Originally published September 16, 2015
IT’S INSTALLMENT #14, and that means it’s time for another Emails from the Edge (which is still referencing emails instead of forum posts because of tradition…that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it). And, as usual, there were a lot of really great comments to choose from, and there’s only space to quote two or three per installment, so please do not be offended if your comment was passed by.
If Rankowski had demanded that Wu be punished in absolutely absurd ways, like I don’t know, being forced to play sexist games for 24 hours straight, it might have drawn some attention to the stupidity of the matters being discussed.
In any case, you can’t simply emulate something and be as awful as some other people are already being, and then call it satire. The example about eating Irish babies works because it is so absolutely absurd that nobody would take it seriously. But Rankowski didn’t do that. People were already sending death threats in manners concerning GG, and when you simply join in, there is not one grain of comedy in it.
While making it clear that this did not excuse Rankowski in the slightest, Thyunda spoke from personal experience about the difficulties in pulling off satire in general:
Unfortunately, no matter how absurd your satire, somebody, somewhere will fail to get the joke. I once took the piss out of a certain right-wing, British wannabe fascist organisation by taking on their mannerisms and describing Islam as an alien hive-mind that uses halal meat to genetically convert Pure White Christians, in response to yet another post about how every act of violence committed by someone with darker skin is (of course) ordered personally by ISIS and that halal means ‘funds terrorism.’ I said this in a left-wing group. Took five minutes for some old guy to say “That’s disgustingly racist, Thyunda. Apologise.” No matter how many people said “Mate, this is blatantly satire,” he would insist that satire does not excuse racism. Especially not such absurd, extreme racism.
But it was Dynast Brass who managed to sum everything up, including the entire discussion, in a single pithy statement: “Poe’s Law is a fickle and wicked mistress.”
Marvel has decades of comics, from stupid crazy stuff like Guardians of the Galaxy to serious topics like Stark’s alcoholism and endless “personal trauma” storylines, that gives them grounds for spreading out a bit. Ghostbusters has literally told the same story 4 times (not including the video games): blue-collar workers in New York City doing supernatural comedy. It’s not a bad formula, but not one that gives you any real new vistas to explore that don’t feel “not like Ghostbusters.”
Maninahat had a wonderful point about modern reboots and the challenges they face:
The main difficulty is that it has to do what all reboots must attempt to do, in that it must make a jump from a pre-internet to a post internet setting. The concept of mobile phones, instant access to information, and a more sedimentary lifestyle all present big problems for writers which never existed in the 80s…Inevitably, a movie which does take phones into consideration ends up having a different approach to exposition and ultimately to tone. I think that is what is going to risk turning viewers off more than anything else — a distinct tone that might make the project feel too unfamiliar.
You get either:
a) Long lists of people telling you how they’re eating a sandwich, and it was only so-so;
b) People yelling…which is fun when renegade FemShep stops a war doing it, less so elsewhere/whom.
Garwulf #11, “Battlefield Contemplations,” was the third in a row to generate relatively little discussion. A number of readers recommended the Far Cry series as one that treated modern warfare with more nuance than most. MarsAtlas added another title to the list of nuanced war games:
The WP scene from Spec Ops: The Line probably hit me a lot harder than it did for most people because I was reminded of a Vietnam veteran I know. He didn’t talk much about the conflicts he was in, like most veterans, but he did talk about one time when his base was overrun. In the event that such a thing occurred, he was to order a napalm strike. So he did. There were over thirty US military personnel still on the base when the napalm came down. There was no way of knowing if any of them were alive when it came down, could’ve been all of them, could’ve been almost none of them. Thats not to count for all the Vietnamese that were also present on the base, many of which were assuredly burned alive by the napalm. The way he talked about it, it seemed like that call was his single greatest regret in life. He can’t undo that however. He did what was expected of him and was horrified with the result, and he had to live with it for the rest of his life. Thats the sort of thing games, particularly war games, don’t want you to think about. They don’t want you to think about the consequences of your actions, they don’t want you to remember how many bodies have piled up at your hands.
Squilookle took a different approach, commenting on the difference between the fiction presented in video games and reality:
A new Medal of Honor could come out with the Taliban or ISIL or whoever as a named multiplayer team and it wouldn’t change the real world one bit. Winning a match in Battlefield 1942 as the Germans, or in Battlefield Vietnam as the US doesn’t change those countries from losing those wars. Honouring, commemorating, or exploiting? Possibly the games are doing all three, but so what? Did anyone care about the use of Nazis in the Indiana Jones films? Once the Graphic Novel Maus came out, did anyone think it was wrong to depict the Holocaust with Nazis as cats to the Jewish mice?
No they did not, because as rational people they can tell the difference between a creative work, and the events or period it refers to. Personally, if I had just come back from a battle with PTSD, I would probably rather have pop culture misrepresenting the war for entertainment than the conflict being ignored entirely.
Garwulf #12, “The New Exodus from Video Gaming,” generated a fast and furious discussion, although a change to the title (which went from “Exodus” to “The New Exodus from PC Gaming” before settling on its final form) did cause some regrettable confusion at the beginning. V da Mighty Taco took issue with the idea of franchises disappearing due to harassment:
I do think this idea of an exodus from PC gaming is laughable though, given the state of the current generation of both consoles and AAA gaming right now combined with the rise of the indies, MOBAs, and Hearthstone. While PC gaming does seem to be at a peak right now and likely can’t go much higher atm, a full exodus on a scale akin to the days of old would either take a hit to videogaming as a whole or a new form of gaming to supplant it that isn’t the current consoles, and neither do I see happening anytime soon.
Lancar pointed out the problem of dealing with harassment on a practical level:
The thing is…when it comes to harassment online, what on earth do you actually tell someone you know is doing it to make them stop? People’s reasons for being assholes online are as varied as the specs of the machines they operate through. Just being logical never works, because their reasons for being assholes are not logical. Being emotional rarely helps, because you can’t accurately assess their true inner workings over the internet.
In a way, the only thing I can think of that would actually work as a deterrent is the exposure of their true identity. To not have it just be a risk, but a tangible near-absolute consequence of their actions.
But that itself comes with a whole bucketload of other issues, not to mention the legality of it all.
I think the last word on the subject should really go to Mikeybb, who suggested that this could be one of the reasons that developers don’t interact quite as much with the public as they once did:
While that in itself is something I find a little sad, remembering (or mis-remembering) a time when developer and gamer would communicate more freely, I couldn’t bring myself to begrudge anyone who makes that decision. It may well make things a little easier for them on a personal level. Though it has to be said, at the same time it does risk losing touch with what the audience truly feels about their product.
Garwulf #13, “The Night Science Fiction’s Biggest Awards Burned,” also generated a very active discussion — in fact, it was the first Garwulf’s Corner discussion thread to break the 100 replies barrier. Fox12 proved insanely quotable, and really summed up the implications beautifully:
Clearly the Hugos need to evolve or die. No one’s happy at the moment, and the ceremony is a laughing stock to everyone outside the community. Massive changes need to be made, and block voting should be ended through whatever means seem reasonable. If anyone has a problem with that, then they should start their own award program. I’m serious, I actively encourage it. This is the type of thing that results from schisms like this.
Superbeast disagreed with my statement that the Sad Puppies were sympathetic and had honoured the spirit of the Hugos:
The premise that the Sad Puppies are blameless because “They bought their memberships and voted for the stories they thought were worthy of recognition, as was their right as members” can equally be applied to everyone else in the process prior to the creation of Sad Puppies (on the belief of a “liberal clique”) — therefore if the Puppies are honouring the spirit by that measurement then so too are the “established clique” who have been buying memberships and voting for stories they thought worthy of recognition.
…Finally, the entire saga runs into the problem of exactly who is defining what as “liberal”? It is a word with different interpretations the world over. What may be a “liberal position” to a plurality in one nation may be viewed as a “conservative position” or politically neutral to a plurality in another nation.
In all the discussion, however, there is one group who tends to get forgotten, and is the aspiring writers. And that’s why I think the last word should go to Redlin5:
As someone with pretensions of eventually being able to publish science fiction and fantasy novels that was…disconcerting. I know creatives and their fans do tend to have ego problems and flit in and out of political bias but I wasn’t expecting to read it having that kind of impact on an event for everyone who participated…
And that’s it, for now. Even when the discussion was slim, the comments were great. Next installment (unless something comes up that requires more urgent examination), we’ll be taking a look at video game reviews.