Tropes vs Women – How To Win The Argument

Firstly, if you’re an MRA or misogynist who’s come here to view new and interesting ways of abusing Anita Sarkeesian, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. To use a cricket analogy, You play the ball, not the man, so there will be no discussion of personal history, politics or other such nonsense.

What I am trying to do is give anyone interested in genuine debate surrounding Tropes vs Women a grounding in the issues that are brought up in the Damsels in Distress series of videos and suggest things that, if you want to try and rationally debate the salient points, you would need to counter to have an effective argument. I am not going to do your arguing for you! I personally agree with the broad message that is presented in Tropes vs Women, what I’m interested in discussing is ways that message might be critically engaged with.

Continue reading Tropes vs Women – How To Win The Argument

Going For The One – Yes

This was the first Yes album I listened to, and it’s still a revelation to me. I’d been to see Rick Wakeman a few years earlier, I had pretensions of adequacy as a keyboard player and I worshipped at the becloaked keyboard god’s silvery hem, but I’d not gone far into the murky world of Prog Rock. A chance conversation with my then girlfriend’s father led me to his vinyl copies of Going for the One and Tales From Topographic Oceans and a lifetime of verbal abuse from those not in the Prog fraternity.

I’d dabble in other genres of music, but my love of complex harmonies, counterpoint and virtuosic musicianship always led me back to Progressive Rock in general and Yes in particular. I was in awe, in every sense of the word, of Rick, Jon, Chris, Steve and Alan. I was afraid of their ability, it seemed inhuman to me, and still does in some respects. Going for the One, from the playful lyrics and sense of fun in the title track to the esoteric wonder evoked by Awaken via the production brilliance of Parallels, I was hooked.

There are better records out there, with better players, more interesting songs and superior production, but they don’t move me in the same way. The hair stood up on my neck when I listened to the album for the first time, and still does if I’m in the right mood. Listening to Awaken was like stepping into an ancient, alien landscape. I knew I wanted to make music like that.

My ambition has been tempered somewhat by my lack of technical playing ability, I have neglected my duty to practice, leaving my keyboard skills sorely lacking, but I maintain the passion to create music that is different and evokes an emotional and intellectual response. I may not succeed by anyone else’s standards, but I’m having a blast trying.

Thank you Going for the One, you made my life a better place!

One Site to Rule Them All

I’ve got five different websites at the moment, each one themed to a different interest I have, each one linked to each other in a byzantine fashion that really only helps web domain registrars. To end all that fuss, I’ve decided to amalgamate the sites into one easily affordable monthly… wait, no. I’ve decided to incorporate the websites into one spot – ravenshaw.net – so that I’ve only got one place for my online identity. Unless you count twitter. Or Facebook. Or Google+ (Don’t be ridiculous, no-one counts Google+… – Ed.)

Soon I’ll be archiving all my old posts from aberrantcoding.co.uk and scifielectro.com to this site and retiring them as and when the domain renewals come up.

Onwards and upwards!

Devil’s Attorney

I mentioned in my review of Tiny Tower that I felt a bit disappointed that there wasn’t an end to the mindless toil in that particular game.  I began to get that same sensation in Devil’s Attorney after moving into my second new apartment, I felt the familiar dread of buying another set of furniture and chintz and I considered giving it up.

I didn’t, in the end.  The voice acting was funny, the cases were well constructed puzzles and the art style reminded me of Rock Star Ate My Hamster, Day of the Tentacle and Sam and Max.  The final level, a courtroom battle worthy of A Few Good Men or Kramer vs Kramer, came as a surprise, as it dispensed with the static puzzle flavour of the game up to that point and became a randomised series of blow and counterblow. I found that it was easily the most challenging and, for that reason, the most enjoyable.
And, in an age of micro transactions and never ending games that don’t evolve out of their initial rut, it was refreshing for the game to have a defined end. The story was light but held my interest and it was satisfying for it to be wrapped up in some style.
Recommended!

Disney Infinity

I’m actually quite excited by the Disney Skylanders knockoff.  This is mostly because I have a nearly three-year old nephew who loves everything Disney at the moment.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself, in reality, I have a hankering to battle Zerg with the Dread Pirate Barbossa on the Death Star.

The basic premise is that you buy a base set which consists of the Infinity Toy Box software, a connecting base set and three toys:  Sully from Monsters Inc., Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean and Mr Incredible from The Incredibles.  The Infinity Toy Box, much like Skylanders, allows you to take the physical toy and play with in game versions when you slot them into the base set.  Each toy also gives you access to the area in game they come from, so Jack Sparrow has a Pirate themed area and Sully allows you to explore Monsters University.

There are no classical Disney characters, which is a shame, and the sets lean heavily towards Pixar and Pirates of the Caribbean.  There are some surprising faces, however, as Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas will be available to purchase when this is released later on this year.  So far there is no news on whether other Disney is going to exploit other IP in their quest for world domination, but surely it can only be a matter of time before we see Star Wars and Marvel Infinity sets?

The cost looks to be astronomical, if you want a complete set of figures, some sources are suggesting £300 for the lot.  If you want to buy them piecemeal, as most people will, the Infinity starter set is £55-£65 and the expansions are priced at £12-15.  If Skylanders is anything to go by, this is a license to print money.  The Activision game has raked in over $500 million since it launched in 2011.

Bullshot!

I had a brief twitter exchange with Duncan Harris, the proprietor of the excellent website Dead End Thrills, which, for the uninitiated, uses third-party mods and bleeding edge hardware to produce stunning screenshots from computer games, sometimes known as tourist shots or less politely, bullshots (because they’re bullshit screenshots, obv).  The following tweet from Duncan started it all off:

I’ve had a fair few industry requests for editor-assisted bullshots recently. Soon they will be everywhere, custom lighting and all.

And was followed by:

Normal screenshots just aren’t seen as competitive by a lot these days. Gotta spotlight those models and enrich those shadows.

I tweeted that I didn’t think it mattered in feature material, but in reviews it probably wasn’t a good idea.  Duncan replied that websites are moving to a more stylised lifestyle magazine approach, which meant that all the shots are likely to be bullshots, even those used in reviews.  His second reply stated that as long as everyone knows they’re fake then its not an issue, but he did later tweet that the jury is out on whether or not whether or not bullshots actively mislead.  The Storify link has the salient points or see our twitter feeds for full details.

The issue here is one of imperfect information.  As I am aware of bullshots and the possibility that any promotional material may be processed and not representative of the game, I fall into the camp of the informed consumer, and it is completely right that I should take note of the providence of the screenshots.  It’s also true that, due to the age of my PC rig, I was unlikely to get the best video quality anyway, so I was already labouring under a false pretension when I saw un-modded screenshots.

So why am I making a fuss?  First of all you get an impression of a game from its screenshots, especially in a review.  If the shots have been enhanced then it can mislead the reader, as they have a reasonable expectation of getting an approximate experience described by the words and images of the review.  Even though I can’t get the Ultra settings on my PC now, I have the opportunity to upgrade and achieve the same quality in-game, whereas the bullshot is usually impossible to recreate during gameplay as they can involve any number of tricks to achieve their fidelity and composition including stopping time, weather modifications, and third-party image processing and lighting.

But if it’s obvious, it’s okay, right?  I don’t know if the shots on Dead End Thrills taken in isolation are obviously modded to a layman.  I agree they are different to normal screenshots, but are they so different that you would know they’re not modded?  I’m not so sure.  If you put those same shots on IGN or Eurogamer in the middle of a review it becomes much less obvious.  Adding a disclaimer in each review and/or a note on the bullshot to state that it has been modded might be enough to placate my sense of foreboding, but I doubt it.

Context here is king.  On Dead End Thrills it is obvious that these shots are being produced by a combination of modding, artistic skill and top-end hardware because the website is all about modification and extremely detailed screenshots.  We are told very clearly what modifications have been used on every shot and in some cases have a detailed breakdown of how the shot was achieved.  On a gaming website, bullshots may, or may not, be marked that they’ve been produced by a third-party, and may, or may not, appear with a suitable caveat.  If a bullshot is being used for a review then that misrepresentation may be enough to convince a person to buy a game they may otherwise not have.

Bullshots, quite rightly, sell games, they can even make dud games look awesome, which is why their use in review copy a little troubling.  As ever, the cry is Caveat Emptor, Buyer Beware!

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