Responses to the response to the response to the response

Anna Anthropy:

it’s a recurring trend i’ve seen that sexist men, when confronted with their sexism, will hide behind an appeal to freedom of speech. it is YOU, not i, who are the oppressor, trying to silence me, to keep thoughts from being transmitted, to prevent discussion from continuing. the truth is that there’s nothing about adam ruch’s patronizing tone, his casual sexism, his condescension – “I have written before about very closely related issues, but it was in an academic conference paper in which I use words like ‘agon’ and ‘autotellic’ so is probably not something many people have actually read, so I will probably have to go back to basics here,” he writes – his gamerly need to fly to the intellectual defense of a franchise he’s fetishized at the merest hint of criticism, nothing that i couldn’t find shouted from many directions on any other games writing site on the internet.

we don’t need to make space for this kind of writing, the mainstream has already given it plenty. what is rare are spaces where a writer like kim moss is safe to pen a criticism of the way we think about and quantify relationships in games – even games like mass effect! – without being shouted into silence by angry male voices. pieces like ruch’s, with its bluster, its “listen here, young lady,” its “i wrote an academic paper about this but i can dumb it down for you,” are in effect nothing more than silencing tactics themselves, an attempt by male authority to have the last word. the internet will always provide a space for this voice. it doesn’t have to be nightmare mode


Christopher Whitman:

Focusing on the ontology for novels vs. games is SUCH a red herring, given how little the ontic facts of a book’s characters’ actions being predetermined actually matters. Literally no one reads books that way. Within the fiction, characters have agency, even if their choices are fixed on the page (Bakhtin).

The problem here is that you’re drawing a comparison no one would ever, in practice, make.

Kim’s gripe, if I understand her correctly, is that while Ashley is presented as choosing her relationship with the player, in actual fact her choices are always delimited by the player’s intentional choices. Real life does not work this way. Good novels, within the fiction, do not work this way. It is, however, as Kim points out, exactly the way PUAs view their relationships with women, like they are in the driver’s seat the whole time. Women in the game actually really are what misogynists only believe women to be.

You don’t seem to address this. It has nothing to do with the algorithm being gameable on any level (just gameable on that specific level), and certainly nothing to do with the fact that characters’s actions in novels are ontologically fixed. It seems like the major problem you have with Kim’s article is just that it isn’t in your academic tradition, and that your tools are no good here.



I think this article elaborates on a few interesting ideas buy ultimately misses the point of Kim’s article. It also fails to address the very obvious problem in most romancing mechanics a la Mass Effect, that is, the fact that the romantic story is written as objective-based. While it’s true that it’s up to the player to interpret the series of events, what’s there is there. What’s there is a set of encounters determined by player stats and choices that culminates in sexual intercourse. There is no continuation past climax. If that isn’t the exact narrative of a Nice Guy ™’s and a PUA’s approach to relationships… seriously, that is the exact narrative of a Nice Guy ™’s and a PUA’s approach to relationships. Bioware’s writers could have written the encounters in other ways and added weight to the conclusion and by not doing so they left a very clear message regarding relationships and sex whether or not intended (which is obviously completely irrelevant to the discussion). I disagree that mechanics cannot be used effectively to alter the narrative, but I don’t even need to start justifying that when it’s clear the immediate problem is using the writing to alter the narrative.


merritt kopas:

It would be one thing to say, hey, that was an interesting argument, let’s build on that
It’s another to pepper your piece with accusations of superficiality, to indirectly accuse the author of not knowing what games are, etc.
It all comes across as really fucking patronizing
Not to mention the “I have a degree, what are your qualifications?” angle


Mr. Joyboy:

upset by the simplification of Hamlet. I may not study games but I have studied Shakespeare…and Romeo and Juliet! As though the actors and direction, the lived experience of the people embodying the characters don’t change the play!


Tobi Hill-Meyer:

This is pretty disgusting.  It’s hard to respond to the actual arguments being made because they are buried under so many layers of disrespect and prejudice.  The baseline assumption of that anyone critiquing this type of sexism in a game must just not understand games and need someone with a degree to come in and explain it.  This tone of superiority is drenched throughout the article as any perspectives the author disagrees with are dismissed without even being fully understood.Add to that the use of ‘he’ to refer to a generic player, the use of ‘he’ to refer to a generic Shepard, and it betrays an underlying bias being represented here.  Then the argument that a character who is attracted to either a male player or a female player must be two different versions of the character?  Yeah, because no person in real life is ever attracted to both males and females.  WTF?  Is it worth even engaging with someone who makes such assumptions as these?  Well, I’ll give it a try.

First off, the original article draws out some very specific common sexist behavior which is replicated by the game (ex: listen to a potential partner and agree with them no matter what they say – even if you terribly disagree – and you will get sex).  Avoiding these common tropes would greatly reduce the problem, even if the game still relied on a game-able set of criteria for sex.

Second, “If Moss, or other players of Mass Effect interpret the experience of listening to Ashley talk about her family and daddy issues as nothing more than a necessary grind in order to access the sex scene, that is their prerogative.”  Yes, the common retort that those who point out sexism are the real culprits because being naively unaware of it must mean that people are not effected by it.  This ignores the way in which media can encourage or discourage certain interpretations.  Additionally, when the game creates the real outcome that many people will adopt this perspective, it is not just a problem for such people.  It is a problem for anyone they date, anyone they flirt with, their friends, their family members, and even potentially someone who just says ‘hi’ at the grocery store.  Blame may not lie at any one source, but we start where we can to address problems like these.

Finally, the author claims that such dynamics are inevitable in video games and therefore this criticism should be ignored.  However, it’s apparent that misogyny in this kind of a situation is a problem he’s only recently tackled.  Declaring defeat while others have been lodging such critiques – and making progress – in a wide variety of mediums for several decades if not centuries is incredibly foolhardy.  Feminist media criticism is real, and just because your degree didn’t prepare you for it, doesn’t mean that you can dismiss these concerns so easily.  You might not see or understand potential solutions, you might even make some valid points about the difficulty of implementation, but that’s why we have these conversations.  And right now you are not adding to the discussion or refining the ideas being discussed – you are attempting to shut it down.


Mattie Brice:

And the thing is that I like the idea of a site being in conversation with itself, because there is little of that- conversation. We often are too busy making grand statements that aren’t meant to be in direct dialogue with anything. It’d be nice to have some literal discourse.


(if anyone would prefer not to be cited or cited differently, please let me know) – porp


  1. rinelk

    Maybe I’m just a sexist man, but the “it’s you who are trying to silence me” accusation looks pretty spot-on when the comment ends by saying there’s a place for this sort of comment elsewhere, but we don’t want it here. I actually agree with the observation that this is a common and regrettable reaction of those who have a prejudice when called on it, but the natural reaction to me would be to encourage more dialogue wherever it can happen. I wouldn’t have seen the response most of the other places it could have been posted, and I think some of the responses to it have been instructive, so I’m grateful the dialogue has happened here.

    • BlackTea

      @rinelk I am very conflicted about this. Yes, I did appreciate the discussion that has happened here a great deal. To be completely honest, I also do not have a problem with many of the /contents/ of Ruch’s article being posted here. As much as I disagree with pretty much all of them, I do think they can contribute to an interesting discussion. That, however, is not really the point and neither it is the point made by Anna Anthropy.
      It’s about the undercurrents in the article, the patronizing style and most importantly, the way Ruch has made his points “final” by appealing to his superior academic (and by extension, supposedly intellectual) credentials. The problem is that by writing this way, Ruch has effectively denied Moss her voice, “silenced” her, so to speak.
      Now, obviously the discussion on this site has not ended with this and the voice that Moss represents has evidently not been “silenced” as this article feature shows. The fact that the discussion has continued is to the credit of this site and the people who have posted. However, the mere fact that conversation has continued does not erase the attempt (whether intentional or not) to silence it.
      The phenomenon to which Anna refers is that in many places, patterns of arguments as they have been employed by Ruch are indeed effective at ending and argument. They reinstate the authoritative, sanctioned, male voice as the only legitimate to the extent that other voices are not dared to be raised.
      The way that hegemonic structures (such as male hegemony in the videogame industry) operate is by defining spaces of legitimacy. Certain things are valid arguments in certain places, depending on whether or not the person who utters them is a legitimate subject in those places. I value Nightmare Mode to be an alternative space that is not structured in this same way. A place where people who are not represented in the mainstream can voice the worries about their misrepresentation, independent of whether or not they fulfill the criterion of being a “true” gamer or stuff like that.
      What I’m saying is that, sure, Ruch can have an opinion. He can also have an opinion on this site. But I don’t think he should be allowed to invalidated other people’s opinions.

      • rinelk

        @BlackTea Great response! I think the idea of a non-intentional failed attempt is at the horizon of my understanding. My vague interpretation is that he fell into a pattern he ought to know enough not to fall into. This pattern is used to silence others often enough that its association with that purpose is so strong that a community which puts it out of bounds entirely gains more in the promotion of speech by those who would have been silenced by it than it loses in the silencing of those who would otherwise have employed it. If that’s not what’s intended, I invite correction.
        If it is what’s intended, then I think it’s a way of grasping the nettle. When sexist men claim that those who point out their sexism are trying to silence them, the sexist response is accurate. However, freedom of speech demands that some speech be silenced–namely, that speech which silences more other speech. The most simpleminded attempt to maximize freedom of speech would support the silencing the relevant speech of sexists (so long as their speech actually would silence more other speech). Anna Anthropy appeals to diversity of speech instead, but this seems to me like a tactical error–sexists seem to me less likely to respect that than to respect total amount of speech.They might well claim that it is a defect of those silenced that they are silenced by credentials. A savvy listener knows what credentials mean and don’t mean, and only credits them with their proper import. The silencing is a result of people taking the credential-lister to have said more than he has; so long as what he says is literally true, he’s playing fair (even giving useful, relevant information!) and the marketplace of ideas is working as it should.
        I don’t like about this response that it seems callous to the silencing of those not relevantly savvy–indeed, the whole view of “savvy” is irksome. A more appealing model seems to be inviting others to participate, helping them as needed to articulate positions in a way the listener will find satisfactory without assuming that the listener’s standards are superior. But that, itself, seems kind of superior in a way which makes me uncomfortable. I haven’t thought about these sorts of things enough to have a good solution, and look forward to reading others’ thoughts.

  2. michelmcbride

    @Felantron @Daniel_Joseph I have no idea what article these are responses to.

    • Felantron

      @michelmcbride @Daniel_Joseph Adam Ruch’s trainwreck of a “response” ( to Kim Moss’ NM article (

    • Daniel_Joseph

      @michelmcbride @Felantron the romancing the computer chip or w/e piece…

      • ckunzelman

        @Daniel_Joseph @michelmcbride @felantron that “response” article should have just gone on a blog

        • Felantron

          .@ckunzelman @Daniel_Joseph @michelmcbride Venues presented as “serious” game criticism need to step up and start actually rejecting garbage

        • ckunzelman

          @Felantron @daniel_joseph @michelmcbride there’s a lot going on in that discussion outside of that simplification

        • Felantron

          @ckunzelman @daniel_joseph @michelmcbride Yes. But it’s primarily a reaction against bad, arrogant writing that was granted legitimacy by NM

  3. unknownsavage

    I wrote a blog in response to all this:

    • rinelk

      @unknownsavage The point that reference to academia was plausibly self-deprecating resonates with me. I am keenly aware of how my academic past influences my writing, and embarrassed by it. Referring to the alternative as “back to basics” undercuts that interpretation somewhat, because “basic” has a moderately negative connotation. In an article written for NM, I’m willing to assume that connotation was not intended and wish others were as well, but I can’t fault those who saw it as an indication of superiority, either.

  4. eukatheude

    I really don’t see the point in Anthropy’s response. Sure, Ruch is definitely patronising and i can only immagine how annoying he must be IRL, but i don’t think this has anything to do with sexism. At all. He didn’t make any remark about her gender, nor he did try to “silence her”. So maybe he’s completely wrong, maybe he’s a douche, maybe all his arguments are idiotic. But he is not sexist, at least from what i could gather from this article. If he has a history, i may be the one who’s wrong.

    Tobi Hill-Meyer: referring with male/female pronouns isn’t, as far as i know, a bias, but rather a habit. In Italian, for instance, we always assume it’s a male. If he had wrote “she”, would anyone have argued it portrays a different kind of bias?

    “Then the argument that a character who is attracted to either a male player or a female player must be two different versions of the character? Yeah, because no person in real life is ever attracted to both males and females. ”
    Isn’t it weird that the entire cast is bisexual?

    • de_la_Nae

      “If he had wrote ‘she’, would anyone have argued it portrays a different kind of bias?”

      I’m not really qualified to step too strongly into this discussion (and am rather late to the table), but I would point out there are other solutions than ‘all he or all she’. ‘They’ isn’t a bad start, for one example.

    • “Isn’t it weird that the entire cast is bisexual?”

      No, not really.

  5. Mygaffer Nunya

    I saw nothing wrong with Ruch’s response.