Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Ok so here are some links on what Heather said:

Regarding this portion of Heather's rant:

And here it is a bit more in depth.

Ok, so look:

I like Heather- always have. Love her writing and curiosity and passion for my industry. And I have hung out with her socially and always enjoyed her company. She's a cool woman, for sure.

But even with all of that, I am still compelled to respond to her rant.

Here is what she said at GDC about the majority of game developers who make power fantasy style games (and- it seems- most commercial games in general):

“You aren’t men. You are stunted adolescents."

She also said:"It's not that the medium is in its adolescence, it's that you're a bunch of fucking adolescents"

And this gem (taken from an article on her rant by a reporter who was there): "It's not that the medium is in its adolescence, it's that you're a bunch of ****ing adolescents," she said. "It's even worse because you're technically supposed to be adults." Chaplin traced the paucity of more mature content in games to four basic ideas that frighten men the most: responsibility, introspection, intimacy, and intellectual discovery. She described game developers in terms of neoteny, an idea from developmental biology that describes adults of a species who have juvenile traits. This can be seen in mature Chihuahuas, which resemble infant and fetal wolves. Chaplin closed by challenging the audience, "What do you want to be, a Chihuahua or a wolf?"

Ok so...yeah.

And here is my response: Hey, Heather. I really, really disagree.

The two children whom I spawned and whom I support and love and nurture every day would beg to differ. Even when dog tired, even as a divorced dad who is trying to figure out his new life, I still am an amazing father who shows up for those kids every day. And I do so with joy and love and a strong sense of gratitude that they are in my life. To me, this is the measure of a man, not an adolescent.

The employees who work for the company I co-own and co-founded, the employees-who after years of working at it have become some of the best programmers and artists in the business and who previously created simulations for the government in order to train the troops that protect our country-are clearly adults, not adolescents.

Adolescents do not start companies that support other folks' livelihoods. And yet our industry is FULL of start ups that support numerous individuals and families. That sounds pretty adult to me.

The folks who get joy and comfort and escape and laughter from the games my industry has created would beg to differ, as well. To me, to bring people joy instead of pain (especially in times where things are pretty grim) is a measure of an adult and the measure of a man.

The men and women in my industry (i.e. the ADULTS) have contributed to the world and their families and friends and their fans in significant ways. I take issue with you saying we are stunted people.

I think it's crucial not to mistake the ability to stay in touch with our sense of play and wonder and joy with immaturity. I happen to love games like GEARS OF WAR and GOD OF WAR and FALLOUT 3 and TWISTED METAL and MORTAL KOMBAT. I love playing them and I love making them. That love of those sorts of products does not negate my manhood. It does not mean I suffer from neoteny (which, according to this guy ain't that bad of a thing, at least mentally). I agree that games have the potential to be more powerful and meaningful and that some games should strive for this (and more and more, some games are achieving this great goal...just ask Jonathan Blow or the man who created PASSAGE). I also agree that even pure commercial games often suffer from a lack of imagination and that you can only play a space marine game so many times before- theme wise- you start to yearn for something else. I ALSO agree- and we've talked about this before- that as I get older, some of the more pure commercial titles are no longer as compelling. But the mistake I think you make is to equate the theme of the game with the gameplay itself (the very thing that makes our medium special). GEARS OF WAR 2's theme is generic, 14 year old boy/Heavy Metal magazine power fantasy turned up to 11. And NOTHING IS WRONG WITH THAT. If I am in the right mood, I LOVE that stuff. Other times, not so much. But to assume that the game is the theme shows that perhaps you are getting stuck in the same quicksand as most folks who attack games simply based on the surface presentation (i.e. congressmen who want to pass bills banning games). As a GAME experience, Gears is fresh and alive and semi-new. The game marks the first time the cover mechanic was executed well enough to impact the stale shooter genre in a significant way. This is worth celebrating but you fail to see the guts of the experience and instead. criticize the surface. And even more bizarrely, you choose to criticize the manhood of the folks who create such titles.

But for the sake of argument, let's assume that you have issues with both surface and the guts of most of today's games. Fair enough. But I am amazed that you would question my adulthood simply because I choose to make and play games that you do not feel are meaningful enough. Instead of me being an adolescent, perhaps your lack of interest in the games we make simply means you don't 'get' the stuff I 'get'. It doesn't make me- and my many colleagues- adolescent. It just makes us different from you.

By the way, where are these mythical men of which you speak; these mythical adults that we should aspire to be? Where can us stunted game developers discover this wonderful idea of what it means to be a man? Is it written down somehwere so we can study it? I wonder if these folks you define as men are working in industries that have seen- even in this economy- the kind of sustained growth that we have created for our business.

Hell, if you look at what non-geek society defines as a man (well dressed, in 'serious' jobs, not wasting time dealing with orcs and space marines) these sorts of 'men' are significantly responsible for the corruption that has damaged our economy this last year. Are those the men you are talking about? The suit wearing politicians and brokers and bankers of the world? Talk about power fantasies! And granted, you probably won't catch these 'men' at the San Diego Comic Con come July, or lining up to grab HALO 3 at a midnight launch. But these days that's probably because they are too busy defending their actions in court (or already stuck in jail). Are those the 'men' you are talking about?

Or what about the men in other entertainment fields? Men like Spielberg who- when he signs up to make games for EA- what's the first thing that comes out? Boom Blox. Great GAME that doesn't have much to say about the state of the world. It's just FUN. And this from the man who brought us Schiendler's List. I doubt anyone would doubt Spielberg's capacity to create meaningful art OR his capacity as a man. Perhaps the reason games have not had their Citizen Kane moment yet is because games are not movies. And we don't want them to be.

Clearly, our foolish, childish products are appealing to someone. Should we just abandon that audience? An audience that we happen to consider ourselves a part of, by the way? Should we just shove down the things that interest us and excite us and motivate us, should we just put away childish ideas that wake us up at 3am because we are too excited to sleep? Do we slaughter our spirits simply to gain the approval of journalists? I just could not do that. Ever. I would not want to. My connection with what I call my spirit- but what others may call my immaturity- is a vital aspect of my life that I cherish and protect with great fervor.

I think a mistake folks make- in any medium- is assuming we all want to be artistically relevant and important in the eyes of the intelligencia (sp?) of the world. I have to tell you: I think THAT desire is adolescent and spews from a place of need and want and lack of faith in ones own creative powers. And- most important- it gets in the way of creating truly great work (be it film, games, or books).

I don't WANT to be an artist. I don't WANT to make REVOLUTIONARY ROAD: THE GAME! I don't want to be the Bob Dylan of games or make the Citizen Kane of games. I want to entertain people and I do not apologize for that. I don't NEED or WANT to go lecture at MIT or USC or any of these other game colleges that have been cranking out some amazing game makers who truly are key in the 'games as art' charge. As much as I love the work of THAT GAME COMPANY (and very much enjoyed your NPR interview last week with them) and as much as I admire work of Jonathan Blow and all the other folks who make the quirky, arty, and yes- perhaps- more meaningful games, I do not want to BE them. And I think I speak for the majority of game makers everywhere when I say that.

Sure, I think our industry CAN do better at making games more impacting by mixing meaning and entertainment. But that doesn't negate the value of pure entertainment and it surely doesn't negate my manhood or the adulthood of the many men and women who spend years of passion and sweat and tears and love creating these products.

By the way, regarding Citizen Kane-

saying we have not had the game version of Citizen Kane simply shows a possible lack of genuine understanding of our field (or perhaps you just don't understand what made Citizen Kane so special for its time). See, we may very well have HAD our Citizen Kane. It was probably GTA3 or MARIO 64 because what I recall from USC film classes was what made CK so special was Wells being the first director to move the camera in innovative ways that told the story in a fresh way. What made CK so special was it marked the first time directors started making movies like MOVIES versus filming stage plays.

So if you are talking about games that have pushed the very definition of what a game is (which is what CK did for movies, eventually) then I think it's an easy argument to be made that we have already crossed that threshold. Hell, we may have crossed it a few times (2D to 3D; linear worlds to open worlds; the invention of MMOs)...and yes, we will cross it AGAIN when someone makes a game- using MECHANICS- that connects with MANY people in a way that moves them and makes them think about some of the bigger issues in life. I look forward to that day and clearly, the seeds for this watershed moment have already been planted in games like PASSAGE, FLOWER, BRAID, and several others.

When I originally wrote this post, it was a lot more mean spirited and I am sorry about that. What you said brought up the typical "band geek vs. jock" bullshit that has existed since there have been kids and cliques. And while I don't recall myself ever being a full on geek as a kid (altho looking back now, I wish I had been more of a geek than I allowed myself to be), I did travel in the geek circles and have a strong affinity for that group of folks.

And now that I have my own children, I try not to pressure them in one direction or the other, but I do watch and hope that they never burry the things that excite them and fire their passions because the world at large- or perhaps only a very vocal minority of the world- tells them that what they love is not cool, not acceptable, and not ok. And it's a slippery slope. How connected is the bullying that causes a child to put away a favorite toy or comic book to the bullying that tells them who they can love or who they can vote for or what occupation they can pursue? To me, they are dangerously similar.

Anyway- hope you are well. And thanks for stirring up the gaming portion of the interwebs. I suppose that's what a rant is for, eh?

Still your friend-


ps. thanks to Matthew Rosenfeld, iphone and game programmer in general- and lead programmer of the very cool, very fun iphone game KARMASTAR- for the link to the TED talk!


Gyshall said...

Jaffe for pres '09.

Gazzo said...

I knew it. I *knew* you'd have something. I haven't read your response yet, but I watched the video blog, I can't comment yet regarding what Heather said or anything else, but I do agree with your comment on game making. If you've created anything period, a drawing, painting, game, movie, documentary, anything, it can always kind of drag you down when something doesn't live up to your vision entirely. I know it may seem like I'm just reiterating what you said (I am :P) but I just wanted to get that out there that the feeling of depression you described can happen with any project.

I'm happy to see you're back blogging. I'm going to go ahead and read what Heather said, and read your response. I'll probably comment more later.

Michael Jarvis said...

I concur with Sinnix, use Google Analytics. Best out there, in my opinion.

As per what you said, well, you are entitled to your opinions about anything. If someone doesn't like them then they can fuck off, aka. Not read your blog.



YoungZer0 said...

I know this might sound like bullshit but hell, you looked very depressed yesterday so i'm not surprised to hear that you actually are a little bit depressed. What's surprised is that you took the time and made another podcast/blog entry instead of, well taking your time. Thank you for that, because like many others said here yesterday you're the only blogger i follow.

I also share some of the experience that you mentioned. I study design and have all these visions and ideas and when i put them on paper it really looks different, depresses the shit out of me. You have all these great ideas and the finished product doesn't look like it, you need to hold a presentation and the reactions are quite different from what you had in mind. So yeah, i can understand you, don't know if it's different since you're a director and i'm just a student but oh well.

Oh talking 'bout not visions and ideas, i had this inspiration after one of your podcasts about the stickers from Gamestop and posted my finished product yesterday, you didn't react so i guess you haven't seen it or just don't give a shit (=)) so here it is again:

My vision looked a little bit better, guess it was a question of skill, need to train.

Anyway, hope you like it.

Well, that were my two cents.

da criminal said...

YoungZ- I saw it and LOVE it! Thank you!

Next post will be pics from GDC as well as this cool image you made- thank you for it- it rocks!


YoungZer0 said...

Yeay, glad to hear you like it and thanks a lot for featuring it as i made it just for you. =D

TrevDogg said...

sweet post dave. i knew u hit the nail on the head with the first post regarding her rant ;-) but idk i think most chicks feel the same way she does about games nowadays. there are no games for girls unless ur a DS owner or u like singstar/guitar hero. most games are about gore and violence, which i dont mind at all :-D tbh i dont think the industry will change that much, flower may open the door for other games like that but there wont be a huge uprising of artistic games over violent games. it just wont happen as long as were human beings. violence is just what entertains the masses ;-)
anyway glad to hear u wanna post some more cause i find ur vids very interesting. a vid explaining a lil about ur design process woulld be awesome for us aspiring game designers. thanks and keep em comin, peace dude

Anonymous said...

haha I knew you would be back

Anonymous said...

i read your response, and oh my god, i've just got tingles down my spine. You David Jaffe have just inspired me, and thank you for blogging, its a great pleasure to read.

Anonymous said...

i read your response, and oh my god, i've just got tingles down my spine. You David Jaffe have just inspired me, and thank you for blogging, its a great pleasure to read.


Hellhound30 said...

Whoa, that Heather lady just can't say stuff like that without knowing she is going to offend alot of people. I'm offended! Heck, I'm pissed! Talk about a one-two punch Mr. Jaffe. You gave as good as we got! Thanks for standing up. If she got offended because you stood you're ground then good now she knows how it feels. Either way its good to know you that you are still going to be blogging Mr. Jaffe.

Unknown said...

at the moment im 19, i have interest in arts, mythology, litrature, sciences, techonology and generally i thirst for understanding.
and when i reach a level of understanding i tend to get very judgemental, when the idea spawns in your mind , and your like "aha so thats how it is" and u jump to a radical conclusion without considering the alternative perspective. I believe that to be part of my adolescence. This rant by ms. chaplin seems similar. Likewise a strong dose of the opposite perspective kicks balance into understanding ( usually i force this upon myself) but in this case you blog serves the purpose very well, lets hope she reads it.

but its always a pleasure to read the blogs of a person with balance.

ps. meditation is amazing ( as cheesy as that sounds XD)

Alex said...

This is why I check your blog twice a day jaffski. You are the man. You smacked that chick so hard across the face with your manness that she's probably crying herself to sleep right now. The best part about it is that you did it without cussing or getting all up in her personal stuff. You are the nerd overlord jaffski, lead thy people to mecca!!! And if you make another blog post about taking a break. GRRR. I don't know man. I might have to smack me a heather or something.


Anonymous said...

"I think a mistake folks make- in any medium- is assuming we all want to be artistically relevant and important in the eyes of the intelligencia (sp?) of the world. I have to tell you: I think THAT desire is adolescent and spews from a place of need and want and lack of faith in ones own creative powers."

Doesn't having a blog stem from that same adolescent need for recognition?

"If a blog falls in the woods..."

Unknown said...

"Doesn't having a blog stem from that same adolescent need for recognition? "

is the desire to gain recognition bound to adolescent? Infact is the boundary between adolescence and adulthood as clear as black and white?

"If a blog falls in the woods..."

Isnt there a level of expectation we all keep from the activities and the work we participate in, regardless of how much we are attached emotionally to the result, if expectation is met or not?

da criminal said...

Anon- I have a blog mainly because of the damage I feel was done to me and millions of fanboys like me growing up and watching the PR coverage of the entertainment business that we all so desperately wanted to be a part of. At the time, I had no clue how much bullshit was being spewed and so I went off as a young adult and tried to build a work life based around the 'behind the scenes' docs I had seen as a kid...and tried to build a life around the same docs/magazines/etc...and as you can imagine- since the PR was bullshit disguised as reality- it all fell apart. And with today's celeb obsessed culture, it's gotten 1000 times worse.

While I am not - and have no plans to be- ever as well known as even the lowest of the D list reality stars in basic cable, I do the blog to do my part to show that the creative process and the job of creating entertainment is part of a real life, with joy, pain, loss, and gain. That is why I do it.

Also- just so you know- doing something for the goal of pure recognition is not the goal I was railing against. It was doing something for the goal of a recognition on the part of arty farty folks who you feel- if you just get their pat on the back/award/cover story then you will be a complete/happy person.


KonKat said...

I agree with your little talk about meditation at the beginning. I'm 21 and I meditate almost everyday for 15 to 20 minutes, and it really does cause you to see things in a different light.

As for your response to Heather, I read the first one. And as for what she said I don't really have anything to say about it because everything I've read was taken out of context. Perhaps if I saw the entire conversation I would have something to say about it.

Bryant said...

Jaffe, I can't help but feel like your response validates the straight male stereotype surrounding this strange insecurity of one's sense of "manliness." Likewise, I feel Heather's little bit on neotonous game developers is nothing more than a ruse to put people on the defensive. Both points are detracting from the real message.

Like it or not, games are cultural artifacts; game developers are creating culture every time they release a game into the world. But I feel like developers aren't considering the meaning or impact of their work.

They say, "We just want to make something FUN! I don't want to be like one of those pretentious art game guys. Games don't need meaning. They need FUN!"

And that's bullshit. It's fucking bullshit. Anyone who uses the "FUN" excuse to avoid thinking about the meaning of their work is irresponsible. Or, as Heather would say, neotonous.

The key concept that developers are ignoring is THEME. I don't mean theme to describe the overall look and feel. I mean theme as in "a unifying idea or subject that is a recurrent element in a work."

What is the IDEA behind your game? What is it ABOUT, and how is that message supported by the gameplay, environments, characters, story, etc.?

Incorporating a theme doesn't make a game any less fun or entertaining; it makes it *stronger*. It also doesn't mean that you need to create a work of art. It'd be hard to argue that High School Musical is an artsy film, and yet there's a central theme driving the entire plot ("Be yourself instead of sticking to the status quo").

Left 4 Dead isn't a work of art, but the entirety of the gameplay is shaped around the theme of "the value of collaboration."

Ico and Shadow of the Colossus may or may not be works of art, but they both present a theme of "dependency" through their gameplay.

All of these examples are ABOUT something. They're driven by a central theme that is both recurring and unifying. You can argue with the values of the themes being presented, but at least the creators know what they're about, and they're taking responsibility for their work. That's a lot more than what most game developers can say.

That was long winded, but there you go :) Thanks for putting the post back up!

da criminal said...

Bryant- you misunderstand.

The goal of my games is to create FUN.

One of the ways I do that is- with every game- to find a central POINT or THESIS or THEME- as you say- and get behind that theme and fight like hell to keep it alive.

I agree with you that this is a key point of the process. I do not think- however- it is my job to make that thesis statement apparent. It is one of the tools I use to create fun, and that is all.

And just because games DO say something about our world and the people who make them, I call bullshit on the assumption that that automatically means we- as game makers- need to care about that. To me, if my games express anything beyond fun, it comes out after the fact and is for others to pick apart. I am not interested in trying to find something to say beyond my desire for fun. If you want to play and make games that put the fun AND the message together, good for you. But just because you care to do it, doesn't mean I do.

Again, doesn't mean I am unaware that ANY creative decision we make is a reflection of us as people and the world in which we live. Sure that is the case. But you can either include that awareness in the game making process or you can not care about it. I choose not to care about it. And even that says something about me. My life experiences show that I have no interest or time in analysis of the experience of life...I would rather be present for it and I find analyzing it gets in the way of the journey and, yes, the fun of it all.

Bryant said...

"But you can either include that awareness in the game making process or you can not care about it. I choose not to care about it."

That's fine. I'm just trying to say, "It shows."

I don't mean to make a value judgement here. Clearly there's room for any number of experiences, from the fleeting to the long lasting.

To me, though, especially in such a crowded market where consumers can choose from any number of entertainment options, it's important to be important to people.

It's the difference between going out for ice cream at Dairy Queen or going out for ice cream at Cold Stone. Cold Stone is the Web 2.0 of ice cream joints. It's built around this focused, user-centric theme of a sociable, customizable ice cream experience. It's fun. It's fleeting. But it resonates with people. It's important to them (and me) in however small a way.

Going back to your response, if you were to take away the point/thesis/theme of the game from your game design tool belt, I think you would be far more likely to create a Dairy Queen than a Cold Stone. Gears of War 2 becomes a Dairy Queen in its crappy vehicular levels. Metal Gear Solid 4 is a Cold Stone :)

This, of course, is all beside the point of irresponsible creators of culture. But it's certainly a factor.

TrevDogg said...

"My life experiences show that I have no interest or time in analysis of the experience of life...I would rather be present for it and I find analyzing it gets in the way of the journey and, yes, the fun of it all."

Thats a great quote jaffe ;-) if u think about life too much u miss the fun and the same goes with games.

chad said...

wow what a bunch of crap.really what is the definition of an adult.some serious acting man who talks politics.and whole life revolves around how much he will have when he retires.i mean are we suposed to me stern strong people with no imagination.and you know most people i meet on psn are 22-30 years old.gamers have grown up and along with getting married having kids and starting our carrer.we still love to play are not just for the youth anymore.fantasy games what kind of comment is that.i mean are you guys going to make a game on science class.oh damn that would be fun.if being a adult means that i have to be like that.well then i'm never growing up.and i will conduct a wordwide search for peter pan.but really close minded comments is more of a sign of being immature then making a fucking fantasy game.ok well thats my 2 cents on the that.ok im going to go play with my legos and matchbox cars now.

Anonymous said...

jaffe, my girlfriend wanted to play twisted metal 2 with me and my brother but it is only 1-2 players. WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME?!??!

Anonymous said...

Great post Jaffe. Art is whatever one wants it to be. Games are fine as they are.

Alex said...


Anonymous said...

Hope Heather likes crow.

Rey said...

angel there has one

i cant wate for this new game of yours

TreAtzTMA said...

Very nice (and thorough) response.

It´s just sad that anybody thinks this kind of empty attack actually needs a response.

Heather also does women a great disservice by assuming all members of the industry are men. One of my fave designers is Amy Hennig. Should she also aspire to this mythical manhood?

Jim in Erie said...

I don't know who this woman is, but if you say she regularly does stuff for NPR i'm going to assume she's just your everyday feminist liberal, and this is just their everyday mentality. I'm fine with generalizing like that :P

Anyway, I think if you have a job and are raising a family in the best way you know how so that you feel you're doing right by them and yourself then we as men don't need to justify our manliness any further. It doesn't make any difference if you're a game developer, CEO of some company, football player, or a garbage man.

If you wanna talk about creative expression and all that blah blah these are videogames. Men like to shoot stuff, chainsaw faces, and destroy GODS. Men like sports and fast cars. It's not adolescent. It's men being men who haven't been castrated by this generation of man-haters.

I can perfectly enjoy playing KZ2, make dinner for my wife, then read bedtime stories to my children, and pay our mortgage after fixing the dishwasher. You can be a nerd and like watching Next Generation re-runs with your spock ears on, and still be an adult.

I don't even know what i'm going on about anymore, but this crap has worked me up and I'm not even a game developer. . Love the blog keep on doin it as it's the only one I follow.

Gazzo said...

I disagree with Bryant considerably.

Not all games need a message. Hell, it doesn't even "strengthen" some games. Take Mario for example. Do you think Mario games need a message?

Really, I believe that making a game fun is an art and a skill in its own right.

Also, a theme or message CAN make a game less entertaining, such as when the creators of the game are trying to shove the message down your throat. Especially if you don't agree with the message the game is trying to relay.

"To me, though, especially in such a crowded market where consumers can choose from any number of entertainment options, it's important to be important to people."

You can be important without preaching a message.

I'm not saying there isn't a time and place for a message, etc. There most definitely is, and I enjoy it in some games. But to say that it brings down other games is a tad much, to me.

Anonymous said...

Very well articulated rebutle Dave.

I guess you can include me in this "nice little box" as well.

I'm a single father of 2 adult childern one who still lives with me, and a teenage daughter. I own my own house which I refinanced because of my divorce during the middle of the mortgage and banking crisis.

I spent 23 years working in the Auto industry till it went south and now I work for a military defence contractor who's products keep our troops safe, GPS working, and planes in the air. It's a serious job with other serious adults.

I met a wonderful adult woman who also has children and we are enjoying getting to know each other.

So what else do I do on my down time and to destress...I play video games. I also volunteer my time to beta test for Sony, help moderate there forums and contribute to a Tech panel.

I'm a Geek and I love it.

But there is more to me than my youthful, playful nature (which my girlfriend adors) and I do more than just play video games. I also Hike, Bike, Kayak, Camp and Snowboard.

Gaming for me replaces other passive forms of entertainment. I prefer to activly engage in my enviroment, and I also prefer to do so with other adults online.

So much for fitting in a "nice neat box"

Thank you Dave for your voice, I hope others read this and become more aware of who we are and what we are about.

timetabletwist said...

Really Jaffe, why should you feel as if you are lower then her? What does writing a book and writing on a website have that's so much better then creating compelling games? Critics like her are the worst. People who think that just because they write about something, they know more about it then the people doing the work. If she thinks that the business needs such a kick in the ass, then why is she just ranting about it? Why not put up and create something that meets her standards? Odds are, like critics in other fields, she doesn't have the talent to create. So, pointing fingers is really all she can do in her position.

And her statement regarding men is either laughable or sad depending on how you look at it. Either way, it shows an unhealthy amount of ignorance. I hope for her sake she can do some introspection and realize that not only was her rant simply rude, but it was flat out wrong in many ways as well.

Obviously, I'm just going off of what I have read here and wasn't there to see it myself. But quotes are quotes, and the information presented definitely agrees with what I am stating. Perhaps I am wrong. But then again, I shouldn't be capable of this self-reflection, right?

Bryant said...

Gazzo, theme is different from a message. A theme *can* be a message (like the moral in a kid's book..."Don't talk to strangers!"), or it can be an idea (like Jonathan Blow's Braid..."What implications would arise if we could manipulate time?").

I'm not a huge fan of the "message" model of meaning. It's pretentious and can completely turn me off from a work (like you said). To quote you, "You can be important without preaching a message."

Going back to my ice cream analogy, Cold Stone Creamery doesn't exist to spread any sort of message about the value of eating ice cream. But the experience of eating there is most definitely built around a central theme -- an *idea*, in this case, of what a sociable and customizable ice cream experience would be.

da criminal said...

Bryant, the Cold Stone thing is interesting because:

a- I love some if their ice cream (or whatever it is) BUT I always felt the experience was a bit forced and self-aware. The whole thing where they sing to you and all that , "GOODNESS GRACIOUS THANKS FOR YOUR DOLLAR!" stuff feels like they WANT to be hip and cool and memorable but it comes off feeling non inspired and more like you can see the founders of the company sitting around a kitchen table brainstorming ways to make the experience memorable but having the desire but not the inspired thought...sort of like- and how it applies to this discussion- how someone who wants to be an artist imagines how cool it would be to have something to say and goes in search of an idea that will make them feel like an artist but does not have the idea FIRST, but the DESIRE for an idea and so the idea comes off a B level and not inspired...

b- Lots of Cold Stones are closing down. I imagine a lot/most/all of the reason is it's pretty pricey compared to - say Baskin Robbins. But also part of it I think is COULD be the fact that the message is just not connecting cause- in my mind- it's a forced, false message. My Cold Stone just shut down and a Red Mango opened in its place. There was a WALL STREE JOURNAL article on the high number of Cold Stones shutting down all over the USA as well. You can Wiki it.

Food- or ice cream- for thought :)


Anonymous said...

It seems her problem is that she's tired of games only being about male adolescent 'power fantasies'.

She then sounded the challenge: "What do you want to be, a Chihuahua or a wolf?" in the context of calling gamers perpetual adolescents, of being in a state of neoteny.

Is it just me, or is there something ridiculously stupid in complaining that a group of people are only concerned with 'power fantasies' and then challenging their sense of power?

It seems she's interested in upholding this patriarchal structure where, like the worth of a woman is measured by her domesticity, the worth of a man is measured by his power: is he a Chihuahua, or is he a wolf? Even within a rant where she complains about how the things that men fear are responsibility, introspection, intimacy, and intellectual discovery and that video games reflect the desire to turn away from that fear, she closes with a line that directly plays on those fears, that asks men to define themselves in terms of that fear, that asks men to give into that fear lest they face the wrath of a woman who wants them to believe she has the power to emasculate them back into adolescents or into something so powerless and domesticated that Paris Hilton carries it around in her handbag.

Bryant said...

Ha! So much for my analogy then :) There aren't any Cold Stones here in Canada (maybe for the reason you mentioned), but I used to live near one in Southern California that was always super genuine and popular. At least with the millennials. YMMV, I suppose :)

Anonymous said...

Honestly, the biggest problem with this whole thing is: why the hell is a gaming journalist giving a rant on the gaming industry?

They're the folks who spur on the console wars, they're the morons who build up hype developers can't live up to. They're the ones who can't accept that their medium is more like TMZ than Newsweek (while they nonetheless dream that one day they'll be like Rolling Stone).

Anonymous said...

Honestly, just saw more of her comments. She brings up rock and roll as a counter-example to the youth of the game industry. Except... well, rock and roll is just a super-genre within the medium of music. Music itself is as old as civilization, maybe as old as humanity itself. Games, on the other hand, have a much scarcer background to draw from -- I mean, c'mon, she uses Dylan as an example. Dylan was known as a fucking folk musician.

One thing nitwit journalists really don't want to do is compare games to music.

Unknown said...

This was a great post I was just curious if there is a download on itunes or something for that interview with ThatGameCompany?

H said...

when comments like "power fantasy" come up, I wonder why the "empowerment fantasy" created by chick lit (twilight) and chick flicks (the devil wears prada) argument never comes up. I think it boils down to the woman who wishes for a doctor or newscaster husband, only to realize that "type a" personality is a shitty partner, makes the ideal man of this fantasy hollow. which then in turn makes some women hate men in general. these so called "grown up" men are trying to be grown ups. trying to be serious. maybe game developers have a better developed sense of fun. maybe they ARE stunted. maybe maybe maybe. maybe that means they'll be more present fathers.
the problem is, immature pastimes like games, that drive entire segments of the economy get glossed over because they're not "grown up" endeavors, while screwing over little people in high finance gets rewarded. maybe that kind of sociopathy and selfishness that represents "grown up" men is the problem. the "empowerment fantasy" of post feminist feminism fuels that reward for douchebaggery.
honestly, I don't want to be that wolf, lady. I'll settle for being a responsible adult male/father of 3 that makes video games, and has a sense of humor. not a sense of entitlement. a man who's power fantasy is rooted in entertainment and not in actual crushing of my opponents in life.

yog-sothot said...

Even if 95% of videogame market is pure entertainment (or not "real" game like Wii fit for example) it's obvious that we already had our "Citizen Kane moment". We have already seen games using the particularity of the media (interactivity) to tell their story or make the player feel something... And let's not forget that a huge part of the film/book industry is also pure entertainment.

Dominik Absi-otor Kolendo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thinking about games misses the point of games. Heather is wrong, and David, you're just as off to respond to her.

The point of games is entertainment. Anything else - social impact, community building, education, even storytelling - is ancillary.

There's no need to defend it. The people who claim otherwise won't ever change that, no matter how hard they try.

More relevant, and ignored, in all this is Heather's lack of participation in the industry. Writing about and reporting on the industry, no matter how well one does it, is not making games, and without participating, her observations fall pretty flat. She can complain day and night about how male the industry is, or how immature the products it produces are, but she's never dealt with publishers who want the 14-18 male demo at all costs.

She hasn't put the time, effort and heart into making games like BG&E - games that she so desperately wants the industry to make - just to watch them become massive commercial disasters.

She's written a book - a well-researched, knowledgeable book, but a book, not a game - about an industry she loves. But writing about and enjoying games won't change them. Offering yourself up as a "translator" won't change them. Getting on stage at GDC and berating the audience certainly won't change them.

Only by selling games that challenge the status quo can she change the industry, which like all major industries are driven by corporate profit. Until someone demonstrates that there's a market for games that fit her definition of maturity, there won't be mass-market games made that fill her definition of maturity.

That's something Heather needs to fully understand before yelling at developers, most of who - regardless of what she "fucking" believes - would much rather make "Citizen Kane" than "Fast & Furious", but won't, because EA/Activision/Ubi know that Citizen Kane, regardless of its status as a classic, probably hasn't made as much money in its existence as F&F will make in its first 10 days in theaters.

n.n said...

I'd like to agree with David, except that some of the (apparent) adolescents posting here lend an unpleasant sort of weight to Chaplin's argument. I wonder if they are doing so on purpose.

David's right in observing (not on the blog - in his games) that games are a form of modern mythmaking. Myths, legends and even religious texts have always been inextricable from sex and violence, which is why we're seeing modern remakes of Beowulf, Greek mythology (hello, God of War), &c. Mythopoesis consists partially in bigness, which is why Cloud's sword is so frickin' ridiculously huge (apart from the implied symbolism, which I'm pretty sure is not at all absent from myths in general).

The problem for Heather, I think, is that not all games have literary or artistic merit, just as not all myths do. Theme is part of it - beyond that there is depth, subtext, etc. Some games have subtext; most don't. That's not a problem for me, because to me games are myth, not literature, but if you want games to be literature then that becomes a bit problematic. The cheap answer is to make Gay Space Marine Cowboys (hello, Gears of War ;), but David's quite right in observing that not all games would benefit from subtext.

I recall reading some time ago, on Raph Koster's blog, a complaint that games lack dynamic range. He was using an audio metaphor, but the point, I think, is the same. When a game has a point, it shoves it in your face (how's that for hur-hur masculine symbolism?) and doesn't expect you to delve in to get at it (heh). Consider Bioshock; Koster observed that the game was a very literalistic sort of critique of Objectivism: there was no subtext because the critique was practically the text. It wasn't literature; it was an essay.

The questions, then, become fairly straightforward:
- Should a game have subtext? Obviously some should, but how many? Should we focus more on developing games that support subtext?
- What does subtext mean in the context of a game? I think Braid had very interesting subtext (the idea of redoing your mistakes correlated beautifully with the story that Tim was never satisfied), but the literal "text" (I mean the written stuff, not the gameplay) interfered with the subtext towards the end.
- And finally, how does one craft a game with an interesting subtext? This is the toughest part. I don't think designers should shy away from this question, but at the same time it would be a shame if we became so enamoured of subtext that we descended into Gay Space Marine Cowboy Hell.

Anonymous said...

Pretty well rebuked, a single blog post to quell the frustration I felt hearing Heather's rant. Comment above me from N.N is also decent.

However, the consistent thing that frustrates me is the idea that we should be doing x or y. What will be will be, controlled by individuals, companies, technology and business. As with most industries it will churn out primarily popularist crap with easy hooks but there will always be a few looking to enter greater artistic territory. There is no artform that doesn't obey these rules except dead ones where the 'classics' are already established, having had the time to stand the test.

The really irksome thing is the childishness with which Heather assesses gaming, touched upon in David's post. What sets gaming aside from the forms that have come before is simply interactivity, and this is where you assess the depth, quality and effectiveness of a product. It is right to say that Shadow of the Colossus is a more meaningful game than say Prince of Persia, but fuck me if the flow isn't a lot better there. The aim of a game is to combine all it's elements (sound, visual, writing, level design, interactivity etc.) into a single coherent piece. Scoffing because the industry struggles to do this as often as you may like shows a deep and worrying lack of understanding of the complexities and sheer size of game development. The technology still plays a large part of development, papyrus dare I say it has remained largely unchanged.

Checking the rant certainly demonstrated she had stones, but in actuality for me it just frustrated me as she highlighted only a surface concern of the industry and ironically exposed how childishly she views interactive experiences.

Jinxstar said...

You know Dave I have been following you for a long time. I feel compelled to comment on your site for the first time now.

I really have no clue what "Men" she means. I served 5 years in the US Army. I was deployed and did things most "Men" would easily crap themselves over.

I grew up over seas and I speak 4 languages fluently. I am cultured, well read and well traveled.

When I got out of the Army I joined the Fire Department and I tell you what bro... If that is the measure of a "Man" then I'll take "Geeky adolescent game dev" any day because at least they are honest. Fire Fighters are all "Heroes" they all "Saved the day"... At least when they tell stories... In reality the only heroic thing they ever did was get lucky and make the cut... Most are well over weight, get winded when they get out of their recliner to go on a call and would easily turn their back on the community if they felt it would benefit them.

I am now studying to be a Paramedic in the fire department. I work my ass off so that I can best serve my community and be a good role model. I feel this is a duty though and not a measure of a "Man" in any way. It's just a job. One I can be proud of same as you but not "Manly"...

I graduated High School as prom king and had the hottest girl of the class. I was in a band. I was lead vocals... I snowboard and do all that stuff...

Through all I have ever seen and done I feel that these "Men" she refers to do not exist... I have met maybe 2 people in my life that fit the stereotype that she may be trying to describe and even they break down... I have... and when I look in the mirror the last thing I see is a "Man" I just see a guy who looks tired as hell(Probably just like you bro)

I tell you what though my life sounds amazing but day to day it's boring as hell.

My favorite past time is to get home and make a few "Console war" posts and load up a game and play a few hours. If this makes me less of a "Man" and more of a "Chihuahua" then "Ruff Ruff" I say... To make my point hit home I idolize people like you for following a dream. I feel I took the easy, non risky way out. You make people(like me) happy Dave. Don't stop and don't let people like this get to you with their own ideals on who is the best because it's not worth it.

When I was a kid I told my father a story about an argument I was having with some people and it was a pretty lame argument. You know what he said to me? "Son. Are you a baby?" and I replied "No dad. why?" he said "Give the babies their god damn bottle. You don't need it. If it makes them happy and shuts them up then let them have it"

Thanks again man and keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

its the fucking blue pill, asshole.

god, i hope you find that as funny as I did.

Thanks for what you do and who you are TM foreva howeva when things get dark and angry think of those kids and how serious life can be f all this bs dont stress your children dont want to lose you to a heart attack or some other horrible stress related thing. although i do love your rants so i guess im conflicted, a few ways.

Anonymous said...

oh and whats up with the gold for that mmo thing is that a new bs ad that floats around blogs? ive not seen it anywhere else, or is this a way for da criminal to make some extra shady cash?

That Fuzzy Bastard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
That Fuzzy Bastard said...

saying we have not had the game version of Citizen Kane simply shows a possible lack of genuine understanding of our field (or perhaps you just don't understand what made Citizen Kane so special for its time). See, we may very well have HAD our Citizen Kane. It was probably GTA3 or MARIO 64 because what I recall from USC film classes was what made CK so special was Wells being the first director to move the camera in innovative ways that told the story in a fresh way.
Well, but this is just the problem, this is where you're wrong, and this is where your response to Heather goes off the rails.

Citizen Kane is cinematically important because of the deep-focus photography and camera movement, sure. But what makes CK a Great Movie isn't those technical/formal things---what makes it a Great Movie is that it *uses* those technical devices in the service of a story about a man's hubris, his emotional failures, the ways he gets everything he wants and is left unhappier than ever, and the lingering question of where it all went wrong and whether it could ever have been right. Style is good, and devices are great, but ultimately, content and theme are what make a great work.

The big problem with games, and what makes them seem pretty adolescent most of the time, is that they're fundamentally power fantasies, dreams of getting ever more powerful. It's ironic, actually, that you're posting this, because God of War is one of the few games that I thought really did some smart critiquing of the power fantasies that games are built around.

Until games start being able to better express grief, regret, historical forces, and other meaning-of-life questions, they are indeed going to be stuck at the adolescent level, no matter how many cool technical/gameplay innovations we come up with. Games like Boom Blox are fundamentally abstract art---there's no story, so there's no need for the story to be mature. But if you are going to have a story, and characters, then it takes more than a good cover system to make me treat Gears of War as anything other than gaming's Sgt. Rock comics---well-drawn, and insultingly stupid.

Anonymous said...

Domestic toy dogs are neotenic versions of wolves, yes—but then again, humans are neotenic versions of our ape-like ancestors. But I guess ending her talk with, "Do you want to be a human, or an extinct ape-like thing?" wouldn't have had the same zazz.

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Anonymous said...

2 Heather, generalising gamedevelopers as being "a bunch of fucking adolescents," is like a guy earlier up the thread genralising ou as a liberal feminist. We all have our differences and the cultural relavance you seem to be looking for and intelectual meaning of games is definately there. That being said; yes you don't see it much. As David already mentioned, you cater to the fans NOT the press. If you want to see more Shindlers lists and Citizen Kane type work in the gaming industry either put up or shut up. Its like me generalising you for reading to much Nicci French Novells or watching soap operas all day. Where a theme is stretched like a piece of chewing gum and whails on about 1 fucking thing. You know what I do; I flick channel and watch some "immature" entertanment for men. Bitching at men for power fantasies is like bitching at housewives for watching soap operas, or intelectuals for reading books and being snotty about it.
Also keep in mind its like Jeery Springer said about his show once: "Its just a piece of chewing gum" What he meant by trhat is u chew it enjoy the flavour and you fucking toss it.
NOT everything has to have meaning.

2 David Jaffe, Keep up the good work. The GoW Franchise has more depth than some stupid journalist will ever have. Nice or not, pretentiousness is never a good thing. I will be waiting for GoW 3, I will enjoy the story and Greek mythological references as I have in part 1 and 2 and ofcourse how it caters to my "inner child"
I just love how you produce smart carnage.
Props to you and buck up Dorothy; its gonna be 1 hell of ride :)


Anonymous said...

I should have checked my spelling more on that post. Fuck it I'm not a native English speaker and thats a decent excuse I'd like to think xD


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