12:02 – I finally got into this session, which was supposed to start at 11:45ish. It’s PACKED, mostly because nobody from the previous session left. The basic idea, which was conceived by Phil Fish (Fez), is that various game developers get up and rant about something, anything, for 5 minutes. Phil was the MC for the session, and also participated.
Coming in late, I unfortunately missed Heather Kelley‘s rant – it was ending as I came in. Mark Johns just got up. He reminds us that he’s the creator of Shit Game, and is thus in the best position to talk about games and art. Some highlights of his rant include his assertion that critics of games as an art form, like Roger Ebert, will someday die and a reference to the somewhat notorious article about messhof in the New York Times. (One hopes that the NYTimes, which is in attendance, takes the mention in stride.)
12:05 – Steve Swink is up. He’s a designer at Flashbang/Blurst and also one of the IGS organizers. His rant is titled “Ethical Game Design.” He’s talking about personal freedom by using furries as an example. (Looking up at his scattered manbeard, I think he might be one!)
Steve equates ethical game design at least in part with making use of our freedom by creating worthwhile activities. “Don’t make the video equivalent of fast food and cigarettes. Don’t waste people’s fucking time.” “Worthwhile” is obviously kind of a difficult thing to define. Is it social? Is it about changing our way of thinking? Is it happiness?
And then Steve’s time is up.
12:11 – Infinite Ammo‘s Chris Lobay just got up. He has a film background, so he’s tying auteur theory to game development. He argues that independent game developers all fit the mold of the auteur. Game development, he posits, should not be decided by committee.
12:16 – Erin “Ivy” Robinson starts by revealing that she’s working on a new game called “Puzzle Bots.” And hey, now she’s talking about humor in games and using the TIGSource Demakes Compo as an example. Hold Me Closer, Giant Dancer is shown on screen and gets some hearty chuckles out of the crowd.
She just did a “dramatic reading” of Gears of War 2. Marcus Fenix and Augustus Cole wax poetic about how many metric shit-tons of locusts must be down there. Somewhere, an undead Marcel Proust facepalms.
Erin talks about some modern examples of mainstream games which employ humor, including Little Big Planet and Spore. She ends by talking about satire and the awful PETA game Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals. It’s Majesco’s straight-faced response that draws the most laughs.
12:21 – “Those crazy artists from ”http://tale-of-tales.com/“>Tale of Tales” are up! Auriea Harvey opens by saying that this is “a slightly meditative conceptual rant about being an indie developer.”
Auriea and MichaÃ«l wonder openly what it is that indie developers are independent of, exactly? They are taking turns reading out loud the various possibilities (which are displayed on the projector with occasional images). I can’t write them all down, but here are a few of the things they’re mentioning: game publishers and developers, time spent with loved ones, clothing, sexual orientation, web 2.0, C++, Shigeru Miyamoto, CliffyB, ideologies, morality, success, air, Edge Magazine, Steam, XBLA, language, Final Fantasy, TIGSource Forums, love, pets, Simon Carless (who I’m sitting right next to), mortality (a picture of Paul “rinkuhero” Eres accompanies the slide), Google, debugging, object-oriented programming, and finally, whether or not games are art and whether the audience thinks they are pretentious for making their rant.
They’re walking off with a simple picture of the Earth on the projector. Phil Fish says “Thank you for that. I mean it!”
12:25 – thatgamecompany‘s Kellee Santiago wants to talk about that step “after games are art.” She’s comparing games to radio and television.
In what strikes me as a very Obama-esque moment, she rallies developers to work together to bring about change in the games industry.
12:32 – Mare from metanet takes the rant to a more directly practical area by talking about why demos are important. Her main point is that there are cons from the developer’s perspective, but not from a consumer’s perspective.
12:34 – Raigan, the other half of metanet, proposes some solutions to making 3d games easier to create. He talks briefly about using simple shapes like boxes, non-photorealistic rendering (e.g. NPR Quake), and post-processing (e.g. Textmode Quake).
12:38 – “Up next: me,” says Phil. He says he couldn’t think of anything, so he’s taking requests from the audience. Someone asks him what the most important thing about Fez is for him, and he fumbles a bit before exclaiming that this was a stupid idea.
Someone then shouts out “What’s wrong with the IGF?” Which is probably the best thing that could have happened at this point. The rant begins.
“IGF is broken! ”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PixelJunk_Eden">[Pixeljunk] Eden should not be nominated for IGF." Phil says the rules for entry are “hell” of vague. “I have a problem with a guy entering IGF who created Star Fox for fuck’s sake. What if portal was entered in IGF? Would anyone here have a problem with that?” He asserts that he likes the game itself, but compares Erik SvedÃ¤ng’s Blueberry Garden, which was made by a single guy in a bedroom or basement, with games backed by large companies.
“The [IGF 2008] Art Award for Fez made me.” Phil mentions young developers on TIGSource who don’t even have $100 to spend on the IGF admission fee. “What’s 100 dollars to Q-Games? It’s like a fart.” He thinks Eden’s submission was a “cynical marketing campaign” meant to promote their upcoming expansion pack (to be announced at GDC later this week).
12:42 – Simon Carless gets up and walks to the podium with a smile on his face. “Are you going to stop me?” asks Phil (sincerely, I should note, and not like a guy going crazy on PCP, as you might read it).
Simon addresses the audience and says that he’s the director of IGF. He wants to clarify that Eden was submitted long before the expansion had been announced.
Phil ends by saying that he’s so proud of being indie, that it kind of drives him nuts that it’s so hard to define.
12:44 – In response to Phil’s rant, Matthew Wegner comes on stage briefly to mention that there are 22 finalist games, some of which have bigger teams than Eden, and suggests that we celebrate how wide the spectrum of IGF finalists is.
12:45 – Petri Purho is attempting to do the impossible – to make a game in the 5 minutes allotted to him for the rant. The room, already pretty riled, applauds wildly. “This is the indiest thing you can do,” exclaims Petri. Somewhere in the distance, a wolf howls.
Petri’s got Visual C++ open on his screen. “I already have a basic framework…” It crashes as Petri tries to compile it, to laughter. Erik SvedÃ¤ng got people to write game ideas onto slips of paper for Petri to use in his game. The first idea is pulled out of the bag.
“…Peggles?” The audience seems to generally think that this is a shitty idea, so they pull out another one. “Ragdolls.” Okay… Petri starts coding away like a madman, cursing like a Finnish sailor. “FFFFFFUCK. This is the worst idea.”
With 2 minutes left, Petri tries to compile, but there’s a bug. “Fuck.” After a couple of tweaks, success. A wireframe ragdoll falls from the top of the screen and hits the ground, to the cheers of the crowd.
“We still have to add Peggles to the game.”
With roughly 1 minute remaining, Petri stands up and beats on the keyboard like the drummer on a Nordic slave ship. Even though we’re indoors, a warm breeze somehow makes its way into the room and unravels his ponytail, sending his flaxen hair waving as Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries is pumped in through Moscone’s humble speakers. Code is scrolling across the screen like it’s The motherfraggin’ Matrix. Men and women alike unconsciously lift their shirts and display their chests to this… this… Finnish demigod of game development.
But even Odin himself couldn’t beat these odds – the final grains of sands are making their way to the bottom of the hourglass.
“Cactus, help me!”
And the young Swede jumps on stage and the two of them create what can only be described as RagnarÃ¶k on a laptop. A game made in 5 minutes. About ragdolls. And Peggles. It is done.
Phil returns to the podium as the duo are carried away by a heraldic griffon. “Welcome to the first and probably last indie game rant.”
Somewhere in the distance, a stag whispers its final breath and dies alone in the forest: “Indie Games.”