We CAN Fix Videogames

Todd Wohling / March 22, 2015 at 12:00 PM / Archive

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This week, “Games Consultant”, blogger and SocJus outer party member Tadhg Kelly wrote about “Fixing” ‘Videogames’”.  It’s what you’d come to expect from SocJus: mostly sniveling about one topic or another, built on a foundation that says the outcomes of poorly written SocJus not-games or badly designed indie games should be the same as the outcomes of Activision, EA, Gearbox, Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony.

At the end, Kelly talks about “Transcending Videogames”, where he says thus:

And so maybe as a way to get to that state, where we just have fun or sad feelings and like what we spend our time playing, we need to get the hell away from Videogames. Comics authors started to come out from under the shadow of “Comics” by opting to call themselves something else: Graphic Novelists. Maybe game makers should do something similar. For me at least there’s a real distinction now between video games and Videogames, between just wanting to make and enjoy good things versus pouring them through a snarky [sic] cultural lens that demands obedience.

There’s a lot wrong in this comment, even from a SocJus standpoint—the standpoint where games are meant to beat thinking people into submission to narratives surrounding the full gamut of Tumblrisms from sexism to patriarchy.  Other outer party members of SocJus advocated making games that were not fun, as did at least 1 member of the SocJus inner party.

Indeed, it doesn’t really seem like SocJus is all that interested in videogames, beyond trying to destroy them while getting as big a cut of the 100 billion dollars up for grabs as possible.  SocJus muppet and Minister of Vaporware, Tim Schafer, took it upon himself to remind everyone the only thing that matters is slavish devotion to the narrative.  Anyone, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity, who deviates from the stated narrative is to be mocked and derided—shamed into obedience.

However, that doesn’t mean Tadhg Kelly is wrong.  Videogames, as he puts it, do need to be fixed.  They have needed to be fixed for a long time, and the gamers who built the industry (in some cases, like mine, twice) bear the responsibility of fixing it.  So, in my opinion, here is how we do that.

Step 1: Restore Definitions

The place to start is to return the moniker ‘game’ to its rightful place.  Movies, books, TV shows, magazines, manga, and most simulations are not games.  This is not to say all of those things don’t have value or aren’t worth a portion of your or my disposable income.  I’d happily shell out the money again for Ready Player One, but there’s no definition of ‘game’, even the Golding definition that applies to every piece of computer software ever written, for which Ready Player One could be considered a game.

Examples like Ready Player One are easy.  The question is what should be done with other not-games like Gone Home.  Obviously, as a creative work, Gone Home should get a chance to compete among other creative works of similar type.  An entire infrastructure could be constructed around creative works like Gone Home; communities could be built and curated; the SocJus Ministry of Truth could construct an entire culture around creative works that aren’t feature films or TV shows, but aren’t games either.  Of course, building an industry from the ground up does take a fair amount of effort, and if there’s anything that sends the rank and file members of SocJus into shock, it’s the specter of having to expend effort.

Step 2: Rebrand SocJus Games “Media”

Other than the 100 billion up for grabs in the gaming industry worldwide, is there any benefit to Gawker Media or Vox Media having a video games division vice an “indoctrinative interactive edutainment” division?  Rebranding SocJus propaganda websites that were gaming websites wouldn’t affect them in the least.

Kotaku, Polygon, and The Mary Sue would still be able to mind vomit the tenants of SocJus and Tumblr activism without an “unfair” expectation from consumers of the gaming industry that they talk about games that don’t suck, or an expectation their writers know things about the video game industry. Hell, Katherine Cross could become their resident academic expert in all things fantasy and not-game.

Gamasutra could turn its “Twine for People Incapable of Smart” article into a series for CYOA e-reader authors and provide resources for authors to get the exposure they need to compete in the e-reader market.  This would turn Gamasutra from a “resource” for game developers slavishly devoted to SocJus to a universal resource for everyone trying to write a CYOA e-reader.

Step 3: Advocate for and Enjoy What You Like

As soon as there’s a strict separation of game and not-game, and games media and “indoctrinative interactive edutainment” media, there isn’t a need for the conflicts that have been raging online for months now.  Certainly, the muckrakers are still going to rake; the piss poorly designed industry blacklist will exist for the time being; The Mary Sue will still celebrate it being worse to be honest with your bad teammates in LoL than it is to be bad at LoL in a competitive environment.

But that won’t matter to gamers.  Ben Kuchera could start up his own TwineJournoPros email list to dictate which people and narratives get coverage on all indoctrinative interactive edutainment media.  The creative forces behind badly written, badly designed, badly implemented, badly executed works you can roll the credits on in under a minute won’t have to, as Kelly puts it, “run the gauntlet” of consumer advocates whose motivators include being entertaining and doing their part in directing a huge amount of disposable income to the good games.

All this is possible because, when we’re talking about hobbies people choose to partake in, separate but equal works.

So Preach on Tadhg

Kelly wants to distance himself from videogames, and I think I speak for almost everyone when I say, “On your way out, could you take Leigh, Ben, Chris Plante, and the entirety of the staff at The Mary Sue, Bustle, and Jezebel with you?”

The bottom line is this: whether Tadhg Kelly likes it or not, videogames are a product driven industry.  Bad products kill product driven industries, so the goal should be to make as few bad products as possible.  If that means Tadhg Kelly and SocJus need to transcend videogames, then they should go.  They won’t be missed.

Todd Wohling

A long time ago on an Intellivision far, far away my gaming journey started with Lock n' Chase, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons The Cloudy Mountain, and Night Stalker. I earned both a BS-Physics and a BS-Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Today I spend most of my time on PC. I left a career of 14 years in aerospace in Colorado, so I could immigrate to Norway.