What do you think about Game Theorists’ new video “The Strategy of Sex Appeal in Dead or Alive”?
Personally I think everything about it can be summed up by the final moments, where the host (MatPat) boldly announces he’s proven something then immediately backtracks to say it’s “just a theory”. Also I think that it’s pretty morally reprehensible to try make a video shaming a community for trying to be more inviting. In this case it’s even worse than the absurdity of the SMITE video that MatPat made. So I feel obligated to vivisect it so we can reference to it later.
The (really long) full in depth breakdown is below the cut, but here’s the core of what I really want people to take away: Game Theorist is not a channel for actual discussion of game issues, it’s goal is not to make you better informed. If you’re looking for that, I highly recommend ditching MatPat and instead checking out what Jamin Warren has to say every week at PBS Games Show. For starters, you’ll see Jamin do something that GT never does:
In this case I did find at least one of MatPat’s sources and confirmed that he completely misread the information. This is only possible if he didn’t read closely or investigate – meaning he just rushed to find something to confirm biases and allow for pretentious claims of “it’s science!”.
(Simply put: “The smartest show in gaming”, isn’t)
So what is Games Theorist? It’s a way for the GT crew to make money by pretending to be clever in a way that flatters people and builds trust through reassurance – right before a message from their sponsor. Much like how some ads tell a heart warming story followed by an endorsement for a company. Basically every episode GT is the “bait” portion of an ad. And so, you should never expect that will challenge the status quo too much (unless it’s by reassuring their audience it’s not their fault and/or they’re different).
To quote the immoral Don Draper, “Advertising is based on one thing: Happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is okay. You are okay.”
There’s simply more money and more praise in it for the GT crew to tell you placating stories about how the things you don’t like are bad and the things you like are okay than there is for them to challenge the audience in a way that might alienate some and get others so invested in a single discussion that GT doesn’t plan to return to.
That’s why MatPat will tell you SMITE goddesses aren’t commercially sexualized even though they clearly are, or that regardless of what the community who play it say – sexy costumes are essential to Dead or Alive strategy. He wants his audience to come away from the video feeling that he made them feel OK with whatever them are doing, so them’ll come back again and again and again.
Seriously, MatPat himself has said that defending these costumes makes you a mindless puppet of the games industry because they basically leverage outrage to get publicity and hence attention (or course, it’s not your fault – you couldn’t have known unless you were MatPat!). He’s also more or less as shameless as they are, putting affiliate links in his video descriptions, one minute ads at the end of the videos and well…
So seriously, before you take anything MatPat or any other Game Theorist crew member says – remember that they have a vested financial interest in telling you you not that just what you want to hear, but that you’re smarter for believing it. He also has a vested financial interest in keeping his subscriber count as high as possible (not just from direct ad revenue but from credibility as a branding/SEO consultant).
I feel it’s time to bring this back as a reminder that generally there is a lot of misinformation spread around issues by people claiming to have in depth knowledge without having any real information.
This ranges from anti-feminist ranters who don’t even look at their own screenshots to claiming that the existence of fan service merchandise proves all of Japan loves that stuff (presumably in the same way the the existence of furry conventions proves the vast majority of westerners are either furries or lovingly accepting of furries) to claiming that a game having about a 1% distribution within the Wii-U market is somehow the fault of poor Wii-U sales.
There is no shortcut to making a successful product or marketing campaign and no secret, clever justifications for exploitative content. Anyone who tells you otherwise is counting on leveraging massive amounts of confirmation bias.
All trying to make up bizarre and convoluted explanations behind this sort of thing does is get in the way of making better productions (and then leading to outrage when the property starts failing).
As a side note, unfortunately PBS Games Show has concluded – but if you’re still looking for genuinely insightful videos on how video games work and the important concepts within, I highly recommend Mark Brown’s Game Maker’s Toolkit.