My response to the Indie Cube commentsOctober 24, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 29 Comments
I’m a little bit saddened by some of the negative comments I’ve read on Twitter about the Indie Custom Cube. I think the most disappointing and disturbing part is how easily things were taken grossly out of context, thus leading to weighted terms like “racism” and “sexism” being so wrongly applied to the set’s design. I’m even more disturbed by how certain people saw said words, and without doing any research about the context, designers, or how MTG even works, immediately attacked the developers (including myself).
I would like to address a few of the more illogical and unwarranted comments specifically, but I will start by saying this: It disappoints me greatly that anyone would blindly group me into such categories without doing their research first, given how much I’ve done to take a stance against such things, and how much racism and sexism I’ve experienced in my lifetime being both Asian and female. To assume that I would participate in something with such labels deeply saddens me. I will go through and debunk each one, and hopefully it will become quickly apparent how nonsensical and taken out of context these arguments are. I think the fact that I was involved with this should clue you into the fact that the Indie Cube was not some sort of “elite boys club meant to degrade women.” >_<
Women in the ICC deck are given an extra qualifier: they are “female” developers, “female” artists, and “female companions” (in the case of the “Supportive Spouse”). The same cannot be said of men, who are identified by nationality or personality.
This is taken completely out of context. Using the term “female” had ZERO sexist connotations. Mechanically speaking, if you are familiar with Magic the Gathering, then you know there are “creature types” that get referenced for the purpose of gameplay (for example, other cards will boost the power and toughness of a particular creature type when they come into play). Since it is a reality that there are very few female game developers, we made it a “creature type” so that cards could better interact with it. Speaking in terms of flavor, we also did this to give a nod to accomplished female developers.
Why do I not think this is sexist? For starters, when news sites like Gamasutra write articles about the “Top 20 Women in Games” but don’t write corresponding articles about the “Top 20 Men in Games”… or when Anna Anthropy gives a talk at GDC complaining about how we need more “female” or “transgender” game developers (thus grouping them separately from the “white male norm”), are these people coming from a place of sexism? Are they coming from a place of hatred and discrimination against women? Absolutely not. They are making a distinction in order to raise awareness. Sometimes highlighting successful females is inspiring to other females who hope to work in traditionally gender imbalanced fields. When I see people like Melissa DeTora hitting Top 8 in the MTG Pro-Tour, I feel inspired. When I was one of maybe two females in my computer sciences courses in college, I was inspired whenever I met or read about accomplished female programmers.
So when the Indie cube features cards like Erin Robinson (a “female developer” who gives +1/+1 and “Inspired” to other female developers), not only is this interesting from a design standpoint because you can attempt to build a deck around cards like this… But it’s also (in my opinion) anything BUT sexist from a flavor perspective. Just as when Gamasutra writes an article specifically commending successful women (and not men) in the game industry, and when Anna Anthropy groups “female” and “transgender” developers as separate from the norm… cards like Erin’s are there to highlight and empower females, not the other way around.
And as a side note: “Supportive Spouse” is only female because this card was Danielle McMillen’s cameo (Ed McMillen’s wife). The card features her photograph, and the card’s mechanics were all built around her. Nothing about what we did in any way implies that a supportive spouse can’t be male.
Soulja Boy is included as an “unstable” black card.
Wow, I’m especially disappointed by how grossly taken out of context this is. A lot of very bizarre assumptions are being made here, that in my opinion are quite racist in their own right.
I’ll start by explaining colors in Magic. There are 5 colors: white, blue, black, red, and green. Each color is associated with particular things. They all have positive and negative attributes, and none of them have anything to do with race. For example, green creatures are traditionally large and powerful, black spells can outright kill creatures, blue spells get to draw cards, white is given the ability to destroy enchantments, etc. So, if a card has the very powerful ability to outright kill a creature, it usually falls into the black spell category.
The Soulja Boy card is a reference to a scene in Indie Game the Movie. Soulja Boy uploaded a video of himself and some friends playing Braid; they enjoyed the game, but commented on how there wasn’t any underlying meaning. The movie focused on how Jonathan Blow was very bothered by the fact that many people did not understand the “deeper meaning” behind Braid. The movie was edited so that after Johnathan talked about being disappointed, it cut to another scene of Soulja Boy playing the game and saying, “no point to the game, you just run around jumpin’ on s—.” So basically, the Soulja Boy card was designed to kill the Planeswalker Jonathan Blow. In order to make the card playable (since having a card that kills just a single other card in the set isn’t very good), we added the ability to kill a creature when it came into play. Thus, since it killed a creature, it needed to be a black spell (see above explanation about Magic colors).
This has NOTHING TO DO WITH SOULJA BOY’S RACE.
The “Unstable” mechanic was created with PROGRAMMING in mind. It was commentary about an old game making program called “Klik ‘n’ Play” which was very unstable. While we were playing the set and balancing the cards, we realized there weren’t enough “unstable” cards, so went through and added the mechnanic to cards that didn’t already have a mechanic. The fact that Soulja Boy’s card gained this mechanic had nothing to do with his real life personality or his race, and drawing such a connection is beyond ludicrous.
In fact, the idea that you’re making some sort of weird assumption that just because the card has the word “unstable” on it, that it’s because the character in the art is black… That seems INCREDIBLY RACIST when you take into account the fact the “unstable” mechanic was featured more frequently on cards featuring white males and programming-related topics (and this was not the only black character in the set; all other characters were on non-black cards). Selectively choosing this card only shows how hollow the entire argument is.
While certain figures are praised as heroic figures (including ICC’s creative team, Gabe Newell, Cactus, Notch, and Jonathan Blow), many others are represented with open scorn. General archetypes include the “Flakey Artist”, the “Oversensitive Indie ‘Musician’”, and the “Butthurt Indie Developer”, while specific jabs are taken at real people like Kellee Santiago (“Female Developer?”) and Anna Anthropy (“Put a guilt counter on target non-black non-Female creature. Creatures with guilty counters on them can’t attack.”)
I’ll start with the “Flakey” cards. If you actually look at the set, you’ll see that there are a great variety of artists, musicians, programmers and designers (obviously). Only one of each has the “Flakey” label. I’m not exactly sure what is even bothering you about this… Are you saying that it’s bad to point out that there are flakey people in every industry? Because the Flakey cards span industry disciplines: musicians, programmers, artists, designers… there was no discrimination there (and nothing made it seem as though unreliable people don’t exist outside of the game industry, obviously unreliable people exist everywhere). Additionally, I see nothing wrong with pointing out that there are people who don’t meet deadlines. It’s a huge issue when working with contractors. Other than that, I fail to see anything to be offended by. Nothing implied that any one group was more flakey than any other; and nothing implied that the aforementioned groups were overwhelmingly flakey (again: one card per discipline). In fact, nothing implied anything except that the word “flakey” is used to describe people (in any discipline) who don’t meet deadlines. Where were you even going with this?
As for things like Anna Anthropy’s card: I did not create this card, however I understand that Ed and Anna were friends, and Ed had reason to believe she would not have been offended by the wording. She’s made jokes to Ed at other peoples’ expense that were far worse and more blatant than anything that was written on this card, so rather than attacking everyone involved with the cube, perhaps you should take into consideration why Ed felt comfortable enough to joke around with Anna given their relationship. I know Ed and his wife personally, and they are both very nice and caring people. I don’t doubt for a second that he meant no harm, and that there was probably a reason he felt she would have reacted differently due to their past.
There are several dismissive jokes about mental illness, including cards for “Depression” and “Nervous Breakdown”.
Why do you assume that using these things as gameplay mechanics somehow makes them dismissive jokes? To a game developer or programmer, game mechanics are often the best tool for representing complex emotional concepts. Depression is very common for people who isolate themselves for years at a time in order to push out a game; it’s often lonely and isolated (I know that I have personally have experienced this). While creating the cube, many of us spoke about this topic while working on these cards. It was a great way to encourge discourse after the drafts were finished.
Don’t assume that just because the word “depression” is referenced in a game that it’s for the purpose of dismissing something as a joke. You don’t know what the developers were thinking when the cards were created, and it’s not like the art was a picture of someone laughing at another person’s suffering. Additionally, the term “nervous breakdown” is not always used in reference to a mental disorder; sometimes it’s just used as a blanket statement to describe someone caving under pressure (the scene from the television show “The Office” where the character Andy punches a hole in the wall is not a dismissive joke about people with mental disorders; nor is the Adventure Time episode about the comically rigid character Lemongrab).
Please think before you make inflammatory comments and throw words like “racism” and “sexism” at people. Do your research first, open up a discussion, there are more mature ways to handle things than to create even MORE miscommunication by blindly throwing rocks.