News Gamer Interest

SA Gaming Heavyweights Weigh In On Ethics and Trends

As I mentioned last week, we decided to launch a brand new series titled "SA Gaming Heavyweights Weigh In On 2015". The aim of the series is to  chat with some of South Africa's most prominent video game industry people. We plan to cover a wide range of topic from gaming events, game development to controversial issues, to name but a few. Last week we kicked off with "SA Gaming Heavyweights Weigh In On 2015 - rAge Expo." and for today's feature we venture into the murky waters of controversy, video game journalism and 2015's gaming trends.

To take on the complicated issues of #Gamergate, the importance of gaming media, and 2015's trends, I selected three of South Africa's top media people. MWEB GameZone writer gone superstar, Grant Hinds ;), the multi-talented Pippa Tshabalala, and Tauriq Moosa; ethics and critical thinking tutor. Before we jump to the discussions, allow me to give you a short bio on each of the interviewees.

Grant Hinds

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Grant is a video games and tech contributor on South African TV shows Top Billing, Expresso and Tech Report. He also does radio work for GoodHope FM. Hinds has also presented a couple of online shows for GameState. He was also the presenter for GameZoneTV and content contributor for MWEB GameZone. He is currently the Games Contributing Editor for GQ. Hinds studied Visual Communication at AAA School of Advertising

Follow Grant: Twitter | YouTube | Website

Pippa Tshabalala

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Pippa is one of South Africa's most talented games industry people. Her talents range from lecturer, to presenter, writer, producer and now editor. Many of us first saw Pippa on the gaming TV shows, PlayR and The Verge. I have to add that she was the first female gaming presenter in South Africa! Pippa is also a stage presenter at the annual rAge Expo. Her latest ventures including Editor for the popular online Pop culture magazine, SPLICED and presenter at PopUpTV.SA. Pippa is one of SA's gaming legends; the works she's done has educated and promoted gaming to a degree that few people will ever achieve. And she is not planning to stop anytime soon. Pippa studied MA Digital Animation at WITS.

Follow Pippa: Twitter | Blog | SPLICED Magazine

Tauriq Moosa

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The Talented Mr Moosa is a tutor in ethics, bioethics and critical thinking. He is also a contributor on Polygon, The Daily Beast, Guardian and sometimes graces us with his writing on MWEB GameZone. At GameZone Moosa is known for his controversial reviews; daring the reader to dig deeper than good graphics and gameplay. He is widely respected for his views on diversity in gaming and ethics in journalism. He is also an expert for Big Think. Some of his earlier work include being a columnist at 3quarksdaily and contributing editor to Secular Humanist Bulletin. His most notable journalism achievements include talking with Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the BBC Four documentary, The Tutu Talks. His views on media ethics have been in the New York Times and he was also runner-up winner for the Centre for Inquiry’s Campaign for Free Expression Essay contest, 2010. Moosa studied for an M.Phil at Stellenbosch Centre for Applied Ethics.

Follow Moosa: Twitter | Blog

So we have a celebrity, a geek and a critical thinking specialist. Three different cultures, a shared love for gaming. Lets discuss!

2014 was one of the biggest years for gaming controversies. What was the most important debate & why?

Moosa: "Some might say the important debate was Gamergate, but Gamergate wasn't about debate. The debate is how do we handle an audience hostile to us: after all, an audience is how we'll continue surviving in the industry. Some go the route of silence, others try the complete opposite. This applies to everyone from journalists to developers: the arc seems to be that developers are listening to the very commenters bullies are trying to silence (see Saints Row devs, for example, rethinking how they'll portray women), and every major media outlet has found very little reason to support people who send rape threats to women.

So many actual ethics issues, such as PR firms sending early review copies for favourable coverage, post-release review embargos, broken servers with no Betas or Alphas, always online games that have little reason to justify their always online status (like Destiny, where other people don't have an impact unless you choose that - in which case persistent online is silly).  

Regardless, the placement of people, issues of diversity and representation are no forefront. Marginalised people are increasingly gaining a voice and those who have been catered to by the industry - young, straight, white men - are starting to recognise it's not about them. Most are happy, too many are not and are lashing out at us for even speaking about race or sex."

Pippa: "#Gamergate. It's an issue that just refuses to die, perhaps because it's something that's still very prevalent in our industry. I personally think the incidences of misogyny outweigh the issue of ethics in gaming journalism, so no matter what was the issue to begin with, what most people will remember it for are things like the terrorism threats related to Anita Sarkeesian, or the doxxing of games journalists. The fact that it made news and was discussed on high profile programming like The Colbert Report, shows that it was serious enough for the non-gaming world to sit up and take notice."

Grant: "The Gamergate saga was definitely worth discussing, it affected the industry as a whole and sparked widespread debate in other industries about gender equality, what it means and why it's important to A) define it and B) implement it in our minds and our media."

What would you say are the most important topics gamers & press should be talking about in 2015?

Moosa: How we create an environment of inclusivity: for people and for new games.

For people, it's a matter of not telling people what they can and can't write on sites we don't own. Too often, gamers take issue with anything that doesn't follow some made-up boring review template - for example. no one is forcing them to read such pieces, but too many gamers insist that everyone write or create content according to their personal whims. The entitlement within such a notion is deafening.

For games, we need to stop opposing games we ourselves won't play, declaring what is and isn't a game. Diversity in what games exist benefits the industry as a whole and gamers themselves seem to want it - see the success of Child of Light and Transistor for example.

Pippa: This question and the next one are linked for me. My answer would be inclusiveness. I honestly feel that the gaming community is far too divided, from both a racial and gender standpoint. We should be looking at how to combat this, not calling each other names and slagging each other off every chance we get. Gamergate has made it abundantly clear that on the whole we are not a community.

Grant: "Twitch, Youtube and the swing in gaming media towards entertainment and away from news journalism. Media outlets should focussing on making entertaining content around our entertainment. That shift alone should move the discussion away from critique and more towards fandoms, reminding each other that we're in a fun industry. There will always be a place for critique and strict gaming journalism, but that will be left up to respected journalists and dedicated reporting outlets."

Gaming trends for 2015?

Pippa: "It's difficult to say, but I think game streaming is going to pick up through services like Sony's new game streaming store - essentially consoleless gaming. Of course it's difficult to predict in our market, because almost everything is moving online but at the same time we have a more limited infrastructure that really only allows a small portion of the market to have the kind of access necessary for proper online gaming. Additionally mobile gaming is on the rise, even more so than previous years so I think we'll see even more growth in that area."

Grant: "Postponed games I fear. The horrible way with which broken and unfinished games were dealt with last year really affected sales and that means whatever path games were on for launch this year, were likely in the same production lines. If shareholders are pissed we might see a lot titles pushed back. We should also see a heavier push into games that are platforms as opposed to once off releases. Titles like Hearthstone and League of Legends show the power of a gaming platform that's being constantly updated. That also brings us to the real probable disappointment: Little to no Half Life 3."

What would you like to see change about the SA gaming industry in 2015? (press/community)

Moosa on "Press": "There are too few people who are not straight white men participating and visibly in the spotlight of gaming as a whole. South Africa I think does better than, say, the states in this way. However, I'd like to see less encouragement of that catering to horny teenage boys that even tech sites do (see lists of "hottest women of CES 2015", for example). For that to happen, we need environments where people of colour can talk about race without being told to shut up; we need an environment where women can discuss sexism; etc. People need to stop feeling like anything that doesn't cater to them isn't proper games journalism, writing, or even games! And press and devs need to stop catering to that entitlement.

The press also needs to clamp down on its hype. Every time a game is made visible by press coverage, that's free marketing. We aid and build up a game that most of us - particularly here in SA - have not played. This is different to having actual hands-on time versus carefully selected bits from, say, Ubisoft marketing. We need to encourage gamers to stop pre-ordering - I don't care what people do with their money individually, but collectively that practice is exactly why devs can ship broken games. That's a moral issue that we need to focus on as consumers.

Pippa on "Press": When I first got into the gaming industry I found it incredibly refreshing that everyone supported everybody else. If you were trying to break in, people were friendly and welcoming - the industry was so small here that there was enough for everyone. In recent years I've found this happens less and less. People jealously guard their piece of the pie and unless they've known you for years, there is a wariness just in case you steal some of their readership and advertisers. Again this is about community - we need to help each other in order to see our industry grow. Oh and more women, because you know, I'm tired of being just one of a handful. 

Pippa on "Community": "Inclusiveness. We're all gamers, we should be united in our love of games, not looking for things that separate us."

I've asked Mr Moosa and Hinds each two questions relating to their era of influence or expertise.

Moosa: Your reviews have a distinct signature, why is it important to you to dig deeper?

"I don't think I dig deeper than my own experience of the game. That is, if my engagement with the game seems deeper, that's only because I play and take an interest on that level. I don't think that's better or worse: It's like someone who reads Lord of the Rings for the fantasy story and another who reads it for that but also notices parallels to World War 2, industry, and so on. Both are fulfilling, but maybe the latter person has a keen interest in history that the former does not. Many played Bioshock and enjoyed the experience, but some of us know about Ayn Rand and objectivity so couldn't help but notice Irrational Games' themes. Thus it's not that it's important so much as it is natural. That's just how I write and think when I play.

However, I do think it's important to not write according to the template of graphics, sound, etc. Mainly because, well, it's boring. I can read that anywhere. What I want, as a reader, is a talented, smarter person to tell me what they got from playing. Why would I want a review I can read at every game site in the world."

Moosa Why are video games even important & deserving of your time as a writer?  

"The same reasons books are to book critics: they provide an important dynamic to me. Games are my favourite creative medium because they appeal to my senses, my interest in narrative, and the industry itself is a locus of how many deal with growing pains of society (issues of diversity, sexism, etc.). I get a lot of fulfilment from them. Also, unlike people, you can turn them off whenever you want."

Grant: What do you think will be the most important features of this year's E3 & Gamescom?

"I think for the gamer, and particularly developers and publishers, is the attitude with which they adopt us as buyers. A more partnership attitude that relies on heavy feedback and honest reflection on thier titles is important. I think I may just be wishing here. And of course VR, with the release of the Oculus Rift, there'll be a lot of competition."

And because someone needs to take a stab at answering the following question!

Grant: Why do you think MLG excluded Africa from the 2015 COD Championship?

"I think it was negligence to be honest. There's no reason Activision would willingly omit a country they'd want to please with sales. It is after all a marketing initiative."

I hope you enjoyed the discussion as much as I did. Thanks to Pippa, Tauriq and Grant for their educated opinions ;). We respect you for your experience, knowledge and understanding of this industry we all share a love for. We wish you all the best for 2015. Pippa, may your influence reach the ends of the earth, Grant, may you own every single Apple device, and Moosa, may you continue to challenge gamers everywhere.

Tune in again next Friday for another talk with some of South Africa's gaming heavyweights.

Han: Twitter / MWEB GameZone: Twitter | Facebook

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd

 

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