On Video Games (Or The Players)

I love video games. I have been playing them since I was about seven and my parents bought my sister and me an original Nintendo. Technically, it was my sister’s, but she could never beat a game, so it ended up being solely mine for the duration of our childhood. From there I moved on to the original Gameboy (Tetris was my original addiction) then to the next system onto the next system. It is a major part of my life to this day as I try to keep up with the journalism, development, production, and the entire industry entirely.

It is because of my love of this medium and its amazing potential that events of the past week have completely disgusted me. If you are blissfully unaware of what has transpired, I suggest you simply Google (weird that this is a verb, right?) “Zoe Quinn“, “Phil Fish“, or “Anita Sarkeesian.” (I even helped a bit). All three have been at the center of a massive Internet shit storm, though more accurately Zoe Quinn is the epicenter and Phil Fish came under fire for defending her. Anita Sarkeesian is, at this point, a constant target for Internet trolls for her series of online videos.

Basically, all three have been harassed and victims of online attacks (hacks of private and professional information). As well, friends, family members, and colleagues have also been victims of this harassment. All this had been done because of supposed nepotism of gaming journalism and supposed sexual favors exchanged for positive game reviews. Yeah, you read that last statement correctly.

Honestly, I think Fish is kind of an asshole, I find Sarkeesian’s criticism shallow and lacking actual video game experience, and I am unfamiliar with Quinn’s work. Steam is currently offering her game for free, so I will check it out and then formulate an opinion of her as a developer. Here is the basic truth, regardless of what I think of these individuals or their work, they are not deserving of the harassment that has transpired, and there is no other word to describe what they have gone through.

Frankly, even if Quinn did do half the shit she is being accused of, it still would not justify the kind of crap she has dealt with in the last week. Look, video games are an amazing medium and the possibility of what they can become and do is mind melting. However, this kind of shit has to stop. We can do, be better. We have to.

For a few different perspectives on the issue, I’ll provide the following by David Auerbach, John Bain (TotalBiscuit), and Andrew Todd. They offer a balanced view of the ongoing mess.

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Lessons From…Parks and Rec

Parks and Recreation is one of my favorite currently running shows. Sadly, it will start its final season on the air in 2015, and we will have to say good bye to our favorite Pawnee residents. In light of this information, I marathoned (binge watched?) a few seasons over the weekend, specifically seasons 5 and 6. Like with most of my preferred shows, Parks and Rec also contains a few choice tidbits that work exceptionally well as life lessons. Now, I could honestly pick just about any episode to examine, but in this instance I will be focusing on Season 6 episode 1 “London.”

The most obvious pearl of wisdom in the episode occurs during the discussion between Ron and Leslie. Leslie is feeling unappreciated as a local politician after witnessing so many others who are beloved and cherished in their hometowns. Understandably, she is pissed off at Pawnee and is wondering what the point of it all is. To this, Ron responds, “You choose a thankless job, you can’t be upset when nobody thanks you. Don’t start chasing applause and acclaim. That way lies madness.”

So good it belonged as a screen grab.

So good it belonged as a screen grab.

It is pretty obvious but the lesson still merits stating Don’t start chasing applause and acclaim. That way lies madness. We all want to be appreciated and seen, but if that is our endgame then we are destined to fail Hell, even if we succeed, all we managed to do was please others with our efforts. Like Leslie, what we should be doing is chasing our passions and trying our best at excelling at them. In doing so, regardless of popularity, you can still look at yourself in the mirror.

So that was the direct, obvious lesson, but the one that stuck more with me was the indirect one that was basically a commentary on the nature of friendship. Near the end of the episode, April, a dark, slacker intern, reads Leslie the letter she wrote on why Leslie was deserving of an award. While this voice over narration happens, the audience sees Ron Swanson on his own Leslie Knope guided adventure to his personal bliss, in this case the Lagavulin factory on isles off the English coast. 

Both characters, Ron and April, are considered loners, unapproachable, stand offish, and generally unwelcome to human interaction. Yet six seasons later, Ron is exploring a foreign country, something he abhors, and April is willing to put in effort for someone else all because of the friendship they developed with Leslie. As well, she knows them so well that she helped April develop her skills into a worthwhile career and created the perfect trip for Ron. 

Scotch, a seaside cliff, and a good story. What else do you need?

Scotch, a seaside cliff, and a good story. What else do you need?

Which brings us to the lesson: Find good friends who challenge you, care about you, evolve with you, and ultimately bring out the best in you. These types of relationships are not easy to come by and require a certain amount of upkeep. However, these friendships are also among the most important relationships we can have. As much importance as we place on romantic relationships, more often it is our friends that influence our personalities, goals, and everyday lives. Essentially we are social creatures and the pack we choose has a significant impact on who we become. Wouldn’t it be better to be friends with someone who understands your love of refined, brown liquor and is willing to have a dumb conversation over a cool glass of said alcohol? 

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

Also, for those who know…The Sentry Gathers.

On Sexuality

So, a previous post dealt with the topic of sex, specifically on the issue of the infamous experience of the “sex talk.” Yeah, perhaps the artists and cartoonists from and around Penny-Arcade are not the best people to relate such important information to your children, but it sure was entertaining.

Personally, I never had “the talk” with my parents and was pretty much left to my own devices when figuring out sex and sexuality. Don’t get me wrong, sex was discussed in my household to some degree, but it was usually from the lens of conservative, Christian ideology. “Sex is for after marriage and only between a man and a woman.” “Any form of sex that is not under this umbrella is a sin in the eyes of God.” “Gay people are not bad, but gayness is and that is has to be fixed.” These were just a few of the gems I heard growing up from multiple adults around me.

School was not much better than home since Sex Education was not a big concern in South Texas. Abstinence was the preferred curriculum though I am fairly certain there was some discussion about a few diseases you could acquire from even the slightest of sexual activity. I am somewhat amazed that the pregnancy and sexual infection rates at my school were not higher.

charlie brown sex ed

For such an important subject like sexuality, we do not really discuss it openly, or secretly for that matter. We try to avoid the topic at all costs with anyone under a certain age, but is this really the best option or even helpful? I learned everything I know about sex and sexuality from reading books and mostly looking at the internet. Let that last part sink in for a moment and realize how much more fucked up I could have turned out.

What can I say? I am a nerd and when nerds do not know something we research (swear not a euphemism for porn). From that research (again, not porn), I learned about the sexual spectrum of sexual identity, male and female orgasms, male and female genitalia, and much. much more. I am by no means an expert and I am still learning things about human sexuality, but my knowledge is a far cry from my abstinence only and “no penis in vagina until there is a ring in the eyes of the Lord” origins.

In all honesty, as with all curiosity led investigations, more queries than answers have been produced, particularly in myself. Considering the immense amount of possibility contained in human sexuality, there seems to be a desire for inherent, stagnant absolutes. Anything that deviates from accepted “norms” are outright condemned or dismissed even within the fringes. What is even more interesting, and perhaps frustrating, is the expectation to understand and claim your own sexual identity, preferences, kinks, and desires from the onset.

Society, or at least American society, does not really have a safe space for experimentation or questioning. How can someone know their entire sexual identity from the beginning of puberty? How can you possibly know everything about yourself sexually when you do not have any legitimate comprehension of sex? Maybe that is why people change sexual orientations/identities later on in life or why it takes them time to achieve sexual satisfaction, much less gratification. Would society, and life, be improved if the topic of sex was discussed more openly from a younger age? Should there, can there, be a space for experimentation without judgment?

Like I said, I have more questions than answers, but perhaps you few, dear readers can provide some perspectives or point in the direction of some possible guides.

 

Lessons From…Justified

I have been recently watching the television show Justified. It is a great program that is available for streaming through Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video. I have always been a sucker for Westerns, both traditional and modern. Add an old school grit and motto with a quick draw and I will waste several hours in front of a screen. Does not hurt that the acting is exquisitely done and the actors are not too bad to look at.

justified cast

While there are several seasons worth of episodes, there is one in particular that struck out to me. More specifically, a series of lines spoken by Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea) in Season 3 Episode 6 “When the Guns Come Out.” There is a bit too much back story to fully go over, but the general idea is that Winona is pretty sick and tired of Raylan’s (Timothy Olyphant), her ex-husband and current baby daddy, shit and has moved on. Raylan, unsure of why she left, finds her and confronts her as to her reasons for her vanishing act. Her response is:

“Raylan, you remember that Monday night poker game you used to go to. You loved that game and come hell or high water you’d be at that game. I remember you chased a fugitive for 48 hours straight over the weekend with no sleep just to make that Monday night poker game. The point is, Raylan, if you really wanted to change something for me, you’d have done it already.”

The concepts of evolution and change have begun to interest me far more in my ongoing aging than they did in my youth. I suppose it is part of the whole growing up and figuring out who you are/supposed to be and all that jazz. I am just hoping it is not some existential, life-crisis bullshit, but it still has been on my mind. Hell, even the humorous articles I read on Cracked revolve around said subject. 

Frankly, the quote from Justified states how to best change and is the subject of today’s lesson. If you want to do something/anything, you will. This is not to suggest that accomplishing a goal will be easy. Truth be told, it will most likely be difficult, annoying, arduous, and take a Herculean amount of effort. However, if it is something you truly wish to make happen, you will. It is a hard fact that most will not take to heart, but does not make it any less true. It is a lesson that I have yet to fully integrate into my life, but one that I try to incorporate more and more with each passing day. Hopefully, one day it will no longer be a lesson, but simply a life motto that I live.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

Lessons From…Robin Williams

I do not really follow or keep up with celebrity news. I am not saying this as a matter of pride or superiority simply as a statement of fact. Don’t get me wrong, I keep up with the projects (films, shows, books. etc.) of individuals that I find entertaining or intriguing, but I always considered their personal lives to be just that-their personal lives.

Today was a bit different, however. Today, Robin Williams was found dead in his home. I never had the pleasure of meeting the man personally. I only had the delight of experiencing his art. I continue to be surprised with the ease in which great comedians are able to vacillate between making people laugh and drawing out deep emotions from a crowd. Robin Williams was one of the best at this.

As great and funny as he was, he also had an incredible talent for drama and exploration of human emotion and empathy. Hell, here is proof:

Dead Poet’s Society was one of the first “real movies” that I watched and that had a profound effect on me. It was not a simple flick you could watch in an afternoon. It merited multiple viewings and actual consideration to truly appreciate it. A large part of that was William’s performance. You actually believed he had been passionately teaching for years. In a way he had.

Every performance he did was a lesson in acting, comedy, and/or life in and of itself. I remember watching his Live on Broadway special in the middle of the night in my room with the audio barely audible. My family was (honestly still is) not a fan of certain type of humor which is basically every type that I love. Once Robin got to the “Scots and Golf” bit, I pretty much died laughing not caring if someone crashed through my door or not. The man was a comedic genius.

If the value and meaning of a man’s life can be measured by the impact he had on his fellow humanity, then Robin Williams lived one of the fullest and most worthwhile lives imaginable. I do not know the details of his death, and I do not need to know them. I do know that he had a long battle with addiction and depression, both horrific diseases that are too often treated as character flaws, that seemingly resulted in his death. I do not know if he sought  help or how effective it would have been because depression is a lifetime struggle that you can never fully measure or understand. It is a lying bastard that has to be respected but never submitted to. (If you are going through something similar, please seek help.)

The world feels a little darker with the loss of this man. The sun will still rise tomorrow, the earth will continue to spin, and life will, as always, move on, but somehow it just will not be the same. This is usually the part where I would mention the lesson(s) we should derive from a piece of media, but Robin Williams entire library of performances could be used to impart wisdom. Frankly, it should.

In fact, what better way to celebrate the man’s life than to remember him through is art. Seriously, at some point this day, week, month, or rest of the year go and see his films, comedy, television shows/appearances. You’ll find something noteworthy, entertaining, and realize you probably have a favorite performance. I suggest you start with Dead Poet’s Society, Good Will Hunting, World’s Greatest Dad, or Live on Broadway.

There is no direct lesson to extrapolate, but if there is something to learn from this great man’s life it is simple Laugh, CryCreate, Seek Help, Live. Go hug someone today. Watch a funny movie and have a good laugh or a sad one and a needed cry. Live your life as best you can and get help whenever it becomes too much, but no matter what LIVE. With that in mind, I’ll leave you with this:

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

Lessons From…Penny-Arcade

If you have never read Penny-Arcade, what the fuck have you been doing with the Internet? No, but seriously you should definitely check out their stuff because it is awesome in all its forms. I have previously written about my love of their creations in the past, and I will continue to do so until I no longer have the ability to speak its virtues.

Now, normally I would ponder on and discuss a piece of media mining it for possible deeper messages, meanings, and lessons. However, there are not really any deeper possibilities for the specific comics I want to discuss/will link to. They talk about one of the most common human experiences: sex, and all the various beliefs, ideologies, and perspectives that come along with it. Obviously, since this is a humorous comic, the strips tend to fall on the funny side, but they still demonstrate a complex grasp of human sexuality from various avenues.

For example:

I fear this same conversation with my future children.

I fear this same conversation with my future children.

Hear we see the dreaded “talk” between parent and child. One aspect of sex that we have mixed feelings about from both child and parent perspectives. This is what Penny Arcade does well: take real world situations and break them into manageable and entertaining bits we can relate to. There are more comics in this “talk” arc that are informative, funny, and worth checking out, but I think the most educational one is by Erika Moen:

Just a girth of information.

Just a girth of information.

Yeah, definitely informative. Anyhow, there are more to read and laugh at and learn from at Penny-Arcade. In fact, here are the links to the rest of the “talk” series:

The Talk by Mike Krahulik

The Talk by Abby Howard (a pretty amusing one as well)

The Talk by Scott Kurtz

The Talk by Bill Amend

The Talk by Tavis Maiden

The Talk by Erica Moen (as seen above)

The Talk by Amy T. Falcone (another hard truth one)

Hopefully, there will be more, but these are pretty damn good to begin with. I find it amazing and hilarious how something so essential to our existence and being can be seen in so many different by people to cause worry, concern, joy, excitement, dread, and virtually every other human emotion. So read the comics and see where you land on the spectrum of sex. It’s not the worst way to kill a few minutes online.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.