Welcome To The New Age: 2013′s Biggest Disappointments

Progress Fails To Progress

In 2012, we optimistically suggested that this subculture had reached a real turning point with the issue of sexism in the gaming community. What felt like a tidal wave of outrage over several high-profile instances of industry and community sexist behavior culminated in the brief #1reasonwhy movement, in which women working in the video gaming industry went public with their own experiences of sexism.

At last, so we thought at the time, putting a human face on the problem may finally result in real change. Not just for women, but for perceived minority groups of all kinds who have traditionally felt marginalized by an industry and culture that is, without exaggeration, perhaps the broiest America has ever produced.

Lol, no. Instead of a turning point, 2012 was a cul de sac. At the end of 2013, we’re back pretty much where we started.

It’s true we made it nearly six months without anything as egregious as 2012′s notorious Street Fighter tournament outbursts, but Microsoft got the ball rolling again at E3 with a poorly conceived rape joke dropped during its abysmal annual press conference. That rather tepid offensiveness was quickly overshadowed by the company’s tone-deaf arrogance in response to criticisms of Xbox One’s (since-removed) anti-consumer features, but it remains a black mark that needn’t have happened.

Right around the same time, the Penny Arcade team managed to spark controversy for what feels like the millionth instance, first thanks a bizarre transphobic Twitter rant by Mike Krahulik, followed soon after by the announcement of a panel at PAX Australia that, as initially conceived, was focused on tremendous unexamined butthurtness aimed at people who criticize racist or sexist behavior.

After severe criticism, the panel description was changed to something less needlessly combative, but two months later, the Penny Arcade guys would put a particularly ignoble cap on things at PAX Prime, where they resurrected the “dickwolves” controversy for no goddamned reason.

But while the Penny Arcade guys would eventually make an effort to improve — and, let’s be honest, add an unintentional punchline to the situation — with the creation of the “diversity lounge,” announced last week, so much of the gamerverse remains obstinately unwilling to follow suit. (Cough Grand Theft Auto V cough.) And at no time was this made quite as clear as in the last couple of weeks.

Nothing sums up how far back we went in 2013 quite like the magically idiotic freakout over the hiring of Dina Abou Karam as community manager for Mighty No. 9, the Kickstarter-funded spiritual successor to Mega Man from developer Comcept. What should have been a ho-hum hiring announcement ended up sparking a river of angry brodude tears, and all because Comcept didn’t get the memo that the precious feelings of angry jerks are the most important element in creating a great game.

The problem is that Karam happens to have been outspoken in her views about some of the bigger recent controversies over sexism in video games. Granted, she did so as a civilian, but that didn’t stop a surprising amount of people from asserting she’s going to turn Mighty No. 9 into a forum for her political views because reasons. Of course, her political views will almost certainly play some role in how she does her job — she is, after all, going to be the lead moderator for Mighty No. 9 forums. “No shit, Sherlock,” seems like the only appropriate response, but no, instead we got the standard “bitches need to shut up” checklist.

  • Telltale buzzwords like “SJW1” popping up with suspicious frequency? Check.
  • Suggestions that she (and it’s always, always “she”) isn’t a real gamer? check.
  • Accusations of nepotism? check.
  • Ad hominem attacks (dissing her fan art, in this case)? Check.
  • Look, I’m not here to argue whether Karam should or shouldn’t have her job. Maybe there are legitimate reasons she shouldn’t. But if your arguments hinge on “What happens if I’m not safe to slur someone based on who they are?”, you’re not advancing the legitimate argument. On the bright side, though, a small majority of people would eventually chime in on the Mighty No. 9 forums to push back against this absurd freakout. That’s great, but the episode remains yet another shameful example of how stupid the gaming community can be when even the fringes of broey exclusivity are threatened.

    Someday we’ll look back on the butthurtness epidemic among a certain subset of male gamers in this era with the same kind of embarrassed wince we currently reserve for the older relative everyone else has to apologize for at holiday dinners2. But right now, this shit is getting old and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.

    Awesome.

    ***

    “Wait, idiot,” we can hear you shouting, “those games weren’t as bad as you claim/are the best thing we’ve seen in years!” “And XboxPlaystationOne4 really is a drastic leap forward in superkewlnextgenness!” “While we’re at it, MISANDRY!” That’s a good point, person who is completely wrong, but you’re completely wrong.

    Okokok, we admit 2013 wasn’t all bad. It’s true that even some of the games we singled out here managed to impress us from time to time. And as noted, the indie scene absolutely flourished, ably showing the triple-A guys how it should be done. And we’ll never stop pointing out that now is the perfect time to make the switch to PC gaming. But really, these bright spots are like organic basil and homemade butter on a poo and carrion sandwich. Welcome to the new age: It’s almost exactly the same as the old one.

    So what about you, readers? Did we miss anything? Let us know in comments what your biggest disappointments were. And don’t forget to throw on a dubstep backing track while you do it.

    Read more of Phil Hornshaw’s work here and Ross Lincoln’s work here, and follow them and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw, @rossalincoln and @gamefrontcom.

    1) It means “Social Justice Warrior”. You know, because giving a crap about social justice is worse than being opposed to it because logic.

    2) So have fun at Thanksgiving, gramps.

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    17 Comments on Welcome To The New Age: 2013′s Biggest Disappointments

    kandori

    On December 27, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    i didn’t think that aliens cm was that bad, and was planning on playing it at some point, but after seeing that clip (and falling on the floor laughing) i want to play it just to see how hilariously bad it is. why does it walk like an old person rushing to the bathroom!

    JawaEsteban

    On December 28, 2013 at 2:40 am

    Back in the old days, you used to be able to take a guy like Kip Katsarelis out back and beat him with a hose. Now they’ve got their d@mned unions.

    Grady

    On December 28, 2013 at 3:42 am

    JawaEsteban:
    Desperation is a stinky cologne.

    MEOW!

    Hope for a better 2014 then, a lot of spacesims/builds and whatnot coming, that might be a good thing.

    Foehunter82

    On December 28, 2013 at 4:35 am

    @kandori: That’s a xenomorph fart walk.

    @Ross & Phil: I think that if the AAA developers don’t want to step up, they can easily be replaced by indie developers. I believe we’re headed that direction anyway. The games industry is in a bubble that’s going to burst at some point, and the game developers that survive will likely be the indie developers. The AAA developers will either just barely exist, or they’ll go the way of THQ, selling off most, if not all, of their IPs to indie developers that can actually breath life back into the franchises. We’ve been seeing the slow death of long-running franchises on life support for a few years now. Developers using intrusive DRM schemes, day-one DLC, “games as a service” setups, singleplayer microtransactions. All these things have been attempts at alternate revenue streams for games that have had varying degrees of success. The problem is a POS game is a POS game, and the savvy gamers are not going to keep dumping money into poor-quality games. We’ve been seeing the change in the gamer landscape over these past few years. A trickle here and there at first, but it’s now starting to reach the boiling point. AAA developers are going to have to sit up and take notice if they want to keep doing business, otherwise, they’ll vanish.

    I’m going to be brutally honest here. Just a few short years ago, I really did not care for indie developers at all. At the time, I would not even consider buying an indie game. The past two or three years, however, when I look at various indie projects, I get the same sense of excitement about games that I haven’t had since before the release of the first Mass Effect. When I look at AAA developers, I don’t see much to be excited about. Next year, my AAA purchase list has only one game on it: Watch Dogs. Beyond that, I’m getting more and more excited about the future of indie game development. For the foreseeable future, that’s probably where my gaming dollars are going to go.

    As far as addressing the social issues in the games industry, it needs to happen sooner rather than later. However, these social issues are a reflection of greater social issues around the world. You need only look at the news of the day to see that there are ignorant people (some willfully so) that are part of the problem.

    The Clue Phone

    On December 28, 2013 at 5:22 am

    As usual, Ross continues to beat the decomposing horse that is this mythical one-way sexism that apparently exists in the videogames industry, yet completely refuses to even entertain opposing viewpoints and instead prefers to throw mud at these people with useless comparisons to “elderly relatives” and saying “you’re completely wrong” without explaining why. The arrogance of this man, who works for an all-male website lest we forget, is overwhelming.

    The reason the industry hasn’t progressed as you want it to is because the majority of us don’t abide by your delusions of male-privilege that hasn’t been either relevant or interesting for at least ten or fifteen years now. It is, in fact, YOUR failure to progress YOUR unbelievably childlike belief system that is holding YOU back.

    Still, come back with another tedious, self-congratulatory comment that once again ignores all of the infinite counter-arguments and relies on emotional rhetoric and skirting the issue to try and win the argument on false terms. I won’t bother replying because you’re too entrenched but I’m sure it’ll provide you with some sort of keyboard-spamming catharsis.

    By the way, Phil Hornshaw wrote all the same crap about this in last year’s ‘biggest disappointment’ article. Yet more evidence that you’re just abusing a non-story to try and make yourselves stand out and feel better about yourselves while doing absolutely nothing of substance about this issue you claim to exist.

    Pathetic.

    Big the Gangster Cat

    On December 28, 2013 at 7:02 am

    @Ross & Phil:
    Every single game on here that was listed as bad I thought was good, what the hell are you looking for something to rival the Mass Effect franchise minus the crappy ending?

    AxΣtwin

    On December 28, 2013 at 9:39 am

    @ Phone – You talk as if sexism ISN’T an issue in the industry. Let me go ahead and simply say, it IS an issue. You accuse Phil of “not listening to opposing view points”, were you living under a rock when Carolyn Petit was having some of the worst bile 2013 could summon thrown at her simply because she had the audacity to add a misogynistic footnote at the bottom of her otherwise glowing GTA 5 review?

    Lets take an even bigger step back and look at it from a broader point of view. Anytime any woman brings up the fact that the gaming industry is still, to this day, a boy’s club that is all but missing a sign that says “no girls allowed” they are immediately labeled a “fem-nazi”. If its someone in journalism, then its they’re a “fem-nazi that is abusing their position and using the public forum to further along their political agenda”.

    So yeah, this might be the same thing Phil brought up last year, but guess what? Every year is the same GD thing! The specifics are different, but the story remains the same.

    concernedgamer

    On December 28, 2013 at 9:46 am

    @The Clue Phone: You come on here everytime sexism and racism in the industry are brought up and speak intelligently and eloquently about how none of those things actually exist, and that any argument to the contrary is irrelevant because we live in a completely utopian society. But here’s the truth: you cannot make that claim. Every site that Phil and Ross link to show proof that this IS a legitimate problem. You are one of those willfully ignorant people Foehunter is referring to. You refuse to acknowledge the problem because it doesn’t fit your narrow, bigoted view of reality.

    Quit trolling and go back to watching Duck Dynasty.

    Aedelric

    On December 28, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Penny Arcade is appallingly bad and full of idiots, the company does not even deserve mentioned.

    The rest of the article is very good though, 2013 was full of surprising disappointments, not that 2012 did not have it’s fair share. But 2013 just seemed to pump out flop after flop, Rome II:Total War was an especially big let down for me.

    psycros

    On December 28, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Thank you, The Clue Phone, for calling out the author on his latest sexually-obsessed foray into Nobodycaresville.

    Aedelric

    On December 28, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    The Clue Phone does have a point, Game Front staff do talk about sexism in the video game industry an awful lot even when the topic perhaps should not even include it.

    Gaming and game development is a predominantly male pastime, this fact alone means sexism will always be present in some backward corner, just like anywhere else in the world. The only cure is getting more females involved and unfortunately gaming is simply a gender divide as it always has been. Most women are just not as interested in games as men apparently are, I chalk this up to human nature.

    That all said I do think Game Front could get off their self righteous high horse and fire Ross to hire on a female staff member, how about it Ross? How strong is your conviction? What was that? You do not agree? Sexist!

    So can we get back to talking about games now? I honestly do not care what sex anyone is.

    Earnest

    On December 29, 2013 at 11:05 am

    @aedelric You are half right. If Game Front is going to place itself on the front lines of the debate about sexism in gaming, it does seem their staffing should reflect that point of view. Your proposition, though, is more of the same fallacious zero-sum thinking that prevents us from embracing more women in more roles in all walks of life. It’s not just us or them.

    Aedelric

    On December 29, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    I was being facetious Earnest, I have no us or them mentality, you just assumed that because you took my request seriously. I was being flippant to prove a point, Game Front talks about equality but is the epitome of inequality.

    Ross complains a lot in his articles but is not really part of any group actively trying to address the situation. Personally I think people like him just bring up such subjects because of the controversy, the more controversial the more clicks and comments a topic will likely attract.

    quicktooth

    On December 30, 2013 at 3:18 am

    @Aedelric – Actually, Ross and the Gamefront staff ARE doing something about sexism. They’re doing their *job* in fact. They’re talking about it. That’s what journalism is for. It’s an incredibly powerful tool for change. The opinions of journalists often seem to become the opinions of their readers. The issues they raise can be the only ones people think about. By both championing basic humanity and raising relevant issues, current issues, Gamefront’s journalists are both very active in making good things begin to happen and simply doing their jobs. Why ask for more from someone who’s *profession* is to help change take place? You can’t report current events without causing change too (see my points above)! Also, about the gender inequality in Gamefront’s staff- good point, but Gamefront is also hardly a dudebro self-congratulatory sexism-fest. It’s actively championing everyone’s point of view, and everyone’s quality of life (in so far as our fine hobby affects it).

    Aedelric

    On December 30, 2013 at 9:14 am

    They are not doing anything beyond criticizing others yet not actively including women inside their “brofest” fold.

    Gamefront is essentially the definition of a hypocrite, their really is no defense for that no matter how convoluted an argument you make. I am personally for equality but you can not call out others when the company you work for does not actively address the situation in its own ranks.

    I admit I never really been a fan of the articles Ross and Phil create, they somehow always come off as complete tossers. That aside they are occasionally right but they are self righteous and often force their agendas into articles even if the article does not warrant it. For an example an article about gaming’s biggest disappointments, it should be about games. A separate article should have been about sexism and inequality, it is a serious issue not something to be tagged on at the end of an article for the controversy.

    gasmaskangel

    On December 30, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    Dear gaming industry: THIS IS WHY I DRINK.

    Drachehexe

    On January 5, 2014 at 11:30 am

    “the indie scene absolutely flourished, ably showing the triple-A guys how it should be done”

    Well, when you don’t have to put 80% of your budget into a game engine and the best digital artists on the planet you can focus more fleshed out an dlonger stories to make up for your crappy retro art school droput graphics. You also don’t have publishers oing “we don’t like get rid of it and replace it with this because the 200 peopel we did a focus group with tells us the millions of ga,mers out there want it.”