Having never interfaced with the press, I’m not sure how I would react to a potentially hot-button question like this appearing in my inbox. From my position of ignorance, I found the RPS stance odd; But maybe it’s normal.
While I’d like to claim I’d happily answer questions to the best of my ability, I might also ask for a chance to review how anything I say might be used in an article thinking that it might lead to a conversation about how this sort of thing worked. This wouldn’t be coming from an attempt to manipulate editorial control but again from my position of ignorance.
I’m not trying to defend the dev’s behaviour here, but sometimes I think RPS is a little quick to the finger pointing in situations like these. Particularly if the author stopped comms after the initial exchange.
While the game might be a bit gross in terms of definitions of gender roles. That was a complete hitjob of an article. They had an agenda, (right or not) and they went for it. The dev was smart not to submit to the terms of the author.
This is a fucking game. I think that the article is interesting to see how the game code deals with relationships, but come on. It is a game. Imagining that some single person coding a game could encapsulate that vastness of the human condition of attractiveness and love is impossible!! Not only is this a game, and not some commentary on real life, it is also a game IN DEVELOPMENT.
What the fuck did RPS want? 7 million lines of code about how AI in a game can determine attractiveness? At what point does it end? The hot-take economy (in all journalism) is pure garbage.
From the developer
I’m the developer of RimWorld.
The author of this anger-farming hit piece did email me asking if she
could ask me some questions. However, she wanted to edit my responses.
When I said I’d be willing to answer questions, but not if the responses
were edited, she went silent. I guess she wasn’t willing to print the
other side of the story if she didn’t have the power to edit it.
There’s also some blatant lying in this article, where the author pretends not to know things that I specifically told her.
For example, Claudia wrote: “It’s a game that’s still under constant
development, and so this relationship system might well continue to
develop and change. On top of that, the various numbers thrown into
these governing formulae might well be there because of a late night, or
as placeholders, or just to try and make the systems work.”
However, in my email response I said, “You should be aware that there
are some bugs in the relationship system in Alpha 15 that are already
reported and fixed for Alpha 16. So you’re analyzing a broken system :/
Also, this system is just something slammed together to get the game
working in a basic way. It’s just barely functional enough to fill its
role. It’s never been intended as any kind of accurate or even
reasonable simulation of the real thing.”
So she knows for a fact that the system as it works has known bugs,
already fixed. She knows for a fact that it’s very rough. Yet she
insists on presenting this as some sort of “might well be” theory as
though she has no more information.
Now onto the ‘journalism’. The way this is written is disgusting.
There’s no attempt to get an explanation or understanding of why the
code works as it does. The decision was specifically made to not ask me
any question, or understand why these decisions were made, or comprehend
the research or meaning behind them. It’s purely written in the style
of a witch hunt - point at the heretic, maliciously misinterpret
everything in the most moralistic, angry way possible, and harvest the
resulting anger for clicks.
I saw it coming a mile away, which is why I wanted my words to be printed unedited.
Is this journalism? No, because it doesn’t make the minimal effort to get or present the truth fairly.
Is it opinion? No, it’s not an editorial.
It’s anger-farming, combined with a moralistic witch hunt. It’s the
worst kind of click-bait - they type that generates anger on purpose,
where none needed to exist, in a community that was perfectly at peace
Notice how it specifically skirts as close to calling me a “malicious” person as possible without actually making the claim.
The truth of this system is that it is very rough, and that it’s based
on research and discussions with various people. I’d be willing to talk
about these things, in the context of an honest discussion of hows and
whys. This is not that, so I’m not going to try to justify every part of
The simple explanation is that he created a framework based on perfunctory research that he fully intends to adjust later.
I think the developer is correct in that he recognized that this was going to be an article about unfinished software that was intended to generate clicks and outrage. I do not think a reasonable person would engage with someone like that if they did not promise to publish quotes in their entirety.
Now, representation is a tricky subject, and we will probably never create a perfect model of romantic behaviour.
But the problem with this model isn’t that it’s flawed. It’s that it’s flawed in a way that perfectly mirrors existing sexist expectations of romance, with such specificity that it is hard to view it as unintentional . And if it is unintentional it is on us to ask what this system is trying to show. What are the possibilities that it allows? What is RimWorld setting as the boundaries of possibility?[/quote]
I totally buy that the model being offensive was completely unintentional and born out of ignorance. That said, the developer could’ve just slapped in the same variables for both sexes. That would’ve at least mitigated a lot of the criticism here. But he didn’t. He specifically wrote separate variables for the genders based on his ideas of sexuality. He admits this.
Yes, it seems they did. Non-debug compiled code (and by extension disassembled code) has no comments (and, in most languages, even debug code has no comments). As for variable names, some are preserved and some have to be “rebuilt” by the disassembler, depending on a lot of factors.
Maybe, but there is no reasonable journalist that would agree to such a condition. No reporter worth his or her salt would give up editorial control to the subject of the interview - and that includes agreeing to publish whole quotes without being able to edit them for length or clarity.
As for the code issue, the author did mention this:
For the sake of non-coders among us, longer sections are presented in pseudocode that tells you what it does, without requiring you to be fluent in C#.[/quote]
And no reasonable person being interviewed would agree to such a condition, since it’s so easy to “edit” quotes to mean something entirely different from what has been said, depending on the “journalist” 's agenda. The age of impartial journalism is long gone, if it ever existed to begin with.
You do understand that editing quotes for length and clarity is something that’s been done since the earliest days of journalism, right? This isn’t some new con invented by RPS.
Editing quotes to make someone appear to say something different or putting them in a bad light is also very much possible, but that isn’t new either. Yellow journalism has been around just as long as legit reporting.
I understand. I also understand that RPS is the place that opened a phone interview with Peter Molyneux by saying “are you a pathological liar?”
Personally, I wouldn’t agree to be interviewed by RPS. Ever. I don’t trust them with journalistic integrity because 1. they’re not journalists (and as such don’t ascribe to the moral standards of bona-fide journalism, which is sadly true of many “journalists” nowadays), 2. they have shown many times the traits of what you called “yellow journalism”, and 3. they have proven to be unworthy of such trust before.
No argument there. I was one of the people that thought that opening question was ridiculous.
It’s certainly within everyone’s right to not respond to requests for an interview. At the same time, don’t be outraged if the article you declined doesn’t present your side of the story. If you did agree to the interview, and the published article is a smear, then you’re all clear to complain.
My point was that asking for editorial control - even a limited form of it - is unreasonable to most journalists and isn’t some weird thing RPS only does.
But was it clear that the dev declined? Obviously, his story is one-sided here, but his Reddit post made it sound like there was radio silence after the initial exchange. No follow-up of “if you don’t change your mind, we’ll run with what we have” or “get on board or you’ll miss the boat.”
I’m sure that to folks who live and breath journalism it seems pretty straightforward, but for someone who has effectively no experience in it, there appear to be quite a few ‘loaded’ terms that I know I wouldn’t grasp. I can’t help but wonder if a journalist reaching out to indie developers shouldn’t be more tolerant in these sorts of situations knowing that they could ride ram shod over the person they’re contacting. ‘Cede editorial control’ seems like a hell of a jump, from an ignorant point of view, from ‘don’t edit my responses.’
But he didn’t, because that is how he chose to make the game. He used whatever logic or research that he saw fit to create the code that he did.
Slapping something together to mitigate criticism is the opposite of what anyone should want in games or any sort of art. Creating entertainment media with fears of how critics might react cuts the edges off of things. Why should developers plan to mitigate their development from social criticism? They should plan their development based off of their vision for the final project. This is how we get Marvel formula films. Design by committee. This is how we get boring media.
_(Hyperbole Warning)_Games are art, but I often think that the media doesn’t treat them as such. Which is probably do to how much deeper games like Rimworld can be, with thousands of lines of code orchestrating individual experiences. Would you berate Manet for only painting white people? Or tell Picasso to fuck off with the triangles, he’s done that before? I wonder if those thinkpieces were being written back then, probably.
(Again, I am being ridiculously hyperbolic)
Thinkpieces like these are really negative to the dialog that we have in the community. Rather than speak with the developer, the author decided to cut off contact with him. I can’t imagine being an editor and allowing the article to be published this way.
The wide range and breadth of human sexuality is impossible for anyone to correctly interpret. How was he supposed to do it? It is an impossibility to not offend someone when this topic is implemented. Slapping it together just didn’t fit in with his vision for the game. Genders, by definition, are not equal. It may be flawed, but it seems like the article is calling out the developer as being harmfully sexist. It is possibly that inequalities he chose are wrong, but it is what he chose to put in the unfinished game.
And this is a really tough subject to take on for a very not real game. It is obvious that he attempted to make some sort of judgement call on how to set up his system in the game, and it is very obvious that he decided not to just make the genders equal. Too easy, gotta attempt to make it more nuanced and complicated.
I appreciate to some extent, someone going through the code, and finding something interesting in the code and sharing how that can effect the game world, but this article makes a near accusatory jump in logic that is uncalled for.
I really do think that the discussion that this article brings up is potentially very interesting. How do you code the complicated gender roles in society (or a future society) for that matter? How do you temper the human dream for sexual equality with the realities of the social systems that we live in? How do you also temper that with the pure biological facts and mechanisms of humans and attraction?
But this article doesn’t ask those questions, it says that the game has a sexist worldview. We don’t have the dialogue that the writer and the developer had in private. I would think if you wanted to publish this article, you would want to work with the developer on this more than she did. It sounds like as soon as he expressed concerns, the conversation ended.
What would happen if RimWorld only allowed same sex couples? That certainly would be easier to accomplish, and it certainly would have drawn some ire (deservedly so, the world is not a same-sex only world, and a simulation needs to reflect that) but many games have done this in the past. He attempted to make a world that is somewhat less homogeneous than equal genders, and you can criticize him that he got it wrong. But, this article makes a bit of a leap.
Maybe RimWorld is just a sexist place? The world we live in unfortunately is.
The thing is - if you agree to the interview, and the published article is a smear, and you try to complain, you’ll be vilified just the same. Tynan didn’t really have an option here, because RPS was set in doing something regardless of his participation or not. And they did. And now Tynan will have to deal with the aftermath, regardless of being “guilty” or not - and “guilty” is not even the word that should be used in any of this.
Now, RPS could have written a thoughtful article over the base issues presented. They could have taken this to discuss modelling of such behaviors in games (and in Rimworld in particular), or how difficult that can be, or the limitations of research on the subject, or the validity of the research that seems to support the kind of modelling he did, or how he planned to change it (if he planned to do so), or how important it is to have academy-zeitgeist-compatible romantic behavior in a game where cannibalism is far more common than current research implies, or any kind of approaches that would be constructive. But no, they open with an “outrage clickbait” title. And the damage is done.