Monday, September 26, 2016

Changing Tactics

I’m sure many of your remember a certain controversy a couple years back where many gamers discovered that the gaming press was giving positive coverage to video games made by those whom they have close relationships with. A good example of this would be Danielle Riendeau writing not only a review of Gone Home, but a separate opinion piece as well, right after going on a podcast with Steve Gaynor, the game’s creator.

The solution proposed to fix this problem was a reformation of the industry, with the replacement of corrupt writers with more honest ones. In hindsight though, it’s obvious that this was an impossible task, with how easy it is for the new blood joining the industry to become corrupt as well. It also ignores how one could simply put on a public face of renewed honesty while simply making their corruption more hidden.

Beyond that, it distracts from the core aspect of the issue while focusing on the less important parts. The problem is not simply that game devs are in bed with the press, but that their relationships allow them to sell awful games while their competitors, who are often much more skilled at game development, get ignored. No one would actually care about corruption of the gaming press if the games they were pushing were any good.

This is why it wasn’t possible to convince fans of Gone Home that the issue of corruption in the gaming press was worth caring about. They liked the game and got their money’s worth, so why would they be upset that the Polygon writer who promoted it wasn’t completely honest? The solution to this issue should not have been to convince people that ethics in video game journalism was an Important™ issue worth caring about, but that the narratives these individuals were pushing were false. Instead of documenting known instances of collusion between developers and press, it would have been much more worthwhile to show in detail how the games that they are pushing aren’t very good. The video QuQu and I made on Gone Home is actually a great example of this.

The online political sphere is actually having a field day with this process, as not a week goes by without some big narrative push which is very quickly debunked. You can see this with the story that the Charlotte riots are simply a peaceful protest, or the various cover ups surrounding Hillary Clinton’s health. So if this is such a phenomenon in politics, then why don’t gamers partake in it more often?

Sure, there are a few examples of gamers countering the hype machine, such as the backlash against Sunset or Mighty No. 9 or No Man’s Sky. But those are few and far between, in an industry with new games pushed on gamers every week. If you only focus on the high profile disappointments, then you’re ignoring the many indie releases that are pushed on the gaming community.

There’s a large audience of people who watch Let’s Play gaming videos, and many of these media personalities to influence their purchasing decisions. Most of these YouTube creators never pretended to be journalists now that it’s no longer convenient for them, so their coverage is even easier to sway than that of blog writers. This means that it’s all too easy to throw some swag their way to get them to promote a particular video game, leaving much better titles ignored and unplayed.

The vast majority of YouTube’s gaming content are advertisements much akin to the old infomercials on TV, and quality video game criticism has become somewhat rare these days. All it would take is for a few gamers to show in detail how these games aren’t particularly good, while giving examples of much better titles to contrast with. Then these criticisms could spread throughout the gaming community, while also giving much needed attention to games that are more deserving of it.

So you should be able to look forward to seeing more actual video game criticism from QuQu’s channel sometime in the coming weeks, and if all goes well, it will likely become a regular thing.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Amazon Kindle Is Not Your Savior

When Amazon opened up their Kindle Direct Publishing platform, they opened the door to millions of writers to finally sell their books on the open market. No longer would they be at the mercy of the Big 5 New York publishers. Now they could write whatever they wished, with no genre or subject matter off limits.

At the moment, Amazon is in a position where they allow pretty much any book to be sold on their service, with the possible exception of those breaking US law. But the problem is, this will likely change the moment that it no longer becomes the most viable business model for them. All it will take is for a group of SJWs bloggers to start a witch hunt against Amazon for being complicit in the sale of books with “problematic” content that is “harmful” to whatever minority group they're championing that day of the week.

That’s not to say that I think we should return to the impossible task of trying to get published by one of the Big 5 New York publishers. The research we’ve done into their staff has shown that they’re fairly incompetent at their jobs, and primarily interested in publishing memoirs by famous people you’ve never heard of. But we need to have a plan for how we’re still going to stay in the business of writing books when Amazon turns against us.

This is one reason why I still really appreciate print books. Even ignoring simple aesthetic appreciation for printed words on a page, or the rumors of NSA spyware on e-reader devices, physical books have one advantage that digital ones do not. No one can take away your physical books, short of breaking into your home, stealing them, and setting them on fire in the street. Also, the burning of printed literature has been stigmatized in ways which the destruction of digital words has not. If Amazon were to deny the sale of certain books on their platform, there would still be many who insist that such an act is not censorship, that Amazon has every right to refuse certain authors from selling on their platform.

While I wouldn’t agree with the decision to deny the sale of certain books, I wouldn’t want them, as a business, to be forced to sell books which they don’t want to, just like how I also wouldn’t want bakers to be forced to sell cakes which they didn’t want to sell. The issue is that Amazon has, intentionally or not, gotten a big monopoly on the book publishing world. So while one could argue that Amazon deciding not to sell a particular book is not censorship, the negative sales impact of being denied entry onto their platform would still have as strong of an effect.

Besides, I do not want to live in a world in which Amazon deciding not to sell a book can be called censorship in the first place.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Thoughts on Lying about Writing Quality

Lying about the quality of someone's writing seems like a very bad idea for a few reasons. In our current age of the internet, a reader wouldn't have much trouble finding the sample pages of a particular book online and reading them. Any lies about someone's quality of writing should be easy to disprove by simply reading the work itself.

Beyond that, negative criticism of creative endeavors often has the effect of drawing more attention to said work. This means that not only will people find their narratives to be based falsehood, it will also cause the author to become more popular in the long run. When one is told that a work is of low quality, their expectations will be much lower if they ever decide check out the work for themselves.

So not only will readers be pleasantly surprised at how good the book is, despite what they've been told, they will also grow a fondness for it greater than they would have otherwise. This all goes to show how foolish it is to spin lies about the quality of another's creative works, or even just for life in general. As Gabe Newell of Valve once said: