Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 14:36 on 15-09-2014, Arthur B
Several of us have had fun with Forbidden Desert, which is enjoyably tactile (you're trying to rebuild your airship to get out of the desert), easy to get the principles of, but remains challenging even so.

Space Alert is gloriously good fun - you're the bridge crew of a spaceship with some profound technological limitations - namely, you need to pre-program all of the ship's activities in battle ahead of time, and some needs to regularly waggle the mouse on the main computer or it goes into hibernation. The game comes with a CD containing mission data and you listen to the CD and plan out your moves together accordingly. Then, when the track is done, you process all the moves and see how you ended up destroying the ship.
at 14:13 on 15-09-2014, James D
I haven't actually played Pandemic, but I have played a few co-op boardgames aimed at adults. Arkham Horror is pretty well-known, and definitely recommended if you like Lovecraftian horror. Basically you and your teammates play a set of investigators who are the only people who really know what's going on when monsters start popping out of portals in Arkham. It's a race against time to close and seal enough portals before the Great Old One awakens and destroys the world - or can you defeat him in a last-ditch battle? What makes the game really cool is that there are a lot of investigators you can play as, each with their own stats and unique abilities, and there are a lot of potential Old Ones to be the Big Bad for the game, each with special negative effects you have to deal with. This means the game can end up very different every time you play. Also, there are a shitload of expansions that add an absurd amount of stuff, and if for some insane reason you played with all of them at the same time, you would basically be going up against all of Lovecraft's fiction at the same time! The learning curve is pretty high at first, but it's not so much that there's anything super complex going as that there are a lot of details to remember.

Another, lesser-known game that I enjoyed is Ghost Stories, a game based around Chinese mythology. You and up to 3 other people play as Shaolin monks who are trying to defend a village from an army of ghosts and various other undead. It's a lot simpler than Arkham Horror, but god damn is it a brutal game. It has difficulty settings, and even though I've played on the easiest one every time, out of 5 sessions I've only one once! Don't let that put you off, though - that victory was worth all the losses.
at 12:56 on 15-09-2014, Alice
On another unrelated note, I'm looking for board game recs, and thought this would be a good place to ask.

A friend just introduced me to Pandemic, which is the first cooperative board game I've ever played, and I really enjoyed it. Basically, I'm too much of a softy to enjoy very competitive games: it's not the "someone has to win" part I mind, it's the "someone has to win by beating everyone else" part (which in my mind is somehow quite different). So I really liked the fact that you play as a team, and all win (or lose!) together.

So I'm keen to try more cooperative board games! To which end: does anyone have any recommendations for similar games they've particularly enjoyed?
at 12:35 on 15-09-2014, Craverguy
Hey, guys, whatever happened to Kyra's review of Crusader Kings 2? I can't find it anywhere.
at 02:13 on 15-09-2014, Arthur B
It looks like the media are desperate to portray it as a tie, even though the actual polling tends to suggest that "No" remain in the lead unless you go through various contortions to reappraise them.

My hunch is that the "no" vote will win and will win by a larger margin than expected, simply because most polls are still showing a fairly significant "undecided" bloc and I think most undecideds will opt for staying in the Union if they aren't persuaded by the case for independence by election day. (And if they aren't persuaded by now, after months of campaigning, it's going to be a hard sell to persuade them at this late stage.)

Those who are closer to the business of government than me have suggested that in the long run it may make little difference: our interactions with Scotland under "Devo Max" (not independence, but a bunch more powers devolved to Holyrood including income tax) would look remarkably similar to our interactions with an independent Scotland after various negotiations on currency union, open borders, etc. wrap up.
at 01:56 on 15-09-2014, Daniel F
Well, this continued a bit after I bowed out as well!

Apologies for my silence; I thought it best that I took a break to avoid any anger. I don't have anything more to say about GamerGate myself.

If no one minds an awkward change of topic, I've been following a bit about the Scottish referendum from down here. I know most Ferretbrainers (Ferretneurons?) are from the UK. What does it look like over there?
at 16:16 on 13-09-2014, Cheriola
...Well, if you could excuse me for engaging with the derail for a moment. I don't actually have anything more to say about the way anti-feminists use the phrase "social justice warrior" so I'm okay with dropping that topic if Pear is, especially given that I apparently came too late to a discussion that had been over for a few days anyway. But the case that Robinson mentioned did make me think a little today, and I believe that discussion is worth having as well, for intersectionality reasons and to maybe get some advice on how to handle this - if we still have some people around here who aren't white.

Because I can imagine a few scenarios in which I, as a white woman, wouldn't call out a POC author on shitty things. And, even if I'll probably put my foot in my mouth with the following explanation somewhere, I feel that it's not quite fair to fault or mock me for that and to act like it's based on mindless or knowingly careless support.

I mean, for example if I read a book by a Han chinese author I'm sure I wouldn't notice if it includes stereotypes or racism against any of the Chinese minorities. I just don't have the cultural context to notice that the way someone closer to the culture, like Valse, might have, and I think it's a little unfair to expect me to. (Obviously, it's not too much to ask for a Western author or professional critic to do extensive research before engaging with non-western cultures in literature. But someone who just wants to read a novel, perhaps in hopes of broadening their horizons with the first-hand account of someone belonging to a different culture, instead of going to textbooks or travelogues that would most likely be written by Westeners?) Instead, I'd probably just support the author on the basic principle that it's good to have more non-western authors' works translated into English and increase their access to western markets. Of course I could just shut up and not give my knowingly incomplete opinion on non-western authors at all, ever - but that would create the problem of non-western or POC authors getting even more ignored by the vast majority of fandom than they already are and getting actively deprived of free word-of-mouth publicity. Which seems worse to me than missing some problematic aspects of individual author's writings. Though obviously, it's not okay to keep pretending the writing is perfectly okay once someone with more cultural knowledge has pointed out the problems to you - as long as they tell you they actually have the necessary context and aren't just talking out of their ass. (Which unfortunately would be my first assumption when conversing with someone in English - because I've met quite a lot of people online who think they have an educated opinion just based on a single college course or extensive viewing of Asian cinema.) So maybe Valse was refering to people stubbornly disagreeing with her like that, or refusing to trust her credentials.

(Note: I can see that this would come up in anime/manga fandom far more often than my theoretical example of books by chinese authors. I just couldn't come up with a clear example of racism in Japanese pop culture - at least not racism against anyone but Western people or Chinese. And I'm not sure if that's not like claiming 'reverse racism', even if it's something as obviously offensive if a white person did it like the way African American people are usually drawn in manga. I mean, yes, Japanese people are the dominant majority in their own culture, and as far as I know they don't suffer nearly as much from the same problems with respectless Western tourists the way the rest of Asia does, but they've also been under US military occupation for a long time, so I can understand some animosity towards Westerners, white or otherwise.)

Secondly, I would never dare to call out for example an African American author on race issues, even if I privately thought they might be showing internalised racist ideas in their writing. I'd instead give them the benefit of doubt and assume they're doing it intentionally to make a point, or engaging in some kind of play with stereotypes or slur reclamation that I could never fully understand. Same as I wouldn't call out a gay author for using the word "queer" (or even the f-word) or a female author for using the word "bitch", the way I would feel entitled to call out a straight male author.

And even if it's not about race... I wouldn't feel comfortable criticising a female Muslim author for sexism, for example. I've been told many times that it's presumptuous for a white feminist to tell a Muslim woman what she should feel oppressed or offended by, and that they hate seeing their culture and religion judged in this regard by Westeners or other people who aren't actually part of that culture. So I try to be respectful and bite my tongue.

The same fear of appearing all "mighty whitey" when criticising works by POC authors or set in non-western cultures applies to a lot of contexts, really. Again, does me having to shut up about some aspects that I feel might not be okay because I have no way of truly understanding the details and no right to make the call based on my own cultural background, automatically mean I shouldn't cheer the parts of the narrative that I can understand and agree with? (For example the movie "Before Night Falls": Was the oppression and persecution of gay people in mid-to-late 20th century Cuba really that bad, or is this heavily embellished to serve as anti-socialist propaganda? I have no way of knowing. If asked, today's Cuban people would probably say it's designed to make Castro out as a malicious dictator, but then, most of them are straight and not very sympathetic to gay people, on account of the Catholic religious culture. My knowledge of how things went when my own country was socialist makes me lean towards the author's viewpoint, but then again East Germany and Cuba had very different cultures aside from the socialism. In any case, I find the movie cheer-worthy just for the sympathetic portrayal of historical gay people, and for making a movie out of a gay POC author's biography and thus working against heteronormative and cultural erasure in the cinema.)
at 15:30 on 13-09-2014, Robinson L
Apologies to all. Bowing out now.
at 13:38 on 13-09-2014, Pear
Robinson L., you describe 'having been' That Guy.

Well, congratulations, you are being That Guy right now! WAHEEEY *party poppers, kazoos*

It's okay. Have a seat.
at 13:28 on 13-09-2014, Jamie Johnston
Robinson — I think we can safely assume that Pear and Cheriola did not mean that literally anyone who ever refers to 'SJWs' in a critical way is necessarily wrong and should be ignored.

Of course it's possible to use that sort of term, like the way 'minority warrior' is used round these parts, in highlighting how some attempts to oppose oppression are actually unhelpful. But it's abundantly clear from the context that that is not what we're talking about at the moment, and I'm not sure it's useful to turn it into the topic of conversation.

Both '~ah but what you've just said is not literally true in every single case because of this counter-example that is clearly nothing to do with the substance of what you were saying~' and '~ah but let's scrutinize the terminology you're using even though we all understand what you mean by it and there's no suggestion that it's harmful~' are fairly classic derails, even if not intended as such.
at 20:00 on 12-09-2014, Robinson L
It's been a few years since I saw that stuff, but I definitely get the impression Valse (and other women, people of color, and people from other marginalized groups) have been burned by well-meaning but wrong-headed white people trying to be helpful without putting sufficient critical thinking into what they were actually saying and doing. Having been That Guy myself on occasion, and seen plenty of instances of my fellow white/male/straight/[insert any number of other privilege categories here] people Doing It Wrong over the years; I don't find it too much of a stretch.
at 19:14 on 12-09-2014, Bjoern
white people who uncritically support writers of color without seeming regard for whether that writer's works are, in fact, completely horrible and offensive

Do these people actually exist?
Seems like a strawman to me.
at 18:30 on 12-09-2014, Robinson L
I'm pretty sure I saw Valse use a similar term (one which included the words "social justice") as pejorative to refer to "white people who uncritically support writers of color without seeming regard for whether that writer's works are, in fact, completely horrible and offensive." So I guess she might argue that it can, in fact, be a bad thing when the people doing the standing up consistently half-ass it and don't apply sufficient critical analysis to the task.

... I do not for a moment, of course, suspect that this is what's happening in the case currently under discussion, it was just a thought that occurred to me.

"Is it time for feminists to step off our hobby?"/blockquote>
*Facepalm* Because of the grammatical construction and because I seem to be pathologically drive always to put the least awful interpretation upon everything I see, I initially interpreted that as "Is it time for feminists [like myself] to step off our [gaming] hobby [because of all the misogynist backlash we've been getting]?" and it wasn't until I was most of the way through that a paragraph that I realized how you were reading that header. Sadly, now that I've got it, I'm sure your interpretation is the correct one.
at 02:58 on 12-09-2014, Cheriola
Anyone who sincerely believes in and criticises "SJWs" shows they are a dolt and bigot and I'm not inclined to listen to their thoughts on the treatment of women.

Oh yeah, it's like the new "political correctness" in the way you can use it as a litmus test to see who is worth listening to. It's like... What on Earth is wrong with you that you would think standing up for the rights of people who aren't part of your own social group and/or minority and sympathising with their plight could ever be a bad thing? How ignorant and unselfaware do you have to be not to realise you've just outed yourself as a bigoted creep just by making that judgement?

Only last night I was reading old entries in the Bad Webcomic wiki out of sheer insomniac boredom, and while most of the reviewers there see things like racism and sexism as serious critical points in a comic, I also ran across the phrase "panders to social justice warriors". And lo and behold, the rest of that review also featured the slurs "pansy" and "cunt", despite the reviewer seeming otherwise unaware that he is a douche.

I don't have anything to contribute to the topic, again, mainly because my computers are so slow and old that I haven't bought a new game in like a decade. Though it strikes me from Pear's description that it's really just the same old anti-feminist backlash (intersectional version) and lack of genuine male ally-dom (allyhood? allyship?), just with other terms and in a different arena.

I had heard of the newest threats against Anita Sarkeesian, of course, but I hadn't come across the phrase "GamerGate". Though I do look into The Escapist at least weekly, (I enjoy a couple of the video reviews in a I-don't-have-anything-better-to-do kind of way) and despite idly glancing over the article headlines and titles of popular forum threads while waiting for the videos to load, I hadn't noticed until you started mentioning it here. And a day or two later, it was all over The Escapist as well. Huh.

I was actually staring in some morbid amazement at the thread title "Is it time for feminists to step off our hobby?" yesterday. I wasn't tempted to read the thread, because it has over 700 posts, presumably mostly vitriol. But, just... How do you put so much self-damning awfulness from so many angles into so few words? It's almost like some sort of vile piece of art. (i.e It manages to convey the poster is not a feminist, considers being a feminist to be a bad thing, considers gaming inherently a hobby that feminists have no right to and wouldn't naturally engage in if not to complain (a boy's club), considers it his perogative to exclude people from the hobby if he doesn't like them... And that's just before we get to the trolling (= purposefully upsetting and shit-storm-provoking = sadistic/sociopathic) goal of the question, or before we ever consider that he might be so benighted and clueless to actually be serious in his inquiry...)

at 13:15 on 10-09-2014, Pear
Thank you, Daniel F.

Arthur, I'm always glad for your observations. Anyone who sincerely believes in and criticises "SJWs" shows they are a dolt and bigot and I'm not inclined to listen to their thoughts on the treatment of women.

Generally I understand that we can care about several things at once. That's a given to me. One could, hypothetically, care about the integrity games journalism and about the harassment of women, folks with disabilities, and queer folx working in tech. You could even say they go hand-in-hand.

But that is not what's happening, because criticism about the integrity of games journalism is coming from the viewpoint of the entitled shitlord.

I'd say the complaints about the generalisation of the scrublord geekdom are derails. Alright, to be fair, they're not merely screaming man-toddlers. They're also unethical misogynists who have threatened the safety of at least two women working in tech, have released the nude photos of one of them, and treat this harassment as a long-running joke. They've shown no sign of regret, nor stopping their hateful campaigns. Temper tantrum by adults which run unchecked have the power to harm. I've a friend who works in games journalism, a queer woman, and each day I see her being trolled and called slurs.

Male gamers do shitty things and then are surprised and offended and say, 'Not ALL gamers,' when called out. If someone points out you've done a shitty thing, and you get defensive and start equivocating--that's a red flag. Male gamers feel needled by certain criticisms but do little to listen and make reparations. They're so, so far off from realising that these criticisms are well-deserved; in their minds, they're the aggrieved party. I suspect they treat their own geekdom as not a pattern of consumption, but a culture born of objects and stories venerated on the margins of society, therefore anyone saying bad things about said culture is engaging in a kind of anti-geek oppression. Those darn ~*SJWs*~, right?

Where rot is observed in the community at large, there needs to be a collective effort to address these concerns. Where are the male gamers calling out other male gamers for their misogyny? Where are the male gamers saying, 'Hey, knock this shit off'? Where are the male gamers sincerely lending their support to women and queer folx? There are some, but not enough.
at 11:19 on 09-09-2014, Arthur B
I don't want to get into a link war with you, but while I've been reading explanations like deathofgamergate, I've also been reading explanations like this one, which seem credible enough to me.

Nah, dude, it really isn't.

For starters, although it mentions InternetAristocrat's (first) video on the subject, it conveniently glosses over the actual content of that video. InternetAristocrat likes to loudly rant about how he's documenting all this in the name of journalistic ethics!!!, but apparently doesn't have enough ethics not to crack a heap of jokes about Five Guys Burgers and Fries, a gag the Zoe Post started in reference to Zoe's alleged promiscuous behaviour.

On top of that, his video on the subject is fairly consistent in terms of tone and agenda to much of the rest of his YouTube channel. The guy likes to attack more or less anyone he perceives as a "social justice warrior" and any cause he deems to be associated with them. He cultivates this, well, Internet aristocrat persona to try and seem sophisticated and charming, and yet he's more than happy to wheel out the odd anti-gay slur here and there. He's put out videos attacking the very concept of ableism and white privilege as ideas, which fairly clearly demonstrates the ideological viewpoint he's coming from.

Later, cainejw's narrative tries to say that GamerGate didn't arise from misogyny by linking Adam Baldwin's twitter post, but Adam Baldwin's post links to InternetAristocrat's videos, videos whose very titles are based around a misogynistic, slut-shaming joke. cainejw also pulls the classic tactic of trying to shut down all talk about sexism by defining misogyny as "dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women" and suggesting that that means that unless someone overtly says I HATE WOMEN they can't be doing anything misogynistic - so apparently in cainejw's eyes linking to a troll YouTuber's videos who go for the slut-shaming angles when they name their YouTube videos on this subject isn't misogynistic.

Sorry, dude, but even scanning the post briefly I'm finding some pretty serious holes in it.
at 04:23 on 09-09-2014, Daniel F
Fair enough. You have my apologies.
at 03:10 on 09-09-2014, Pear
Perhaps we see hateful, screaming shitbeard man-toddlers involved in this because we and our communities are the ones who suffer harassment at their hands. Pretty easy to block out their violence when you're not the one being hit.

Let me spell it out for you: if other people (esp. women and people of genders and sexualities other than straight cis man) are saying sexism and harassment are a really big issue in any given situation, and you're all 'SURE IT'S A PART OF IT, BUT I HAVE READ LOTS OF STUFF SO I DON'T WANT TO SAY IT'S ALL BAD, AND I HOPE FOR THE GOOD STUFF AS WELL,' it's not a terribly good thing to say. If the situation is about geekdom, it simply makes you sound like another common or garden shitlord.

Just stop, okay. Stop.
at 00:59 on 09-09-2014, Daniel F
This is a pretty decent rundown of how GamerGate was more or less exclusively spawned and driven by hate.

I have actually already read that one. Full disclosure: for the past fortnight or so I've been moderating a fierce discussion of these issues elsewhere, so I've had to read quite a bit. What I can't do is bring myself to say that everyone involved in this protest is unreasonable or being motivated by hate. The deathofgamergate tumblr post maintains that same strawman: 'screaming toddlers' and so on.

I don't want to get into a link war with you, but while I've been reading explanations like deathofgamergate, I've also been reading explanations like this one, which seem credible enough to me.

Again, I'm not disputing that sexist politics were deeply embroiled in this thing. Everyone knew about Kane & Lynch, but that didn't blow up. Linking corruption to Quinn created a story, with personal drama, which as best I can see allowed a long-festering protest to finally explode. If we must compare it to neo-Nazis, there was neo-Nazi support for Occupy Wall Street. The hate protest is more deeply connected to how GamerGate started than how OWS started, though. Maybe that taints it.

*sigh* Put it this way. I have my hopes that something good might still come out of GamerGate, as well as the bad.
at 16:28 on 08-09-2014, Arthur B
@Michal: Oh, I thought those dudes had mobilised their own fanbases for that effort.
at 16:15 on 08-09-2014, Michal
@Arthur: It's the thing that got Warbound and "Opera Vita PoorlyconjugatedfauxLatin" Hugo nominations.
at 14:33 on 08-09-2014, Arthur B
That's a really good point, actually, particularly since if you are looking for the real scandal in games journalism, it'll be in payola and skullduggery surrounding advertising revenue and sponsorship, as the Death of GamerGate article points out with the Kane & Lynch example, and only AAA developers and publishers really have the deep pockets necessary to indulge in that sort of bribery on a regular basis.
at 14:19 on 08-09-2014, Fin
Yeah, from my perspective as a genderqueer aspiring game dev all the talk of protesting corruption in the industry just looks like a smokescreen for a campaign of harassment and it terrifies me. The charges of corruption seem to only be levied at marginalised indie developers and critics, because hey why care about the things AAA developers get up to when there are minorities trying to take away their toys?
at 11:04 on 08-09-2014, Arthur B
@Michal: Sad puppy slate?

@Daniel F:
You're absolutely right about not becoming entangled with hate movements; but I suppose I'm not sure that's what GamerGate is.

It is, it really is, you really don't have to spend too long researching how it kicked off and who's driving it and who the core organisers are to work out that it is.

This is a pretty decent rundown of how GamerGate was more or less exclusively spawned and driven by hate.

Moreover, it seems like a nasty silencing move, to me, to say "You should not criticise journalism right now because hate groups are also criticising it."

Which isn't what I'm saying, what I am saying is that at the moment if you want to criticise gaming journalism you're going to need to actively distance yourself from the toxic anti-Quinn/anti-Sarkeesian howling because otherwise you risk contributing nitpicking about the mote in gaming journalism's eye whilst ignoring the log in fandom's.

Like it or not, GamerGate is the big story around gaming journalism at the moment and if you're going to comment on gaming journalism people will expect you to have an opinion about it one way or the other. Otherwise it's like trying to talk about Middle East politics without mentioning the Islamic State; there may well be a lot to talk about, but there's a huge story overshadowing the rest of it and you're not really telling the whole story if you ignore it.

The word 'GamerGate' is not a slogan in itself, and it's hardly an inherently offensive term.

"Confederate States of America" was not an offensive term prior to the 1860s, but it sure has connotations now.

In practical terms, I think "You can criticise gaming journalism but don't affiliate yourself with GamerGate" comes off as "You can't criticise gaming journalism". It's just too polarised. Whether you use the term or not, criticising gaming journalism right now will be interpreted as GamerGate.

Well, no, if you actively make the point that the hate campaigners are hate campaigners and distance yourselves from them (and do your fact-checking to make sure you aren't parroting some of their more reasonable-sounding concocted talking points) then you can go right ahead and criticise gaming journalism. People might try to connect you to GamerGate anyway, but if you have made your stance on it clear enough (and done your fact-checking to make sure you are dealing with real information rather than something concocted by one of its proponents) then they won't be able to do so very credibly.