How About a Digital Gaming Revolution, Mr. Turnbull?

PAX is a conference for gamers of all kinds, and geek culture more broadly.

But you wouldn’t have guessed it from the length of the room-overflowing queue leading into the session “Boss Level: Meet the Brains in Charge of the Aussie Games Industry”. The most political session at the conference. Scott Ludlam’s presence on the panel is always a dead give-away.

There were plenty of questions about how to change the status quo, how to make games a more serious part of the Australian economy, how to get taken seriously. And it sounds there is slow progress, but still…

…I feel frustrated on behalf of the panelists when people as “Tell us what we should do?” or “Tell us how we can get meaningful change?” As if permission to act is required. When in reality the best thing everyone can do is to put their best argument in the ear of their local politician. Nothing motivates politicians better than mountains of individual arguments, because they betray a level of passion for the subject.

The dirty little secret of politics is that the less effort you have to take to make your voice heard (copy-paste campaigning, or signature gathering), the more of it you need to carry the same weight as a dozen well-crafted personal messages. Effort counts, not volume. Effort in lobbying translates to effort to get politicians elected (or challenged).

I’m not a citizen. So I don’t get to vote. But I still have an argument to put forward from some simple facts that were incredibly easy to gather from the prompts of several speakers. So here is my bit for the cause.

Globally, the movie industry is worth about $90 billion this year (and climbing).

Globally, the music industry is worth about $27 billion this year (and declining).

Globally, the video games industry is worth about $114 billion this year (and rising rapidly).

Malcolm Turnbull talks a good game in support of the digital economy. Labor has thrown their support behind this message. Getting support for the software industry should be a slam dunk.

And based on current trends, next year the video games industry is going to be larger than the movie and music industries worldwide.

And game development studios have a much more direct path to access the global economy; we already do well in Australia considering the general lack of support the industry gets.

But in light of the numbers above do the movie and music industries get generous support, whilst the games industry gets absolutely none? Success in the latter will be a much bigger factor for the success of the Australian digital media industry than either of the first two.

So…

Time to put money where the mouths are. How about extending some tax incentives into the industries of the future, and set Australia up to punch above its weight internationally?

Now, share this post with someone.

And then make contact with your local politician, and make your own argument why this matters for your career, your economic future, your passion. Because that’s how it is done.

Day 130 – My Many Talents

Today I was a soldier. A rally driver. A Jedi. A military commander.

It’s been a while since I’ve played LAN games with friends. I was glad for James’ invitation, and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity. But it is a little daunting, as rusty as I am.

In most games I managed not to come last. And in some I came very close to the top. And regardless, it was a lot of fun, win or lose. But a few of the games did make me feel insufficiently familiar with the controls.

My Jedi at times looked more like a raver waving glow-sticks around than a fearsome warrior bent on destruction. I had a bit more luck wielding the various guns and cannons, but they mostly seemed to get deflected by the light sabres of my opponents. I had a bit more luck with the explosives, until I inevitable got force-choked and tossed off the edge of a cliff.

Most of my Flat Out muscle-memory was still intact. I didn’t really remember much about the vehicles, so I think a few of my choices were less than ideal.

However, when it comes to Command and Conquer I really don’t know what I am doing. I started building quickly, but I don’t think they were the right buildings at all. I gained a lot of ground early on, but my first encounter with the enemy resulted in a steady counter-offensive that quickly wiped me off the map. I either need to practice for next time, or just admit that it’s going to be my Achilles heel.

Time Flies
Time Flies

You know you’re having fun when the clock just seems to leap by hours rather than minutes. In no time 6 hours had passed.

I would have stayed later, but I have a few more things to do tonight and then an early morning tomorrow. Next time I need to plan a little better ahead.

And I should bring Callan along.

I think Counter Strike with him in the mix would be an interesting experience for everyone I met today. Probably not an experience they’ll want to repeat a second time, but it’s just one of those things you have to go through once to realise how close to the foot of the mountain you still are.

Anyway.

Time for Other Important Things!

Link Triage – On Sexism

Some links I had bookmarked are on the topic of sexism. I had planned to build a grand post linking it all together, but I think that is beyond my ability to pull off well enough.

My slightly less ambitious approach below is to just explain the links I collected (and some additions I found specifically for this post) and why I did.

Note that it has been a while I reviewed these links in detail. I will do my best to skim all of them and put warnings where needed before hitting “Publish”, and most of them will have been written by authors careful to put their own warnings on, but a blanket trigger warning might be appropriate here.

In Comics

It must have been a couple of years back that I first saw a post on Boing Boing on this topic. Everyone knows how female super-heroes … let’s say, do not have exactly the same kinds of outfits as the men. The standard counter-argument revolves around how unrealistic the male characters look as well… except they do not get put into over-sexualised poses at the same time.

An Equal Serving: Not so Comfortable
(via: Boing Boing)

It’s funny how images like this elicit “ow my eyes” and “make-it-go-away” style comments from guys that’d otherwise make the exact argument I reference above. Hypocrisy much?

In my efforts to try to re-find this image which I unfortunately hadn’t bookmarked, I came across another few good links on the same topic:

  • The Hawkeye Initiative (trigger warning) – which takes submissions of “fan” art that places Hawkeye in the poses of female characters; I haven’t checked the comments, and I recommend you don’t either
  • The Avengers Re-imagined – perhaps a little over-the-top (I think the artist has something for asses), but the point stands

On the flip-side of this particular coin, there is a Tumblr that specifically has images of Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor. It’s what it says on the packaging. Again, I’d recommend against reading the comments, but the images should be okay.

In Gaming

That last link above belongs in this section as much as the previous one. There is another Tumblr called Repair Her Armor that takes images of skimpily clad female characters and fixes them up. There is one specific post that digs into the dire state of female outfits in most MMORPGs though: Clothes I’m Forced to Wear in the Majority of MMORPGs.

Functional Armor

Now, let’s not get too stuck on clothing… it’s not the only problem surrounding women in gaming by a long shot, but it may well contribute to some of the other problems.

There is a series of very worthwhile videos by Feminist Frequency on YouTube that deal with the Damsel-In-Distress situation in games. It’s more dire and pervasive than you might think:

And let’s be clear, as Anita Sarkeesian herself suggests; there is nothing wrong with enjoying the games. But it’s important to acknowledge the problematic and pervasive dis-empowering stereotypes these games are commonly built upon. I hadn’t realised how common the Damsel-in-Distress is until she put loads of them back-to-back Daily-Show-style.

Then, early last year there was a story surrounding a Capcom fighting competition turned reality show (trigger warning). There is a video that shows how a female member of the team being shown gets harassed. And the story includes gems that equate the fighting game community with sexual harassment. By the coach of one of the teams. It’s stomach-curdling.

Unfortunately this isn’t unique to fighting games.

And it’s also not unique to the players alone. The story of Jennifer Hepler who got stalked and harassed on the Internet (trigger warning) for indicating in an interview that she doesn’t like playing games so much as experiencing the stories they contain. Her job? She’s one of the writers for Dragon Age. The same players that enjoyed her contributions to the story of the game ended up crucifying her over the admission that story matters more to her than play.

In Movies

Ever hear of the Bechdel Test?

It’s a very simple test that requires the following three things from a movie, and these three things alone:

  1. It must have at least two women in it
  2. They must talk to each other
  3. About something other than a man

Surely that cannot be a very difficult bar to clear for a movie? You’d be surprised. Painfully and unpleasantly surprised.

Enjoyable Movie, but Fatally Flawed in One Way

Some recent movies that fail to clear this low bar:

  • The Lone Ranger
  • Monsters University
  • Pacific Rim
  • Star Trek: Into Darkness
  • The Avengers
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure
  • Looper
  • Cowboys & Aliens
  • The Muppets
  • Rango
  • Kick-Ass

This is by no means comprehensive, I just picked a few of the most recognisable titles for the list. And all the ones I’ve seen were very entertaining and I would see again. But that doesn’t change how troubling the systemic nature of this fundamental story flaw is. Many more movies that technically pass would fail the test if it required a whopping 60 seconds of conversation fitting the aforementioned requirements, so let’s not even go there.

In Science and Technology

This one I feel least able to be objective about, so instead of doing my own writing I will summarise the links I had bookmarked on this topic. They are all worth a read for what it’s worth.

I haven’t checked every article below in detail, so a general trigger warning applies… and again, don’t read the comments. Never a good idea on these kinds of posts.

Generally Speaking

I’m not sure why this post.

Actually, I am. Going through life as a straight white male is the lowest difficulty setting possible, and sometimes it’s good to remind myself of what a very common higher difficulty setting can look like.

Alhambra!

Last Wednesday we had our usual Wednesday-night-games again after a brief hiatus forced by my Melbourne trip. Ken arrived just as I finished up my 365 post for Wednesday.

Cheese and Fruit
Cheese and Fruit

We had our usual cheese and fruit to start.

We had Thai food from the local restaurant.

We had Alhambra for our game of the night.

Keeper of the Seraglios
Keeper of the Seraglios

And I managed to collect the most Seraglios, as for some reason I almost always seem to do. They are of little value early in the game, which makes them easy to collect for big gains later. Bring Me All The Women! 😉

I think I managed to have a particularly good run this time though… I didn’t think I was having much luck collecting money, yet my Alhambra was growing quicker than those of Ken and Abbey.

Winner!
Winner!

For any connoisseurs; we went around the track past 120, which is the only reason we’re so low on the track. The field wasn’t very widely spread either.

We did a lot of mutual overtaking, but I managed to stay ahead in the end.

The Winning City
The Winning City

Admire my winning city in its full glory; an excess of internal walls this time, and some extra walls from one of our many extensions (we have the Big Box set with all 20 extensions to the main game).

So Much to Do

Work

Next week contains an interstate trip for work, which usually makes the week somewhat hectic. I’m hoping to get one or two things out-of-the-way for work today:

  • Read “Virtual Team Success” for work training sessions
  • Work through the “Virtual Teams” workbook that goes with aforementioned training
  • Make some preparations for the peer-education sessions I’m trying to set up within the development team
  • Read up a bit more on Atlassian products so I have the details straight

Clean

And then the usual chores for the weekend:

  • Floors: vacuum & mop
  • Laundry: probably two loads
  • Litter Tray: get hazmat suit, clean tray, hose self down

Play

And I am hoping I can find a little time to play around with the new 6D to figure out where all the controls and settings are.

And I had hoped to play through Alan Wake as well, and perhaps another round or two of Binding of Isaac.

But first, most importantly, I go and get my coffee.