Double Agent
11 Things I Hate About You - February 11, 2002 - Erin Mehlos

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this column are those of the participants and the moderator, and do not necessarily reflect those of the GIA. There is coarse language and potentially offensive material afoot. What're you doing with that? Don't say we didn't warn you.

There's nothing for me to say.


It's too quiet. Let's go.

Of the hookerly arts

Dear Drew,

If there's one thing I'd want to change about the game industry, it would be the outright chauvinism. You've seen it in E3, you see in a slew of games from genre to genre, and you even seen it in Final Fantasy. Women are portrayed primarily as sex objects, with notable exceptions such as Ico and most children's games. It's embarrassing to show your friends FFX when Lulu is showing half of her upper body and Yuna has her sports bra showing. And FFX supposed to be one of those high-brow games - not like the drivel that is Grand Theft Auto III.

Maybe it's just a reflection of the American and Japanese cultural attitudes of women - after all the American music industry and Japanese anime companies do much worse in cashing in on men's sexual tastes to sell their goods. But if we expect games to become art, they have to be ahead of our times - not following the repugnant trends of our tasteless era.


I've never been particularly offended by the sex-appeal presentation of, for example, FF's women, for a couple of reasons. First, the series has typically not been without equally cheesecakish males; sure, Lulu's all cleavage, but Seymour's ultimately showing a lot more skin. Second, I like the idea of women (again, like Lulu) who're emotionally independant, intelligent, and useful, being portrayed in an attractive manner, rather than leaving the sex-appeal to a wilting, worthless romantic lead.

Which isn't to say it's not ridiculous -- I mean, who's really gonna tackle Macalania in Rikku's ruffled hotpants? -- but it is, in a way, a step in the right direction.

Myself, I'd be appeased if the series made a return to powerhouse fighters like Faris and Celes -- they can show however much leg they like. Populating the RPG realm with more strong, smart women would bring more girl gamers to the fold, which might in turn wind up answering your prayers, too, Fares.

I wouldn't be your PAL for all the world

If I could change one thing about the video games industry, it'd be the shoddy treatment that the PAL markets get, especially from Japanese developers. I'm looking at you, Square. And you're not much better, Capcom. We get poor quality PAL conversions with big, thick black borders at the top and bottom of the screen instead of running in fullscreen (Capcom are a major perpetrator of this particular crime). We endure interminable waits between the US release of a game and it's PAL release (FFX not due out until "mid-2002"). Or, worst of all, we end up with games not being released at all (Chrono Cross, Chrono Trigger, every FF game before FF7, Xenogears, still no announcement of a PAL version of Xenosaga, and every day that goes by without an announcement adds to the sinking feeling I get that it's going to end up fitting into at least one of these three categories). Although some companies go the extra yard to make up for this (e.g. Konami giving the PAL market a bonus DVD full of extras when MGS2 finally gets released here in March sometime), most companies just don't seem to care. Square is probably the most offensive company of all in this regard, because not only do they not convert some of their best games to PAL, they then rub salt into the wound by giving us PAL conversions of garbage like Driving Emotion Type S, Ergheiz, Chocobo Racing and Saga Frontier 2. And I bet there's a bunch of guys sitting round a sales chart in a Square office in Tokyo looking at the poor sales of this rubbish and saying "The PAL market obviously doesn't like our games. If they won't buy Ergheiz or Chocobo Racing, then there's probably not much point us spending the money to convert Chrono Cross or Xenogears."

The current campaign by Sony to stop people selling modchips just makes things worse because people won't even be able to import the games that they don't release here unless they cough up the money to import a US console to play them on. Which is probably part of Sony's marketing ploy anyway... you can greatly boost the number of consoles sold if you can get people to buy 2 different versions of the same console.

I know I've written to DA on this subject before, but I shall continue to harrass the DA and his/her readers with these emails until the situation changes, since I'm sure all the industry heavies read the site religiously. You have been warned.

Randall Flagg, who is about to jump into a phone booth and emerge as The PAL Avenger, righter of wrongs and defender of innocent PAL gamers everywhere.

I don't have much to say to this fit of righteous indignation; I've hit the pulpit before regarding the reprehensible treatment of the PAL territories come localization time. The industry's wolves obviously don't see Europe/Australia, etc., as meaty enough game, but it's a seriously questionable call when they consistently test the waters with crap and/or let so much time lapse between North American and PAL releases that everyone interested in a game has already imported.

80 credit hours in l337


I can see only one problem that really needs solving, when you get down to it.

So join with me, fellow GIA readers... take up your dusty textbooks, your Master Swords, your Buster Swords, your Samba maracas, your dollar store plastic katanas, pointy sticks, middle-sized rocks, frying pans, and whatever else you can grab... come with me...


Together, we can make it so that l33t can be as Latin, the language of a dead people now used only in moderation. We can make the world a better place. And, by god, we can halt the possibility of them ever breeding.

'Cause, let's face it, stupid people ruin everything.

--Kate Sith
"See? That's her happy stab!"


I'd make it so people needed to pass an I.Q. test with a score of at least two in order to touch a keyboard. I can't count the number of times I've been playing Dark Age of Camelot or Multiplayer Battletech (RIP...) and run into someone who promptly declares that "omg u look like a fag lol roflmao". Ugh.

-Northwind, who thinks that the only way .hack will be able to accurately simulate a true MMORPG environment is by adding hordes of NPC's whose sole reply to any queries directed at them will be "ahahahahaha u suk looser wtf wtf omg!!!!!1".

Your cause deserve the services of a great wizard, but I'm afraid you'll have to be glad of the aid of a second-rate pickpocket -- I doubt we'll make a dent.

Bitching about not bitching (or not)

Erin -

What one single thing would I change about the gaming industry?

Simple...the male:female gamer ratio, now at about 5:1. I'd shift it to roughly even. Make it faur for both sexes, not like some pricks who would make it a few million to one in favor of attractive girls.

I'd change one other thing while I was at it. The "gamer" stereotype of coke bottle glasses wearing scrawny nerds. I, and most of the gamers I know, don't fit that sterotype at all, yet it persists...

But honestly, other than those few social aspects, I'd leave the industry as a whole. I'm sure people are gonna rant, rave, and preach about sales practices and advertisement horrors. But seeing that those problems are inherent in any consumer based system, I think it's best just to learn how to deal.

And besides, if we could fix the videogame industry, what would we get to write in to DA about? I mean, in a perfect world, all the games are good, and there is nothing to discuss. I don't want to hear 20 different people say in 50 different ways how great beating a hooker with a stick was for them. I personally don't mind the Christian Reich up in arms (well, maybe because I'm part of it, but I'll be the first to admit that a lot of stupidity gets carried out in the name of Christianity).

I hate admitting this, but if we didn't have anything to complain about, I honestly thikn life would suck. Of course, maybe I'm just taking such an uncharecteristicly happy tone because I have a date on Friday.

Peace...Ray to Medievil Times....

Yes, God forbid everyone should run out of things to bitch about, thereby granting me my life and liberty back. It's lonely aboard this satellite, yo, so while you ponce off with your date, I'll have to make due with a Trance Vibrator....

Make this Valentine's memorable


If I could change just one thing about the gaming industry, it would be a no-brainer. More miscellaneous crap we don't really need sold in America, and not just in Japan. I want a Trance Vibrator, and I want one now.

-Hojo, without a poor attempt at being witty to fill this space.

Various factors and phenomena in this world will inevitably combine into joke formulae so potent as to overwhelm the mind of the most perennial wiseass, putting them at an uncharacteristic loss for words in the face of infinite comedic options. Here and now -- in the company of geeks, with the moon in its present phase, Valentine's Day bearing down upon us like a runaway 18-wheeler, and vibrating peripherals prescribed by their creator as being ideal to stick "wherever you want" being so mentioned -- I am at such a loss.

But take heart -- Steve thinks crap like the Trance Vibrator (among other evils) is strangling the industry, and he's got enough words to go around.

Rabbit retribution

Guys, your server was kinda funky for about 12 hours. If you ever need more cash, you remember to call Uncle Steve, alright? Anyway...

Changing the game industry. Hoo boy. There's so many things wrong with this industry, I don't know where to start. They weren't always wrong. It's something that just sorta happened as it evolved into the quasi-mainstream (in the view of those outside the encompassment of the average 12-18 male) medium that it is today.

First and foremost--and most centrally INDUSTRY-related, as in BUSINESS--is the increasing reliance on amazing graphics and effects to make a sale with the public, and the increasingly complex hardware to create these graphics. It used to be simple. Anyone could make a game, and it had a chance of selling well. Garage developers were a lot more common. A plethora of simple sidescrollers back in the day made many folks a lot of money. It was easier. Now, this 'industry' is dominated by around ten major developers, who have the resources, time, and manpower to develop graphics-intensive engines on the complex hardware, and have the cash to promote its products on every last unused wall space at the local Electronics Boutique or Babbage's. That's pretty much what it comes down to--the big guys win, and the smaller guys' stuff is hardly profitable. What this monopolization does is decrease quality for a public that, for the most part, has no conception of quality and will buy on brand name alone--or whatever is being pushed as the hottest title from the company with the deepest pockets. I'm not saying that the public are mindless idiot zombies. However, there are some people that will entirely base their decision on which console will be getting the most WWF games, as there are people who will flock to whatever console Final Fantasy has found its way to. Again, the chance that smaller developers will be able to promote and sell on the same scale as these bad boys, is that of a grandmother walking in and randomly choosing a birthday present for her grandson, based on box art.

I shouldn't rant like some over-nostalgic h4rdc0r3 retard who will only keep his head stuck in the past like an ostrich; brand recognition has been around nearly since the inception of videogames themselves. The difference is that its target market has graduated from a small, niche one into full mainstream--and as with all mainstream markets, it's very hard for the general public to distinguish one product from the other, and thus, only natural selection can take place: survival of the richest. Niche markets make it very easy for smaller companies to survive. The fish who bite at a product do so not because of how many billboards or TV spots it has received, but because of the quality of its content. It's universal for all industries. Even the automotive industry. Only the super-knowledgable automotive community knows the intricate details of each (quite like those folks on the recent Volkswagon commercials), but the majority of people who buy cars do so on looks and maybe a test drive or two.

Secondly, and keep in mind that most of these issues are interrelated, is the capitalization on larger brands--we see everything from game soundtracks, to action figures and art books, to actual crafted models of weapons and apparel in the game. It gets worse--entire games are rereleased on the same platform with simple things like a video interview or two, perhaps an additional boss, and then sold for another $50. In some cases, games are rereleased on over two platforms. Final Fantasy IV, for example, a game by one of the companies notorious for such practices, saw two versions of itself on the SNES, twice on the PSX (standalone, and then later in a collection), and now it's being brought to WonderSwan. Simply put, this has to stop--not because I may be considered old-school and afraid of change, but because it is, in actuality, harming the game industry.

Here's one example. The Tokyo Game Show has been reduced to a once-a-year gig, because its entire focus has been shifted nearly entirely away from games. Cosplay fanboys now litter these shows, hoping to get their latest game propaganda signed by the directors, etc. This, in my mind, is a direct reflection of the curve the industry has taken on its path to a mainstream environment. All this marketable fluff might be healthy for any other industry, whose appeal isn't, and shouldn't be, GAMEPLAY. Yes, gameplay. The reasons games were popular in the first place is probably the last thing on any average consumer's mind when he walks into a games store. Games now sell themselves on attitude, hype, and propaganda. Games now sell themselves on pretty graphics, sweet cleavage, the ability to bust a cap in some mutha's ass, and the fact that it comes in a special edition with over an hour of additional FMV. State of Emergency has the gameplay complexity and originality of a rock, but it will sell well, because it allows the player to put himself in the position of a rioter with a lusting for blood. Various lame dating sims in Japan also have the gameplay complexity of a rock, but will sell for the cleavage, the big watery eyes, and the little girl that whispers, "Rape me now, Koji!" Even RPG'ers, who consider themselves 'true' gamers in this society (by the way, I hate these labels and consider them utter bullshit), praise Xenogears for its amazing story and characters, but completely ignore its snorefest of a battle system and the fact that its second disc has you pressing the X button to continue dialogue until you develop arthritis. In reality, it is not any different from these others; it relies on its strength--its admittedly great story--to fool gamers into thinking it contains any sort of real gameplay underneith that skin of religious symbolism. People who bought the game, and the artbook, and the action figures, phone cards, etc. only fuel the fire.

Simply put, I do not want to play these games. I don't think that anyone who actually plays games for gameplay does. Yet people continue to buy them. And the little guy continues to lose money, thus the flowing waters of originality and innovation continues to dwindle.

I'm not saying that these big boys are bad. I truly enjoyed Final Fantasy X for its great battle system, and Metal Gear Solid 2 had some very fun and intense gameplay. Ico was also quite laudable. And then there was, for instance, Devil May Cry. For some reason, people found this game commendable and worthy of extremely high marks. Perhaps it's just me, but I cannot see what is so fantastic about it beyond its thick layer of dark 'tude, an element most games now rely on to sell themselves. Luigi's Mansion was short, boring, and not even worth half of what it was going for--yet it sold, based on name recognition alone.

I'm sorry this turned out to be so terribly long, and I understand if it eats up too much of the column to print, but all I'm trying to say is that there is a lot of great stuff coming from places outside of Capcom, Konami, Namco, Squaresoft, Nintendo, Sega, and the like. If we promote and advocate the recent practices of these companies, we're taking the focus away from the games themselves, further opening the floodgates of crap, and allowing the not-so-privelaged developers, who can't afford or don't believe in a massive propaganda onslaught, to show their stuff, we are only limiting ourselves. While there is no solution to this on the universally mainstream level--and I predict that the industry will only further climb this latter--the least we can do is attempt preserve the market that we cherish, for the reasons we cherish it. Small voices are heard (with cash), especially if they are the ones who started this industry to begin with.

Steve S. Freitas,
founder, Cosmosium Studios and longtime gamer

Did you get all that?

Killer apps


I think the best thing the industry could do would be to stop calling a rip-off of a popular game a killer of said game. Its just sad to read a developer whose confidence in his own skills is so low that he would rather devote his life to trying to recreate and slightly improve upon the works of others than come up with an original product. Furthermore, its counterproductive. What might be accepted as a mediocre but entertaining game in its own right winds up being unfavorably compared to a superb game. I propose that in the future, when knock-offs are being promoed, the creators, rather than boast about how the slightly shinier textures (and usually much shoddier gameplay) of their knock-off will make people forget the name of its inspiration, resort to the unvarnished truth when selling their products. The following would make for a nice blurb. 'If you loved Mario 64, GT 3 or FFX, and are so desperate for your next fix that you cannot wait for a painstakingly crafted true sequel to be released, a knock-off (Jax and Daxter, Sega GT2 or Legend of Dragoon 2) might dull the cravings for a day or two! Sure, its not nearly as great, but it just might be good enough...'

- Mark

I'm a huge proponent of insulting the consumer in order to make a sale, which is probably one of the key reasons I'm such a huge fan of Victor Ireland.

Your choice of phrasing aside, ever since Grandia was hailed as the "Final Fantasy killer," I've never been able to quite figure this tactic out myself. It's another absurdity peculiar to the gaming industry: they didn't, for example, push Brotherhood of the Wolf as "the Crouching Tiger killer."

Customer disservice


My personal beef is with a particular chain of video game stores. For the sake of the guilty, and my ass, let's call it the 'Wired Gazebo'.

Frankly, I've never seen a company treat its real customer base like such crap, not to mention the generally rotten treatment the employees get, and still stay in business. Yet the Bo---Gazebo thrives.

I've seen bad management, with bosses that have never owned a single console. Middle management that marks the store down because the employee toilet is not clean enough underneath the toilet seat. (Not making that one up.) Employees nearly getting fired over very, very minor mistakes.

Did I mention the total lack of real product knowledge? Let's sum up with my current favorite phrase...

"Oh, you gotta presell State of Emergency! It's already banned in nine countries!"

What nine, I ask? "Oh," they vaguely say. "I dunno, but my boss says it is."


"What's better, PS2 or X-Box?"

"Oh, the X-Box! It's got a hard drive and it's by Microsoft!"

.... And?

"It's got a great DVD drive!" That costs an extra 35 smackers to activate.

Oh, and every actual 'gamer' I see come in is treated like total dirt by a company that acts as though it's selling a cure for cancer and would much rather sell the newest 50$ X-Box Shrek or a boxful of really bad preowned games to some poor grandmother that thinks this person is the nicest person on the planet.

I'll skip how the employees are treated, just bear in mind thankless slave labor for any sort of meager benefits...

So we'll just stop there. I want a kinder, friendlier world for the gamers.

Hell, considering the number of times I'm cut off in traffic and personally blamed for why they can't do a return on a two year old game with no receipt, I'll settle for a kinder, friendlier world in general.

Kind regards,
Ms. P. (name withheld)

Laudable wish. But as everyone knows, the people who know and love games are intellectual geeks with zero social skills and monstrous chips on their shoulders, and intellectual geeks with zero social skills and monstrous chips on their shoulders make shitty retail monkeys....

Just because a guy reads comic books you think he can't start some shit?

There are many, many things I'd like to see changed in the game biz. But my oh my, least is not the fans.

I dunno... I know geeks fund the whole dang thing, especially in the RPG department. And I know this makes me sound like a jerk, but man... I am tired of only social outcasts populating the online world, embodying game culture. Everyone's got a chip on their shoulder. Even if it's understandable--they were ostricized by most of the people around them--it is somewhat bothersome to be limited to talking with non-RL-social beings when discussing games. Scan all these major pseudo-professional sites like GIA and RPGamer and glare at the non-event the Olympics are to its personalities. Granted, they're game sites--but sheesh, here's a poll to run: Who holds the NHL record for most shutouts in a single season?

Do most of your readers even know what sport this is addressing?

I am obviously generalizing, but honestly, in general, you meet someone who plays game with a degree of enthusiasm and, chances are, they are bitter at the world and hate everything that is popular: a defense mechanism, to be sure. I'd just like to meet more people who like games and aren't geeks.


You've put me in the position of taking unto myself, on behalf of the DA readership, a load of unwanted resentment for your ill-conceived blanket statements about trivial hockey knowledge being quintessential to, or even indicative of, personal complexity and social acceptance.

I should think that anyone who reads Double Agent at least semi-regularly would have long since been made aware of the diversity that makes up gamerdom. This column's contributors are young and old, male and female, single, married, dating and divorced. They're students and professionals, laundry workers and lawyers. No, they don't wax lyrical about the New England Patriots screwing over Vegas booking houses everywhere in their letters to the Agent, but it doesn't mean that none of them saw the SuperBowl.

Not that it should matter either way. Since when has a direct correlation existed between antisocial tendences -- nay, bitterness and hatred of all that is popular -- and not being a pro sports buff? Why was I not notified?

In any case, unburdened as you are by the bitter loathing of all creation that we poor saps must shoulder daily, I'm sure you can find it in your heart to forgive the GIA and its supporters for not better vocalizing our burgeoning excitement over the genesis of Donny Osmond hosting the Olympic games.

We were under the mistaken impression that we were here to talk about video games -- not George Hainsworth.

Curse of the Golden Breasts

The one thing I would change about the gaming community is how some people feel the need to play Tomb Raider IX: Curse of the Golden Breasts over Paper Mario just because of the graphics. I could write a big long article about this, but my main point is already summed up here:

- James, who is secretly planning the end of all consoles to make way for a total arcade takeover

My friend, as long as awareness of the single-season shutout record remains the societal hallmark of personal realization, I think you're pretty much SOL on that one -- not to mention Kandrin has designs on all of gamerdom and may not allow your arcade takeover.

Instead of a Dark lord you would have ... Kandrin

If I were to change just tiny little thing about the gaming industry, it would be to make me its King, master of all electronic amusement everywhere. I feel this is not so much to ask for.


Not any more so than the rest of tonight's wishlist, anyway. Keep the faith, friend.

Closing Comments:

It's high time we did a functional, utilitarian column, guys. We have a quota to meet, you know.

For tomorrow, yet's talk about game UIs -- user interfaces, that is. What do you like in your menu, aside from fettucini chicken alfredo? Do you like the graphical menus of Lunar and WA? The straightforward textual approach of FF?

How about those omnipresent sounds that grace game interfaces? Those incessant beeps and dings of toggling through your options? Has a game ever made your ears bleed with mercilessly irritating such sounds?

Someone had to care -- you might have known it'd be me.

- Erin Mehlos

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