Gotta Strike ‘Em All – A Post-Mortem of the Voice Actors Strike

Last October, the video game voice actors’ strike came to an end after almost a year of protests against unfair pay and poor treatment. But is the deal that the union SAG-AFTRA made good enough for the people that they represent? Astrid Johnson investigates.

[Updates – Ryan Brown is no longer a staff position Games writer for the Daily Mirror, and Ashly Burch reprised her role as Chloe in the final chapter of Life is Strange: Before the Storm.]

Trans Exclusion Has No Place in the Labour Party

It’s been a few weeks since Jeremy Corbyn’s confirmation on live television that, yes, trans women are in fact women who belong on all-women shortlists. And after a couple of weeks without retraction, the suspension of transphobic Labour members, and support across the country from MPs and left-wing political commentators, one thing has been made clear; insidious exclusion of transgender people is not welcome in the Labour party.

As a community we’ve seen all manner of abuse and discrimination, disguised as progressive activism, within the Labour sphere: last month, a group of Labour party members began a fundraiser on GoFundMe to campaign against trans women being included on all-women shortlists, that raised a worrying £30,000. And last year, feminist Linda Bellos made her intentions clear regarding trans women being allowed in women’s changing rooms that, “if any one of those bastards comes near me I will take off my glasses and thump them.”

 

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The bigotry of these people is made clear, if not in the online abuse they dish out and the campaigns they champion against transgender people, then in the deceptive language that they use. Distinctions are made in opinion pieces and tweets between trans people and women (presenting a larger issue of the erasure of trans men and non-binary people) alluding to the idea that trans women aren’t “real” women, ringing hollow their insistence that we are a community that they wish to support (those who started the anti-trans GoFundMe claimed to support transgender rights in the campaign’s description.)

But from these depressing and demeaning incidents, we see positives. Jennifer James and other women who began the aforementioned GoFundMe have since been suspended by the party on grounds of their transphobia, and Bellos’ place in the party has been brought into question on a number of occasions over her statements. Moreover, this sentiment of transgender people being excluded from spaces reflective of our identities looks to be rejected by the party consensus, with many constituency Labour MPs and university societies in the country voicing their support for our inclusion.

These are, of course, positive steps. But transgender equality, even in the Labour Party, is a battle that we are admittedly still far from winning. Only this week, we saw the publishing of a deceptive school resource back on transgender students, smattered with dog whistle phrases like “trans-identified” and published by Transgender Trend, an organisation that claims to work with parents questioning the “trans narrative.” And this resource has been shared by the likes of infamously-transphobic Nicholas Davies, an individual hoping to join the ranks of his local Labour candidacies.

No doubt that there will continue to be cases like this. And whenever they may occur, no matter how exhausting and dehumanizing they may be, they must be fought against, by ourselves as transgender people, Labour or not, if we’re able. And when we are not, then by our allies with greater reach, influence, and ability.

Momentum has done an outstanding job of establishing a clear and unified path for the Labour party in democratic socialism and progressive politics. We need to follow suit for our trans comrades; raise awareness, deplatform those who wish to spread hate, and fight the good fight for a better Labour, and a better country.

The False Impartiality of Debating Transgender Rights

The BBC has a problem with false impartiality in some of its reporting, and its coverage of transgender activism is no exception

As a journalist, one tries their best to abide by a set of values, like truth and public interest. Perhaps one of the more significant of these values is impartiality; the importance placed on portraying an issue or scenario as realistically as possible, taking into account the players in that issue and the weight that each of these sides have in it.

Sometimes, this can be challenging. Especially in a 24-hour, social media age that demands the latest news as quickly as is possible – not a negative thing, in fact it’s a very desirable circumstance. But this methodology will at occasion leave impartiality at the wayside, in favour of a balance not truly representative of the matter at hand.

Perhaps the most important epicenter of this phenomenon as someone living in the UK is the BBC. Other news outlets with a clearer bias, like the tabloid press here and Fox News across the Atlantic, experience this too, but in a deliberate fashion. The BBC, however, strives to be a bastion of objective and unbiased reporting on truth. Which, while admirable, is not always the case, and there have been a number of instances in which a false impartiality has been executed.

We’ve seen it in climate change debate, where on a number of occasions, the BBC staged debates on outlets like Radio 4 between climate scientists and climate change deniers as if both of these viewpoints held equal weight, despite much of the scientific community outweighing the other in support of man-made climate change existing as a phenomenon. And in Brexit, where many of the Leave campaign’s bold claims were in fact found to be falsehoods, the BBC reported on them without fact-checking or challenge.

We’re now seeing this phenomenon with the transgender community. As discussion surrounding big political moves like a reform of the Gender Recognition Act are underway, trans people are being invited onto BBC TV channels, radio stations and in articles to be interviewed about who we are and what we want. The issue therein is that we will go on to be pitted against right-wingers and trans-exclusionary radical feminists alike, debating our rights and often our very existence as if we’re the next hot topic.

Like climate change and like Brexit, the fight for our rights and dignities that we have so desperately sought for centuries has been falsely framed as a debate with two sides of equal weight. There is, however, another significant aspect ignored by this frame; the balance of power.

Like other minority groups, the transgender community is fighting against a system inherently designed against us; built into the very foundations of the structures of our society, and ingrained in the cultural assumptions that exist within it. The cards are stacked against us to an unimaginable degree, with little support available to us but from each other. To portray our struggle and those which we struggle against as on an equal footing, let alone as morally-indistinguishable, is not only a great disservice, but also in line with the oppressive status quo.

Trans-exclusionary radical feminists will claim that we trans people are in the position of power; that the continued affording of rights to us in society will benefit the patriarchy, shifting away the focus on fighting for women’s rights and putting women in danger if self-identification becomes an option for us. But in doing so, they uphold the values of the patriarchy; a system that seeks to enforce the binary of gender and purports a biological inferiority in women. This is the same biological essentialism that TERFs claim uphold them as the “true feminists.” And it’s the same biological essentialism that we’re assaulted by, from the patriarchy that systematically upholds it, and from the bigots that deludedly believe it is their salvation.

It’s false to portray what’s happening here as a reasonable debate with equally-invested sides presenting well-intended arguments for and against. Quite the opposite; the situation as it stands is on one side, a group of people who are fighting for progress that is both essential for their well being and inseparable from their existence. And on the other, a large and imposing oppositional force, fabricating loose threats and using their excess of power to enforce their bigotry and crush dissent.

The BBC have corrected themselves in the past. After the backlash from their climate change debates, they adopted an official stance that “there is broad scientific agreement on climate change.” And while the critique they received over their coverage of Brexit continues, they do appear to be observing the whole situation with more scrutiny than before. But it’s only after complaint, backlash, and criticism that the BBC have made these changes and reevaluated these stances.

So, make your voices heard; let it be known that the way they are treating us cannot continue, that they need to change and improve like they have done before. And don’t limit it to the BBC; news organisations and media outlets universally need to improve their coverage of transgender issues. And after enough shouting, they will.

Is Gillian from VA-11 Hall-A a Revolutionary Comrade?

Is Gillian more than a laid-back bartender with a mysterious past? Is he… revolutionary?

Cyberpunk bartending waifu simulator VA-11 Hall-A doesn’t shy away from having a progressive message, with a gay main character swooning over her boss, android sex workers with loveable personalities, and thematic critique of the dangers of a free market. But there’s perhaps more, hidden in one of the game’s almost-comic relief characters; Gillian.

Your co-worker in the VA-11 Hall-A bar is an elusive figure, working under the name of a deceased prior bartender, Robert, after appearing at the door of the establishment in a “disheveled and emotional state.” We know a few things, and I’m going to use them to support my theory that Gillian is a revolutionary comrade, of sorts.

 

He Work(ed) for the KGB

Let’s get the obvious out of the way; Gillian used to work for the KGB, the Soviet Union’s state security agency, in ways akin to the United States’ CIA or the UK’s MI6. We’re unaware as to the details of his involvement with the agency, but this involvement alone is enough to assume aspects of his political leanings.

What’s especially interesting to note is that, while the body text of his wiki page states that he was involved “sometime in the past,” the entry in his occupation list doesn’t specify it as a former job. In the timeline of VA-11 Hall-A, did the KGB perhaps survive, in secret? Does Gillian still work for them? We can only theorise.

 

He Defected from the Hong Kong Anti-riot Forces

Gillian used to be a member of the Hong Kong anti-riot forces; we know this because of a few dialogue encounters, including with CEO of The Augmented Eye, Donovan D. Dawson, who saw him at the infamous Hong Kong riots where he was assigned.

He defected, however, and stole supplies from the side he once fought on. Perhaps he developed a sympathy for the rioters and their cause? To fight against the corruption and the exploitation of the Hong Kong 1%? If we take into account his likely leanings assumed from his KGB role, it isn’t out of the question.

 

He Mysteriously Disappears for a Few Days

Otherwise reliable, Gillian will disappear for a few days from time to time, seemingly for unknown reasons. He always returns safe, and he seems to be able to take care of himself pretty well. Given all of the information we have, I think it isn’t out of the realms of possibility that, if we are to believe the KGB is still operating in-secret, that Gillian is a heavily-undercover agent.

What are the KGB’s goals? What is Gillian’s mission? We can’t know for sure. What we do know is, that if we combine what we know about his past with what we know about his personality, the resulting individual is a really likeable, laid-back guy, and a pretty probable comrade if I’ve ever seen one.

[DISCLAIMER: ANY NONSENSICAL CONNECTIONS MADE BETWEEN VIDEO GAMES AND COMMUNIST THEMES, ZEALOUS AND SELF-RIGHTEOUS DICTATOR-ESQUE BEHAVIORS, AND PERCEIVED SUPPORT AND/OR APOLOGISM OF OPPRESSIVE REGIMES LIKE THE SOVIET UNION ARE PURELY INSTANCES OF SELF-SATIRE AS A MEANS OF COMICAL INTROSPECTION, AND IN SOME CASES HAVE NO BASIS IN TRUTH OR PERSONAL BELIEF.]

Does MCM Comic Con Think Communism Will Win?

I went to MCM Comic Con in London last weekend, and decided to ask those visiting the convention one important question; will Communism win? What happens next will shock you!

 

Music by Grandayy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=876tE…

 

Camera Crew:

Jane Aerith Magnet: https://twitter.com/maniacjaneiac

Wesley Jon Nux Elkins: https://twitter.com/fretting_lemon

Brütal Legend’s Revolution Against the Bourgeoisie

Brütal Legend is a 2009 action-adventure slash real-time strategy game by Double Fine starring Jack Black as a roadie named Eddie Riggs who is transported to a world inspired by the lyrics and album covers of heavy metal bands. Your task in the game is to amass an army of the downtrodden and the slaves of the land to eventually combat the bondage-clad forces of Emperor Doviculus. But not before bringing the fight to General Lionwhyte of the Hair Metal Militia, a denizen of Doviculus and the overseer of the continued slavery of humanity, at his pleasure tower.

That’s Communistic as fuck. Allow me to explain.

The Hair Metal Militia are the Bourgeoisie

The Hair Metal Militia reek of decadence and exploitation. Their base of operations is known as the ‘Pleasure Tower,’ a guarded monument filled with shimmering riches, high-class architecture towering monuments to Lionwhyte. He and his agents live in luxury, with hot baths, plentiful booze, and their ways with some of the Razor Girls who find themselves in forced pleasure employment. They’re comprised of those workers who chose to side with Lionwhyte, valuing the benefits he affords them over the freedom of their compatriots. Truly, the Hair Metal Milita encapsulate all the traits of the Bourgeoisie, also known as the Capitalist Class in Marxist theory.

The Headbangers are the Exploited Workers

One of the first missions we play in Brütal Legend is called “Exploited in the Bowels of Hell.” We must emancipate the Headbangers toiling their lives away in the Crushing Pit, a rock mine. Presumably this rock is used to construct the towering architecture of Lionwhyte’s pleasure tower, and we also know that car parts are  unearthed that Lionwhyte takes the leather and vinyl from to give to Doviculus. It also serves as a means of oppressing the people. They are the working class; subjugated by the Bourgeois Hair Metal Militia to do their bidding (or more specifically Lionwhyte’s) as a means of benefiting only themselves. We even see a very clear reference to Marx’s work, as we the player are given a Battle Cry guitar solo that we play in order to inspire the workers to revolt, and are told to “break the chains,” an abstraction of “workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!”

The Battle Cry Represents Class Consciousness

A sub-point to the Headbangers; the guitar solo that Eddie plays to liberate the Headbangers of the Crushing Pit could be argued as a representation of class consciousness, as listening to it’s tasty licks is what gives them the realisation that they don’t need to toil their lives away for Lionwhyte. This, by extension, would make Eddie and Ironheade a Revolutionary Vanguard Party, of sorts.

There is Rebellion in the Game’s Lore

Honestly? We don’t even need to look at these representations closely to know of the revolutionary themes in Brütal Legend. Within the history of the world, there’s an outright revolution; the “Black Tear Rebellion.” A band of humans rebelled against their oppressors, the Tainted Coil, and tried to overthrow them and achieve their freedom. It failed when the Rebellion drank from the sea of black tears and lost their minds, but only after the demons gave them such a temptation to begin with, out of fear that they otherwise might lose.

I think there’s some compelling stuff here. Though, I like to think that with every game that I write about. What do you all think? Perhaps I’ve missed some other pieces of evidence? Let me know!

[DISCLAIMER: ANY NONSENSICAL CONNECTIONS MADE BETWEEN VIDEO GAMES AND COMMUNIST THEMES, ZEALOUS AND SELF-RIGHTEOUS DICTATOR-ESQUE BEHAVIORS, AND PERCEIVED SUPPORT AND/OR APOLOGISM OF OPPRESSIVE REGIMES LIKE THE SOVIET UNION ARE PURELY INSTANCES OF SELF-SATIRE AS A MEANS OF COMICAL INTROSPECTION, AND IN SOME CASES HAVE NO BASIS IN TRUTH OR PERSONAL BELIEF.]

The First Half of Fable III is Pretty Damn Communistic

If you ignore everything about Fable III that stops it being Communistic, it’s actually kinda Communistic.

Fable III was the final main installment in Lionhead Studio’s iconic franchise, and despite a hefty amount of discourse online regarding whether the game was good or not, I actually rather like it, despite it being disappointing compared to its predecessor, Fable II. And if you ignore the constant of monarchy throughout the experience, it’s pretty communistic so I’m going to ignore it and give you a list of reasons why I’m definitely right.

A People’s Revolution

The first two thirds of the game are all about you, the main protagonist, amassing a revolutionary army to overthrow your tyrant brother, who subjects the people of Albion to destitute conditions of poverty and corruption. You recruit the military, the city resistance, a group of mountain dwellers, and various other groups and factions throughout Albion to assist you. Sure, the primary basis in convincing them all to join is that you’re the true heir to the throne, but that invalidates any point that I might have, so let’s envision a reality where this isn’t the case.

The Age of Industry

At the time in which we experience the lands of Albion, it’s experiencing an industrial age. There are factories, mechanised transportation systems, and a new era of slave-wage labour. It’s all very much inspired by the 1800s, a hotbed for a people’s revolt. It’s during this time that the formulation and rise of Communist thought occurred as a direct response to industrialisation exploiting workers in a way never before seen. It is therefore difficult to argue that Lionhead Stuios weren’t aware of the parallels between the narrative of Fable III and the dawn of Communism

Benevolent Dictatorship

Time to throw you all a curve ball! I’ll be acknowledging the monarchy aspect of this game. Because, if you look at it with squinted eyes and sprinkle it with a heap of wishful thinking, then you could vaguely describe your monarchical status in Fable III as resembling a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship. Not my personal preferred flavour of Communism, but Communism nonetheless! This is further supported by all of the benevolent, for-the-people royal decrees, like abolishing child labour, free public libraries, and putting funding into looking after orphans.

At the end of the day, life is all about perspective.  And to many perspectives, Fable III isn’t at all indicative of a Communist revolutionary story. But my perspective, when looked at from the right angles, is that with a little optimism, maybe it is. Certainly makes the game a little less disappointing.

[THIS IS A DISCLAIMER THAT I’LL BE ADDING AS A FOOTNOTE TO ALL OF MY WORK FROM NOW ON: ANY NONSENSICAL CONNECTIONS MADE BETWEEN VIDEO GAMES AND COMMUNIST THEMES, ZEALOUS AND SELF-RIGHTEOUS DICTATOR-ESQUE BEHAVIORS, AND PERCEIVED SUPPORT AND/OR APOLOGISM OF OPPRESSIVE REGIMES LIKE THE SOVIET UNION ARE PURELY INSTANCES OF SELF-SATIRE AS A MEANS OF COMICAL INTROSPECTION, AND IN SOME CASES HAVE NO BASIS IN TRUTH OR PERSONAL BELIEF.]