The Bittersweetest Thing

Lead Writer of BioWare's Dragon Age game series, lover of fan tears. This is where I blog about game development, fandom, and narrative design. Anything I say here is my opinion alone.

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bittersiha:

"What I want… is unimportant now.”

A HEAVY BURDEN - here have some morrigan feels bc i’ve been crying over her lately ;v; full view pls!!

I really like the feel of this. Very evocative.

Understanding the Angry Gamer

askagamedev:

One thing I’ve noticed is that, within the gaming community, there are always the really angry gamers. Extremely vocal gamers who are vehemently angry with a developer about things. It is usually because of some design decision or implementation about the game that just rubbed some of the players the wrong way. And boy, do gamers love to hold grudges.

image

If you work on games, you too will probably see them at some point. Hopefully you won’t have to deal with them directly - that’s what community management is for. But it always helps to understand your player base, because it helps to translate the things they say into actual useful feedback.

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As always, askagamedev has it nailed. Insightful post. I have to smile, though, because that list of suggestions for how to deal with the Angry Gamer are things I don’t usually do…or do the opposite of, sometimes. Poke the bear? Why, yes I think I will, thanks. Food for thought, I suppose.

Developer Pet Peeves: Grandma’s Boy

askagamedev:

I’m going to go a little further afield today for a different topic. Every now and then, some common myth or other thing will annoy me. I’m usually a pretty mild person, but some things just make me want to roll my eyes and shake my head. Suggestions to watch the movie “Grandma’s Boy” is one of those things. For those who don’t know, Grandma’s Boy is a stoner comedy about a video game tester. This is the trailer:

Some people with specific careers will have some sort of experience like this. A friend of mine who is a bus driver, for example, will constantly be asked by random people about her thoughts on the movie Speed. A doctor friend often gets questions about television shows like House and Grey’s Anatomy. Me? I get people suggesting I watch Grandma’s Boy. 

Spoilers under the cut.

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Ugh.

I’ve been asked what I do for a living by my relatives in Austria, and it takes me a moment to think of the word. My command of German is hardly far-reaching, after all.

I usually settle on Spielschreiber. Game writer.

Which makes them look quizzical, and they ask me if that means I’m some kind of programmer. I say yes… because it’s just goddamn easier than trying to explain, as that’s hard enough to do in English. It’s bound up in all kinds of misunderstandings regarding what goes into making a game, with the added bonus of the terminology not even being the same from studio to studio.

Take the word “designer”. In some studios, that’s the person who comes up with the concept for the game. In others, it’s the person who actually creates the levels. In others, it’s the level artist. In others, it’s just a producer. I’ve had headhunters try to hire me for all those roles, and it takes several minutes for me to puzzle out what kind of “designer” they seem to think I am.

I feel for QA testers, though. If there’s any dev that’s more misunderstood, it’s them. I doubt anyone understands just how profoundly not fun it is to test games. People envision QA testers playing like they do, as if they were given time off of work to spend all day playing their favorite game. BEST. THING. EVER.

Hahahaha. No. Take your favorite game, strip out most of the coherent story. Now strip out most of the level art and textures. Make it crash every five minutes, have everyone run around in t-pose, and spend all your time writing a few paragraphs on every single thing that happened which was bad. And I still just summarized their job poorly.

Most times, when people find out what I do, I get that mystified look… like I maybe sprouted a mushroom on top of my head. “People do that for a living?” they ask, and I’m left to wonder what it is they’re picturing, because how do you even respond to that question?

I know what they’re picturing, though. It’s Grandma’s Boy. Fuck that movie. Fuck it to fucking hell and then fuck it some more.

Someone write a TV show about a dev team, I swear you could be somewhat true to reality (assuming, of course, that no-one is shown to actually be working… which TV shows never do anyhow, so whatever) and it would still be a fucking comedy goldmine.

On My Top 10 Influential Games

So the writing team was chatting about a recent “Top 100 Best Games of All Time” list (I won’t point to the exact one), and of course bitching about several of its picks… mostly because, I suspect, such lists are all inherently subjective. They depend a lot on when someone began gaming, not to mention also having an element of short memories attached—whereby good games that came out recently feature much more prominently than the best games of yore.

Everyone on the team had their own thoughts on what the best games of all time were, different for exactly the reasons I mentioned, and that led me to a question: “What is your list?” That led to a separate discussion as to the criteria for such a list. Are we talking about games we thought were good? Games we personally enjoyed? Games we thought influenced gaming in general? These all lead to very different answers.

So I refined the question: “As someone working in the industry, and an avid gamer, what would you say are the games that influence the way you think about games today? The ones that have stuck with you, and which you hold up as the bar—either for their story, their gameplay, or their sheer fun factor—by which you measure other games you play?”

It was an interesting question to consider, and I got some interesting answers. It might make for interesting reading, I thought, so I’ll post my own responses here.

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I remember the days when games were about worlds you could explore and about being good, and not about who's got representation and gender this and sexuality that. I miss those days.

Anonymous

Those days miss you, too. I recently found a yellowed letter under one of the floorboards, and it was addressed to you and signed by those days with a tear-stained kiss of lipstick.

Meanwhile, in the present, those of us who work in the industry and who are—amazingly—able to consider more than one idea at the same time, will continue to create good games about worlds you can explore AND occasionally talk about inclusivity.

If you are feeling compassion fatigue, I think it might be okay to sit out those discussions, at least until you get your strength back. While it will be tough not having you available for close consultation, somehow we will soldier on.

But if the question was TV show, it'd be Archer, right?

upsettingshorts

That depends. In this fantasy scenario, is Joss Whedon calling me to do a CRPG adaptation of Firefly? No? Then yes, I am all over an Archer CRPG like Pam on a coke-laden body cast.

If you could make a video game RPG based on any movie franchise what would it be? LotR? Twilight? Die Hard? Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day? You name it!

kal-el-fornia

Blade Runner… or Priscilla Queen of the Desert. I can’t decide.

Knowing me, I’d find a way to mash them together.

"Priscilla, Blade Runner of the Desert!"

inquisitorsfancyhats:

I would pay good money for Bioware to release a video of voice acting bloopers

I think my personal favorite would be the time Susan Boyd (Wynne from DAO) was delivering a line in her typical, grandmotherly fashion… and then accidentally knocked over her water bottle and suddenly launched into a string of very decidedly non-grandmotherly expletives. Everyone in the booth laughed and laughed.

(via winterlive)

Dear Mr Gaider, I'm very curious what do you think about Anita Sarkeesian's video series "Tropes vs Women in Video Games" especially since she often speaks about BioWare games.

mrkjad

afaerassumption:

dgaider:

I think they’re quite thought-provoking. While I don’t always agree with her conclusions, I tend to agree more often than not… and, even if I didn’t, I fully support her right to ask these questions even about games on which I’ve worked or which I love.

The guys who defend their vile rhetoric (or outright abuse) regarding Anita with “because I think she’s wrong” clearly never grew out of the kindergarten-level mentality which says the only way to disagree with someone is to punch them in the face.

In fact, now that I consider it, I’ve seen children in kindergarten with better conflict resolution skills, so it’s more likely these guys are just assholes. They feel impotent in every other aspect of their life and are thus desperate to feel manly by lashing out at someone they’ve built up as a villain in their heads… and nobody took them aside in the schoolyard to educate them that hitting a girl is, without question, the least manly thing you can do, no matter what you think she’s done.

Either way, the videos are worth a watch. Those who don’t know about them can catch them on the Feminist Frequency channel here.

Mr. Gaider, to think that you would insult a group of people baselessly and with such vitriol is… greatly disappointing; especially since you’ve been one of my favourite video game writers since I bought Dragon Age Origins. You paint all disagreement with Sarkeesian as bullying, demeaning, disrespectful and baseless.

Sad to say, there were quite a few reactionaries in the early days of her infamy that were bullying and threatening and this is a stain on video game discourse in general. Worse yet it allows people to paint any criticism of Sarkeesian’s information as sexist bullies — much as you hear for just about any criticism leveled against any claim made by any feminist. This constant act of Strawmanning that you just took part in, is a great disservice to honest and reasonable discourse everywhere.

Is some of criticism against her disrespectful? Yes, absolutely; know why? Well, Mr. Gaider you’ve been working on a game where the is a focus on taking action to grow your organization’s influence in the world, so surely you must understand that respect needs to be earned not simply given.

Anita Sarkeesian has given no one any reason to respect her; her cherry-picking of facts and manipulation of information to always make her and her causes look victimized is simply disdainful. I refer you to the video below — in which her work is deconstructed thoroughly and without vitriol.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuRSaLZidWI

No one doesn’t support her right to ask her questions, what people take issue with is her spreading of misinformation and her portrayal of everything as victimizing women, and while there most certainly is still some victimization and marginalization of women in media, the idea that it is some all-encompassing, monolithic structure in media anymore is utterly false.

I would also ask you about this statement “and nobody took them aside in the schoolyard to educate them that hitting a girl is, without question, the least many thing you can do, no matter what you think she’s done.” Why is it only ‘hitting a girl’? Should it not be ‘hitting anyone’ — though I disagree that there is never a reason to hit someone, I will agree that out of a philosophical difference is never acceptable — why should that statement only apply to women? Men, women and any non-binary person should all be equally protected from violence. We ought to live in a society where all people are treated equitably; putting such a strong focus on any one group within is, in truth, detrimental to that cause.

In short Mr. Gaider, while you personally do have my respect and admiration, the way you portray any disagreement with Ms. Sarkeesian is entirely assinine and I hope to see some evolution from you on this matter. Thank you for your time.

Oh, please.

I did not portray “any disagreement” with Anita as anything. I said those who use vile rhetoric or outright abuse. Why you’d choose to lump yourself in with those you yourself call a stain on video game discourse, I can’t really imagine. You’re not one of those people? Awesome. You disagree with Anita, and can do so in a respectful manner? Even better.

Because you’re wrong about one thing. Respect does not need to be earned. You shouldn’t have to go out of your way to prove that you deserve to be treated in a respectful manner. Unless you’re confusing respect with admiration, that should be pretty clear.

As for “why is it only hitting a girl?” — come on, man. Seriously? Yes, you are absolutely correct that it’s not okay to hit anyone… but if there are men out there who didn’t figure out at some point that it is indeed worse when their target is a woman then they simply don’t know what it actually means to be a man. Worse, they aren’t listening when a woman says it is not the same as when the situation is reversed. Because it isn’t. I learned that in the schoolyard—why didn’t you?

Dear Mr Gaider, I'm very curious what do you think about Anita Sarkeesian's video series "Tropes vs Women in Video Games" especially since she often speaks about BioWare games.

mrkjad

I think they’re quite thought-provoking. While I don’t always agree with her conclusions, I tend to agree more often than not… and, even if I didn’t, I fully support her right to ask these questions even about games on which I’ve worked or which I love.

The guys who defend their vile rhetoric (or outright abuse) regarding Anita with “because I think she’s wrong” clearly never grew out of the kindergarten-level mentality which says the only way to disagree with someone is to punch them in the face.

In fact, now that I consider it, I’ve seen children in kindergarten with better conflict resolution skills, so it’s more likely these guys are just assholes. They feel impotent in every other aspect of their life and are thus desperate to feel manly by lashing out at someone they’ve built up as a villain in their heads… and nobody took them aside in the schoolyard to educate them that hitting a girl is, without question, the least manly thing you can do, no matter what you think she’s done.

Either way, the videos are worth a watch. Those who don’t know about them can catch them on the Feminist Frequency channel here.

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