New stuff part

I wrote a new thing for Polygon, about a cool new nonprofit that’s trying to preserve the history of videogames. You can read it here.

gamehistory

I also did a big long-form feature last month about Indie House Vancouver, if you missed that.

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Working on some new things

I’ve been pretty quiet as far as games writing goes for the past few months, mostly due to having a million other things going on. I did some CS:GO tournament coverage for ZAM back in the spring, but other than that, I’ve been more or less out of the game.

That’s all coming to an end this month. I’m working on a long form thing for Polygon about the demise of Indie House Vancouver, which I think is gonna be great. I talked to tons of people who lived and spent time at the house over the years, and heard a lot of great stories about what the house meant to its visitors. It’ll probably be up next month.

In general, my life is a bit less hectic now than it has been for the last year or so, so I’m going to be getting more involved in journalism stuff again. Once this Indie House thing is wrapped up, I’ve got a couple more projects coming together that I’m looking forward to. Bear with me while I get back up to speed.

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I did a thing for Motherboard!

I have a confession to make: I’m a bit bored of writing about video games. While I think there’s still some cool stories to be told in that space, and I’m going to continue writing them sometimes, I’ve been making a concerted effort to broaden my horizons a bit and cover other subjects.

My first significant shot at that was published last week! I wrote a story about an artificial intelligence that curates a popular image gallery. Adrianne Jeffries, an editor at Vice’s Motherboard, was nice enough to let me cover this for them. Thanks Adrianne!

motherboard

^Click that there image to read the story.

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Gender Segregation in eSports

In news that will surprise no one, somebody said something dumb on the internet today. Specifically, the folks at Garena Esports (a pretty big esports tournament organizer) decided to release this statement. You should really read the whole thing so you can grasp the full absurdity of it, but the gist is that they want their “Iron Solari” all-female tournament teams to abide by strict limitations on how many gay or transgender members are on their team.

What does one’s sexual preference have to do with their performance in a League of Legends tournament, you ask? Nobody at Garena seems to be able to explain their theory on the matter terribly well, and most reasonable adults can probably conclude that the answer is “fuck all.” As such, the backlash against this announcement has been pretty vociferous.

There’s really not much for me to say here; this is an obviously ridiculous, incredibly poorly thought-out move by Garena, and one that’s probably going to make them some long-term enemies in the LGBT community. Nothing about this is acceptable or even really comprehensible, and Garena deserves every bit of scorn that gets heaped upon them here.

That said, the response to this ill-advised announcement has brought another long-standing debate back to the forefront of esports-related conversations, and that’s something I’d like to talk about a bit: do esports need gender segregation at all? Is an all-female League of Legends tournament even necessary in the first place, regardless of Garena’s dumb LGBT rules? It’s a tough question to answer, and there’s certainly a reason this debate hasn’t been settled over the years.

I’ll preface my opinion on this by saying I’m a straight white dude with absolutely no horse in this race, so there’s undoubtedly people more qualified to talk about this stuff than me. Go read their opinions instead if you feel so inclined. I love, watch, and have reported on a ton of esports events, however, so I do at least have some idea what I’m talking about.

First and foremost, the biggest and most obvious argument against gender segregation in esports is the Fighting Game Community. They’ve been running 99% of their tournaments as mixed-gender since the dawn of time, and while they’ve certainly had some gender-related drama at times, no female FGC player has ever complained about not being able to compete with the boys. There’s been several successful female FGCers, and they’re pretty concrete proof that gender segregation isn’t necessary in a competitive gaming environment.

Unfortunately, the FGC also makes an argument in favour of segregation: it’s around 90-95% dudes still, despite the long-term inclusion of women in their tournaments. If the goal is equal representation, the FGC is struggling, and it’s going to be hard to encourage more women to get into fighting games when the incumbent player base is such a sausage fest. That imbalance is discouraging and alienating for the minority party, just like it is for female engineers and computer scientists and whatnot.

So maybe there is a place for ladies-only tournaments, simply as a method of onboarding women into an esport that might be pretty alienating for them in its current state. Maybe there’s an argument to be made in favour of gender segregated tournaments, if only as a temporary measure to help expedite the process of getting more women involved in esports. I don’t think this is as terrible of an idea as others have opined. I do think that it needs to be done carefully, however, to avoid a situation like Garena now finds themselves in. Here’s a few quick tips on running a female-only tournament that won’t piss people off, and might actually be a useful way to get more girls into esports.

1. Don’t do the dumb shit Garena just did. If you’re concerning yourself with the sexual orientation of your tournament entrants, you’re fucking up. Don’t worry about it, and don’t make any rules regarding it. This is super not rocket science.

2. Let women play in the “men’s” tournament if they want to. At this point, due to the demographics of esports, we can safely assume that the “men’s” tournament is in fact the main event, where all the money and viewers are. If you have female players who feel ready to jump in there, don’t force them to play in your all-female side tourney. The point of the side tourney isn’t segregation, but onboarding, so those who feel ready to move on should be allowed to. (If you respond to this post with some shit about that being unfair because men can’t play in the women’s tourney, you’re an oblivious dipshit. Please spare us.)

3. Don’t make it an afterthought. Get that all-female tourney on the main stage, on the main stream, and give it a decent prize pool. Don’t relegate it to some B-stream that no one watches and expect people to applaud you. If the point here is to get more women into esports, the women in your esports tournament need to be visible to your main audience, which means putting it in front of the people who are there for the main tournament. Think of it like an undercard fight during a PPV boxing event.

4. Just fucking be respectful. This is another one that isn’t rocket science. Don’t have commentators who constantly bring up the gender of the tourney participants, or who comment on the participants’ appearance, or anything dumb like that. This should go without saying, but stuff like the above-mentioned examples has totally happened before. Stahp.

5. Involve women in other ways, too. Having an all-female tourney isn’t the be all and end all of involving women in esports. There’s lots of other ways to improve diversity, like having women on the tourney organizations/production team. Get a qualified lady to commentate some matches – ESL One does this for their CS:GO tournaments. Shout outs to Pansy.

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Most of this stuff is probably common sense, but there you have it. Do these things and maybe we can actually have a vaguely egalitarian esports community one of these days. Wouldn’t that be nice?

If you’re looking for an example of a well-run female-only esports tournament, look no further than last year’s Copenhagen Games Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament. They had a great undercard tourney on the main stream, with several all-female CS:GO teams in attendance. It was great competitive CS, totally enjoyable to watch, and some of those teams are now sponsored by the same big esports orgs that sponsor the big men’s teams. More of that, please!

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Mechanics elitism is bullshit

I woke up this morning to a new video from Chris Franklin, the dude who makes the Errant Signal series. It’s about the divide between how we talk about story and how we talk about mechanics in games criticism, and about how we’re all sort of terrible at looking at games as cohesive works, without separating them out into “story good, systems bad” or whatever. You should watch the video:

As much as I like this video, I wish it went further, because I think there’s another topic very close at hand here that Chris doesn’t address. There’s a whole can of worms that’s closely related to this divide between systems and narrative, and it’s had a huge effect on how people talk about games, especially in the last few months with all the bullshit that’s been going on.

I’m referring to the fact that not only are narrative and mechanics kept largely apart from each other when discussing games, but among “core” gamers, mechanics are prioritized to a degree that makes people look completely insane sometimes. Think of all the games you see derided by “core” gamers as “non-games” or “walking simulators” or whatever; Gone Home, Proteus, that sort of thing. They’re all games that are very systems-light, and rely on either narrative or aesthetics to make their impact.

There’s a huge chunk of the gaming public who see games that are more narrative-focused as objectively worse than those that are systems-focused, to the point of considering systems-light games to be not even real games. These folks are particularly prevalent among those who play a lot of games and consider it an important part of their identity.

To me, it sort of feels like another concerning manifestation of social conservatism. Mainstream games have always been heavily reliant on mechanics and difficulty of execution, so that’s how games have to be forever. Harumph.

It’s no surprise that we see this “Gone Home isn’t a real game” bullshit from a very similar cross-section of people as we’re seeing the “Stop talking about political or social issues in muh vidya game reviews pls” comments coming from. It’s all an attempt to protect the status quo from people who have traditionally been excluded from the “core” gaming space. It’s the worst sort of regressive, exclusionary nonsense.

It sucks, please stop it. The correct response to the existence of media you don’t enjoy is the same as it always has been: don’t fucking play/watch/read it.

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Happy New Year, here’s some hot new shit

Welp, 2014 is over. It was not a great year for gaming, if we’re being honest. Ubisoft pooped out a couple completely unfinished games, Microsoft punted the launch of Master Chief Collection, and uh…GamerGate happened. Fuck GamerGate.

Thankfully, we’ve got a whole new year on our hands now, to ruin as we see fit. Here’s my first published thing for the year:

How Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is turning into the world’s most exciting eSport

It’s the first thing I’ve written for PCGamesN, which is pretty neato. I’ll probably be doing some more stuff for them in the near future, including more CS:GO-related stuff. Cool. Cool cool cool.

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A couple new things.

Hey folks. I just got back from Mexico City a few days ago. You can see some photos from that trip here. While I was out, a couple things I wrote before I left got published!

1. I did a feature about creating convincing wildernesses in games, with interviews with Jake Rodkin from Campo Santo (creators of Firewatch), and Andrew Poznanski of The Astronauts (creators of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter). It’s up on Rock Paper Shotgun now.

2. I also did a spread for Edge Magazine #273, about The Behemoth’s (the Castle Crashers folks) awesome custom arcade cabinets that they bring to PAX and other trade shows. You’ll have to pick up the magazine, in print or digital, to read that one.

EDG273

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