Archive for Not Games

On leaving



Basically, #GamerGate flooded Frank with inane, wild-eyed criticisms and conspiracy theories until she couldn’t take any more. While she may have been considering a career change for a while prior, as she alluded to above, it’s clear that this latest deluge was the final straw.

I’m not sure whether a writer at Bustle meant to be so on-the-nose with his assessment of my nine-year career, but he’s right. Maybe I’ve been looking for an “out” for a while now.

I am giving myself permission to do something else with my life. What follows is why.

There’s a lot of deliberate misinformation being passed around—some of it downright defamatory—and much has to do with a 500-word op-ed published under my name in The Guardian. (I say “under my name” because the editorial process actually involves a lot of people and their expertise.)

The Guardian article was edited, fact-checked, and approved by a legal department, a process that took four days (maybe three, plus time zones). The Guardian itself is an old and venerable institution, and I am still very proud to have my name appear there.

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Regarding the “conflict of interest” in my latest piece

4chan ethics

Recently I wrote a piece for The Guardian. Some of you wondered—on this blog, on Twitter, at the Guardian, on discrete forums and image boards, and in our inboxes—why the article, as it first appeared, did not disclose a relationship with Ms. Quinn.

The Guardian actually nixed the disclosure of my relationship with Ms. Quinn, simply because it didn’t strike editors or legal—that is, The Guardian’s legal department, which approved the final draft—as a “conflict of interest” in an op/ed about abuse. The publication determined the disclosure I provided didn’t matter, since my piece is not a review of her work, but a 500-word blog about Internet harassment.

In my disclosure’s original draft, I mention that I have never reviewed one of Quinn’s games (or, ever before, written about her at all) and that I am a supporter of her work. The Guardian piece, at my request, has been updated with brief remarks to that effect.

I hope this clears up any confusion.

Update: A follow-up.

Apologies for shuttering comments, but it seems like the endgame here is further obfuscation, when I feel everything stated above is quite clear.

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On bullying

This young person  just read something about herself on the Internet!

content note: depression, suicide, bullying

I don’t know whether it’s okay to talk about this. Maybe it doesn’t help.

At present, we don’t actually know for certain whether a game designer has taken her own life. We don’t know any concrete details leading up to it. All we have is speculation, conjecture.

Although she had a fan following, she was not a “public” figure by any stretch of the word.

We do know with certainty, however, she’d recently become the target of incessant bullying. Shortly before she made the gruesome announcement, she presented an Internet forum with a screenshot of her inbox, indicating that most of these attacks were cruel remarks about her birth gender. She may have been trans, maybe not.

There isn’t a word for how horrifying. I hope she’s alive. I hope she only decided to take a temporary break from the Internet and that she will have an opportunity to get on with her life. Or I hope her suicide attempt failed. I hope she intended it to fail.

We do know this: while the rate of attempted suicide among the general population is 1.6%, as many as 41% of transpeople have attempted suicide. The numbers of LGBT children who have attempted suicide hover around a similarly startling 30-40%. Familial rejection, economic strife, and systemic or institutionalized transphobia and homophobia all play roles in these suicide attempts.

But let’s not minimize the incredibly damaging effects of outright bullying.

In early 2012 the Center for Disease Control noted that the rate of teen suicide has spiked in recent years. The CDC’s 2012 report went on to estimate that one in 12 teenagers has attempted suicide, with 20% of teenagers indicating they have been bullied. Among schoolchildren, girls plan or attempt suicide in greater numbers than boys.

There are other risk factors in play, of course. The CDC lists physical illness, isolation, clinical depression, loss, and hopelessness as factors. There are genetic and environmental factors to consider, as well—I find “local epidemics of suicide” to be among the more chilling.

Bullying is so insidious, though, because it takes most of these preexisting risk factors and escalates them in the worst possible way. Bullying among schoolchildren is consistently diminished or shrugged off as the natural order of things, even as children gain greater access to communications technologies that allow their meanspiritedness to be “liked,” be “shared,” and “go viral.” School administrators seem especially complicit, probably out of helplessness and inefficacy.

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You aren’t really buying a goat

I stole this goat from

Late last month, in the course of conversation, my colleague J.P. Grant asked me about the business model of any particular blog. Like, how do you curate content? (Or aggregate it, depending on who you ask.) How are writers paid? Are they always paid? How, please, does a website make money?

These are complicated questions. They’re also things I’ve thought about a lot over the years, and if everyone knew all the ways, we could quit our day jobs. Also, they’re things I tend to discuss only with my editor, because business practice is as much a moral debate as it is anything else.

Still, I launched a business seven years ago by hand (my friend is still running it). I know about secure servers; I know how to become an LLC. I’ve worked for a business that makes half its money shipping internationally. I know how to look genuine while selling people on a product I don’t actually like. I know a fair amount about intellectual property; I know how Nigerian scams work. I know how to sound sincere and be insincere. I know how to fill out a shipping form that nearly circumvents customs. I know a surprising lot about user retention, page clicks, traffic, advertising, what a daily scramble is like, and really evil things far, far too nefarious to describe (“the more you can blockquote, the better for SEO,” “forge an intimacy with your readers and they’ll never realize they’re reading a sponsored post”).

“No, these are good questions,” I told J.P., “because these are questions I ask [my editor].” I added that I’m “heavy duty when it comes to being a mercenary businessperson when it is theoretical.”

“Jenn Frank: Theoretically Running This Shit,” J.P. typed.

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Post-mortem: I’m not sorry

Follow-up: in March, during GDC, writer Dan Cox interviewed me via email about this “controversy.” His questions, along with my answers, probably go much further in explaining my attitude. My editor and I also explain our “go big or go home” mentality—as well as our happiness in playing the roles of villains—in the final quarter of this episode of Unlistenable.

OK, I’m sorry for just one thing: I’m sorry I have such a wonderful editor.

I was barely into the thread itself by the time I was hard at work on a YouTube-type comment.

In considering both the comment thread and the blog above it—which I’d interpreted as some litany, as some unreal catalogue of hither-and-thither complaints—I wanted to respond, because I know that professionals who are enmeshed in any sort of politic business are unable to respond to these types of criticisms, or with any passionate emphasis. This makes me angry all on its own.

Also, professionally and personally, I was deeply unimpressed.

As my remarks snowballed, though, I realized I should write something for myself, just to let it all out. Well, and when I say “for myself,” I mean “for Infinite Lives,” which is my site and oh my god I periodically drag my co-writer through the mud when I irresponsibly follow some wild livejournal tangent.

So suddenly I wasn’t working on a frothing Internet comment at all; I was writing a piece for this very site instead.

My editor IM’d, wanting to know whether my column were finished yet, and I was very, “NOT NOW I’M BUSY” to him. He wondered what I was writing, so I sent it to him in four or five chunks over IM. He announced he wanted to publish it, and from there we really giddily lost our minds, our enthusiasm mirroring and magnifying. He cut one chunk and I cut another, and now we agreed the piece was totally ready to go. He gave it a much better title and suggested some images, and I told him I was all-in. I endorsed every addition myself. I was furious and happy.

For me, it was as much about “fun” as it was “ire.” I decided, if I were going to feel irate about something, wouldn’t it be great fun to just run all the way? Because it’s totally true—I’ve forced my writing to be this very level-headed, contemplative thing for a long time. I’ve always held that “manners are how we show strangers we care,” and I certainly believe it.

But I’ve also noticed I do that thing girls do: I rely on “hedged” diction to couch everything I say in some sort of apology. Maybe it would be nice, for once, to forget judiciousness.

So here the article is again.

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Tunnel Snakes rule

Some days I am happy to be alive.

(Thanks to Mike Emmons for, uh, whatever.)

ETA: as a scant few members of Kotaku’s readership rushed to mention, yes the video is old OK.


How Infinite Lives came to pass

Photo by Chris Kohler: Jenn Frank's placemat

Wired’s Chris Kohler:

Found: A lifetime ago, @jennatar and I sat in a diner and brainstormed website names on a placemat.

The year was 2006! According to Kohler, I registered this domain the very next day. Other names in the mix: duckdragons; pixelface; any fabricated word that could combine some “variation on a popular Japanese word in the U.S. lexicon” or “variation on (peripheral).”

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We hate Paul

This video has been around for maybe a day and a half, tops—in Internet Time, it’s already months old—but I really enjoyed its not-too-malicious dramatic reenactment of the dumbest, most interesting Holiday Shopping Nightmare human interest story ever told in 2011.

Also, Revision3’s Anthony Carboni is nowhere near jacked enough to play Paul, the villain in this melodrama, and this bit of miscasting is charming all on its own. (Kotaku and Escapist have the full deets, but the video might be enough.)

There are a lot of things about this I don’t understand. I don’t quite understand why “Dave,” the unhappy customer, forwarded his ongoing, charged email exchange to Mike Krahulik (“Gabe” of Penny Arcade, AKA the hotheaded one), except that Dave needed some muscle on his side. Mike tried his best to mediate, which is weird enough anyway, but there was little reasoning with “Paul,” the erstwhile giant of PR (whether he is even a PR guy is up for debate) who until recently had mishandled the marketing for some weird video game peripheral. Which, if you are wondering, did not ship in time for the holidays, and how dare you email Paul about this, Dave.

In a way I do feel bad for Paul. When a shipment is trapped in customs, you might feel helpless, especially when the holdup is not your fault. You can’t get frustrated with other people, though. Like, you just can’t.

So it turns out Paul might be a little bit of a nutjob; unsurprisingly, Paul no longer has a job.

And yet, and yet. There is so much pleasure—so much schadenfreude!—to be derived from this entire Greek tragedy, and I’m trying to wrap my head around why I’m getting off on it, along with the rest of the mob. It’s just so much fun to see a juiced-up marketing guy finally get peed on, isn’t it?

But why do we even feel that way?

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Watch for the changes and try to keep up

Photo: Robert Downey, Jr.

Put your pants back on and take that seat over there. Good, thanks. Let’s hash some things out.

Let me start by reminding you that I’m a girl. Not only that, I’m an angry girl.

Joel Johnson, Kotaku’s fairly-recently-appointed Editorial Director, posted a little article titled “The Equal Opportunity Perversion of Kotaku.” (Evidently, Johnson has been taking a lot of flack for Kotaku’s new editorial direction[s], which is increasingly fluid and interesting.)

And I enjoyed the post on its own terms because, let’s face it, it is filed under a blog category titled “Fan Service.” So the post was very conspicuously directed at Kotaku’s “old guard”: here, of course, I mean the Internet’s loathsomely entitled commenters, who are mostly white and heterosexual, and male, who might fulfill almost every possible permutation of “ordinary” and “normal,” and who tend to shriek for the smelling salts anytime a lady or queer struggles into their line-of-sight. (This is a terrible stereotype to perpetuate, yes, yes, and Gawker’s own comments sections do a bang-up job of perpetuating it, not for any fault of its editors.) But let’s be coolheaded. When you deal with that type of readership, you have to be very caring and compassionate and patient, even when you don’t want to be, and so you assert things in a debilitatingly accessible way.

“What’s happening to my precious Kotaku?” the old guard must have screamed through the tips of its nervous little fingers, illuminated as one in the glow of the laptop’s screen.

So Johnson defended all of Kotaku’s editorial decisions, and his argument was compelling, and if you aren’t going to just look at the post I’d better do my best to recount it:

Johnson did anticipate that some readers would have difficulty reconciling Kotaku’s overt legacy of, say, cosplay galleries, with Kotaku’s now-implicit stance on genderjamming. So naturally, he combined both arguments into a single blog entry. Maybe he shouldn’t have tried. Listen boys, he might as well have said, you can screech about “what’s with the scary minorities on my video game blog all of a sudden” as much as you like, but it’s about as ‘normal’ to love tits wrapped in cosplay as it is to be ‘into’ anything else. That was his argument to these folks in a nutshell.

And Johnson posited this assertion in a way that heteronormative fellows who have never had their realities rocked might understand, and he pursued his argument to its logical conclusion, which is that we all fetishize something—like it or not, I’ve seen Dan Savage make this exact same argument in his columns about sex and love—and maybe you fetishize cars, computers, video games, politics, girls dressed up as Soul Calibur characters, chubby people, Japanese things, French things, your own sex, whips and chains, quoting Jesus when you do it, whatever. And if you’re fetishizing—as opposed to exoticizing, right—what’s ‘normal’ versus ‘abnormal’ is kind of beside the point. You’re into what you’re into, and that is in some way neurologically hardwired.

Besides! Johnson sagely added, the site is actually called Kotaku, which riffs on the word otaku, which lends the notion that it’s, uh, cool to be into whatever you’re into. So let’s all be good people; let’s not fracture in dissent. Thanks!

Johnson posted all of this, not as an editor, but as a moderator. He explained all the sides of everything that has ever been, ever, just as well as he could. Maybe it got a little mangled in translation. Sure.

He probably posted all this and then ducked for cover, and with plenty of reason: every pocket of enthusiast readership he could have humanly offended was sure to let him know.

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Playing the odds


OK. I am not antagonizing the “Wee for Wii” program—most STIs are treatable, and young adults should feel responsible for their own health—but the odds of winning a free Nintendo Wii are comparatively bleak. Ouch.


In spite of myself, looking forward to ‘Web Soup’

I try not to make it a secret that I’m hopelessly addicted to celebrity gossip. No, I know: it’s a horrible way to spend my time, and it’s embarrassing that I blow my cigarette money on US Weekly, OK! Magazine, and People at the local CVS. I know, I know.

But one thing I like about E!’s reality TV weekly roundup, The Soup—you may have known it as Talk Soup in the 90s—is that it’s just a little smarter about everything, just a little more impish. Oh, sure, it helps that its gangly-hot host, Joel McHale, is twinkly-eyed and snappily dressed. Plus, he totally has it out for Tyra Banks, Miley Cyrus, and Kathy Lee Gifford.

Now, the minds behind The Soup embark on their greatest challenge yet: making the inanity of eBaumsworld funny. They’re producing a new show satirizing the worst of the Internet, Web Soup, premiering on the please-air-something-besides-Cops nerdery channel, G4tv. Hosted by Chris Hardwick, the spin-off promises to bring The Soup’s trademark snark to the awful car wreck that is Internet Video. LOL!

On the one hand, I have my doubts: the type of audience that watches web videos is exactly the sort that always catches it a week ahead of you. Like great celeb gossip, Caturday videos go viral well before they get reprinted on the newsstands several days too late—er, I mean, retweeted.

Still, The Soup’s own success defies all odds. Reality TV is dull, piddling, and the brain’s ultimate muscle relaxant—what possible commentary can a host add to something so stupid? And yet it works! If Web Soup reproduces even a third of The Soup’s charm, it will be well worth watching.

But can it compare to Current TV’s Viral Video Film School? Only time will crown the victor.

Web Soup premieres on G4tv June 7 at… 9PM… PST? Or sometime? Anytime?


D20 necklace

I realize it must seem as though I sent Infinite Lives to the cornfields during GDC, but in reality, I have been planning my BIG MOVE to Chicago! Ahhhh: It seems like only yesterday I was complaining about Chicago, and then moving out of it. (Well, and also, planning a bridal shower, doing some web-work, doing gory makeup for a film shoot, and having the flu—there’s no telling when Infinite Lives will normalize again, frankly.)

I haven’t entirely abandoned the site, of course! In fact, in the interest of supporting it, I have been toying with a banner ad slash affiliate program called Project Wonderful. And while Project Wonderful doesn’t generate enough revenue for me to wholeheartedly recommend it, I do think it’s cool that I (yes! Me!) am able to basically pick and choose whose ads cycle through the little square on the right.

And I can’t wait to run this one ad for D20 necklaces.


Apparently, she has twenty-sided dice available in most every color of the rainbow, to be strung onto silver-plated ball chains, satin cords, or keyrings. And don’t get me started on the 42 earrings.

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Be back in a bit!

Sincere apologies for the protracted absence! (Inexplicably, though: now more spam comments than ever before. What the…?)

In the short interim before resumption, here is a video, embedded below, that popped up in my YouTube subscriptions the day before yesterday. It heralds what is sure to be the winter season’s hottest fad, the PES Fireplace Screensaver.

P.S. Still here? Perhaps you are wondering how PES correlates with videogames? This is how.

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Waiter, waiter, there’s a Jawa in my lunch

OK, OK. The photo itself is from a few months ago, apparently, and this really doesn’t have anything to do with video games, I know. But I figure Star Wars devotees and video game players might have overlapping cultural interests, and anyway, I liked this. Ready?

The entire Bento Challenge flickrpool is well worth checking out, but Rena’s contributions to the group are just astonishing:

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Children of Men not a big hit among local book club members

My e-friend Nathaniel Payne lives in a small town in America’s heartland. Recently, his town’s local book club agreed to read The Children of Men, a science fiction novel that takes place in the near future (2021, if you’re curious). The Children of Men is generally acknowledged as a pretty good book: it was adapted into a blockbuster feature film, which I own on DVD but have never watched.

Apparently the novel garnered unfavorable reviews from the book club’s members, which resulted the following news item in the town’s local newspaper:


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