Bigotry Blind Spot: Fighting Stereotypes While Stereotyping Others.

About a month ago, an episode of Law an Order SVU aired which tackled the subject of Gamergate. For those who may not be familiar, Gamergaters describe themselves as being part of a leaderless consumer revolt against a lack of ethical standards in gaming journalism. However, since Gamergate got its start as a result of a tell-all expose from the boyfriend of feminist indie game designer Zoe Quinn, the movement is seen by feminists as a concerted effort by misogynists to promote anti-woman values and run women out of the gaming industry.

It is the latter description of Gamergate that the aforementioned episode of Law and Order bases its script on. In the show, male gamers are portrayed as monsters who hate women and will do everything in their power to silence any female voice. Anyone with even a cursory understanding of gaming and gamers can see this episode for the alarmist propaganda that it is, but what I find most interesting is the response it has received.

Gamers were angry (and rightfully so) at the monstrous portrayal of gaming as a whole and male gamers in particular. They were upset at all the stereotypes and outright lies that were being shown on the screen and promoted as truth. How could anyone believe such baseless nonsense, they wonder.

Except this is nothing new. In fact, some of the same people criticizing the show for stereotyping a fandom have themselves stereotyped other fandoms in similar ways. One particular discussion, which I read in the comments section of a video belonging to a youtuber who is respected in the Gamergate movement, involved the harsh stereotyping and hatred of bronies. According to the comments, males who watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic are all immature man-children, fags and horsefuckers, who live in their mothers' basements and want to stay 12 forever.

Someone asked how this is any different from the stereotype espoused by feminists and the mainstream media that males who play video games are all immature man-children, misogynists and harassers, who live in their mothers' basements and want to stay 15 forever. It was almost impressive, the level of mental gymnastics some people went through to explain why the stereotypes against themselves are unjust, but the stereotypes they use against others are perfectly justified.

I use bronies as an example, but I've seen similar stereotyping in regards to other fandoms such as trekkies, whovians, larpers, anime fans, metal fans, etc, etc.

What I found particularly interesting was the use of the argument that "stereotypes exist for a reason," when explaining why they're justified in stereotyping others, and how this justifies condemning an entire fandom. Yet the people who use this argument do not apply it to themselves. Should it not logically follow that, since stereotypes exist for a reason, then the episode Law and Order SVU was a fair portrayal of gamers. After all, there wouldn't be a stereotype that all gamers are racists, homophobes, misogynists, and overweight man-children who wouldn't last 5 minutes in the real world without their mothers to bring them bags of cheetos and cases of Mountain Dew, if there weren't some nugget of truth to that statement; so therefore we should assume that everyone who plays video games fits that description and judge them accordingly.

The fact of the matter is that a hobby or an interests tells you absolutely nothing about a person, except that they have that particular hobby or interest. Think of how it makes you feel when you read articles online or see on the news and in popular TV shows the stereotype that gamers are a bunch of sexist shut-ins. It's doubly frustrating because you know, you KNOW, that there are gamers of every kind. There are male and female gamers. There are Black, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and Indian gamers. There are Christian gamers, Jewish gamers; Wiccan, Buddhist, Shintoist, and Hindu gamers. There are rich gamers and poor gamers. Every color, every stripe, and every creed; gaming is open to it all.

These are all very different people, with different backgrounds and beliefs. Many of them could have absolutely nothing in common with each other except an interest in games. Yet, according to the stereotypes, these people are all white heterosexual males who live in their mother's basements, stuffing their mouths with fast food and energy drinks. As if being a gamer will magically change who you are on a fundamental level and turn you into that.

It's stupid to say that about gamers, but it is equally stupid to say that about other hobbies and interests as well. There is more to a person than his entertainment choices.

An issue of the Penny Arcade web comic once said that the difference between an homage and a ripoff is whether or not you personally like it. By that token, it seems that the difference between a ridiculous stereotype and a "hard truth" is whether or not you are the target.

Cloud Busted.

So, I just learned today that OnLive no longer exists as a company. They've gone out of business, and at the end of this April 2015 the lights will go out on their servers. This means every game, every save file, an OnLive customer may have will be gone forever.

I can't say I didn't see this coming from miles away. It comes as a disappointment, but I'm not surprised by this outcome. I'd seen the writing on the wall years ago and jumped ship. The last entry I made on the subject of OnLive was all the way back in 2012, and I had some less than flattering things to say about it.

Back when OnLive was first announced I was blown away by the technology. My immediate thought was "this is the future!" I was an instant fan. I created an OnLive account the very instant they began taking sign ups. I purchased a Microconsole and filled my library with games. I became a regular on the OnLive forums and became a somewhat respected member of the community. I have an OnLive beanie hat which I won in a contest, and I my profile had a special avatar that I also won.

I began sensing that all was not well with OnLive back in 2011. There had been signs previously, such as games being delayed or canceled, but the E3 announcement of that years and the monthe following was when it really became obvious that OnLive was doomed. The forum was sent into a state of turmoil and confusion. Dissatisfied fans vented their frustrations (myself among them), only to be rebuffed by true believers who refused to admit that something was very wrong. Even after OnLive went bankrupt in 2012, the atmosphere among the OnLive fanbase was one of intense denial.

"Just be patient" became something of a mantra. The OnLive faithful constantly assured those who were dissatisfied that things would get better soon. There was always some reason why OnLive couldn't deliver on its promises, but would soon. "They need to renegotiate contracts," or "they're restructuring," or "Just wait until E3" were common excuses. They said the same lines month after month after year after year.

It got so bad that even the creator of the original OnLive fan forum lost faith. He abandoned the OnLive forum and made a new one for Ouya instead. I guess this guy just has a penchant for making fan communities for failed experiments.

I made my final break from OnLive during the time leading up to the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One. At that time I still had an OnLive Microconsole connected to my TV, mostly because I was too lazy to remove it. Actually, I think it's because a part of me still held out some small hope that things would get better.

My original plan, back in 2011, was to use OnLive as my main gaming platform and skip buying the next gen consoles entirely; maybe picking one up for the exclusives after the price had gone down. My mid 2012 I was purchasing console copies of games I had for OnLive because I knew the company's days were numbered. I got the PS4 and Xbox One on launch day. When it came time to hook up my PS4 I noticed the OnLive microconsole, sitting alone and neglected, having not been used in months. I finally put the thing out of its misery. I disconnected it, stuffed it in a closet, and used the ethernet cable it was taking up to connect my PS4 instead.

I continued to visit the OnLive forum solely because I'd become familiar with the people there, but soon even that wasn't enough. I haven't visited the OnLive forum in over half a year. Now OnLive is dead, but it wouldn't surprise me if there were still some diehard fans convinced that it will come back.

I'm just glad I jumped ship when I did.

Huge Shelves.

My father had a huge video collection on VHS. When I was growing up we had a VCR next to every television. This was the world before the internet, on-demand programming, or DVRs. Back then if you wanted to watch a show more than once you either waited for a re-run or you set your VCR to record the show on a primitive, film-based video cassette.

My dad loved VHS tapes. He was on a first-name basis with the owner of a local video rental store, and when that store went out of business my dad was there to take two of their gigantic video shelves before they could be sent off to the landfill. Those things stretched from floor to ceiling, a constant presence that dominated the living room. If we wanted a video, we'd go to those shelves and browse the selection on offer. Movies, TV shows, home videos, cartoons, and sports programming were all represented in that collection.

Those shelves were more than just my dad's personal collection, it was a record of all our lives. My personal video cassettes contained Saturday morning cartoons and episodes of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. My middle brother recorded episodes of Saved by the Bell, and my second-oldest brother recorded wrestling matches. At any family event, my father could be counted on to be standing in the distance with a camcorder on his shoulder. Those recorded memories would be added to the shelves, so any one of us could view them at any time. Weddings, family reunions, graduations, and singular moments such as the first time I was sat on the lap of a mall Santa and told him what I wanted for Christmas.

When we moved into a smaller place, my mother tried to forbid my dad from taking his video collection with him. We simply didn't have the space to accommodate all those video cassettes. My father seemed to comply at first, but then Dad knocked on my door in the middle of the night. He instructed me and my middle brother to follow him into the U-Haul truck, and we moved all those boxes of cassettes into our new home.

My mother woke up to a nasty surprise. To say that she was furious to find her hallway stuffed with boxes of old VHS cassettes would be an understatement. Seeing the need to save space, I suggested to Dad that maybe he could start a DVD collection instead. I even purchased a VHS/DVD copying machine and gave it to him as a Christmas present, so that he could transfer his favorite videos to more space-friendly DVDs. He never used it.

At the time I didn't understand my dad's obsession with those primitive cassettes. They were old tech, after all, and DVDs were so much better in every conceivable way. Then again, I wasn't a fan of physical media in the first place. I was in the MP3 generation; I wanted to download everything and save it to a hard drive, or stream it online. I didn't have time to waste fumbling with discs, and I certainly didn't want to clutter my living space with them.

I don't care about VHS, DVDs, or Blu-Ray discs. Give me Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Vudu. I'd even went so far as to put my book collection into storage and replace it with an Amazon Kindle reading device. Physical media, in my mind, is dead.

But Dragon Age: Inquisition was approaching its retail release.

As a fan of the Dragon age series despite the abysmal failure that was Dragon Age 2, I naturally pre-ordered the game disc and waited for the magical day to arrive. On my Playstation 4 I would often pass by advertisements for the digital version of the game and not give them a second glance. I didn't even stop to consider the digital version to be an option for me, even once.

When the day came I waited for the UPS delivery truck to arrive at my house. The thought did cross my mind that I could have been playing the new game more than 12 hours ago if I'd purchased the digital version, but why would I want to do that? Of course I wanted the physical disc; it was just so much BETTER than some immaterial digital copy.

When the game arrived I eagerly tore off the wrapping and opened the case. I inserted the disc into the console with ritualistic familiarity and waited for it to install. I imagined how nice the disc case would look on my video game shelf, which is filled with titles for the Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Xbox One, and PS4. My collection would be much larger and encompass a much wider range of consoles, but it was only fairly recently in my life that time, circumstance, and money allowed me to start my own collection. In the future I hope to expand my collection to include games and consoles from all over gaming history, from the Atari 2600 to present day devices. I want games from the NES, SMS, SNES, Genesis, PS1, N64, Saturn, Dreamcast, and so on and so forth.

This is the point when I realized that I have much more in common with my father than I like to admit. Our entertainment mediums of choice may be different, but the same kind of passion drives me to collect game discs and cartridges as drove him to collect VHS tapes. Perhaps someday, if I ever have children, there'll be huge shelves filled with games that will be as much a part of their lives as my father's shelves of VHS tapes.

Who knows? I, for one, am no longer going to view the collection of physical media as a waste of time.

Annoying Things Let's Players Do.

I sometimes like to watch Let's Plays, but for all the many LP channels available on youtube, there are very few that I find even tolerable, much less enjoyable. Here's a short list of some of the things that some Let's Players do that I, as a viewer, find irritating.

1. They talk too much.

Of course LPers have to talk; it's kind of how this works. What I'm referring to are the type of LPers who feel the need to fill every single second with non-stop banter, as if they're afraid that if a single moment passes that isn't filled with their "witty" commentary that they'll lose the audience's attention.

This is even worse when the LPer himself has no idea of what to say in the first place, leading to awkward monologues about things having absolutely nothing to do with the game they're supposed to be reacting to. It gets doubly annoying when they are so busy talking over the game that they miss a crucial piece of information, then spend the next 20 minutes stuck on a section that could have been completed easily if they'd just listened to the instructions or clues that they'd talked over.

2. They talk too little.

The reverse is when we have LPers who hardly talk at all. You may get a comment here or there, but most of the video is just the sounds of the game itself. Unless your video is specifically labeled as a walkthrough rather than a Let's Play, I expect you to speak up.

3. They try too hard to be funny.

I don't know what it is about LPers who think that their videos must be part gameplay footage and part standup comedy routine. There are certainly many instances when it's appropriate to crack jokes, but when nearly ever single sentence out of your mouth is a joke, you're simply trying too hard.

The best comedy in LPs, in my experience, flows organically from the action of the game itself. Sometimes things happen that are genuinely funny, or an insightful LPer can make something funny. If it happens it happens, but comedy isn't something that can be forced; and trying to cram humor into your commentary where it isn't needed has the very opposite of your intended effect.

Humor can make an LP enjoyable, but it doesn't have to be your main goal. I've seen several LPers who could have been good if they would just stop trying to be funny all the time and act more naturally. Humor isn't everyone's strong suit. A more serious LPers who occasionally makes a good joke is far more valuable to me than LPers who bend over backwards in their awkward, flailing attempts to make me laugh.

4. They think they can sing.

Don't. Just don't.

5. They ignore the game.

I don't mind if an LPer occasionally goes off topic, but some LPers hardly say a word about the actual game they're playing. This tends to happen more often with LPs involving more than one commentator, at which point it basically turns into those two or more people bantering among themselves with some gameplay footage in the background.

Part of the enjoyment I derive from LPs is observing the reactions of the person who is playing it. When the tragic scene with the death of a main character is playing, I'm interested in the LPer's thoughts on what's on the screen, not his thoughts about his bitch of a girlfriend or where he and his friends hung out last night.

6. The video/audio quality is terrible.

I'm not asking for crystal clear 1080p here. I expect, at the very least, to be able to see what's going on in the game. I also expect the audio to be in sync and of a good enough quality that I can understand what the characters are saying.

I expect the LPer's commentary to NOT sound like it was recorded using a set of tin cans and a tape recorder. I expect the volume levels to be balanced so that the commentary doesn't completely drown out the game audio, and vice versa.

You don't need stunning production values, but producing videos that don't put your audience at risk of migraine headaches may help a little with that whole "getting people to actually watch your content" thing.

7. Too many obscure references.

I don't expect to get every reference a person may make, and it's okay to make jokes that reference some material that not everyone may have seen. However, if the core of your commentary hinges on your audience having an intimate knowledge of some Japanese anime or manga, to the point where much of your video becomes incomprehensible without that understanding, then you need to cool it with the references.

For example, it's okay to say "this guy reminds me of (insert anime character here) from (insert anime series here). While I may not get the reference, I have at least been provided with all the info I need should I someday decide to watch that show for myself. A few jokes related to that character and/or series are also okay. However, if you start using the names of minor characters from that show as nicknames for the game characters, as if everyone is supposed to know what you're talking about, you need to cool it. If you make constant references to some in-show joke that appeared in episode so-and-so of season such-and-such, you need to cool it.

There's giving the occasional wink to fellow fans of your favorite series, and then there's rendering your LPs incomprehensible to all but the most obsessive otakus.

8. They're BORING!

I realize that people have off days, but COME ON! Try to be at least a little enthusiastic about what you're doing. I'm not saying you should be bouncing in your chair and cheering with excitement at every little thing, but at the very least try not to sound like you're half asleep. If you're not enthused about your own videos, then why should I be?

This is not a time for inhibitions. Everyone and their grandmas are doing LPs these days, so that leaves you with one important question to answer: "why should I choose to watch you rather than one of the thousands of other LPers out there?" What do you bring to the table that will hold my attention?

The answer is YOU. Your personality, your commentary, your unique style is what sets you apart and makes your videos worth watching over other LPers who are playing the exact same game. Mumbling into the microphone like you've just downed a heavy dose of Ambien tells me that you don't care and, by extension, neither should I.

Video games are not the place for stupid politics.

I can't speak for everyone else, but I'm personally tired of either being insulted and talked down to like I'm a child, or treated like I have to be put on a leash before I lose control and rape a bunch of women like some kind of misogynist werewolf.

"Oh, you like video games? You must be some overweight, pasty white straight guy who hates women and is incapable of forming a complete sentence without dropping an F-bomb. Now sit still while I enlighten you about the plight of women/gays/[minority of the week] until you thoroughly understand what a disgusting human being you are. Asshole!"

I'm black and I'm gay (too bad I'm not a woman, or I'd have the minority trifecta), and I'm far from the only queer or person of color who likes games. There are also plenty of women who enjoy video games as well. Are there issues that come with belonging to one of these groups? Yes there are, but what community doesn't have bigoted idiots in their ranks? Show me any group that is unanimously, 100% inclusive. Such a thing does not exist, because human beings are not unanimously, 100% inclusive. There is no place where you won't find bigotry in one form or another. No group is completely free of it.

The mark of an inclusive group isn't whether there is no bigotry to be found, but whether said bigotry is the exception or the rule. Gaming, for the most part, is one of the most color blind and inclusive communities there is, because any gamer with sense doesn't give a shit who you are or where you came from. What truly matters to them is, "can you play?"

Which is not to say that racism, sexism, and homophobia aren't a problem. Anyone who spends time on Xbox Live can attest that there are assholes who use the voice channels as a means to spew their ignorance. There are also trolls who may or may not be bigots themselves, but are quick to dish out racial slurs because they want to piss you off and that's one of the quickest and easiest ways to do it.

Every group has its fringe elements. When, for example, we see footage of feminists spouting extremist views, others are quick to say that they don't represent all feminists and urge people not to judge the entire group based on the few bad apples. This is a reasonable request. However, these same people will point to the trolls on gaming forums or on Xbox Live and act as if these people represent all gamers. Is anyone else seeing a double standard?

While we're on the subject of feminism, I'm sick of reading articles about how my hobby is somehow all about persecuting women. I'm tired of "critics" who feel it is their mission to tell me how everything is sexist, and that I'm a misogynist for enjoying games. If one woman is harmed in a video game it's horribly sexist; never mind the hundreds of men that were shot, stabbed, burned, mutilated, blown up, or tortured as well. If a woman has an exposed midriff it's exploitative, because women are clearly saints who would NEVER lust after men or desire to see a shirtless stud smiling suggestively at the camera.

Were video games primarily a female pastime, there would be shirtless dudes aplenty, as well as a vast majority of females in leading roles. A male character who serves as more than just support for or as a love interest to the female hero would be few and far between. It would be exactly as video games are now, but in reverse.

How do I know this? Because there ARE female-dominated media and, surprise surprise, that's precisely how they function. Anita Sarkeesian once parodied the prevalence of male protagonists in video games with a song titled "Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor." What are we to say about all the vaginas that play leading roles in romance fiction, or in the urban fantasy genre? Shirtless men in sensual poses flood the covers of romance fiction, enticing their female readers with their come-hither looks. The Twilight series of novels, which sparked a cultural phenomenon among women, was basically about a female protagonist (Bella) being serviced and admired by men (hot men, of course). Let's not even get into Fifty Shades of Grey, the popular erotic novel that got its start as Twilight fan fiction.

The gay fiction genre has seen a huge surge of female writers, to the point where female authors of gay romantic fiction are the dominant majority. These stories of gay men are written primarily by straight women for a straight female audience. Here we have objectified men engaging in sexual fantasy for the excitement and pleasure of the female readers. Descriptions of toned arms, washboard abs, and large penises are a common sight in these works of fiction. There are some competently written stories to be found, but in my experience the characters in these stories rarely have any virtues beyond their physical appearance; at least none that are expounded upon with any real enthusiasm. What traces of personality these characters have more often serve merely as spice to add to their perceived sex appeal, rather than as fully developed character traits.

Granted my personal reading list doesn't constitute a significant sample size. Given that I tend to pull my reading list from what's most popular on the Amazon Kindle marketplace, it can at least be observed that the type of stories I described are the ones that are purchased most often. Again, pictures of men in various stages of undress are a common sight on the covers of these books.

This isn't just limited to romance. An article published by TOR, entitled Urban Fantasy and the Elusive Male Protagonist highlights how the female hero population explodes when it's mostly women who are reading the stories. In this genre, the leading role is most often held by a woman, with men serving primarily as supporting characters or as antagonists to be defeated by our brave female hero.

How about women's talk shows? Take Wendy Williams, as just a single example, who did Hot Guy Week, and who has a page on her show's website called "Guy Candy," in which she asked for "hot guys" to send photos of themselves to the show so they can be considered for the possibility of appearing in a future episode.

Can you imagine if men had a talk show? Sure, there are talk shows hosted by men, but none which are similar in style and content to the View, for example. If men had such a show at all it would instantly be accused of being sexist. If such a show placed an open call for "hot chicks" for a segment under the name of "eye candy," they'd be called misogynistic pigs. Such a show would be seen as an assault against women and be derided as a breeding ground for hate and bigotry. But, of course, that's only if men do it.

My point is that woman are sexual creatures, just as men are sexual creatures. Sexual desire is an intrinsic part of being human regardless of your gender. That is why sex appeal is such a successful selling point on both sides of the fence. It naturally follows that if one gender holds a majority role in an entertainment medium, there will be more content created to appeal to that demographic. It's not sexist that there are more males heroes in video games any more than it is sexist that there are more female heroes in urban fantasy novels.

Yet feminists would have us believe that if a medium that is consumed primarily by men has a larger number of male heroes compared to female heroes, it's sexist. Apparently, appealing to a female audience with female heroes and male eye candy is just fine, but appealing to a male audience with male heroes and female eye candy is misogyny.

Keep in mind that this is coming from a gay male. I have no interest in looking at girls with bared midriffs, but I'm not crying about it either. It can be argued that I, as a gay man, have far more reason to be pissed than any woman in regards to a lack of representation in video games. Here's something to think about:

Off the top of your head, list at least three strong female protagonists in video games.

If you're a gamer you've likely answered that question even before you've finished reading this sentence. Lara Croft, Samus Aran, and Jill Valentine immediately spring to my mind. Let's not forget other strong female characters such as Tifa Lockheart, Heather Mason, Chell, Bayonetta, Liara T'Soni, Lightning, Sarah Kerrigan, Jade, Alyx Vance, Aveline Vallen, and many others.

Now I want you to name three gay male protagonists. That is, any men who play leading roles in their game and happen to be gay. Go on, I'm waiting.

Okay, let's loosen the criteria a bit. He doesn't even have to be a protagonist. Any gay male character will do, so long as they're not portrayed as two-dimensional stereotypes or as comic relief. Anyone?

A bunch of you said Commander Shepherd, right? I would count that if it weren't for the fact that he was not allowed to be played as a gay man until the third game in his trilogy, and that inclusion was met with some controversy and outright anger from immature gamers who were threatened by the presence of gay people in their games. When, I ask, have you ever seen a controversy like this one, where gamers protested by bombing the game's ratings on metacritic, simply because the protagonist was female? That has never happened, to my knowledge.

How about a character that wasn't written by Bioware? Or a character that is specifically written as gay, rather than having it tacked on later in the series? Hmmm. The best I can come up with is Kanji Tatsumui from Persona 4, but it's debatable if he's actually gay. Some think he might be gay and others believe he's straight. It's never made explicitly clear in the game, though I get the impression that Kanji is probably straight, if a bit confused about his masculinity due to his love of arts and crafts.

Women can pick from many female characters to look up to, some of whom are the heroes of long running series that are loved by millions. Gay man, or even lesbian women, have no such character to represent them. The most we can hope for is the occasional dialogue option in an RPG, a comic relief sidekick, or an offensive stereotype.

Given all this, shouldn't I be writing article after article about how homophobic games are, or how there needs to be more gay inclusion in games? Hell no! Why? Because it doesn't matter in the slightest. I'm here to play games, not inject my identity politics into the gaming community and shove my PC rhetoric down everyone's throats.

This does not mean I don't want to see more gay people in games, but I also know that I won't get what I want by crying about how "oppressed" I am. Television and film are a primarily heterosexual space, but as those mediums matured and more people who are gay or gay friendly got involved, we saw an increase in gay characters as a result. Where before you couldn't even dream of seeing gay people on screen, we now have shows like Queer as Folk, the L word, Glee, and Modern Family, in which gay people play active rolls. Will and Grace introduced a generation to gay people in leading roles, and Brokeback Mountain became a part of pop culture. Captain Jack Harkness became a beloved character in Doctor Who and went on to be the leading man in his own spinoff series, Torchwood.

We're already beginning to see this in gaming. Bioware is at the forefront of gay inclusiveness in games, allowing players to have a leading roll as a gay, lesbian, or bisexual hero in their popular roleplaying games. Video games are still a young medium, so it will take time before we have whole gaming series led by gay protagonists, but that change will come as more gay and gay friendly people become involved in the development of video games, and gamers continue to express their support with their words and their dollars.

I don't care about gay inclusiveness in games because I don't have to. Inclusiveness is a natural byproduct of the free market. The way to enact change in a free market is not to tear down, but to build.

The funny thing is, women are fighting a battle that they've already won years ago. There are already plenty of women in games whose characters are given just as must depth as their male peers. What these people have a problem with is the way that females are stereotyped, calling this a grave injustice while ignoring the fact that EVERYONE is stereotyped, men included. Video games are no more guilty of this than film, television, and books are.

Perhaps the biggest mistake these people make is placing the blame on video games as a whole, as if the entire medium is an intelligent organism that is actively denying them. If someone doesn't like a TV show they'll blame the writers, or the director, or the studio. They would know that TV is just a technology, a content delivery system, and it's not the fault of the medium as a whole, and they certainly wouldn't stereotype every single person who watches television because of it. They would not say that all people who watch television are homophobic because there aren't enough gay people in leading roles on prime time shows, for example.

Yet this is the exact attitude that social justice warriors have with video games. Somehow it's the fault of video games as a whole that they're unhappy, and they judge every person who plays video games as guilty by association. This leads to their ridiculous claim that gamers, who are comprised of 1.2 billion people worldwide from all backgrounds, colors, and creeds are somehow all white heterosexual males who hate women. I suppose that includes all the gamers in China, Japan, Mexico, Thailand, and so on.

Since this post has gone on long enough, I will conclude by saying one thing directly to the social justice warriors who are determined to take a universal entertainment medium and make it all about their petty identity politics: BACK OFF!

Thought on free speech.

A problem that's all too common among those who claim to support free speech is that they don't seem to understand that free speech goes both ways.

In a sense, they are like children with an exciting toy. A child loves his toy when he gets to play with it, much like supporters of free speech love the idea when it means they get to say whatever they want. All too often, however, these same people balk when others begin to talk back, particularly if what the others say isn't entirely positive.

That's when they show their true colors. That's when, in their ever-increasing fear of criticism, they go on the attack. They threaten, they censor, they do whatever they can to make the other person shut up. They actively seek to deny the other party the same freedom of speech that they themselves enjoy. Much like the child with the toy, who throws a tantrum when he is asked to share.

Everything old is new again.

When I was a kid, we got our TV through an ugly indoor antenna, also known as rabbit ears. The reception was horrible. The channels were snowy at the best of times; completely obscured in signal noise at worst. Still, each Saturday morning I parked myself in front of the TV to watch cartoons. This was before DVRs existed, so we used VHS tapes.

My father, rest his soul, was a huge enthusiast of VHS tapes. When the local video rental store closed, Dad rushed over there and came home with two huge video shelves. Those things were so big they reached from floor to ceiling. Those ugly old things, filled with VHS tapes marked with hand-written labels, were a big part of my childhood. I was actually a little disappointed when, in our latest move, we had no choice but to leave those shelves behind.

When we got cable TV, it came as a revelation. Clear pictures without any snow, and so many channels to choose from. There were almost 90 of them! I watched Cartoon Network back when all they aired were old Warner Bros cartoons. Back then I never could have imagined that TV could get any better. I remember how my brother's friend would constantly input the number of one of the adult channels, over and over, in the hope of seeing a nipple. I also remember, as a developing lad, staying up to watch the R rated movies.

In a way, we never moved beyond that particular era of television. My father stuck with VHS tapes well into the DVD era, unable to part with the vast collection of tapes he'd accumulated over the decades. He eventually warmed up to DVDs, but he never collected them like he did with VHS.

We moved from cable to satellite, and got even more channels. I wasn't a fan. I spent more time on the internet or playing video games than watching TV. The older I got, the less TV I watched. By the time the 2000s rolled around I was getting nearly all my entertainment online. In this way, I guess you can say I was a cord cutter long before that actually became a thing.

About 3 or 4 years ago I stopped using my DirecTV DVR altogether. The last time I used it was about a year ago, out of curiosity. I'd actually forgotten that the device was even there. It no longer accepted commands via remote control, and I didn't care. When I upgraded my entertainment center in preparation for the next gen consoles I finally threw the DVR away.

Among the upgrades was a new TV. I'd been using a refurbished 720p television that was old even when I'd purchased it in 2007. I only had that TV so I could play video games in HD, so I guess it's appropriate that I only got a 1080p television for that same reason.

I didn't think much about my new TV. To me it was just a screen for gaming. I played around with the smart tv apps, but didn't think I'd ever use them. Out of curiosity, or perhaps I was simply feeling nostalgic, I purchased a TV antenna from I'd heard that you can get HD content through an antenna and I wanted to see it. I screwed in the coaxial cable, taped the antenna to a wall, and scanned for channels.

That was the moment I rediscovered television.

I had never seen such crystal clarity before. The images were so vivid it was like I was looking through a window. Even though I'd read that HD programming is available using an antenna, I was still in the mindset of the kid who constantly had to adjust the rabbit ears to get a semi-clear picture.

I've been a Netflix subscriber for some years, but I hadn't used that service as much as I probably should have, given the money I pay each month. I did watch the occasional movie, and I did go on a binge when I got into Doctor Who and when they released the new season of Arrested Development. I did all this on my computer, though, which probably explains why. My PC monitor may be good for web browsing, but it's lousy for everything else.

In fact, that moment when I plugged in that antenna was the first time I thought "this is HD!" So I start thinking "what else can I get on this thing?" Next thing I know I'm firing up Netflix and Hulu, which I normally only used at my PC. I was so used to the subpar image on my PC monitor and my ancient 720p TV, which was made by a third-rate company which went bankrupt in 2009.

It's like I traveled back in time, except not. I'm using an antenna, just like I did in the 80s and early 90s, but now I get crystal clear HD channels, at a quality that is actually superior to what you'd get from a cable or satellite provider. I'm using a TV Guide to find what to watch, but instead of a little book from the grocery store it's an app on my iPad.

The only thing I miss is having a DVR, but I guess Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video serve basically the same function.

PC gaming is not going to outdo consoles.

In any given discussion about the next generation consoles, it is inevitable that the subject of PC games is brought up. I felt it deserves a more thorough exploration. What follows are the common arguments made in favor of PC games, and and how I think they measure up in practical terms for the average consumer.

1. The PC has better graphics

This is a particular point of pride for the PC enthusiast, and it's an argument that gets bandied about a lot. The PC is superior, it is claimed, because the best graphics can only be found on the PC format

I've already discussed in my previous entry why graphics don't matter. Or, rather, why they only matter a fraction of a percent as much as those making the argument seem to think. If gaming history teaches anything, it's that graphics are a secondary concern. It is the frosting on the cake, not the cake itself. In real-world terms, the customer is quite happy with graphics they feel are "good enough" and neither know the difference between bump mapping and pixel shading nor care.

So long as a game doesn't look noticeably ugly (and few games nowadays manage that), graphics are not an issue. A film buff may have a lot to say about the use of computer effects, the lighting, the camera work, etc, but the average Joe who walks into a theater just wants to see a good movie. If a movie does have extravagant effects they will notice, but even then it will only have a positive effect on the viewer if those tricks are used well.

It is the same with video games. Impressive graphics are a bonus, but in general terms a game only has to look "good enough," and everything beyond that is just extra icing on the cake.

The hardcore enthusiasts you see in gaming forums and comment sections may decry a game as ugly if some textures are blurry or cry bloody murder if the resolution isn't high enough, but what they often fail to realize is that these things are not important to anyone but them.

2. The PC is cheaper.

This statement is both true and false, depending on the context. This statement is typically used in one of two ways. The first usage is the fact that PC games cost, on average, $10 less than their console counterparts. Factor in regular sales from the ever-popular Steam shop and that does add up to great savings. This usage of the argument is true, but with console manufacturers starting to hold their own sales and even give away games free of charge, it's becoming less true.

The second usage of this statement is to point out that, if one has a good eye for PC components, it's possible to build a PC with more powerful hardware than consoles for cheaper. It's worth noting that this form of the statement is most commonly used as a defense against the argument that gaming PCs are more expensive than consoles.

There is, however, a pretty big flaw in their logic. In order to achieve those cost savings, the consumer must already be intimately familiar with current PC hardware. They must also have the technical knowledge, as well as the patience, to assemble a PC by hand, configure it themselves, and troubleshoot any problems that may arise.

To someone who is not already a dedicated tech enthusiast, this means having to undergo exhaustive research to learn what PC components are needed, what they do, and how to assemble them. They must also learn what all those numbers and technical terms mean, how to compare them, and then from that make a cost/benefit judgment for each individual part. This may seem like child's play to a hardcore tech enthusiast, but for anyone else it's just frustrating busywork.

There's a reason why most people buy their vegetables at the supermarket instead of cultivating a garden. It's more work than they want. Buying at the store is more convenient than learning about how to properly care for a garden. It doesn't matter that home-grown vegetables are fresher, the convenience of buying your onions without fuss or worry is worth it.

Someone without the required expertise and temperament to build their own computers will likely buy them pre-built, and that is far more expensive than buying a console. The argument that you can build your own computer for cheaper hinges on everyone being as big of a PC enthusiast as the person making the argument, and that is not only wrong, but patently ridiculous.

3. the keyboard and mouse are superior.

Another common argument made in favor of PCs is the mouse and keyboard. It is considered by PC enthusiasts to be the ultimate gaming interface, superior in every way to the controllers used by video game consoles.

Little mention in these arguments is made about the keyboard, unless someone is talking about gaming keyboards with programmable macro keys. The discussion mostly revolves around the mouse, which is touted as a far more accurate method of control than the analog stick.

Again, the benefits of a mouse and keyboard are only truly appreciable to those who are already dedicated. For those for whom even a controller is a bit much, the mouse and keyboard is a convoluted mess. It can also be argued that there are those who find the simplicity of a controller to be preferable. It really comes down to personal preference.

In the end, the whole argument is rather moot. So long as a game can be played comfortably, none of this really matters. A shooter is just as fun on a console as it is on a PC, as the sales figures for such games suggest. Arguments about the mouse and keyboard vs the controller is mostly just splitting hairs. Neither control method is "better" than the other. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, and both play well with a game that has been specifically made for that interface.

4. PC games can be modded

It is said that PC games are superior because they can be modified. Certain games have quite active communities of users who create their own custom content and make them available for others to install into their own games. This can range from cosmetic changes, gameplay tweaks, or even whole new levels. There have even been successful games that originally started out as mods.

This is perhaps the only argument that I find to be true. User-generated content is perhaps the greatest benefit of PC gaming, assuming you're playing a game that has an active mod community. It is something that the console market should look into implementing. The absence of mod support, however, clearly has done nothing to slow console sales. It's a nice bonus, but it's not essential.

As far as convincing non-PC enthusiasts to buy gaming PCs, however, it's not a big enough selling point to convince them to either pay the huge cost of buying a gaming PC, or learning how to build a PC themselves. It's too much cost or effort for not enough gain.

5. Conclusion

The problem with the argument for PC gaming is that it only means anything if you're already a PC gamer. To someone who is already tech savvy, these arguments make sense. To someone who hasn't devoted themselves to tech, it's just noise.

For this reason, it is not possible for PC games to become the dominant form of gaming. It's simpler to "buy an Xbox" than "build a PC with an Intel processor, an Nvidia graphics card, a 1TB hard drive, 8 gigs of ram, with a Logitech gaming keyboard and mouse." In the end, simplicity and user-friendliness are better product sellers than raw performance. Unless PC gaming becomes much more streamlined, you won't convince anyone who's not already a techie to make the switch.

Console Specs Don't Matter.

The next generation of video game consoles (the Xbox One and the Playstation 4) is well behind us. Millions of people are enjoying their purchase, or purchases, and eagerly looking forward to what this new generation of gaming hardware has in store for us in the future.

There is, unfortunately, a darker side of this generational shift, which can be found in the dark bowels of the internet. It is a phenomenon known as the "console wars," which reaches a fever pitch well before the consoles being discussed are even released, and often starts before they're even officially announced. All over the internet people argue about how powerful each console is or isn't, going over the minutiae of the systems' specs with a fine-toothed comb, splitting every hair and being as pedantic as possible.

This particular generation is no different. If anything, those engaged in this "war" seem to have fine-tuned the process of arguing semantics and minutia down to an art form. They had to, seeing as how, outside of relatively minor differences, the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 are so identical in terms of hardware that they're practically the same machine. This is not to say that there are no differences to discuss, but said people would have you believe that these differences are far larger and more important than they actually are.

This argument over hardware specs and graphical capabilities is engaged in with such passion, as if this factor alone will decide the victor of this console generation. I can only assume that these people all have collective amnesia, or else they haven't been very observant of history. When discussing the possible success of a console, its hardware should be one of the last items on your list, because a console's power has never determined its success. Ever.

There has never been a single console generation where the system with the most power ended up becoming the dominant system for that generation. Not one. When you consider this, the argument about console specs and graphical capabilities is like a battle between mice over a bit of moldy cheese, yet each generation that's all people seem to talk about, despite its thorough and historically proven insignificance to the overall discussion.

A console becoming dominant based on its graphical capabilities has never happened before. It's an occurrence that is entirely without precedent. Last generation saw the PS3 playing catch-up to the Xbox 360, only recently managing to squeak ahead in sales by a tiny margin, and both those systems losing to the Wii. The generation before that saw the PS2 demolishing the far more powerful Xbox. Before that the PS1 did better than the N64. The original Gameboy, with its simple, black-and-white graphics crushed all competition so brutally that it was almost disturbing. The Nintendo DS far outpaced the PSP, and now the Nintendo 3DS is so thoroughly trouncing the PS Vita that it's almost painful to watch.

This is, of course, not to say that it's impossible for a powerful console to become the dominant one. What this data does prove, however, is that such a console becoming the dominant one would be nothing more than a coincidence. The system specs would not be the deciding factor by any means. Such a system would owe its success to its library of games, as well as the services is offers, and nothing more.

When it comes down to it, the majority of customers don't care about specs. That is why you will only find the argument about specs among the hardcore enthusiasts who inhabit gaming forums, or tech buffs on similar forums and blogs. It's an argument that only holds value and meaning to them, but which has no impact on the majority of consumers, who do not dedicate their lives to such things. No matter how big a deal enthusiasts make of it, they are, in effect, arguing over nothing.

History has proven that hardware does not sell consoles; good games do. People do not buy consoles because of their GPUs or ram, they buy consoles for the games on offer, as well as the services each console provides. That is the crucial difference, the determining factor of a console's success. To focus so intensely on the hardware and the graphics is completely missing the point, and serves no purpose other than to waste everyone's time.

So, which console is better? No one knows. No one can know. Anyone who claims to have a definitive answer for that question is either lying through his teeth or is speaking entirely out of personal bias. It's simply far too early to tell which console will prevail. The Xbox One's TV integration strategy may win it the support of the consumers, or the PS4 may manage to acquire a superior games library. The Wii U may see a massive spike in sales, as has happened to the Nintendo 3DS, and go on to outsell both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4. Unless you have a TARDIS stashed somewhere, it's impossible to know for certain what will happen in the coming years, and anyone who declares a victor this early is deluding themselves.

For now, I have only one bit of advice to give to prospective buyers: wait and see. If one or more of the current consoles has games that appeal to you, go ahead and buy it. If one or more of the consoles has an upcoming game (or games) that appeal to you, buy it. If, in the coming years, one or more of the consoles has some games released that you want to play, buy it. If one or more of the consoles has a feature that appeals to you, buy it. That's the only relevant advice on this subject, and everything else is just conjecture.