PixieJenni talks GamerGate with both 'sides'

Game Reviews and Pushing Agendas (part 6)

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?

Anon45: “I count “pushing an agenda” as consistently driving at the same issue regardless of context. For example, nearly all reviews judging aspects of games by their “social importance” rather than the gameplay itself. If I may clarify, TotalBiscuit recently uploaded a video that made me realize that we all push agendas at all times; PC gamers may push hardware requirements and framerate; RPG fans my push length of the game and quality of artwork; MMO fans may push endgame content importance; but I believe social issues are agendas that should stick to op-eds not reviews.”


Anon46: “The magazine preview of Senran Kagura that dismissed the game as nothing more than a breast-physics simulator was very annoying to me. While the game isn’t my cup of tea, it shouldn’t be the previewer’s place to dismiss the game based on one aspect. There are straight females who enjoy the game, and others who like it despite the sexuality aspect. Beat ’em ups are a cool genre, and the localizers have suggested that the story elements are excellent as well. Either way, even if the game is horrible, a preview that actually covered gameplay elements in some degree was warranted, I think.”


Anon47: “In case of game reviewers, where the reviewers intentionally act a certain way, which he/she shouldn’t. For example, a reviewer, that’s a good friend with some game developers, will write positive feedback, even if the game is really bad. Both parties (reviewer and developers) will profit from this; the reviewer gets more clicks on his/her website and has helped his/her friend and the game developer’s game will have a brighter future. This comes at the expense of other parties.”


@NorthernDragon: ” Every video Anita Sarkeesian has ever made. Carolyne Petit’s review of Grand Theft Auto 5. Katherine Cross’ article on GamerGate. Those are all examples of pushing an agenda in my opinion. Anita Sarkeesian takes many situations in games grossly out of context to claim they promote real world misogyny and sexism. A stance that one Jack Thompson (disbarred Florida lawyer) once took about violence in games causing violence in real life. He attempted to sue game publishers for the violence in their games, with the full intent of having games banned, but his assertions were refuted by 9 federal courts as being without merit. Anita comes along and has the same message but about a slightly different subject and she gains awards and monetary gain. Carolyne Petit’s review of Grand Theft Auto 5 scored the game a high score (I believe a 9 out of 10), and applauded pretty much every aspect of the game, but she had to include a paragraph about violence against women in a game where the intent is playing the worst kinds of human beings as possible, who go around and indiscriminately murder anyone they want to regardless of sex. No mention was made of the countless thousands of men being butchered, but an entire paragraph had to be devoted to the slightest transgressions made against female non-player characters. Katherine Cross called GamerGate an attempt at silencing women, completely ignoring #notyourshield in the process.”


Anon48: “I consider “pushing an agenda” to be pushing any sort of belief/opinion that is not related to the core gameplay onto a game. It’s not always bad, and it can sometimes enhance the storytelling of a game. It becomes problematic when it crosses the line from developers adding things because they actually believe it will improve the game to developers adding things simply to avoid bad consequences. In other words, when it stops being simple criticism and starts to become a veiled threat. The amount of corruption and incestuousness of game media only blurs the line and makes it harder to engage in legitimate criticism.”


Anon49: “Essentially, any attempt to use games in order to advance a political cause. An excellent example is this article: http://www.returnofkings.com/42109/how-zoe-quinn-screwed-her-way-through-the-video-game-industry This is largely a smear piece, which attempts to use Gamer Gate to attack feminism and promote Men’s Rights (an admirable cause, but full of terrible, terrible people and actual misogynists).”


Anon50: “I’m going to bring up another trope. Anvilicious: Anvilicious describes a writer’s and/or director’s use of an artistic element, be it line of dialogue, visual motif, or plot point, to so obviously or unsubtly convey a particular Message that they may as well etch it onto an anvil and drop it on your head. To make it short being heavy handed. We all have our personal gripes with certain games. PC Gamers tend to be more on the technical spectrum especially when it comes to port. “SJW’s” Tend to focus more on the social political implications of games. The problem with the latter comes from the force of how they’re doing it. By pushing their opinions so far to the reader they’re alienating those who really don’t care for their political viewings. They wanted to read about the game and whether it is a good purchase, and while it might be liked by some with like minded beliefs…If you’re trying to garner an audience that doesn’t really care for that sort of stuff…then you’re not doing a good job as a writer.”


Anon51: “Really? Mirror’s Edge might be my favourite game if it weren’t for the rushed storyline. I’ve recently found out that having Faith running from the cops wasn’t because of it being a Parkour game, but because the game was cattering to my male fantasies of seeing women suffering. I usually wouldn’t care about being insulted, but now it appears that for ME2 there will be a higher emphasis put on stopping the free runing to stand up to the protagonists’ enemies. So, a shitty EA shooter. Fuck that. “


Anon52: “In this case, pushing an agenda (i.e. the social justice thing in the gaming media) basically means creating an environment where those who agree with you can flourish but those who don’t are suppressed. By heavily supporting indie “games” that ignore gameplay in favor of sending a social justice message and ignoring indie games that don’t, you create an environment where only indie game developers who want to send a message, rather make actual games, are able to succeed.”


Anon53: “I think it’s pretty obvious that some websites try hard to push agendas and I think everybody knows what that means. Kotaku is the greatest offender, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to comb through their website and articles that exist entirely to berate and belittle their readers. There was the article that described being a white male as living life on the easiest difficulty, Gone Home (a thoroughly poor game) was given high marks because it featured (briefly and off screen) a lesbian couple, a bizarre fascination with minimizing gamers as “dudebros” and “neckbeards” (how can you be both?), games given poor scores because they are deemed sexist, games being given poor reputations because players in game did potentially offensive stuff (Watchdogs) and in general a strangely ardent determination to portray all women who support them as being angels while those who oppose them have “internalized misogyny” or are “sock puppets” when it’s on twitter. Giantbomb is similar, explicitly censoring it’s comment section of any material that goes against what the writer has said usually on the basis of the comment being somehow sexist, racist, ableist or just generally offensive to the writer. Add in all of those other websites that released though “Gamers Are Dead” articles within HOURS of each other and I think it’s easy to see a coordinated agenda that seems focused on propping up an elite few over a subsidized minority; something I am ardently opposed to.”


Anon54: “I believe there are some prime examples found on RockPaperShotgun.com by Nathan Grayson when he was employed there. The first instance is a Blizzard interview about Heroes of the Storm, where-in he ambushes the interviewee with fairly loaded language, ends with a statement about being “uncomfortable”, and also writes a follow-up article where he pushes a fairly emotion laden attack with the line “Tears-welling-in-my-eyes-as-I-type-this sad”. The developer in question was effectively pressured to apologise in the days afterwards.

An earlier instance is slightly tamer, another Grayson interview, but this time with a Cyberpunk 2077 developer. The second question is a reasonable probing about the nature of sex appeal in their trailer, by the follow up question is heavily loaded attack injecting awkward “disempowering” phrasing and heavy assumption. Both these were at a time when I was a daily reader of RPS, and along with a slew of other articles (roughly 5 within a week at the time I left) eventually convinced me to look elsewhere.”


Anon55: “I’d rather not visit Kotaku since I’d rather not give them the page clicks, but they frequently would suggest things are a fact without evidence which I would describe as “pushing an agenda”. “


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

Anon45: “Oops. See above.”


Anon46: “I think that you can certainly speak your mind about particular issues or changes you’d like to see, but these should be kept separate from the review by either writing about them in a different article or at least keep it to a closing paragraph or some such. I also think that painting people with a broad brush as horrible should not be included anywhere.”


Anon47: “Agendas have absolutely no place in a game reviews, even if it’s positive.”


@NorthernDragon: “I think the only agendas that should be pushed in gaming should be ones that are to the benefit of gaming. So for example an agenda to revive a long dead genre of games, or an agenda to end nickle and diming consumers for everything their worth.”


Anon48: No answer given.


Anon49: “None at all. I’d be equally annoyed if conservatives attempted to use gaming to convince me to vote Republican. Games should be apolitical; again, I use CNN for my political discussions.”


Anon50: “Any Agenda can be added into a review, it’s going to happen simply due to human nature alone. HOWEVER, Subtlety is key, remember if you force somebody to believe your views by repeatedly wacking them over the head with the Anvil, then they’re just going to be more resistant. Be subtle, careful on letting political or social jargon just LEAK through the page. Same with anything else really.”


Anon51: “No. Couches are for gaming, not for activism.”


Anon52: “As I said above, game reviews should be exclusively a description of the game itself, presented without opinion. The only way an agenda could affect them like this would be to never produce a review of the game in the first place or to only review games that support the agenda, which would undoubtedly not go unnoticed.”


Anon53: See above.


Anon54: “I believe it’s hard to push an agenda just by looking at most games. I think trying to push an agendas doesn’t generally work if you’re simply sticking a label on games you feel are “problematic” since you are targeting anecdotal instances rather than having a properly developed discussion. Trying to insert it into a game review will mostly likely dilute the readers understanding of the game itself, leaving them with the idea that you only care about a particular aspect meeting your approval. Some anti-consumer technologies, like always-online DRM, are something to be combated as they directly effect the playability of each game they’re applied to (as well as game preservation once the DRM servers go offline). This is something that should be marked down, especially when it is unnecessary (e.g. single-player games)”


Anon55: “There does seem to be evidence of agendas as shown with the connections people found with Silverstring media (not sure if I got name off now) and they seemed to be all set on pushing a particular agenda to some absurd degrees. [PixieJenni note: attached was the DiGRA thing]


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: “Yes and no. I think it’s up to the game designers. I think a strong backlash from a vocal minority making the designers change the appearance (especially from people who never planned to play the game in the first place [I’m looking at TERA and other KMMOs in this case]) is inappropriate.”

Statement b: “Yes and no. I think it would depend on the context of the game? If the game was not intended to focus on shooting and be more a narrative, this would split the team and end up as halfassed on both ends. But if the content IS supposed to be on shooting I think it’s necessary.”

Statement c: “Yes, I find this inappropriate. I strongly believe that violence in video games has no actual correlation to violence in the real world. While I may play a shooting game, going for headshots, watching blood and gore, etc. with no problem I get physically ill seeing people actually shot in video (I’ve only seen one or two, but I nearly had panic attacks both times)”



Statement a: “I do have a problem with this; I think artist should be allowed to create art. Sometimes art is offensive. In most other mediums, we allow it to be so and to be judged as a work. I think statements like this and others attached to them (often insulting the developers or those who have played the game) create a hostile environment for artists.”

Statement b: “This makes me slightly uncomfortable (it would be less it was a mechanics issue), but in the end I think this is passable. It’s simple criticism, not accusatory or attempting to condemn the work in any way.”

Statement c: “I have the biggest problem with this of the three. This statement has little to do with evaluating the work as art/media and condemns the choices of the artist based on political situations entirely separate from the game. Not only is it condemning the game, it seems to be condemning arms manufacturers as a whole, which has nothing to do with video games. I am not a fan of war or the production of weapons, but this does not mean that art should be condemned for portraying them, even in a positive light.”



“Yes, I do have issue with it. I think it’s a huge violation of the developer’s freedom. They should have the freedom to design their own game the way they want. People are allowed to voice there opinions, but they shouldn’t force game developers to change it. Game developers just wants to develop games and we should respect it. Even if a game developer creates an extremely bad game, they have the right to make it. In the end, the people will vote with their money anyway.”



Statement a: “Yes. The developer chose to go for a character design that was what they envisioned when planning the game. The complaint can be said to be calling the developer sexist, and the complaint itself has no bearing on anything as the character is fictional and their design has no bearing on the ability to play or complete the game. It’s an instance where a developer, not wanting to be considered sexist, has their creativity subdued to acquiesce to an opinion that, in the end, holds no benefit to the game. And also, there is never an instance of anyone complaining that male designs are equal sexist, so it’s a huge double standard.”

Statement b: “Yes and No. Yes because again the designs are the creative ideas of the developer and the developer shouldn’t have to be strong-armed into changing the designs because someone has the opinion that they are boring and unintuitive. No because if the game has, say, a particular focus on weapons then part of the enjoyment may come from choosing a weapon that fits an aesthetic style you’re going for. This is true of a game like Dark Souls that has many weapons and one of them is a sword that looks like it’s melting and is a very terrible looking weapon. No one chooses it because the design is terrible (it’s also weak) so they look for something that will fit what kind of character they are going for better.”

Statement c: “Yes, RE Jack Thompson. There is no conclusive proof that what occurs in a game has any bearing on real life choices. A developer shouldn’t be forced to change his/her game because someone is of the opinion that it encourages a specific real world action. The developer is not responsible for the real world actions of every individual that plays their game, and until there is conclusive evidence that games affect real world actions then they can’t be held responsible to the point they should have to change their game based on an opinion that holds no scientific merit.”



No answer given.



“I take no issue with any of these; companies should react to their consumer’s desires, after all.”



“One and Three. For the reasons I stated above.
The Former, while I do agree on NOT wanting to see more women like that it should be up to the creator to do it. If they’re being pressured by their publisher to do it, then you’re just censoring them. Also, they’re are some women who actually DO enjoy that portrayal of women and sometimes find it empowering. You also have to consider whether it make sense in the context of the game, (Like Chun-Li’s thighs being very muscular, seeing that she mainly kicks it’s not hard to see why her thighs are the way they are.) Sometimes I do think feminist complain about these certain elements without context or reasoning behind it.

The third one is a clear assumption of what the product is based on the views of the creator. They’re speaking FOR THE artist, and more so creates a bigger issue of accusation of the CREATORS part. Do they ever consider that most people who play the game knows the name and arm manufacturers of the weapon anyway? (Like Many FPS fans do, just ask a Goldeneye fan about the guns in the game and they’ll give you an ACCURATE real like version of it.) From there you must ask whether the game glorifies war, or already fuels the need of those who already do?

And in the end that’s another thing a critic should do. MAKE THE READER QUESTION. Forcing your opinion won’t let them do that, give them the picture give them details and they’ll ask for it themselves. You don’t need to push it or knock them over the head with the anvil to do it. The Second Definition lacks any detail, what makes them poorly designed, why are they boring? Does it have technical issues? EXPLAIN CRITIC, EXPLAIN!”



Statement a: “It depends on the game. Usually, I’d rather developers’ resources not being spent on something I don’t care like realism in VIDEO GAMES.”

Statement b: “If its boring, then sure, change it. If it is unintuitive… I don’t know, games don’t usually fuck up there and make you stab with a halberd”

Statement c: “”Actual weapons”. Unless this is some mil sim, I don’t care.  “t’s glorifying war by doing this”. Someone who thinks highly of war won’t be swerved for or against it by video games. Wasn’t this issue beaten to death with the games vs violence before?”



Statement a: “It depends. Sexism is bad, but most of what people view as sexism in games isn’t. Female characters are heavily sexualized, true, but so are male characters. Quick, name 10 male characters who aren’t chiseled, musclebound Adonises. (Japanese characters don’t count, feminists never complain about Japanese games for some reason despite their female characters being even more sexualized than the West’s.)”

Statement b: “While ultimately the developer should have the final say in how the game is made, this is still a legitimate complaint. Even though the boringness of the weapons is an opinion on the part of the player, if they’re so broken that it directly affects gameplay they should probably be changed.”

Statement c: “This falls under the same category as sexism complaints; It basically boils down to “remove X feature, it might offend someone”. War is bad, but acknowledging that guns exist doesn’t cause it to happen.”



Statement a: “Blatant censorship. Many games are stylized to have unrealistic anatomy. A good example being Dragon’s Crown which was heavily inspired Frank Franzetta’s gorgeous artwork. DC featured exaggerated anatomy on all of it’s characters with ludicrously buff men (excluding the wizard who was just cute due to being a spell caster) and well endowed women. Both sexes were sexualized and heavily stylized and the end result was a beautiful design. If you removed that art style from the game it would lose a lot of charm. “

Statement b: “Good! This is simply being critical of gameplay, something that journalists who have early access to the game should be doing often! A critic shouldn’t just hand out the company line, if the weapons are poorly designed say something. You’ll be vindicated if they switch things up and you receive a more interesting game. Be careful with the unintuitive bit however, some games are incredibly innovative and in depth but can be hard to get into: Dwarf Fortress being a prime example.”

Statement c: “Censorship. If the developer wants to glorify war that is there option. Consider that art is only an expression of how it’s creators feel. Video games can’t be held up as art if we’re so concerned with limiting the amount of things that can be expressed through it. These again ties in with my fear of a small few wielding inordinate power over what can be produced.”



Statement a: “The initial part seems more to do with graphical design, but the second part could be attributed to that visual, or how their character acts. It’s not entirely clear, but it’d be normal to assume the writer has basic problems with the physical portrayal of women. Body changes would suggest the developer wasn’t entirely happy with their own visual design decisions, or at least enough to be pressured into the changes to meet some perceived audience.”

Statement b: “Assuming the writing properly explains how or why they don’t enjoy the weapons I would think any changes by the developer would be in an attempt to improve the core gameplay of the game. Weapon design usually has some technical aspect about that can be diagnosed (e.g. impacts feel too “light”, not enough “damage”, poor mix of effects).”

Statement c: “I don’t personally find real branded weapons in games as an attractive feature, but I understand some people may enjoy the added immersion it gives (especially in “modern” settings). War is a fairly prevalent theme in games, as are guns… so unless this was pointed out on every single shooter, it’s hard to see it having much of an effect. I do find it somewhat distasteful to tie real gun promotion to games though (especially given the scapegoating of games done in relation to real world shootings).”



“I think there’s a strange anti-sex feminism promoted right now on sites like Kotaku in regards to how they comment on character designs. So changing the characters in a game because someone dislikes the sexuality or depiction of a character as a sexual being, just seems inappropriate to me. I think changes such as that are mostly done at this point in time, because writers on sites like Kotaku will promote them more should games make changes that show they’re aligning with their politics regarding female sexuality.

Making changes to gameplay such as with weapons because it affected the gameplay poorly seems sensible, though doing it because of politics would seem inappropriate.”



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