If you’re into comics even the least little bit, chances are good the name Scott McCloud has crossed your radar. He’s better known for his comics about comics rather than the franchises he’s worked on, and for good reason – Understanding Comics is something I’d consider required reading for anyone working in a creative field.
Of particular interest to me is the concept of the “gutter” – the liminal space in comics (and arguably, in writing and games as well, and films and TV to a lesser extent) where the reader supplies the details of events between panels/sentences/scenes.
This focus on reader participation in Understanding Comics began to highlight the ways in which I exploit similar stylistic choices in my chosen mediums of short and novel-length fiction, and games. For example, from “Haven of the Waveless Sea”, where Fandral Staghelm relives the death of his son:
“Again.”The meaty rip, the buzzing song, the sound of hope dying.
Bit of a rough post today, but one that I hope will be helpful. This is gathered together from the tips at this fantastic post on Ravishly, “What you can do right now about Police Brutality” (and my hat is off to Lora for sharing the Ravishly post today.)
The City’s page for Complaints and Concerns about the Brantford Police Service states that “The Brantford Police Service views the complaint process as a means of maintaining public accountability, correcting police misconduct, and improving police services to the community.” Complaints must be made within six months of the incident, so there is a time limit. You can choose to speak with someone in person (the informal complaint process) at the BPS office, on 344 Elgin St., Brantford, ON, or
file a complaint online through the Office of the Independent Police Review Director – this is considered the formal complaint process, although there are alternative modes of resolution offered, including mediation. The IPRD is a civilian lawyer who formerly served on the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, and Executive Director of Legal Aid Manitoba. The website includes an online form, accessible PDFs of both the form, and the pamphlet on how to make a complaint. However, it is noted on the investigations page: “If, during the course of the investigation, the Director discovers evidence that an officer may have committed a crime, the matter will be referred to the police for further investigation.” Kind of a problem, no?
In Ontario, there are also the Special Investigations Unit, and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission that offer independent, civilian investigative bodies for police conduct. The entire text of the BPS complaints by-law is online, but highlights the gaps wherein all decisions tend to be made first by the Police Board, including the decision to bring a complaint to the OCPC. The Brantford Police are represented by the Brantford Police Association in contract negotiations. (Unfortunately, the link wasn’t working today, so I can’t confirm the information found there on their roles in conduct review processes.)
There are some definite gaps and ambiguities in this process that should be clarified and detailed, with civilian input and oversight.
The Brantford Police Services Board appears to meet monthly outside of the summer season, and you can find details, including times and locations on the City Calendar. Unfortunately for those working day jobs, they are all in the afternoons on weekdays. Worse, the link to Agendas and Minutes from previous meetings is dead, which I’ve emailed them to correct, and you can find the archived minutes searching the BPS website. City Council meets on a biweekly basis and is another place to bring up issues of police oversight in the city. The aforementioned site includes contact information for the City Council clerk if you wish to submit agenda items. There’s also an RSS Feed Link that lets you subscribe to any of the public committee meetings.
The Brantford City Mayor is Chris Friel, and you can find out who your ward councillors are on the City’s website. This map will show you what ward you live in, if you’re not sure. Oluo states in the Ravishly essay, “Don’t just ask once. Ask and follow up regularly.” Ask what you can do to contribute to the processes that shape community services, outreach and policing.
“Make police reform a requirement for your vote.” Elections are held on a four-year cycle in our city. The last city elections were in 2014. This gives us two years to make this issue important to people running for elected offices. Judges are not elected at the municipal level, and the next provincial election is not until 2018, so in the meantime, we should probably focus on the government we have and putting pressure on them to adapt.
Our MP for Brantford is Phil McColeman (CON). You can write him at:
Summer Hours – July & August -Monday-Thursday 8:30am-4:00pm Friday 8:30am-1:00pm
108 St. George Street, Suite #3
Brantford, ON N3R 1V6
The Valour Building, Rm 850
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Our MPP is Dave Levac, and you can contact him at:
Room 180, Main Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A2
96 Nelson Street
Brantford, Ontario N3T 2N1
Despite filming police encounters being entirely legal (and brutality being captured on film doesn’t appear to affect sentencing of cops who murder), it may be that an officer will try to confiscate your recording device. There are a number of apps available now that allow users to film discreetly, or uploads to the cloud as it records, preventing someone from erasing the data. Copblock has a huge list of these kinds of apps; while some are US-related specifically, like PocketJustice, many are region-free.
I’ve mentioned this on Facebook, because #BLMTO not wanting to sell their shirts to allies has been kind of a “thing”, but don’t ask what you think they want you to do – ask them what they need. As allies, it’s important our desire to do good (and be seen doing it) doesn’t do more harm than anything else. The community knows what it needs – they even had a list of demands ready to present at Pride. Follow them on Twitter, or Facebook and see what kinds of requests for aid they’re making – and do that!
There’s also Disarm Toronto Police, and “Affected Families of Police Homicide” (no known website, but affiliated with #BLMTO) for semi-local activist movements. Many students at Laurier Brantford’s campus are motivated, passionate people with a desire for social justice and change, and there are always groups needing support there during the school year. First Nations peoples are particularly vulnerable to police abuses, as the #MMIW movement has revealed the complicity of federal, provincial and municipal forces in the death and assault of aboriginal men and women. Both Turtle Island News and the Two-Row Times are good places to keep your eyes and ears peeled for news of activist groups, or people in need of legal defense funds.
This post barely scratches the surface of what we, as allies, can do. But it’s a start – and I hope with some of the research legwork done laid out in one spot, people will be encouraged to get out, agitate for reform and ask for strong statements from our city leaders and police services that condemn racist police actions, and express their committment to ending police brutality and abuses. Things have to change. We can’t let our brothers and sisters live like this any longer. They’ve made their demands clear. Will we stand with them?
I promise this post is not actually about Game of Thrones. But I can’t lie, and tell you the season 6 promo trailer wasn’t the final straw for this post. In the season 6 promo, we’re treated to the usual array of quick cut scenes, including one of two unidentifiable women kissing. One of them looks a lot like Sansa (some on Westeros dot org speculating one of the women is Asha/Yara); of course shortly after this realization, I remembered all the awful brothel scenes from earlier seasons, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume it’s something from there. Vomiting forever if both those speculations are correct at the same time. The main thrust is, for a brief moment, I was excited. Sansa! Alive! Maybe her happily ever after with Margery isn’t outside of the realm of possibility. But look at tv this year. It’s a trick.
(The rest of the post contains spoilers for all 3 seasons of the 100, and season 1 of the Shannara Chronicles)
Gamergate* is dead. Indeed, it’s been dead in the water since it began. I’m not going to cover the genesis, or the long arc of harassment and continued misunderstandings about what words like “ethics“, “games” or “journalism” mean. That, as you can see, has already been extensively covered.
But like a rapidly transmitted virus – say, the flu – the reach of Gamergate went far beyond the borders of the nation of ManCavelandia to find coverage in the mainstream media from the likes of NPR, PBS or the New York Post. In no particular order, the death of Gamergate:
No one actually buys the ethics in games journalism defence. It was a slapdash bandaid applied to a bitter ex’s angry blog rant about a claim of collusion that is provably false. More than a few minutes spent in any of the forums for pro-GG posters show that a) they’re primarily concerned with punishing women who critique the game industry status quo and b) they have no fucking idea what ethics in journalism actually means, since they feel like games coverage shouldn’t be critical or negative of a product when that company also advertises with you. No, really.
The smokescreen of ethics probably makes the next point so infuriating.
2) Mainstream media coverage:
In a setting where “fair and balanced” coverage means giving both sides of the story equal play, even if one side is completely ridiculous (looking at you, climate change “debates”), the MSM has been unequivocally critical of Gamergate. New York Times coverage focuses on GG as a movement devoted to silencing feminist critics of games, Forbes ran an article criticizing Intel’s decision in pulling advertising based on the campaign, and big name stations like CNN and the BBC covered the Utah State massacre threats because, well, obviously.
In fact, the only thing GG appears to have been remotely successful at with regards to mainstream media is getting Anita Sarkeesian interviewed on everything, including the Colbert report:
(In a cute piece of irony Alanis would love, most GGers seem to believe this is a coop for the movement because Stephen Colbert argues for boobies in video games.)
3) Everyone knows it’s about hating women.
Chris Kluwe took basically an enormous verbal dump on Gamergate hydra-like head, and nothing happened. (He made a few people cry, maybe.) Nerd idols like Joss Whedon, Wil Wheaton and Greg Rucka have all spoken against the toxic nature of the movement. And yet, it’s Anita Sarkeesian, Felicia Day, Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu – all relative small potatoes, until they got national attention for being targets, anyway – were the ones threatened. Those threats were widely reported on, which led to a number of reporters looking into men who have criticized GG, and why they weren’t threatened. Considering this is the media that was hesitant to talk about the Isla Vista shooter’s misogyny, don’t you think that’s a little telling?
4) Games are changing.
Anita covers it a bit in her talk, but the truth is that interdisciplinary programs are gaining ground in universities and colleges, and many media labs and incubators have computer scientists who are artists as well, visual artists who can code, writers who can market. This isn’t just meant to double-dip and save money, but rather reflect the flexibility and diversity of the world in the people who make games, so that games can grow beyond the linear narrative structures and kill-to-win models that dominate a lot of major game studios’ portfolios. Sandbox games like Animal Crossing, Tomodachi Life, the Sims, and Fantasy Life are immensely popular, entertaining and fun. You can’t beat them them. The only way to win is the satisfaction of enjoying the game while playing it.
What’s more, you get games like Fold it, where the satisfaction and enjoyment from the game can also be derived from the sense of purpose that succeeding has applicable, real-life benefits. Check out the latest puzzle, for example, where players need to find a way to bypass a cap on the ebola virus that prevents a cure from binding before the virus can bind to a human host. Terrified of ebola? Be the actual change here.
Gamification has gotten a bad rap because it’s used so poorly in most cases. rewards based systems only work so long as the reward is high enough value for you to press through doing your homework, or chores, or job. But gamification done well broadens the scope and arena of gaming to be pretty much limitless, which is terrifying for Gamergate. How can it be a special club if everyone enjoys it?
*not to be confused with gamergates, or reproductively viable worker ants.
Earlier this week, shortly before news that the Israeli Armed Forced had bombed a UN shelter full fo sleeping refugees, I had gone searching for information on writing to my government representatives about their abhorrent stance on the current horror in Gaza. Unfortunately, Amnesty International (a great site!) only had information on how to write to Secretary of State, John Kerry about the issue, and nothing for Canadians. (Americans, you can find that here.)
A few emails to a colleague pointed me towards John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, with a copy of the letter addressed to Stephen Harper. You can find John Baird’s contact info here, and Stephen Harper’s here. I encourage everyone who can to do the same! It’s not much. It feels like painfully little. Nonetheless, every extra bit of pressure is needed. I’ve included a copy of my letter below as a possible template.
A brief thought exercise for media and people ignoring the fact that UCSB shooter was driven to kill by his hatred of and sense of entitlement towards women (all text taken from the posted manifesto on Scribd; h/t to wehuntedthemammoth for highlighting some of the quotes I used below). Needless as it may be to say, trigger warning for graphic hatred of women and depictions of violence against them:
Valar morghulis, errybody. It’s hard for me to decide what I appreciate more: “all men must die” serving as a tagline, or the new iconic crow image that’s going to be hundreds of tattoos in no time:
Spoilers for seasons 1-3 and books 1-3 below the cut!
(See WoW Insider’s “Open Letter to Jaina Proudmoore” for backstory. Be warned of 5.4 spoilers!)
If it comes as a surprise to anyone that I love ladies behaving badly in Warcraft (and other storytelling mediums), then I invite you to take a gander at my two Blizzard Story contest entries, where I think about Blood Queen Lana’thel and Leyara’s histories, respectively.
It’s hard being Alliance for all your WoW-playing career and having a fascination with villainy, because they tend to either be a part of the Horde (Sylvanas) or quest/dungeon/raid bosses (Keristrasza, Leyara, BQL, ad nauseum). The Blizzard Story contest is, at the moment, defunct, but I had been planning exploring a Sylvanas story after reading Dave Kosak’s short story, Edge of Night, because I did find it very interesting that she wasn’t present at Arthas’ death.
A lot of this is born out of my frustration that women in Warcraft tend to be pushed to their limits by the storylines, and then callously abandoned to their fate (often death, at the hands of us “heroes”) when they’re deemed irredeemable. Keristrasza was captured, abused and forced to be Malygos’ consort after she murdered his previous one, and you have to kill her in the Nexus, an act which the wiki entry for her states “a sad, but necessary end.”
Lana’thel is forced into service for the Lich King when she faced him at Northrend, armed with her former friend’s blade Quel’delar, which she was overwhelmed by Frostmourne, and forced to serve him. (Sensing a theme?) Leyara’s grief and anger at the Horde, and her father-in-law’s madness leads her to ally with the minions of Ragnaros because she doesn’t feel she has anything left to live for (and she doesn’t even make it into the dungeons, you kill her during a quest chain.)
This female madness issue didn’t start with Wrath, nor end in Cata. In Pandaria, where strong emotions are made physically manifest in the Sha, both Suna Silentstrike and Liu Flameheart become infested with Sha, and the players are forced to kill them. It would not be so very telling if not for the fact that Tarah Zhu, leader of the Shado-Pan, is similarly affected, but in the dungeon where you encounter him, all the player needs to do is drive the Sha out of his body, and defeat it.
If that’s the case, why did Suna and Liu have to die? Their grief and doubt – at the loss of a beloved husband, the fear of failing your god – are perfectly reasonable within the context of their stories, which were created by the writers and quest developers. Why do the women of Warcraft only get one chance at redemption, and then only through death?
What’s even more fascinating is that this is a narrative that’s not just played out in the game and supplemental materials, but also in the fan base. Jaina factors into this because like Suna and Leyara, she’s lost loved ones, people she was a leader to. Her story has always been one of courage and of loss. SPOILERS for 5.4 to follow the cut: