Man I’ve been behind these past couple weeks. I’ve barely had a chance to stop by and say hello. I suppose I could say I need more leisure time and fewer responsibilities, really I just need to manage my time better. Anyway, the IGDA is running my Culture Clash columns according to a different schedule, to accommodate the other writers (and the fact that I haven’t exactly been great with deadlines recently). So last month’s, which ridiculed Microsoft for the Xbox One launch, didn’t come out on that site until after they’d reversed their worst blunders. Now I can’t claim that it was my writing, and mine alone, that drove this decision. This one, meanwhile, I wrote and rewrote about a thousand times. Today. The first draft was probably fine, but then I thought I’d do something new with it, then I changed that idea, then I realized my thesis didn’t make sense, then I wound up with this version, which nobody will be happy with. But there’s always next month. Enjoy!
This column is doubtless more ironic given my far tamer thoughts on the Xbox One – and console wars in general – I shared with Ben Hoyt just a few days ago. But then E3 happened, and E3 changes everything. Sony is ascendant in the court of public opinion, though by the time I hit “Publish” that could have changed. In a way, though, this Culture Clash column is about a different, subtler clash of cultures than the usual gaming world/nongaming world: gamers who watch and gamers who don’t. All the major companies in this business depend on the majority being gamers who don’t – consumers who don’t follow the industry, don’t study trends, and don’t make decisions based on complex topics like DRM and licensing. Those are the ones who line up in their thousands outside of Best Buy each new console release; those are the ones who move the product, and because they don’t watch, because they don’t care, those are the ones on which Microsoft and Sony alike depend to move their products. Gamers who watch are suspicious. Gamers who don’t may not realize what they’ve put their foot in until all the GameStops shut down. Enjoy!
This month’s Culture Clash column is inspired in part by a chronic affliction of mine: every twelve months or so, I undergo a strange frenzy of attention-paying to the work of Ice-Pick Lodge, the inscrutable Russian developer of Pathologic, Cargo!, and The Void. The studio’s website rarely sees substantive updates, but nevertheless I always tend to find something new there – though it rarely is anything about their activities. This time around I found a series of papers and lectures on game development, the translation quality of which was… quite poor.
Still! I like that stuff and it formed the basis of what I have to say in this month’s column. Despite it making complete sense to me, I have a feeling this is one of those installments that will make the eyes of other readers cross. Like Penny Arcade’s Twisp & Catsby comics, I try to only do that once a year or so. Enjoy!
It consistently amazes me that I’ve written this column for over ten years now. Not the length of time, the fact that they haven’t wised up and fired my ass yet. After all, aside from my unique ability to employ unnecessarily laborious and Byzantine sentence structure, the only thing I bring to the table is a crushing inability to stick to my thousand-word limit. There are actual people with actual things of value to say, yet the folks at the IGDA keep me around, like the weird but tolerated uncle. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t complaining!
I missed last month because I was knocked out by a cold. I’m back now, though, with an unnecessarily laborious and Byzantine 990 words (hah!) that basically say “games can be about things.” So there you go. I guess… I guess that means you can skip the column, then. I wouldn’t blame you, but our SEO demands that you at least click the link. Otherwise it’s all for nothing. Enjoy!
As I allude in the body of this column, I didn’t intend to write anything about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary school. In fact I kind of instructed myself not to. What could I say? That I’m sorry, but I still don’t think video games had anything to do with it? Or just that I’m sorry? Nothing at all seemed best.
But in the end I buckled, I guess, though this month’s column for the International Game Developers Association is less about Sandy Hook than it is about our society and how we react to things. I don’t know what the long-term fallout will be for the games industry; it has weathered such storms in the past. But maybe it can still be a wake-up call, about the medium’s content, and whether it’s all it can (or should) be. Enjoy!
I love writing my monthly Culture Clash column for the IGDA… except when I’m trying to think of topics. As I might have mentioned before, my entire mind immediately goes blank when I’m asked to think of things. Like, “Steerpike, where should we eat?” or “Steerpike, what are your games of the year?” My jaw goes slack and I can’t think of my name, let alone anything else. The solution? Plagiarism! At least, the liberation of ideas others came up with first. So thanks to Dix, AJ, and Harbour Master for getting this story started. You guys complete me.
In other IGDA news, the Board of Directors has named Kate Edwards of Englobe, Inc. as the organization’s new Executive Director. This is Very Good News. Kate is super-cool and incredibly dedicated; an absolutely fantastic choice who’ll do amazing things for the group. I couldn’t be happier. Though now that she’s technically my boss, the chance of getting her to do a Celebrity Guest Editorial for Tap seems more remote…
I’d been on-again, off-again about doing a Culture Clash article for the IGDA on the Kickstarter phenomenon. I mean, would my observations add that much? And what you’ll see below isn’t exactly a Kickstarter article, but a rumination on the nature and future of AAA games in general. The idea came from a remark by Ubisoft’s Patrick Redding, with whom I tend to agree on most things.
How is it all related to Cultures and the Clashing thereof? Gamer culture is constantly in flux, and I think it’s often more nuanced than anyone – developers, publishers, gamers themselves – give it credit for. If the rise of the Kickstarted game leads to major financial success, that means that AAA production values aren’t the only way to make millions. Heck, Minecraft already proved that. The lessons of what we’re seeing in new funding models may give us insight into the way gamers think, desire, and buy.
I was casting about for a good topic to write about in this month’s installment of Culture Clash, my montly column for the International Game Developers Association, and this one fell into my lap. It is, after all, American Politics Season – and a completely irrelevant race in the state of Maine got my attention. Topic discovered!
In other news, this is actually the second time I’ve used a play on World of Warcraft in my title- wait… third time? I’ll have to check. In any case it’s not the first. Originality and me, we’re not always, you know, together. Enjoy!
Officially speaking, my job with Culture Clash, the column I’ve written for the International Game Developers Association for nine years now, is to talk about how gaming culture relates to, is perceived by, and can influence the “rest” of culture. Beyond that I have a pretty free hand it terms of selecting topics. Of course, back in 2003 when I started, there were a lot more differences between “gamer culture” and just “culture.”
Still, the culture of gaming does exist, and as terms and phrases come to define aspects of it, I occasionally like to pause and consider what some of the constructs of gaming mean to me. Here we’re doing “social gaming” – or, rather, what “social gaming” would mean if they’d asked me to define it.
Which they did not.
Now here’s a funny thing: this article has absolutely nothing to do with what I’d originally planned. But this is a situation where the story changes in telling, rather than an editor telling you to change the story. In a nutshell, this month’s Culture Clash column for the International Game Developers Association was meant to talk about the portrayal of sexual violence in literary media, using the two movies I mention below as a basis.
But the piece just wasn’t working. I have strong opinions on the subject but despite knowing a great many words, my strong opinions weren’t coming out the way I wanted them to. So I took a walk, and as so often happens, a completely different concept with the same building blocks popped into my head. That’s what you see here. I hope it’s more than just another article about the debate over “fun,” or at least another way of framing it, but I leave that to your judgment. Enjoy!