Category Archives: Social Issues
It was brought to my attention recently that there’s an Assassin’s Creed movie in the works, which got me a little more excited than I expected. The honest truth is I’ve played maybe two hours of the entire series (which I promise I’m hoping to change very soon). But it’s always intrigued me a ton; the whole idea of the Animus and past-lives, assassins, and the style and art of the game have totally drawn me in.
Even with little experience, I’m pretty stoked about the movie and will definitely be seeing it, especially considering Ubisoft’s allegedly firm stance on retaining creative control. Most of us gamers have been sorely let down by film adaptions of popular franchises, so it’s easy to be cynical on whether or not the film will be worth seeing. I’m hoping it will.
So here’s what I’m not too excited about: they announced the casting of Michael Fassbender apparently as a lead according to this article from Variety. It’s specficially worded as:
“Michael Fassbender was our first choice” to play the franchise’s iconic hooded hero
That’s kind of a let-down, assuming they follow the games and that hero is Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad, a very Syrian kind of guy. It’s ironic to make such a casting and then conclude with these sentiments:
By controlling more of the creative through UMP, Ubisoft hopes it doesn’t wind up with another “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,”
Funny, since one of the biggest critisims was that film’s casting of predominately white actors.
I managed to spend about an hour at the NY/NJ Tech Group emergency meetup / protest yesterday. Listening to the very influential speakers and just the general chatter really got me thinking about what SOPA/PIPA means to me.
I’ve never been an angel. I was a huge pirate during my high-school / college years; at my most ignorant I’d brag at how many thousands of dollars worth of stolen content I owned.
But now, as a functioning adult and someone who’s hoping to break into an industry that is victimized by piracy (gaming, and art to an extent), I am doing my best to rectify those choices by paying for the content I enjoy as much as possible. I can thank Amazon, Pandora, Netflix, Steam and even iTunes for that. Through these websites I have discovered new shows, movies, games, music, books, and the like, all of which I am able to watch and enjoy knowing I paid for it or supported it legally.
Something of note, though: In my many years as a rabid fangirl of many franchises, I can say with upmost confidence that 90% of the time, discovering the series’ and artists that I currently love was through a method that would be considered illegal either by current or future “laws”. I think that stands true for a lot of people in my generation, and likely most in those after me. I can’t even tell you how many songs and artists I discovered from fan-made music videos on youtube or gaming streams. Or how many shows I got into because I saw them at a college meeting or a clip online. How many games I discovered playing on a friend’s account. How many old passions were rekindled because I ran into a great fanart or fanfic or an animated GIF.
Legislation like SOPA and PIPA would do nothing but hinder this process of discovery and the spread of quality entertainment. In fact, I believe it would cause the complete opposite by encouraging a shadier and perhaps more risky internet “black market” by making content harder to discover and enjoy.
It’s strange how 10 years can change things. Despite the impact 9/11 had on me and my family and the sad losses we faced, I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t feel like a bad, distant dream these days. But as I began to write this months ago, everything came back to me. My heart raced and my eyes teared, because that day was all too real.
So this might be kind of long-winded, but, I thought it was worth writing as a reminder to myself and perhaps as a form of venting.
The subject on what puts us on a different level from the countless other living things around us has been something humankind has debated for ages. We know we’re different. We know we’re special. But why? What is it that sets us apart from our animal counterparts? Why is it that we are the dominate species now and have been for thousands of years? What is it about our race that put us so far on top of the totem pole?
There are countless theories coming from as many sources, a good chunk of which are sometimes completely contradictory. Religious and scientific, personal and global.
I thought about it after reading an article from Deadspin linked by @Wired about how a robot apparently was able to write a better news story than a human. In the end, it isn’t particularly surprising that a program could create an automated report based on facts, data, and randomly interjected descriptive words. But it has people wondering; will human writers be replaced by robots? Is this the start of something we’ve seen way too many times in movies but coming eerily close to reality?
Everything evolutionary can be argued as an adaption for survival. Even some of the most beautiful displays mother nature has to offer have some sort of practical function. Attracting mates, pollination, camouflage. Very few creatures in the animal kingdom display a true creative flare; even less do it for no reason at all.
Humanity’s ability to think creatively and innovate is what I feel TRULY sets us apart. There are still tons of other practical factors, of course. Our bodies’ efficient energy usage, for instance, as being bi-pedal helped us out-endure our prey. Advanced communication abilities. Our intelligence. And then we used tools to help us, we created machines to do what we couldn’t do ourselves, and we dominate the world to work for us. We were able to solve the problems that would otherwise have been our downfall. Irrigation allowed us to rely on plants for food, allowed us to become stationary and create communities. Domestication assured us we’d always have the meat or protection we’d need. This is both a blessing and a curse, but in the end it’s the idea of abstract thinking that I believe puts us ahead.
As an artist, I think the other large part of what makes us different is our ability to create for the sake of creation. At some point in our history, we started to draw pictures. Further down the line, the pictures no longer needed meaning. We create music, write stories, and express our emotions not for survival (although some may argue that in a therapeutic way, it is) but just because. We want to. It feels good. So we do it.
That’s what sets us apart from animals. But what about robots? What about AI?
Computers can do amazing things it’s almost frightening. They can even think, so to speak. Anything involving numbers and algorithms, formulas and facts, a computer can do better than most people. But what they cannot do, not yet anyway, is create. Not truly. Yes, we have robots who draw, but all that is really based on software with pre-set factors and/or randomization at best.
It’s popular belief that the moment of eclipse when robots take over the world is when one can truly feel something real. Have an abstract thought, question existence, feel love or hatred. I wouldn’t disagree, however, I feel the pre-cursor to this evolution is when AI can truly create something new and beautiful and purposeless without being guided to do so by programing. It’s a scary thought because while the idea of AI being able to think freely or feel emotion is a long-way off, their ability to be creative seems much closer to home and realistic. What if creation is the stepping stone to emotion?
I don’t know much about science or programming or AI, honestly. But I guess the whole human vs robot apocalypse isn’t so far-fetched after all. There still has to be a lot of factors to allow it to happen, of course. Free-thinking and creative software on its own can, at best, completely shut us out of the digital world. A social shock perhaps, yes, and westernized nations reliant on anything computerized will find themselves extremely vulnerable. But we still have the ability to go outside and farm ourselves food and hunt.
What the AI would need is the hardware (body) to function in, and manipulate its environment. It would also need a lot of bodies. Power in numbers, after all. Lastly, an unlimited power-source. So that’s the golden combination. Solar-energy powered self-thinking painterly robots en masse will be humanity’s downfall. One can only hope mercy is a part of that formula.
So I was browsing around the interwebs, and came across one of about 3000 articles tackling the subject of women in gaming, and how we are perceived as a consumers.
It actually didn’t make me want to kill myself:
This is always kind of a touchy subject, but it also sparks some interesting thoughts. I really like the way this writer explained her neutral view on things: why do companies think making games “female friendly” means having to cover them up more?
Don’t get me wrong, I think sometimes we have some extreme ridiculousness when it comes to female game characters.
Among some quick thoughts:
In retrospect, these girls make Lara Croft look saintly.
But is it that much different when Kratos runs around in a loin-cloth?
A lot of the places we see of the over-sexualizing of female characters in games also happens to be from our favorite nerd country, Japan. And while I don’t want to be the target of fanboy terrorism, cause I know some gamers hold Japanese games in high regard, but it’s also a reflexion of culture. Women in Japan are not as liberalized and independent as Americans are. And the way the Japanese deal with sexuality is a completely different story. Obviously, those cultural aspects are going to leak their way into their games.
I feel like American gaming definitely has come a long way. In fact, I feel like we never really had the issue with exploitation as badly as the Japanese have. Still, we do have to keep in mind that up until fairly recently the market was always geared to your 18-35 fan base. The companies have caught on that we ladies like games, too. But gearing games towards women doesn’t necessarily mean dumbing down the eye candy (it’s not like we don’t have our share of topless dudes to stare at), but more an education of the masses. Girls like games, we like the stuff in games that guys like. We like the bloodshed, kicking ass in combat, explosions and shooting zombies.
The issue is lots of people don’t realize that, and sometimes the guys expect or assume that we don’t. In return, a lot of the casual girl gamers themselves may not realize they would most likely also enjoy what makes a game tick, cause advertisements suggest it’s for guys. Sometimes, they don’t want to be open about it for fear of being poked fun at.
In retrospect, I also feel like guy gamers should take a step back and think “Is this really how I want the companies to feel about me?” The fact that catering to male fan base is assumed to be successful with lots of cleavage and bouncing boobs. I personally would feel super offended if game companies thought posting up a Brad Pitt clone with swords was supposed to make me want to buy a game. That could just be me, though, and it’s not JUST a gaming issue. Being in Graphic Design and dealing with advertisement, I would know. Sex sells.
I’ve always been open about being a chick online and in games, and I would defend myself to say it’s not for attention, but more a wake-up call to the people that, hey, girls play games, it’s not that big a deal. I hate special treatment, or comments in vent. Is it really that surprising? Really?
Helping boosts sales for the females is simply a matter of waiting it out and not making stupid assumptions. A growing up of the community is needed, but it’s already happening, so I think with time, that balance will come.