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GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 28: Game of the Year and Best/Worst of 2009

Tim Spaeth's picture

Pour yourself a pitcher of egg nog, fire up a yule log, and join the GameCritics.com family as we reminice about the year that was. We'll reveal our game of the year, and discuss the best and worst 2009 had to offer. Featuring Chi, Brad, Mike, Dave, Dan, Richard, Tim, and a special appearance by one of our favorite listeners, Hargrada. Thanks to everyone for listening; we really do appreciate it. Have a happy and safe New Year's, and we'll see you back here in January.

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Award Categories:

  • Surprise (Good) of the Year Award
  • WTF of the Year Award
  • The "Brad Gallaway is Single-Handedly Keeping Indie Developers in Business" Award
  • Non-2009 Game of the Year
  • Most Disappointing Game of the Year
  • The Too Human Award for Inexplicable Excellence
  • Developer We'll Miss the Most
  • Best Argument for Abandoning Discs
  • Most Promising New Franchise
  • Nail in the Coffin Award
  • The Internet Has No Idea What They're Talking About Award
  • Best Argument for Games-as-Art
  • The Steaming Pile Award
  • 2009 Game of the Year

Please send feedback and mailbag questions to podcast (at) gamecritics (dot) com.

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Okay, obviously Matthew

Okay, obviously Matthew covered the response to the criticisms of Uncharted 2, but I have to say I am deeply offended and angry at the suggestion of having a scene where Nate/the player chooses which woman dies and which he ends up with.

Because god forbid a woman lives who isn't attached to the player/main character. If she's not fucking the main character, she's worthless, right? And hey, it would give Nate some great angst fodder, wouldn't it? Carry on that grand old Women in Refrigerators tradition!

One of the great things about Uncharted 2 is how NON-SEXIST it is. This has a LOT to do with the fact that Amy Hennig was the lead writer. Having that sort of scene would have KILLED the game for me--I would have thrown a fucking fit. It's the sort of thing that is so rampant in the adventure genre: a total lack of regard for the lives of female characters outside of whether or not they are sleeping with the male protagonist. Uncharted 2 treats its women as if they are just as important and HUMAN as Nate is, and that is one of the many things I love about it.

Heh

Got a little angry there, sorry! This is a bit of a hot button issue for me. It's hard to express how relieved I was that UC2 avoided (and even subverted) so many offensive, sexist tropes from both movies and games, so any suggestion to fall back on those tropes freaks me out a bit.

And by "human" in that last sentence, I meant treated as a person, as opposed to a prize the male protagonist wins as a result of saving the day, or whatever.

Clarification on Uncharted 2 podcast remarks

Alex R wrote:

Okay, obviously Matthew covered the response to the criticisms of Uncharted 2, but I have to say I am deeply offended and angry at the suggestion of having a scene where Nate/the player chooses which woman dies and which he ends up with.

If you go back and listen to the podcast, Brad does *not* say the player should get to choose who lives or dies or even who Drake ends up with (which was my point). What Brad said is it would have been cool (i.e. dramatic) to put the player in a rock-and-a-hard-place-type hostage situation where the player has to make difficult choice that could possibly influence the story arc.

In regards to my point about letting the player choose which girl Drake ends up with, I'm not saying that women should be treated as rewards. Naughty Dog are the ones who decided that the story should have a classic love triangle construct, where the player controls the male protagonist who gets to pick the girl in the end. Based on this model that was imposed on me, I was criticizing the game for not letting the player decide who Drake ends up with since shared/player authorship is a unique quality of video games that makes the experience special. I agree that having a choice at that point of the game would be out of sync with the experience, but I was trying to demonstrate how the developers removed any sort of choice even when their own plot sets itself up to do so.

I actually think the game would have been better off not even having a love triangle since the sexual chemistry/romance between the three characters through out the game was terrible (especially with Elena). The relationship between Drake and Elena felt more like brother and sister. And if you must have a love triangle in the story, why not make it dynamically interactive by having the girl choose the guy based on the actions the player takes through out the game. Better yet, why not let Chloe get to choose between Drake and Flynn? That would have made for some interesting story arcs.

Ok, I wasn't criticizing

Ok, I wasn't criticizing you, Chi, I guess it was Brad then (I am still having trouble distinguishing voices that aren't yours or Tim's), he specifically says that (paraphrasing now, I just re-listened) he was waiting for the moment to choose, for the villain to put a gun to his head or something and force him to choose and it would have been a "cool moment".

No. It would not have. It is something that happens in almost every superhero movie ("save this bus of small children, OR YOUR GIRLFRIEND", like in Spiderman). And it's cliche'd, sexist, Women-in-Refrigerators BS, as I said above.

The game actually almost goes there, when Lazarevich catches up with the trio toward the end, but the situation is defused before it actually happens, to my VAST relief. So I disagree that they "whiffed that one." They did the right thing.

Uncharted 2

I see where you're coming from Alex, and I actually watched that particular scene earlier today while my brother was playing.

I was very much viewing the game with an eye out for its handling of gender issues, largely due to your high praise, and I couldn't help but feel that outside of a few instances, it still promotes the male as leader/provider/superior just as much as any other games.

While the women in the game are displayed as capable, it almost feels as if a bone is being thrown to a female audience, rather than a full-throated support for gender equality. Drake is repeatedly shown to be the only person who can handle the most difficult situations, while his female companions sit back, arms crossed, teasing/complaining/questioning.

Another issue that struck me as problematic was that shortly after Nate and Chloe call it quits, Elena shows up with boyfriend conveniently murdered. I'm not sure if it falls under any specific misogynistic trope, but there definitely seemed to be an element of "who cares if your boyfriend just died, you clearly still want me because I am the sexiest and manliest of men."

For full disclosure, I will say that I haven't seen the game in its entirety, but from what I have experienced I'm having a hard time seeing it as more than just kinda progressive.

Alex, I have to be honest:

Alex, I have to be honest: It may be cliched (though that's arguable), but I am at a loss to see how choosing between two women in a dramatic moment is sexist. If anything, I should be deeply offended and angry by the implication of your posts - namely, that a guy only chooses a woman because she's fucking him and that if she's not then she's worthless to him.

First of all, in a video game, the player isn't actually fucking either one of them, so there isn't exactly a huge degree of sexual pleasure there.

More importantly, however, there are a myriad of reasons why a male player would choose one woman over another, and could have very little to do with sex - personality, utility, WHO the woman is and WHO the guy is. This is especially true if, as you have said on multiple occasions, the game does not rely on sexist cliches and present characters with a believable degree of humanity. For you to automatically generalize the motives of all male players reeks of overreaction to me.

Now I have NOT played UC2, but I do believe that games are about choice, and I agree with Brad and Chi that giving that choice to player seems like it would have potential to be a dramatic, affecting moment.

Please keep in mind in this

Please keep in mind in this discussion that as a woman, a feminist, and someone who has been writing about sexism and games specifically for over a year now, I have a pretty deep understanding of what sexism is; so unless you're a woman and/or have studied sexism, it's probably best if you trust me on the issue of what's sexist and what isn't.

@Odofakyodo dude, I know that. I was being sarcastic. And that trope (forcing the hero to choose which woman dies, or whether she or a bus of children die, or whatever--specifically the killing aspect, not simply choosing a partner, which is not what I was criticizing) is sexist because of the history of treatment of female characters in film, games, and comic books, particularly in the action/adventure genre. Read up on Women in Refrigerators.

@Trent While I certainly wouldn't say it's progressive, full stop, it is certainly the most progressive video game I have ever played WRT gender issues. The female characters actually do take the lead on occasion; Chloe saves Drake at least once (She actually says "Looks like I am always saving your ass!" and he doesn't act like he's been emasculated by it, either); Elena and Chloe are often way ahead of him when planning (I am thinking specifically of the section before the train, but I think there are others too); neither of them fawn over him ("Did you see me take out all those guys by myself? Were you impressed?" "Impressed isn't the word I'd use..."). Overall they are portrayed as just as capable, if not moreso, than Drake.

(Contrast that to how Drake acts during the ice cave segment with Tenzin; HE is the one standing back snarking while Tenzin is doing most of the leading.)

It's never implied in any way that Jeff the cameraman is Elena's boyfriend, in fact they only ever behave in a professional manner toward each other; Drake asks Chloe at one point if they're a couple, which is meant to show that he still has feelings for Elena. Jeff does get the short stick, but I don't think that particular bit was sexist.

And rest assured it's not just a bone thrown to female players; there's actually a great episode of the 1UP Show from Feb 18, 2008 (I saved it, ha) that Amy Hennig guests on, and she talks about how she fought tooth and nail to make Elena a realistic person, neither a helpless damsel or an unstoppable warrior, but a character with strengths and weaknesses. This is something she believed in and insisted on, which is why I admire her so much!

Alex R wrote: Ok, I wasn't

Alex R wrote:

Ok, I wasn't criticizing you, Chi, I guess it was Brad then (I am still having trouble distinguishing voices that aren't yours or Tim's), he specifically says that (paraphrasing now, I just re-listened) he was waiting for the moment to choose, for the villain to put a gun to his head or something and force him to choose and it would have been a "cool moment".

No. It would not have. It is something that happens in almost every superhero movie ("save this bus of small children, OR YOUR GIRLFRIEND", like in Spiderman). And it's cliche'd, sexist, Women-in-Refrigerators BS, as I said above.

What happened when Spiderman had to choose between the bus full of children and his girlfriend? He found to save them both right? Again at no point did Brad say anyone should die as a result of that choice. I've spoken with Brad about this after the recording and you're making an incorrect assumption if you believe that's what Brad meant.

Secondly, if you think the scenario is cliche and sexist, its because that's what Naughty Dog provided. We were only making suggestions based on the formula they presented.

Uncharted 2

I see. Well, as I said I haven't seen all of it, but I'm glad you clarified that you don't see the game as "progressive full stop". I'd agree that the game did take some obvious steps in the right direction that hardly any other games have, while still falling short of being totally forward thinking.

Alex R wrote:

Please keep in mind in this discussion that as a woman, a feminist, and someone who has been writing about sexism and games specifically for over a year now, I have a pretty deep understanding of what sexism is; so unless you're a woman and/or have studied sexism, it's probably best if you trust me on the issue of what's sexist and what isn't.

I'd assume this was aimed at Odo, but I'd be recommend against deferring to authority. While I DO think of you as the GC sex 'n' gender authority, it's because of your thoughtful and articulate opinions on these topics, and not simply because you've put in the time. I don't mean to dismiss the time you have put in, nor the life experience you've gained just from living in a western society as a woman. To the contrary, I don't doubt that these things have been very important in shaping those opinions. Rather I mean to say that "I know BECAUSE I DO OK" doesn't do much but annoy people :P

You know, if there's one

You know, if there's one thing I can take away from the two podcasts I've done so far, it's that I hate, nay, despise the sound of my own voice. Apologies to all for having to endure it.

That is all. Carry on.

as for the podcast itself

A) I was really hoping to hear that awesome little Christmas tune it played in town in the original Shenmue somewhere in there. Maybe next Christmas?

B) Bottlerocket is dead? I can't decide it that bothers me a lot or a WHOLE lot. That Splatterhouse game looked like garbage, but if it just turned out to be Mark of Kri 3: Featuring Rick from Splatterhouse, I would've been satisfied.

C) No mention of Bionic Commando? No tears shed for Grin? Shame on all of you. You specifically Brad :P

Responses

Richard Naik wrote:

You know, if there's one thing I can take away from the two podcasts I've done so far, it's that I hate, nay, despise the sound of my own voice. Apologies to all for having to endure it.

Oh, relax. You sound great. In fact you could do professional voice-over work and I think you should start auditioning.

Trent Fingland wrote:

A) I was really hoping to hear that awesome little Christmas tune it played in town in the original Shenmue somewhere in there. Maybe next Christmas?

C) No mention of Bionic Commando? No tears shed for Grin? Shame on all of you. You specifically Brad :P

If I'd known Shenmue had Christmas music, I'd have included it. Instead, I found a great compilation of Christmas NiGHTS music and lazily pulled pieces from that and deposited them throughout the show. (With the exception of the closing track, of course.)

As for Bionic Commando and Grin, chalk it up to time constraints. BC was my pick for "The Internet Got It Wrong" and Grin was my "Developer We'll Miss the Most" (and I'm sure Brad would agree) but we were at three hours of recording and we started cutting picks to save on time. We've given BC plenty of love this year, so I don't feel too bad about it.

Well, the only thing I had

Well, the only thing I had access to is what was actually on the podcast, which I've listened to twice, and I know I didn't mishear anything. I'm glad that's not what Brad meant, but it is what he said, or what could have reasonably been taken from what he said.

@Trent yeah, after all, it is still a product of the entertainment industry... the "beautiful=good, ugly=evil" thing is particularly annoying.

(Massive topic-change!) My WTF of the year would definitely be UbiSoft going all, "Beyond Good and Evil 2? What's that? I don't know what you're talking about" after releasing a goddamn teaser trailer at Ubidays last year, and that gameplay footage leaked. WTF?! That's just bizarre.

BG & E 2

Alex R wrote:

(Massive topic-change!) My WTF of the year would definitely be UbiSoft going all, "Beyond Good and Evil 2? What's that? I don't know what you're talking about" after releasing a goddamn teaser trailer at Ubidays last year, and that gameplay footage leaked. WTF?! That's just bizarre.

Last I heard they were still in pre-production despite the leaked footage. It was never "officially" announced but Michael Ancel has alluded to it a number of times in some recent interviews. It's hard to guess what they're doing, since Ubisoft is sending so many mixed signals.

Speaking of which, I should probably finish the first game at some point.

Alex R wrote: Please keep

Alex R wrote:

Please keep in mind in this discussion that as a woman, a feminist, and someone who has been writing about sexism and games specifically for over a year now, I have a pretty deep understanding of what sexism is; so unless you're a woman and/or have studied sexism, it's probably best if you trust me on the issue of what's sexist and what isn't.

Trent is correct, all that the pompous authority speak does is annoy people. I do not know you and your background other than from a couple of articles and comments here at Gamecritics and a brief look at your web site. Thus it's very unreasonable for you to expect me to just drop all discussion and bow before you as Goddess of Women's Studies.

Likewise, you do not know me and my background, so I find it somewhat ironic that a self-proclaimed feminist generalizes me and assumes that she knows more about sexism than I do. You know what? I have two bachelor's degrees, and one of them is in video game programming. I guarantee you that no one has ever heard me ask them to hail me as the Gamecritics authority on game development. You know why? First, four years of study does not an authority make on any subject. To suggest that one year does is naive. Second, I don't know the full extent of other people's backgrounds, even people I know well in real life, so I'm not going to assume they should bow to my self-proclaimed authority. It's my responsiblity to explain my positions using the knowledge I've gained.

Alex R wrote:

@Odofakyodo dude, I know that. I was being sarcastic. And that trope (forcing the hero to choose which woman dies, or whether she or a bus of children die, or whatever--specifically the killing aspect, not simply choosing a partner, which is not what I was criticizing) is sexist because of the history of treatment of female characters in film, games, and comic books, particularly in the action/adventure genre. Read up on Women in Refrigerators.

When you say "I know that", I have no idea which aspect of my post you are referring to. You know... what, exactly? I know you were being somewhat sarcastic when speaking of non-fucking women being killed, but thinking I may have misread something, I went back and read your posts. They still read the same to me.

I live in a pretty progressive region of the country, and I asked three women I know who identify themselves as progressive "You know that scene in the Spiderman movie where the Green Goblin forces Spiderman to make a choice between Mary Jane and a bus full of kids? Do you think it is sexist?" All three of them answered in the negative.

So please forgive me if you telling me that "In the past, when women have been killed in media, it has been sexist, so therefore in this particular instance it is sexist" or "If you did research you would know that" does not convince me. Those are not legitimate arguments and they don't make a case. How about pointing me to a specific example or two and actually make an argument about how the logic applies to the present scenario?

I apologize for anything that could be a personal attack here, but you are projecting an attitude that I'm so far beneath you that it's not worth your time to even bother explaining your position. I actually defended you in a comment on your article talking about the commodity model of sex, so please don't take me for some misogynist pig.

Let's assume that everything you've said about our relative knowledge is true. Instead of dismissing me, why not take this opportunity to educate me? Make a specific connection from your knowledge database and show how the Spider-man scene is sexist. Otherwise, even I can google "feminism", point people to links, and say "read this".

By "I know that" I meant I

By "I know that" I meant I know that shit about men and relationships. I was being sarcastic that all men think women are worthless; I'm not an idiot. The WIR trope is the thing that implies women are worthless outside of their relationships with men: girlfriends of the hero are often killed off. I also didn't make ANY assumptions about your identity or experience, which is why I added a qualifier; I don't presume to be THE AUTHORITY here, but I DO have SOME authority because of my experience. I didn't call you a misogynist pig, either.

If you asked them the question about Spiderman, then you clearly don't understand what my criticism is. (By the way, gotta love the use of "my female friend doesn't think it's sexist!" It's a non-argument.)

My actual criticism is that adding a moment in UC2 where the player chooses which of Drake's girlfriends is killed by the villain is inviting a Women in Refrigerators scenario. The fact that both women LIVED and worked out their relationship issues like mature adults, rather than defaulting to one because the other was murdered, is actually kind of a huge deal.

If you read about Women in Refrigerators you would see that this is indeed a sexist problem in media. Girlfriends die a LOT, often for no reason except to give the male protagonist some angst.

I mentioned my experience because that experience COUPLED with the WIR page should be enough to at least tell you I'm not pulling this out of my ass. I don't feel like arguing about this or convincing anyone any more than a physicist feels like arguing the definition of gravity. Some basic research can get you what you need, whether you end up agreeing or not, there's no reason for me to exhaust myself.

Odofakyodo wrote: I live in

Odofakyodo wrote:

I live in a pretty progressive region of the country, and I asked three women I know who identify themselves as progressive "You know that scene in the Spiderman movie where the Green Goblin forces Spiderman to make a choice between Mary Jane and a bus full of kids? Do you think it is sexist?" All three of them answered in the negative.

I live in the Netherlands (talking about progressive ;)) and I find the scene sexist. But I notice everyday racism and sexism quite easy and often. And for the record: I didn't study anything related to the topic, beside some elective courses on gender-related issues at University some years ago.

Alex, I accept that you

Alex, I accept that you don't think all men think women are worthless. Glad you cleared that up.

You are absolutely correct in that I do not understand what you're criticism is. I fully admit that and I'm not trying to hide anything (in fact it was the very first thing I said to you!). Hence the reason I asked those women the question. I did NOT intend for it to be the crux of my argument, or really much support for my view at all since it is obviously anecdotal. The reason I mentioned it in my post was to illustrate the fact that your position is not an obvious or given one in the least bit. Since you are the one making the accusasion of sexism, the burden of proof is on you.

Alex R wrote:

The fact that both women LIVED and worked out their relationship issues like mature adults, rather than defaulting to one because the other was murdered, is actually kind of a huge deal.

I can appreciate this perspective. Please let me give you the way I view the Spider-man scene.

First of all, MJ is powerless in that scene. This powerlessness is in no way related to her sex. The only reason she is powerless is because she does not have a super power like SM and the GG do. It could just as easily have been MJ bitten by the spider. Thus, I do not see that aspect as being sexist.

The entire point of the scene is to present a very dramatic moral choice for Peter: Whose life is worth more, 50 kids or the woman he loves? I feel this point was quite clearly made in that scene by the GG explaining that it is a "sadistic" choice.

Now it is entirely unclear to me how the threat of MJ's death makes the scene sexist. The whole point of death is that it is FINAL. The choice is a decision Peter would have to live with FOREVER.

The choice that GG presented to Peter underscores one of the primary themes of the Spider-man movies: public duty versus personal life. At the end of the film, Peter painfully accepts that his "great responsibility" outweighs his personal life... at least for now - the entire sequel is about this theme.

Moreover, in Spider-man 2, MJ is presented as an independent woman who struggles at first but achieves her goal of being an actress through her own self-merit. The fact that MJ has this worth outside of her relationship to Peter is something Peter has to struggle to recognize himself, and it makes their relationship more real.

So I honestly am struggling to find sexism in this scene since the ideas portrayed are not dependent on sex. The roles could be reversed but the theme would remain the same. I guess one could make the argument that more guys are likely to identify with the themes (e.g. perhaps because more men are in the armed forces), but that would be a tough sell, and it certainly doesn't make the scene sexist. On the contrary, I find the theme to be quite real, albeit quite exaggerated. But isn't that what the superhero genre is all about? Exaggerated symbols.

Alex R wrote:

I mentioned my experience because that experience COUPLED with the WIR page should be enough to at least tell you I'm not pulling this out of my ass. I don't feel like arguing about this or convincing anyone any more than a physicist feels like arguing the definition of gravity. Some basic research can get you what you need, whether you end up agreeing or not, there's no reason for me to exhaust myself.

If you don't want to argue your points or convince anyone, why did you even bring it up in the first place? Obviously you are passionate about the topic. You had enough energy to write back-to-back emotionally charged posts on the subject, but suddenly providing me with an explanation is "exhausting"? I am thoroughly confused.

I don't think you called me a mysogynist pig, but with the attitude you are projecting - namely that I'm not worth your time to convince - I was merely pre-empting any potential that was there, and trying to convey the fact that I am somewhat sympathetic.

However, I feel that, in this instance, it is a cry-wolf situation that does not do any service to your cause. I think your initial posts were an unfair attack on Brad, and I think it just crosses a line. There was absolutely nothing sexist about his suggestion and Chi explained quite clearly that there are other prevailing themes (choice in games versus other media). If the sex roles were reversed, I'm sure they would feel the same way.

Everything Odo said, ditto.

Everything Odo said, ditto. he was more thorough and well-spoken than I'd have been, so just... ditto.

Moving on-

To clarify this now-infamous bit of podcast, the whole point was about missed dramatic potential in UC2 (and really, any game that takes choice out of a player's hands.) People shouldn't be so quick to see sexism where it doesn’t exist.

This missed dramatic opportunity near the end of UC2 (the kind of which occurs in games, books and films ALL the time) had nothing to do with who was male and who was female. It would have been equally dramatic if the setup had taken place in Tomb Raider and Lara had to choose between two men, or in some game starring asexual aliens where there are no differentiations between individuals - it’s the struggle of having a sympathetic character in an impossible position that generates the drama, and not who has the penis and who has the vagina.

Also, as far as I recall, nobody mentioned women in refrigerators of any sort.

Looks like I _really_ should

Looks like I _really_ should get a PS3 now... and I noticed listening to the podcast how many good games I missed this year...

btw. what was the song at the end?

Music and PS3

It's "The Bells Are Ringing" by They Might Be Giants, off Factory Showroom. The second best Christmas song ever, after Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)".

Regarding PS3 -- There are certainly enough titles to justify the purchase but part of me likes the idea of not being able to play any of them. My "to purchase" list has 11 games on it already and I have countless titles in my backlog. The hardest part about doing this podcast is that it creates a compulsion to play everything, and that's just not healthy. :)

Odofakyodo wrote: The

Odofakyodo wrote:

The entire point of the scene is to present a very dramatic moral choice for Peter . . . Now it is entirely unclear to me how the threat of MJ's death makes the scene sexist. The whole point of death is that it is FINAL. The choice is a decision Peter would have to live with FOREVER.

I think your description of the scene very clearly illustrates what is sexist about the bridge showdown in Spider-man. You keep saying, it's about Peter's moral dilemma, it's about making a choice that he will have to live with forever...and this is all true. And that is what makes it sexist. Mary Jane - a woman and Peter's love interest - is facing death and yet it's all about Peter. If she dies, it will still be all about Peter. Her life, and whether she lives or dies, is only important so much as how it affects Peter. This is what the whole Women in Refrigerators thing that Alex keep referencing is about: it's about women's very lives only mattering in relation to men and how their lives affect men.

I understand Spider-man is a story about Peter and that it therefore makes sense to have this scene be about Peter et cetra, et cetra. But the problem is that it's part of a reoccurring trend and it happens all the time. Spider-man is not an isolated incident. Women's lives being expendable for the sake of male character development is an incredibly common and deeply sexist trope: TV Tropes has two separate pages devoted to the phenomenon: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StuffedIntoTheFridge and http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DisposableWoman

Odofakyodo wrote:

If the sex roles were reversed, I'm sure they would feel the same way.

See, that's the thing though. The sex roles weren't reversed and in the vast majority of these cases it's the women dying for the men. If it occurred in equal amounts both ways, it wouldn't be sexist. It's the fact that it's disproportionately women that makes it sexist.

Brad wrote:

People shouldn't be so quick to see sexism where it doesn’t exist.

Brad, every single time I have ever heard or read a guy dismiss a complaint of sexism like that, in my experience that guy has always been dismissing something that actually was sexist. As a reader who is thinking maybe she shouldn't be reading Game Critics anymore, I just wanted to let you know that seeing a man tell a woman that she is seeing sexism "where it doesn't exist" makes me feel like this is probably a hostile, sexist site and a place where I am not welcome. Make of that what you will.

Brad wrote:

it’s the struggle of having a sympathetic character in an impossible position that generates the drama, and not who has the penis and who has the vagina.

Except that in fiction, it is usually the penis that is the sympathetic character and the vagina that is the disposable plot device in these kinds of scenarios. It's not like Nate just happens to have a penis and Elena/Chloe just happen to have vaginas and their genitalia could be reversed and it really wouldn't matter. Sex/gender are important to their characters and it's important to the plot, you can't really divorce it from an understanding of the dynamics between the three.

Correction

I mistakenly said that Valkyria Chronicles cane out in April 2008. While the Japanese version was released in April, it didn't make it to North America until November.

Had to correct myself before some astute Internet citizen did so :)

Shameful

Richard Naik wrote:

I mistakenly said that Valkyria Chronicles cane out in April 2008. While the Japanese version was released in April, it didn't make it to North America until November.

Had to correct myself before some astute Internet citizen did so :)

I'm working on a new edit right now; in it you've been removed from the show completely. We simply cannot have such an atrocity associated with the podcast.

oliemoon, thanks for taking

oliemoon, thanks for taking the time to write out a response. And Alex, thanks for giving me your perspective. At the very least, you've given me some heightened awareness to the WIR issue.

Let me see if I get this straight: Someone writes a story. The protagonist in this story has a love interest. The love interest dies solely as a plot device to develop the protagonist's character.

Now if the protagonist is male and the love interest is female, then this is sexist because many other stories have done this? So now no matter what, any time a female character dies to further the character development of a male protagonist, it is sexist? Can we then not have any more of these stories? Am I allowed to write a story where a male dies to further the character of a female protagonist? If everyone wrote enough stories where the roles were reversed then would it somehow even out Cosmic Gender Karma and it would no longer be sexist to have a woman die? I'm sorry, but I just don't think sexism is defined on some kind of sliding scale where any given story is completely dependent on the sum total of every other story out there that uses the same plot devices.

Usually an author is simply trying to convey a particular message, and the death is just that: a plot device, nothing more, nothing less. And death is dramatic, no matter what sexes are involved. It does NOT mean that the author thinks women are worthless; it's just that the author, for whatever reason, chose not to develop a relatively minor character that is not the protagonist. I don't believe an author is responsible for going out of his/her way to make sure that every single character is portrayed as being a complete human being regardless of his/her relationship to the protagonist. I think that would be an unrealistic expectation and could detract from the author's desired message. At some point you have to take a step back and say, "Hey, this is a story about so and so's character, and here is the message that's trying to be conveyed."

It seems completely reasonable to me for a male author to create a narrative with a male protagonist and focus primarily on that character's development. Furthermore, it is completely reasonable for narratives in media such as comics and games to be dominated by male protagonists since most authors in those industries are male (now *that* is a whole other can of worms, obviously). If you find sexism in every single one of these stories, then perhaps that says more about how you are choosing to interpret the stories than it does about any particular author's view of women.

I can accept that it could be poor or lazy character development, and yes, I'll grant that it might even be sexism in some instances. But that does not mean every given instance is sexist. It seems to me that every instance should be judged on its own merits. Seriously, doesn't it mean anything that in the same freaking Spiderman movie you have Uncle Ben, a MALE character with much less development than MJ, who actually DOES die as a plot device to further Peter's character development?

The problem

I think the problem here is that Brad and Odo seem to be talking about an instance, either spiderman or uncharted 2, while ollie and alex are talking about a trend. I think laboring over one specific example is taking the conversation in the wrong direction and making an understanding more difficult to reach.

When taken in a vacuum where no other media exists, one instance of a male protagonist having to choose which girl to sacrifice would probably not be sexist. Or rather the sexism of it would be dependent upon how it was presented, and not just based on the fact that it happened at all.

The thing is, this doesn't happen in a vacuum. It happens over and over and over, in one direction (that being the one that results in women dying). That trend is pretty obviously sexist. So (and correct me if I'm wrong, Alex) I don't think Alex was saying that had Uncharted 2 allowed the player that choice, it would be sexist all by itself. What I gathered was that she was saying that it would be sexist in that it continues to perpetuate an already widespread sexist treatment of women in media and that it was a good thing that, for once, a piece of media decided to buck that trend.

With that said, I feel like Brad was simply wishing for some more emotional involvement with the story of Uncharted 2, and felt that Naughty Dog could have easily provided this by allowing the player to be a part of one of the more dramatic scenes of the game. When taken in this way, it's clear that what Naughty Dog "whiffed" on was connecting with the player.

Yes.

Yes.

@RandomRob That was perhaps

@RandomRob

That was perhaps the finest piece of literature I have ever read. You deserve like eight Pulitzers for that.

@Trent

Well said. For real.

Final Clarification

I don't think any semi-intelligent person would deny that there is rampant sexism in video games since this is an industry largely marketed towards teenage boys and young men. I also happen to be familiar with the Women in Refrigerators issue thanks to the amazing comic culture blogging done by Heidi MacDonald on The Beat. I also find it ironic and baffling that anyone would suggest a site devoted to diversity, has for 10 years published content benefiting deaf and disabled gamers and one that recruited and promoted Alex Raymond to partake in the discussion, as being "hostile".

Anyone here is free to discuss the inherent sexism in Uncharted 2, video games in general, comics books, etc as they see it. Where I'm going to draw the line is if anyone continues to insist that Brad and I were promoting sexism or the Women in Refrigerators trope by suggesting the game should have provided more interactive choices that would have impacted the story arc. This is a complete misunderstanding of what was discussed.

1. At no point did Brad suggest that by "pointing a gun" at any of the characters did that directly imply that one of the characters need to die and/or be tortured for the benefit of making the protagonist more interesting.

2. Brad was in no way shape or form insisting that the game needed to specifically put two women in danger in order to improve the game. Brad and I were making are suggestions based purely on the formula and the character relationships that were imposed on us by the game. Had the game been about the relationship between 3 men, 2 men and a dog or 1 woman, 1 man or a dog, we would have made the same suggestion in regards to having more choice to impact the relationships and final outcome of the game.

3. I am dismayed that while we are incorrectly being accused of promoting sexism, no one has bothered to mention that Uncharted 2 has already incorporated the WiR trope. You will recall that [spoiler alert start]Elena is near-mortally wounded in the end and Chloe is held hostage.[spoiler alert end] In both cases, the women are treated as obstacles to be overcome by the male-protagonist. Why isn't anyone taking Naughty Dog to task for this?

Alex and olliemoon have stated their cases quite clearly to which I've responded. Any further comments that continue to mischaractize what either Brad or I said will be considered trolling and deleted. Otherwise, feel free to discuss the last point or any related topic in accordance with our Code of Conduct. Thank you for reading.

Music and PS3

Tim Spaeth wrote:

It's "The Bells Are Ringing" by They Might Be Giants, off Factory Showroom. The second best Christmas song ever, after Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)".

Thanks! Will be played during the next Christmas dinner for sure :)
I want to congratulate you to the music choice anyway. I noticed it especially in episode 27 and here again. Awesome!

And the idea to buy a PS3 is in my head since beginning 2009. But back then it was way too expensive (now it's just expensive ;)) and I was not convinced by the PS-exclusive lineup. With games like Demons souls and Flower, as well as Heavy Rain and God of War 3 coming up my resistance against spending so much money is crumbling...

The compulsion to play everything is also there while listening to the podcast ;)

Re: Correction

Quote:

I mistakenly said that Valkyria Chronicles cane out in April 2008. While the Japanese version was released in April, it didn't make it to North America until November.

The record has been purged. No one (who reads the transcript) will ever know :).

Systemic oppression vs. individual responsibility

Trent Fingland wrote:

"I think the problem here is that Brad and Odo seem to be talking about an instance, either spiderman or uncharted 2, while ollie and alex are talking about a trend."

Disclaimer: I haven't listened to the part of the podcast being discussed yet. But I do see what Trent is talking about in this thread: one group talking about general trends, and another talking about specifics.

What I notice often is when a member of a marginalized group or three (women, people of color, trans women and men, people with disabilities, gay, lesbian, bisexual and asexual people, etc), points out an -ism, people in the "default human" group (myself included) will automatically make the -ism about individual behavior, rather than a systemic problem. So, for instance, a white person who's been told they've said/done something racist often says: "I'm not a racist! I'm not a member of the KKK!" Because, to them, racist things are done by Bad People, and they are not a Bad Person. But the truth is, all white people benefit from systemic racism, whether we want to or not. And the idea that one must be a card-carrying member of the KKK to be a racist obscures the fact that white people do racist things.

I once wrote about how disability was used as a form of deception in the film Orphan. I don't arguments--nothing I said was above reproach--but a lot of commenters argued against things I didn't actually say. They said things like: "How could you hate that movie?" (I didn't, actually) and "I don't think the filmmakers hate disabled people." (I don't think they do, either). And "Most people aren't as stupid as you to think this movie has anything to do with real life." (I was arguing something closer to the reverse: that attitudes people have about disabled people in real life influenced the way the movie played out). And one person followed "a movie is not like real life" up with: "All these examples you give of people thinking that people with disabilities are deceptive in real life is just individuals being jerks."

People who don't experience a type of -ism have a tendency to not notice it (e.g. accuse marginalized people of finding it where it doesn't exist) or think that it's "just individuals being jerks." This is partly because -ism isn't just about keeping people down; it's about building the (dominant) people up in ways they don't always notice.

For example, though people often argue that accommodating people with disabilities is too much work, they have lots of accommodations for non-disabled people. Most public places have light for sighted people, and chairs for people who don't use wheelchairs to sit in. Or maps for people who need (and can read) them. They have information in spoken and written language, since most people don't understand a sign language.

Regarding sexism (etc.) in the media, I think amandaw's post at Three Rivers Fog, Creative Diversity, is relevant here:

Quote:

"some people would assume that, well, when it comes to imagining new things and taking things from new perspectives, white men can do it too — that white men are capable of providing any perspective or creative direction that humanity could possibly provide — and therefore there is no need to necessarily seek out a diverse creative class, because there is nothing a Muslimah or gay Filipino could bring that a white male couldn’t, and it’s an insult to white men to imply that they do not hold the entire world in their mind’s hands.

But they don’t, because no human being is capable of tapping into the entire universe of perspectives available. We all see the world through unique, specialized lenses that were formed and shaped by our experiences as the person we are."

hm

tera- agree with your very succinct post

The problem that always arises of course is that you can't talk about the general without the particular, and vice versa, making the headache cyclical.

We just have to understand that there is no particular...ha.

Chi also made some poignant points.

I thought it was pretty clear in the podcast that they weren't referring to choosing which woman dies (which would clearly be INSANE..films are bad enough, but to make a player who could very well be a female CHOOSE which female dies, hahahaha), they were talking mechanics. All adding to the argument that while certainly a little popcorn joyride, UC2's priorities lie way more on the side of entertainment frizzle than pushing anything game wise. And whether it delivers on that front depends on your politics.

Once again, even if it's a movie, and so what about that (finally I don't have an enormous problem with playing an "interactive movie" or whatever), it's still a bad movie. Just because there is no blatant misogynism, the women are still damsels in distress. Despite their clever dialogue and perfectly fit bodies (another problem right?? Cleavage clad and thin, which of course could be narratively justified by their lines of work...buttttttt) which allow them to be just as nimble as Nate, they are never in control of any situation. This is not any more progressive than say, Sin City, in which a neighborhood of killer prostitutes who make the law in that neighborhood might seem interesting or clever...is actually quite ridiculous.

Agh, I don't even wanna think about what Wittig, Irigaray, Cixous, Butler, etc., would say if they wrote about video games. Then again, if they did maybe shit would change a little. Maybe not. Video games are so connected to market it's pathetic that a game like UC2 instills a margin of hope in gender relation representations in games. It's also pathetic how much Amy Henning(sp?) had to struggle for permission to create these females. Shit stinks.

one more

Forgot about Laura Mulvey!!! Despite the problems in her seminal essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema...an essay like that applied to video games would go a long way.

Then again the academic approach to games is emerging, so perhaps essays like this have already been written and I just have some catch up to do...at least it's being discussed, alex was a great addition to the gamecritics already critical squad.

An odd contradiction?

I saw a Tweet from Atlus announcing GameCritics' choice of Demon's Souls as its game of the year--yet also read a long (and reactionary) article from Matthew Kaplan criticizing this same choice on GameSpot's part.

Games journalism intended to call out other outlets is questionable at best, and unprofessional at worst. But when the writer's own site chooses the said game as game of the year as well, these kinds of articles become more than questionable--it becomes hypocrisy. I'd love to see an official response on this. If Matthew is prepared to call out another outlet (which is not appropriate, though I recognize that this happens on a frequent basis on this site), he should be prepared to call out his own. If he cannot stand by the decision elsewhere, he should not be able to stand by the same decision here.

Not only am I appalled by the hypocrisy, but I should remind everyone about the old adage regarding stones and glass houses. By tearing down another's choices, you don't rise above them. Next time you decide to call out another site... think first.

Not contradictory at all

Tim wrote:

Games journalism intended to call out other outlets is questionable at best, and unprofessional at worst. But when the writer's own site chooses the said game as game of the year as well, these kinds of articles become more than questionable--it becomes hypocrisy. I'd love to see an official response on this. If Matthew is prepared to call out another outlet (which is not appropriate, though I recognize that this happens on a frequent basis on this site), he should be prepared to call out his own. If he cannot stand by the decision elsewhere, he should not be able to stand by the same decision here.

For one, the Demon's Souls GOTY pick was far from a consensus (it was not my pick), as rarely do all the GC staffers agree on something as final as GOTY. Second, individual opinion and discussion among staff and readers is encouraged as long as things remain civil, so it's no surprise to often see back-to-back articles espousing different viewpoints.

Third, Matthew's article appeared well after Brad's Demon's Souls review, so in essence he was "calling out" this site along with others. Thus it isn't hypocrisy in the slightest. Disagreement? Sure, but that's just fine around here.

Kaplan / Demon's Souls

Tim wrote:

Not only am I appalled by the hypocrisy, but I should remind everyone about the old adage regarding stones and glass houses. By tearing down another's choices, you don't rise above them. Next time you decide to call out another site... think first.

For what it's worth Demon's Souls was meant to be our Podcast GOTY, not necessarily that of the entire site. Nor do I think Matt's article was meant to represent the position of the entire site. No hypocrisy here; just different voices expressing different opinions.

Ditto. Our writers are free

Ditto.
Our writers are free to express their veiwpoints on anything, as long as they do it intelligently and civilly... Matthew's post was a well-written one and did a good job of explaining his viewpoint, even if some of the other staff didn't agree with it.

here at GC, we don't insist on maintaining a homogenous site-wide front, we're more like a platform for smart, well-spoken folks to say what they want to say.

Tera Kirk wrote: People who

Tera Kirk wrote:

People who don't experience a type of -ism have a tendency to not notice it (e.g. accuse marginalized people of finding it where it doesn't exist) or think that it's "just individuals being jerks." This is partly because -ism isn't just about keeping people down; it's about building the (dominant) people up in ways they don't always notice.

For example, though people often argue that accommodating people with disabilities is too much work, they have lots of accommodations for non-disabled people. Most public places have light for sighted people, and chairs for people who don't use wheelchairs to sit in. Or maps for people who need (and can read) them. They have information in spoken and written language, since most people don't understand a sign language.

Hi Tera. I am just looking for some clarification on this section of your comment (the emphasis was added by me). I understand the point that people who are not disabled do not always realize what accomodations are there for them, but are you saying that these accomodations, such as lights for sighted people, are a form of disable-ism - or discrimination against disabled people? Systemic oppression? Thanks!

Goatart wrote:

We just have to understand that there is no particular...ha.

I don't know if the "ha" indicates that you did not mean this statement, but if you did mean it, I would disagree. Particulars matter - we can't generalize our way through life.

it was meant jokingly,

it was meant jokingly, pointing more to the paradox of the terms.

the particular is always engaged with the general (an event isn't singular, always involving the other), and the general cannot be composed without particulars.

The concepts, necessary perhaps, illusory nonetheless.

But that's neither here nor there, because we have both generalities and particulars right? Thus the cyclical headache.

ha

For a moment I was beginning to wonder if you're a Filipino, coz we often end our sentences with "ha", ha!

Games talk

Yeah 2 gay jokes Within the first 15 minutes of the game makes me SOO happy i was playing a so called "non sexist", game. I SHOULD be bothered but am not because its uncharted!!! The writing is completely banal, and i am somewhat baffled that you chose uncharted as an example of a NON SEXIST game?

At the end of the game both women are waiting for his choice only to have the one he does not choose talk about her ass is not liberating (although absolutely funny), and completely sexist.

As someone for equal rights, i think being "deepy offended", are way too strong words. I completely agree with Brad. I want the choice damn it! The girl he chose is the kind i would expect to go and bake me some cookies right after the ending, not someone I think of being that liberating.

Annnyway i love the podcast, great choices as always. Being in Australia you guys have convinced me to import Demons souls.

ps. I know these guys can hold their own, but i only responded because of the absurdity of your comments. Chill out :)

Yeah, the Turkish prisons

Yeah, the Turkish prisons innuendo. I thought I was the only one being bothered by that.

Mass Effect 2 Reviews

Interesting listening to this podcast in regards to Mass Effect 2. I do agree that the looting and exploration elements have been dumbed down a bit. However, I do not feel this effects the Role Playing elements. A role playing game after all allows you to play a role. It allows character customization and the development of the characters around you. I do not know many other games that do this better than Mass Effect 2. The looting and exploration elements have nothing to do with this. What Bioware did do however, is allow you to play different classes and play how you want to play. If you wanted to play a straight up shooter (melee character traditionally), you could. If you wanted to use powers (magic user) you could. Now I can understand that people want these elements of looting and items etc, but these do not define it being an RPG.

And as for Brad's complaint of the game being too much shooter and not enough RPG, why would you in Gods name play the game as a soldier, when you can only use guns?!?! This makes no logical sense to me to be honest. I played through the game as a Sentinel, and honestly, the combat is some of the best of the generation. Having one of your teammates use Pull Field on a group of husks and then using throw field and watching 3 or 4 of them fly into a wall is something you do not see in ANY games. At least none that I have played this gen.

So Brad, I really suggest you play through this game as a Sentinel or another power heavy class. I doubt you'll say the combat is "average", and will find the game much more rewarding because it no longer becomes a standard shooter. It becomes something different than anything out on the market today (save ME1).

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