Humane Games

Humane Games are: games for education, games for health, and games for change. They can work either through the play or through the making. This tumblr celebrates Humane Games, and reflective and critical play.

Aug 28

The End of Gamers

dangolding:

The last few weeks in videogame culture have seen a level of combativeness more marked and bitter than any beforehand. 

First, a developer—a woman who makes games who has had so much piled on to her that I don’t want to perpetuate things by naming her—was the target of a harassment campaign that attacked her personal life and friendships. Campaigns of personal harassment aimed at game developers are nothing new. They are dismayingly common among those who happen to be women, or not white straight men, and doubly so if they also happen to make the sort of game that in any way challenge the status quo, even if that challenge is only made through their very existence. The viciousness and ferocity with which this campaign occurred, however, was shocking, and certainly out of the ordinary. This was something more than routine misogyny (and in games, it often is routine, shockingly). It was an ugly spectacle that should haunt and shame those involved for the rest of their lives.

It’s important to note that this hate campaign took the guise of a crusade against ‘corruption’ and ‘bias’ in the games industry, with particular emphasis on the relationships between independent game developers and the press.

These fires, already burning hot, were further fuelled yesterday by the release of the latest installment in Anita Sarkeesian’s ‘Tropes vs. Women in Video Games’ video series. In this particular video, Sarkeesian outlines “largely insignificant non-playable female characters whose sexuality or victimhood is exploited as a way to infuse edgy, gritty or racy flavoring into game worlds. These sexually objectified female bodies are designed to function as environmental texture while titillating presumed straight male players.” Today, Sarkeesian has been forced to leave her home due to some serious threats made against her and her family in response to the video. It is terrifying stuff.

Taken in their simplest, most basic form, a videogame is a creative application of computer technology. For a while, perhaps, when such technology was found mostly in masculine cultures, videogames accordingly developed a limited, inwards-looking perception of the world that marked them as different from everyone else. This is the gamer, an identity based on difference and separateness. When playing games was an unusual activity, this identity was constructed in order to define and unite the group (and to help demarcate it as a targetable demographic for business). It became deeply bound up in assumptions and performances of gender and sexuality. To be a gamer was to signal a great many things, not all of which are about the actual playing of videogames. Research like this, by Adrienne Shaw, proves this point clearly.

When, over the last decade, the playing of videogames moved beyond the niche, the gamer identity remained fairly uniformly stagnant and immobile. Gamer identity was simply not fluid enough to apply to a broad spectrum of people. It could not meaningfully contain, for example, Candy Crush players, Proteus players, and Call of Duty players simultaneously. When videogames changed, the gamer identity did not stretch, and so it has been broken.

And lest you think that I’m exaggerating about the irrelevance of the traditionally male dominated gamer identity, recent news confirms this, with adult women outnumbering teenage boys in game-playing demographics in the USA. Similar numbers also often come out of Australian surveys. The predictable ‘what kind of games do they really play, though—are they really gamers?’ response says all you need to know about this ongoing demographic shift. This insinuated criteria for ‘real’ videogames is wholly contingent on identity (i.e. a real gamer shouldn’t play Candy Crush, for instance).

On the evidence of the last few weeks, what we are seeing is the end of gamers, and the viciousness that accompanies the death of an identity. Due to fundamental shifts in the videogame audience, and a move towards progressive attitudes within more traditional areas of videogame culture, the gamer identity has been broken. It has nowhere to call home, and so it reaches out inarticulately at invented problems, such as bias and corruption, which are partly just ways of expressing confusion as to why things the traditional gamer does not understand are successful (that such confusion results in abject heartlessness is an indictment on the character of the male-focussed gamer culture to begin with).

The gamer as an identity feels like it is under assault, and so it should. Though the ‘consumer king’ gamer will continue to be targeted and exploited while their profitability as a demographic outweighs their toxicity, the traditional gamer identity is now culturally irrelevant.

The battles (and I don’t use that word lightly; in some ways perhaps ‘war’ is more appropriate) to make safe spaces for videogame cultures are long and they are resisted tempestuously, but through the pain and suffering of people who have their friendships, their personal lives, and their professions on the line, things continue to improve. The result has been a palpable progressive shift.

This shift is precisely the root of such increasingly violent hostility. The hysterical fits of those inculcated at the heart of gamer culture might on the surface be claimed as crusades for journalistic integrity, or a defense against falsehoods, but—along with a mix of the hatred of women and an expansive bigotry thrown in for good measure—what is actually going on is an attempt to retain hegemony. Make no mistake: this is the exertion of power in the name of (male) gamer orthodoxy—an orthodoxy that has already begun to disappear.

The last few weeks therefore represent the moment that gamers realised their own irrelevance. This is a cold wind that has been a long time coming, and which has framed these increasingly malicious incidents along the way. Videogames have now achieved a purchase on popular culture that is only possible without gamers.

Today, videogames are for everyone. I mean this in an almost destructive way. Videogames, to read the other side of the same statement, are not for you. You do not get to own videogames. No one gets to own videogames when they are for everyone. They add up to more than any one group.

On some level, the grim individuals who are self-centred and myopic enough to be upset at the prospect of having their medium taken away from them are absolutely right. They have astutely, and correctly identified what is going on here. Their toys are being taken away, and their treehouses are being boarded up. Videogames now live in the world and there is no going back.

I am convinced that this marks the end. We are finished here. From now on, there are no more gamers—only players.


Developers and writers alike want games about more things, and games by more people. We want — and we are getting, and will keep getting — tragicomedy, vignette, musicals, dream worlds, family tales, ethnographies, abstract art. We will get this, because we’re creating culture now. We are refusing to let anyone feel prohibited from participating.

“Gamer” isn’t just a dated demographic label that most people increasingly prefer not to use. Gamers are over. That’s why they’re so mad.

Leigh killing it. Read the rest (via kierongillen)

(via kierongillen)


Aug 27

How games’ lazy storytelling uses rape and violence against women as wallpaper

mostlysignssomeportents:

Anna Sarkeesian’s brilliant, crowdfunded Tropes vs Women in Video Games web-series (previously) has a new episode, Women as Background Decoration: Part 2 [TW: rape, sexual violence, violence], which expertly dissects the use of violence against women, especially sexual violence as a lazy means of establishing skimpy motivations for player characters to hunt down the baddies.

Read more…


Aug 26

nyugamecenter:

wsong:

BOSS

A game about the interaction between a player and a hostile, blinded enemy. Developed with Zack Zhang & Vanessa Briceño as semester-long project - Spring 2014


The player must draw the attention of a large, mechanical monster that guards the mine by making sounds and directing its violence towards her location - using the Boss as a tool and a weapon to escape the hazardous site.


Featured on New York Times

CONCEPT


A view into the visual design process at the NYU Game Center from MFA project ‘Boss’. Visual design by Winnie Song.


(Russian fortress chess) a team-based four-player variant.

(Russian fortress chess) a team-based four-player variant.


But your recruitment will be based in love, not on wages. The mentions come rapid fire, culminating in the grand pronouncement from one employee: Blizzard employees are “just a bunch of geeks,” just like you. This is a window into how the industry as a whole views employment. As one of us has written about before, this is an industry with a layoff rate twice the national rate[PDF] across all industries and a culture of crunch where 68% of respondents work more than 50 hours a week for months at a time in order to get a product out the door. It’s a bad tradeoff: In exchange for being quiet about wages, hours, benefits and the like, you’ll get to hang out with like-minded people you’ll love to be with. The Blizzard video is the distillation of this pitch in a very blunt form. (via Working For the Love of the Game: The Problem With Blizzard’s Recruitment Video :: Games :: Features :: Paste)
link to layoff rate evidence from paragraph above: http://www.gamasutra.com/salarysurvey2014.pdf

But your recruitment will be based in love, not on wages. The mentions come rapid fire, culminating in the grand pronouncement from one employee: Blizzard employees are “just a bunch of geeks,” just like you. This is a window into how the industry as a whole views employment. As one of us has written about before, this is an industry with a layoff rate twice the national rate[PDF] across all industries and a culture of crunch where 68% of respondents work more than 50 hours a week for months at a time in order to get a product out the door. It’s a bad tradeoff: In exchange for being quiet about wages, hours, benefits and the like, you’ll get to hang out with like-minded people you’ll love to be with. The Blizzard video is the distillation of this pitch in a very blunt form. (via Working For the Love of the Game: The Problem With Blizzard’s Recruitment Video :: Games :: Features :: Paste)
link to layoff rate evidence from paragraph above: http://www.gamasutra.com/salarysurvey2014.pdf


Aug 24
kilabytes:

WSJ:  Women Now Make Up Almost Half of Gamers
Adult Women Gamers Now More Numerous Than Under-18 Boys

A recent survey from Nielsen Holdings NLSN +1.58% NV, a U.S. consumer research company, concluded that women gamers in the U.S. are most likely to play games on personal computers, mobile devices and Nintendo’s 7974.TO -0.73% Wii console. In fact, U.S. women are more likely than U.S. men to play on the Nintendo Wii, Nielsen said, while they are equally likely as men to play games on Apple AAPL +0.04% devices.

source

kilabytes:

WSJ:  Women Now Make Up Almost Half of Gamers

Adult Women Gamers Now More Numerous Than Under-18 Boys

A recent survey from Nielsen Holdings NLSN +1.58% NV, a U.S. consumer research company, concluded that women gamers in the U.S. are most likely to play games on personal computers, mobile devices and Nintendo’s 7974.TO -0.73% Wii console. In fact, U.S. women are more likely than U.S. men to play on the Nintendo Wii, Nielsen said, while they are equally likely as men to play games on Apple AAPL +0.04% devices.

source

(via masterworksinteractive)


brianandgj:

Here are a couple of flyers showing some of the games our students made during the Video Game Design for ages 8-12 at the Montclair Art Museum’s Yard School of Art. The tool used for this class was Scratch 2.0.

The class also made a motion detecting welcome screen for the parents and guests for the exhibition. Each student made and scripted their own sprite.

We really enjoyed teaching again this year and look forward to doing more.


artoftoryanse:

Experimenting with some UI elements…

artoftoryanse:

Experimenting with some UI elements…


andreblyth:

Would’ve really liked to re-skin Unity’s default button system, but I don’t think I would’ve made the deadline.

To The Stars for LudumDare

andreblyth:

Would’ve really liked to re-skin Unity’s default button system, but I don’t think I would’ve made the deadline.

To The Stars for LudumDare


Why political engagement is critical to games journalism

agameofme:

Earlier tonight, someone tweeted at me, “Not to be rude, but you’re part of the problem. You’ve compromised your integrity as a journalist by being an activist.” 

There are always a few things that come to mind when I hear this viewpoint expressed. First of all, my role at GameSpot was not that of news reporter. I was a critic. And I believe that a critic’s role involves engaging with media on multiple levels, and that to not engage with media on a political level often results in a woefully incomplete appraisal of a work.

Games, like film and television and books and music, have political meanings. They reinforce or sometimes challenge certain ideologies and value systems. And I sometimes commented on this aspect of games in my reviews, always in the larger context of also talking about the game’s mechanics, visuals, world, or whatever other facets of it also seemed to me to warrant discussion in my attempt to offer some sort of evaluation of a complex, multifaceted work. And I think that to call me an activist for doing this is just silly. 

In her piece “The Trouble With Blue is the Warmest Color," New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis said this:

The truth is, if I were hung up about every predatory director or every degrading image of a woman, I couldn’t be a film critic. So I watch, loving movies that don’t necessarily love or even like women.

I feel much the same about games. Many games disrespect or insult or hate women, reinforcing patriarchal and sometimes deeply misogynistic ideas about the roles of women and the value of women relative to men. Yet rather than commenting on this in my reviews for every game that reinforced regressive views of women, I reserved criticism of the treatment of women for only those games that I felt were the most egregious, troubling, or absurd in this regard. The number of reviews I wrote that comment on representations of women is very few. Yet, both sadly and hilariously, the fact that I ever did it at all painted me as a feminist crusader in some readers’ eyes, and in the comments section of just about every review I wrote were suggestions that I actually gave game X whatever score I gave it based on its treatment of women, even when I didn’t raise such issues at all. 

Given those comments and the other critiques and harassment I’ve received for ever raising such issues, and the critiques and harassment I’ve seen other women (and, to a lesser extent, men) receive for raising such issues, it’s pretty clear to me that this quote, which I reblogged yesterday, hits the proverbial bull’s-eye: 

Gamer culture has pushed the argument about women’s roles so far to one side that most of them honestly believe the status quo of default objectification and women-as-rewards is the “neutral,” “nonpolitical” starting position.

Games are not politically neutral. Neither are mainstream romantic comedies, or action films, or any novel I’ve ever read. They may sometimes appear politically neutral if the values they reinforce mesh with the value systems of the larger culture, but our culture is not politically neutral, either, and it is not outside of the role of a critic to comment on or raise questions about the political meanings embedded in the works one evaluates. In fact, it is often impossible to review something apolitically, because to not comment on or challenge the political meanings in a work in your review is to give them your tacit endorsement. 

This teaser for Battlefield Hardline, for instance, seriously glorifies and fetishizes the militarization of police hardware and firepower. This has always been deeply political, and recent, tragic events have made it impossible to ignore the political nature of such imagery. 

Which brings me to the other thing that comes to mind when I hear this viewpoint expressed. Inherent in the statement that, by being an “activist”—which, here, I take to mean “someone who has attempted to raise certain questions and concerns about the meanings present in some games”—I’ve failed at being a “journalist,” is the idea that journalists don’t ever try to challenge existing power structures or political ideologies or give a voice to the voiceless or any such thing, that the role of journalists is always to simply dryly report the “facts” in such a way that never favors one “side” of an issue over another, but always presents both as equal, even when those sides are not equal at all. And I would never suggest in a million years that writing about video games is remotely in the same sphere of importance as covering the real news of the world, like, say, recent events in Ferguson, or Gaza. I don’t believe for a second that it is. Rather, this is just to make a point about what journalism is and isn’t. News coverage of Ferguson that offers a full and complex picture of events there should naturally raise questions about the abuse of authority, about institutionalized racism and oppression. That’s not activism; that’s part of what journalism should and must do.

Games aren’t the same sort of thing. Thank goodness. But, like film and books and TV, they are a meaningful medium that both shapes and is shaped by the culture at large. Games are worthy of being taken seriously, of being treated with respect, and part of that means that, like books and film and TV, they warrant serious coverage and criticism. To suggest that journalism about games shouldn’t ever raise questions about or challenge the politics of the games industry or of games themselves is dead wrong. Games journalism needs to do this. Any journalistic publication or writer covering games that never seriously engages with games politically is failing to do journalism.


Aug 21

andreblyth:

forestambassador:

The Wait is a game about the desert by Pierre Chevalier.
Play Online
Why Try It: Beautiful visual design; a short narrative told through images and minimal interaction.
Mood: Atmospheric
Author’s Notes: "The Wait is a narrative set in the desert. I suggest you play first (actually, you should play several times), then come back here to read the following notes (use the “show” button).”
From the forest ambassador: If you like The Wait, be sure to check out more of Pierre Chevalier’s work, including the previously-featured Unpredictable Storyline Twists 2 and EMMA.


I like this, and have been thinking about doing super short games myself.

andreblyth:

forestambassador:

The Wait is a game about the desert by Pierre Chevalier.

Play Online

Why Try It: Beautiful visual design; a short narrative told through images and minimal interaction.

Mood: Atmospheric

Author’s Notes: "The Wait is a narrative set in the desert. I suggest you play first (actually, you should play several times), then come back here to read the following notes (use the “show” button).”

From the forest ambassador: If you like The Wait, be sure to check out more of Pierre Chevalier’s work, including the previously-featured Unpredictable Storyline Twists 2 and EMMA.

I like this, and have been thinking about doing super short games myself.


Aug 19

rhizomedotorg:

Games like Fuck Everything carry burdens greater than production; they contest a gaming culture where the primacy of the default male gaze is to be protected violently.
Fuck Everything is also a new artwork, on the internet. And it’s great. Play it.

Play this game.

Our thoughts about it.