jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Undertale and Minecraft are two of the biggest "indie games" to make it big, both financially and culturally. People encourage their friends to get into both, not just because they're amazing (for certain values of "amazing") but also because they want to discuss these things with you, and they need you to understand their shared vocabulary in order to do so.

This shared vocabulary enables people to create art that can be widely understood and appreciated. Hence, the piles of Undertale fanwork, up to and including professionally-made musical productions; and the intricate Minecraft creations, up to and including Turing-complete redstone computers.

There are problems with this kind of cultural ubiquity, though. For starters, the amount of attention given to "hit games" literally starves others.

Read more... )

tl;dr I'm bitter about my fanfiction not being noticed, and should probably just learn to write stuff others like. Damned if I'm not saving *Mute first, though, and damned if I'm giving up on writing meaningful things for underserved minority groups.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

We love first-person games like Metroid Prime, but aren't particularly excited about shooting up other players. Maybe that's why we loved playing Sanctum 2 with [personal profile] aliaspseudonym. It's an awesome sci-fi first-person tower defence game with multiple playable female characters, one completely androgynous robot, a comic book storyline, gorgeous graphics, and a sense of humour.

Here's a gameplay trailer:

Click here if you cannot see the video.

And here's the ridicularious nineties-tastic trailer for their first expansion!

Click here if you cannot see the video.

Let us know if any of you get it while it's on sale and want to try playing it online. We might be up for it, although we tend to have really bad lag. >_>;

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Slowly, the player's in-game funds will dwindle, and every new game that they create has a high chance to be pirated until they eventually go bankrupt. There is no way to fight it, in an ironic twist, players of the cracked version of the game are doomed to constant failure due to rampant piracy.

But even more hilarious are the pleas for help that the pirates have posted on the official forums, not knowing that they have unwittingly outed themselves as pirates.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/123585-Pirating-Game-Dev-Tycoon-Dooms-Players-to-be-Ruined-By-Piracy

This is kind of an awesome way of educating people about a real problem.

As you might have guessed from the last essay, I am not a fan of technical measures which prevent players from copying or transferring ownership of their games, especially ones which lock them to one store for the rest of their lives. I don't feel that they should be legal, and the Court of Justice of the European Union apparently agrees.

I personally think the best solution to "piracy" (a word which trivializes actual attacks by pirates at sea) is to make buying games more convenient than not doing so. A lot of it seems to have appeared in the first place in response to barriers to distribution, such as Google Play (formerly the Android Market) rolling out paid apps very slowly in different countries. By the time they get there, the "pirates" are already entrenched, sort of like the anime scene in the States. And creators treat them like enemies by default.

At any rate, I'm not sure how I feel about the current game and "digital content" market to begin with. At the very least, there should be some equivalent to the public library system, so that people who don't have a lot of money (or expensive game consoles to play things on) can still experience our shared cultural heritage.

Right now, everyone only seems to be thinking of ways to solve the problems of a) extremely rich "intellectual property" "owners" and b) middle-class "consumers." Independent creators and developers have been convinced that their interests lay with one or both of those groups, even though the system is not designed to benefit them at all. I'm not sure what solidarity would look like in this situation, but I don't feel that it exists right now.

Edit: One of Game Dev Tycoon's developers describes the experiment from their perspective here.

I think it was an interesting experiment in trying to create empathy, but I'm not sure it went far enough.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

"To be really concrete, 10 times as much content comes from the user base for TF2 as comes from us," [Valve CEO Gabe] Newell said. "So we think we're super productive and kind of badass at making TF2 content, but even at this early stage, we cannot compete with our own customers in the creation of content for this environment. The only company we've ever met that kind of kicks our ass is our customers. We'll go up against Bungie, or Blizzard, or anybody but we won't try to compete with our own user base, because we already know we're going to lose.

"Once we start building the interfaces for users to start selling their content to each other, we start to see some surprising things," Newell added.

http://www.polygon.com/2013/2/1/3941274/gabe-newell-steam-box-talk-ut (Trigger warning for ablism)

On the one hand, this is sort of inspiring because it's a corporate leader who Gets It about fanwork being valuable. Team Fortress 2 players are actually making money from their creations.

On the other hand, it's really not "democratic" so much as it's an entire market completely owned and controlled by one company, which exists at that company's whim. TF2 fans have no legally-recognized right to the title, or to sell their in-game hats for it.

EVE Online's players at least have a democratically-elected, officially-recognized council, with a say in what goes on in New Eden (and with representatives whose character can reflect that game's brutal playerbase (TW for suicide)). All that TF2 fans have is an unusual privilege.

Newell goes on to talk about how all of your MMO achievements are tied to one company:

The future of the Steam marketplace, Newell said, is to ensure that goods can be more permanent in a player's collection; that they can be transferrable and exchangeable between titles. He called to fault the MMO model of player progression: Characters level up, purchase new items, then when you play a new game, everything you worked for is gone. Game creators currently have a "whimsical notion" of player's property rights, Newell said.

"It's like, 'Hey, I'll sell you a house, and you can do a bunch of work, paint it and put furniture in it, and then, when you go to a new house, we're going to burn that one down,'" Newell said.

It's ironic that he should say that, though, because that's how the whole of Steam works. Buying games from Steam is like renting a game console at the store and leaving all of your purchases there with it, and losing access to them forever if your identity changes or you get banned somehow. I had to abandon several games because my account was forever tied to an old, pre-transition identity, and there wasn't a way to change that which I saw.

I'm glad that someone's thinking about how these things affect people, and taking their rights seriously instead of being classist and ageist. I'd feel a lot better if it wasn't a white cismale guy in charge of a corporation and trying to figure out how to make money from it, though.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Facebook, Twitter, and Google are trying to be public utilities, but without any public oversight. Few, if any, laws currently regulate their abuses of privacy and monopoly privilege, although the European Union is trying to change that.

Part of the problem is technophobia, which is animosity towards people who rely on technology. Technophobes believe that those youngsters ought to pay less attention to "pixels, texting, ear buds, twittering, [and] online social networking," and more attention to what really matters: The technophobes and their needs. A lot of voters are technophobes, so stuff Twitter does to screw you over doesn't matter to them.

But another big part of the problem is that we are used to thinking of ourselves as consumers, as individuals, as basically powerless. Solidarity isn't a thing anymore. Instead we have "participation," where you write Amazon.com reviews or mark stuff in Gmail as spam. And everyone takes it for granted that the new breed of robber barons can do whatever they want, and mine resources nobody knew were valuable -- like people's identities and privacy. Which is very convenient for them.

So now we have stuff like this:

Google is now the way people find out anything on the Internet. It is a publicly-traded corporation, which answers to no one but shareholders.

Facebook is now the way people define their relationships and share their lives with each other online. It is a publicly-traded corporation, which answers to no one but shareholders.

Twitter is now the way people chat online. It is a publicly-traded corporation, which answers to no one but shareholders.

And Amazon is now the way everyone buys everything. It is a publicly-traded corporation, which answers to no one but shareholders.

We have laws that keep businesses from abusing their customers and legitimate competitors. Those laws have not kept up with the times. And in many cases, they were inadequate to begin with.

I don't think the long-term solution is going to involve competing with them, or avoiding them, or recommending against them, or any other individualistic "consumer" behaviour. Because as it stands, quitting one of these sites means sacrificing all the value that you put into their system through your and your friends' years of participating, such as all those likes and reviews and Steam games. Value which they extracted from you, and you now have no legal right to, or at least no right to withdraw in a usable form.

Instead, we need to change the rules on them. And it isn't immoral to do so, because the rules are how they got where they are. They profited from publicly-funded research and infrastructure, from publicly-educated employees, and (perhaps in Amazon's case) from social safety net programs designed to keep inadequately compensated warehouse workers alive.

If I knew anyone who was trying to return the power to us, in this country, I'd be voting for them. Unfortunately, I don't.

In the meantime, I'm doing the "consumer" thing and looking for alternatives. DuckDuckGo is an awesome search engine that's like Google before it got Plused, and doesn't track you or anything. And Dreamwidth's Guiding Principles spell out a more responsible social contract, where its founders and employees are part of the community instead of above it. And where the volunteers who work on it own it themselves via Free Software licensing.

It should be a crime for other startups not to have such arrangements.

Because the only way Dreamwidth got founded to begin with is that LiveJournal was based on Free Software and used open standards like RSS. Without the LiveJournal import and cross-posting, Dreamwidth would have been dead in the water.

Just like Diaspora.

About us

~ Fox | Gem | Rei ~

We tell stories, paint minis, collect identity words, and share them all with our readers. If something we write helps you, let us know.

~ She / her ~

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