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“Gentlemen. You can’t fight in here. This is the Game Room!”


Who’d believe that GamerGate is almost a year old? Or indeed that the cacophony of misogyny, death and rape threats and general harassment would still be continuing to this day, expanding to cover more and more of aspects of “geek” culture?  Yet GamerGate isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of the problem. Entitlement, especially within geeky, typically male dominated realms of pop culture, is a problem that’s become increasingly highlighted as it diversifies. And not just in terms of attracting people from minority backgrounds, women, the LGBTQ community etc, but also in terms of content and the way in which that content is received.

Surprisingly not that bad.

Surprisingly, not that bad.

Today, Vice posted an article about PewDiePie which encapsulates just that point. The article quotes many comments about PewDiePie which criticise him and his content. In itself, that’s fair enough. Everything can’t be for everyone. Yet in a culture that’s only recently started to open itself up to a wider audience, not having stuff catered to you is jarring for some people. A time was when a guy who made millions of dollars playing video games would be heralded by these people as a hero. Yet PewDiePie doesn’t market himself at the hardcore gamers, the ones who feel increasingly marginalised by the way the industry is progressing.

It’s important to note that PewDiePie is no saint. In the past he’s made rape jokes in his videos. Crucially though he recognised that these offended and upset people and after receiving complaints he said he’d never make them again. To my knowledge, he’s kept his word. This ability to recognise such behaviour as wrong and to admit that is something that eludes Gamergaters and their ilk.

Fed up with your shit.

Fed up with your shit.

This phenomenon isn’t limited to gaming. Hell the term GamerGate was first coined by the actor Adam Baldwin, a man whose Twitter feed is a smorgasbord of right-wing rambling that would fit right in at a Rick Santorum dinner party. Then there’s this years Hugo Awards, which has managed to be hijacked by a group right-wing authors and their supporters calling themselves ‘The Sad Puppies’, even managing to raise the ire of George R.R. Martin. Whilst they’ve been around for a couple of years with very little effect, their sudden rise in influence has coincided with the emergence of GamerGate. And then there’s the YouTube channels that have jumped on the crazy train. I remember watching Thunderf00t videos to do with astronomy years ago. Imagine my surprise when swathes of his channel is now dedicated to bashing feminists.

It’s become a lightning rod for those who had their niche, a thing that they could call their own. Now that it’s become more inclusive they’re rallying against feminists, “Social Justice Warriors” and those who think that maybe, just maybe, having more equality is a good thing. Because everything in geek culture in the past was aimed at a smaller market to which they belonged, their sense of entitlement is so that they feel that should continue.

Do I think that the likes of Adam Baldwin gives a toss about video games, aside from being paid to occasionally be in them? No. But it helps to further their agenda and people who see themselves as victims get swept up in it.

Is there a solution to this? Can those of us who, through our fandom, hobbies and interests are inextricably linked to these people, do or say anything to turn people away from such hate? I would like to think yes. We need to support those game developers, film makers and creative types who are helping to diversify geek culture. It’s important to not be afraid to provide constructive criticism when they drop the ball from time to time.

It’s my hope that, given time, opportunists like Baldwin, the misogynists GameGate, the Sad Puppies and countless YouTubers will become increasingly marginalised. With the widespread critical acclaim of the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road and Her Story and the increasing condemnation of shows like Game of Thrones for its treatment of women, I’d like to think that perception is starting to change. Sadly, I feel that for the time being those that shout the loudest will continue to impinge on geek culture.

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 22.17.19

Unfortunately those tracks turn out to lead to cannibals, but you can’t have everything.


 

I think it’s fair to say that The Walking Dead is a hit and miss show. Apart from a largely excellent first season, each season has had one good half without much to write home about in the other. The first half of season two was a complete mess, the second half excellent. Season three started strong before going off the boil and that trend continued into season four. The two Governor centric episodes aside, season four had a fantastic opening. The plague storyline allowed for Herschel’s character to grow and culminated in his brutal murder at the hands of the Governor. And yet in the latter half of season four the episodes have flip-flopped more than an indecisive trout.

As viewers, we’ve been blessed with fantastic episodes like Claimed and The Grove, but suffered through the unremitting bullshit that was Still, with varying shades of mediocre in-between. It’s perhaps not surprising then that the finale was approached with some trepidation on my part. Not helped at all by the experience of the season three finale, Welcome to the Tombs. Thankfully we were treated to one of the best episodes of the series so far. Easily the best since Clear in season three, maybe even the best since the pilot.

It’s been a long road to travel for the show to get to this point, not least for Rick Grimes who finally seems to be in a place where he can be seen as a competent, decisive leader. From season one he’s had people in the group holding him back. From Lori’s constant hen pecking to Shane’s insubordination to Dale’s naivety. The only person whose caution and gentleness has really aided Rick’s evolution as a leader is Herschel. In showing him he doesn’t have to be a warrior all the time, Rick’s turn from benign to brutal when necessary is all the more notable.

Nowhere is this more evident in the scene near the start of the finale with the showdown with the Marauders, Joe’s pack of wandering hicks and nutcases. I’d argue it’s one of the best scenes the show’s ever done and it shows how Rick has evolved to be a true survivor and one who isn’t to be fucked with. One minute he’s sitting round the campfire with Michonne. The next he’s ripping out a guy’s throat with his teeth and cutting his son’s attempted rapist from balls to brain with a knife and stabbing him 20 times for good measure. It’s a scene that in previous seasons would’ve had Lori whining “she doesn’t know the person she married anymore” or Dale castigating him as a “danger to the group”. Yet the way these characters have developed over the years has hardened them to true steel and any less of a reaction would feel weak and a betrayal of these characters as survivors. And it’s hard to argue that the show is worse for levels of violence these people are capable of.

In stark contrast to the violence of Rick’s group is the cunning trickery of the residents of Terminus. As soon as you see Tasha Yar cooking huge slabs of meat on the barbecue at the end of the previous episode it’s pretty obvious they’re going to be cannibals. Despite what we’ve just seen Rick do, there’s still that line in the sand that you don’t cross. You simply don’t eat people. Daryl may have found the Marauders code rightly stupid, but that’s a rule you can really live by.

What makes this episode stand out amongst other great episodes is the quality of the writing and directing. Showrunner Scott Gimple has been responsible for some of the series’ best episodes (Pretty Much Dead Already, Clear, This Sorrowful Life, The Grove) and combined with Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones alumna Michelle MacLaren you can be sure this won’t be a standard episode. The shot selection is smart, scenes blend together naturally and there’s great foreshadowing with Rick teaching Carl about the snare. MacLaren also gets a great performance out of Chandler Riggs (Carl). Working with child actors is always a risk and we’d not been blessed with great performances from the two girls playing Lizzie and Mika throughout the season. Riggs’ acting could so easily have been a weak spot in this episode if directed by someone else.

For so long what’s held the show back is AMC’s seeming reluctance to splash out on consistently good writers and directors with a proven track record. Look at some of the episodes from this season and their writers and directors. Curtis Gwinn, writer of Dead Weight also wrote for such high quality drama such as NTSF:SD:SUV and Fat Guy Stuck in Internet whilst Julius Ramsay, director for the worst rated episode of the show on IMDB in Still, had never even directed before. It’s ridiculous that for a show with such potential and aspirations and that’s making a ton of money for AMC they aren’t getting in people the likes of HBO take for granted.

Hopefully for season five AMC will let Scott Gimple have much more of a say in the way the show goes and doesn’t leave him hamstrung with financial constraints. I get that they had to deal with one hell of a mess following Glen Mazzara’s stint in charge, but with a whole season of his own there’s no excuses now. They’ve set up something great with Terminus, a strong group of survivors (shit even Tara’s tolerable now she’s stopped with the fistbump nonsense) and a darker direction. If they manage to screw it up from here, they’re in trouble.

The Colossus is dead. The Playstation 2, the titan of home video gaming, has had its plug pulled and been discontinued by Sony after almost 13 years. As the unequivocal winner of the last console war (shipping more units than the XBox, Gamecube and Dreamcast combined), the PS2 has a special place in the hearts of millions around the globe. A monolithic black slab, like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the PS2 transformed video game consoles and what we expected from them.

Launching in March 2000, the PS2 blew all its competitors out of the water with a combination of savvy business decisions and excellent games to back them up. Sony’s decision to include a DVD player built into the console gave it a place under people’s television sets that was normally reserved for VCRs and Sky boxes. Its ability to be stored vertically was a significant selling point as well, with space under a television at a premium. But for all these nifty extras, what really made the PS2 such a success was its games.

The Playstation 2 had phenomenal third party support. Franchises such as Grand Theft Auto, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil, FIFA, Pro Evolution Soccer, Metal Gear Solid and Gran Turismo gave the console broad appeal. Games such as Ico, Shadow of the Colossus and Okami, though lacking the popularity of the aforementioned franchises, were critically acclaimed and provided something for the more cerebral and hardcore gamer. Crucially, Sony’s decision to have backwards compatibility built into the device from Day One meant that you weren’t restricted to the launch titles, strong though they were. On release, you had five years worth of games to choose from thanks to the original Playstation. You could even continue that save of a game you’ve invested dozens of hours into on the PS1 on your shiny new PS2 by plugging in your old memory cards. More than anything I think it was this feature that elevated the PS2 above its competitors. Nintendo was transitioning from cartridges to disks, Sega didn’t include it and Microsoft was just starting out in the console business. And there was Sony, with the game library of two consoles. How could they compete?

Certainly the backwards compatibility was what made me choose the PS2. It was the summer of 2002, I was a massive Final Fantasy addict and my PS1 had just broken. Conveniently, Final Fantasy X had been released a few months earlier and so for my birthday I was given a PS2 and taken on a trip to Electronics Boutique to pick out my games. It was a magical time and from that moment on I was hooked. The ability to use all my old games and get new, state of the art games? How could any geeky kid not be head over heels? The fact that console is probably the reason I didn’t do as well in school as I might isn’t something I regret. The PS2 really opened my eyes to the world of video gaming and for that I shall be eternally grateful.

Eventually, in the summer of 2008, my PS2 gave up the ghost and died on me. Well, I say died. Murdered would be a more accurate description. I punched it right in the middle after dying one too many times on a boss fight in Final Fantasy XII and that was that. I never bought a replacement, opting for an XBox 360 instead, which I grew to love but not in the same way. It (and the PS3 now that I have one) lack the character of the PS2. Though inferior in every way, the PS2 has a little place in my heart as a console that none since have matched. Sadly, I doubt I’ll ever feel that again. And so I raise a glass to the Playstation 2 and wish it adieu. The beautiful, magnificent bastard.

There are not many things that I think should be seen as an absolute. However, one thing I do make an exception for is freedom of speech. It is a key aspect of our society, one that should not be diluted. No matter how repugnant we may find what is being said, we have a responsibility as a free society to protect the right of an individual to say what they think. To borrow a well known quote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I’ll defend to the death you’re right to say it.”

This is why the University College of London’s Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society should be applauded for refusing to bow down to pressure to remove an advertisement for a social event depicting Jesus and Muhammad.

The ad, from the ‘Jesus and Mo’ series of cartoons, was the victim of several complaints by members of the student body. It’s for the benefit of the UCL Student Union that the society took a stand. In these instances, it’s important to remember that people do not have a right to remain unoffended. People like to think that they do. That if people are subjected to something they are offended by then the person who provides the offence should be silenced. I disagree.

In the instance of this cartoon, I see absolutely no reason why a secular University society should get into trouble for using a cartoon of the Islamic prophet. I understand that for Muslims, it is against their religious beliefs to create depictions of Muhammad. But then why should people who don’t subscribe to their beliefs be subject to the same rules? It is obvious to my mind that people should be able to draw and say what they want. People that are going to be offended by such a small thing will likely actively seek out things to be offended by.

In many situations such as this, those in opposition and who feel that religion in particular deserves some sort of respect or protection will attempt to find some sort of hypocrisy or flaws in the argument. Commonly, they’ll say: “What about racism?” Well, what about it? Racism is one of those repugnant things I mentioned earlier. I don’t understand it, I don’t condone it, nor do I like anyone who is a racist. However, would I dare say that a racist couldn’t spread their bile, solely because it offends me? Of course not. I’d like to take the moral high ground and attempt to educate this person out of their ignorance and blind hatred. The same applies to homophobes, sexists, anti-Semites etc.

Certainly I don’t object to the title of being a free speech absolutist and I don’t think anyone should. I maintain that it’s the best way of eliminating ignorance through challenging people’s pre-conceptions. Yes it means that occasionally you will come across things that you don’t like and that may well offend you. But if that makes you examine your opinions and beliefs critically? All the better.