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Battlefield V

All my… what?

I am facepalming over here a little bit, but not necessarily for the reasons you might expect.

First, that trailer is just bad. Not in the “they got a British female amputee in my authentic WW2 sim!!1!” way, but in the very standard “this is an incoherent mishmash of themes” way. There’s a part halfway through when you see a squad of soldiers running away, and I was trying to figure out if they were on my (the viewer’s) team or not. And what the hell was with that “fire twice, then immediately reload” crap? Some people have complained about the Michael Bay-ness of the whole thing, but Battlefield has always had that element. If you don’t believe me, here is 21 minutes worth of Battlefield trailers.

Second, though… ugh, WW2? Why? What’s the point?

To be clear, I have zero issues with DICE introducing female soldiers, amputee soldiers, or any combination thereof. I have no issues with Braveheart-esque dudes in kilts, or people running around with katanas. BFV won’t be selling map packs anymore, so having a wide variety of wacky cosmetics is the trade-off we can expect. I don’t even have any issues with this laundry list of GamerGate-style criticisms. It’s completely fine, for example, that the developers wanted a more “authentic” experience with BF1 and have since changed their mind with BFV.

The one criticism in that thread that rings true, though?

Why didnt they just said right away its WW2 Dieselpunk Alt History something. Alot of people wanna have this anyway but claiming it just as an WW2 game was a fail.

I want that dieselpunk game now. And it makes me question why that wasn’t the direction they wanted to take BFV. I don’t feel that Battlefield should be beholden to “historical authenticity” at the expense of gameplay, but… why WW2 then? Why these specific fronts, with these specific armies, and aiming to tell the “untold stories” of WW2? Like seriously, I’m pretty sure the History Channel has told every damn WW2 story possible, else they would not have had to resort to broadcasting Ancient Aliens and Pawn Stars.

What also annoys me is how this trailer and the controversy it generates obscures all the cool shit they are implementing into the game. I have never been more excited to play a Medic/Support in a Battlefield game than I am right now. Towing around gun emplacements is whatever, digging foxholes in specified locations is kinda cool, and the hyper-focus on squad tactics fantastic. I can also see how all of it could be annoying nonsense, especially when the Medic starts dragging your body around and teabags you because you happened to have picked a female soldier.

Not looking forward to that.

In any case, my one hope for Battlefield V, regardless of anything else, is that it returns to the cool stories of BF2/3/4. The series is at it’s best when it generates videos like this one, with a dude ejecting out of a burning plane, sniping the enemy pilot, and then scrambling aboard the now-pilotless plane and continuing on. Battlefield 1 was a very pretty game, but it was also oppressive as shit in a very authentic WWI kind of way. I’m not looking for more of the that.

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#GamerGate

If you are confused as to what this #GamerGate thing is… you are not alone. Because it really isn’t one thing any more, but a series of things that have all sort of been mixed together. For a summary of ongoing events, I recommend this Forbes article. In the meantime, I wanted to touch on the three main elements in reverse order.

Gaming Journalism

I pretty much agree with the recent Slate article titled “Gaming Journalism is Over.”

The attacks on the press have ranged from well-reasoned to offensive to paranoid, but the gaming journalists unwisely decided to respond to the growing, nebulous anger by declaring that “gamers” were dead. Such articles appeared concurrently in Gamasutra (“ ‘Gamers’ are over” and “A guide to ending ‘gamers’ ”), Destructoid (“There are gamers at the gate, but they may already be dead”), Kotaku (“We might be witnessing the ‘death of an identity’ ”) and Rock, Paper, Shotgun (“Gamers are over”), as well as Ars Technica (“The death of the ‘gamers’ ”), Vice (“Killing the gamer identity”) and BuzzFeed (“Gaming is leaving ‘gamers’ behind”). These articles share some traits in common besides their theses: They are unconvincing, lacking in hard evidence, and big on wishful thinking. A good number of them link to an obscure blog post by academic Dan Golding, “The End of Gamers,” which argues, again without evidence, that “the gamer identity has been broken” and that the current unrest “is an attempt to retain hegemony.” Kotaku writer Nathan Grayson linked to a similarly obtuse piece of academic argot (“ ‘Gamer’ is selfish … conservative … tribalistic”), which in Grayson’s words “breaks down the difference between ‘gamer’ as a manufactured identity versus loving games on multiple levels.” I’ve written essays comparing games to the work of artist Kurt Schwitters and poet Kenneth Rexroth, and even I can’t muster this level of vacuous self-importance on the subject.

Returning to the real world, the biggest problem with all these claims is that they are demonstrably untrue. A quick glance at financials shows that “gamers” are not going anywhere. If “gamers” really are dying, no one told the marketing departments for these publications, which continue to trumpet their “gamer” demographic to advertisers. What is going on instead is projection. As long as these journalists held a monopoly on gaming coverage, they could maintain a dismal relationship with their audience in spite of the fact that “most games coverage is almost indistinguishable from PR,” in the words of disaffected game columnist Robert Florence, who himself wrote about corruption in gaming journalism before quitting Eurogamer. But all that’s changing with the rise of long-form amateur gaming journalism and game commentating on YouTube and Twitch.tv, the latter of which was just bought by Amazon for $1 billion as the gaming press was declaring the end of gamers.

I am not entirely sure whether there is anything to add to that.

Well, I guess I will say that this “reckoning” (assuming anything at all actually changes) was a long time in coming. After all, how long have we existed with a review rubric in which numbers 1-6 did not exist on the 10-point scale? Professional gaming journalism simply doesn’t occur without the “charity” of the game developers’ review copies, or access for interviews, or any number of similar perks that understandably evaporate into the ether the moment an honest reviewer costs the company tens of thousands of sales. I was given a free Press™ pass for Darkfall: Unholy Alliance, but do I anticipate another such email from Aventurine? No, I do not. Unless perhaps I’m such small fries that their PR person doesn’t bother purging the rolls. (Assuming they still have a job.)

But even these small perks are becoming increasingly irrelevant in an age of paid Alphas and Steam Early Releases. With the notable exception of Hearthstone, I pretty much have had the same access to the games I have written about as anyone who reads the posts. Obviously, “real” game journalists get all-expenses paid trips to conventions and hands-on impressions with AAA games that might be coming out, but the margin between gatekeeper and gamer is narrowing. You don’t need to trust an established game journalist as to whether the latest release is worth $60 anymore, assuming you could trust them in the first place – just play the alpha/beta/early release yourself.

Indeed, at this point the most valuable person in gaming is whomever is out there telling you that a given game exists at all.

Who Are Gamers?

If I were being a purist, I would argue that Bhagpuss’ inadvertent definition is best:

And that’s probably at the root of why I don’t identify as a Gamer. It’s not an age thing. It’s a prestige thing. After university, where having the high score on Galaxians was something to be envied, I rarely encountered any social situation where identifying as a Gamer wouldn’t have been socially damaging.

In other words, you are a Gamer if you say you are a Gamer, accepting all the consequences of the admission.

I will admit a certain level of envy for the gamers just now entering high school, as they will likely not experience near the abuse that my generation (and older) endured when gaming was the reserved domain of nerds and outcasts. No doubt it was the same for comic book readers and others. There is indeed a sense of belonging that occurs amongst a persecuted group, and yes, identity. However, any sense of diminishment by widespread gaming acceptance is purely psychological. And, frankly, backwards.

Your identity as a Gamer should be tied to your unashamed passion for games. Full stop. Anything extra is a separate, superfluous identity you tacked on after the fact. “I liked this thing when it was hard to do so.” Great… so you are a Gamer and a Pariah. Do you want a cookie?

Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, etc

Nope.

Last Word

There really is no conclusion to this post, other than a rather mild surprise as to how much has melted down in the past three weeks or so. Seven gaming publications basically simultaneously asserting their readers no longer exist (or are horrible)? Who the shit has the time to browse internet articles about games but Gamers? Hell, I didn’t even play a game today due to reading gaming forums and writing this post.

Nevertheless, gaming journalism is one area in which I believe a total breakdown in “the establishment” will have a good outcome in the long-run. I mean, right now we have highly politicized real-world news monopolies (Fox vs CNN vs MSNBC) that only serve to insulate and divide people from alternate viewpoints. That’s bad. But the same thing really can’t exist in the gaming world because we ultimately play the games. If the game is shit, it’s shit, no matter who told you it was roses. And now you have 10,000 alternative voices that will admittedly likely coalesce into a few power-brokers, but again, reality will be the final arbiter.