We Talked to the 'The Red Strings Club' Devs About Queer Art and Intention


#99

I picked up the entire discussion, and I’m a bit delighted that at no point any of this has become personal, it’s all been about the discourse.

And about the discourse, I think the reason it keeps bringing people here is that we want people to be open when writing about issues that affect them and the people around them, without being shut down or hunted.

And in today’s climate, if you call someone/something transphobic, on the big media, you are hunting them.


#100

I liked the initial article, it read as a decent critique on one part of a game that tripped up in their eyes where elsewhere they liked a lot of what the game had to offer.

Wasn’t happy with the tweet’s tagline, it wasn’t intentional but a lot of people went into the article reading it as inflammatory simply because of how the title and tagline read.

I’m upset at how online I’ve seen a bunch of this turn into a way to attack either the devs or Danielle.


#101

Well as referenced by Austin during the last controversy, I think people should give a higher percentage of criticism to the editors compared to the writers when something like this happens, so: I think the headlines (or tweeting equivalents) for articles are one of the major factors here since they completely shape how people read what a writer says (or in the case of Facebook comments sometimes it seems like the headline is the only thing they read before they start arguing).

If the article was titled “The Red Strings Club - A Thoughtful Cyperpunk Game with a Few Strings Attached” (feel free to hire me for dumb pun headlines) I’d go into it thinking oh here’s a recommendation for a game that also has some criticism. When I come into it from reading “don’t deadname, ever” I start the article with the mindset “so where’s the gotcha? When are they going to tear into the devs like a Jim Sterling video calling out bad business practices?” it makes the preceding paragraphs feel like the leadup to soften the blow, rather than the sincere compliments I’m sure they were intended as.

I bring this up because it’s hardly the first time the headlines/taglines/twitter links have had the potential for these kinds of problems, it’s just that this time the team have been caught flatfooted on pushback from the community about it. I would really prefer the “I had fun with this game but it wasn’t perfect” style of journalism on social issues to the “gotcha devs” variant so I’d appreciate any implementation of policy that could help reinforce that.


#102

Some good points, I definitely think I went into reading the original article colored what my expectations were and how I approached it. I don’t think it can all be on that as I still felt there is this issue of conflating what is acceptable to portray vs what is acceptable behavior. The ‘don’t deadname ever’ isn’t just the tagline from twitter but a line in the article and while it is made clear that she liked most the game except that one part I think the tone still comes off as an admonishment of the game and to stay away from it if you care about trans people.

Definitely in the first hours since I read the initial article I felt a lot about it and maybe even over-reacted. I think despite the problems I know it’s coming from a place of good intent. Also I wouldn’t want Danielle to not talk about things in media that she had a strong reaction towards.


#103

That kind of dismissive, this is the final word and you’re wrong if you think otherwise headline, tweeting and attitude surrounding the actual content is never going to change or go away. It’s intrinsic to the culture of Vice and also intrinsic to much of the neighborhood of Vice’s headquarters. It being pervasive in Waypoint is inevitable no matter how good the people there are and you can see that across a variety of the site’s articles.

Obviously it crosses a line here as this isn’t an “Actually, _____ game is good” or a “Remember _____ great game?” piece where in the actual piece the author mentions having never played the game, or a piece where the byline and promotional tweets brag about the author’s research only for the content to reveal a very narrow and US-centric view of the topic. Like plenty of folks in this thread have said you have the article promoted in a way that assumes transgender people are a monolith. And it’s unfortunate that the inherent crunch of running a site like this with three employees with this volume of content caused this to happen just a month after that fan-fiction was published the way it was.

I had no problem with the Danielle’s initial article though (it even got me to look into and play the game :slight_smile: ), and I appreciate that there was a follow up to it. I don’t know, the way news and editorials are presented today in general I might be cynical but I stopped even fully reading a headlines/blurbs or following any site’s social media a long time ago. I just care about topic -> author and would rather follow the individuals writing this stuff and couldn’t care less about the house style or branding of what they work for.

With that in mind, I expect to always feel like I’m being talked down to for not [WARNING!! A HUGE MOOD - WALKER’S LAW - IS APPROACHING FAST!!] sufficiently worshiping our corporate masters due to how companies present their stuff online and that’s not going away. But that’s all marketing, when you get past that any editorial is still going to be one single person’s take on something, so I didn’t really get that sense of a sweeping proclamation from original article itself since it’s clearly Danielle’s personal reactions to the game and something she feels strongly about.

And, given the 24 hour nature and demands of any site like this, I’m not going to act like I have an answer or tell anyone at Waypoint how to do their job, but this is something I’d like to see this:

Instead of consistently laying a template this is how it is style promotion on almost everything, if Waypoint could take that extra two seconds to discern whether or not in doing so, they’re claiming to speak for a group of people or treating a group of people as monolith, that would be good. I know even that is relatively a lot to ask given Waypoint’s available resources and how it makes for a not as snappy tweet. But someone has to make the call on what Waypoint is supposed to be, and often I feel like it (inadvertently) shuts down more discussion than it starts with the exception of this forum.


#104

I’ll preface this by saying that I largely share @SlothFacts disappointment with the lack of followup on the hypersexualized trans woman mention, and a lack of what I thought deserved more engagement with the idea. I agree with her, it comes off as initially saying all of these traits were worthy of being celebrated, but when Larissa was revealed to be trans, they suddenly weren’t any longer. If that wasn’t the intended message, I think the piece didn’t explain that.

In a climate where trans women’s sexuality is so heavily scrutinized, it’s a struggle for us to explore that on our own terms. It should be fine to depict a trans woman with sexual agency, or has a larger body while being confident, high femme, and open about her sexuality, without being pigeonholed as a stereotype that’s harmful to trans people or trans representation.

Some of us want to embody or share some of Larissa’s qualities - and seeing those things held up as almost laudable but not quite hurts, to be frank. Especially when we encounter so much difficulty finding presentations and attitudes and sexualities that work for us.

There’s certainly an argument to be made about how deadnaming Larissa was handled and how it might color an interpretation of Larissa’s depiction, but invoking ‘hypersexualized trans woman’ was, in my opinion, disappointing and an overstep.


#105

I do feel a bit weird that the original continues to be the site’s big splashy headline feature, rather than the follow-up or even one of the other unrelated things they’ve since published.


#106

They should really update the original post with a link to this piece.


#107

I’m actually going to say thank you for informing me of this, I was giving that game the side-eye every time I saw leftists I follow streaming it, and that’s… vile as hell? Is left critique in games still so weak that something that even vaguely evokes imported VN aesthetics makes people pardon creepy sex shit for no reason?

I know it’s off-topic, but this was genuinely useful & informative, thank you.

I wouldn’t say that Waypoint in particular can’t change, or will never change, but I realize a lot of what you’re referring to is the inherent authoritarian presentation of articles mixed with the traditional compartmentalization of the discussion surrounding them, and yeah that’s unlikely to change here for a plethora of reasons. Would be real cool of it did but it’s super unlikely!

But as you concluded, a good way for them to change within that structural corner they’re locked into is to understand who’s writing authoritatively and about whom. Passing it by more than one person–especially of a marginalized group you’re writing about–decentralizes the author as god of the piece, though still never wiping away the singularity of discussive power it exercises.

There doesn’t need to be a huge problem with the embrace of authoritative writing. It’ll never be revolutionary, but that power could at least be given to more of the minorities they claim to speak for, and the more haphazard use of that power could be used for less sensitive topics.

I get the complexities of planning out sensitive writing through the schedule, I hate that most of us can only really say “this is a problem” and not “this is how you realistically & practically fix it long-term”, but I think most all people here have done a good job of expressing the principle of change we want to see. I just hope they try to apply it where they can, beyond self-deprecating apologies or defensive posturing and instead through an actionable change of approach to their established structure.


#108

To be clear, that route has since been removed (which a couple writers at Polygon spun as a bad thing) but the game still has options where the character who says over and over again in the game that she’s a lesbian and that she isn’t attracted to men will suddenly do a complete 180 and be into heterosexual (and incestuous) sex which, as a lesbian who gets constantly told that I just “haven’t found the right man yet” is still a super shitty authorial choice.


#109

the blue is the warmest colour of video games but even worse tho.


#110

I’m not inherently against catchy or confrontational headlines. I don’t care if Waypoint posts headlines like “Why The Legend of Dragoon is the best video game of all time” or even something aggressive when the point of the article is piling on some bad faith trash, like “Logan Paul is a Racist Idiot”. If it’s meant to be a hit piece then feel free to go all in.

When theoretically the idea of the article is a Dialogue though, and the point behind it is that you want them to do better and hope the people on the other end have a positive response to criticism, posting aggressive or snarky headlines/taglines can only backfire.


#111

yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuppppppppppppppppppppppppppp

shit now I’m all fired up is there a thread where I can go to just complain about the rampant homophobia in supposedly “progressive” games


#112

i figure that final line is in reference to a line on the eric andre show. which i find weird you’d use that since eric andre is a virulent transphobe.


#113

Ah, shit. I didn’t know about this, sorry about that, I’ll edit it out and try considering my dumb references better.


#114

I Recommend we get this thread back on track and talk about the article at hand.


#115

In the other discussion thread, some folks were saying that Danielle should have gotten comment from the devs before posting the original article to be a good journalist, and I think to that it is worth noting that this wasn’t a scoop. This wasn’t a “I have sources that say ___ you have 24 hours to give a comment before we publish it”. It was an editorial/opinion piece, which yes you could still get a comment for, but certainly isn’t required or expected.

Both articles read as very rushed and had an aggressive tone in a way that probably wasn’t helpful for a sensitive topic. A lighter touch and some more careful editing I think would have gone a long way in this situation.

Appreciate everyone’s comments here, as a straight cis white male I still personally have a ton more to learn and understand about pretty much everything.


#116

I can’t help but feel like… I don’t know, I feel like there’s a really weird tone of conversation around, well, really any marginalized group, but specifically queer people in this context and how they portray their feelings in art.

With this game, a lot of people make statements about how trans women should be portrayed in art, and whether or not she should a sexual individual, or how/if her dead name should be shown, etc. With the “Oracle” fic, people made statements about how the author shouldn’t write forced femme fiction. What bothers me is that it seems like a lot of this discourse seems to imply that the other party is homophobic/transphobic for having a different way of sublimating their identity. That really bothers me.

I think the ethics, of course, change drastically based on the platform. When something is more or less public, I think you as an author have a responsibility to curtail things as to not feed into oppressive narratives. If that fic was posted on AO3 or a blog, it probably wouldn’t have received much heat. If this game was, say, a student project at a university, and the authors were clearly shown, the response would have probably been different.

I am supportive of critique, but I find it strange to want to silence queer voices that have a different way of dealing with their identity. I don’t know; I’m just kind of bothered by that.


#117

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently and arrived in a similar place.

If a person wants to make a work that incorporates autobiographical experiences, and that person’s identity faces oppression within the society they live in, then that societal marginalization is necessarily part of that experience.

In that sense, do works like this then need to be held to a higher level of scrutiny where only the most successfully nuanced depictions are not torn down? I think that goes down a road further marginalization where people cannot have messy expressions of their own messy experiences. It’s hard for me to see a result of that line of thinking that doesn’t end up in a place of idealized narratives that feel dishonest to people’s actual lives.

Having said that I also totally get why people might want things that don’t deal with those issues, especially if they face them in their everyday life. Sometimes people need comfort. Ideally works of fantasy and reality coexist with an understanding that some things are more one than the other, but I think that’s pretty tough without instances like this one, where people are hurt due to expectations.


#118

Ideally we’d have room for both. Not every single story or every character should need to be a deep exploration of identity. The problem is that when you have an identity that is hardly represented at all, and when it has been, historically it has usually been represented in a negative manner, then the rare instances that identity does show up it has such a higher standard to meet. We generally interact with narratives by empathizing with the characters involved, and marginalized people rarely get to empathize with a character who shares their identity. White straight cis men are depicted constantly, so one being depicted with every awful attribute you can think of doesn’t have to function as an avatar for a whole community.

The other thing you’re talking about with what level of scrutiny should be applied, this is a place where the death of the author comes in. Whether a story or portrayal of something works or not should be judged based on the text itself. I think Danielle’s criticism shouldn’t be changed based on whether or not a trans dev was on the team, especially since before this follow-up article she wouldn’t have known exactly what level of involvement that dev had in making the story. Just because someone is expressing their personal experiences doesn’t mean they will do it in a way that makes their intentions clear to the audience and that doesn’t fall into bad writing tropes.

As I said earlier, what I take issue with in the initial piece is the blanket condemnation of this as a narrative tool, when all we can really say is whether it was a bad use in this game or not, even if that wasn’t what upset me most about this whole situation, but I’ve gone over that earlier in this thread.