Category Archives: Politics

‘In 2017, I Turned to Video Games to Avoid Trump and Conspiracy Twitter’

Justin Charity, The Ringer:

These alternative histories are false — but thrilling. My playing through them isn’t exactly productive, but I can’t say that my year-long gaming retreat has felt any more wasteful than the supposedly more mature engagement with politics by way of media, including social media. Wolfenstein II is escapism; and so, for the most part, is the ongoing debate about whether classical liberals should punch Nazis: They both induce fantasies about power and choices that most of us are unlikely to prosecute in the real world. Ideally, we organize. We lobby elected officials, we activate our neighbors and whatever followers we have, and we vote. But American progress is a long haul. In the grand scheme of Trump’s presidency, a 100-hour role-playing game is still a much more sensible way for me to squander my downtime than reading viral strains of conspiracy theory, surrendering what little serenity I have left in these dire times. If I want to obsessively watch the world collapse at the hands of a corporatist egomaniac, I’ll replay Horizon: Zero Dawn.

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The Verge: ‘How the Xbox One and PS4 are helping bring Chinese indie games to the West’

Andrew Webster, The Verge:

For 14 years — starting in 2000 — the Chinese government enforced a ban on video game consoles. Between 2014 and 2015, both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 made their long-awaited and overdue debut. Microsoft described its release as a “monumental day” and celebrated by lighting up the Shanghai skyline in bright Xbox green. Sony’s chief executive Kaz Hirai told The Telegraph that “I think that we will be able to replicate the kind of success we have had with PS4 in other parts of the world in [China].”

The lifting of the Chinese console ban is not news, but the fact it was a thing still blows my mind. Where were you in 2000? Can you imagine your life without console games from then til now? It may sound like a silly question, but video games are a massive part of 21st century culture. Wild.

Regardless, a very cool and interesting story.

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‘Same playbook, just on a wider scale’

Brianna Wu—software engineer, game developer, and South Boston congressional candidate—on the Tomorrow podcast with Josh Topolsky of The Outline:

Josh Topolsky: It seems like we’re in a particularly rotten place in America right now. We have Trump controlling the White House in a way—and with people like Steve Bannon—that seems dangerous. It feels somewhat out of control. I assume you’re following this pretty closely.

Brianna Wu: Steve Bannon—this is the editor in charge of Breitbart—legitimized vast parts of Gamergate. This is extremely personal to me.

JT: He is, in many ways, a major figure in the “alt-right” and Gamergate movements which are linked. I mean, they seem very linked to me.

BW: It’s the same people. It’s the exact same people; same playbook, just on a wider scale.

JT: Let’s talk a little bit about your experience with Gamergate. You dealt with enormous amounts of harassment from these people. Really violent and vile.

BW: Violent. I had to leave my house. They targeted my company’s financials repeatedly.

This is a great listen.

Wu speaks from first-hand experience to the source, damaging effects, and cascading effect of Gamergate and it’s current place in American politics.

It’s easy not to take a term with the word “gamer” in it seriously. But, as Wu explains, the lack of serious investigation into Gamergate and knowledge of tech in general is likely a big part how we ended up in this mess. It’s candidates like Wu—with deep knowledge of tech, engineering, privacy, and security—that will truly revolutionize the US government and make America 21st century ready again.

FBI releases Gamergate investigation records

Adi Robertson, The Verge:

The FBI appears to have made a serious investigation of some threats, but at least one email thread suggests there were breakdowns in communication with the subjects of them. “We feel like we are sending endless emails into the void with you,” complained one sender. Based on the timing and location details, this was Wu, who published her own account of the experience on the same day. Overall, at least one report indicates that centralizing the investigation in San Francisco limited its jurisdiction. It’s also not clear how familiar some of the FBI agents involved were with common internet services. Twitter is sometimes referred to as “Tweeter,” and one email mentions suspects using “Thor” (probably Tor) for security.

Via Twitter, Wu said that the threats the FBI discussed were only a fraction of the ones she sent them, and that the agency was largely unresponsive to her attempts to provide evidence. “All this report does for me is show how little the FBI cared about the investigation,” she told The Verge. “As I remember, we had three meetings with the FBI, we had two meetings with Homeland Security, we had three meetings with federal prosecutors in Boston. Almost nothing we told them is in this report.” She confirmed that the juvenile mentioned above had been making death threats using his father’s phone; he was apparently grounded as punishment.

This report was actually released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request last year, although at that point, it was difficult to verify whether the recipients had modified its contents. Since “Gamergate” was never really an organized movement, none of the people mentioned in the report are “members” of it, and some incidents predate the controversy, like a bomb threat against Anita Sarkeesian at the 2014 Game Developers Conference. But if anything, this emphasizes that Gamergate per se was one facet of a larger culture war — which it’s now been almost completely absorbed into.

I often wonder why it is I’m so fixated on video games and their culture. I initially started writing on the topic to help bridge what I felt was a chasm between “average joes” and “nerds”. These were worlds I strattled growing up, often hiding my adoration for video games because I was afraid to be uncool.

Later, after seeing my little brother and cousins take to the medium, I sought to bridge a chasm between parents and video games. I focused my writing on the health and education impacts of video games.

Today, in the midst of American uncertainty and woe, I wonder if thinking about video games anymore than escapism is worthwhile. Certainly, there are bigger things. But then I recall Gamergate; what I see as the first emergence of the “alt-right”. As Ezra Klein refered to it on his podcast episode with writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, it was another moment of the merging of partisan and ideological identities:

Ezra Klein: I thought Gamergate was one of the most interesting things to happen in the last couple of years.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Because that had to do with politics, right? Like, why is this happening?

EK: Why did American political sites, Breitbart and Salon, develop an interest in an argument about whether video game sites were unduly influenced by some kind of personal relationship? When you say what happened out loud it sounds ridiculous.

TC: It’s hard to make it make sense.

EK: My big Rosetta Stone in American politics  for the last 20 or 30 years is partisan and ideological identities merged: if you’re a Democrat, you’re a liberal; if you’re a Republican, you’re a conservative. That didn’t used to be true. Once that happened, it set the stage for all of these other identities to align: where you live, who you marry, what you think about 12 Years a Slave, what you think about video game fights on the internet. The stronger this sorting mechanism becomes, the more lethal the collisions between it become.

Video games span a hearty set of demographics. It’s a medium that has taken the entertainment industry by storm. And it’s a medium that enjoys a massive online community, many players of which partake in anonymity. As ideologies and interests merge, it is important foster an inclusive and understood community, especially a community that encompasses the majority of American households.

It is important to write and talk about video games—even in anonymity (looking at me)—possibly now more than ever. And it goes without saying that a large swath of current day writers, artists, and activists were raised on and are familiar with the medium and likely its communities, let alone Tweeter and Thor. 

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Comfortable is something I am not right now. I am not comfortable with a Donald Trump presidency. I am not comfortable with America’s image to other countries. I am not comfortable with explaining to American children how this happened. I am not comfortable for women, the LGBTQ community, and people of color. I am not comfortable with any of this.

Uncomfortable is certainly the least of the emotions I am feeling now; far behind terrified, horrified, stupidities, scared, shaken, gutted, disappointed, sad, guilty. But for a white Californian male, discomfort is resounding. I weep for the groups across the nation who feel geniuine terror at their core.

If there is one thing that has been magnified for me it’s that I was too comfortable under the Obama presidency. I was so comfortable with President Barack Obama at the helm that I stopped paying attention to Washington and the American People. It’s a shameful statement for someone who works on the periphery of the news industry and who has dreams of becoming a writer and, possibly, journalist.

At the start of the campaign season, I felt “fired up.” This was a vow to myself to pay attention. To watch the campaign closely. As it tumbled along, I felt comfortable with Clinton’s campaign, tactics, and temperament. That comfort grew by the fact that she was going up against Trump. How could anyone in their right mind vote for a politically untested, inexperienced, misogynist businessman who avoided paying taxes and was running on a campaign of xenophobia. Clinton had this in the bag! Once again, I became too comfortable and took my eye off of the details of the campaigns, the polls, and the People.

Being uncomfortable for the first time in a long time is a wake up call. If that’s coming from someone in the most comfortable of blue states, that certainly says a lot about the discomfort in America now. Hell, it might say more about the discomfort in America before now.

I grew up in what can be described as a left-leaning purple county (+7.3% Dem) and city (+10.6% Dem). I remember a someone saying that our town was as close to the Bay Area that Republican candidates felt they could successfully campaign. 53% of my county voted for Clinton; 42% for Trump.

My hometown was a potpourri of football players and farmers, punk rockers and commuters. I had a glimpse of blue sentiment in parts of town and cities to the west, and familial relationships in heartedly red counties to the south. I was never spoken to about politics or beliefs at home.

That would change when I discovered punk rock and class called political science. A fire was sparked and propelled me to obtain my bachelors degree in political science. But I stopped there. Graduating in 2009 under an Obama presidency, the comfort kicked in and the fire went out.

A troublesome, odd campaign cycle and a trip to D.C. in October 2016 were enough to stoke the fire again, but it felt too late. I felt to uninformed in what the Obama administration had and had not done, secretary Clinton’s record (good or bad), and the state of rural America to hold educated conversation with others about the need to cast a Clinton vote. Beyond my given enthusiasm for a female leader and her common-sense views of equality in this great nation, my message became, “vote for her because you shouldn’t vote for him.” It wasn’t enough for her, it wasn’t enough for my arguments, and it wasn’t enough for the People.

I don’t know what the next step is. It’s safe to say that many of us don’t. That is what is so uncomfortable about this election. Did Trump simply play a base of America? Is this for ego? What does it mean that he’s flipped between a registered Republician then Indepence then Democratic then Republician then no then Replublician parties? Does a “successful business man” not have the temperament for this job? Did he really see something we all didn’t? Is he really smart enough to find loopholes and dodge taxes? Can we trust him on Twitter? Can 140 characters warrant a trade war with China? Can 140 characters spark nuclear warfare? He certainly doesn’t want to go down as a failed president by committing to the promises made to his base, but he won’t want to be called a liar by them either, right? What does he actually stand for? How will he govern? Isn’t human decency the threshold for the job? How the hell did this happen? What happens next?

I am trying to not let fear get the best of me. Trying to quell many of these thoughts by rationale. But not knowing what this man stands for or trusting any of his actions is deeply uncomfortable.

I’m unsure of my next actions. I’m letting this sink in. I’m going for long jogs, focusing on work, and cascading into stiff drinks, hoping I’ll come out with some form of clarity and action. Until then, my wife and I have chosen to donate monthly to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood and are actively looking to other organizations, liberties, and efforts that may have the steepest of uphill battles ahead of them.

I do not blame president Obama or secretary Clinton. I blame myself for being comfortable in my own privledged bubble. Now, I am comfortable that my discomfort will propel me to be better informed, studious, and vocal.


Some podcast episodes that have helped console my discomfort:

The One You Feed – Post Election Mini-Episode

Slate’s Political Gabfest – The “Even Longer National Nightmare” Edition

Vox’s The Weeds – Trumpocalypse Now

The Talk Show With John Gruber – Holiday Party

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Campaign Season

Over the weekend, I had an interesting conversation with a relative. The conversation was not interesting so much as my reaction was interesting.

This relative asked what school I had gone to and I replied with the addition that I had majored in political science. Without hesitation, he responded, “let’s talk about politics.” My reply, “let’s not,” went in one ear and out the other.

To backtrack, I had become extremely passionate about politics during my senior year of high school. Over the course of my college career, I shied away from pursuing my innate passion to debate ethics, policy, and humanitarian issues. However, after many twists-and-turns, majors and minors, I found myself holding a BA in political science.

Back to the conversation.

Naturally, it veered into Hillary Clinton’s announcement for the 2016 presidential bid. My relative’s qualm against her was that electing her as president “would put Bill back in the White House,” but “Bill was a good president.” My confusion began here.

Then my blood began to boil. I hadn’t felt this way in a long time. But I wouldn’t let it get the better of me. I was wiser than I was in high school and college. I had learned not to speak up when I didn’t know 110% of what I was talking about.

But I snapped.

After a few unproven assumptions about how things would pan out if she were president, I interrupted:

“If Hillary is elected, there are going to be folks that never let go of the email scandal. If Ted Cruz is elected, there are going to be folks that never let go of the fact that he was born in Canada. Just like the folks that wasted four years plus another four years questioning Obama’s birth certificate.

“Too much time is wasted. This shit doesn’t matter.”

It was quick, tame, and uneducated in the context of all things political. But even without all the answers and a well crafted strategy (of which I only ever had in school), I fought back; something I hadn’t done in years.

To be clear, I do believe that Hillary’s email scandal is a big deal. But under the context of my argument, it helped… maybe. I’m rusty. Cut me some slack.

In any case, the campaign season is upon us. Every four years, many “sports ball” tech nerds like myself get fired up during this time. It is a spectator sport we get interested in. And unlike fantasy sports, selecting your candidates and propositions actually affect real-life.

In the next week or so, my passion around campaign season will likely cool down. Like the baseball season, I’ll stay focused during opening week, putter out during mid-season, and ramp back up during the final third. But for once in quite some time, I feel fired up. And I like it.



Excerpt from “The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell:

I didn’t know what to say. The car edged past a crowded Internet café, full of slack-jawed boys holding game consoles and gazing at screens where American marines shot Arab-looking guerrillas in ruined streetscapes that could easily be Baghdad or Fallujah. The game menu had no option to be a guerrilla, I guess.

Nasser fed his cigarette butt out of the window. “Iraq. Broken.”

Always an interesting perspective.

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The problem with humanoids

Scott Benson, animator of Night in the Woods, as quoted by Polygon:

I think working with animal characters, which is something I’ve done in animation work for years, you can identify with it a bit better. If we had made Mae a really specific person with a specific ethnicity and weight, and all this different stuff…

I think a lot of people can see themselves in Mae. If we were hyper-specific with our humanoid characters, it becomes more and more exclusive. There is something really inclusive about more abstracted humans.

When people draw fan art of Mae, everyone makes her look different. They make her look like themselves. That’s exactly what we want.

I had a lot of trouble writing Splatoon. I’m still not sure it delivers the intended message, or is any good for that matter.

I started with the nugget that games can simply be games, ignoring the fact that the slight variance in asexual character design could be implied as male or female. This thought led me down a rabbit hole. If gender can be construed, what about skin tone, ethnicity, sexuality, political ideals, spirituality? Where does it stop?Humanoid character design, however slight, is a delicate thing.

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StarCraft 2 player receives the sport’s first US athlete visa

StarCraft 2 player receives the sport’s first US athlete visa

Professional StarCraft 2 player from South Korea Kim “ViOLet” Dong Hwan recently became the first person from the eSport to obtain a P-1A visa from the American government, his representatives at Cyber Solutions Agency announced.

– Tracey Lien, Polygon

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Second gaming ceasefire held for Sandy Hook but skepticism remains

Second gaming ceasefire held for Sandy Hook but skepticism remains

Shooter “ceasefire” sincerity stimulates sticky situation

The event has also drawn criticism. One of the key issues raised during last year’s event was the way in which a “ceasefire” inadvertently created a connection between violent video games and violent actions in the real world. With the media, politicians and various lobbies frequently making that connection on their own, it was seen as fuel for an already problematic image of video games.

According to technology and entertainment writer Daniel Nye Griffiths, whose work has appeared in Forbes and Wired UK, while he doesn’t doubt that the ceasefire is coming from a sincere place, such an event is tricky for multiple reasons.

– Tracey Lien, Polygon

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