On gaming, women, ethics, and Gamergate

Hi all,

I wanted to say a few words about Gamergate. That’s not an easy task. The problem is that it is a very complex topic, easily mired in semantics and empty arguments. Discussions usually get derailed when people try to address the topics of ethics in video game journalism, and women’s representation in video games and the video games industry.

In order to keep my articles on topic, I chose to write three: one for each of these, and one for the topic I actually wanted to tackle. The aim is to compartmentalize the discussions and to avoid launching into unrelated circular debates, which ends up obfuscating the real questions.

So here are the three articles:

Again, if you do me the kindness of reading them, please keep in mind the topic being addressed by each. The last one obviously touches on the previous two, but does so through its specific lens, which is very limited. If you find you would rather get a serious discussion on the first two, the other articles are what you’re looking for.

I would also like to add a few disclaimers, so all the cards are on the table and you can judge these with all the information:
I am a life long gamer and have owned and enjoyed almost every gaming machine out there; that goes almost without saying. I could also be considered part of the gaming press, or at least gaming media: I have done freelance work for various publications when I was in Japan at the turn of the century, and have published sites, blogs and podcasts on video game related topics since the mid nineties. Finally, I was, until very recently, employed by a large video game developer as a PR manager, which makes me affiliated with the industry itself as well.
I suppose that makes me biased on all fronts. Personally, I like to think it also makes me informed on all fronts.

October 30th, 2014 | No Comments

On the nature of Gamergate

If you haven’t read this post, please do so first. Thanks!

Hi, how’s it going? Me? Oh, I’m great. Ok, this is going to be… interesting.

So I’ve been looking into Gamergate in the past few weeks. I’ve read a lot of articles about it, neutral, pro and con. But I haven’t limited my edification to “press” sites or blogs; I’ve gone through the hashtag on Twitter on a regular basis, I’ve browsed through Reddit and 8chan boards, I’ve read literature and documentation and watched videos that were linked from there, and more.

I honestly think I’ve done my homework, and I honestly believe I understand a reasonable amount of what makes the Gamergate movement. I’m sure many people will disagree with my characterizations, probably on both “sides” of the issue, and that’s fine. This is my assessment, and I believe it to be accurate, but you don’t have to agree.

One thing I would encourage you to do though, is to read the full article before commenting or deciding that I’m wrong or right. This is a very, very complex topic, and you can’t get the full picture by just reading the first few sentences.

Also please note that I’m not doing a “History of Gamergate” here. I’m just trying to give my understanding of what it is and how if functions today.

Ok, first things first: what is Gamergate?

Here is the easiest way I can summarize it: at its core, it is a hashtag that anyone can use to speak up, and that most are using to voice concerns that have to do with gender issues and ethics in gaming.

Who are the people who are part of Gamergate?

Members of the Gamergate movement are the people who identify themselves as members of the Gamergate movement.

That’s it. There is no official structure or organisation, and it can be anyone who uses the hashtag. Which is why it is also so difficult to understand.

How big is this movement?

Nobody knows. A few dozen thousand people maybe? Hard to say. The Gamergate hastag has seen over two million Tweets in two months, and is still active. Let’s say each Gamergater averages 10 to 20 tweets per month; we get 50 to 100K individuals. But really, this is shoddy guestimating. Again, nobody knows. What we do know is that it’s not an insignificant number of people.

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October 30th, 2014 | No Comments

On women’s representation in gaming

Before you read this post, please read that one first. Please. I’ll repeat the main point here in case you don’t: this article isn’t about ethics in video game journalism, and it isn’t about Gamergate. Gamergaters I’ve come across have consistently told me the movement was *not* about women. Well friends, I’m taking you at your word: this doesn’t interest you. I have other articles on those topics that do.

It’s really quite simple, and fairly easy to understand: games have been targeted at an exceedingly young white male audience, and the representation of women in them has been lacking at best, and insulting at worst. Some might disagree with the “at worst” part, but I don’t think many will disagree with the “at best” one. The only disagreement there would be about the reasons, explanations and justifications for that “lacking” representation. For most people though, it is likely linked to the fact that games are created almost exclusively by men. That much is difficult to dispute.

For my part, I tend to think of the result as insulting and embarrassing. Not as a feminist, but as a human being, who also happens to consider women to be human beings. I don’t agree with everything Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu and others are saying, but only because I don’t think anyone ever agrees 100% with anyone else when discussing a complex topic. You can only fully agree with someone if they’ve simplified the discussion to the point that it looses its meaning. So I don’t agree with everything. But I agree with most things.

I can summarize it this way: in 20 or 30 years, when we look back at the games we were creating and playing, we’ll be embarrassed for how they “treat” women. The same way that we are embarrassed today when we look at how films or TV presented people of color only a few decades ago. Those seemed “reasonable” at the time, too.

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October 30th, 2014 | 2 Comments

On journalistic ethics in gaming

If you haven’t read this post, please do so first. Thanks!

Journalistic ethics in the video games press… That is one tough nut to crack.

Short version: There isn’t more of an issue today than there has been since video games were invented. Actually, there is probably less of an issue than there has ever been, for a number of historical reasons I won’t get into here. Issues in video game journalism exist, but no more than in other similar large industries. Also, they are discussed (and addressed) as they appear, usually by the gaming journalists community itself, which is important. Nobody is blind or hiding some kind of wide epidemic or conspiracy in that field. Thanks for reading!

Long version:

First, let me say this: if you think it’s a simple issue (“just be independent, damnit!”) then you are suffering from a serious lack of understanding of the mechanics of entertainment media, the economics of the web, and the curse of the human condition of “needing to eat to stay alive in order be able to keep creating media”. Also, while the core of the issue of ethics can be discussed and is important, it certainly doesn’t revolve around the media’s relationship with tiny indie developers or individuals’ support of crowd funded projects. So if we really want to discuss ethics in game journalism, let’s do that.

First, let’s look at three basic elements:

  • The core issue in all journalism is indeed about being independent. About being able to write what you really think.
  • The main impediment to independence in journalism is your subject matter pressuring you to alter your reporting.
  • Creating media, like any other enterprise, costs money. And to get money, we have two options:
    • Get customers to pay
    • Advertising
    • That’s it. There isn’t a magical third bullet.

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October 30th, 2014 | No Comments

A note to English speakers

Dear English speakers,

Interacting with a bilingual community is often a delicate balance, especially on social media, but it is something that is really important to me. I usually try to post mostly in French from morning to mid-afternoon Paris time (when the ‘mericans aren’t all awake yet), and in English in late afternoon and at night. This isn’t a hard rule, just one I try to follow more often than not, usually erring on the side of the more universal “burger speak” (sorry Brits, I couldn’t find a cutely offensive image for you guys. They were all just offensive. That’s right, I haven’t forgotten Waterloo).

Anyway! In the past couple of weeks, the French/English balance has been a bit out of whack, and I wanted to take a few minutes to explain what’s been happening, in case you’re not aware.

The core of it is that I am soon going to be leaving my day job (or, as people sometimes call it, my “real” job) to dedicate myself to the noble art of Podcasting and independent media. As you can imagine, it was a really tough decision (my job was really cool), but I am beyond excited about what’s coming next.

Still, excitement makes for poor sustenance.

Tweet

Thanks for the laugh, Graham!

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September 13th, 2014 | 7 Comments

Les motivations du “grand saut”

Chers amis, l’heure est grave. Si vous ne l’avez pas fait, je vous invite à regarder cette vidéo. Le texte solennel vient après.

 

Donc voila, nous y sommes : je quitte mon “vrai” travail fin octobre. Une démission sèche, sans filet. C’était un emploi sûr, dans une grande société solide, qui développe des produits auxquels je suis fier de contribuer.
“Mais bon sang, quelle mouche a bien pu le piquer ?!”, vous dites-vous, effaré… Et bien j’espère apporter avec cet article quelques éléments de réponse. (more…)

September 4th, 2014 | 36 Comments

Un crowdfunding pour le RDV Tech

Amis du Rendez-vous Tech, bonjour ! Excellente nouvelle pour ceux qui voudraient soutenir l’émission : je viens de lancer une opération de crowdfunding (sur la plateforme “Patreon”, très différente de Kickstarter ou Ulule). Si vous voulez en savoir plus, je vous invite à regarder la vidéo d’introduction ci-dessous. :)

Si vous êtes convaincu, rendez-vous sur la page Patreon !

 

Et pour ceux qui préfèrent les explications écrites :

J’ai créé le Rendez-vous Tech en 2009 pour parler d’un sujet important qui nous affecte tous : l’actualité de la technologie et d’Internet. Trop de gens comprennent encore trop mal cet univers parfois trop complexe ou rébarbatif, et beaucoup n’ont pas le temps de lire les dizaines d’articles et de sujets qui défilent chaque jour… Le but était donc simple : informer et distraire.

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February 11th, 2014 | 6 Comments

Podcast audio – le petit guide du débutant

Ressorti des archives, cet article publié à l’origine sur le site de NoWatch.net reste assez intéressant pour ceux qui veulent se lancer dans l’aventure du podcast audio. Je le re-publie tel quel pour ceux auxquels ça pourrait être utile, et je le mettrai sans doute à jour à l’avenir, pour qu’il reste une référence valable.

Salut à tous !

Depuis que j’ai commencé le podcast, je reçois plusieurs fois pas mois la même question : un auditeur, curieux et particulièrement motivé, cherche à savoir ce dont il aurait besoin pour débuter. Enregistrement, montage, publication… tout ça n’est pas forcément simple, et mon premier conseil est toujours de faire des recherches soi-même sur le web (il y a plein d’infos et d’explications, et rien ne remplace la connaissance qu’on acquiert en faisant les choses soi-même). Mais je donne aussi une liste qui peut servir de très bon point de départ, voir de “package complet” pour débuter.

Voici donc cette liste, agrémentée de quelques explications, en espérant qu’elle réponde aux questions que se posent certains d’entre vous. A noter que je parle de podcasts audio uniquement ; pour un podcast vidéo, il faut multiplier le temps, l’énergie et le matériel nécessaire par… beaucoup ! :)

 

podcast-guide

Podcast audio – le petit guide du débutant

 

Avant même de commencer, il faut :

  • De la motivation, parce que ça sera plus dur que vous ne l’imaginez.
  • Du temps, parce que ça prendra plus de temps que vous ne l’imaginez.
  • Rester raisonnable. On peut commencer à un épisode par mois et augmenter la fréquence, le contraire est moins facile. Le pire étant de se lancer tête baissée dans un rythme qu’on ne peut pas tenir, et de s’épuiser en route. Nombre de podcasts meurent après trois ou quatre épisodes.
  • Un but. Sachez ce que vous voulez faire, visez un sujet particulier et travaillez un minimum votre émission. Le mieux est de parler d’un sujet qu’on maîtrise, pour apporter de base une valeur d’information à vos auditeurs. Vous n’avez pas besoin d’être parfait (personne ne l’est jamais, et surtout pas au début), mais un minimum de rigueur vous aidera beaucoup à l’enregistrement.
  • Un peu d’argent. Il est possible tout faire au système D, mais il n’y a pas de miracle, et vous aurez très vite envie (et besoin) de dépenser au moins quelques dizaines d’euros, voir un peu plus. Une broutille, pour créer un média diffusé dans le monde entier !

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October 26th, 2013 | 5 Comments

Why Privacy Is Important For Humans Beings

“If I have nothing to hide, I have nothing to fear”

Not so long ago, this phrase could have produced the intended result: to convey the idea that surveillance does not negatively impact the general public. Today, many will respond with some variation of the phrase “those who give up a little privacy for more security deserve neither”. Most of us now instinctively understand that privacy has value. But when we try to dig deeper and ask ourselves why it is important, we usually can’t put it into words. We know it matters, and we know it has something to do with freedom and fundamental rights, but for many of us it’s difficult to articulate. Here’s my attempt.

The actual Benjamin Franklin quote is “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”. Ok, easy enough: privacy = liberty = freedom. But why?
My answer is this: simply put, the issue is that we act differently when no one’s around. Alone in your home, you might start singing to the radio. When you’re walking in the street, you might flick a booger (!). When your friends aren’t looking, you might watch that chick flick they’d mock you for. So on a philosophical level, the simple fact that we act differently if somebody is watching means that “being watched” affects our freedom to act as we’d like, and thus that some privacy is essential for people to act freely.

Nobody is saying you need that “real privacy” all the time (we do live in society after all), but you do need it sometimes, because that’s when you can be your unrestrained self, outside of social conventions. The lack of privacy forces you into “social mode” all the time. We need social conventions, but human beings need “alone time” as well. And if you start observing people all the time, it follows that you invite “societal rules” to be by their side all the time, thus robbing them of their freedom to act outside of social rule. That, I believe, is what privacy provides. And I’m no psychologist, but I would suspect that the feeling of oppression is sure to follow fairly quickly… We’re talking about emotional pressure here, but the word has other uses for a reason.

Put in simpler terms: try thinking of “surveillance” as an acquaintance being in the same room as you, even when you want to be alone. They’re not being harmful, they’re just there, having coffee, and occasionally glancing over. Of course it’ll affect what you do, and that restricts your freedom. That’s what the lack of privacy does.

I’ll stop there, as I think we get the idea. I could extrapolate to other areas, like the difference in how we approach privacy in the physical and electronic space. It is a core issue to our discussions about surveillance programs, but that would be a whole other discussion. My aim here is simply to try and explain why privacy is an essential freedom, which I hope I have. I’ll leave the extrapolating to you…

Note: I first mentioned this topic on This Week in Tech #426, where I was invited as a guest. If you’re interested, you might want to give it a listen.

 

October 14th, 2013 | 1 Comment

What do you get someone who has everything?

So I’m 40 today. I warrants a blog post I guess.

There are two things I want to do to mark the occasion.

The first one is to show this picture of me, because it’s silly in a cute way and I like it.

sharky

It was taken a few years ago in San Francisco by one of my best friends. I think one of the reasons I’m so eager to share it (again) is that somewhere deep down, it shows I’m comfortable enough with who I am that I don’t need to disguise myself into a suit and tie, or into “someone cool”, or just in something I’m not. This wasn’t necessarily obvious when I was younger; I’m sure many of you will know the feeling. Also, it’s just an awesome picture!

The second thing is about looking back, and looking at where I am now. Pretty standard stuff when you reach that point in your life I’m sure. In my case, I can’t help but feel incredibly thankful.

  • I’m thankful for my parents and family, who have raised me through war and exile, through almost wealth and almost poverty, and who have shown me how important it is to stay the course in finding yourself.
  • I’m so thankful for my wife, whom I love beyond words. She makes me whole and I am so lucky to have found her I can’t even understand how it could have ever happened. She’s so beautiful and intelligent and funny that I still wonder how she ever agreed to marry me.
  • I have a host of fantastic friends, both offline and online. I’m not only proud to call them my friends, but they’re also such great people that it makes me feel better about who I am for having their friendships.
  • I’m lucky enough to have found something I’m truly passionate about, that I’m able to take part in and contribute to in my modest way. And through that, I have found and become part of a community of people, well known or just random listeners, that amaze me every day by their kindness and intelligence and willingness to engage and share their time with me.
  • I’m also lucky enough to be working for an amazing company that makes products I not only love but am also really passionate about and proud of.
  • And last but not least, I’m lucky enough that I was born in this society of privileges, where healthcare and education are free, and where technological progress makes magic real.

So yeah, I do have everything, and I am so very thankful.

Which begs the question: what do get someone who already has everything? Every year on my birthday, a few of you take the time to wish me a happy birthday, and that is awesomely cool. But how about this: if you want to do a little something for me today, I’d love it if you didn’t just tweet or Google+ of Facebook me, but instead took that time to tell someone in your life you love them. Your parents, or your sibling, or just a friend… Why not? I’m sure most of us don’t do it enough, and believe me, once you have a roof over your head and food in your plate (and maybe a cool smartphone in your pocket), love is really all you need. So come on, go forth and spread the love a tiny bit more today. And then you can tell me about it on Twitter/Facebook/Google+. :)

Here, I’ll start: I love you all, and thank you for making my life amazing.

 

September 21st, 2013 | 19 Comments