PixieJenni talks GamerGate with both 'sides'

Game Reviews and Pushing Agendas (part 9)

on September 24, 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?

Anon81: “Basing reviews on bias. Positive scores for games that fit a certain narrative, negative scores/slandering for games that dont.
Opinion pieces that are heavily laden with negative stereotypes and shaming gamers for liking/playing games that do not follow their agenda. these opinion articles are often hard to distinguish from factual articles, which is why i think they have no place on a game journalism site but should be moved elsewhere to a platform more suited for this kind of discussion.”


Anon82: “To me a person is pushing an agenda is when he or she views the world through a lens that is so focused on a single or range of issues that those issues affect everything they do, whether they have a natural place or not. In respect of proper journalism, it has no place. In terms of general thinking, it’s fine subject to ensuring that the persons to whom the thoughts are being communicated understand that the thoughts do generate from the filter. I can’t give you a gaming example but I can give you another. When the Rotherham report came out, some at the Guardian were quick to attempt to play down the report’s finding that fear of accusations of being labelled a racist was a significant factor in the failures to protect children from organised sexual abuse. This betrayed an agenda to protect anti-racist activists and their tactics from any possible criticism.”


Anon83: “Any Bullying, shaming, or otherwise forceful tactics to try and convince gamers to be feminists, or attempts at excluding other viewpoints or flat out suggesting some readers are against equality if they’re not feminists. http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/04/06/misogyny-sexism-and-why-rps-isnt-shutting-up/ for example is very one sided, and claims that anyone that wants to talk about a bigger picture is distorting the issue.”


Anon84: “http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/224400/Gamers_dont_have_to_be_your_audience_Gamers_are_over.php


Anon85: “Intimidating game developers, writers and journalists into resigning when they don’t agree with your views. It’s fine if you want to blog about issues in gaming, that’s actually great. I think the hobby as a medium can really benefit from having more views heard, but I don’t think that these particular articles or views should be presented as news or embedded in coverage of game releases and holiday sales trends, etc.”


Anon86: “Whenever I write a piece meant to spread a certain idea to influence people who read it, it’s agenda pushing. It’s not an inherently bad thing, it’s just not a thing that should be involved on gaming. You don’t see articles about aeromodelism saying how the predominance of german WWII aircraft among modelists is oppressive and anti-Semite. It’s an insane concept, yet it’s such a predominant subject in video gaming websites that there is an image circulating around 4chan with several headlines for Kotaku articles, one worse than the other, asking you to see if you can figure out which one are true and which are made up. And they are all articles published by Kotaku, most from the same writer. As for examples, just look the 10 articles published in a space of 24 hours talking about how Gamers Are Dead, or anything written by Patricia Hernandez.”


Anon87: “September 9 at night, #Gamergate was flooded with hundreds of bots linking to this ars techinica article http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/09/new-chat-logs-show-how-4chan-users-pushed-gamergate-into-the-national-spotlight/ Bots on twitter are not cheap, someone is spending money to impose their side of the story, and label us for history as sexist troll, which is not true”


Anon88: “It’s difficult to pinpoint a single text as pushing an agenda becuse this takes a lot of writing over a lot of time and is usually done through editorials and the like (see Leigh Alexander’s recent activity). I don’t currently recall any literal review actually pushing an agenda.”


Anon89: “Putting politics, or personal objectives above the task at hand. Reviewing the game. http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/grand-theft-auto-v-review/1900-6414475/ First let’s get this out of the way. The harassment of Carolyn Petit is bad. No one should harass Carolyn Petit. That said, is misogyny really a good reason to mark down a game? How does the misogyny affect the gameplay? Is what she found misogynistic universally misogynistic? Will all players find it misogynistic? Misogyny is a VERY serious accusation. It means the fear or hatred of women. Is rockstar actually coming out and endorsing the hatred of women is a clear way, or is the reviewer finding rhetoric that may or may not be procedural? Hating women is bad. Again getting that out of the way. Don’t hate women. But by having strip clubs in a game is that really the hatred of women? Is acts against violence meant to show a hatred of women? But what about all the acts of violence against men? This a very complicated issue. Perhaps it was better off saved for an Op/Ed. Granted this was good review, with only a single point taken off, but many will ask, was that really an appropriate thing to mark down a game for. Many games have made me uncomfortable but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. Another example would be one of many Polygon reviews that never mention the gameplay once, and instead focus on things the reviewer found made them “uncomfortable”.”


Anon90: “There was a review of a game recently where the game was given a poor score because the reviewer was offended by a scantily-clad female witch with unrealistically large breasts. That’s pushing an agenda and not looking at the game for what it is. Also, the relentless attack on gamers, the bullying, calling them nerds and loose cannons and shutins is pushing an agenda, that you’re superior to all detractors. I’d give concrete examples, but they’re out there and I’m a bit pressed for time.”


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

Anon81: “The only agenda that should be allowed to push is the one of consumer protection.”


Anon82: “Pushing an agenda is fine subject to the clear declaration that that is what you’re doing.”


Anon83: “Better to keep them out, gaming is for everyone. No reason to divide it with political views. Still fine for Op-eds ofc”


Anon84: “Pointing out something that is unacceptably racist/sexist/homophobic in a game is totally fine, but it needs to be clear and not just the journlists ‘opinion’. eg. blackface = damn clear, A girl swimming in a bikini in the tropics = not clear: what’s the context? Why can’t this girl wear a bikini to go swimming? Is it sexist or just sexy?”


Anon85: “Went back and looked at this question after answering the third. I think my answer to the third question is also relevant here.
OK to push: “I don’t agree with the representation of this group in this game, and I think that it takes away form the experience for me.”
Not OK to push: “This game is great (because the dev is my friend).””


Anon86: “No. I am a grown man and I can make up my own mind, and children have this crazy thing called Parents that are responsible for taking care of ‘em. If I want to be informed on the matters of politics or ideology, there are books and websites specialized on this subject that I can look it up. This is why people say the agenda is pushed. Nobody goes to game websites to read about feminism or racism or any of those things.”


Anon87: “If any agenda goes into a videogame, should be by its creator, never by critics or journalists harrasment”


Anon88: “They are never ok and should be kept to op-eds.”


Anon89: “Game reviews should be about the games. If the reviewer wishes to address why the feel are societal problems, or problems in the industry put them in op/ed pieces. Clearly labeled op ed pieces.”


 Anon90: “How about the agenda that games should be good? That they should have riveting stories, crisp gameplay, moving soundtracks, stellar graphics, and offer a complete, satisfying experience straight out of the box?”


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


“If the outcry comes from the gamers that are part of the target audience (not the press) and the company is concerned about sales to their targeted demographic, then it is their right to change their game. But a game should not be changed to pander to other demographics if their target demographic has no issue with the game. Sometimes the vocal/outraged individual would never have bought the game in the first place.
The job of the press is to be the voice of their readers without going against their wishes or trying to influence opinions.”



“I don’t take issue with any of those things subject to the motivating factor on those making the changes being analysis of the criticism and good business sense. It’s when it’s motivated by fear of being labelled regardless of believing the criticism is wrong or that the vast majority of the market to whom the game is aimed do not feel the same way as a small minority who, because of their stance on, say feminism or gun control, a desire to push their agenda, may not ever have intended to purchase the game.”



Statement a: “I think it’s a artists/company’s right to depict them as they want, as it is our right to not buy the game if we dislike it.”

Statement b: “Usually easily modded anyway, so it’s not a huge issue to begin with. Good as pre-release honest feedback if the devs agree. Could benefit the game, but hardly the worst crime a dev could commit.”

Statement c: “Not really, i often am a fan of realism myself. I’d only see it as a problem if they constantly praise or advertise the weapon ingame.”



“I take issue only with the last one, because it babies the audience and assumes they are not able to make decisions on thier own. Unless of course, we are talking about an E rated game – then of course it’s wrong.”



“Couple things. First, I looked at all of the comments beforehand and I have made a distinction between someone involved with the project and a game journalist or consumer. Second, I’m going to assume these statements and hypothetical changes were made during development, and not post-release.

Statement a: “Someone working on the project: OK. Someone not working on the project: Not OK.”

Statement b: “Someone working on the project: OK. Someone not working on the project: Not OK.”

Statement c: “”Someone working on the project: OK. Someone not working on the project: Not OK.”

See the pattern here? It’s completely reasonable for a developer on a project and say “I don’t like the direction we’re taking the game, let’s review this.” It’s completely unacceptable for someone not on a game and otherwise has no relation to it except maybe the fact that they’ll consume it, to go and tell a developer how they should make their game.

Also, criticizing post-release and saying “I don’t like how you did this, so I find your game less fun than I probably could have. Here is a suggestion in a review that would probably correct this for me so if you ever make a sequel or something, I could be satisfied.” is fine. Saying “I hated this game because this this and that and I demand that you do it this way from now on.” is not.”



Statement a: “It depends on what the developer envisioned his work to be. Dragon Crown got a lot of flak for the way the Witch was designed, with exaggerated proportions, but all the other characters had their proportions exaggerated too. It was just part of the artistic theme of the game. You need to look at the entire visual context before making the sort of statement that, again, Kotaku made, about Dragon’s Crown. Having female characters who perform feats of strength or power looking like they are supermodels is something that bugs me every now and again, but usually on games like this the males look like models too, so to me they just seem to use the same logic Hollywood uses when hiring actors: make ‘em visually appealing. Again, artistic theme and visual context.
Meryl (from MGS4) had a burly, almost manly body with muscles showing up, and nobody said one single word of praise to Hideo Kojima, but when he designed a character that walks around semi-naked (Quiet, from MGS5), people went bananas, even though he stated that the character was created basically to see if japanese cosplayers could pull it off. As for video games with body sliders and customization tools that allow you to design your character, but don’t give you an option to run around playing as a fat person, well, who cares for realism when I can play FIFA with morbidly obese players.”

Statement b: ““Poorly” designed is subjective, as to what constitute weapon design poverty, although usually when you place a badly designed weapon side by side with a good one, almost everybody will point out to the better one. But then again, if it’s the developer’s choice to use a boring or unintuitive weapon, he has the final say. Saints Row 4’s Dumbstep gun is unintuitive and horrible to look at, but fun as hell to use in game.”

Statement c: “Again, depends on the developer’s intent. Spec Ops The Line is a game involving a generic muslim town where you kill generic muslims using real arms, yet it’s the reason the game’s gut punch worked so well. If you don’t know what I’m saying, again, check the episode Extra Creditz did on the game, although it’s no substitute for playing the real deal. As for the glorification of war, it’s a complicated issue. There is glory in war. There is also a lot of other things in war, and most of them are not good things. If a game is aiming for realism, the logical choice would be to show how war really looks like. So far no game, aside from Arma II with a specific mod, deals with the playing soldier getting hurt, which is a very real thing for almost every single soldier. Yet on video games you usually have active regeneration and can absorb bullets faster than I can absorb pints on a Friday night. When the soldier you’re controlling is incapacitated, it’s game over and you need to start again. These are all design choices meant to create a better playing experience for the player, but like the EC episode I linked in the beginning of this e-mail, it creates certain indoctrination by mishandling design choices. The older Call of Duty games usually displayed quotes about war when you died, so you would feel some sort of impact, at least. MGS4 addressed this point, saying that a secret organization promoted this kind of video games to make children grow up wanting to become soldiers, which is one of the crucial points of the game’s plot, the militarization of the world. See, this is a political/social issue being addressed in a video game because it’s part of the author’s vision for the game, NOT because someone told him that War Sucks.”



Statement a: ” If the creators agrees with it by rational suggestions, the above is just a sugestion”

Statement b: “Changing game weapons means changing everything, they move on to do a better game, cause that core element is hard to change”

Statement c: “That up to the creators to see if they listen to that sugestions, as long as it doesnt affect game’s narrative or gameplay im fine with it ”



“Any outside critique that actually forces the developer to change is not ok, the reasons are twofold, first is the developer’s right for artistic expression, second, I’ve seen many a project fail due to developers listening to outside input too much (Hawken being the recent one I’m still a bit sore about). Betatesting is okay, fine tuning is okay, but any developer should put their ideas as the most important.”



“Would any of these things affect any actual gameplay mechanics? Does the poorly designed character prevent you from seeing the level in third person view since certain body parts are too large and cover the view? What GAMEPLAY problems might come from a poorly designed character? Male or female? If it’s an art issue, how is the art as a whole? Does it fit the overall artstyle? Does it stand out or distract? Scarlett blade for example has nothing but scantily clad females, with armor that only covers the bare minimum. Except for the single playable male character, who is covered from head to toe with powered armor, and not a single piece of skin is exposed. I’d argue that’s bad design, and breaks with the continuity of the world. But in the case of dragon’s crown, all the characters have exaggerated anatomy, and are drawn in in the same artsyle, and fits the world. And bad art really shouldn’t take away many point. Gameplay is king here. Some games have ugly ascii art, and are still great games. I guess it’s up the the reviewer, but they really need to ask themselves if it hurts the game or the gameplay, or if it just offends their personal sensibilities? Tough question. The others are easier. Yes, a gun that isn’t intuitive is a bad design choice and should be marked down. That affects the gameplay. Being upset about gun manufactures on the other hand doesn’t affect gameplay, and might be best served by an opinion piece.”



“I don’t have an issue with people having any of those opinions. I do think the publishers and developers should show a little spine and simply say “That’s fine, our game’s not for you anyway.” Hollywood doesn’t really have this issue. There are movies that glorify war all the time, and movies that sexistly portray both genders. People still buy them, so people like them. You’re telling people that their tastes are wrong by saying that shouldn’t exist. The first one is a little telling. I wouldn’t mind seeing more games designed towards a female audience. The industry has a little bit of catching up to do in that regard, but I imagine they’ll make progress if they don’t kill themselves in the next 3-5 years.”



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