Archive for the ‘disturbing’
The quotes below come from an April 2007 piece entitled "And The Winner Is", concerning the inaugural Games Media Awards of later that year, written by Kyle Orland for GameDaily.com. The site no longer exists, but you can still read the article via the ever-handy Internet Wayback Machine.
""We actually found a lot of people in the games media don't feel well recognized by the industry they served," said Stuart Dinsey, Managing Director for Intent Media and the brains behind the awards show. "We felt this was a good way to give them some of that recognition and have a great party for everyone to get together at the same time."
"As for the all-important judging itself, Dinsey said the exact process was still being tweaked. Dinsey added that he'd like to get votes from "all the leading companies" in the games industry, probably by asking PR representatives to consult with their colleagues and place a vote to represent the company as a whole. Dinsey said the exact makeup of the judging panel will be kept secret until after the voting is done, to prevent any quid pro quo situations from developing."
But the mere specter of industry voting was enough to give some members of the press pause about the awards. "The games industry are the last people who should be voting for awards in games journalism," said British game freelancer Kieron Gillen. "It's a bit like the prisoners voting for who's their favourite prison guard." Gillen said he worries that the industry voting will make the award one "you wouldn't want to win…. because it's basically shorthand for 'Lapdog Of The Year award'.""
(Despite these comments, Gillen accepted a GMA that very year, and this month pocketed the "Games Media Legend" prize to bookend it with. He attempted to justify his instant U-turn the day after the 2007 award by saying "The awards don’t really matter. PRs are fine. They’re just people." In a fine twist of irony he now pontificates at highbrow public events about how independent games journalism is of PR, and is also a judge in the "Games Journalism Prizes" awards, along with a number of other "concerned games industry types", several of whom are also GMA winners.)
Now the owner of the PR-driven GMAs uses their power to censor journalists with legal threats for expressing honest opinions and accurately quoting people's own public comments to illustrate a valid and fair point. Now maybe we're just old and bitter (well, there's no "maybe" about it), but it seems a pretty odd way of "recognising" games journalism to us. Unless, that is, you ponder who voted on the first GMAs (and still vote on them now), and start wondering to yourself exactly which industry it was that Stuart Dinsey meant when he said "recognised by the industry they serve".
Well, that was exciting. The entire English-speaking world of videogames journalism just about convulsed itself into a coma yesterday because someone did that rarest of things in the English-speaking world of videogames journalism – spoke openly, frankly and truthfully about something. If you've been having trouble keeping up with the dizzying pace of developments, allow us to lead you gently through the most concise and accurate timeline we can manage.
Below is the originally-published version of an article entitled "A Table Of Doritos", which appeared on Eurogamer this week, before being censored by the site following a complaint from Lauren Wainwright, who was mentioned in the piece. Lauren Wainwright is a journalist whose entry on Journalisted includes Tomb Raider publisher Square-Enix in the roster of her "current" employers.
WoSland republishes the article here, without the permission or knowledge of either Eurogamer or the article's author Robert Florence, in the interests of news reporting. It is unedited save for the fact that we've highlighted in bold the passage that Eurogamer removed. If it's libellous, as Lauren Wainwright claims, we invite her to sue us.
You don't even need to be a particularly alert reader to recall WoSland's worrying piece about recession-hit Bath just a few weeks ago, which drew thousands of viewers from all corners of the net to become one of the all-time top 10 most popular posts on the blog. But this week, Bath's fall from grace was rendered complete.
The image above comes from a piece in Monday's Guardian about dereliction and decay in urban England (click the pic to read the story). The feature talks about northern working-class cities like Bradford, Redcar, Sheffield and Preston, particularly the various consequences (and, it posits optimistically, opportunities) presented by long-term disuse, decay and demolition of long-term empty properties. The picture chosen to illustrate it, though, is of London Road in Bath.
It's not, admittedly, the most salubrious part of town. But Bath is more accustomed to being employed to depict the grand Edwardian age in period dramas. To serve as a passable imitation of deprived modern-day Bradford instead may well be seen by the city's inhabitants as its darkest hour since it was bombed by the Nazis in 1942.
As a concept, digital distribution – particularly of videogames – is a wonderful thing. It should, and sometimes does, reduce prices dramatically by cutting out the need for physical manufacture, stock inventory, distribution and retail middleman. (Which in turn can also make niche genres economically viable.)
It can be, and usually is, much more convenient too – there's no need to mess around with noisy, slow-loading discs or worry about getting them scratched or losing them if all your content is right there on an instantly-accessible hard drive.
The only problem with digital is that it cedes control of your software library (and therefore all the money you've invested in it) to business, and business is evil.
I'm pretty old. I also have a lot of spare time, and those two facts mean I think about stuff a lot. Far too much, in fact, because in my experience the more you understand about the world the less happy you are – Christ knows how Stephen Hawking even gets up in the morning. (Oh, right. Sorry.)
Eventually, unless you're some sort of superbeing, you come to a plateau of experience where nothing much surprises you any more, and every new horror doesn't shock, just wearily reaffirms what you already knew in your heart about the ugliness of the human condition. Every atrocity and idiocy on the news become just more of the same, and past a certain age it barely raises an eyebrow, never mind setting your soul on fire with righteous fury. You know how things are, so why keep getting yourself worked up pointlessly? Your mind is set.
But I first heard this song something like 20 years ago. And half a lifetime later I still don't know what I think about it.
Written by the slightly creepy 1970s godfathers of emo Big Star, the version that actually introduced me to "Thirteen" was the cover by US college noiseniks Magnapop on their eponymous debut album, and it's still by far my favourite take on the song. (I don't like the original at all, and Garbage's version is the only other good one.) But we're a little ahead of ourselves here.
At the most generous interpretation, "Thirteen" is a paean to (very) underage sex. At worst it's a hymn in open praise of paedophilia. The identity of the singer – whether it's a classroom sweetheart or sinister predator – is never explicitly made plain. What evidence there is leans slightly towards the latter, but either way we're talking about statutory rape at best. And if the title's inconclusive, the opening line coldly removes the comfort of doubt: "Won't you let me walk you home from school?"
(The song is often excused by invariably-male rock critics as being about innocent adolescent love, not sex. But as we'll see later in the lyrics, this is cop-out rubbish.)
The traditional portrayal of the paedophile, of course, is of an older man preying on young girls. So in having the cover sung by a woman – half of Magnapop were female – there's a twist straight away. Is this an attempt to somehow neutralise the song's evil (like U2 introducing "Helter Skelter" with the words "This is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles. We're stealing it back") by taking control of it, and therefore its power, away from the abuser? Or is it turning the situation round to present the hypocrisy with which society views underage sex if you reverse the usual genders?
(If a young girl is molested by an older man, everyone wants him killed. If an older woman has sex with an underage boy, most people – most men, at least – think of the victim as a lucky bastard.) Or is it neither of those things, and simply the same story of young love told by the other participant?
While the original, and most other versions, play it as a rather folkish acoustic ballad, Magnapop muddy the picture further by producing something altogether more intense. Starting with a prowling, menacing bassline and sparse reverb-heavy drums, the revelatory second half of each verse is consumed in fiery guitar noise. Where each set of opening lines are delivered with a gentle sweetness, the ensuing parts carry a lascivious yearning that borders on threat.
In the first verse the words "…and I'll take you" ostensibly refer harmlessly to a school dance, but Magnapop's Linda Hopper enunciates them with an almost-sneer that implies something a lot less innocuous. In the original, the second verse's reference to "Paint It Black" suggests an everyday musical discussion about the Rolling Stones' work – in Hopper's hands, as the incendiary guitars start to lick around the line's feet, it's a full-blown invocation of Their Satanic Majesties, and the words "Come inside where it's okay / I won't shake you" sound like an empty promise.
(Curiously, this is a change in the cover – the original pledges the narrator WILL shake the object of his desire, yet sounds far less ominous than Hopper's vow of inaction.)
The third and final verse, though, is where the song really shows both of its faces. The first two lines are spine-tingling: "Won't you tell me what you're thinking of? / Would you be an outlaw for my love?"
There's no ambiguity any more – there's nothing unlawful about chaste affection, after all. This desire is unequivocally breaking sacred rules, and the singer is openly inviting their object to come with them to damnation. But as the guitars whip up a final squalling crescendo, a note of nervousness and fear slips from behind our protagonist's mask of seductive confidence: "If it's so then let me know / If it's no, then I can go / I won't make you."
The dread of the negative response is palpable in Hopper's quivering voice, and all too familiar. We’ve all put our hearts on the line at one time or another. We've all asked the same question, and we've all waited in that eternity for the answer. We've all experienced that very same plight, exposed and vulnerable and desperately hoping for the best amid a maelstrom of noise.
But there's a difference. What the song's protagonist wants here is wrong. After all, they've just confessed their desire for a child. Empathy and revulsion fight a life-or-death battle for our souls – can love be codified and imprisoned in a set of rigid human rules and numbers? (And if so, which numbers? The age of consent varies radically all over the world. Even in what we'd think of as civilised modern European countries like Spain it's perfectly legal to have sex with a 14-year-old.)
Is everything really black and white? Can we judge the story on the information at hand? Do we even have a right to try?
Don't ask me. I don't know.
In "Thirteen" the answer never comes, of course. And that's why everyone should hear this song. As we get older, our views tend to ossify. We're less prepared to endure (or admit to) uncertainty, to have our perceptions challenged or our prejudices confronted. But 20 years on, every time I hear the song I still don't know whether it's a beautiful declaration of pure, visceral love beyond the clumsy and malleable morality of law, a sick and repulsive piece of slash fiction, or both. And – in an inescapably disturbing parallel with the subject matter – that's why I love it.
I love it because it makes me uncomfortable. I love it because it makes me unsure about what I believe. I love it, in other words, because it makes me feel young.