Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Great Gamerati

Well.  This is a horror show.

I found this through Jeffro, who I've been reading a lot lately.  His take on the video above is somewhat positive.  He's not positive about Joanna Gaskell, but rather finds a way to spin the video to prove that role-playing, embraced, is always epic.

Me, I watch the above video and I shudder.  I shudder from the moment she calls herself the 'Gamerati.' And when she comes to the end, and she says she hasn't talked to any of the people who played that game, I jump to that line from Denis Leary's The Ref.  It isn't just that you haven't seen them, girl.  They're hiding.

She's obviously very pretty and full of herself and upbeat.  She lists a bunch of things that she did with the game that make my skin crawl - "There was a massive story arc that was going to carry my players all the way to level twenty."  She describes all that she did with the game, saying she made a lot of "mistakes." These seem to include - it's not specified - that she 'let' players do things she shouldn't have let them do ("Don't ever do that, ever!"); she let them go wherever they wanted to go ("I had to catch up with them all over the place"); she let a warlock into the party ("You don't let a warlock into a 3.5 party, that's just so overpowered").  This is the 'huge amount' she learned over the campaign.

Am I wrong, or did she design this huge story arc with a map drawn on the back of a brown shopping bag?

Also, did she really say that the big story arc was a paladin losing his powers and then regaining them?  I guess I needed to be there.  Except, I feel like I have been.  In about three dozen different campaigns.

I hope this post drives people to her you tube video.  I hope it contributes to her voice as the "Gamerati."  I hope she can become famous, really famous, so that in a few years, when the two of us meet at some Expo somewhere, I can prove to everyone I know that it will take about 30 seconds for me to piss this girl off by not properly genuflecting to her greatness.

I can see it in the eyes.  I've never quite been obsequious enough for people like this.


Because it may be supposed that somehow respecting women means never criticizing them as people - for surely the only possible criticism that can be made of a woman's beliefs or ideals is directed at her sex, a highly sexualized take on what ought to be seen as the reverse - I offer this video.  I violently support this video.  I hope it encourages dunder-headed louts to understand that when I criticize Gaskell above, I am criticizing her viewpoint, not her gender:


  1. Be careful, Alexis. Considering the climate in video-gaming and other geek circles these days, just criticizing this woman could get you labeled as a misogynist.

  2. I've answered you by adding to the post, Dave.

  3. Aren't all talking heads in popular media like this though? They're wafer thin everyman talk-boxes.

    Maybe it'd be best to look at it as a symptom of a healthy ecosystem. Boring people are talking about RPGs to earn money, there's some cultural penetration right there.

  4. Is she in the popular media? I didn't know. Never bothered to see if she was.

    Looking at her imdb page now.

    I see she is a minor celebrity in the webisode gamer world. What we used to call a poser.

    That certainly explains the brown paper bag map she's so proud of.

    I'm not sure that's cultural penetration so much as opportunism, Daniel. But I take your point. Is it possible, however, that someday a person who talks about this game in the media comes off as something more than an utter dolt?

  5. You're not wrong, I'll grant you. I'm being optimistic, hopeful that a general background of RPG related white noise will build up popular resistance to being weird about it.

    As a side point, I think the big leap will be when someone respectable talks about D&D et al. as something they do rather than something they did. Even that internet-famous lady seemed to be very past tense about it.

  6. There is some gender-sensitivity involved, but I don't think you've crossed the line terribly. Except once. The fact that she's pretty shouldn't enter into it. I find it hard to believe you'd have commented on the appearance of a similarly off-putting male commentator. That appears to be your only real slip.

    I've not watched the video yet. I begin to dread doing so now. And yet, for science, as they say...

  7. IF the male were plainly metro-sexual, the sort of wall street alpine ski-chiseled featured fellow with the sort of blank look that passes now and then to indicate that someone was home, yes, I would have mentioned his attractiveness.

    Assuming I wouldn't because I'm a man, and that men don't comment on men, is again a sexualized argument. I don't know why people don't understand that when they accuse people of being sexualized in their statements, the origin of the sexualization is from WITHIN, not without.

    I don't think you are actually accusing me of anything Jason, but you have been trained to make presumptions. As have we all.

    If I had said the guy was handsome, I'd have some reader assume I was gay.

  8. And I return, having watched the video! Unscathed!

    She calls herself the Gamerati because that's who is hosting the video. They refer to anyone who is part of the gaming community thus. I bet there are lots of videos on this channel that start that way.

    Her mistakes are pretty bad, if you're the sort that has been playing long. They boil down to "the system sucks, and I didn't know how to counteract that" for the most part.

    If you claim to not want to railroad your players, you don't get to complain about them going all over the place. And if you have a plan for 20 levels of story arc, you've already donned a little engineer's cap and tooted the horn on your locomotive.

    The part where I give her the most slack in your response, though, is the paladin story. It wasn't an intentional plan, it sounds like to me, but something that occurred naturally during the course of play. And it's an archetypal story - like something out of Jung or Joseph Campbell. Of course you've been there - I suspect we all have, in the games we play, the stories we read, and the movies we watch. What some will see as a retread, others will see instead as a classic tale.

  9. Point taken - but!

    I think that the minute that appearance enters into this discussion - whether it be neutral, positive or negative - it threatens to derail things unnecessarily. It didn't add anything to your argument, I guess is what I'm trying to say, and it did leave an entry point for those who wanted to disregard you out of hand as being "one of those people."

  10. Being that I've never heard of "Gamerati" in any sense, it comes off as pompous and stupid. If you're going to develop a catch phrase for the internet, it makes a bad first impression. It also smacks of "Cool Person" thinking, helping to support that it is a poser collective.

    And THAT is aided by the appearance of the individual.

    I know that politically, Jason, it would be really, really lovely if Looks were not relevant to a discussion, but as I live in the REAL WORLD, working every day around people who make six figures and who are all plainly ex-fraternity brothers and sorority sisters . . . who speak and talk the part . . . I have to wonder, where are the ugly people?

    Oh, right, they're at the coffee shop where I buy my coffee, and the burger joint, and the security desk, where my willingness to wish them good morning instead of brusquely ignoring them as pond scum never ceases to catch them by surprise.

    There are people in this world who get special attention because of their appearance. We know it, and I can promise you THEY know it. The appearance of the speaker becomes more and more relevant as it turns out she's A) an internet celebrity; and B) part of a poser collective. I made the comment about appearance before I knew either of those things.

    But see . . . I sensed it, didn't I? Because her appearance in this Gamerati video wasn't random, nor were her appearances in webisodes, or anything about the presentation in the video. It was all inherently present in her flippant, happy manner . . . and somehow, instinctively, I tagged to it and tossed in one benign comment about her appearance.

    The media trains us to think this way, Jason. Don't think it doesn't.

  11. Appearances matter. Pretending they don't in some sort of attempt to portray an ideal of equality doesn't serve any useful purpose. It is not sexist to remark upon the attractiveness of another human being, seeing as how the attractiveness of human beings is often quite relevant, especially when marketers get involved.

    Though I feel like discussion as a whole would be much more productive if we resisted the urge to yell "sexism," "racism," "homophobia," or any other such card. Even if the other person is acting in such a manner, such a claim only serves to derail a conversation and move the goal posts, as it were. It is intellectually dishonest and hinders attempts at conversation, forcing people to be much more careful with their words than they otherwise might be.

    As an aside, it's funny. I have more and more been hearing about this stereotype of fraternity/sorority guys and girls, which I imagine is nothing more than priming. I was in a fraternity in college, I had a lot of fun and made a lot of friends, but I guess I didn't get quite the same advantages these stereotypes got. I'm probably not attractive enough.

  12. Sometimes, James, I have to wonder what I am doing here. I've always been a social leper, and it's plain from my vids that I'm not attractive. So perhaps I've got them snowed?

    But then, I don't make their money.

  13. I think what I took away from this whole thing is:

    They played a game, twisted/bent/broke the rules, learned somethings, had FUN, and gamed continuously for three years. All the while generating fond memories they will talk about forever.

    Personally I don't see the big problem with it. I know to each their own as always but you have someone genuinely interested in being a GM, a rarity at times, and a table full of players that showed up for 3 years.

    It could be alot worse.

  14. Yes, Chris. An organized campaign, where individuals are encouraged to begin their 'memories' with the appropriate buzz words, couldn't possibly be scripted.. There are no child actors in the world, people never perform for pay, and I personally like to begin all my memories on this blog by first encouraging the reader to buy into a brand name.

    It's the Internet. Like Reality Television, no one ever lies.

  15. I readily admit it could all be lies.

    Hell, anything on the internet is ripe for lies.

    At the end of the day it's a video, which in my opinion will hopefully further gaming for some folks.

    Either way I don't get the *cool* moniker that is supposedly implied.

    On another note we need more women GM's. Locally the count is starting to rise and with it a diversity in the player pool. Having a good cross section of the sexes adds a much needed depth at the table.

  16. Agreed, Chris.

    I run three campaigns. I have five women in those campaigns and seven men. Four of the seven men are online, where I have no women running. In my two offline campaigns, women outnumber the men.

    I don't count myself, here.

  17. I am the only male in my gaming group (5 women), but that is a function of me never playing a tabletop RPG until my wife got me into it a few years ago, and they are all her friends. I DM because I am the only one with the patience for it.

    It opened my eyes to how segregated the gaming community as a whole is.

  18. About the first vid: soo wanky and marketing department. I would have liked to hear what she would have done differently, it might have been more telling about her personally... I suspect the lessons learned have not improved her games for players who like sandbox freedom.... oh but her stories would be epic (for her).

    About the second, glad you included it... really wish it wasnt necessary... clearly it was...

    the dark side of oxytocin: we hate the out-group more strongly.

    the "pretty" is the political correctness social landmine - WTF cognitive disonance lesson #112 - apparently only women may be critical of women - relevance be damned.

  19. Ok...so.. she is talking about her gaming memories as part of a series of videos of people talking about their gaming memories.

    I fail to see why this is an issue.

    That video talking about failures could have been me talking about CoC or any other game really.

  20. The issue is that the game was quite obviously SHIT, the design was quite obviously SHIT, yet somehow her memories consider that's FINE, because RPGs don't have to be good to be AMAZING.

    The issue is that, like everything else in western culture at the moment, we don't celebrate talent or ability or effort or quality, we celebrate MEDIOCRITY, because "When I'm shit at something, it's AMAZING!!!"

    I wouldn't expect you to get it, Tim. But as you know, I don't celebrate mediocrity, nor do I much appreciate those who do.

  21. And so?

    These are her memories and they are fond ones.

    My wife and I laugh to this day about series of cooking disasters that ended in us ordering pizza. By any measure this was bad, but the memory wasn't.

    This isn't mediocrity, it is a different experience than yours.

  22. After a bit of thought, actually, describing a series of cooking disasters ending in ordering pizza does sound awfully cliche, Tim.

    I don't see why the fact that it is a different experience than my own should make it any less mediocre. In fact, I should think the very fact that it sounds straight out of a Homemaker's magazine rather proves its mediocrity.

    No malice intended, but I just don't celebrate that. I really, really don't celebrate it in a game I am interested in making BETTER. Sorry if that seems elitist, or what have you . . . but we've had 40 years of bad D&D, and here is what we've come to - people in the hobby defending vigorously the right of people to be really crappy at it.

    I wonder for what other hobby there are a group of apologists who anxiously defend people who are obviously the worst at it.

  23. ...this might be the reason I still have trouble getting people to understand the hobby.

    "I wonder for what other hobby there are a group of apologists who anxiously defend people who are obviously the worst at it."

    I work with people who boat and fish. They play and watch football. They play golf. I have a passing interest in these things, but they are not my passion. These are not my hobbies. Yet I understand them. I can relate to my peers because I see how they take their hobbies seriously, and I understand that it is serious.

    When I watch the Gamerati vids, I see people who do not take their hobbies seriously. A fisherman might discuss the finer points angling in such detail as to lose an audience if they do not have a basic understanding of the underlying concepts. The Gamerati, however, discuss their experiences in vague, abstract terms that suggest they don't really know their hobby like other hobbiests.

    I look forward to the day when this is not the case...

  24. As an addendum to this post, writing in 2023. The original link is gone, and searching for Joanna Gaskell & "gamerati" produces no results. There are a few Joanna Gaskell videos ib youtube, but the last was 2 years ago ... apparently she was trying to teach people how to be an "actor" roleplayer.

    I stand by every comment I made under this post, and in it.


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