An open letter to @CranzBoonitz on #GamerGate and Obsidian

Dear Misandraste’s Herald,

This letter is not intended to enrage you, to insult you, to belittle your opinion or otherwise attack you or anyone mentioned. This letter is intended as a full response to a question you recently asked me on Twitter regarding the recent Obsidian debacle. If this goes anything like my previous attempts at extending an olive branch and having an actual discussion, it won’t go well (either because I suck at extending olive branches or because you’re not interested), but hey, gotta make the effort.

For those of you who don’t know, here’s a brief summary: a Twitter user by the name of @icequeenerika (Erika Imperial) found a tombstone in Obsidian’s game Pillars of Eternity that had a quick couplet about the deceased, written by a backer of the project. It basically said that the man had sex with someone, then committed suicide when they found out the person they slept with was a man. She declared this to be ‘transmisogynist’ (that’s a new one >.>) and demanded it be removed from the game, calling on her followers (and presumably anyone who agreed with her) to put pressure on Obsidian to remove it.

(EDIT: The poem in question, because i forgot the first time like an idiot:

“Here lies Firedorn, a hero in bed
He once was alive, but now he is dead
The last woman he bedded, turned out a man
And crying in shame, off a cliff he ran”)

Here’s relevant screencaps, in no particular order:

ObsidianSilenced1 ObsidianSilenced2 ObsidianSilenced3

I got into a discussion with Herald over this, and he asked why #GamerGate was so upset about the poem’s removal. After all, he reasoned, GG is supposedly pro-consumer, right? They should be applauding this on the basis that the customers got what they wanted, right?

Ha ha ha…

Mate, this isn’t pro-consumer, not even close.

Let’s start with the most basic fact about this: The poem was put into the game by a backer, as admitted by Erika Imperial. I’ve been told that the stretch goal that allowed you to do this was $500. The man paid to have this poem put into the game, he’s a consumer, and now because of social pressure his poem was removed from the game.

“But the makers have the right to police their own content, right?”

Yes, but that’s not what happened here: the game was policed by a twitter user who was offended by the poem (I haven’t played the game myself due to lack of income, but apparently this sort of thing fits in perfectly with the world – there’s a tree with children impaled on it) and blatantly bullied the company until they had it removed.

Further, #GamerGate is also about allowing developers to create their own content without being bullied by the media or by other consumers (hence, #LetDevsSpeak). The fact that a group of developers are being silenced is more important than the fact that they produced content you found offensive, especially since the world the game was created in is extremely ‘offensive’.

Again, this is all second-hand, as I haven’t actually played the game, but apparently there is actual murder of gays and lesbians just for being gays and lesbians in Pillars of Eternity. I don’t see how a 2 couplet poem is any worse than that.

“It’s not just about being offended. It’s about reinforcing and making light of a system that murders trans people daily.” -Herald

1) There is a difference between depicting something, and supporting something. This was clearly the former. I also thought that the joke was pretty plainly on the man killing himself over it.

2) That’s a very serious accusation that I’m going to instinctively call bullcrap on. Why? Because you led up to it by saying:

“The same justification (“I found out she lied to me about her genitals!”) is used to murder trans folks in real life.”
“And that’s legal. The ‘Trans panic’ defence is actually a thing that exists and can be used in court.”

From the sound of it (‘trans PANIC’) this is similar to a murder of passion defense, wherein a killer’s emotions override their reason. Murders of passion are still crimes, but they can be used as a defense in court to get a lighter sentence on the basis that something spurred them to action. Does that mean that the courts encourage murder of passion? No, they don’t.(And for the record, while I don’t condone murdering someone because they’re trans, I do think a trans person should disclose that they’re trans before a relationship gets seriously started, or at the very least before sex. Banging someone under false pretenses is a form of rape, and it could easily be argued that that is the case here) But that’s another conversation – you asked why GG is opposed to removing the poem. I’ll assume that you rebutted this concern succinctly and with well-documented sources that I can find no fault in (unlikely, since this is the internet, but whatever. Moving on)

That said, do you remember when fundamentalist religious nutjobs (this is coming from a Christian, btw) declared back in the 80s/90s that Dungeons and Dragons was a game designed to lure children into satanic rituals? Remember how insane that sounded? Or how crazy it was when they said the same or Rock-and-Roll and Elvis’ pelvis?

I don’t, I wasn’t born till 1991. But I did find some old websites claiming such and laughed hard at them.

That’s because media does not have the power to radically alter your previous beliefs just because they depict something or make a joke (at the expense of the transphobe and not the transexual, i might add). Otherwise, the fact that almost all music is about love would actually mean something. No amount of violent or disgusting media is going to destroy your ability to understand the difference between right and wrong unless you’re already mentally unstable, and at that point… well…Charles Manson claimed to be inspired by a Beatles song. You can’t predict what a sick mind is going to do with information you throw at it.

“It’s offensive to trans people!”

So? The statue David is offensive to me because the man’s penis is in full view and I swore to never look at pornographic images for longer than it took to cover my eyes. I’m also offended by the Birthday song because it’s what was used to bully me when I was in middle school (don’t ask, you don’t wanna know and I don’t wanna talk about it) until I was willing to punch my own dad in the face for singing it on my actual birthday.
(Edit: Oh, and homophobes were offended that Dorian was gay in DA:I.)

Here’s the thing: nobody cares if you’re offended, especially not when it comes to art and free expression. If you can’t prove that it actively incites people to commit transphobic actions (you won’t and can’t prove that, btw) then you can’t make a case that it needs to go away. Therefore, removing the poem is NOT pro-consumer. It’s anti-developer and opposes freedom of speech/expression.

This isn’t the first time anti-GG and SJWs have reacted in this manner to artwork, either. Remember the now-infamous Foaming Jugs tweet? Or the alternate Batgirl cover? #GamerGate has shown itself repeatedly to be against censorship, even self-censorship. Especially when pressure is applied to do so from an outside force.Look, trans people get a bad rap and need to be helped, I will freely admit that – any demographic that has a 49% suicide rate needs help badly. But I see no evidence of transphobia from anyone except a man who committed suicide, and even that’s a stretch. (ftr, It is perfectly arguable that having sex with someone without disclosing that you’re trans – sex under false pretenses – is rape. If you’re not ready to tell your partner, fine, don’t have sex until you are. No one’s forcing you)

In brief summary: GamerGate is upset because removing the image is anti-consumer, it is censorship in every way that matters, and because Obsidian is only the latest to be bullied into removing content by the loud, vocal minority we’ve come to call Anti-#GamerGate and/or SJWs. GG is pro-consumer, but that has little bearing on this particular case.

“Anti-#GamerGate isn’t a movement.”

spacekatgal is Briana Wu:

AntiGGisAMovement

Okay… like my last open letter, that was a bit off the cuff. There’s probably some poor wording or misspelling here and there, but I hope this gives you a perspective on why GG is upset by this.

All the best,
@HalfTangible

EDIT: TB brings up a good point here, too:

… Come to think of it, he realized the person he slept with was a man the moment he woke up. So yeah, this is probably what happened.

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An Open Letter to David Goyer

Dear Mr. Goyer,

I’ll keep this brief.

DC is ashamed of it’s heroes. Many people, including you, seem to believe that superheroes need to shirk off the childishness of the comic book age and embrace dark and gritty realism and false maturity. The kind of fake-ass ‘maturity’ that turns Man of Steel into a grey, lifeless murk where Superman absolutely must kill his first villain, and then in the very next scene smiles brightly while someone makes a joke about how sexy he is. And yes, it IS false, despite your protests to the contrary.

Marvel embraces its own ludicrous premises and runs with them. They decided that the best way to attract an audience is to charge into the comic book silliness of superheroing with wild abandon. The kind of abandon that turns the Guardians of the Galaxy (one of those so-called D-Listers you seem to despise so much) into an actual movie. Any dumbass can make a Superman film and sell it for millions – Guardians features a TREE that can only say three words, and a raccoon who’s dating an otter.

And one of the stars of Doctor Who – who the fanbase liked, by the way – shaved her head and painted herself blue to get into that movie.

See, maturity is not when you decide to grow up and act like an adult – maturity is when you decide for yourself what being an adult actually means and hang whatever anyone else thinks. DC’s acting the part of an adult, Marvel’s being an adult.

That’s why DC is tanking and Marvel is currently all but printing money.

I’d have also pointed out the obvious, but by the time you read this you’ll probably have been told what’s wrong with your comments on She-Hulk a dozen times over, and I don’t feel like being redundant today. (Also, I am quite possibly the LEAST qualified person on this planet to talk about gender issues)

Sincerely,
David Louis Burton
A guy who once used the name ‘Bullsbomb’ and currently goes by ‘HalfTangible’

PS. Wait, if the only people who have heard about Martian Manhunter are lonely comic nerds who will never get laid why do you know so much about-…. think i just answered my own question there.

PPS. And Martian Manhunter is no sillier a name than Superman or Batman.

Prompt: Write a letter to your younger self, say 5-10 years. What would you tell them, assuming you couldn’t stop major disasters (personal or otherwise) from occurring?

Dear younger me,

We’ve never been good at this whole heartfelt speech crap, so let me just belt out all the advice and pretend it’s surrounded by fluffy language to make it sound nice.

1) Your behavior is fine. The people around you that are avoiding you or acting distant are doing so because they have their own problems. Chances are it’s not because you said the wrong thing or looked at them too long. Stop beating yourself up over it, especially if you probably weren’t going to talk to them anyway.

2) When people say that stories ‘come alive’ when you’re writing, it’s not a metaphor (Shortly before beginning to write this letter I had an idea regarding my current trilogy’s second book that just seemed to grow organically out of two or three elements I’d already thrown in… and really, the idea was cooler than my original justification for the war)

3) Don’t worry – I’m still single and alone. It is indeed possible to keep yourself from falling in love. Your parents and society in general lied to you.

Sincerely, your older self.

PS. Politics are awful and will eat at your soul. Don’t get into it if you can avoid it.

An open intervention letter to Doctor Who

Dear Doctor Who,

We need to talk.

I’m writing this now because the 50th anniversary is behind us, and we’ve begun the Doctor’s twelfth incarnation. The show is now free to start fresh and go in a new direction with this doctor, and I wish I could say I was thoroughly excited to see this. But… I’m not. I’m really not. More than anything, I’m just tired of watching you, thinking you’ll get better.

I first noticed some of the problems you were having in Asylum of the Daleks, but when I look back, I can see them going back all the way through Moffat’s run on the series. No, I’m not going to spend this letter bashing Moffat – that’s been done often enough on the internet, and Moffat is a good writer. I want to talk about some more systemic problems that run throughout the entire series. Now, I haven’t watched classic who, so this is purely the experience of someone new to the show.

My first actual episode of Doctor Who was the 11th hour, which was recommended to me since it was Matt Smith’s first episode (at the time he was a new doctor), and almost instantly I loved this series. I had looked up some wiki pages and stuff, seen some clips, gotten some general background on the series, but this was my first exposure to an actual episode. I loved Matt Smith’s Doctor with his whimsical behavior, unbridled confidence and sheer brilliance in equal measure. I loved that the episode changed direction at least twice in it’s run (three or four times, really, but who’s counting?) which kept me surprised and on my toes. I loved that it was funny, serious, dramatic, even scary when it had to be. And this continued when I watched the series onward.

When I hit a hiatus, I went back to the ninth doctor and started watching from there. Still loved it (though Rose’s constant presence in the series started to tick me off by the time we got to her THIRD comeback) but something about the villians in the series gave me pause. While their stories were often stupid and nonsensical, there was something about them I liked much more than the villians portrayed in the Moffat era. Exhibit A: The Daleks.

‘Dalek’ is one of the best episodes of New Who in my humble opinion, and anyone who’s seen it can tell you why. The modern update to the iconic monster in this story is incredible and horrifying in equal measure. It’s not easy to make a sliding trash can with a plunger on it scary, but this thing goes on an unstoppable rampage and murders so many so quickly and takes so little damage you can’t help but be intimidated. MrTardisReviews said it best, I think: “This is the Chuck Norris of Daleks.” And this wasn’t the last time they would show up, either. Throughout the RTD era, the Daleks were present at least once a season. And every time, their relationship with the Doctor – the one who wiped out their entire species, and whose species they tried to wipe out – is handled perfectly. They’re used repeatedly throughout the series – some say too much. Despite that, however, their presence always felt significant and important.

That last bit is something that really gets me. See, this is an aspect of the series that the Russel T. Davies era had in spades. While the Doctor is the main character (hence the title) the villains are just as important, if not moreso, in the same vein as Batman. Say what you like about the actual stories, but not once do I recall thinking ‘Why are the daleks even here?!’ or ‘Why is this a cybermen story?’ Not once do I remember an episode where the villains were completely unutilized.

And then we had Asylum of the Daleks. Hey kids, guess what this episode needed more of? THE FRIGGEN DALEKS! The idea of the human-sleeper-agent-daleks was admittedly a pretty cool update to the monsters, but the Daleks are only there at the beginning and end of the episode. And no, I don’t mean that they’re physically gone, I mean that they have no real presence in the story. The focus is entirely on Clara, the Doctor and Amy/Rory’s relationship. Imagine, if you will, a story where Darth Vader showed up only to give a brief bit of exposition at the end, when the story is titled ‘Vader’s Choice’ or something that implies Vader is an actual focus for the story.

This isn’t the first time a villian’s utilization has been poor either. The Cybermen story (whose name escapes me at the moment) that occurs right before 11 goes off to die at Lake Silencio, for instance. The Cybermen’s presence is almost negligible. There’s such little substance to them, I am honestly surprised this story even needed to be told. Sure, I didn’t hate the episode, but the Cybermen are so poorly utilized it actually shocked me. The story of the Daleks in WW2 London (i’m really bad with episode names, sorry) had a conclusion that I thought could probably have worked better as a Cybermen story.

You should never be able to think that about a story with villains as iconic as the Cybermen and Daleks.

The Weeping Angels, however, are by far the most egregious example. The Weeping Angels have had 3 stories which actually focus on them (and really only 1 was great all the way through) but appear in 6 or 7. Once as an illusion, granted, but why did they need to be the illusion in question? Or in the snow in the most recent christmas special?

Second, continuity. Moffat loves to play fast and loose with continuity, and sometimes that’s okay. Doctor Who’s version of A Christmas Carol (I really need to start looking these names up) is pretty good in my humble opinion, and it’s only even possible because of how loosely it plays with how time travel in Doctor Who is supposed to work. In other cases, however, the retcons become so blatant and pointless I have to wonder what the point of even trying to follow the story is if everything in it can be changed on a whim. The example I’m about to show you ties into the third point, however: the mystery box.

So, Clara. The impossible girl that dies twice in front of the Doctor’s eyes. Then he meets her again in modern times. We find out over the course of his time with her that the reason he’s met her twice is because she steps into his unravelled time stream/grave (not really clear on what exactly that was) at Trenzalore, a grave made for him there after his final battle. So, what’s wrong with this you ask? The Doctor lives when he goes to the aforementioned battle of Trenzalore. So his grave can’t be there. And before that, it was a fixed point that he would die at Lake Silencio. Except he lived through that. (this one, the audience actually got to see both times) The entire series is full of retcons and changes like that that utterly remove any tension. Everything is going to be alright, everything’s fine, no reprecussions for anything.

As for the mystery box… Moffat likes to put mystery boxes inside mystery boxes. You learn there’s a mystery, find the answer to the mystery, as well as a new mystery. Thing is, the new mysteries start to contradict the old ones. Okay. So Silence will fall when the Pandorica opens? Holy shit the universe just vanished, that’s-… Oh wait, the Silence are aliens invading the earth that have been manipulating us for millenia to get a speacsuit, what do they need it for?… oh wait, no, they’re a church run by humans (then why did they do millennia of manipulation?) that are waging war on the doctor… Now they’re a rogue sect within that church…

That’s one example, but it’s hardly the only one.

And then there’s the blockbuster format. I’ll be blunt: It’s not working. Doing one big episode just doesn’t work for every story. Some need to be longer than the 45 minutes or so allotted for each episode. So many stories since you began this format have just felt underdeveloped and in serious need of expansion. Sure, some work great for a single episode, but to do so for all your episodes… well, there’s a reason we have different size shirts: some need bigger, some need smaller.

Look, I love Doctor Who. But you’re really messed up right now, and you need help. This new series is a chance for you to start clean. Make it count, please. I’ll be here for ya.

-A concerned fan

PS. Sorry if this feels a little rambly. I think I got incoherent at the end there.