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 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 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!
What a difference a few years makes. In this latest installment of my monthly Culture Clash column for the International Game Developers Association, we’re talking about the steps, baby and otherwise, that a creative medium must take in order to ensure its own freedom of expression. As you might recall, in 2005 Rockstar Games decided to cross a creative Rubicon of sorts, hiding a sex scene in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and leaving it for haxx0rs to inevitably find. Known as the Hot Coffee scandal, it sent tremors through the entire industry as calls for censorship – which had until then been dying out – reignited with fury. Rockstar embarked on what I then quite wittily described as a “polymorphic campaign of bullshit,” going to ever more flamboyantly unbelievable lengths to deny their own culpability in the matter.
The dust did settle, eventually, and now seven years on, it’s only fair to concede that Hot Coffee – dangerous, selfish, and stupid as it was – did accomplish something. The censorship threat blew over and games have more creative license than ever before. Personally, I still don’t forgive Rockstar for what it did; in Vietnam terms, the company destroyed a village in order to save it. What I offer here is not a justification for the company’s misdeed, just a reflection on the fact that they cast a die and got a result. Enjoy!
I’m finally getting back on track with my monthly International Game Developers Association column, thanks mostly to the patience of the organization and my editor, Cat Wendt. IGDA Board of Directors elections were held a while ago. Sadly my personal favorite pick – the awesome Kate Edwards of Englobe Inc – won’t be joining the IGDA board, but I have a lot of confidence in those who did win, and lots of optimism for the future of the organization.
This month I write about the uniqueness of how games relate to their consumers, and how developers are inventing some clever new approaches to authorial control that ensures players see and experience what the developers want them to, despite gaming’s inherent affordance. Enjoy!
Scheduling for my monthly column at the International Game Developers Association has been more than a little spotty of late. I was once pretty Johnny-on-the-Spot with deadlines, but various things influenced that negatively; meanwhile the organization itself is going through various transitions as well. In the interest of getting myself back on a schedule I present my
not-yet-published April 2012 edition. Not being a big multiplayer myself some of the conclusions I draw may be shortsighted, but in the end I hope to spark some thought on what that form means in the larger cultural context of gaming. Enjoy!
Remember how back when I posted that it was hot I said I was busy in real life and that was totally interfering with my usual schedule of being around on the site I should arguably be responsible for maintaining? That was totally true, yo. So true in fact that it’s not even hot any more and I’m still too busy to, you know, pay attention to Tap. I’m really sorry about that.
Luckily I have many fine contributors and the ability to recycle my own content from other sites. Thus do I give you the latest installment of Culture Clash, which is a little incoherent on account of the busy – something about hearts breaking, and I think childhood. Harbour Master is mentioned in there as well. I dunno. It made sense when I wrote it. Enjoy! I’ll be back in like three months.
Typically I don’t publish my Culture Clash columns here until they’ve been run at the IGDA website, but honestly, in the last few months I’ve had no fucking clue what’s going on over there. So I present to you my latest – sort of, in that it was filed on June 10 and I haven’t heard anything from an editor yet, which is uncommon because my editors there are apparently of the opinion that I have no professional writing experience whatsoever – with all hopes that it pleases you.
This one comes on the tail of a column that… well, it caused some chaos, let’s put it that way. And while its final published form didn’t spark any particular controversy, it was quite an adventure for those behind the curtain. As such I went for a more innocuous, if not entirely cheery, thesis this month. Enjoy!
Well, it’s been a long time in coming, folks, but here’s the latest installment of my “monthly” feature column for the IGDA.
I had a weird experience with this column. Beyond weird. One might even call it… surreal. And it’s still going on; still hasn’t been fully resolved. May not be. Despite a strong desire to explain I think it might be best to leave it at that; suffice to say that what you read below is not the original version of this column, and while I’m perfectly satisfied with what’s there, the whole “road not taken” dilemma does resonate. Anyway, it’s a story that’s probably only interesting to me, so consider yourselves lucky to not be regaled with it. Enjoy the piece!
My schedule over at the IGDA has been a complete mystery. I used to stick very rigidly to a next-month’s-column-is-due-by-the-30th-of-the-previous-and-earlier-if-possible approach, but in the last year it’s been getting harder to do that. Responsibilities pile up and I’m not good at fulfilling them. So it’s nearly the end of April (and entirely my fault), that the April installment of the series is now online. As promised in the previous one, I skip morbid subjects and go for something a little more easy to stomach.
And lo, Steerpike reappears on the front page of his own website. I’ve been super-busy! Thank heavens for Lewis and Mat and Gregg keeping stuff alive in my absence.
This month’s IGDA Culture Clash column was whipped up in a hurry. I had a whole other one done, but realized it wasn’t really going anywhere. And as it happened I’d just read an article I wanted to comment on. So while I had no intention of discussing the Dead Island trailer, I did. I do. Here.
Special Bonus Content! Just now a good friend of mine wrote a beautifully crafted email to me, reacting to the trailer. I’m including that at the bottom of this, because it’s worthy of discussion. Check it out!