How Social Justice Warriors Will Ruin Gaming

A “hardo” is a self-described “hardcore gamer”, someone who thinks you can play video games better than someone else in any way other than directly beating them at a game you both play. They think shooting people in Call of Duty makes them superior to someone  playing the Sims or Candy Crush. We need a new term for them because they’re trying to call themselves “gamers”. But everyone who plays games is a gamer. That is what the word gamer means.

Hardos often rail against SJWs. An “SJW” is a “Social Justice Warrior”, which is meant to be a derogatory term for people who care about equality and fighting discrimination, but honestly sounds like an anime knockoff of the A-Team and is therefore awesome.

The suggestion that SJWs are destroying gaming is ludicrous. Every Social Justice Warrior in the world put together to form Social Justice Devastator couldn’t dent the billions of dollars taken by Call of Duty alone. And they wouldn’t even want to – they just want to add a few options so that the series can make even more money. The main effect of SJWs on gaming is making more independent games, which, again, is something you’d think all gamers would like.

What are hardos so afraid of? Behold, as we glimpse their nightmare world of SJW-ruined gaming.

  • Call of Duty: Social Justice Warrior. You’re deployed in a raging warzone to fight against the enemies of equality, but the very first injury puts you out of action and into months of minigames based on healing and physical therapy.
  • The Sims: Assassin’s Creed. You spend months building the a beloved character only for some asshole to come out of nowhere and stab them through the neck because they were bored.
  • Titanfallout. After wrecking a billion-dollar piece of military hardware, you’re court-martialed and dishonourably discharged to scapegoat the commander of the failed mission. You find yourself under attack by endless lawsuits, and the game becomes an unwinnable finance simulator.
  • Mass Effect 3. An RPG gives you the ability to play as any color, gender, or sexuality, despite being heavy on cutscenes, and still makes millions of dollars. Thereby permanently embarrassing every other video game made before and since.
  • Call of Duty: Every Warrior. The ability to choose your skin color makes the game unwinnable, as choosing any non-US nationality causes your AI team-mates to assume you’re the enemy and must be shot in an absolutely guilt-free manner.
  • Call of Duty: Gender Wars. The ability to play as a man, woman, or other gender empties the multiplayer servers, as millions of players are paralyzed by the concept of picturing what it’s like to be someone else.
  • EVEn. A giant space MMORPG where the economy reflects the real cost of war and production. Attacking and taking over another territory tends to destroy most of its ability to generate wealth, leaving the occupier facing endemic structural problems. War is terrifically expensive, and must be supported by productive players, so that the majority of players have to generate the wealth and deal with the fallout of the fighters. Players can run businesses generating the energy and weapons for the militaries, but can be attacked in turn. Note: I would love to see this game.

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Don’t Play To Win

Travel improves the mind, and games can take you to more fantastic worlds in a box than the TARDIS. My favorite part of playing a new game is the forging of new pathways in the brain, where a board of bizarre symbols becomes a battleground, sequences of squiggles resolving into the physical laws of a brand new universe. It’s the opposite of One-ness with the Matrix: you start trapped in a world of incomprehensible runes and symbols, but suddenly you can see the fake world they create and have amazing adventures with others enjoying the same abilities.

I get the same joy from new video games. You learn more about the world with every round, win or lose – especially lose, because nothing teaches you a lesson like violent death. Exploring a whole new world practices all the parts of the brain which deal with new things. The parts that come up with new ideas, and new solutions, and are otherwise in charge of telling the rest of you that it’s not time to lay down and start dying just yet. (The first and worst stage of death is deciding you don’t want to learn more. Everything after that just advances the decay.)

There’s the glory of self-improvement simplified to something you can see and prove. I get brilliant at my favorite games, advancing through exploration to expertise, choosing the class or item my team needs to enabling more victories than defeats. There’s nothing like scouting several 15-4 stompings in a row to appoint yourself spotting king of the World of Tanks.

Which makes it all too easy to resist the urge to leave. But the cast-iron rule is that playing games should be fun, and if you reach the point where you only enjoy winning then it’s time to leave. Instead of cursing the idiots when we lose, or worse, knowing we’re going to lose right from the start when I see a scout take up a sniping position, or the square dot of an artillery charging the enemy. If you don’t play World of Tanks, the square dot of artillery charging the enemy is about as smart as a square dot in Pac-Man charging its enemy. The next ten minutes are doomed, because I’m not dick enough to disconnect, but I know it’ll be for nothing.

So the rule kicks in. If I find myself only playing to win, it’s time to delete the game and move on to being an idiot somewhere else. This rule is why I stopped playing Left 4 Dead multiplayer, and it’s the only reason I haven’t physically uploaded into Team Fortress 2, and now it’s time to find a new game. Because a baby bouncing off the walls in a new world is learning a lot more than a cranky old man cursing all the idiots in his old one.

Why hello, Mario Kart 8. You look like fun.

New Civilization V Victories

Civilization isn’t so much a computer game as a wonder of the world, and has consumed more person-hours. The latest update adds an array of new victory conditions:

Irony Victory

Make Genghis Khan the most bullied person in history by always pre-emptively annihilating him, then get nuked by Mahatma Ghandi.

You Have Work In The Morning Victory

The game detects that it’s 4 am, that you have an alarm set for 7 am and surrenders in self defense. Because you won’t be able to afford electricity if you’re fired.

Multilingual Victory

The game realizes that you could have learned another language in the time you’ve been playing and starts switching to it. You’re so familiar with the options and structures you don’t really notice and become fluent.

Meta-Victory

Your civilization researches Computers, masters the Commerce tree, fills out the Freedom ideology, invents the game of Civilization, then ignores all the problems of their virtual world to distract themselves in a virtual-virtual world. You aren’t sure how you feel about the analogy.

Ikaruga Means “It’s My Fault And I Love It”

The greatest vertical shooter ever made is now available on PC. “Bullet hell” shooters fill the screen with waves of instant death and it’s your job to kill it all. They’re such pure expressions of arcade joy that ten pence pieces start forming in my pocket even when I’m playing it at home. They’re based on awareness and reflexes and a wonderfully important shift in priorities: you might want to detonate everything, but you definitely need to stay in one piece to do that, and every time you die it’s because you let your destructive impulses win. It’s the Force applied to arcade games.

ikaruga

Games like 1942 may be Bullet Hell, but Ikaruga takes Dante’s Inferno and selects “Flatten All Layers”, squeezing nine hells into one beautiful hellish vision but one wise player can still get all the way through unscathed. Just like the Catholic sinner version, the most important part of a bullet hell is knowing that it’s all your fault. It’s easy to fill a screen with dots. It’s hard to arrange those dots in a way which will kill people without really upsetting them. The game lives or dies based on whether your deaths are “bullshit!” or “aughh, next time!” Which is where Ikaruga’s incredibly simple genius comes in: it has a “don’t die” button and it’s your fault if you didn’t press it.

ikaruga2 

All enemy fire is either black or white, if you’re the same color it charges your superweapon instead of shooting you, and you can flip any time. This releases the game from wimpy constraints like “ever having a single spot of the screen which isnt’ covered in laser fire”, and it embraces this newfound freedom with the fury of a thousand killer suns. It is amazing. Later levels are like being inside three competing fireworks displays, a murderous Mandelbrot set, and a killer crossword, simultaneously, and it’s always your fault if you die and it is glorious.

It’s Buddhist reincarnation as a game mechanic. You don’t get upset about dying, you know what you did wrong, and you know you can do better and reach a higher level next time. And you’ll keep going until you finish it and break free of a cycle you now see is only an incredible game. A game wrapped in gorgeous giant mech design, stirring music, and scraps of scene text giving the impression of an entire intelligent world adding depth to your two-dimensional quest to get up and end everything you meet. Even the level intro text paragraphs understands the gameplay, because you don’t have quite enough time to read it all at once. They know you’ll be back.

And when you’re done there’s the insane difficulty mode where you can only fire out bullets you’ve absorbed first. You wonderful lunatic.

Ikaruga is available on Xbox and Steam.


More glorious games with

The Brilliant and Beautiful Banner Saga

The Banner Saga is turn-based tactical grid combat linked by an Oregon trail where you’re either Vikings or Giant Vikings. I sort of don’t want to say anything good after that, because I’m only writing for people who didn’t immediately leave to play Banner Saga, aka not my kind of people.

Pictured: my kind of people. At least four of them by mass.

Pictured: my kind of people. At least four of them by mass.

The first joy is the writing. Halo and Gears of War spending millions of dollars rendering their new alien enemies, but you’re no more moved to hate them than a sewage worker hates toilets: they might have to clean away all these brown and grey lumps, but that’s just their job. But one of Banner Saga’s events brought me to such hatred that I would pull down the sky to crush the Earth if only it would be sure of killing that one villain, and they did that with a few lines of text.

banner saga godstone

You’re watching small pixels plodding along a one-dimensional path when suddenly shit gets realer than it does on your side of the monitor. I won’t say exactly how, because the whole point is playing games is to gain new experiences, but they’ve mastered their new perspective despite being the only people using it.

The second part is the joy of working out a new gaming system. The innovative combat mechanics turn several established isometric combat tactics on their heads. And then cuts yours off if you don’t adapt.

Sides Always Alternate Turns

Alternating between sides means an outnumbered side gets more turns per character. So if you’re used to using circle-stomps to quickly cut down the enemy numbers, your weakened troops will now be facing totally healthy enemies who are now turbocharged to boot. Instead you have to take all enemies into account every turn, and you realize that makes much more sense than every other game you played.

Armor and Strength

You can choose to attack an enemy’s armor or strength (which is also their hit points). If your strength is less than their armor, your can only chip away at that armor as any other attack will probably be deflected. But they suffer the same problem, so your strong character should power through and cripple as many enemies as possible, leaving them weak as a kitten inside their perfect armor. That way your weaker allies can safely wear them down without being annihilated.

Kills Count For Everything

banner saga victory

It’s a warrior culture:  there are no XP increments for assists, so even if you helped with a thousand kills, if you can’t claim any for yourself then you won’t get any more famous. And soon you won’t be able to help anyone at all. If you don’t want your squad to end up looking like a mother duck leading a lot of fluffy little vol-au-vents into the enemies’ maw, you must avoid favoritism, sharing kills when you can. Especially since the cost increases exponentially per level – you can upgrade four people from level 1 to 2 for less than one person going from 4 to 5. The “pillage” round is useful for this: when either side is down to one survivor, it no longer alternates, every character gets one turn per round, and the winner should use this to decide who takes the kill.

The Banner Saga is more powerful and playable than the Gjallerhorn, leads to more epic battles, and is available on Steam.

Risking My Life With Magic: The Gathering

This article originally appeared on the sadly defunct Zug.com

Magic: The Gathering is Fight Club for stamp collectors. The same dedication, group mentality, and dedication to annihilating every one of your colleagues, with only slightly less damage to your physical condition. It’s one of the most famous card games in the world and more profitable than poker. Because in poker at least one of the players still has money when they’ve finished playing.

To say nothing of shellcrotch exposure every time you start playing.

To say nothing of shellcrotch exposure every time you start playing.

Players buy cards containing magic spells to turn their love of reading and math into heroic battles. Wizards of the Coast turned my childhood dreams into a business plan (and that sounds like the plot of a book I would have read back then). But I’ve always avoided the game, because Magic is responsible for more people losing their lives to a fantasy land of endless murder than Game of Thrones. And profits more from their disappearance than the survivors in Game of Thrones.

THE EXPERIMENT
More person-hours go into Magic than the space program, so I’m launching myself into this world like a human Curiosity: venturing into a strange new land, learning a lot, and I’ve just realized that this analogy implies I might never come back. Magic is also known as “cardboard crack.” It makes World of Warcraft look like Farmville. This is by far the most dangerous experiment I’ve ever undertaken, and I once tried to set myself on fire from the inside out.

I’m going to play Magic Online Standard non-stop for an entire day. Longtime players tell me this is fairly normal, so I’ve already learned something: playing Magic screws up your idea of normal.  Continue reading

The Retro Gaming Drinking Experiment

This article first appeared on the now-defunct ZUG.com in 2010. 

The hardest part of most of today’s videogames is getting them out of the wrapping. With their auto-saves and instant respawns, modern videogames are like going back to preschool. Which is why I’m going to force myself to finish the hardest games in videogame history.

I've got enough retro emulation gear to convince my computer it's a Dalek.

I’ve got enough retro emulation gear to convince my computer it’s a Dalek.

The catch: I’ll be drinking every time I die. Because as an Irishman, I’m culturally required to drink when there’s a death in the family, and you can’t get more family than yourself (unless you’re Alabaman, in which case you’re hopefully drunk already).

Let the games begin!
Continue reading

The Most Entitled Whining Ever

Whining in reviews of a video game on the internet – that’s someone three levels deep* in distracting fantasies and they’re still upset. These are people who could have Milla Jovovich and Benedict Cumberbatch on a holodeck and still complain about having to move so vigorously.

* The first level is the idea that anyone cares about dongHitler4269’s opinion of Portal.

People say that internet commenters don’t represent the whole of humanity, and that’s true. Internet commenters are only part of the most fortunate, best educated section of humanity. You may have a few moments to sob. Anyone with internet access is automatically better off than at least half the planet. They’re also connected to the greatest information network ever constructed and quite clearly have a lot of spare time. And then, given the chance to learn about any subject in existence, they instead share their own work on homophobic slurs as applied to other people who play their favourite game. Worst of all, that work is not very original. Never mind rudeness/psychoses, their understanding of dicks and assholes shows a distinct lack of sexual imagination. Which should be impossible: anyone who spends that much time online should know at least forty more genital configurations.

Luckily the symptom is also the solution. Comment sections were invented to funnel this tide of vitriol, but when they were overwhelmed we were forced to invent the storm drain of psychic sewage: user reviews. The ability to complain about anything, ever, and forever. They’ve done more to hold borderline psychotics in place than leather restraints and phenothiazine combined. Behold their power in The 5 Worst Video Game Reviews Of All Time.