Dec 29 2011

Industry Year End Wrap-Up: Victories and Responsibilities for our Sub-Culture

And we're back once again. What a year, huh? Well, strap in tight.

So, we’ve finally reached Christmas and New Year’s in this very eventful year in gaming. While those in the business see this as the final quarter of the fiscal year, I’m nothing but proud personally and socially with everyone involved with this industry. Our voices were heard and now we have a foundation to call our own with respect to our other forms of media, political bigwigs can’t touch us since games and their designers are expressing their right to freedom of expression, and I am tickled pink over the level of independent companies building their own roots alongside the brand names. While some of them feel pressured and acted legally against them, others accepted their peers with open arms and are working in spirited competition. Life is pretty good for this industry, from where I stand.

But because we are in the clear, that also means that like a free and expected adult in life, we have a number of responsibilities to our industry in terms of perception and our reactions. Movies and television fans are not people who tend to over-react about unfortunate implications and the stories involved except if the authors created the narrative that way. Since gaming is an interactive medium, we are expected to act more and react more emotionally to our games. This can tend to relate to one’s ideas when people challenge our favorite past time. This is why I hope to speak for everyone when I say that we need to keep a tighter lid on things. Emotionally and socially, the idea of a rotund hefty and disinterested young man who retains laziness and a sedentary lifestyle. This is no longer the case: there are all kinds of gamers at this point discerning age and game style and way of life. Young and old gamers are now involved in new and interesting games of all kinds; puzzlers and adventure platformers are the most played alongside casual variety games like Wii Sports Resort. Facebook and wireless compatible games are on the rise as well as the technology growing to allow internet browsers to run computer programs directly instead of the computer itself. Games are evolving, and we no longer have to worry about people taking our toys away. We now have to worry about very different things. In three specific fields, I will point out where we should now be focusing and working towards.

 3) Take a Deep Breath; We Won.

Your Battle is over, my friend. Go. Your Kingdom and Princess need you.

 No one is going to be taking our games away anymore. Pundits and opponents of video games tried their hand at this three months ago, and they lost hard because developers were actually just displaying their right to express their ideas through interactive mechanics instead of a simply visual or narrative one like movies or books. While there certainly is a significant argument from the economic standpoint that prevented the censorship of games, the large and thriving independent community was also a hefty factor that conveyed quality and a wish to improve games in gameplay and even artistry as well as the general mechanics.

The reason I’m pointing out this fact is not for those who wish to sing those praises, but for those who like to defend our medium from critics and naysayers who dislike and find fault within games and the culture. While culture is entirely subjective and cannot effectively be judged by individuals compared to a majority, the content of games themselves bring up a lot of ire from their supporters generally in the more adult topical variety. Allow me to extol another reality check, people; these jabs cannot actually hurt us anymore. You can create a game that allows for escapism to drive and commit criminal acts and kill people. The only thing that detractors can do about it is blow hot air and try to deny us any fun with their moral grandstanding. In many ways, they are being bullies with the gift of gab. They can only ruin someone else’s fun if they are allowed to ruin your morale and give their words any weight. They can’t pursue legislation or use the excuse of ‘games committing potential violence’ since there’s no scientific or psychological proof to that claim; all they can do is moan and complain that the games and gamers of all kinds are somewhat deplorable. Pay them no heed.

2) Respond to Criticism With Respect.

This. This has to stop. How many people are actually like this? How many people are happy being this way, if they are? We're smart and engaging people like everyone else, and we need to start acting like it.

Now that we’ve calmed down the hate towards people who can no longer harm us, let us focus upon how we can better ourselves. This is a hard act to follow for people, I’m aware, but I think the perception of the average gamer and the scathing reactions we give to people who ‘just don’t get it’ are shockingly and unerringly atrocious. We cannot be seen this way, and a lot of it comes from us. I can no longer abide this view, and neither can those who enjoy their games with discussion and intelligence and respect.

Games have flaws in narrative structure and gameplay elements that people will automatically defend because they feel hurt from the insinuation. But I’ll be the first to admit it; games are not books and movies and television. There are good stories to be taken from the games themselves, but they do not explore these areas in-depth. Nor do they consistently use their interaction through gameplay to change the story or provide more insight in any meaningful way. There are also common traps in development which are still used today; difficulty of the games themselves regarded as annoying schlock and repetitive, reusing graphical techniques developed twenty years ago also shows little to no improvement. Narrative has a powerful force in gameplay if we spend more time with storyboarders and writers of that said work and don’t plaster an overblown and overused cookie-cutter soldier or badass-killer mentality without greater depth. Rockstar Games has some incredible stuff with that. In the sandbox genre, blank slates are now given identifiers such as being a Specter or Dovakin to color our perceptions on our character through race, color, or gender. These are things to be appreciated, but also things to be criticized; I cannot be the only one who has heard so much about the bugs Skyrim has.

Criticism is not a beat down or hate being levied on a work by your peers or fellow human beings. These are tightly worded discussion points which point out the flaws of a genre or narrative context that has existed since the dawn of time. Television went through it during the seventies and eighties with unending sitcoms and controversy over the time-honored tradition of the game show. This existed for Radio even older than that. Suffice it to say, people didn’t take it well when they were being pranked by a young science-fiction writer that aliens were attacking the United States of America…but it happened anyway, and it is widely regarded as one of the biggest foundations for the medium. And as for books? Read up on the Library of Alexandria sometime, or the Enlightened and Victorian Era.

A very close friend of mine puts it best, and I thank her for it. ‘Whenever you don’t know something, you can be two things; ignorant or stupid. Ignorance can be taught. Stupidity is when you fight to maintain your beliefs in the shadow of the fact.” There’s nothing wrong with a good fight, but there’s such a thing as taking a blow to make something better. Soldiers the world over have done it, but so have politicians. So have everyday people with a cause and a belief they want to believe in. So do people who are fighting at this very moment. Speaking of which…

1) Fight Supporting Threats..Like SOPA.

Okay, this is where I get serious. Please, bear with me, and read what I have to say with understanding and tolerance. This is important to all of us.

Do you want something to fight for? Do you want your words with great respect and dedication towards what you enjoy so much to mean something? Then fight to keep words and videos like mine and of my colleagues here at Halfbeard’s HUD from disappearing. There are two acts you should be aware of being passed in Congress as we speak. SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, has many Internet authors and broadcasters in a very powerful and significant situation.

You see, this act alongside PIPA, the Personal Information Protection Act, are scores of documents and laws created by lobbyists and governmental officials to restrict and censor the Internet under the understandable but misunderstood notion that information and entertainment within it are harming others. Entertainment on the Internet is being attacked, but so are perfectly legal things that exist there such as gaming mods, independent games, videos of gaming content like our Heads Up series, and the degree of enjoyment we receive out of communicating with your fellow gamers and forming the community we have. The freedoms we enjoy in America and the Internet by speech and expression will affect the world at large if this passes, as other countries will follow their example.

I personally do not see this bill passing into law. The Supreme Court has a good handle on the constitutional rights we citizens are entitled to as human beings. However, that does not mean I have not given what I can to the fight. I have informed my friends and family, as well as I am informing you now of such a powerfully disastrous bill. I have called my congressional representative, and have signed more online petitions than I can care to name. I ask for those who are willing to fight for what I do here, what my colleagues do here, and what the Internet has given us in return in laughter, happiness, sadness, culture and fun to please lend your support. This is where gamers should direct their energies to. I will link you to important materials here, here and here. For those who need more direct and less-confusing stimulation(which I assure you, it confuses me too), please go here and here.  Please rise up and help to stop this from passing. It concerns all of us, and being a person who is enjoyed and wants to add more to this place I have given much love towards, I don’t want to see it waste away by those who would harm it.

Lastly, In light of all this, I want to wish everyone a Happy Holidays and a Merry New Year. There is much more that we have to do. And we can do it together. I’ll keep reporting, and you keep on reading and thinking about it. That’s all I ask.

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