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


#21

Since the other thread is locked and this discussion has moved here, I want to repost this review by Sav Furguson, (shout outs to @Mythmaster who linked it in the old thread) who outlines a lot of what happens in the game with a little more clarity (and also, ultimately, recommends it though they do characterize the handling of deadnaming in the game as “…more than a little offensive”).


#22

This is exactly why a trans editor would be important, though. Someone with lived experience, who a writer would run their article by before it’s published. It’s not something that would completely safeguard against something like this, but it’d definitely make it harder for it to happen.

I followed the previous controversy regarding one of the fan fictions published, and I saw Austin’s statement. I know there are outside factors complicating the hiring of another editor, if not making it impossible at the moment. But given how often Waypoint writes about trans people (this is not a bad thing!), it feels to me like a trans person who can provide some kind of oversight on the subject is necessary.


#23

This is something about discussion of trans topics by cis people that bothers me. They’re treating it like they’re declaring doctrine, rather than engaging in a conversation. Acting like you have moral highground over actual trans people by saying “Thou Shalt Not Deadname” is a terrible way to look at it. The original article felt like a lecture more than anything else and frankly Waypoint is among the last sources that has authority to speak on trans issues, especially lately. They’re treating their brand as The Woke Website like a self-fulfilling prophecy-- “I’m a progressive person so of course I know about trans issues”-- when in fact they’re just not any more qualified to speak on the subject than a random person on Twitter, less qualified than a lot of tweet threads I read today to be honest. I’ve been saying this ever since that debacle with the forced-feminzation fanfic last year: if Waypoint wants to act like an authority or even a viewpoint worth considering on trans issues in video games, they need to hire a trans editor or full-time writer at the very least. I understand that they might not be in the position to do that but if they can’t the journalistically responsible thing to do is to be less cavalier about they way they write about trans issues.

EDIT: Ultimately, I think this is about the way that cis people rush to peformatively call out transphobia (at least when it’s not in something they love or risky for themselves) to make themselves look better and talk over actual trans people who are trying to have a more nuanced discussion about the issue. I’m not saying that exactly what happened here but it happens all the time and I think any cis person who’s going to publish their views on trans issues needs to be really aware of that fact and consider exercising a certain amount of humility when approaching the topic.


#24

Exactly agreed, thankyou for articulating it quite so well.


#25

I really like this post. I agree with you on almost everything. This is not the first article I have read from Waypoint that has this authoritative tone of “you did this wrong and ruined what you were going for in the end”. Which I honestly think is a negative view of the creative process. Nobody is perfect. We fail to be better. Failing and how that causes reactions is one of the prime importance. A failed piece can be one of immense beauty, and while a problem can be a sticking point to make the entire gist of your article feels a tad bit misplaced.


#26

Even if they don’t have the resources to bring a new full-time editor on board there are ways they could start doing better right away. As a stopgap it seems to me that they could set up a freelance arrangement where they send anything pertaining to trans topics to an outside editor or editors with more lived expirence.

No clue if that’s actually possible, and clearly having a full time editor who is trans would be vastly preferable (particularly in regards to the podcast), but I feel like they have the editorial freedom and budget to do better in the meantime.


#27

Pulling back and looking at the situation, this is all a fucking mess. This article also felt messy, and I’m going to assume it’s because Waypoint wanted to get it out there quickly to address the topic while it was current.

I’m trans and I get referred to by my birth name daily by my family. It sucks. I don’t like it. I correct them constantly and fight against it. It’s exhausting, and I don’t blame Paula for not wanting to do that shit. A trans person having to deal with being deadnamed is a reality of their situation, but that doesn’t mean that every trans person takes it the same way.

While I do think that Waypoint should definitely get a trans editor or full-time writer, I think we should be really careful about pigeonholing a potential new hire into being the person who only gets to write/edit articles about trans issues because they’re trans. Having one aspect of your identity dictate all you do in a career seems like it would be a depressing thing to go through.

Danielle is a ciswoman writing about how the way a character was deadnamed in this game sat really poorly with her, but there are probably other ciswomen that ran into this moment and we’re impacted less by it. Conversely, as Paula puts in her statement:

Not every single trans person is offended in the same way to every single kind of transphobic bullshit […]

However, there are some trans people who will not like this. If Danielle had phrased her article as more of a warning that the game contains transphobic content in this moment of it, I think there would have been less controversy surrounding her reaction to it and how hard she brought the hammer down on an issue that, frankly, isn’t a personal experience for her like it is for trans people.

However, I do agree that queer creators are subject to criticism, just that maybe it should come from people with a more personal stake in the specific matters being explored.

We’ve already mentioned the Nier fanfic that was published last year in this topic, and while I don’t intend to rehash the subject of an already locked topic on this board, the ressurection of it here brings up an interesting point.

The writer of that piece is a trans woman, but the people I saw the most who had a problem with the piece were other trans women, as well as trans men and non-binary people, myself being one of the latter. The reasoning seemed to be that, while the trope/kink being used in the fanfic allowed a lot of trans people to come to terms with their identity and help them explore it, that didn’t make it a good thing. It’s the responsibility of trans creators in the now to be better about utilizing, or rather not utilizing, tropes we now know to be harmful and toxic.

Trans people are fucking people, y’all. You can’t expect us all to have the same personal opinions on our past experiences, even if we experience similar realities. Paula stands by her decision to include this narrative moment in the game, and while coming across it unawares would have made me very upset, it’s her right to put something that resonates with her experiences in her creation, and not every trans person is going to take it the same way. No one expects cispeople to have carbon copy opinions, so why do you expect trans people to?


#28

It’s not so much an issue that a trans person would automatically have a good opinion, but that the perspective of at least one trans person is the absolute fucking minimum for a thoughtful discussion of the topic. Obviously a trans person serving as an editor or writer would also need to possess the skills that every editor should: thoughtfulness, a willingness to consider as many possible interpretations of an article as possible, a general awareness of the context of a given subject and the ability to listen. To be honest I don’t even think that a trans editor is a 100% necessity to write well about trans issues as long as the editor can seek outside input from trans people but Waypoint has a history of sort of abnegating responsibility for the viewpoints it publishes on trans issues by saying “we’re all cis here and not qualified to evaluate the content of this issue”. I think a cis person could, with a great deal of effort, become qualified to write on the issue, but clearly nobody at Waypoint is that cis person.


#29

i dont have a smart way to say this… but as someone with cerebral palsy… i felt this same kind of disappoint when i discovered that cuphead. doesnt let you finish the game on easy… this thing that i should enjoy is now unenjoyable to me because of this thing thats in my way the same way that this situation was in danielles way… it might not be ‘correct’ but its honestly how she feels

i really want to hope that all this criticism is actually coming from a place of trying to help… i see lots of conversations about budgets and hires… i think waypoint is on a shorter shoestring than a lot of us realize… i think they are always doing the best they can… and this time they fucked up… and yes they should be called to do better… but i think if they could hire someone right now they’d have done it already.


#30

To take this into a broader topic of #content at all scales: if you can’t afford a sensitivity reader and you don’t have the expertise on staff, these intense reactions are just going to keep on happening and that’s eventually a pattern. The pattern becomes damning.

This indie team of three people absolutely do have expertise in this area and it sounds like they worked to produce something that engaged with other areas (assuming the team of three doesn’t cover ace, bi, gay, and lesbian) either via finding sensitivity readers or working with people with experience to create true and fair representations in the final game. It was after “doing the work” (so to speak) that to see their game called out for not doing so has created this reaction/division.


#31

Explanation for my last deleted post:

Waypoint’s forums are confusing sometimes and I posted a thing I wanted to go in another thread in this one Apologies if I somehow derailed the conversations happening here.


#32

wait what do you mean?


#33

You’re not wrong, but I think the point is that critiquing a writing of an experience you haven’t lived through is just a risky endeavor in general, and this is an umbrella of experiences that Waypoint has shown continued inability to properly address. At the very least, hiring a single trans person would potentially mitigate this, at least somewhat. No one is saying that all trans people are sharing the same opinons on everything trans related (at least not that I’ve seen), but more that most trans people would have been able to figure out something wrong with Danielle’s article (or, at the very least, the headline and tweet that accompanied it).

That’s not even mentioning the fact that one of the devs being openly trans wasn’t even considered when writing the post, but that’s a whole nother topic entirely and I don’t think this discussion needs to be drawn out even longer than it’s already going to be.


#34

I just want to put this out there. I appreciate all the discussion on this topic. These topics are completely new to me and i’m learning a lot from reading the articles, forum discussions and twitter conversations about it.


#35

I already hit like on this but just to say (type) it out loud, this is exactly how this entire thing feels to me & listening to them tear the game down again on the podcast was … wearying.

Where was that point of view when Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was depicting women as literal objects that say “touch my chest” to their boy owner? Are straight women okay with that? Did Waypoint ask any? (I sent a question into the podcast about XC2 a while back, contrasting it with their treatment of Shadow of War, but it hasn’t come up.)

I understand this is all very difficult to get right, but that’s the level of the game, right? If you want to be the Correct Representation Police, I think it’s incumbent on you to do the work and find out the broad spectrum of the opinions of people in that group about that specific representation. And keep doing that. This picking and choosing, and then getting it wrong when they do choose, just makes more mess than it helps.


#36

Where was that point of view when Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was depicting women as literal objects that say “touch my chest” to their boy owner? Are straight women okay with that? Did Waypoint ask any? (I sent a question into the podcast about XC2 a while back, contrasting it with their treatment of Shadow of War, but it hasn’t come up.)

This is a good point. On the XBC2 podcast ep, Austin took a moment in the middle of gushing to mention that game “kind of treats women like shit” and then immediately went right back to singing its praises. How is it that that a male game director treating female characters like shit isn’t a dealbreaker, but a trans dev exploring their own experience with deadnaming is? What exactly is the standard here?


#37

This is the second time in the span of a single month (yes, it’s really not been that long) that Waypoint has had a serious misstep tackling trans issues. The exact same issue (a total lack of nuance, care or perspective) abounds. Exactly as before, multiple trans people need to come in after the fact and give their time and energy to serve as the educators that were clearly lacking beforehand. The difference is this time there is even less sufficient response. Danielle’s second article is not acceptable on it’s face. It reads as incredibly dismissive and not thoughtful in the slightest. Additionally, another blowup so soon shows that progress on Waypoint’s handling of this issue, if any, has been little.

I am not here to say that people cannot say whatever they like, but if anyone wants to discuss deep nuanced issues, they need to show that they have more than just nice intent. Intent cannot be the grand absolver of any ills. Waypoint may have whatever intent it wants when articles like these happen. It does not change the harm that this website continues to cause. It does not change the repeated demonstration of a total blindness to anything beyond the most surface level reaction to anything “trans”. Waypoint cannot keep writing the way it has about trans people and also make any claim to critical thought.

It is especially disappointing that this keeps happening, and it sours the apology from last time. It is now exceedingly difficult to trust that particular thoughtful apology as sincere. Do any of those words mean anything when the exact same issue can crop up so soon and so badly after? Can Waypoint actually be trusted to follow through on their promise to do better? Those questions can no longer be answered with any certainty, and even if we were to receive another apology in the same vein as last time, it is no longer sufficient.

The demonstration of not just good intent, but actual change in thought, that’s needed is quickly becoming less and less feasible. If Waypoint wants to lay claim to being “the videogame website thats also relevant to the actual lives of people”, it needs to actually take cues from those lives. It is clearly not sufficient to rely solely on their own experiences.


#38

Agreed 100%. I listened to the most recent podcast since this newest article was posted and I am so much more soured on this whole situation. I do think Austin and Danielle need to deeply examine why a game, that by both of their admissions does a good job with sexuality and gender identity except for one part, is a game that you stop just short of telling people not to buy, while putting Breath of the Wild as the best game or second best game of 2017 respectively and singing its praises from the mountaintops. I’m not going to try and rank transphobic bullshit of most to least damaging, but the attitude that Breath of the Wild has towards trans women is the sort of attitude that gets us killed. I’m not saying no one can love that game. But Waypoint needs to figure out why they can let that stand in Zelda and just wish it wasn’t there while enjoying the fun parts, while this game is unacceptable.

I’m not at the end of my patience quite yet, but Waypoint needs to course correct and do a better job on this or I’ll get there pretty quick. I believe they’re capable of doing better than this. Trans people on staff would of course be the ideal but cis people need to be able to not screw this up with or without a trans person coaching them every step of the way.


#39

The reality of being a person writing for a disenfranchised group you’re not a part of is that you’re going to have blind spots, and things you think you understand except it turns out you’re missing nuance. This is just an inescapable thing. That’s why we push for hiring trans people in situations like this. There are a lot of talented trans people who are far more likely to understand the nuance of issues like this that affect their day-to-day life, and their perspective is always going to be invaluable no matter how “woke” the cis people on staff are. I don’t think trans people being on staff is an “ideal” for people consistently writing about trans people, I think it’s necessary.


#40

This is a fair point, but also I don’t think you would have needed a trans person to see the problem with either this incident or That Other One. It’s not that esoteric.