The game industry’s problem with misogyny

Published on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 By Frogboy In Life, the Universe and Everything

One of the more annoying trends in our society has been the substitution of action with rhetoric.  This has really taken off in the age of Twitter where people think hashtags are a replacement for actually doing something.

Today I read an Opinion Piece on Polygon called “No Skin thick enough: The daily harassment of women in the game industry”  It’s a good piece and one I think you should read. 

However, I do have some criticisms of the piece. For starters, it is a bad piece of journalism. It relies completely on sensationalistic emotionalism to back up its blanket assertion (“the daily harassment of women in the game industry”). 

Such articles, even opinion pieces, are apparently not open to discussion.  As soon as I expressed some criticism on Twitter the haters came out in force. All sense of reason evaporated.  My criticism was: Be aware that sometimes allegations of sexual harassment are false (remember what happened to me). That, by no means, had anything to do with the anecdotes in the article. It has to do with how women sometimes choose to take criticism/teasing/abuse as being due to their sex. 

Specifically, I take issue with articles that make sweeping (and arguably sexist) charges against men using 4 anecdotes as evidence.

If we were debating any other topic and someone made a broad, far reaching claim and backed it up with nothing more than 4 anecdotal examples they’d get reamed.  But because we are talking about an ism, it is taboo to raise any skepticism about the article’s agenda.

I’ve been in the game industry for over 20 years. I’ve seen its ugliness in many different forms. So let me tell you: This subject matter is delicate and should be treated as such. 

The game industry is rife with misogyny. It is a serious issue for many reasons. We, as a society, lose out because our industry is not welcoming to women. The reason for that is because when a man does something impressive and gets some publicity, they get kudos and support.  But if a woman does something impressive and gets the same publicity, their experience is likely to be terrible and humiliating.  I’ve seen this first hand and it’s discouraging.

However, having been falsely accused of sexually harassing someone and gone through years of public and private hell for it while at the same time running a game studio with one of (if not the highest) concentration of female employees in our industry I think I’m in a position to say how nuanced this article is.

Let me say it plainly: There are women who will exploit this delicate topic for financial or professional gain. Maybe they’re “journalists” who know it’s a quick, easy way to get their article published on Kotaku. Maybe it’s a former journalist whose just gotten into the game industry who wants her upcoming project to get coverage. Or maybe it’s a young woman mad at her boss who wants to exploit the issue to make money.  And of course, maybe it’s a legitimate reporting on a serious problem.  But sorry, I’m a skeptic now. I didn’t use to be but 2 years of unwarranted smears have made me take these claims with a grain of salt.

I’m an engineer, I’m interested in solutions and I think there is a lot we can do to address this issue:

  1. Punish people who harass other people. I.e. Permanently ban someone who writes the kind of disgusting invective that the article cites.  XBox Live and other services allow for an immense level of abuse of all kinds. Don’t tolerate it anymore.
  2. Encourage / Reward those who actually DO something. The reason “white knighting” is despised is because it’s really about people making themselves feel good about themselves.   Less rewarding of progressive rhetoric and more reward of progressive action.

    The media could do more to cover games and studios that utilize female talent.  Do you like Galactic Civilizations? The lead developer of GalCiv I and II is a woman (and by lead developer I mean the highest % of C++ code in the game was written by her).  Like Falllen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes? The #1 C++ coder on that project was a woman (a different woman).  

    Like the Stardock websites including galciv3.com, oxidegames.com, elementalgame.com? Designed, coded, and created by women (3 women in particular).  How about Start8? ModernMix? Project Manager of those two projects, a woman.

    Why do I bring up these self-serving examples: To illustrate that the media has never chosen to cover any of this. Why not?
     
  3. Encourage people to talk about the transformative effects of a more diversified working environment. We hire a lot of women because it makes our products better. Not because women are “just as good” as men but rather because men and women bring unique strengths.

    Running a company dominated by one sex puts them at a distinct disadvantage in the talent area.  Men and women are different.  Here’s a “sexist” statement: It has been my experience that women are better at UI design than men. I have no idea why. That’s 20 years of observation talking. Men tend to be better at debugging. No idea why. Don’t care. Both seem to be equally effective at writing buggy code.

     
  4. Scrutinize and punish those who make false claims on this topic. I saw a women on Twitter claim she wasn’t hired because she was a woman. The company who didn’t hire her was immediately villainized. She offered no evidence. We need to be very very careful about tarring and feathering people on this issue. Don’t reward those who are trying to profit from playing the sexism card.

When people try to silence any questions on allegations being made through abuse, all they succeed in doing is create an environment of skepticism.  It is hard to express that succinctly on Twitter. I know my own views of this issue will never be the same after I, who considered myself somewhat of a champion for the cause of women in gaming, was suddenly painted out as a monster.

Choose to be part of the solution: Do your part to make the Internet a less toxic environment. Don’t just blindly support empty, feel good pap. Keep your critical thinking cap on.

Update: Slashdot comments are very interesting and in stark contrast to the empty progressive rhetoric on Twitter. http://games-beta.slashdot.org/story/14/07/22/229256/the-daily-harassment-of-women-in-the-game-industry

Scarab 215 review

Published on Monday, July 21, 2014 By Frogboy In Life, the Universe and Everything

The Scarab brand has been reintroduced this year with the launch of 3 new jet boats. These jet boats are the spiritual (and in many respects, literal) successor to the Seaddoo line of Jetboats that BRP discontinued at the end of 2012.

layout), the 195 (a 19 foot model) and the 215 (a 21 foot model with 2 Rotax engines).

As a current (and happy) owner of a 2011 Seadoo 150 (and occasional user of the Seadoo Challenger), I can say that the general build quality of the new Scarab line is substantially superior to the Seadoos. This com

scarab

The 215 is the most gorgeous boat I’ve ever seen

Scarab has launched with 3 models: The 165 (Which is an updated version of the Seadoo 150 with a different

es in the form of more (by default) sound insulation, better trim work, snap in carpet (by default), better usability detailing and significantly better seats.

I agonized a bit over whether to get the 215 or the 195. Ultimately, I decided I wanted the fastest boat I could get and that meant the 215 with dual Rotax 250HP engines. With a top speed of about 60 MPH, it’s as fast as I would ever want to go on our inland Michigan lake.

What I like

Mine came with the premium sound system and it is amazing. There are several speakers throughout the boat and 3 sets of controls around the boat for controlling sound.  The Sony stereo was a snap to setup Bluetooth Audio with my iPhone.

I also really like the Bimini top. It’s very firm and holds up well to going high speed. It also provides the driver and copilot a nice bit of shade. It’s fairly easy to take down if you choose not to be covered.  Having it up does cost you about 5MPH in top speed.

Probably my favorite feature is the stern deck. The adjustable seats make it easy to sit back in the back as well as get in and out of the water. For such a sporty boat, it’s also a remarkably practical boat for taking guests out on the lake. In fact, it proved to be so practical that it made my Bennington pontoon boat obsolete and caused me to sell it.  I can do everything in this boat that I could in the pontoon.

The adjustable seats are also a major highlight for me. I’ve read people on forums calling them a “gimmick”. They’re not.  While they can be a bit clunky, they make the boat so much more enjoyable to use because you can use the back of the boat as a lounge area or a reading area. Frankly, after having used these, I grew fairly disgusted with the state of pontoon boats which still lack this kind of simple flexibility.

It also have a lot of compartments that seem really well thought out. This was one area that it really beats the Seadoo boats they replaced. That isn’t to say that Seadoos and Yamahas don’t have plenty of storage area too. The difference here is the thought behind the storage areas. There’s lots of small spots to place things that are quite useful (the anchor locker, for instance, is a nice touch).

While not a new feature per se, the drive system supports Cruise, Eco, Ski, and Docking modes.  I found the Cruise and Ski modes to be kind of gimmicky but the Docking and Eco modes are immensely useful. These modes, in effect, give the onboard computer more say over how the engine runs.

The docking mode made low speed maneuvering extremely easy. I’m pretty versed in jet boat use at this point but I was struck by how much more precision the docking mode gave me.  

The eco mode gives the computer more control over how the engine runs in order to save a great deal of fuel. I have only done some testing with this but I would guess that it’s about a 20% savings on fuel. The only downside is that you can’t run the boat as fast.

There are also a number of small touches I appreciated. The ladder system is strapless and a cinch to extend and retract. The captain and co-pilot chairs came with built in seat bolsters that let me quickly and easily fold in the bolster and sit up to get a much better view. There is included side “webbing” around the boat to make it easy to store things.

What I didn’t like

You might have gotten the impression that I think the boat is perfect.  It’s not.

The 215’s super charged Rotax engines are very loud. Even with the extra sound insulation Scarab put in, it’s louder than I would like. It’s a non-trivial problem to solve because the engines just barely fit in the engine compartment.  I don’t want to make it sound like they’re incredibly loud in general. They’re quieter than a similarly configured Seadoo would be. But I had read online that the Scarabs were noticeably quieter but I’m not seeing that.

The cockpit display is disappointing. There is real limit in how much information is displayed at once (like water temp and water depth – choose one). In fact, the cockpit in general is surprisingly chintzy. The switches for turning on lights and using modes looks like something I might have built back in EE class.

It uses physical keys (two of them) to start up. Seems like I should be able to plug in a fob or something and then press two buttons to start up each motor.

It rattles at higher speeds. I can’t quite pinpoint where the loud rattling comes from but it detracts from my enjoyment. I think it’s them windshield but it seems to be on well. Nevertheless, my Seadoo doesn’t rattle.

The snap in carpet doesn’t have nearly enough snaps. Wind can (and does) get under the carpet causing it to come up occasionally if going high speed (60MPH for extended periods).

The radio “controller” at the captain’s location has no display. So I can’t tell what station I’m on. This seemed like an unnecessary cheap out that has a material effect on enjoying the music system.

The adjustable seats are clunky. That is, they’re a bit of a pain to adjust. I’m thankful that they can be adjusted. I just wish they were easier to do so.

There is no way to get on the boat without crawling over the seats. This eliminates it as a touring boat for older passengers. This is a real shame because the boat is so practical in every other respect.

Conclusions

Don’t like my criticisms scare you off. It’s a great boat. But this is a review and one of the things that prompted me to write it was out vapid the boat reviews I’ve seen so far have been.

I’m loving my time with the boat. My above list of nits are not show stoppers. It’s definitely the most enjoyable boat I’ve ever owned. It’s gorgeous, fast and remarkably practical as a touring boat. And thanks to the ECO mode, it’s also not the gas guzzler you’d normally expect out of this type of boat.

Photos

photo 2 - Copy

Here I have the seats down so that my wife can sunbathe while our daughter swims around. You can also see the two rear speakers.  In the center there you can see the tow line for tubing. I was not terribly happy with it being so low on the boat as it makes it easier to accidentally run over the line (Since the captain can’t see the line connection from his position).

photo 3

Just a close up of the side. You can see the Bimini top which is very firm and one of my favorite features of the boat.

photo 4

View of the front. This is a fantastic design. Most jet boats have something similar but it makes touring on this boat so much more enjoyable than say a Pontoon.

 

photo 5

This is the built in Bolster seat. You just fold it up to give you a booster to sit on. It’s remarkably comfortable and made a huge difference to my enjoyment of the boat.

image

Here is the control console here.  Overall, it’s fine. But I had wished that it was a but more sophisticated. My biggest gripe is how ghetto the stereo controller is here. But in terms of controlling the boat, it’s all fine.

On vacation: Don't burn the place down!

Published on Saturday, July 19, 2014 By Frogboy In Elemental Dev Journals

Okay guys! I'm out at the lake for the next couple weeks. I only plan to be on working when the weather is crummy.  I just checked out source code for E2015 and will be working on that during the rainy days.

While I'm out. please DO NOT burn down the place. I know it's tempting. I realize now that leaving the ammo dump and the fuel depot together in the same area of the forum were mistakes but resist! Just resist.

Thank you!

FE: Legendary Heroes v1.7 this month

Published on Wednesday, July 09, 2014 By Frogboy In Elemental Dev Journals

It looks like, with any luck, LH v1.7 will be going out a week from this Thursday (July 17th).

This is possibly the biggest update we’ve done to Legendary Heroes since its release.

You can read up on what’s new in it here: http://forums.elementalgame.com/455808/

Besides a ton of tweaks to the game itself, new features, new content and improved AI we were able to diagnose some crash bugs and fix them as well. So not only should it be the funnest update we’ve done but the most stable as well.

These updates are thanks to you guys.  Your purchases of DLC allow us to hire more developers to either work on LH or on other projects which free other developers to work on LH.

The next DLC is going to focus around tactical battles and new map stamps.

Return from 2020: Super Cruise Control

Published on Tuesday, July 01, 2014 By Draginol In Everything Else

The time machine worked like a charm (this time anyway) and I got to spend a few hours in 2020.

Things haven’t changed nearly as much as I imagined (I was hoping for Amazon delivery drones, but alas, none to be found).  But my friend drove me up north and showed off a relatively new feature on his BMW: Super Cruise.

Now, admittedly, I had hoped there would be self-driving cars by then but apparently they still aren’t a thing in 2020 which was a big bummer.  However, most of the high end cards do have Super Cruiser (different companies call it different things – Ford calls theirs “Smart Cruise”).

Anyway, the way it works is that you get on a highway, get to the speed you want and set “Super Cruise” which will then keep you on the road at that speed, in that lane and handle acceleration and deceleration as well as steering.  It only works on certain highways under certain conditions (all GPS / road condition based – which has come a long way) but otherwise it’s pretty neat.

I wasn’t there long but if anyone has any questions on 2020 I’ll try my best to answer. Smile

Secrets of business: Partnerships

Published on Tuesday, July 01, 2014 By Draginol In Business

 

When I was 20 I had nothing. I was working multiple jobs to pay for college and started Stardock as a way to pay for school.  20 years later, it’s now worth 9 figures.  How did this happen?

The number 1 rule for success I’ve found is to build partnerships. This can mean your employees and it can mean external companies, contractors, etc. that you team up with. 

What does “building” partnerships mean? To me, it means, working towards their success.  This might seem counterintuitive but if you build your relationships upon the premise that if your partners succeed then you succeed then all your decisions boil down to what can you do to make your partners successful. 

Coming soon: PRINT your GalCiv III ship designs

Published on Tuesday, June 10, 2014 By Frogboy In Galactic Civilizations III

Don't know if you guys saw my tweet:

 

https://twitter.com/draginol/status/476387740372971520

 

Mind you, this is from the cheapest 3D printer I could find.  When we get closer to beta, we plan to show off what the 3D printing feature in GalCiv III can really do (as we export the colors and other details as well).

Anyone have a favorite 3D printing service I can recommend to people who don't have their own 3D printer? I saw this place: http://www.sculpteo.com/en/

 

 

 

E2015 Q & A

Published on Tuesday, June 10, 2014 By Frogboy In E2015

If you have any questions, feel free to post them. I'll take as many of those questions as I can and put them into an FAQ that I'll put into the Founder's Vault.

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