The latest of GamerGate's "operations" has launched and it's a website cataloguing factoids on games journalists and their outlets. Which is actually not a bad idea, something I suggested in my prior post on why GamerGate hasn't gone away.
On Twitter it has been suggested by those supporting GamerGate that if people have issues with the project they should lay out their concerns, rather than resorting to rhetoric and angry dismissal. Again, not a bad suggestion!
The problem is you don't even have to dig very deep to start finding serious problems with the DeepFreeze.it site.
First and foremost, who is running the site? There is no indication anywhere on the site on who, specifically, is backing this. Is it an individual, group, company or extradimensional being? The site is supposed to serve us as a reference on who can be trusted in the industry, yet we have no way of assessing the trustworthiness of the source? I expect the usual excuses of "muh privacies" or "muh safeties" to be trotted out here, but when setting oneself up as an arbiter of truth it is simply not good enough.
A quick whois search turns up "Stefano Eracliti" as the owner of the domain, which I assume is some form of pseudonym, since the name does not return results on Google, Twitter or Facebook. Or it might be one of those rare, truly unique names that has yet to appear online. Either way, it does not inspire confidence.
Another glaring issue is the lack of any mention of behaviour which could be considered ethical or beyond reproach. Simple things like whether they disclose the provenance of games they review, or whether trips and accomodation were paid for, would be easy to add. Such things may not seem of great import next to other entries on the list, but it would present at least a facade of evenhandedness.
This wouldn't be a problem if the stated goal was to create a list of unethical or otherwise questionable behaviour, of course, but they've gone out of their way to state objectivity as a thing they strive for. If the goal is to include factual information gamers might want to know before deciding whether to trust a journalist, why are all the entries I've checked only credited with "ethically dubious" notes?
Now it may be that over time such listings will be added. If they are genuinely trying to do the job properly, I would expect nothing less. Yet you would think a site aiming to be an important, objective, resource would have spent some time investigating some at least neutral factoids to include on profiles before going public. They've gone to the trouble of creating profiles for people whose only "credit" is being part of the GameJournoPros mailing list, after all.
And on the flipside, they've created an empty profile for Lauren Wainwright, someone who was actually run out of games journalism over ethical concerns.
Conversely, a number of pro-GamerGate commentators are conspicuously absent. John Bain aka TotalBiscuit is not mentioned, despite having a much higher profile than many of the others on the list. He can't even escape that one with the "not a journalist" line since there's plenty of those on the list. Other notable absences include Erik Kain, Milo Yiannopoulos and Stardock CEO Brad Wardell.
I'm not for a moment suggesting any of those men are involved in any sketchy activities, just there's a seeming double standard. Maybe they just haven't gotten around to those guys yet, just as there's no listings for Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu...
Some pretty conspicuous absences, don't you think? There's not even entries awaiting further details, as is the case for a number of others.
Perhaps most tellingly there are a number of entries on people's lists for presumed use of the GG Autoblocker for Twitter. Yet the creator, Randi Harper, does not have her own page. A place where, for example, you could cite her as the creator of the thing you're making note of on other pages.
Obviously such a listing will never be wholly complete. You have to start somewhere. But to parade around as an objective source on the trustworthiness of journalists and to be trumpeted as such, you need to be above reproach. And DeepFreeze seems far from achieving that, to the point of me being dubious they're genuinely trying.
Also, you list people's names in alphabetical order based on surname, not first. Der.
It's become the punchline among industry professionals to the movement widely known as GamerGate, and it's kind of vexing me that nobody is taking it seriously.
Oh, not the wider "movement" or the disgusting behaviour being exhibited by many in and around it. No, it's deeply concerning that nobody seems to be taking the notion of ethics in our field seriously.
When asked to cite the genesis of the movement most will posit it was either the beginning of Adam Baldwin's involvement and the creation of That Hashtag, or they will point to the bitter ramblings of an ex-lover and the assorted accusations arising from it. Both have certainly served as nucleation points for the whole fizzing mess, but the truth requires digging a little deeper.
The common thread between both supposed starting points is that of alleged unethical behaviour within the gaming industry. What people initially latched on to was the belief that Zoe Quinn garnered undue attention for her game (Depression Quest) by sleeping with an assortment of men in advantageous positions.
That it was probably untrue never mattered to a lot of gamers. It was the impetus people needed to start digging, looking for further confirmation of a long held belief that games journalists and developers are colluding with one another in a dishonest fashion.
You see, GamerGate may have got its label and a level of coordination due to recent events, but the sentiment behind it has been boiling away for more than a decade. You could see it expressed in comments sections across the internet, where professional journalists would be accused of accepting kickbacks for positive coverage of a game, even when the games were generally well received.
And why? Well, partly we have ourselves to blame. A large segment of the gaming commentary community (journalists, critics, bloggers, et al) are in the business because they're gamers. It's almost an extension of our hobby, even when we're getting paid for writing about it.
And that's kind of a problem. Because it's primarily a fan based medium and the barrier to entry is so low, there's essentially no oversight. There's no central authority checking that everything is above board and nobody to lodge a complaint with, should anything suspicious be noticed.
Equally, there's no central body "we", the commentators, can approach for a tick of approval. We can't pin a badge on our online presences to indicate a respected authority has approved of our standards, nor is there a centralised set of standards we can sign off on upholding.
None of that means we're all unethical scumbags, of course. Far from it. As interested parties I'd argue we're actually less prone to corruption, since we don't want to see it happening any more than the general public. There'll be instances where people accept things they should not or are unduly influenced, but largely the people talking about games do it for the love of gaming rather than money or material goods.
Yet this is why GamerGate persists. For as much as people want to paint the sideshow as anti-women or anti-minorities or anti-gaming, the core concerns run much deeper and have been around for much longer than you might think. And we're probably not making our best effort at addressing those concerns.
Ultimately, it really is about ethics in game journalism. And I think we can do better than sweeping it under the carpet with a shared chuckle.
HBO's sending an email out to people it suspects are secretly Australians who have subscribed to their service using sneaky, underhanded methods of giving them money and attention. Or so says SMH.
On Thursday I'd finally decided to just subscribe to HBO Now. The price isn't great considering I really only want it for Game of Thrones, but the option is available to me with minimal fuss and I'd much prefer paying than pirating. The only alternatives in Australia being Foxtel (urgh!) or pirating it.
Obviously piracy is free and easy once you know how, but recent legislation passed through Parliament might see the risk involved rise too high. (Read more on ABC.) Plus, well, it's immoral. And stuff.
So it's down to the notorious exorbitancy of a Foxtel subscription, or edging around HBO's geo-locking.
Let's do the Math of Thrones!
Foxtel math is pretty straightforward. You could sign up for a full service and pay a couple of hundred dollars over the course of a year long contract (nope!) or you could get Foxtel Play, their online streaming service, for a much more reasonable fee.
The minimum price for Foxtel Play with the additional package to get Game of Thrones is $30 per month for the first three months, then $45 a month thereafter. You get a free two week trial if you are a new customer and adding two months will get you to the end of the current Game of Thrones season, though just barely, if you time it right.
Total minimum cost for Game of Thrones via Foxtel Play for new customers: $60 Australian.
If you're not a new customer, you need three months, bringing the total to $90 Australian.
HBO Now math is a little more complicated. Before you can even subscribe to it you need a service that allows you to appear to be in another country. I use UnblockUs because it's ridiculously easy to set up and doesn't interfere with other internet traffic, but there are many similar services. At $4.99 a month it's a good investment on its own as it will also unblock things like Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Spotify and Netflix - including letting you swap Netflix regions, if you're subscribed.
After that's set up you also need a US iTunes account (free) and a method to fund that iTunes account. Most commonly this is a US iTunes gift card, but prepaid credit cards are also an option.
Now you have access to the (much richer) US iTunes library you may want to buy other things too, but you will need at least $14.99 to start your HBO Now subscription. With HBO Now you get the first month free, meaning you will need to pay for at least two months in total to bring your coverage to three altogether - Game of Thrones is 10 episodes long.
UnblockUs for 3 months ($4.99 x 3) plus HBO Now for 2 months ($14.99 x 2) comes to $44.95 US.
Total cost for Game of Thrones via UnblockUs and HBO Now: $57.76 Australian right now, courtesy of XE's currency convertor.
The Australian dollar has been falling a bit of late, but it's still cheaper even for new Foxtel customers to go the HBO Now route. If you're an existing or previous Foxtel customer then HBO is by far the cheaper option.
Obviously this is not practical for everyone, but it's not terribly difficult and the content you get for the money is far and above that of the Foxtel offering.
If HBO really does cut Australians off when they've actually been paying, well... why wouldn't I just pirate it? I did try to pay you. Apparently my money's only good if it filters through Foxtel's hands first? Get bent.
Disclaimer: It's been more than three weeks in total, I'm not really looking for a date, I wouldn't know what to do with a date if I did get one and I seem to have misplaced my pants.
Anyway, a couple of months ago two news stories caught my attention, both involving internet dating app Tinder. The first was an alleged gang rape of a woman in Sydney after meeting someone from the app, a claim which was withdrawn days later. The second was the death of a woman allegedly pushed from the balcony of an apartment owned by her match. He's now facing murder charges, but is out on bail somehow.
But it can't all be fake rape stories and real death, can it? I decided to be a tiny bit brave and find out.
Signing up is surprisingly simple. Download the app to your phone, use your Facebook credentials to sign in and you're perusing the ladies or gentlemen in seconds. The app simply pulls in your Facebook "About" information and some of your profile pictures to get you started.
Does your Facebook read or look like a dating profile? Mine sure didn't! But it's not terribly difficult to go edit your details and pick which photos you really want to use. Changes made in the app aren't reflected on your Facebook page, so you can keep your "social" and your "dating" profiles separate, if you wish.
It also notes your Likes and Friends, so you can see if you have any interests or friends in common. This may or may not be awkward, depending on your interests and network of Facebook friends. The only friend I've ever had in common with prospective matches is my "boss" over at Player Attack. But she knows just about everyone in the world, so that was sort of inevitable.
Sorting out some matches to start chatting to is as simple as swiping pictures to the left or right. Swipe to the left if you're not interested, swipe to the right if you are. You can also hit the X or <3 buttons. Or if you have as much time to waste as me you can open someone's profile, read their About bits, look at more pictures and then make up your mind.
Now, I am not a particularly attractive man. Further, I am not particularly photogenic. So I was not expecting a whole lot of interest in my profile. In order to chat to anyone you both need to have picked each other out of the teeming masses, which is not great odds.
You can narrow the field somewhat by only looking for people within a certain distance, but that can be a little creepy when you see people out of their usual context. I don't need to know what the supermarket checkout chick likes in the bedroom, for instance.
Assuming all goes to plan and you match with someone, what now? Well, you send messages to each other through the app. Maybe about things in their profile, maybe the weather, maybe you forgo all that in favour of a drink down the pub right away. It's really up to you.
And that's where such things can be a bit dangerous. It's not just internet dating, of course. Any sort of setup where you're meeting someone you don't otherwise know can be risky and it's particularly easy to misrepresent yourself online. All the usual advice on dating or going out in general still applies; don't accept drinks from strangers, don't leave your drink unattended, don't agree to leave public spaces unless you are comfortable with the person, ensure a friend knows your plans for the night, etc.
There's a surprising amount of wisecracks over the balcony death on Tinder, a lot of people asking that you not push them off and the like. It's a little offputting, if I'm honest.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Tinder (after being murderbait) is the flood of fake accounts. More attractive male specimens might have better success rates but around 90-95% of my "matches" are with, essentially, prostitutes. Probably not even with their actual pictures. Maybe not even prostitutes and the whole thing is just fishing for credit card details. For obvious reasons, I have not tested this.
Overall my "three weeks" on Tinder has been... interesting. I am dumbfounded by the number of seemingly-real women on the service, especially in my area. I would not have thought there'd be half so many. I'm also quite surprised at how easy it would be to get a date via Tinder, as I would have thought the sheer number of options and my mediocre looks would have put me out of the race entirely.
As a dating app, it seems surprisingly good. Don't take dumb risks with strangers and you should be just fine. As a "it's 2am and I can't sleep" activity, it's pretty great as well. If you run out of people in your area just bump the rangefinder out another 5km and scroll some more. Endlessly entertaining.
If you're an Aussie and you've ever tried ordering things over the internet you've probably discovered the prices are lower on any number of things in America, but American stores typically won't ship to Australia. Why? Nobody knows!
Previously you could use services like Shipito to circumvent some of these restrictions. You get a US based address with them and have your goods delivered there, then they ship them to you for a small fee plus postage.
I guess AusPost wanted a slice of that pie because they recently launched ShopMate, where you get a US based address to ship your goods to then pay AusPost the cost of bringing them to you.
So, cool. Does it work?
What made me try it was a Star Wars themed "mystery box" that ThinkGeek wouldn't ship outside the US. Why not? I have the box now and I still don't know. Maybe it's illegal to export Death Stars, even when they're only tea infusers?
Anyway, I chucked that and some themed polo shirts in my cart and placed an order on the 12th of November. ThinkGeek shipped it the 13th and it arrived at ShopMate on... the 20th. A whole week for delivery within the US. Okay.
It then took another week to go from their warehouse to my door, halfway round the world. Arriving on the 27th means it took 15 days, which isn't particularly fast but not painfully slow.
As for the cost? If ThinkGeek had been willing to ship directly to me it would have cost around $US55. As it was technically being shipped to a US address and they had free shipping at the time I only had to pay the ShopMate fee.
Which came to $AU59.70. It ain't cheap, but after the currency conversion it worked out cheaper than the direct option, oddly enough.
The only really disappointing part of the whole experience was the lack of tracking available between ShopMate's US location and the parcel arriving in Australia. You don't get any kind of update until it's in the country and ready for delivery. It's a bit of a nitpick, it doesn't really matter so long as your stuff arrives, but it would be nice. Maybe you can track it and I just can't find the right bit?
One test run isn't conclusive but so far it's reasonably priced, reasonably quick and super easy to use. I'll certainly be using it again. Possibly to get some Lego...
Skipping around the internet consuming everything Destiny I have occasionally (foolishly) wandered into comment sections. The most common complaint?
"It's just another generic shooter."
It isn't. Read Brenna Hillier's piece on that over on VG247.
The most common compliment? It's doing something new in the shooter genre, or it's something new to consoles.
It isn't, on either count. Trion did pretty much everything you love about Destiny with last year's Defiance.
Defiance is a shared-world shooter with RPG staples like character advancement and loot mixed in. Open world events? Sure, plenty of those.
If you want to be really nitpicky they're even both set after apocalyptic events kicked off by the arrival of aliens. But that's neither here nor there.
Many of the quests in Defiance are done without ever leaving the open world and the rare times you do venture into a private area it's only after traipsing across the terrain to get there.
Random events pop up as you wander from place to place, ranging from very simple roadblocks to storming crashed space ships, fighting your way inside and facing down an epic boss. There's also large set pieces that are only active every so often and can draw quite the crowd.
There aren't any classes in Defiance, instead you choose one of four key skills to have in your loadout and then invest further points in various perks as you advance. It's fewer than Destiny's options, yet affords a little more freedom since you're not locked into one set of skills and perks.
Weaponry can be looted, awarded by quests or bought from vendors. There's rarity levels for weaponry (plus shields and grenades) and in addition to a selection of built-in stat boosts you earn experience for each weapon, eventually unlocking a further boost. While Destiny has addons like scopes and barrels as part of the weapon skills/perks system, Defiance has scopes and barrels and stocks as individual items so you can choose which ones suit you.
Grenades are open season as well, with players able to equip whichever they like in Defiance.
It's a recurring theme when comparing the two. If Destiny has something, Defiance usually does too. Often with a greater degree of freedom.
Yet ever since the Destiny beta opened it's pretty much all I want to play. Everything just flows so much better, from the gunplay to the missions right down to looting new gear. Don't need to press a button to collect my loot? Good heavens, such luxury.
Destiny's not really a new idea at this point, though it may well have been when it started development. Bungie's been dropping hints since 2009 and all that time has clearly been well spent as Destiny is a supremely well polished game.
If only it was on PC, not just the consoles. Keyboard and mouse for life, y'all.
Having already twittered quite enough about the entire thing today I thought I would break the blog out of semi-retirement for a short babble on some of the things that impressed me most from the first day of E3.
Obviously the big things were the Microsoft and Sony presentations but I don't have a lot to say there that hasn't been said everywhere else already. Sony "won" the traditional battle of E3. Microsoft put on a good show for their console but pretty much every fair criticism of the Xbox One is something Sony is doing the "right" way with Playstation 4. Coupled with smart multimedia deals, pursuing indie developers to get them onboard and some neat exclusive games and if you can only purchase one console the PS4 is the clear choice. All that could change before launch, but Microsoft's pretty deep into their particular hole, so I'm not betting on it.
But what about the games?
There were a few standouts for me, so in no particular order:
- Destiny (Gameplay video) - From Bungie, the guys who made Halo, comes another shooter which I had honestly dismissed prior to E3. The images shown prior could just as easily have been from a Halo title and nobody would have known. Seeing it in motion is a whole different thing. Beautiful lighting, vibrant colours, some interesting AI to fight, literal drop-in multiplayer, a public event (read: boss battles) system and bunches of loot to collect? Very much my cup of tea. (Multi-platform)
- Ryse: Son of Rome (Gameplay video) - Better known for Far Cry and Crysis, Crytek have branched out for an historical action fighter-y thing. The gameplay video shows the player storming a castle as a Roman Centurion, which is a thing I would like to do. The quick time events system may end up ruining this as there was a lot of "Press X to finish him" stuff going on... but it's Rome and sword and such! (Xbox One)
- The Division (Gameplay video) - It's actually "Tom Clancy's" The Division, but who cares. Shortly after the breakdown of society in an open world setting you raid buildings for supplies and... you know, I'm really not sure what the goal is, other than shooting a bunch of things. But it all looks fantastic. The gameplay video has players shooting precise bullet holes through glass and metal on cars, using skills and combined tactics to defeat their enemies and at one point a drone pilot drops in to assist them before buzzing back off to parts unknown.
Those're just three truly new games I saw that really grabbed my interest. There are no doubt more I'll see in the next week that I'll also fancy. Not to mention games I already knew were coming, like Watch Dogs.
But the one I'm most excited about is also the one there's virtually no information on: Star Wars Battlefront, coming from the creators of the Battlefield series of games, DICE. And that's all the information there is on Battlefront.
Please sir, I'd like some more!
Most every gaming site puts out a game of the year list once all the major releases are accounted for and most every gaming site gets it hopelessly, horribly wrong.
But that's half the fun, isn't it? Ask five random gamers and you're not going to get the same answer out of all five and the same applies when it's five separate groups of ill informed clowns.
Of course some places are objectively wrong, and you should absolutely tell them that. Loudly. And often!
But in the spirit of flailing a hand in the air and begging for attention, here's my not at all comprehensive list of games I thought were really pretty great in 2012.
Not every game leaves much room for exploration and even those that let you wander off the beaten path don't always have anything to see when you get there.
Guild Wars 2 has things to see and do in obscure locations, but even if it didn't, I think I'd still waste a bunch of my time exploring...
Lots of games have high score boards. It's been a staple of gaming practically since gaming was invented. Old arcade machines let you choose three letters to digitally scratch on the board beside your score and in the modern era a lot of score based games upload your result to the internet, assuring virtual immortality.
And that's neat.
But Zombie Driver stores a player's Slaughter-mode high scores on the internet via Steam. So you can see exactly how well your friends have done on any given map and set yourself a target.
The bit I really like? While playing the game your next highest scoring friend has their name in the upper right corner of the screen, alongside how many more points you need to surpass them.
It's such a small thing to include and many may never even know it's there. But I like it.
Zombie Driver is just $10 on Steam, if running over zombies while competing against your friends is stuff you like.