By Jamaal Ryan

Take a seat, remove any nearby fragile objects, and watch this video:

  • So let me get this straight, a high octane shooter somehow induces depressive symptoms and suicidality? And how did a coroner draw these conclusions after investigating social and psychological influences along with potential instances of trauma? Oh right, he “doesn’t have enough evidence”.
  • Oh, and let’s not forget that Behring Breivik “trained” himself to kill while playing Call of Duty. Because you know, the paranoid schizophrenic can learn how to aim a 5-10 lbs firearm, track moving targets and pull the trigger on a gamepad.
  • And why are we having the gun talk in America when video games are directly responsible for every single gun mass… oh, wait.
  • “Why can’t we have a Superman?”
  • “Pr pr pr pr pr protagonist”
  • “While his obscured viseg viseg viseg” *VISAGE GOD DAMN IT!
  • Watch Dogs is a “cool game” the other guy says. Well, I don’t know about cool. I mean, if we thought we had a hacker problem with nearly 40% of Americans who have been exposed to some form of hacking, boy do we have a serious fucking problem with those button prompts and pipe mini games in Watch Dogs that train kids how to hack the iPad in your room.

In hindsight, the lesson learned here is that we should throw away all of our electronics before we become helpless addicts like those who shoot, snort, and smoke crack cocaine.


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Thursday, May 29, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

Though news about the Kinect-less Xbox One rattled console owners, developers, and the industry overall, my favorite bit of news was Microsoft’s revamped Games & Deals with Gold program. It mimic’s Sony’s Playstation Plus program in not only offering free games each month, but also discounts on games and a Gold subscription requirement (outside of 360) as well; but most importantly, it’s bringing the promotion to Xbox One (though nothing regarding early access to betas and the sort have come to my attention).

Today, Sony has tweaked their Plus program a bit by “doubling” the amount of games in their “Instant Games Collection” – or free games – which will start in June. As reported today for North America, PS3 will get Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and NBA 2K14, PS4 owners will get Pixeljunk Shooter Ultimate and Trine 2, and Vita owners will get Terraria and Mutant Mudds Deluxe.

Fans would like to think that this is in response to Xbox’s restructured promotion, but I’m not so confident that the change was so reactionary. Though specifics on how the agreements are made between Sony and devs/publishers are scant, we at least have information that while some devs agree to allow their content to be placed on PSN for free with no monetary compensation, others receive a straight up “buyout”. Not sure if the updated Playstation Plus would have been conceptualized in house, and agreed upon by other companies in the matter of weeks.

The shortened length of available free games – in which free titles will only be available between the first Wednesdays of each month starting in July – leads me to believe that either some companies wish for their games to be free for a limited period of time, or Sony’s buyout offer will be slightly less. Companies see a benefit to the Plus program as a way to build a legacy fan base such as Just Cause 2’s developer Avalanche Studios (it at least worked for me; I’m certainly looking forward to picking up Mad Max and the inevitable Just Cause 3 after playing Just Cause 2), and others such as Grip Games and indie dev Tyler Glaiel who see the earnings as a nice boost and advise other devs to put their games up for free long after its launch.

It satiates my guilt knowing that devs appear to be happy with Plus (and hopefully with Games & Deals with Gold). I mean, clearly they have to be otherwise the Plus program wouldn’t have been so successful for so long. I’m part of the “I’ll wait till it’s free on Plus” camp, a mentality that The Castle Doctrine designer Jason Rohrer has issues with.

However Microsoft and Sony don’t treat sales and give-aways as cannibalistic as how it occurs on Steam. Freemium values seem to be the hot trend of this generation, even though Sony’s been playing around with it for years. Sure it allows broke players like me the opportunity to enjoy games free of charge, but it also sparks interest in a developer and/or a franchise, and it gives indie titles the extra attention that they deserve.

More games for everyone, and that can never be a bad thing. 


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Monday, May 26, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

Let’s take a look at Far Cry 4’s box art:

Here we see a fair skin gentleman who sits on a statue while putting his hand on the head of a seemingly ethnic or native individual from the Himalayan region. Looking in further, the box cover is carefully arranged to illustrate a significant gap of power between the two individuals. The fair skinned man is wearing a lavish pink suit that likely represents a symbol of wealth. The way in which he sits, foot placed on the decapitated head of the statue of Buddha, conveys his complete disregard for the culture and religion of the region, as weapons and ammunition are also draped over it. As he smirks confidently at the viewer, his placed hand on the head of the discouraged native man also tauntingly dangles a grenade pin on his index finger. The subjugated individual is reduced to his knees with a look of shame and defeat on his face while holding the pin-less explosive. Read more

By Jamaal Ryan

As IGN reported, on the goRGNtv Twitch podcast, Counter Strike creator Minh Le discussed what he might have seen at Valve that looked like Half-Life 3:

“I guess I could say that I did see something that looked kinda like in the Half-Life universe. And I mean it wouldn't surprise anyone if I said they're doing it, they're working on it, yeah. So to go on a limb I'd say I did see some concept art for Half-Life 3."

I know Half-Life 3 is a sensitive topic for gamers, and any hint, rumor or speculation on the fabled sequel sets fans ablaze and generating “Could this be it?” states of mind. But reviewing the quote, there’s a level of ambiguity and uncertainty that just isn’t satisfying or concrete enough to begin looking forward to seeing Gordon and Alyx again. “Something that looked kinda like in the Hale-Life universe… So to go off on a limb…,” I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I don’t buy it, but coming from a former Valve employee, and discussing a company in which Steam and DOTA 2 generate massive chunks of their revenue, I can’t count on Half Life 3 officially appearing in the near future; my gut tells me that it’s being kicked around Valve as nothing more than a passion project.

But what happens if Half-Life 3 is released? Will it live up to expectations? The shooter genre has matured and diversified itself significantly since Episode 2. Even in the over-saturated genre, there are interesting experimental titles such as Far Cry 3, Bioshock: Infinite, Metro, Deus Ex HR (depending on your playstyle), Hard Reset, Crysis 2, RAGE, The Darkness 2, and Singularity. It’ll unlikely stand out as well as it did way back in 2007. Not to mention the 6+ year wait and undulating anticipation sets nigh unreasonable expectations for Half-Life 3. But to be fair, Episode 2 reviewed better than almost all of the above listed games, and few have managed to replicate its narrative style, world building, and that final showdown before the cliff hanger ending.

Nonetheless, I cannot count on Half-Life 3. Valve has adopted other priorities that have proven the company wide success. The simple fact that up to 6 ½ years later, we still haven’t seen a follow up to the events that closed Episode 2 is one of the best examples that Valve, as well as every other game company, is in the business of making money as a priority. Everything and everyone else, including us Half-Life fans, are secondary. 


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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

When I came across a little Kickstarted game today called Sumoboy, a game inspired by anti-bullying advocacy, it quickly reminded me of a meet that had with one of my clients today.

“These big guys used to take me to the corner and beat the living shit out of me, just because they could.”

Norris, I’ll call him, has major depressive disorder that has been supplemented by family conflict, sexual abuse, financial struggles, and bullying; some in which may or may not have contributed to his suicide attempt more than half a year ago.

Today, we discussed bullying and his stance on it today, though he was less than willing to delve into “how does that make you feel” territory. He spoke about observing grade school children in their playground and witnessing the dynamics that contribute to bullying:

“There were several pockets of kids where the biggest one was always picking on the little one.”

He’s 50, a man who grew up in a completely different generation. A generation where pedophiles weren’t marked as registered sex offenders on the internet. A generation where schools didn’t address bullying as an “epidemic”. A generation where video games comprised as moving blocks, and were comparative light years away from discussing any kind of emotion.

I haven’t mentioned that even video games publically address bullying, but I can imagine the surprise and sense of validation if I were to tell him. Sumoboy  follows the story of Oji, a round little orphan who manages to escape his unimaginative world’s troubles of bullying to embark on a Japanese inspired mythological journey to save the world of Seishin.

Though I appreciate the narrative jump-off of Sumoboy, from what I’ve reviewed on the Kickstarter page, it looks like it’ll be shifting towards standard video game affair in the same vein of Diablo and Bastion.

For games that fully discuss the subject of bullying in a less fantastical context, look no further than High School Story. Though its website pegs it as being a simple superficial adolescent version of The Sims, their partnership with Cybersmile and the collaborated chapter on bullying actually helped students seek help after contemplating suicide.

Games like Sumoboy and High School Story embraces a theme that has affected all of us, certainly myself. And though he’s unlikely to play it, I’m sure that Norris will deeply appreciate that a medium many in his generation sees as “violently shallow” is addressing bullying directly. 

By Jamaal Ryan

Nintendo's received a lot of heat after their PR fuck up responding to fans asking for the inclusion of gay marriage in Tomodachi Life. Reports on the kerfuffle wasn't only isolated to the gaming press, but mainstream publications such as ABC News also reported on the story. It seems that John Oliver caught whiff of this as well while celebrating the 10 year anniversary of Massachusetts becoming the first state to legalize gay marriage:



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Friday, May 16, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

When it comes to role playing in video games, there are gamers who are jaded, gamers who looking for themselves, and gamers who have a narrow vision of others.

In a study reported by Slate, 23% of men who play World of Warcraft were more likely to switch gender roles as compared to 7% of female players who did the same.

Let’s stop there.

Why is that? Why is it that males are more likely to switch genders than women? Is it for sex appeal and having a “nice ass” to look at? That’s part of the phenomenon unfortunately, but it helps to look at it from a female perspective. Though females make up nearly 50% of the gaming audience, the number of game protagonists don’t match that percentage. Among the remaining 93% of female WOW players, many of them must have thought, “Ah, a rare opportunity to play a character closer to my identity.” I can empathize with that feeling as a Black gamer who can count on one hand how many games I’ve played where the default character shared my race. Every opportunity I can get to create a Black lead, from Dragon Age to Fallout to Call of Duty: Ghosts, I take it.

But what of the 23% of men who aren’t desperately looking to find sexual solace in a video game? At some point or another, we’ve chatted with someone who donned the role of Shepard. No, not the guy with the big forehead, the one played by Jennifer Hale. While I myself didn’t play as Jenn-Shep, my easiest conclusion to this is the concept of jaded gamers. Gamers who are have seen their fair share of ‘bros’, and figured they’d mix it up a bit. Flipping through my custom loadouts in Titanfall, you’ll see all female builds. Not only because I find their armor and character design more interesting, but the idea of women wall jumping from tree to tree in Swampland and landing in a Titan is novel and exciting. Nick Yee of Slate has an additional theory as to why this happens, “But because male avatars aren’t created by female designers for a female audience, women may not have the same incentive to gender-switch.

However, there is an unfortunate trend in this gender role playing.

In that same study, they found that among the men who gender-switched in-game, they preferred more “feminine” features: long hair as opposed to mohawks, and emotive dialogue instead of stoic and firm. These men relied on their stereotypes and narrow idealization of women.

But this doesn’t only occur in gender, this also is seen in racial role playing as well.

Ohio State University conducted an experiment measuring the behavior and subliminal beliefs of players. Taking a sample of 126 white students, the experiment had each of the students play Saints Row 2, some as a white character, some as black. The players who controlled the black characters were more likely to act out more violently than those who controlled white characters.

But the violent association didn’t end there.

The students were issued the Implicit Association Test (IAT) which measures subliminal bias. Those that played as the black characters were more likely to associate black faces with bad words like “terrible, horrible, evil” as opposed to good words such as “joy, love, peace”. They were given another version of the IAT after playing WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2010 and Fight Night Round 4. This time, the association was between weapons and non-weapons. Unsurprisingly, those that played the role of black characters in these games associated black faces with weapons rather than the non-weaponized objects.

Perhaps what’s seen of non-blacks and male gamers play as blacks and women is a result of jaded behavior. However it seems as if it’s jaded behavior that precipitates into a narrow field of understanding, a narrow perception of who women are and how black men behave.

It’s easy to point to the larger societal influence for the broken perspective that these players view blacks and women. But it’s an influence that increases in weight in video game. Damsels all too frequently need saving and are all too sexualized; black men prefer guns as a weapon of choice and only increase in numbers in gang populated urban environments.

If this comes as a surprise to you, then I’d like to know what games you’re playing. 


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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

So Kinect-less Xbox One is official, and Xbox’s Games with Gold is more aligned with Playstation Plus.

With Kinect touted as such an integral piece of hardware to the Xbox One experience, and a hell of a lot of room for improvement, to me, it’s genuinely surprising to see Microsoft make a retail effort to separate Kinect from the Xbox One system so soon. From the NSA and Snowden days to the 7 million confirmed PS4s in households compared to a hard-to-nail-down 5 million, Microsoft had every reason to cut Kinect out of the box, selling a new SKU for $399.

It was a strange timing for the announcement however. For Microsoft to reveal news about major competitive shifts in aligning itself with the Playstation 4, it seemed as if such announcements would be more appropriate for E3. And the mere fact that the new SKU will be available on June 9th, the day of their press conference, it’s hard to imagine that they won’t remind consumers anyway. If I hadn’t known that the $399 model would be available day & date with the Microsoft press conference, my first assumption would be that they intended to avoid bursting the bubble of any Kinect focused software.

I was a proud supporter of Microsoft shipping every Xbox One with a Kinect because that meant the developers had free range to support its functionality without worrying how high the device’s attach rate is with the system. D4, while smartly and strangely also supporting a traditional control scheme, is fronted as a Kinect game. Harmonix’s Fantasia: Music Evolved will soon be walled behind whatever price Microsoft decides that a standalone Kinect would cost, and they’re not too happy about that.

But regardless the unfortunate sacrifices, consumers ultimately won yesterday. Microsoft’s decision in launching the new model on June 9th might indicate that they’re hoping for a spike in sales reacting to whatever games they showcase at E3. Sony greatly benefitted to their price and policy announcements at last year’s E3 with a 2:1 ration in preorders compared to the Xbox One, these factors probably influenced the decision to release it on press conference day.

In addition to “giving consumers more choices”, Microsoft has taken the idea of Games with Gold, combined them with the new Deals with Gold, and is now bringing the service to Xbox One in addition to 360. While the notion of the service closely aligning itself with Playstation Plus, I’m more excited at the idea that Xbox One games will become available for free as well. As I mentioned in my Dust: An Elysian Tale review, the service on the 360 brought too many old games, many in which weren’t necessarily relevant. Bringing it to Xbox One gives the opportunity for fresher games to be available for free, or at least a significant discount we hope.

Microsoft is making dramatic changes, changes in which are swift and brave enough to keep them in the competitive console space. If these are the announcements we’re treated to now, who knows what they’ll announce at E3?  

Reviewed by: Jamaal Ryan

Writer's note: Yes, I know Microsoft dropped a bombshell today. I will put together an opinion piece tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a little something to hold you over.

“Wow. I can’t believe they just did that.”

Those very words ran through my mind numerous times while playing South Park: The Stick of Truth; it’s no wonder this game was heavily censored in a number of countries. I’m not one of those laugh-out-loud fellas when it comes to video games, but this one broke me. And saying “Well duh, it’s a South Park game” doesn’t cut it, especially when the previous licensed products weren’t all that great. Though not quite as cataclysmic in tone as South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was, The Stick of Truth holds value as an extended, no-holds-barred episode of the television show. And yet, it also happens to be a well-executed “my first” RPG as well. South Park 64 and South Park: Chef’s Luv Shack this is not; South Park: The Stick of Truth is one of the most faithful licensed video games of all time. Read more.

Reviewed by: Jamaal Ryan

While Sony platform owners have been spoiled by free and timely-relevant games on a monthly basis through Playstation Plus, Xbox’s Games with Gold on 360 has hardly lived up to their competitor’s service. The titles available have generally been old, and likely already owned by long time 360 owners, serving only a selective few. Halo 3 and Gears of War are great games, but I’ve already played them, as is the same for millions of others. The exception comes every once in a while, like last month’s Deadlight and November’s Iron Brigade.

For May, 360 owners will have access to two more free games; one of which is Saints Row: The Third (available on May 16th), the wildly popular open world title that put the franchise on the map. But again, I’ve already played that game. However Games with Gold also gifted players with another little gem that many surely have managed to overlook, Dust: An Elysian Tail.

Dust: An Elysian Tale is a hand written love letter to the side scroller action game; it’s a passion project that has been impressively crafted by the one man developer Dean Dodrill.

Elysian Tale’s Castlevanian influence was immediately striking (or at least Castlevania is the strongest reference I can think of while writing this review), as much of its presentation and gameplay is firmly rooted in the Koonami classic. The soundtrack pumps with harrowing organs, dancing pianos and violins that, while not necessarily inspiring the image of cobble stones and stained glass, create an equally fantastical feel. Its committed 2D artstyle never falters either, ensuring that colors glow and the visual design is always expressive. I absolutely love how Dust always makes time for beauty. Lush meadows are no more majestic than dark caverns and menacing graveyards where you might miss that red rose resting on a tombstone.

Even outside of the context that this was a one man script (technically a two man script as the story was co-written by Alex Kain), Dust’s storytelling is surprisingly dense. Though I can never say the actual plot itself sets any standards, it does a commendable job in balancing its leading three: Dust himself, his companion Fidget, and Ahrah the talking sword. It also goes as far as to wasting very little of any other characters you encounter, including the merchant, most in which have a role in your adventure; main quest and side missions alike. This treatment is further elevated by the fact that every single NPC you encounter is fully voice acted. Dust does its damnest to realize its world, and it shows.

As you make your way through this 12’ish hour adventure, it becomes obvious that Dodrill fitted in some of his favorite video game trends in Elysian Tale, but not without adding his own twist. Much of the game’s secrets are gated behind areas in which would need revisiting with new abilities, you’ll be constantly swapping and crafting equipment for Dust through the game’s satisfying and approachable item-trade based economy, and platformer puzzles take unique shape here like when the game asks me to use Dust’s vortex generating ability, the Dust Storm, to pull floating illuminated objects to guide him through some of the game’s trickiest environments. But Elysian Tale’s biggest draw is its combat system.

The combo multiplier becomes the focus in battle, and I found that learning how to preserve it is the key to not just succeeding in combat, but accelerating level progression as well. Controlling Dust is a snap; side stepping and landing strikes with Ahrah is as responsive as any respectable action game should be, ensuring that any damage taken doesn’t feel cheap. While I stayed out of harm’s way to keep my multiplier from resetting, I used the Dust Storm to amplify Fidget’s spell casting to inflict rapidly successive damage to my enemies. Using this one-two-punch in sequence will easily shoot your multiplier in the hundreds, even the triple digits. What’s neat is that the higher your immediate multiplier, the more bonus experience you gain; and the more experience you gain, the faster you level up. As I made my way through Elysian Tale’s final stage, I leveled up five times before I reached the end boss. That’s awesome.

While Elysian Tale plays it safe and is rather conservative by design, there are some moments that sag throughout the adventure.

The amount of abilities that Dust acquires in this 12-13 hour game feel anemic. So much so that I often had forgotten that there were abilities to acquire right in the gut of my playthrough. It wasn’t until the end of the game when I ventured back that I had actually appreciated some of the new skills Dust adopted.

And though leveling up as frequently as every five minutes triggers an endorphin rush akin to leveling up in Call of Duty multiplayer, Dust became overpowered, making short work of boss fights that hardly live up to their theatrical entrances. Dust is at its best when juggling 5 enemies at once while half a dozen more take collateral damage; with the exception of the final boss fight, a single chatty opponent is reduced to little more than a foe with a larger health bar.

You can almost tell that Dust is a culmination of ideas from one individual, one that's incredibly fond of this genre. Both its story and gameplay have the focus of a single vision, but none feel sacrificed and limited as Dodrill accomplished what many dev teams with more man power haven’t. Dust: An Elysian Tale will be available for free on Xbox 360’s Games with Gold up until May 16th. But even if you don’t make it by that deadline, you shouldn’t pass up on one of the indie scene’s most impressive success stories. 

+ Beautiful 2D Art direction
+ High quality character treatment
+ Addictive combat system
-  Weak boss fights
-  Uneven ability acquisition

By Ryan Michael Williams

Once again e3 is approaching and as a gaming Culture about games we are getting more and more excited about what’s to be unveiled. Then we have the growing groups of gamers that are also sitting and waiting to be disappointed. My group that I am concerned about is the advocates for diversity in lead characters. Yes the video game industry is making baby steps towards opening their color spectrum. Even with that said, for all the investment from gamers over the decades we still are not getting our worth as a whole. This isn't who vs who or us vs them opportunity that I am trying to incite, however it is a point to which our culture can truly gauge some changes made from the generation crossover. With those measures we can see if the video game industry is becoming more in line with its diverse community of cultures.

When viewing a great showcase of P.R. attention to details in the community over at Roberts Industry. I for one was impressed with how a video company handled a situation that usually turns ugly overnight. (OP View Point). This intricate situation brewed up on Star Citizen’s forums, and was resolved very eloquently and within hours. Long story short Star Citizen’s Roberts Industry protected the reputation of their moderator and ensured the community that this mod was righteous in their decision, meanwhile they still reverse the mods decision and reinstated the questionable forum topic. While still following the rules and guidelines of their forum and issuing a punishment to the thread’s OP. The thread was simply about an all-women’s group in the game Star citizen. However it quickly turned into troll bait, with some questionable motives from known goons. In the end the PR team apologized reinstated the thread, and welcomed the all women gaming group.

For them it worked out very well, but sexism is the hot topic with the video game industry heavily due to some recent soul searching from the media heads. However racism in my personal experiences in video games was never handled that quickly and justly. That issue has been pretty much swept under the huge rug of the video game industry lobby and lobby systems. With a big fiasco of racism dominating the news cycle hopefully more media heads start arming up on the never ending war that is racism so we can get some gains on that battlefront for video games. For E3 2014 to come out hitting hard with some new IPs that showcase the diversity in the world we live and game within would be a sweet way to stride into the future of gaming. We are seeing pseudo-documentaries, pretend to know what they are talking about, influential Hollywood figures speaking more and more about the gaming industry, and a multibillion plan from Facebook all less than one lapse of E3. So video gaming as whole is about as mainstream as ever so let’s get some reflections of the world that controls this industry.  

By Jamaal Ryan

Nintendo woes are in abundance. The Wii U continues to sell horribly, reporting lifetimes sales at 6.17 million after roughly 17 months up until their fiscal year ending on March 31st – the Playstation 4 surpassed that at 7 million in just half a year, and Nintendo will enter its second year of bowing out of a E3 press conference and will repeat their strategy from last year (not necessarily woes, however it gives the impression of lacking confidence if not trying to do E3 smarter instead of “harder”). But now, Nintendo has finally addressed the plea for same sex marriages for their upcoming heavily relationship driven 3DS title, Tomodachi Life.

Last week, Tye Marini, a 23 year-old gay male, started a petition called “Miiquality” to champion efforts to convince Nintendo to include gay marriages in Tomodachi Life. I highly encourage you to watch Tye’s “Miiquality” campaign here.

After refuting rumors that they erased the code in the original Japanese release that allowed same sex-marriages, Nintendo released this statement:

Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of 'Tomodachi Life…The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation. We hope that all of our fans will see that 'Tomodachi Life' was intended to be a whimsical and quirky game, and that we were absolutely not trying to provide social commentary."

This is a mess of a statement, indicating that the inclusion of same-sex marriages would be a form of “social commentary”. It further insinuates that in order to be inclusive to the LBGT community, it has to be a form of social commentary rather than an act of normalcy like franchises such as Mass Effect, The Sims, The Elder Scrolls, Dragon Age, and many others that have. Nintendo minimizes the systems in Tomodachi Life, describing them as “whimsical” and “quirky”, despite the fact that romantic relationships appear to be a heavy part of the game. To be fair, in Japan, this inclusion could have represented a form of social commentary as same-sex marriages are illegal (though developing) in the country.

Maybe that’s fair, but what about efforts to change the code to include same-sex marriages in localization?

The ability for same-sex relationships to occur in the game was not part of the original game that launched in Japan, and that game is made up of the same code that was used to localize it for other regions outside of Japan.

Well that’s a bummer… or is it?

"We have heard and thoughtfully considered all the responses…We will continue to listen and think about the feedback. We're using this as an opportunity to better understand our consumers and their expectations of us at all levels of the organization."

It seems that Nintendo may not be as “tone-deaf” as the original statement implies. Either that, or the representative got a swift spell of “What the fuck was I thinking?!” Either way, Nintendo would be wise to take re-addressing same sex-marriage inclusion for Tomodachi Life into DEEP consideration. Nintendo hasn’t looked good in the game’s press lately, and news on this particular story has already hit mainstream media.

Nintendo, in many ways, is lagging behind several standards the industry is setting or has already set. Sexual identity/sexual orientation cannot be one of them.

By Jamaal Ryan

Writer's note: This article was originally written on The Zero Review

Hip hop isn’t a genre of music that you hear in games often – let alone gaming conventions. But game designer Shawn Allen opened his PAX East 2014 panel How Urban Black and Latino Culture Can be the Next Frontier in Games with All I Need is You by Ghostface Killaha song about the hardships about growing up in a urban community, which set the tone for his discussion.
Though both Shawn Allen and I were raised by single mothers in New York, our childhood stories are nothing alike. As a Black male and raised upon welfare by his white mother on the Lower East Side in NYC, Shawn Allen is no stranger to socioeconomic struggles. Gaming on Tiger handhelds, Gameboys, and working odd jobs to pick up N64 games were his methods of hobbyist preservation. Going to school for visual arts – which his mother advocated for his school to accept him as a minority student – Shawn spoke about being one of the few Black students in his entire program. Being the exception followed him into his first gig at Rockstar.
Call me naive, but I’ve always valued Rockstar as one of the few developers to cast minority leads, and illustrate minority representation in their games. Allen has a different take, showing this trailer for Red Dead Redemption and criticizing it for its theme in having a white male lead be the “savior” for this “savage” culture of Spanish Americans. I asked Allen that based on his argument, why is it that Rockstar tries so hard to write diverse cultures into their games? Shawn only commented on the possible British disconnect from American culture.
Allen talks about the industry’s issue in portrayal of non-whites by white developers – a point that he’s stressed before – and how it can lead developers into a slippery slope of basing characters and themes off of stereotypes without having someone on the team from that minority group, or at least without extensive researchHe uses Bolt Riley for example, an adventure game based on the fictional titular Reggie singer’s raise to fame in Jamaica. The designers behind Bolt Riley are Oden Sharon, and Corey & Lori Cole, none of which are Black or from Jamaica.
Sociology teaches that these issues are systemic, a product of generational disadvantages. While hip-hop was created out of the lack of urban access to traditional instruments and the increased accessed to electronic tools, game development tools have only recently become cheaper for inspired designers to get their hands on. As for many urban minority groups that do make it into the industry, there tends to be a shift into sound design. Sound design. Music. See the parallel?
As a Black gamer, though I may not hold the individual experiences that Allen has, I hold a similar level of expectation regarding diversity in the games industry. Speaking with Shawn, I expressed how games with minority representation can not only call out to other underrepresented game designers, but members of the game’s press as well. Writers like Evan NarcissePatricia Hernandez, and Mattie Brice do well to advocate for more diversity and speak to diverse audiences, but as GiantBomb’s Patrick Klepek says “It’s important to lobby for a more diverse staff.”
Allen closes his panel with a list of non-white game designers drawing attention to their work. They include: Kyron Ramsey and Carolina Moya behind Valdis Story, Tyriq Plummer AKA FourBitFriday behind Catacomb KidsArthur Ward JrLauren E Scott,Shawn PierreCatt Small, and Richard Terrell.
Shawn Allen, and his wife Diana Santiago, are currently working on Treachery in Beatdown City.

By Jamaal Ryan

The mainstream news outlets have been obsessed with – soon to be former Clippers owner – Donald Sterling who was tape recorded making racially charged remarks regarding his girlfriend associating with Blacks publically on Instagram. After the NBA commissioner Adam Silver brought down swift punishment on Sterling, banned from life from all Clippers events and fined 2.5 million, Turtle Rock’s community manager Josh Olin Tweeted this: “Here's an unpopular opinion: Donald Sterling has the right as an American to be an old bigot in the security of his own home. He's a victim.” To get a sense of where he’s coming from, here’s the full recording with text of the recorded conversation between Sterling and his girlfriend:

I’m not going to get into the debate of the scandal in and of itself since it truly is a divisive topic, but yet again, this is another example of poor PR awareness by a member of the industry. From Phil Fish to Adam Orth, public figures in the industry – or at least members of public entities in the industry – must be aware and pick their words wisely on the internet. In an attempt to clear up collateral damage, Olin stated this:

“Anyone who follows me knows my tweets were not in support of Sterling's actions. Rather, they were promoting three core tenets I believe in: 1) The harm sensational media presents to society. 2) The importance and sanctity of your privacy within your own home. And 3) The right to be whatever you want to be as an American, as long as it isn't hurting anyone else. That last point not to be confused with condoning Sterling's actions, which I don't.

Sorry Olin, but this comes with the territory. In an industry whose fan base is so well in tuned with the internet and social media, none can afford to express statements without careful consideration of public perception.