News: EA Tries to Sit on Both Sides of the GamerGate

My name is SiliconNooB and I forgot to enter alt-text for this picture.
One does good business ridding themselves of an uncomfortable relationship.

Intel Withdraws Their Advertising from Gamasutra

For a number of weeks now many of the gameing ‘journalists’ who write for the larger industry blogs have been attempting to undermine gamer culture in a number of ways as payback for gamers having the audacity to protest corrupt journalistic practices with the GamerGate hashtag. Some of these self-negating dolts have been declaring that gamers as a culture and identity are dead and over, while still others are depicting gamers as awkward, mouth-breathing, basement-dwelling, misogynistic nerd caricatures – in either case all involved have been broadcasting loud and clear that video gaming is a toxic medium to involve one’s self with.

Enter Intel. Intel is a CPU chip manufacturer. Many of their cheaper low-end chips will find their way into the homes of consumers regardless of gaming preferences, but their more expensive range of high-end CPUs are more or less reliant on primarily three groups of people: video editors, 3D modellers, and gamers. Like any advertiser reliant on the dime of gamers, Intel takes a dim view of factors which stand to retard the growth of [or even diminish] one of its key markets – and they certainly do not wish to have their promotional efforts become associated with any such endeavour.

Cue the creation of the Operation Disrespectful Nod initiative, a campaign which was created to supply GamerGate members with the information needed to effectively contact the advertisers which buy advertising space from a range of publications implicated in the GamerGate affair. When inundated with an inbox full of mail linking to articles which seek to negate the very audience that an advertiser wishes to court, there are very few of them that will not reexamine the nature of their relationship with that particular company. One such implicated publication was Gamasutra, a blog which can perhaps best be described as first among equals when it comes to a complete lack of journalistic ethics. When the initial spate of ‘Gamers are Dead’ articles hit, one of the very first of their number was penned by Gamasutra’s ‘editor at large’, who can usually be found writing about Indy games when she is not busy moonlighting in her second job as an Indy game marketer. Her article, ‘Gamers’ don’t have to be your audience. ‘Gamers’ are over, is more or less a traditional hitpiece on gamers, writing about how we are socially awkward basement dwellers to a man, and about how embarrassing we all make the act of gaming for normal people like her:

kind of embarrassing — it’s not even culture. It’s buying things, spackling over memes and in-jokes repeatedly, and it’s getting mad on the Internet.

This was soon followed up by the work of a Gamasutra colleague, who penned a quick instructional on how best gamers ought to be dealt with; A Guide to Ending “Gamers”. This article is actually worth the read for the sake of sheer hilarity, and it could very nearly be parody. It argues that, in order to solve the problem of gamers, developers should make fewer popular types of games, game ‘journalists’ should cover fewer popular games, and reviewers should stop using ‘fuzzy‘ concepts such as fun in order to measure the worth of a game, and that titles should instead be judged on concrete definitions such as whether they are ‘edifying’, ‘healing’, ‘pro-social’, or ‘enlightening’ – but never fun!

We stop upholding “fun” as the universal, ultimate criterion for a game’s relevance. It’s a meaningless ideal at best and a poisonous priority at worst. Fun is a neurological trick. Plenty of categorically unhealthy things are “fun”. Let’s try for something more. Many of the alternatives will have similarly fuzzy definitions, but let’s aspire to qualities like “edifying”, “healing”, “pro-social”, or even “enlightening”. I encourage you to decide upon your own alternatives to “fun” in games (while avoiding terms like “cool” and “awesome” and any other word that simply caters to existing, unexamined biases).

Unfortunately for Gamasutra as a whole, Intel did not see the good humour of the situation, and proceeded to issue their own response to what has been occurring:

We take feedback from customers very seriously, especially as it relates to relevant content and ad placements

Intel has pulled their advertising from the cesspool that is Gamasutra. Predictably this has to the shrill cry of game ‘journalists’, as they squawk and sputter about being silenced by GamerGate [as though they are somehow entitled to Intel’s advertising dollars even as they insult Intel’s customers], but really Intel has no reason to remain in an expensive relationship which only stands to affect them in purely negative terms.

Apparently swapping characters is way too hard for the team to implement.
The amount of bewilderment that Square Enix has caused through their incompetent messaging truly is emblematic of the company as a whole.

Tabata Speaks on FFXV’s Battle System

Last week Lusipurr.com broke the terrible news that Final Fantasy XV‘s battle system has been lobotomised for casual consumption, and is now a largely automated affair. This week new details have surfaced from a surprisingly old source, which has received renewed scrutiny due to Hajime Tabata’s controversial interview last week. This new information is actually the subject of a US patent that Tabata filed way back in 2012, which obviously did not receive the full force of the internet’s scrutiny due to the lack of context, as everyone figured that [then] Final Fantasy Versus XIII was vapourware, and would not materialise.

Combat is to be automated, with the player tasked with setting gambits that will automatically activate at certain distances from an enemy. In simple terms a player might set his character to attack with a sword at close range, a whip at medium range, with Firaga at long range, and with an Assassin-class weapon if initiating the attack from behind an enemy. When in the field the ‘assault button’ will then trigger a combo based on any one of these attacks in relation to the player’s proximity to the enemy. The Gambit system was a wonderful innovation for Final Fantasy XII, but there it was based on combat situation, not the distance of the player to an enemy. It is all very well to have distance-based gambits when there are one or two enemies on the screen, but what happens when one wishes to attack a flying enemy with Firaga in a situation where ten Goblins are running amok? This is something that does not seem possible unless the game provides players with a means to manually issue commands during combat – a feature that has not as yet been confirmed.

In response to the disquiet [and the not so quiet] that has gathered over Final Fantasy XV throughout the week, Hajime Tabata has given a follow-up interview in order to mollify the fears of the fanbase, and has done a piss-poor job of it. When asked specifically about the one-button gameplay he deliberately chose to construe that as being a question about the game’s defensive mechanics. Incidentally, gamers will be largely impervious to common types of damage when holding down the defensive button, yet this mechanic will not be open to abuse on account of blocking requiring MP for some reason – they have to make use of MP for something one supposes, now that it is likely naught but an afterthought in combat. Tabata goes on to state that switching characters will be left out of the main game because it is too hard, and that the game is easy enough that one need not worry about being able to beat it if they have properly leveled up. One possible ray of light was the mention of a ‘techniques button’ along with the ‘assault button’, suggesting that there may in fact be some method of fine grain control that players can potentially tap into. That being said, it could just be the limit break button – one does not want to give this team too much credit.

Everyone on the development team thoroughly looked into an Active Cross Battle system that made free use of attack, guard, and co-op functions, but as a result they arrived at the conclusion that changing characters would be too difficult. In order to create a new and interesting battle system, we ended up not being able to put in the character switching.

It’s not that simple! (Laughs.) Yes, when you continue to hold down the guard button, you can basically auto-guard and evade, but it consumes MP. You can’t infinitely evade. You have to think about timing, when it’s a good idea to attack or evade. Also, you aren’t invincible. There are attacks you can’t avoid. In those cases, there are also essential technical evasion methods.

Besides the basic assault button (attack), you can invoke techniques with the technique button.

In order to widen its appeal, we’re developing the game aware that anyone can immediately be able to play it, however the game as a whole is not casual. Because it’s a core game, we have casual controls. If you obtain good weapons and level up, you won’t have to worry about clearing the main scenarios.

If our fans are uneasy about the information we have released, then our ways of issuing information may in fact be poor. Even though we didn’t have a lot of time, I wanted to make clear the current situation. In the future, our information releases might be poor, but I think we can receive your approval.

If only game 'journalism' as a whole could be made to share in the bounty of the golden poo!
At least EA can always be counted upon to be EA.

EA Picks the Side of Profit

This week EA received some major kudos through the words of their director of digital communications, Chris Mancil. It was a forum post in support of GamerGate, which in terms of tone managed to hit all the right notes, this led to much praise for him, but something seemed a little off. To Mancil gamers deserve respect, and the gamers of Gamergate are rightfully angry – but they are not really angry at the ‘five guys’ incident or at social justice warriors in general, and they are not really angry at the state of game ‘journalism’, no, what gamers are really angry at is alienation from the industry. Mancil is never really much more specific than this. His forum post has obviously been put through the ringer at EA’s marketing department, and has been constructed in such a way as to avoid upsetting any party in this fracas. In other words Mancil is attempting to walk both sides of the street. This essentially all but confirms a suspicion that one has harboured ever since the GamerGate hostilities broke out, which is that the greater part of the movement could have been very easily mollified if game journalists had been prepared to listen to their opinions and treat them like human beings.

While all this was going on EA was busily unveiling their ‘It’s on us‘ campaign, which is part of a broader White House initiative against sexual assault. As these things tend to go the initiative is fairly meaningless, with EA asking people to pledge [and register their details] in order to, one supposes, indicate their intention not to rape anybody. Protip to EA: the kind of idiots who would sign up to something like this never posed a risk to women in the first place. Essentially, this is a fairly soft and meaningless way that EA can make their brand more appealing to the precisely opposite group of people to those targeted by Chris Mancil’s posting – this is important, because EA’s relationship with journalists is key.

While all this was going on a former employee of EA’s Australian operations took to Reddit after none of the Australian games media that he contacted were willing to publish his shocking allegations. EA had presided over the hacking of 40,000 forum user’s information, and allegedly worked with the local games media in order to cover it up. On top of this it would seem that the senior editor of one of Australia’s larger gaming blogs, AusGamers, is literally married to EA PR, and they have a child together. This would not normally be damning, but for the fact that this information is not disclosed anywhere on the site. Kotaku Australia [of all the bloody publications] subsequently took up this whistle-blower’s claims and was able to verify the fact that the personal information of 40,000 users was indeed hacked in the EA Firemonkeys forums. EA later stated that:

“EA Firemonkeys became aware of a cyber attack on a stand-alone Firemonkeys forum in September 2013.

Firemonkeys took immediate action by shutting down the forums and taking the server in question offline to prevent potential misuse. An investigation determined that a small number of customer email addresses were potentially obtained, but revealed no evidence of other information being accessed including passwords, names, security questions, payment information or any other sensitive data that could permit access to an online account. To be clear, no EA systems or databases were affected outside of the singular Firemonkeys forum. Firemonkeys took swift and appropriate action under the circumstances to address the issue.

EA are shits, but there is almost something comforting in that. Their only agenda is to make money at any cost, and to that end they are willing to disingenuously play to any side of an ideological divide. They are not interested in changing anything that is not connected to consumer rights, and they are not interested in reconstructing any culture, save for any lingering cultural resentment towards monetising every given facet of a game. EA is the old timey wax mustache villain, and it is certainly a sign of how far the custodians of video game culture have fallen that blatant dishonesty can seem so much more refreshing than the insidious kind of misinformation that has been attempting to strangle gamer culture for the past two months.

20 comments

  1. Leigh Alexander (and Gamasutra as a site really) is the face of what GamerGate exists to stand against. Abusive, hate-mongering, power-mad political agenda driver posing as a gaming enthusiast. We don’t need that kind of human tarnishing our hobby, and what happened with Intel is a wonderful example of consequence for poor behavior. I only hope we see more of this.

    Tabata at this point is a one man wrecking machine for his own PR attempts. The more he talks, the more confused the narrative seems to be. I honestly think that we won’t have a real idea of how this thing works until the demo lands next year. Still hoping for the best, but not expecting much.

    “Protip to EA: the kind of idiots who would sign up to something like this never posed a risk to women in the first place”
    — This right here. This exemplifies the sort of reaction most of us had when this White House generated, distractionary nonsense emerged as a public initiative.

    I did in fact applaud Mancil’s statement when it first came out and hoped it was perhaps a sign of a big publisher (perhaps the most notorious) about to make a serious statement or perhaps explain what the hell they let happen to Bioware in recent years, but it is, as you say, nothing more than an attempt to keep both sides of the coin appeased and ensure their financial quotas are met. Bioware is all EA had that interested me in any way, and they’ve certainly lanced it right through the soul. Cisquitision indeed.

    I do hope that ultimately the free market casts the verdict on what thrives in the industry. At least it will then be the consumer’s choice, and not the progressive leftist cult that is modern ‘gaming journalism’ determining the future.

  2. it is certainly a sign of how far the custodians of video game culture have fallen that blatant dishonesty can seem so much more refreshing than the insidious kind of misinformation that has been attempting to strangle gamer culture for the past two months

    This.

  3. @Wolfe:

    At least it will then be the consumer’s choice, and not the progressive leftist cult that is modern ‘gaming journalism’ determining the future.

    The problem, of course, is that the ‘journalists’ try to rig the system by denying/inflating coverage to suit their aims, by ‘adjusting’ review scores, and by subtly editorialising their news presentations. The end goal is to manipulate sales and market trends.

    For example, let us assume a Journo doesn’t like a game because he has some sort of ideological axe to grin. If he can convince enough people not to buy that game (using whatever means: lowering scores, reducing coverage, negatively tinting the news about it), then that could force the developer to do what he says in their next game so as to avoid the reviewer’s ire. And, when the reviewers are all colluding and fixing their scores and reviews together, the result is nothing more or less than strong-arming of devs by a tiny circle of internet demagogues.

  4. Who can make sense of this?

    In order to widen its appeal, we’re developing the game aware that anyone can immediately be able to play it, however the game as a whole is not casual. Because it’s a core game, we have casual controls. If you obtain good weapons and level up, you won’t have to worry about clearing the main scenarios.

  5. @Lusipurr: Aye sir, that is exactly what I’m concerned about. When I say free market, I am thinking entirely of the sales to those who don’t actively seek out the metascores and other such useless systems intended to determine a title’s worth. I’m up to date on what’s been going on with journos and their little secret club that was exposed for all to see. I’m just hopeful that the average gamer won’t bother with them. Because if what those people want is the future of gaming, there’s no place for it in my life. And I’d hate to see a day where I don’t consider myself in some regard, to be a gamer.

    @Julian: Moonspeakers, perhaps? Politicians, most likely. They’re highly adept at doublespeak. Come to think of it, perhaps you could forward it to an EA rep.

  6. @SN: I’ll have a go at it.

    “In order to make the game more appealing to people who are not interested in it, we are doing our best to ensure that, no matter who picks up the controller, they will be able to play through the game–even the blind, the lame, the mentally incompetent, and the profoundly disinterested.

    However, despite having just made this claim, believe me when I also say that the game is not, in fact, meant to be more appealing to these sorts of people; nor should you believe that everyone will have the capacity to play through it.

    Now, forget what I just said, again, because Final Fantasy XV is a game which is essential to our company’s financial survival, and as such we have done our best to ensure that everyone will have the capacity to play through it.

    If you obtain good weapons, and level up your characters, you will find the main scenarios very easy. This may or may not be related to the fact that we have done our best to ensure that everyone will have the capacity to play through it. Nor should you believe that you will have trouble clearing the main scenario even if you do not obtain good weapons and level up your characters.

    We will probably make obtaining good weapons and levelling up your characters something that can be done without effort, just to make sure.”

  7. Because if what those people want is the future of gaming, there’s no place for it in my life. And I’d hate to see a day where I don’t consider myself in some regard, to be a gamer.

    Well, we can always just swear off the new stuff and enjoy good old games. Honestly though, I feel that there are probably too many bro gamers for these knuckleheads to ever be able to pull off what they are attempting.

  8. I propose we replace Google’s auto translate function with Lusi’s moonspeak translation otpion as it appears far more accurate.

  9. @Julian: True, but irrational fear comes with being in love with something. Ultimately I think the consumer market will set the tone for what’s produced and we’ll see a wide range of titles representing various tastes, much in the same way we see in cinema. But there’s a majority share of that creative collective and my concern is that these Leigh Alexander types will direct it.

  10. I am not worried at all that these people will ruin my games broadly speaking [they may cause some mischief here or there], I am more concerned that they will ruin my internet culture [as they’ve mostly trashed it already].

  11. The internet culture will reassert itself. The bulk of the current crop of SJW sorts loyal to sites like Kotaku seem to skew towards the younger side, and it’s likely a lot of them will simply outgrow or stop caring about these social causes they’re supporting now out of a misguided sense of obligation to a loosely defined greater good.

  12. The thing about youngsters is that there’s always more of them.

  13. True, but they tend to develop their own ideals which run against the grain of their predecessors.

  14. That Tabata quote is such nonsensical wacky-speak. It’s a core game, SO it has casual controls??

    ??????

  15. I hope that there is some fundamental misunderstanding occurring during translation, because the guy sounds like he’s suffering from dementia, and I’d hate to see what he’s been doing in the director’s chair…

  16. Dementia would nicely explain some of SE’s decisions lately…

  17. I believe ‘core game’ means its success is essential for Square Enix’s business plan, and hence the controls are casual, for uptake by the largest number of people possible.

  18. That actually makes a lot of sense, and shows how truly oblivious they are to western culture.

  19. I am simply amazed that there is a game dev chasing the casuals in late 2014. That’s a bit like trying to board the Titanic in 1956.

    That ship has long since sailed. More than that, it has long since crashed, sunk, and been recognised as a bad idea.

  20. Apparently they haven’t managed to catch up for a chat with Nintendo in a couple of years…

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