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May 26, 2020
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GamerGate Moderates: Addressing the Reasonable Grievances

by Peter Randol on 10/20/14 02:37:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.



    Gamergate advocates (at least not the violent, misogynist, racist, terrorist, trolls) have presented two demands for the videogame journalism industry.  The first is large and present in all forms of journalism which is a decrease of nepotism or conflicts of interests in consumer reviews.  The second, is a call for "objective" journalism, or an impossible demand.  The first one can be only mitigated in an industry with tight monetary relationships, but I think that the second one can be 'solved' and the first reproached by a new standard of games journalism. **WARNING POSSIBLE PRETENSION**  In the academic field of (video)games studies there has been a long running debate about the different way to approach games, one called a narratological approach and the other a ludological approach.  

    The narratological approach is one that focuses on story, symbolic representation and aesthetics.  This approach is the one that many feminist videogame critics/journalists get mired in.  These aspects are highly 'subjective' and the ideas that are transmitted and interpreted can often be completely unintentional by the developer and go completely unseen by the so called 'objective' game reviewer.  Counter to this, is that if these aspects of video games are not actually addressed then there can be no hope of videogames fulfilling their full potential as an art form, and no improvement in how we can INTENTIONALLY convey ideas through these means (story, representation, aesthetics) will be improved.

    On the other hand the ludological approach looks at videogames through the lens of rules/mechanics of play, interface, and functionality.  These are the so called 'objective' aspects of a game and carry huge importance on a game.  This is what makes a game fun or not (how difficult/easy it is, what the main objective of the game is, multiplayer/single player, how you fail (or if you can), bugs, etc.)  However, it is foolish that people would only want videogames journalism to focus on this and this alone.  When we realize that Call of Duty wouldn't be the same if was presented as really well defined stick figures with rectangles in their hands shooting tiny balls at each other while navigating abstract blue chest high walls, it would make games soulless.  In addition, these aspects need to be looked at with that feminist/marxist/anti-racist perspective as well, for they code other ideas within them.  Lets look at an example: Chess.

    When we think of Chess, at first glance, it seems that the only thing that matters is the rules of the game: the king does this, the queen does that, the pawn has this function. But how boring and more difficult would it be to learn if we called them piece A, piece B, piece C, etc.  Their designation as king, queen, bishop, makes the game easier to learn since we can attach mechanics to symbolic representation.  With this design analogy comes a price. 

     For lack of a better term, the developer of Chess has also made several claims about human society.  The most glaringly obvious one is that royalty (king and queen) have more value than common folk, and that the rank and file should be used as cannon fodder.  Think about the last time you played chess, were you more callus about how you used your pawns? did you think very hard about how you moved the queen or your clergy?  By using the status quo to help inform players about the value of the pieces of chess, the developer loses a chance to critique the status quo assumption.  For instance, it is possible to win a game of chess while losing all of your pawns, but would society really function after the battle without them?

    I don't know about you, but I don't want this art form that I adore so much to be treated like a utility.  The people who review the games we play should not have a similar format as a car review.  If we demand that game reviewers trust us to be smart (which is in fact an important game design philosophy) then we can get more robust reviews in which a game cannot be completely dismissed because it said something sexist (but it should still be berated for it).  In addition a review with good ludological depth is harder to fluff up, it concerns much more material subjects and makes it harder to fall into blatant, uncritical favoritism.  Ludology and narratology should be applied at all times to all videogame analysis.

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