Escapist Podcast: 143: Assassin's Creed: Unity and the (Brief) Return of Phil Fish

143: Assassin's Creed: Unity and the (Brief) Return of Phil Fish

This week, the valiant Escapist crew discusses Ubisoft's blunder with female characters in Assassin's Creed: Unity as well as Electronic Art's new Battlefield Hardline beta. We also talk about the brief return of Phil Fish, the developer behind the indie hit Fez, and his comments on YouTube Let's Plays.

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Escapist crew discusses Ubisoft neglecting women, has no women on the panel. *rolleye*

Diana Kingston-Gabai:
Escapist crew discusses Ubisoft neglecting women, has no women on the panel. *rolleye*

You are absolutely right. I'm glad that we have a number of women that contribute to Escapist, but unfortunately most of our contributors are not located in the physical office. Still, it is something that we could have pointed out in the podcast.

Ok... I have a bugbear. It's not a "legendary" one yet, although it definitely has ambitions to being "dire".

Can we please stop saying that "women play a lot of games, guys?" whenever this issue comes up. It's kinda condescending, and it carries the implicit idea that women would only be interested in a game if there's a female protagonist. (And possibly the wider idea that ANYBODY is only interested in a playing a protagonist if he or she is just like them.) My teenage niece enjoys many games with male protagonists, including the last "Assassin's Creed" game. I can't speak for her directly - she's not with me now - but I somehow doubt she'd appreciate the implication that this latest game isn't for her because she's not a man. (And I've played enough female characters in games as a male.) The whole "representation" thing is a side-issue.

I don't want more female protagonists because they'll attract more female players (although if it happens, great). I want more diversity in gaming characters overall because it would be a mark of a more diverse gaming ecosystem, and more diverse developers. And that is a very good thing for gaming as a whole. It benefits all games players, regardless of who they are or what sociological groups they belong to.

But this idea that the primary issue with a lack of diverse characters in gaming is that "only white males will want to play them"... There is SO much wrong with that. It's not just that a lack of diversity in game characters puts off a more diverse audience (although it certainly doesn't help). Both the characters and the audience are symptoms of the same problem - namely, a lack of diversity among DEVELOPERS. (All developers are gamers too.) Sort out that problem, and I think the symptoms suddenly get a lot less.

So yes... let's stop pointing out the obvious fact that "yes! Women play games now!" whenever an issue like this comes up. It doesn't need to be stated, it's condescending; and it carries with it certain implications about the state of gaming that take attention away from the real problem, instead of highlighting it.

About the Phil Fish thing. It seems that he really doesn't understand the concepts of direct vs. indirect revenue. You even brought up Rifftrax. When the Rifftrax guys do a riff on a movie, they have to have a licensing deal because they sell their production, thus giving them direct revenue. Youtubers, like TotalBiscuit, and even you guys, @ The Escapist, put your stuff for free on the internet, and it's through the advertisers (and Youtube) that the revenue comes, thus making indirect revenue. To simplify, it's the difference between making money from a product and making money around a product. And it's the entire reason why trying to have Let's Players pay licenses would never, ever happen, because the ramifications from it would be so extreme, it would affect the entire advertisement business of the world.

Diana Kingston-Gabai:
Escapist crew discusses Ubisoft neglecting women, has no women on the panel. *rolleye*

was going to make the exact same point.

Sigfodr:

You are absolutely right. I'm glad that we have a number of women that contribute to Escapist, but unfortunately most of our contributors are not located in the physical office. Still, it is something that we could have pointed out in the podcast.

That's not something you really need to be pointing out, as anyone who follows this website will know you have a good deal of female contributors. Considering the topic you are discussing, however, it would be nice to have one of them in the pannel, even if you set them up on skype. This topic in particular is something they should weigh in, and it's not like you have no precedent of getting someone who's not physically present brought up to speak about a specific topic. I mean, you brought in Andrea Rene to talk about Game of Thrones this very week (not to mention Janelle, who was physically present).

Sigfodr:
You are absolutely right. I'm glad that we have a number of women that contribute to Escapist, but unfortunately most of our contributors are not located in the physical office. Still, it is something that we could have pointed out in the podcast.

Given that this very podcast has Skyped in guest commentators like Jim Sterling in the past, that strikes me as a problematic argument.

So how many people actually care about this Ubisoft thing? I hear about it a lot, but it's mostly from 'celebs' in the gaming industry. Most gamers don't seem to give a shit about something that seems contrived.

beef_razor:
So how many people actually care about this Ubisoft thing? I hear about it a lot, but it's mostly from 'celebs' in the gaming industry. Most gamers don't seem to give a shit about something that seems contrived.

Nah, I agree with you for the most part on that one. But then I have no interest in the "Assassin's Creed" series anyway. Yeah, I absolutely want to see more diversity in games (although more in the developers, which I think is the key issue, than in the characters - which is a problem I think would be naturally fixed anyway if we see more varied developers) but honestly this particular example of it doesn't seem to have any wider significance other than just Ubisoft being awful at 1) planning diverse characters, and 2) PR. And hey, what's new?

About the Phil Fish thing, I don't have a PS4 right now, so I watch a lot of PS4 walkthrough/playthrough on YouTube. If they really are able to force YouTube to remove all gameplay content, then I'm sure people will start posting them on DailyMotion, Vimeo, or even Tudou and YouKu. Good luck getting them to remove your videos. Game devs needs to chill out on this, if not, they'll cause their own crash.

In regards to the Let's Play discussion...

I'm surprised to say that I'm actually somewhat in favour Phil Fish's opinion. From personal experience, I can directly relate several 'lost' sales to Let's Plays. There are plenty of games that I personally consider 'mediocre' from reviews/fan reaction that I would likely buy at a reduced price (steam/humblebundle sale) but instead don't buy at all because of the free access to a let's play.

Examples:

Dear Esther - I've heard nothing but praise for this game and yet I knew going in that it was exactly the type of gameplay I hate. Walking room to room searching everything and completing very minimal puzzles. This is actively boring to me and frankly, doesn't feel like I'm playing a game. I watched the start of the LP and confirmed that my fears were justified. I'd hate this 'game' if I were playing it. However, watching the let's play was a totally different experience. I happily watched the entire game on let's play while playing other games (typically D3) and I never intend to buy the product.

God of War (series) - Here's a game genre that offers amazing set pieces and fascinating lore. Plenty of people enjoy the twitch-skill based combat system as well. I do not. I hate the excessive use of QTE's and have found from GoW1&2 that I'll quickly give up on the game long before the ending because of the combat grind. Enter LP's. My source of GoW content. If these weren't around odds are extremely good I'd have at least bought GoW3 at a reduced rate.

Some other examples just in list form:
- The Stanley Parable
- Outlast
- The Walking Dead 400 days DLC (I happily bought both season 1&2 though)
- Bioshock Infinite Season Pass (Bought the game)

Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't have bought ALL of the above games without Let's Play. I'm far from rich and can't afford to spend a lot on gaming. But I know for sure I'd have bought a few of these at sub $5.00 on steam sales if not for the existence of Let's Plays. To say that they impact game sales is a completely 100% fair statement. To say they also HELP generate sales is easily proven as well.

It's fairly simple to claim that a game like Stanley Parable / Dear Esther shouldn't have FULL Let's Plays. But where would you draw the line (if anywhere)? Games like God of War, Mass Effect, KOTOR, SouthPark Stick of Truth, all take advantage of both combat and a strong story. Should these all be allowed to fully Let's Play?

babinro:
In regards to the Let's Play discussion...

I'm surprised to say that I'm actually somewhat in favour Phil Fish's opinion. From personal experience, I can directly relate several 'lost' sales to Let's Plays. There are plenty of games that I personally consider 'mediocre' from reviews/fan reaction that I would likely buy at a reduced price (steam/humblebundle sale) but instead don't buy at all because of the free access to a let's play.

Examples:

Dear Esther - I've heard nothing but praise for this game and yet I knew going in that it was exactly the type of gameplay I hate. Walking room to room searching everything and completing very minimal puzzles. This is actively boring to me and frankly, doesn't feel like I'm playing a game. I watched the start of the LP and confirmed that my fears were justified. I'd hate this 'game' if I were playing it. However, watching the let's play was a totally different experience. I happily watched the entire game on let's play while playing other games (typically D3) and I never intend to buy the product.

God of War (series) - Here's a game genre that offers amazing set pieces and fascinating lore. Plenty of people enjoy the twitch-skill based combat system as well. I do not. I hate the excessive use of QTE's and have found from GoW1&2 that I'll quickly give up on the game long before the ending because of the combat grind. Enter LP's. My source of GoW content. If these weren't around odds are extremely good I'd have at least bought GoW3 at a reduced rate.

Some other examples just in list form:
- The Stanley Parable
- Outlast
- The Walking Dead 400 days DLC (I happily bought both season 1&2 though)
- Bioshock Infinite Season Pass (Bought the game)

Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't have bought ALL of the above games without Let's Play. I'm far from rich and can't afford to spend a lot on gaming. But I know for sure I'd have bought a few of these at sub $5.00 on steam sales if not for the existence of Let's Plays. To say that they impact game sales is a completely 100% fair statement. To say they also HELP generate sales is easily proven as well.

It's fairly simple to claim that a game like Stanley Parable / Dear Esther shouldn't have FULL Let's Plays. But where would you draw the line (if anywhere)? Games like God of War, Mass Effect, KOTOR, SouthPark Stick of Truth, all take advantage of both combat and a strong story. Should these all be allowed to fully Let's Play?

Its a subject with no real right answer, for even with Mass Effect 3 with the amount of people that complain on the internet about how bad the game was after the first couple of days its right now (at least according to VGChartz) BioWare's best selling game of over five million copies sold. So now you have the question could the Let's Play videos help generate sales by demonstrating the issue wasn't as bad as thought to some players?

TheMadDoctorsCat:
Ok... I have a bugbear. It's not a "legendary" one yet, although it definitely has ambitions to being "dire".

Can we please stop saying that "women play a lot of games, guys?" whenever this issue comes up. It's kinda condescending, and it carries the implicit idea that women would only be interested in a game if there's a female protagonist. (And possibly the wider idea that ANYBODY is only interested in a playing a protagonist if he or she is just like them.) My teenage niece enjoys many games with male protagonists, including the last "Assassin's Creed" game. I can't speak for her directly - she's not with me now - but I somehow doubt she'd appreciate the implication that this latest game isn't for her because she's not a man. (And I've played enough female characters in games as a male.) The whole "representation" thing is a side-issue.

I don't want more female protagonists because they'll attract more female players (although if it happens, great). I want more diversity in gaming characters overall because it would be a mark of a more diverse gaming ecosystem, and more diverse developers. And that is a very good thing for gaming as a whole. It benefits all games players, regardless of who they are or what sociological groups they belong to.

But this idea that the primary issue with a lack of diverse characters in gaming is that "only white males will want to play them"... There is SO much wrong with that. It's not just that a lack of diversity in game characters puts off a more diverse audience (although it certainly doesn't help). Both the characters and the audience are symptoms of the same problem - namely, a lack of diversity among DEVELOPERS. (All developers are gamers too.) Sort out that problem, and I think the symptoms suddenly get a lot less.

So yes... let's stop pointing out the obvious fact that "yes! Women play games now!" whenever an issue like this comes up. It doesn't need to be stated, it's condescending; and it carries with it certain implications about the state of gaming that take attention away from the real problem, instead of highlighting it.

I am inclined to agree, I feel really weird about posting this because now any thoughts on this topic seem to come with the added eggshell walk of possibly being confused for some kind of "mens rights activist" which I am certainly not. But I do think that feedback is important so I want to say that I am kind of exhausted in regards to this issue. I think Ubisoft did something thoughtless, and tried to back track by saying something downright idiotic. I've read/watched 5 articles on this site from the from Jimquisition, to Experienced points, to Critical intel, and more, just talking about this one topic. All of these are interesting pieces and I agreed with all of them. I sat there nodding my head, but then I noticed that it seems that the escapist is completely saturated with talk of gender issues. Because in addition to this, The Big picture, Every single Movies and TV podcast, and various other articles appear on the escapist to tell us that we should be offended or surprised or shocked about the various gender related topics that arise, so much so that the Escapist itself is starting to come across as some insecure and down right condescending not just to people who disagree with them but also to women themselves.

I am not shocked that women are succeeding in the box office, of which a recent movies and TV podcast claimed that Tom Cruise's latest Sci-fi flick lost to not one but two movies that were made because "hey guess what guys, Women Watch Movies!!!" It's becoming this hipster trend where now every piece of medium has to break a barrier or else its not worth talking about.

And I just want to clarify before the accusation comes my way: I am not suggesting in anyway that people need to shut up about these issues or that I find them annoying or that I find them personally disagreeable.

My point is that when you over saturate your site with constant articles about this issue, the people you need to reach are going to just stop reading, and the people who remain are going to be a few contrarians and trolls, or a bunch of people who already agree with you emphatically. These are people you don't need to convince because one group is already convinced and the other will never be convinced no matter what.

But it is getting quite boring to see a bunch of men and women who just sit around talking about big issues, bringing nothing new to the table and just nodding their heads in agreement. I don't want to generalize about all of the escapist and not everyone does this but, some editor control would be nice, like if there are 2 articles already about this issue, they should just keep posting more and more just because.

Kameburger:

TheMadDoctorsCat:
Snip.

I am inclined to agree, I feel really weird about posting this because now any thoughts on this topic seem to come with the added eggshell walk of possibly being confused for some kind of "mens rights activist" which I am certainly not. But I do think that feedback is important so I want to say that I am kind of exhausted in regards to this issue. I think Ubisoft did something thoughtless, and tried to back track by saying something downright idiotic. I've read/watched 5 articles on this site from the from Jimquisition, to Experienced points, to Critical intel, and more, just talking about this one topic. All of these are interesting pieces and I agreed with all of them. I sat there nodding my head, but then I noticed that it seems that the escapist is completely saturated with talk of gender issues. Because in addition to this, The Big picture, Every single Movies and TV podcast, and various other articles appear on the escapist to tell us that we should be offended or surprised or shocked about the various gender related topics that arise, so much so that the Escapist itself is starting to come across as some insecure and down right condescending not just to people who disagree with them but also to women themselves.

I am not shocked that women are succeeding in the box office, of which a recent movies and TV podcast claimed that Tom Cruise's latest Sci-fi flick lost to not one but two movies that were made because "hey guess what guys, Women Watch Movies!!!" It's becoming this hipster trend where now every piece of medium has to break a barrier or else its not worth talking about.

And I just want to clarify before the accusation comes my way: I am not suggesting in anyway that people need to shut up about these issues or that I find them annoying or that I find them personally disagreeable.

My point is that when you over saturate your site with constant articles about this issue, the people you need to reach are going to just stop reading, and the people who remain are going to be a few contrarians and trolls, or a bunch of people who already agree with you emphatically. These are people you don't need to convince because one group is already convinced and the other will never be convinced no matter what.

But it is getting quite boring to see a bunch of men and women who just sit around talking about big issues, bringing nothing new to the table and just nodding their heads in agreement. I don't want to generalize about all of the escapist and not everyone does this but, some editor control would be nice, like if there are 2 articles already about this issue, they should just keep posting more and more just because.

I mostly agree with this (the exception being that I found the "historical case" article interesting as it dealt with the subject in a fresh new way). But yeah, I feel that this issue has been maybe focussed on, at the expense of some of the things that I'd like to see more of. How about opinions on the best / worst games shown at E3? Best / worst moments? As much as Ubisoft and Phil Fish can be entertaining in their almost sociopathic disregard of commonsense when talking to the press, I don't think either warrants pages of coverage.

 

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