Saturday 25 February 2012

ART IS A FLACCID PENIS: the Death of the Brindle Blog

When my brother John asked me if I would write an article for his video games blog (“asked” being used here as an uncommon but technically correct synonym as listed in Webster's New World Thesaurus for “viciously and cold-heartedly blackmailed with certain ill-gotten photographs”), I was all too happy to oblige him. When I in turn sought permission to write an article about whether games are art or not, he said “don't take the fucking piss jimmy you know the rules argybargy wot wot pip pip” and some other British things that I'm pretty sure mean “yes, please do.”

No one can accuse little Jimmy Brindle of misjudging an audience, and I know nothing moistens your cuntflaps like a self-legitimizing exploration of the question Are games art? Some may argue that we’ve settled this debate already, the lot of us coming away with our heels dug into our preferred answers. But while it’s generally agreed that games have the capacity to be legitimate art, the theoretical concerns underpinning that debate - what legitimacy looks like for games, who confers it, and what relation it has to other artforms - did not die but instead reassembled themselves in a new popular resurgence of ludology vs narratology (i.e. ‘ontologically suspect formalism vs something else apparently about emotions,’ a debate about aesthetic quality now stumbling across the blogosphere in the sheepskin of a methodological debate academia settled five years ago).

Saturday 4 February 2012

Moral Psychopaths: Blizzard's community policy is a sense-free zone

Once upon a time, on a little World of Warcraft server where I used to play, there was a guild called <LAZERYATTACKPEWPEW>. And that would have been the end of the story – but this was a Roleplaying server, where special rules demanded that guild names accord with the game’s atmosphere of cod-medieval fantasy. One day, the guild’s leader got a letter from a community moderator. which said the guild’s name had been reported for violating the roleplay naming policy and changed accordingly. With a wave of his magic wand, the moderator had given the guild a new name, far more in keeping with the ethos of roleplay: <Sword attack klangklang>.

This was the story that came to mind last week when Fox Van Allen reported on Joystiq that Blizzard’s swear filter had until recently censored 'homosexual' and 'transsexual' but let through 'fag' and 'faggot'. The connection struck me not because the whimsical flouting of policy and the predictable wailing and gnashing of roleplayer teeth that ensued are any way comparable either to the scandal of the swear filter or the hubbub surrounding it, but because it demonstrates how frequently Blizzard are either unwilling or unable to understand the purpose of their own rules. Come with me, traveller, on a journey into the crazy world of Warcraft.