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!
A comment on another site, gone now, removed by overlords perhaps deeming it uncivilized or its author perhaps experiencing a change of heart. Here’s what it said:
Let me just be the first to say fuck you, Tim Schafer, you lying, sleazy ball of shit.
The man whose Double Fine Entertainment singlehandedly created the Kickstarter Phenomenon of Videogame Funding now appears to have singlehandedly redefined its playing field. Yesterday, Schafer announced that despite having raised almost ten times more than the requested $400K, their crowdfunded adventure Broken Age was over budget and behind schedule. In fact, to meet their Fall 2013 original target release, Double Fine would have to cut 75% of the game. That’s a little more than reach exceeding grasp. That’s beginning to look like development based on a lie.
The image above makes me sad.
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!
Friends, put down the controller and don your finest headphones. Come, sit by my fire.
Brandon Sheffield, Senior Contributing Editor at Gamasutra and Editor Emeritus of Game Developer magazine, has announced in a recent op-ed that it’s time to retire the word “gamer.” This meme comes up once in a while – don’t call them games, don’t use the word gamer, etc. – always with the same basis. It’s derisive. It minimizes the medium and the hobby. Yadda. These articles, including Sheffield’s, usually leave something out, though: what “gamers” should be called, if they can’t be called “gamers.”
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!
Here’s the first article in a planned few-parter on shooters. Think of it as a preamble. To keep my ambition in check for this first installment, I’ll just talk about two shooters in particular that have piqued my interest.
So a couple weeks ago I’m minding my own business when the email dings – it’s a rep from the New York Film Academy’s School of Game Design, asking about the possibility of one of their people doing a guest piece. Technically it was from their marketing department, which always makes me suspicious since I get about eleventy-five of those a week and eleventy-four of them wind up trying to sell me Cialis™, which I’m told is for Whenever the Time is Right®. Every now and then I bite though, which in this case was a great thing since it turned out to be both legit and totally worth it.
Thus do I introduce Iron Man Mode Blog Overlord, freelance writer, Guitar Hero master, and NYFA staffer Zeke Iddon, who for reasons soon to become clear is slightly less than overjoyed to share with us his feelings on Tale of Tale’s latest nongame Bientôt l’été, which I just know is going to mess up the site’s text display. Despite the pain, he even made us a video. You gotta watch the video, it’s freaking awesome.
Take it Zeke!
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!
This is a barely legible meditation of how chasing Hollywood audience and Hollywood dollars (but without having the advantage of Hollywood accounting) is absolutely killing AAA games. At this rate, there won’t be any left mid-next generation. Remember, you read it here first.
It’s on the books, people: EA CEO John Ricitiello is out. The #2 publisher isn’t going to hit its numbers for the quarter and has been underperforming for some time, even as it endures a hailstorm of ongoing negative press. In his memo to employees, Ricitiello takes the high road, assuming all the blame for EA’s revenue problems and stating unequivocally that the buck stops with him. I respect that, and I’ve always had at least some respect for John Ricitiello. He may not have been God’s gift to CEOs, but there’ve been worse in this industry; the truth is EA’s suffering can’t all be laid at his door – though the culture that allowed it probably can.
I’m at IndieCade East, in New York City, watching Kevin Cancienne and Margaret Robinson talk about Hokra.
Hokra is one of the SportsFriends games, a local multiplayer game funded by a joint Kickstarter. It’s like a very stripped-down digital soccer game. It’s a four-player game, two players on each team playing keepaway with a with a square pixel ball. It’s basic but holds surprising depth for high-level players. It’s hard not to get enthusiastic and cheer, watching every pass, every tackle and upset and score.
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!