Ask Massively: Why we cover what we do, part one

Scarlet Blade. I'd like to say the word 'cover' in the title is a clever pun, but it really was unintended, and now I can't unsee it.
Welcome back to Ask Massively. We're all aboard the yacht this week, answering your questions while dressed like characters in Scarlet Blade. Because that's pretty much what the characters in Scarlet Blade should be doing rather than, you know, mortal combat in a thong.

Yes, today we're talking Scarlet Blade. In between all the crazed commenter ranting, several of you guys posed legit questions about why we covered it in the first place. Let me try to answer you without turning this into a debate about sexism. Why? Because it's not really about any one specific -ism.

Our first comment is from David35 in regard to Beau's first impressions piece on Scarlet Blade.
Why is Massively covering this game? This is where I find the hypocrisy most disturbing. Gaming sites are talking from both sides of their mouths. On the one hand, they decry the objectifying and sexualizing of women in games and the gaming industry, but then they give the game the attention the developer wants by covering its gameplay and even advertising it on the site. I get that there are plenty of games that feature scantily clothed women, but this game is different. It is built to draw revenue by degrading the image of women, portraying them as objects of lust. Period. It is how the game is designed and advertised. The game would have no hope of surviving in the market without it. So, cover the game if you're going to, but no site should sermonize on the evils of the game and what it represents and then advertise its features and promote it through advertising. Do something about it, or shut up.
I take David to mean that Massively was showing ads for Scarlet Blade the day the article ran. That's ironic but totally out of our control. We don't handle advertising on the site, and writers are instructed to run ad-blockers to avoid being influenced by our ads. AOL occasionally informs me when a full-page ad will be taking over our background and messing up our layout (hooray!), but I get no say in how or when or whether that happens.

Ultimately, our ads have no influence on whether we cover a game positively or negatively; I'm not going to tell a writer he can't express a negative opinion on a game while our parent company happens to be selling adspace to said game. If anything, that ought to prove our editorial independence.

Another reader, Hammerorchid, echoed David35's concern: "You're just drawing more attention to this crap; it would be better to not write a review or even acknowledge its existence," he wrote. Well, I agree that the game is boring, juvenile softcore layered over an apparently equally boring, outdated import grinder (we've got a roundtable coming up investigating both those claims). As I said on the podcast, I think the genre could really use a game that doesn't trivialize or mock or invisify sex or pander so overtly to slobbering teens. Sadly for the genre, Scarlet Blade misses the mark and does so in a way that irritates social critics for obvious reasons.

So I can understand why people who find the game offensive would want us to blacklist it forever and ever. I can even understand why people who are sick of MMO comment threads attracting dimwitted and hackneyed arguments (accusations that the author is gay/a prude/a white knight/showing off for his mother, the usual) would want us to avoid such a game just to bypass the comment section hokum that inevitably follows.

But I think the way to highlight what's wrong with a game -- whether it's sexism or any other ism -- is to expose it for what it is. That's what Beau did while up on his thousand-word soapbox, and that's our job (and you're absolutely entitled to disagree with our opinions). We're not going out of our way to talk about these themes, but we're not going to hide them away and pretend they don't exist or matter, either. To do that, I think, would be the greater of the two evils.

And if you don't care about any of those things, then I hope sprlpgcn is right in that Beau satiated the "morbid curiosity" some players had about the title. For those folks who wouldn't download a F2P import grinder regardless of how clothesless its inhabitants are, it's useful information, and I don't think Aeria Games profited from our criticism.

Next week, we'll hit on a few more "why did you cover" questions.

What should you play? Where is the MMO industry headed? How does Massively operate? Has Lord British lost his marbles? Why is the edit button on a timer? Should "monoclegate" be hyphenated? Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce submits to your interrogations right here in Ask Massively every Thursday. Drop your questions in the comments below or ping us at Just ask!
This article was originally published on Massively.