Deus Ex: Human Revolution: A Bold New Future Mired In the Past


Going in I had heard rumour that there was an uncomfortable, anachronistic moment in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I was vague on the details, but had a faint recollection that a number of players had expressed discomfort with some minor aspect of the game. I even remembered hearing that this mysterious element was considered by many to be a blemish on the otherwise elegantly realised vision of the future that developers Eidos Montreal had sculpted.

Over a year after everyone else had watched the final credits roll, I finally set aside to sink into the game myself. I move around that wonderfully sombre, burnished gold space, stunned by the whole game’s noir-inflected cyberpunk aesthetic, thrilled utterly with the rich potential of the narrative and game-play that stretched out before me. But still, nagging at the back of my mind like some glitch in the Matrix, I wonder: what on earth had people been complaining about? Because whatever it is, I’m not seeing it.

Is it Jensen’s voice?

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Editor’s note: this conversation has been edited for format and spelling but, grammatically and stylistically, remains as the author intends it; the original can be found here.

Trigger warning: this interview contains frank discussion of situations of abuse, transphobia, and suicide.

Please stay safe. Please contact The GLBT National Help Center if you recognize yourself in Chloe’s story. You’re not alone.



Preface:  After a whole lot of wrangling of schedules and problems resulting from Personal Shit, I was able to secure time enough to speak with the subject of a previous article I had published at Medium Difficulty.  That subject is Chloe Sagal, who had a lot of trying times as a result of a crowdfunding venture gone horribly awry as I’ve collected here.

She had a lot to say, which may surprise you. She candidly shared her thoughts with me, and we spoke on what has happened thus far, what is to come, and how she feels about what has happened thus far. In a series I hope to extend beyond this dialogue, I act upon my Id and my desire to speak with those who have captured my attention. Without further ado, here’s what Chloe had to say, and how our back and forth engagement evolved as did my alcohol consumption, as this discussion explicitly involved suicide as a point of discussion. America: Continue reading

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Sea Change: An Apology and Declaration

The past two weeks have been a source of reflection for us who write and edit for Medium Difficulty. First and foremost, the editor who posted Michael Robinson’s article “This Week In Twitter Chaos: A Plea For Civility” wants to formally apologize to those who were hurt or angered by the choice to publish an insensitive and disrespectful piece. The editor published the piece in the spirit of discussion, believing that it would merit response, but what they did not foresee was that the article did not contribute to the discussion and celebration of difference. Rather, the article led to the prevailing discourse of silencing dissent.

Medium Difficulty has always aspired to be a safe space for people of all identities, but in this instance, it has failed. We want to ensure it never happens again. All of us at Medium Difficulty want to officially declare that the site will be a safe space for people of all identities. While creating a safe space has always been a priority since the site’s creation, we recognize that making such a statement and always practicing it are two different things. From here on out we will work to ensure that the editors at Medium Difficulty reinforce these ideals through our improved editorial policies and structures.

In that spirit, we have expanded our volunteer editing staff from two individuals to five. This will allow us to move to an editorial board of five members, allowing for a more rigorous and nuanced approach. These members are: Kyle Carpenter, Kaitlin Tremblay, Meg Townsend, Sidney Fussell, and Jon Smith. Medium Difficulty reflects differing opinions and voices, and those of us involved take our ally-ship seriously. We want Medium Difficulty to reflect the differing perspectives found among our writers and editors, as well as to always provide a space for the multiplicity of voices found within the gaming community. Aside from our core editing staff, we will continue to feature regular contributors – writers and editors – who share our commitment to the medium, the criticism, and the social focus of Medium Difficulty. We will continue to be ever mindful of the site we want to create: one that features socially conscious, intersectional, as well as fun and intelligent criticism of video games.

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An Apology

We’ve made an editorial decision to pull our last article, and offer a brief apology.

It has become clear that we’ve disappointed many of our readers and lost their trust, for reasons that we should have been more mindful of. We want to acknowledge this, and thank you for addressing us and holding us accountable.

In the near future, we will publish a followup article with a longer apology, detailing what we’ve learned in the process. We did not wish to offend, but did, and want to acknowledge that.

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I Am Many: Multiple Identities in Persona 3

So who are you comfortable being?

Ever notice how most fiction treats a breakdown of identity as just about the worst thing that can happen? Oedipus’s tragedy stems from not knowing who he “really” is, Mad Men is all about characters creating and escaping their “real” selves, Philip K. Dick asked Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? because identity is not concrete even while we  live it. There’s an implicit understanding that identity is static and controllable—after all, we each have a lifetime of experience having one—and it’s uncomfortable when that understanding is challenged.

Arguably, a challenge to identity is most uncomfortable in a video game, where the line between player and protagonist is blurred. Players expect a game to be honest with them about their protagonist’s identity; the world must present a reliable set of rules and the player’s place in that world must be apparent and consistent. When a player-character does not have a handle on their identity, it’s usually a disaster.

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What Is, What Should Be: An Open Letter to David Gaider

The one Trans character in Dragon Age II, who happens to be a prostitute. How do we approach this as a start?

Dear Mr. Gaider,

The following is a response to your blogpost regarding Trans* characters in the Dragon Age games.

Let me begin by stating my position. I am, by all accounts, an unabashed BioWare fangirl and have been since the release of Baldur’s Gate. More to the point, I have played the original Dragon Age upwards of 5 times all the way through. My playthroughs of its sequel number 3 or more. I enjoy your work. There isn’t a game that BioWare releases that I don’t buy after months of anticipation. A large portion of my appreciation of the games you write has to do with how they include LGB characters. Such characters reflect the diversity of people I know in real life as well as myself.

You’ll note that I did not include the T portion of the acronym. Unfortunately, you do yourself a disservice with your recent tumblr post about whether or not “the world is ready” for a Trans*character.
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Abandonment Issues and Abject Subjectivities in Borderlands 2, Bioshock 2, and Baldur’s Gate, Too


A little over a year ago, I wrote a review of Baldur’s Gate, in anticipation of its upcoming rerelease. It was a sloppy piece on looking at the relationship between the main character and their father, Bhaal, god of death, murder, horror, and all that is wrong and unholy in the world. For me, what I found still engaging about the Baldur’s Gate story line is how it played with the idea of the abjected subject position, i.e. subjects and identities that are integral to society, but nonetheless marginalized because of their “unseemly” aspects that make them uncomfortable to a normative world.

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A rusting metal shard

[Editor’s Note: the following is an unflinching cry of sympathy in the face of hate. It involves trans and mental health issues and suicide, and horrifying events that result from ignorance involving them. Please read at your own discretion]

I’m covered in chemical burns. I’ve got stubble and it’s pouring rain.  My roommate is taking me to Seattle in her charming piece of shit car and I wonder if the rain will let up. Usually I ask her to bring my makeup, a change of clothes and my breastforms. However it’s my first time at this place, and we’re strapped for time already. I’m on the way to Pike Place Market Clinic. We’re going to see if I can get some medication for depression and likely find out the stupid fucking hoops I have to jump through to be proved competent enough to get on hormone replacement therapy pills. Staring down at the phone, I’m perusing Twitter and made aware of a story that immediately grabs my attention.

The words that pop out are “crowdfunding” “transgender outing” and “suicide”. There was a time when that would’ve been enough to catch my attention. It wasn’t. There’s a contingent of people I know who often publicly talk about their suicidal ideation on a regular basis. In great, explicit detail. It is tied to their conditions in life, and in part to a world that is hostile to them. There is also the matter of depression being tied to issues they face in regard to their identities, and their constant battles.

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Depression Quest Impressions


Depression Quest contains at its outset a warning that if, “you are currently suffering from the illness and are easily triggered, please be aware that this game uses stark depictions of people in very dark places”. It does indeed. The experience is not entirely pleasant as it can hit quite close to home, as it did for me.

Depression enveloped me like a black cloud at the onset of this year, and as I stared at the page, I ignored the trigger warning and dove right into Depression Quest. Curiosity kills the cat, right? Maybe, but I have more lives.

I thought about putting my thoughts to words in February then back when I first played Depression Quest, but I felt crippled and unsure how to express my contemplations on a game about an illness that affects a plethora of people (more than 350 million people globally according to the World Health Organization) and can remain invisible to everyone. I doubt even my close friends were aware this year that the black dog was chasing me. One can keep it well hidden for fear of the stigma.

There’s a social stigma that exists towards mental illness. Recently actress Jennifer Lawrence who won the Best Actress Oscar for her role as the character of Tiffany in the film Silver Linings Playbook, a film about characters who are mentally ill, criticized the ridiculousness of the stigma when she said:

“It’s just so bizarre how in this world if you have asthma, you take asthma medication. If you have diabetes, you take diabetes medication. But as soon as you have to take medicine for your mind, it’s such a stigma behind it.” Continue reading

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Force Against Habit: Braid (Mac) Review

In the time that I’ve been playing and thinking about indie game superstar, Braid, enigmatic Swedish electronic band, The Knife released their first album in 7 years. 2006’s Silent Shout was a watershed moment for The Knife, garnering heaps of critical praise for culling ideas represented in previous albums into a monster of an artistic statement that sounded unlike anything else. The particular trademarks of Silent Shout‘s sound were ghoulish, pitched-down vocals, layered over clean electronic beats and synths. Several tracks were even solid dance cuts.

For The Knife’s new album, they’ve all but thrown out their recognizable sound and most of what is regarded as conventional album structure. Track lengths are all over the place, with about half on the 100 minute double album clocking in at over 8 minutes. The tracks feel too sprawling, too varied to really be called “songs” in the pop radio sense. The Knife’s latest effort shows them not only breaking from what they as a band were known for, but what folks expect to hear from an album of music. No surprise that it’s called Shaking the Habitual.

Braid, on the other hand, a 2D platformer with time manipulation mechanics and an introspective story, had players reconsidering what they thought they knew aboutSuper Mario Bros-style games. Braid came largely from the efforts of one individual, Jonathan Blow, and brought the concept of “indie games” to mainstream consciousness through its success on Xbox Live Arcade. The XBLA marketplace had up until Braid been primarily known for revamped arcade-style experiences like Geometry WarsBraid presented something different though: a game as a new kind of artwork, one that integrates formal game history into a narrative about reaching for life’s greater unknowns. It asked existential questions not only of the main character, Tim, but of players themselves.

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