for a reason that the reviewer might’ve missed (satire, for example, as with “Dragon’s Crown” ‘s amazon and Sorceress). No, if it was because of the game being poorly made. If it was because it lazily panders to stereotyped standards of beauty then…I don’t care about the game, porn can be found with a quick google search, I don’t get how this is still a viable marketing option and I find it insulting to me as a consumer…although I doubt if this were the case the game would change.”

Statement b: “Not really, the dev listened to a critic and changed something to enhance the experience.”

Statement c: “It would depend on more than one reviewer, but if it’s linking to arm manufacturers yes. There’s a difference between a fantasy and reality, and if you blur the line, or promote this blurring thing might get dangerous. Also, while the ESRB rating exists, it doesn’t mean stores are acting responsibly in keeping minors away from mature games, so you’d be (almost literally) putting a gun in a child’s hand.”



“I feel uncertain about all three of these. I think these things need to be considered on a case-by-case basis and taking into consideration the context, purpose, and intended audience of the work.

As a general rule, I don’t think it’s a great idea to insist that all games should appeal to everyone. I don’t think that can be achieved, nor is it productive. That’s why I supported The Fine Young Capitalists: the real solution to diversity in gaming is diversity in the people making games, not “policing” the content being created by the existing studios/developers in order to appease critics who might still not enjoy the games even after changes are made.”



Statement a: “Bullshit. Lots of different kinds of people like to look at big tits or ripped abs. Say: “the female character design may be too much for some people” or “cheesecake alert”.”

Statement b: “Fine. Relates to gameplay and is perfectly legitimate criticism of a game.”

Statement c: “Bullshit. If the game is shilling for the NRA, then INVESTIGATE and REPORT. A review is not the appropriate place for this discussion. Of course a mention with a link to your investigation would be excellent & expected. However, if I want to hear about the geopolitical ramifications of arms dealing I wouldn’t be reading a game review.”



“All three are opinions which are expected in reviews. The third one feels more like it’s pushing an agenda than the other two for sure. I don’t take too much issue with any of them. They are assertive that it’s their opinion, and they don’t need to spin too much to reach conclusions (although the third one is pretty borderline). “



Statement a: “No issue as long as (a) these are the only body type options and (b) the developer is not being accused of being sexist as a result of their work. Preferably, the term “sexist” should be dropped as it creates a false dichotomy in an artistic medium.
a) If there is only one collection of body types, this is a valid complaint. However, if there are multiple options that are distinguishable from one another that the reviewer may have different views on, the reviewer has made the mistake of concentrating too heavily on the negative aspects while ignoring the relative positives.
b) A developer should not be accused of being sexist in any form as their work is not always directly reflective of their personality. This is especially the case in works of fiction where a writer may wish to create a fantasy world that does not abide by reality’s social norms.”

Statement b: “No issue as long as the reviewer elaborates on the issues they see in the game.”

Statement c: “Issue as the reviewer is making unverifiable claims that the game is actively having an effect on society. Whether the effect is positive or negative is irrelevant.”



“I’m kind of a proponent of find a game you like and play it then ignore the others. If I had any of those issues I just wouldn’t play the game and that’s generally my reaction to people who have these kinds of complaints. I have less of a problem with the second one because boring and unintuitive gameplay is a mechanical concern. It is less about broader social issues that people are guaranteed to be wildly varied in opinion on and more about the “fun” factor of gameplay. “



“I have no issue with either. It is the creator’s conscious duty to make changes if he or she deems it necessary. Not acting upon it means that the creator had no desire to go through with it, plain and simple.”


Currency Champion:

Statement a + c: “I have problems with both of these for the same reason: they’re asserting subjective matters not relevant to the game itself, thereby adding political baggage to their review.”

Statement b: “This statement is much more pertinent to a review, as it directly pertains to the game. Still a bit subjective, but this is an element where subjectivity is expected, and should be allowed.”



Statement a: “I encourage journalists to advocate for more variety in body types both male and female, but to decry a a particular figure or presentation sexist is not acceptable. This is subjective. Porn star Sasha Grey, who self-identifies as bisexual and entered hardcore porn at the age of 18, stated “What one person sees as degrading and disgusting and bad for women might make some women feel empowered and beautiful and strong.”
Personally, I am as eager to see Heroes of Newerth’s Wretched Hag as I am to see Diablo 3’s female barbarian and Soul Calibur’s Ivy or Beyond Good and Evil’s Jade. That doesn’t mean I need some political ideologue screaming at me every time Ivy’s boobs are jiggling across my screen about how I’m oppressing women. I’m not. Christ, my wife loves Ivy. If a game added new characters that were more varied, I would be pleased. If a game remodeled existing characters, or removed them, I would be outraged, regardless of which characters were removed. Yes, I would still be mad if they made the Wretched Hag less ugly. Art is subjective and there is no reason to pressure/force artists to change their artistic vision.”

Statement b: “In terms of game mechanics and intuitiveness, this can be looked at objectively and statistically. In terms of ‘boring’, that’s subjective and while its not the sort of comment I’d have an issue with, its hardly useful.”

Statement c: “Sometimes, a degree realism is paramount to the game. Some games are going to have more need for this than others – a famous example, Goldeneye 007 for the N64, didn’t need it much at all, for while it used real-world weapon models, it gave every one of them fictitious names – even Bond’s signature Walther PPK was simply renamed to ‘PP7’. I don’t feel this would fly so well in a game that makes a bigger effort to portray a ‘real’ world, and that it is therefore folly to chastise developers for simply depicting reality.”


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