After relative silence on the actions of anti-#GamerGate journalists, Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins reject the narrative by former employee Ben Kuchera that shorter games are somehow better. In his opinion piece on Polygon, Ben Kuchera quotes Adrian Chmielarz concerning the design of his game The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. What Ben Kuchera apparently did not know is that Adrian Chmielarz is pro-#GamerGate—in fact, he just published a TwitLonger concerning his views on #GamerGate and his transition from anti-#GamerGate to pro-#GamerGate.
Once Upon a Time in the Pacific Northwest
Penny Arcade is one of the most viewed gaming webcomics in the world, with upwards of 4 million readers viewing their thrice-weekly comic strips. They also created the Penny Arcade Expo, a convention which is held four times a year and is consistently sold out, and an international charity called Child’s Play, which has raised over $40,000,000 in the last twelve years to provide toys and games to children in hospitals. Did I mention they have their own video game series?
Needless to say, founders Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins have successfully parlayed their creative venture of gaming webcomics into a lucrative enterprise with influence in the gaming and technology industries. As just one example, when Mike Krahulik said he wasn’t happy with the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 he was testing prior to release, Microsoft brought in a team of engineers and designers to fix it.
It’s somewhat disappointing, then, that Penny Arcade hasn’t commented on #GamerGate, though they have taken shots at gaming journalists in the past. Those of you who are familiar with Penny Arcade know that over time, it has become less controversial—these are the same guys who made the infamous “Dickwolves” comic (and subsequent T-shirt).
Well, Penny Arcade took a shot at the anti-#GamerGate/social justice warrior journalists on February 18th, with their comic which lampoons the assertion that a game’s length is somehow related to how enjoyable it is. This seems like common sense on the outset—there are great long games, and great short games, just as there are terrible long games, and terrible short games. The bullshit here is easy to refute (apparently it only took three panels) but what is most important is who is spreading the bullshit—none other than Ben “Tetris is Commie Propaganda” Kuchera.
Jerry Holkins explains his views on the topic in longer form:
We have certain “forms” that we leverage here, which can be ennobled by calling them “running gags” or cast down by calling them “laziness.” But the Game Length form for news stories, used so close together, is purely a function of the mercenary nature of their business. It packages what they perceive as a populist, we’re-on-your-team message, with the salacious whiff of forbidden knowledge.
Mike Krahulik adds his thoughts as well:
I’ve never liked the time=quality argument that some people seem to want to apply to games. I took a look at my Destiny profile this morning and I’ve spent about 140 hours on that game. If you don’t count World of Warcraft I think that’s probably a new record for me. It’s pretty rare that I reach the 100 hour mark in a game. In the past it has only ever happened with Pokemon Diamond and Final Fantasy tactics. I loved those games obviously but I would not say I loved them anymore than a games like Rez, Brothers or Last of Us. At no point do I ever consider the length of time I played a game to be in anyway connected with my enjoyment of it.
What neither Mike nor Jerry mention is their relationship to Ben Kuchera. You see, he was the Senior Editor for their short-lived online publication, The Penny Arcade Report.
The Opinion of the Uninformed
Ben begins his post by describing an absurd position for someone who is paid to play and write about video games:
I was going to skip The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.
It’s not that the game looked bad, or that the reviews rubbed me the wrong way — in fact everything released about the game made me believe it was right up my alley — but I knew I didn’t have the time or energy for another game of standard length. And by standard length I mean anything that’s eight hours or more.
I guess that’s not surprising. This is the same guy who wrote an opinion piece titled “Gaming is not the most important thing in my life.” For his job at a gaming website.
Ben continues by citing a blog post by the creator of the aforementioned The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Adrian Chmielarz:
Adrian Chmielarz is one of the developers behind The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and he used to be the creative director of People Can Fly. He knows what he’s talking about, and he came out swinging for shorter games in a blog post written at the beginning of last year.
“I’m telling you right here, right now, that our game will be short. I don’t know if that means an hour or five, and if it’s going to have a fantastic replay value or not. It’s still being designed,” he wrote.
“But I know we don’t want to make a long game just for the sake of it being long. And yes, we’re a small studio, so we could not make a big AAA game even if we wanted to. But in the future, if we become bigger, we’d rather have five smaller games in development than a single big one.”
Unfortunately, Ben makes two mistakes here. The first is that he incorrectly assumes the point of Adrian’s blog post was that shorter games are better, when the point Adrian was ACTUALLY driving at was that many AAA titles artificially inflate their gameplay time through grinding and the recycling of assets to create “new material.”
The second mistake Ben made is systemic to the lack of research Ben’s “journalism” career has exhibited. Ben accidentally quoted someone who is pro-#GamerGate.
A problem a simple Google search could fix
Adrian admittedly was slow in coming to #GamerGate—like many, he started out anti-#GamerGate. Then he did something a lot of anti-#GamerGate supporters fail to do. For simplicity’s sake, we will refer to it as THE RESEARCH. Once Adrian had done THE RESEARCH, he quickly moved from anti to neutral, and it didn’t take long before he became pro-#GamerGate.
Adrian describes his process in this TwitLonger:
I realized that if I could go from anti- to neutral in two weeks of actually looking into #GamerGate, then if after over half a year of GamerGate you’re still claiming that it is “an organized harassment campaign to push women out of gaming” and agree with Ben Kuchera that “Gamergate weapons are always terror”, then:
a) you are biased beyond repair;
b) you know the truth but will stick to the narrative for your own purpose.
Lest you think that because the TwitLonger is new, Ben couldn’t have known, Adrian expressed similar sentiments in an interview with Niche Gamer in December.
Isn’t it amazing what doing THE RESEARCH can do to inform your opinion? Alas, Ben Kuchera manages to have egg on his face yet again, and it could have easily been avoided with Google. But maybe that’s what he’s going for. Is it a new hipster thing to espouse demonstrably false opinions for attention? Because that seems to be the going trend with these social justice warriors.
Or maybe they’re just stupid.