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panicacidide:

Apparently it’s not socially acceptable for a man to invite another man out just for coffee or to go out for a meal, in case it’s perceived as a date. Like it’s fine if you wanna go to the pub and drink beer and have a chat but make it non-alcoholic and suddenly you’re not straight anymore? You can go to the cinema together but ONLY if it’s an action movie. You guys can’t even just go shopping with each other. Oh masculinity, so fragile, so strange. 

I once went to a movie with a guy who sat with an empty seat between us. I kept reaching over to offer him some of my popcorn because it seemed to make him really uncomfortable.

I also pursed my lips unnecessarily when sipping from my straw. Just in case he was watching.

Objective Game Review: Dominique Pamplemousse

This first entry in my Objective Game Review series is a tough one. Not only was I an IndieGoGo backer of Dominique Pamplemousse in “It’s All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings!”, but I consider Deirdra “Squinky” Kiai, the designer, a dear friend. We have attended cons together - both consumerist and professional. Deirdra has stayed at my house upon multiple occasions. We have shared meals, watched movies and many, many episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer together. If none of that were enough, my wife and my poodles adore Deirdra as well, which is certinaly impacting my ability to subjectively consume her work.

Furthermore, from a professional standpoint, Deirdra has designed one of my all time favorite dialog-driven games, Pigeons in the Park (which can be downloaded for free from Deirdra’s site).

However, all this personal bias aside, I will do my best to fairly and objectively assess the merits and faults of Dominique Pamplemousse in “It’s All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings!”, which I will now abbreviate as Pamplemousse for the remainder of the review.

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Pamplemousse can be purchased for Windows or Mac via the game’s website or its Humble Bundle storefront. It costs $4.99 USD, which includes a direct download of the game and a Steam key. The game site also hosts an online Flash demo of the game and a link to the Apple App Store so you can purchase it for iOS, also for $4.99.

Due to my IndieGoGo patronage, I have access to both the iOS and the OSX versions of Pamplemousse. The game takes up 86 MB of space on my OS X hard drive via a Steam install. The iOS download is 57.8 MB.

According to the official website, Pamplemousse was an IGF Grand Prize Nominee in the Seumas McNally Grand Prize, Nuovo, Narrative, and Audio categories. It also claims to have been an IndieCade 2013 Selection. Both of these claims are substantiated by the most casual of inspections of the IGF and IndieCade websites.

Deirdra describes the games as, “is a unique and offbeat stop motion animated detective adventure game about gender and the economy. Also, all the characters frequently burst into song.”

It should be noted that unique and offbeat are words used to describe a subjective experience of a person or media and therefore should be regarded with the utmost skepticism. The above screenshot, however, seems to uphold the contention that the game is stop motion animated and at least references gender once. I am able to inform you that this is not a doctored screen shot, but I have seen it first-hand within the game itself. To say more about my experience of the game’s themes would, of course, stray into the realm of subjectivity, so I will refrain.

Deirdra also claims to have modeled, rigged, and animated all of the game’s characters, as well as written and performed all of the music. I was not present during the game’s creation and have no means of verifying whether this is true. Perhaps if the truly-objective style of game review catches on, I will be able to afford to pay people close to developers for information in order to better ascertain the veracity of their development claims.

Unfortunately, I have played Pamplemousse and will therefore be unable to write about the quality of the animation, music, performances, or gameplay, as I have strong and highly subjective opinions about them. I have based these opinions on over 30 years of playing video games across numerous platforms including OSX and iOS (the most relevant to my experience of Pamplemousse), 44 years of reading, including mysteries and texts about gender and the economy, as well as nearly 47 years of listening to music including show tunes and opera, and 44 years or so of watching animated films, including the stop motion works of Rankin/Bass and The Brother’s Quay.

It is important to note that even my selection of comparative examples above is on thin ice, objectively speaking. By drawing comparisons between playing Pamplemousse to past media experiences - even when doing so to prove I am unable to be objective - I am leading you to make certain conclusions about the game that are ultimately based on my own subjectivity.

I know it must be tedious to read disclaimers containing such obvious statements as the above paragraph contains, but this is a new form of critique and we must therefore be as clear as possible.

In an effort to better communicate the quality of Pamplemousse, I reached out to the designer for further information. It should be noted that - due to the inherently subjective nature of human beings - my questions may have been open to some interpretations and therefore Deirdra’s responses to my questions should be regarded with a healthy amount of suspicion. However, according to Deirdra, here are some objective facts about Pamplemousse:

- 5,926 lines of code
- 10,266 words in the script
- 211 art assets
- 385MB of art (uncompressed)
- 3.63GB of music (uncompressed)
- 1.73GB of spoken dialogue (uncompressed)
- 1MB of miscellaneous SFX (uncompressed)
- 42 minutes of “Director’s Cut” soundtrack

It is difficult to assess much about this without comparison data from similar games - which I have not yet acquired due to the newness of this review format - but some things appear to be quite clear. For example, the size of the (uncompressed) music files is significantly larger than the size of the (uncompressed) miscellaneous SFX files. What is not clear, however, is what method of compression these files have been treated to before inclusion with the game. Was the quality of the music compromised due to the compression of a lossy and inferior file format, or were the files themselves merely compressed for distribution? What was the original sample rate of the music? What sort of equipment was used to record the live performances? The answers to all of these questions would go a long way to objectively assessing the quality of the game’s audio, at least as far as an objective review can take us.

Sadly, without more exhaustive information than I - a humble and underpaid games journalist - am able to take the time to acquire, we are simply unable to objectively asses the relative merits of this game’s audio, graphics, or code. And so, I come to the end of my review. It is - by necessity - hopelessly incomplete. Should another journalist - perhaps one being paid to do true investigative journalism - wish to take up the torch and launch a deeper investigation into the design and development of this game, I welcome them to do so.
And because nothing says “objective” like a reductive numeric rating, I am including my rating of the game. Please keep in mind that all scores have been corrected to compensate for my inherent subjectivity.
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  • Graphics: 0 out of 5 stars
  • Audio: 0 out of 5 stars
  • Gameplay: 0 out of 5 stars
  • Story: 0 out of 5 stars
  • Overall: 0 out of 5 stars
For it is not the anger of Black women which is dripping down over this globe like a diseased liquid. It is not my anger that launches rockets, spends over sixty thousand dollars a second on missiles and other agents of war and death, pushes opera singers off rooftops, slaughters children in cities, stockpiles nerve gas and chemical bombs, sodomizes our daughters and our earth. It is not the anger of Black women which corrodes into blind, dehumanizing power, bent upon the annihilation of us all unless we meet it with what we have, our power to examine and to redefine the terms upon which we will live and work; our power to envision and to reconstruct, anger by painful anger, stone upon heavy stone, a future of pollinating difference and the earth to support our choices.

Audre Lorde, “The Uses of Anger” (via so-treu)

I think of this quote every time someone tries to categorize my righteous anger with context, into some “pathology” that is “arbitrary” and the “real” oppressor. Fuck that.

Audre be knowin…

(via gradientlair)
Good luck with your plan! How will it work for media created by mixed teams of people including white men? Seems like that includes a lot of stuff.

For movies, I’ll limit my focus to the roles of writer, director, and lead actor. As long as those three roles are white-dude free, then it’s allowable media.

For video games, I expect I’ll mostly be playing a lot of indie games from one-person teams. Of course, the rule also allows me to buy games from Japanese studios, so my 3DS will likely get dusted off and see more action.

Upper One Games (http://www.upperonegames.com) has three women listed in the “Leaders” section and is the first indigenously-owned game studio in the U.S. I’d like to know more about the make-up of their staff before committing to purchase Never Alone (should it even be released to a platform I own).

If there’s a another North American or European studio out there with a majority of non-white-male teams, I haven’t heard of it (and would like to).

2015: No More White Men

Here’s my media plan for 2015 - it’s simple enough.

In 2015 I will not buy or rent any media - including books, movies, music, board games, and video games - created by white men.*

I want my media diet to be rich and varied. To push myself to listen to more voices that are different from my own, to consume media that reflects vastly different journeys through life. Being a white man myself, I too well understand the white man’s journey through our culture and I don’t need to see it reflected in everything I read, watch, or play.

Furthermore, I am going to take a year-long hiatus from producing content on the web. I will continue to produce content - in fact I have a big project in the works - but I will do so in private, with no intention of publishing anything that I create in 2015. That means that the public internet space I inhabit, like Tumblr, Twitter, Google+, etc, will only contain re-posts of content from non-white-male voices, including quotes from books I read, music I listen to, games I play, etc.

After a full year of a diverse media diet, I will review my creative output from 2015 and see what impact this plan has had. I hope that I will see improvements - new perspectives, new depths, and new strengths in my own designs, images, and words.

I wish to be more than a funhouse mirror, more than a reflection of the media that is itself a reflection of me.

———-

Note: I have Disqus comments installed on my Tumblr, so please feel free to share your reactions to - and thoughts about - this plan. Personal attacks on myself or anyone else participating in the thread will be summarily deleted.

And yes, fellow creative white dude who is about to take to your keyboard in protest, you are a special snowflake whose voice is unique and valuable. There is no need to remind of this fact, or to protest my desire to counter my confirmation bias in media selection.

*I will make an exception for my Book & Movie Club, the roster of which was established by a group of six participants (4 women, 2 men) well before I decided upon this course of action.

2014 & The Rule of Two

At the beginning of this year I established the Rule of Two to determine what action/sci-fi/fantasy/superhero/animated (i.e. what I like to call Geek Genre) movies I’d allow myself to specifically pay to see in the theater or individual rental (as opposed to watching it streaming through a service with a monthly payment).

The Rule of Two only allows paying to see any movie where at least two of three major roles - writer, director, lead actor - are filled by women.

I thought, like my Low Violence Video Game Challenge of 2013, that the Rule of Two would feel like a hardship at first. After all, the only Geek Genre movie I’ve been able to pay to see this year was Frozen. And I saw it twice. In the theater. No Captain America Winter Solider for me. No LEGO movie. No Guardians of the Galaxy.

But while the Low Violence Challenge seemed tough until I loosened the rules mid-year, only to realize I had lost my taste for violent games and only wanted low-violence experiences anyway (as evidenced by the number of hours I put into Animal Crossing), the Rule of Two has been very comfortable from day one.

I honestly don’t feel like I’m missing anything by not seeing these movies produced in a male-centric environment. And the latest Star Trek abomination has been available on Netflix and Amazon Prime for months now and I actively avoid it. I just don’t care to watch movies that either completely disregards the need for central female characters or marginalizes them at every turn.

Additionally - and slightly less formally - I decided to only purchase music that was produced and performed by women and my biking playlist is comprised of only that music I’ve purchased this year. Again, I don’t feel constrained by this decision in the least.

In fact - I’m about to double down and put an even bigger plan in place for 2015.

Stay tuned!

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