How 'The Red Strings Club' Sabotages Its Hopeful Cyberpunk Vision

Innes has some important context of the human cost of using the “one of our developers is trans” defense here: https://twitter.com/innesmck/status/955725915803324416

I think it’s important to keep that in mind when discussing this. The last thing I want on here of all places is someone’s identity being a lynchpin of discussion.

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Also I think I’m the only mod awake right now so let me just say that I’m expecting everyone to stay in their lanes here, and to DM me or flag a post if there’s something you need addressing.

This is absolutely a rule 1 focused discussion and we as a team will be enforcing heavily.

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Ye, I think this conversation will continue to happen (good thing we’re all used to stories about unending cycles from games because we sure are living them) because it’s hard to reconcile ignoring that Nintendo HR took orders from GamerGate less than two years ago and never actually did anything to show they’d realised how big an error they made (seriously, Intel tried to backpedal their dropping of an ad campaign via announcing a $300m diversity hiring campaign including scholarships). Then everyone quietly forgot that happened and ask “but how do we deal with this news in relation to playing Quantic Dream’s output?” and the answer would appear to be that most are only too eager to forget some things while not others and possibly the conversation needs to be more about why some corporations are given such little sustained pushback.

Devolver have definitely not done a great job of responding but this has to be looked at in a broader context of the critical landscape where some groups seem to keep getting given a pass. I would be very interested in reading an artist’s statement from this small indie team talking about their intent in including this content, which seems like something the publisher could have pivoted towards (possibly arranging with Waypoint to get it reprinted as an article here too) rather than going straight to public channels.

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Also after publishing Mother Russia Bleeds I’m not exactly brimming with goodwill for Devolver.

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That’s a bananas take right there that ignores the entire concept of criticism to its very core. That’s like saying you can’t review a movie until you ask the director about every single creative decision.

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Yeah that is perfectly fair.

I kinda love them because they have similar aesthetics and focuses as [adult swim] does (if we ever get a game remotely like 12 oz mouse, it will be from Devolver) and let developers do some truly wild and creative things. But that established culture also has a ton of crap hidden behind the cool colors and experimentation.

I mean, remember when [adult swim] somehow let a group of nazi make a show for several episodes before canning it? Devolver has never fucked up as bad as that, but they have similar problems of not thinking about implications and if rather gross content always has genuine artistic merit.

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People seem to be acting like Danielle is actively encouraging a boycott of an indie game, when really its about a transphobic moment at the end makes it a hard recommend. If I was playing at game and came to that I’d probably make the same decision. We don’t need to be out here sinking the careers of indies for small mistakes, yeah, but this isn’t a small one. I’m sure Devolver will recover, but only if they get in front of this and handle being criticized responsibly.

Full disclosure: I am cis, but I know better than to out a trans person without their consent, fictional or not.

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(Hi guys, I’m cis.) For me, personally, I appreciate that Danielle mentioned the transphobia up front. I was a huge fan of Gods Will Be Watching. This would’ve been the easiest sale in the world if they hadn’t included the deadnaming and the transness as a twist. So if there’d been a more vague ‘it gets kind of problematic at the end’ review I might have bought it - after all, it’s getting great reviews elsewhere. But knowing the specifics of what happens, it feels more like I get to judge whether or not I want to support it. And I think that is going to depend on how the development team responds. I understand that this sort of criticism can be particularly harmful to a small team, and I also understand that people are upset about the hypocrisy re BOTW, but for me, I’m glad I get to make an informed choice about what I’m supporting. Like, either they simply didn’t know that deadnaming/making transness a twist was going to be controversial (which suggests a failure of research) or they decided to do it anyway, for whatever reason. I’d like to know what they were thinking, and what they’re planning on doing to address people’s criticisms.

While it’s true that Devolver is big in the Indie space and hasn’t earned much goodwill, and that TRSC is getting mostly positive responses elsewhere (this article isn’t the only press they’ve got), they’re not the developer here, they’re the publisher. The developer is Deconstructeam, a 3-person team that has had one release before. If anything, I think Devolver’s quick and defensive response did a disservice to Deconstructeam, but I’m glad that things have moved towards Danielle and the dev who (presumably) put that plot point into the game talking directly and coming to an understanding, instead of Publisher Devolver trying to tell off Publisher Waypoint.

Personally, the podcast and the article mostly sold me on the game by talking about the themes and how it addresses them. While it sucks knowing there’s a huge misstep, I can at least go in knowing it’s there and that the devs are aware some people are upset (not just Danielle) and are having a discussion about it (unlike, say, BotW which did receive criticism that AFAIK was never officially responded to). Of course, saying “it won’t bother me as much if I know it’s coming” is a privilege since it’s not an issue that affects me directly (although it does affect people I care about), but obviously that’s why it’s good to warn people about issues like transphobia in fiction (even if it’s not justified in-fiction, and the creator is trans and making an intentional statement), so players can make informed choices going in.

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I feel like it might be worthwhile to the discussion to read the thread recently posted by the trans developer who worked on the game.

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That series of tweets was a great read, I was just about to post it but you beat me to the punch. More and more I’m feeling really let down by Waypoint for this piece. As I dig into the article and the response from the developers I just feel like a trans developer was negatively put under the spotlight for actually adding something about the trans experience.

Not only am I saddened for the devs being called out for trying to improve things but also pretty upset this is coming Waypoint and Danielle.

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Having a cis writer at an outlet with cis editors accusing a game that trans people worked on of being transphobic on very shaky grounds is a a very bad look. When you throw in the fact that that outlet literally published forced Feminization fanfic a month ago I’m inclined to say that maybe Waypoint just doesn’t have the expertise to tackle trans issues responsibly.

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I also think that having the article go from “what a great sex-positive depiction of a woman” to “this is a hyper-sexualized caricature” once she’s revealed is majorly fucked up.

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Since the tweet was linked directly, we’d like to publicly remind everyone to not go bother her on Twitter.

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I still don’t like the tack of “you have to run this particular criticism by the creator before publishing it” because that sets a troubling standard of requiring critics to experience a work through the intended lens of author intention, rather than how the work stands on its own.

There’s a valid criticism to be made that the site staff give problematic faves a big pass while harping on smaller games that make the same mistakes, but from Danielle’s review, I get the impression that the game failed to interrogate this problem in a way that is at odds with the tone and level of thoughtfulness it had displayed up until that point.

That the development staff included a trans person does not mean the writing itself isn’t guilty of something that was, if only accidentally, disrespectful to trans people.

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I’m still fairly new to learning about the trans community and how to better approach them that respect their personal space but from the stuff I have learned deadnames is not ok. There are better ways for characters to reveal their Trans, and ones that empower them, but the fact that it was revealed as the character’s deadname in a form of a password is pretty short sighted. This is just as bad as last year’s Mass effects game.

I think Devolver stated that they didn’t have a problem with the piece so much as they were addressing the rather blunt tweet posted on the official Waypoint account being posted when the developer had already reached out to the author to discuss it.

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This situation feels like a wrong-footed overcorrection from last month’s controversy.

Last month, Waypoint got into hot water because they presumed a non-consent trope that some trans women find valuable was suitable general-audience material, and suitable representation of trans people as a group. They did not consider the subset of the audience who are pained by non-consent material instead of validated by it.

This month, Waypoint got into hot water because they presumed that a depiction of hurtful treatment of trans women was inherently transphobic. They did not consider that the act of deadnaming could be framed in an appropriately condemnatory manner by a game.

The answer in both cases is the same: presume less, ask more.

As for BotW, the cynic in me wants to chalk that up to that patented Waypoint Sex Positivity; force-femme Gerudo Link is a bit of an online sex symbol, and Waypoint has always been inclined to give a pass to horny.

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But the piece is more of a “Here’s a game I liked that has an unfortunate misstep”. Danielle is allowed to state that a moment in a game made her uncomfortable. I’ve gotten really tired of “x is a bad look” comments because it seems like a faux-nice way of saying shut up. Hell, the forced-femme fanfic was written by a trans author, but that didn’t invalidate criticisms of it

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I mean, it is a faux-nice way of saying shut up. Because I’m starting to think Waypoint needs to step back from addressing trans issues until they’re willing or able to approach them with nuance. They keep plunging into controversial trans issues and then stepping back and refusing to actually engage with the content of the controversy because they don’t feel qualified to address it. And that nuance is why the two situations are different-- the content is wildly different but nobody seems to actually want to engage in that conversation, which is deeply frustrating. If you don’t feel qualified to get deep in the paint on trans issues, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that you don’t publish forced-feminization fiction or go after studios with more trans developers than you have trans editors or writers on pretty shaking grounds.

edit: I realize this comes off as very aggressive. I like Waypoint, I like Danielle, but as a trans person I have felt so talked down to and condescended to by their recent output on this issue.

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