Friday, October 17, 2014

Why gaming needs some serious CSR

Hello world,

I find it difficult to begin this particular blog post due to the negative reaction it will surely create. I've never let the opinions of others stop me from expressing my own, but the current state of gaming is anything from friendly right now. Regardless, I've felt the need to speak up for some time but wasn't exactly sure how I wanted to approach this topic. If you hadn't guessed already, I'm talking about GamerGate. Please keep in mind, I'm not looking to dissect the controversy. Instead, I'd like to offer a call to action to some major industry stakeholders that have remained shamefully silent in the last few weeks.

Brianna Wu was one of the developers
most recently driven out of her home 
If you're unfamiliar with GamerGate, I suggest taking a look at the extensive write-ups all over the Internet right now. I'd personally suggest this piece from Caitlin Dewey, who writes for the Intersect blog at the Washington Post. While I wouldn't call this article neutral by any means, it gives you a general overview recent of events with implications for not just the game industry but society at large. Essentially, GamerGate started out as a movement to correct ethics in game journalism. It has since morphed into a toxic campaign set on harassing and disenfranchising critics of an increasingly outdated and male-dominated gaming culture. These attacks have been aimed primarily at women in often frightening ways. Each time I log onto Twitter, my stomach drops at the news of yet another female game developer driven out of her home due to death threats. I've considered myself a part of the video game community for a long time, but I did not sign up for any of this. The current environment is not reflective of the world that I've come to know and love. Something needs to change. 

With the situation escalating and GamerGate clearly not going away, I can't help but wonder - where have the major players been all this time? I'm talking about game developers, publishers and studios. You know, the big names like EA, Activision, Ubisoft etc. The radio silence has been disappointing to say the least; most notably because these companies have the highest stake in whether gamers tear each other apart. In light of this, the Entertainment Software Association, a trade organization that represents many of the previously mentioned companies, released a statement this week addressing GamerGate: 

"Threats of violence and harassment are wrong. They have to stop. There is no place in the video game community - or our society - for personal attacks and threats." 

While it's certainly a nice sentiment, I just don't think it's enough. The problem here is that it's very hard to motivate game companies to enter such a controversial debate unless it offers some return on investment. That's where corporate social responsibility (CSR) comes in. CSR involves the integration of social and environmental concerns into a business operation. To save you from any more fancy jargon, it basically means that an organization makes a conscious effort to "do good" in the context of the community it serves. Let me give you a couple of examples. One of my favorites would have to be the It Can Wait movement from AT&T, which encourages individuals to use cellular products in a "safe and responsible manner." While it might seem strange that a phone carrier would ask customers not to use its cellular services, it actually makes a lot of sense. Through this campaign, AT&T ensures that the community understands the dangers associated with texting and driving. As a result, the company enhances its brand image and hopefully spots a nice little increase in profit margins (remember how I mentfioned return on investment?). 

Image via EdTechTimes
Next, let's look at a case more relevant to the topic at hand. South Korea is known for a strong mobile and online culture (particularly in gaming). Unfortunately, this culture has led to unhealthy behavior in the digital sphere, including smartphone addiction, personal anxiety and online bullying. When mobile carrier SK Telecom reached an audience of one million on social media, it teamed up with global PR firm Edelman to create the Social Relay for Clean Online Communications. For the campaign, five "social media mentors" participated in "missions" that encouraged individuals to make positive contributions online. The relay fostered an important dialogue on taking responsibility for words and actions online in addition to shifting perceptions regarding healthy Internet use.

So what does all of this mean? Well, I believe that the concepts behind CSR reign true for any industry and gaming could certainly use some help. Last month, game developer Andreas Zecher wrote an "Open letter to the gaming community"  calling for an end to the destructive behavior stemming from GamerGate. It has since been signed by more than 2,000 developers. So here's my proposition: why can't a major game company follow suit with a similar initiative? Names like Sony and Rockstar carry such weight with gamers and employ teams who could easily come up with creative ways to get loyal fans on board. It's time to end the hate and vitriol behind GamerGate, but there needs to be an organized and sincere effort to get us there. 

Until next time,

Monday, September 1, 2014

GI: Japan Episode 6 - Welcome to Tokyo

Hi friends!

I am back to blogging from home sweet home in the states. Now that I'm finally over jet lag and back to my old routine, I decided to throw together one last video from my time in Japan. My apologies for not getting this up sooner, but this last semester of graduate school has already got me nice and busy. 

For my last episode, I kept things short and sweet! All of the footage below was taken during my two different side trips to Tokyo. If you aren't familiar with the layout of the city, Tokyo is split into many different neighborhoods. I pieced together some interesting tidbits from Akihabara, Asakusa, Harajuku and Shinjuku. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Tokyo is a weirdly wonderful city with so much to offer people from all walks of life.

It's a little bittersweet that I will no longer be posting content from Japan, but I sincerely thank everyone who has taken the time to follow my journey. Also, if you have any questions about where I went and what I did, feel free to ask in the comments. Between this summer and my trip in 2012, I actually feel pretty confident about helping others get the most out of their own adventures. After all, I've got that Yamanote Line down to a science!

Until next time :)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

GI: Japan Episode 5 - Sado Holiday


I'm back with non-stop riveting video action from the land of the rising sun. This time, you get to see footage from outside Niigata!

Marine Day or "Umi no Hi" is a (fairly new) national holiday in Japan that celebrates the ocean and its important role in Japanese society. Since I was lucky enough to have the day off, I set off on an adventure to Sado Island with our lovely guest star, Rumi. Sado is a short(ish) ferry ride north of Niigata. You can get there in a flash if you're willing to pay extra, but we decided to go with the cheaper option, which took about three hours. It didn't end up feeling very long, because I managed to take a solid nap on the way there and back. Rumi's friend, Taketo-san, grew up on Sado and graciously volunteered to act as our tour guide once we reached the island. I really can't imagine tackling Sado as a lone tourist, since everything is so spread out and driving is the best way to see it all. Basically, we were extremely lucky to have some help! 

In the video below, I've pieced together parts of the day using a combination of the YouTube editor and Sony Movie Studio. I really wish that I could produce much fancier material right now, but my camera is subpar to begin with and my computer regularly sounds like it is going to jet off into outerspace. Hopefully you can all still appreciate Sado for its beautiful and peaceful environment. Weirdly enough, my brain couldn't stop making connections to video games as we travelled throughout the island. Some of my comparisons might seem like a bit of a stretch, but since it's my imagination (and my blog!), I'll do as I please.

If you have any questions about the different spots we visited, feel free to ask in the comments. Also, I'm sad to report that my cat friendship couldn't make it all the way. Long-distance relationships are just too hard :P 

-Girl Informer

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Take control online, land the gig offline

Hi friends!

I hope you've been enjoying my summer blogging thus far. I decided to take a quick break from the videos but no need to worry! I'll be back with my goofball self very soon. For now, I'd like to write up my response to an interesting question posed by the community manager at Webucator:  

What skill do you think is essential for success in today's job market? 

Image via College Times
*Full disclosure: Webucator is an online learning company. They asked me to contribute to their "Most Marketable Skill" blogging campaign for current and future job seekers. While I've never used the company's services, I absolutely commend anyone looking to expand their skillset, particularly in the technology sector. Besides, I'll be diving full force into the job hunt very soon, so this couldn't have come at a better time. Please note that I did not receive any sort of compensation for this post. Not even cookies! ^_^ 

Of course, I have to answer this question in the context of the video game industry, since it's where I personally plan to make a living. However, I think my answer is applicable to just about any other field. To abruptly break the suspense, I would have to go with a strong online presence. Big surprise coming from me, right? I literally eat, sleep and breathe social media. So let's go ahead and explore why I think your online identity is so important, particularly in the realm of gaming. 

My first argument is sort of generic but fairly obvious when it comes to the job search. Whether you chose to believe it or not, employers will be looking for you online once you begin to show interest. It's painfully easy to do a quick Google search and find out if 1) the person on your resume and cover letter actually exists in the way that you have written them and 2) your past behavior or current activity falls in line with company values (i.e. time to dump the Facebook party photos or at least use the appropriate privacy settings). And these are just the bare minimum of what an employer might investigate using the internet. We can say it's not right but that doesn't mean it's not going to happen.

Do you really just want to be an egg?
So if someone is looking for you online, why not give them the absolute best impression possible? I think this is insanely important if you aim to work in any creative or media-related industry. Especially when many openings now call for "social media" on the list of required or preferred skills. As Schawbel with Forbes points out, your online profile might soon replace a resume altogether. I've already seen moves toward this trend. For example, many applicant systems allow users to pull information from various social media platforms. It's one reason that I use my LinkedIn profile as a pseudo-digital portfolio. I've heard others argue that simply having zero presence is sufficient, but I have to respectfully disagree. Actually, I have to adamantly disagree.

Image via Kotaku
It all comes down to opportunity, and this is where things really tie back to the industry in which a potential job candidate plans to work. Without a well-crafted online identity, you miss out on the chance to share your voice and become a subject-matter expert. As an individual who hopes to leave a big mark in games, I've really had to develop a thick skin. From a small argument (maybe the best installment in the Final Fantasy series) to serious issues that get your blood boiling (just read the comments on any article covering gender representation in games), people are going to disagree with you. Despite this, I've actually felt empowered by sharing my thoughts or joining the conversation via social media. I know that my voice is valid, and I can hold my own with people in this industry. In many cases, this online confidence actually makes offline interactions, such as a job interview or networking event, feel much more natural.

While I think people are increasingly starting to recognize that taking control of your online self is a worthwhile cause, they forget that it can also be an enjoyable experience. Recently, I attended a gaming panel on "breaking into the industry" where one of the speakers mentioned that hopefuls should be "making" something every single day (note: I believe it was Ed Fries at Momocon, but my memory is a little fuzzy since he was a guest at both this convention and the DICE Summit). If you're not a game developer or artist like me, social media is the ideal place to turn. You can write, you can share and you can show your passion in a vibrant space with like-minded individuals. I can guarantee that this enthusiasm will give you an edge in the hiring process.  

Big thanks again to Bob at Webucator for the bit of blogging inspiration! It's quite an interesting campaign they've got going, and I encourage you to check out the other contributions on Twitter. You can also hop on over to their site for free tutorials. According to my conversation with Bob, these tutorials feature some of the most important aspects of the company's self-paced and instructer-led courses. Plus, the company runs an ongoing free course promotion focused on different programs within Microsoft Office. Again, I can't personally testify to these services, but the courses appear to be very thorough and free is always awesome!

Until next time,
-Girl Informer

Saturday, July 5, 2014

GI: Japan Episode 4 - Vintage toys and lots of noise


I've got a few more quick videos for all of you. First, my inner dork had a minor freakout over all of the cool toys being housed at Niigata's Manga Animation Museum. While the actual museum was closed at the time we stopped by, I was still able to gawk at all of these goodies. Feel free to take pleasure from my nerdiness :) 

Second, I've got an unexpected video of some good old fashioned fireworks (let's call it a belated Fourth of July homage). A few weeks ago, I visited Bandaibashi - a famous bridge in Niigata. It's a fantastic local spot and luckily some sort of event also made things very festive.

Next weekend, I'm actually headed to Yokohama for a music festival. I'm ridiculously excited and can't wait to share the experience with everyone soon. 

-Girl Informer

GI: Japan Episode 3 - Good health, good fortune... good marriage?


Things have been plenty busy on my side of the world, but I've still got lots of video to share. We've even got a special guest this time around - my friend Rumi! The two of us ventured to a local shrine in Hakusan and took advantage of the beautiful scenery. It was actually really relaxing to be in such a calm and peaceful environment compared to the hustle and bustle of my daily commute.

I didn't get the chance to show off this area, but the lotus pond was amazing. So many flowers were just itching to bloom! 

It was a little difficult to find information on this purification ritual online, but you can check out this blog for more details. Here's hoping it will bring good health and fortune to my life (and those around me!) for the rest of the year :) 

Last but not least, I tried my absolute best to get this routine down correctly. Hopefully I paid my respects well enough. Hakusan Jinja (Shrine) is home to the god of marriage, after all :P

Make sure to keep an eye out for more videos!

-Girl Informer

Thursday, June 12, 2014

GI: Japan Episode 2 - The daily grind

Hello again friends! 

I'm excited to share two more video installments for my GI: Japan series. In the first video, I show you my morning walk to the neighborhood train station, while the latter follows my trek from the office to Niigata Station. Before you take a look, I wanted to give a quick disclaimer that I did not intend for any of my videos (past, present or future) to be fancy in any form.  My technical capabilities are very limited here, and my goal is simply to give a "slice of life" glance at Niigata. Other than that, enjoy the silliness!

I have some more videos in the works and should post them within the next two weeks. However, uploading has been much more of a pain than I expected, so please excuse any sort of delay.

 Stay tuned :) 
-Girl Informer