Friday, July 2, 2010

. . . Games Journo

- Observations from the Front Lines -

I am up late. It is 06:45 and I have not been asleep since I awoke at 08:00 yesterday morning. The reason that I am up late has to do with two deadlines -- my column for next week, which had to be filed this morning due to the 4th of July holiday, and a piece for a game site that had to be filed today due to the 4th of July holiday. By all rights I should now be sleeping, since I filed my column at 04:30 and the game piece an hour ago. But I am not asleep, I am laying here reading the blog of a self-proclaimed "Game Journo" because... Well... That is a long story.

Go grab a cup of tea/soda/coffee/your preferred beverage and a snack and then come back and sit down to read.

Back? Hey, that looks good, I wish I had thought of that. Now I am hungry for it.

Now for the long story, which I will make a very serious effort to make shorter by using economy of words, though to be honest I am not all that great at making things shorter. I mean seriously, my editor gives me 1,400 words as my target for my column when most columnists only get between 800 and 900, because it usually takes me 1,400 or so (who am I kidding, I would take 2,000 or more every time if they let me) words to say what I think needs saying. Gah, sidetracked again.

In the midst of writing my column I got an IM -- which I ignored -- then an email -- ignored that too -- and finally a text on my cell. All from the same person. All on the same subject. After I finished the final edit of my column, I turned to these messages to see what they were about, thinking I could get that out of the way quickly. Well, pretty much not.

The messages were about a post that the sender thought I needed to read -- a post on the blog 'Game Journalists are Incompetent Fuckwits' with the title "Leigh Alexander is an Incompetent Fuckwit" and, no shocker here, I was rather surprised that they felt that I needed to read that post. After all, I told myself, that particular blog is usually more rant than substance... But I went ahead and loaded the page, and I read the post.

My next move was to load the blog of the target of that post -- one Leigh Alexander -- a somewhat plain looking if typical 20-something who fancies herself a "game journo" and who writes for the sites Gamasutra and Kotaku, ostensibly on the subject of gaming but often not.

In her blog profile she proclaims: "I think people should be able to be into games and still have a cool life."

Naturally this implies that people who are into games do not have cool lives. She does not explain why people who are into games do not have cool lives, but then the whole notion of establishing what is and is not a "cool life" is rather subjective, and probably would not be the same if you and I were both defining it.

For instance, my mate Mark has a Coke machine in his basement from the 1970's only instead of dispensing cans of sweet sticky soda, it dispenses cans of beer. I think that is cool, and since Mark is into games and gaming, I reckon that his Coke-Beer machine would factor into any evaluation of the coolness of his life, but you might disagree with that.

Perhaps you would think that the fact that he has a pet skunk would be more of a coolness in life factor than a Coke machine that dispenses ice cold cans of beer? Of course that would cause me to start pondering why you think skunks are cooler than beer, and then it would just devolve into a massive fight over which is cooler and which has more impact on life, and therefore is more of a marker for judging the coolness of the same, and so... Well... Let's just not go there, okay?

Sometimes Silence Really is Golden

As I read Ms. Alexander's blog, I kept hearing over and over in my head the words of Proverbs 17:28: "Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise; and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding." And then I hear Proverbs 29:11: "A fool uttereth all his mind; but a wise man keepeth it in till afterward."

So what was it that this Alexander did that incurred the wrath of the GJAIF author? It appears that she actually did several things, but the most prominent of them was to decry the popularity of violent war-based shooter video games. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that she made the mistake of associating these games with the events and experience of real war?

I read her article "Who Cheers for War?" on Kotaku, and after I read it, I re-read it, then read it again, just to be certain and sure. Okay, yes, she really did go there. On the one hand, it is an opinion piece -- in fact it almost certainly qualifies as an Op/Ed, so what is the real harm here? Clearly she has strong feelings about the subject of war, and video games. Everyone has a right to an opinion, right?



Yeah, they do; but then again, when you write for a site whose basic revenue stream originates through its coverage of -- as near as I can figure -- video games, men with freakishly long beards, T-Shirts, and animated cartoon women with large breasts, well, perhaps that is not the most appropriate place to publish that opinion? Ah, but it gets worse...

As I read Ms. Alexanders manifesto -- and the supporting comments that she made both in other posts on her personal blog ( which has the unfortunate title of "Sexy Videogameland" ) and via Twitter, in which she attempts to prop-up her opinion with convoluted but somehow circular self-justification, I am left with the inescapable conclusion that she was writing about something she knows absolutely nothing about save for the abstract and very general opinion that is formed by taking in what society, "news" and, perhaps worse, TV and the movies, can offer for instruction...

Let me be blunt. She offered what she considers to be very well-thought-out and reasoned opinions on war, war in video games, and how the latter tends to glorify the former in the eyes of the gaming public. Which she aggressively claims to be part of, even if she does not actually play these games. Hmm...

(Refrain) Proverbs 17:28, 29:11

A few years ago a close family friend asked me to come to Boston with their religious studies group to help protest the use of public funds to pay for abortions for women who are on public assistance. The gist of her position was that abortion is murder, it is wrong, and therefore any good Catholic should protest against it.

"You think abortion is wrong, right?" she demanded when my silence grew uncomfortably long.

"Well," I hesitated.

"You must think it is wrong. It is wrong!" she cried.

"The thing is," I say, pausing again.

"Go on!" she demanded.

"Well, the thing is, I am not capable of being pregnant. Therefore I will never have an abortion. Logic dictates then that I will never have to face the mental and emotional struggle that I imagine must come with the making of such a decision," I pointed out.

"A struggle that I cannot claim to understand or grasp with any honesty, because a subjective opinion of that nature is about as worthless as tits on a hog," I add, trying to be helpful.

"What are you saying?" she demanded.

"What I am saying in simple terms is, I don't have an opinion about abortion because it doesn't apply to me. I am not capable of understanding the underlying issues that go into the process of making such a decision, and any opinion I express about the act would be disingenuous and patently fraudulent.

"If anyone is to decide the issue of abortion, it should be women. Leave me out of this," I add.

That, it seems, was not what she wanted to hear.

I am not going to bash Ms. Alexander for her opinion on video game war -- other than to repeat that having no experience with war, her opinion is disingenuous and patently fraudulent. Of course I will defend her right to express that opinion with my most vocal and persuasive voice because I believe she has that right.

And then I will insist - with the same vocal and persuasive voice - that she accept the shitstorm headed her way for expressing that opinion, because that is the price one pays for opening your mouth and speaking an opinion like that.

You see, Ms. Alexander, you can shout fire in a movie theater, as long as you are willing to accept the responsibility for doing it. If you are not willing to accept that responsibility, you are better off remaining silent. Or even better off reading Proverbs 17:28 and 29:11. I'm just saying...

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