International Games Week October 29 – November 4

What’s afoot, July edition: The last month in games

Posted on July 21, 2014

Hey folks! Another semi-random sampling of news from the games world, this time with extra bonus feature - profiles of games news sites!

News

  • Huge news from the world of eSports - the International DotA2 Championships are on now. As in, the finals are tonight, Pacific Time.
    (If you have no idea what DotA2 is, get started here. The TL;DR: it's a fast-paced team-based game that plays like a cross between team sports, superhero comic faceoffs, and mythic battle.)
    This is big because not only is it one of the largest videogame tournaments ever (with a prize pool reported at $10 million), it's actually being broadcast on ESPN - making the eSports folks' ambition of parity with physical sports (pSports?) one step closer. It's not the first time a geek game has been on ESPN; Magic: the Gathering did that back in 1997, and they've covered poker and even spelling bees as well. More and more, spectatorship of non-pSports competition is becoming part of the mainstream.
  • FPS space horror franchise Doom - the game that took the momentum built by Wolfenstein 3D and used it (rocket-jump style?) to propel the first-person shooter into its current status as probably the iconic videogame genre - has had a new entry announced. It seems a lot like a reboot - down to the door sound that triggers adrenalin flashbacks in just about any action-gamer active in the 90s - but it looks nothing like one.
  • In addition to the price drop (and removal of mandatory Kinect) from the XBox One we covered a couple of months back, Microsoft spokesperson Major Nelson has just announced an update that addresses a bunch of other criticisms, mostly UI-based.
  • The Zeldathon has just passed $100,000 raised for St Jude Children's Research Hospital. Gamers are so antisocial.
  • A couple of interesting game-related reads at The Atlantic: Are Multiplayer Games the Future of Education? and How Family Game Night Makes Kids Into Better Students.

 

Site profiles: YouTubers

YouTube can be a great way to keep up to date of gamer news, find out how to play games, and generally up your gaming knowledge. There are literally thousands of channels dedicated to gaming topics, so keep your eyes out for the channels that call to you. YouTube is a wonderful place tofind  Let's Play videos, which show people playing through games with commentary. Sometimes Let's Plays have a particular goal, such as speed runs, where you complete the level/game as fast as possible, but the majority are people just showing how they enjoy a game.

There has also been a good deal of coverage of this shift in games journalism - and accompanying ethical questions - at more-traditional game-developer-focused news site (think of all the newspaperfolks spinning in their graves at the idea of a "traditional" news "site"... and there are plenty still alive who'd feel similar!) Gamasutra.

Here are a few channels that IGD folks love:

 

General news

Geek & Sundryhttps://www.youtube.com/user/geekandsundry/featured

We're hoping to talk more about (and... with?) the good folks at G&S later in the year, but we couldn't pass them up in this roundup. G&S has a ton of gaming related content. You can see Felicia and Ryan Day experience vintage games (often of dubious quality and hilarious results) on their show Co-Optitude, learn more and see celebrities play Magic: the Gathering in Spellslingers, and let's not forget Wil Wheaton's amazing show Tabletop, which features Wil and 3 guests playing an amazing variety of board, card, and dice games.

 

Polarishttps://www.youtube.com/user/Polaris [Some content may be confronting or NSFW.]

Polaris is a consortium of various game-related YouTube channels that have come together to make one amazing station. The Daily Byte is your one stop shop for nerd culture news in 5 minutes or less. Polaris has a ton of different Let's Play and game Tournaments that they put online, so you can check out or experience different games. They also have a lot of long format (over 2 hours) vodcast shows that include game play and/or game discussion pretty heavily. Besides the channel itself, you can check out all of it's partner channels for more specialized and deeper content such as HuskyStarcraft's Starcraft 2 videos or Yogscast's Minecraft videos.
[Editor's note: as noted above, some Polaris content is very much not for kids and possibly NSFW - not for sexual content but for profanity and violence. The video that was featured when I checked the link was "Sniper Elite III Headshot Highlights", which as you might expect contained a selection of most spectacular (i.e. gory) kills, accompanied by some decidedly salty language. The bulk of the content isn't anything that extreme and there is more substantial fare than that - but it's made by, and pitched at, that sort of adult gamer demographic.]

 

Press Heart to Continuehttps://www.youtube.com/user/PressHeartToContinue

After checking out Polaris, Dodger, the creator of Press Heart, might look a bit familiar - from Daily Byte, from Friendzone, from the Podcasts... but her channel includes a great roundup of weekly gaming-centric news - from AAA to indie kickstarter. There are also great nerd crafts and casual Let's Play videos.

 

Analysis

Feminist Frequency: http://www.feministfrequency.com/ [Some content may be confronting or NSFW.]

[Ed's note: For the record, this one was added by me: a blokey Aussie bloke of the male bloke persuasion. I couldn't not mention a site of this prominence! The following comments are my responsibility entirely.]

If we're talking serious analysis of games, we can't go past Anita Sarkeesian's Feminist Frequency, which has even had mainstream coverage over the last couple of years for reasons outlined below. (Given her Wikipedia page has been sabotaged in the past, I'm not going to link off to it now; excuse the potted summary.)

Sarkeesian's channel had previously hosted videos subjecting pop culture in general to feminist scrutiny, but when she decided to turn her attention specifically to videogames - and ran a Kickstarter asking for $6000 to fund the research and writing time needed for the series - a disturbingly large number of bigots from some of the toxic backwaters of the internet decided to prove that she was wrong, feminism had gone too far, and misogyny didn't really exist by bullying her into shutting up and getting them a sandwich through a voluminous and in parts highly co-ordinated campaign of sexualised (and racialised) hate speech, intimidation and harassment. (Clearly logic was not their strong point... but then, we already knew that.)

To her credit, it backfired: she responded by not only refusing to fold but allowing the abuse onto the record - or some of it, anyway - and letting it speak for itself. (Though she does talk about it in this TEDxWomen talk.) As a result, she became something of a lightning rod for the growing awareness of how poorly women are treated online and in the culture in general, and got far more attention - including from the mainstream media - and far more Kickstarter funding than she otherwise might have, as it became inescapably clear that this was a real issue and needed to be confronted. (Though mind you, you'd have to call it well-earned hazard pay.)

The only major caveat I'd give to Sarkeesian's excellent series on representations of women in videogames as an entree into the topic is that - as she herself has explored previously - this is symptomatic of wider social problems rather than being peculiar to this medium. (In other words, don't blame games.) And in fact I've been known to argue that, thanks to the work of numerous folks including but also predating Sarkeesian, the gamer community is much further advanced in the process of lancing this particular festering boil, getting the poison out into the open, refusing to let it out of the spotlight, and actually dealing with it than the general community. Regardless, she has stood her ground for the greater good in the face of pretty awful intimidation; she's already been honoured far more substantially, including an Ambassador Award at this year's Game Developer's Choice Awards, but I too salute and thank her for all she's done to improve videogames - and the culture at large.

And now, to end on an equally interesting and slightly less grim-tinged note:

 

Extra Credits: https://www.youtube.com/user/ExtraCreditz

Their tagline is "Because Games Matter", so it was inevitable that we would include them!

We mentioned James Portnow, one of the people behind this channel, in the news post a couple of months back as well, in connection with his Games for Good work. This channel was where it all started: they talk seriously (well, at an underlying level) about a range of aspects of games from... you know what, just go and check their back catalogue. (There are only 234 episodes... so just skim the titles and click on a few that sound interesting.)

Among the most visible of folks talking about videogames from a more reflective perspective, they have done wonders both to improve external perceptions of the medium's maturity and to help the more foot-dragging wilfully-immature elements within gamer culture come to terms with the fact that "fun" doesn't require you turning off your brain. (Quite the contrary, in fact!)

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