Friday, July 31, 2009

You Can't Teach A Dog To Sing...

Just to clarify a little on my views on the whole 'Destructoid/Can Games Mean Something More' thing...oh and someone mentioned liking to see a debate/discussion between me and the Destructoid author of the piece...would LOVE to do something like that when I have the time; it would be fun :)

But so just to clarify:

#1- I don't actually CARE if people view games as art or only entertainment or whatever. Don't want, need, or care about debating 'what IS art, anyway!!' That's just labels to me. And plus, yes, the debate over 'what is art' is too tired to even care about anymore. I'm not a junior in high school anymore which- to me- is around when that very relevant discussion should occur...and be put to bed. So my issue is NOT with 'when will we get to a place where the best work in our industry can be seen as art!' I really don't care. And anyone who is a real artist should not- in my opinion- care either.

#2- My main point was that the author's take- I forget his name and frankly am too tired to go back and check :)- but his point seemed to be that games can be more relevant to the real world and can speak more to the human condition than the violent power fantasy games that line the shelves. Some have pointed out that the Destructoid author was talking to gamers and not game makers. Sure, I concede that. But it makes no difference; the gist of his issue was the same: games can and should be more relevant. Now to that point, I say:

a- one COULD argue that the human condition IS violence and dog eat dog and video games capture that brilliantly, in many ways more so than any other medium by actually putting us INTO the experience and allowing us- after the fact- to analyze how and why we behaved in a tense, terrifying situation. Instead of having the privilege and luxury to sit and ruminate on 'the horrors of war' or the 'state of man' by watching Saving Private Ryan or Schiendler's List, games allow us to see how we would REALLY react in violent situations. And what does it show us about the human condition? It potentially shows us that all the cafe chillin', coffee drinking big brains sitting around pondering the fate of man would revert to our animal base in an instant order to survive and in order to win. So there is that. But to be fair, that's just me playing devil's advocate. I don't REALLY think that is what is going on. But ya know, there's a theory for you.

b- there ARE games out there that may not speak to the human condition (altho there are some that try) but there are commercial games out there that are not about violent power fantasies. Mario Kart was the best selling game IN THE WORLD last year. Not really a power fantasy. Same with Bejewelled or Bookworm or Pet Society or Tetris. So while there are few games that strive to meet the lofty goals set forth in Mr. Destructoid's video, it's wrong to act as if most/all games are violent blood baths. And a good % of the successful games are NOT violent.

#3- My key point in my video rebuttal was that IF it was possible or desirable to make games mean something 'more', we would have been further along by now. In the last 4000 years since the world's first game was known to be played, how have we been doing merging meaningful, human condition-striving stories, feelings, and emotions with game mechanics? Sure we have video and 3d worlds and motion controls now and YES those matter in the quest. But they don't matter so much that it would make sense that ONLY NOW is the merge of meaning and gameplay beginning to be possible. We should have seen at least SOME VERY PROMISING SIGNS along the way during the last 4000 years. But we have not. And using Chess or GO doesn't count in my book. Yes, those are POSSIBLY metaphors for other things but what those games stand for is not readily apparent to most players and only apparent to some once the metaphor has been explained to them. Few if any finish chess and- totally unprompted- say: 'ya know, I think that game I just played was about something MORE than just the seems perhaps it was about war and the futility of war...'

#4- My other point on this is that EVERYONE who loves games can and should have an opinion on this. I was not saying that only game makers should be able to discuss this. But I don't think it's fair to just sit and bitch about what games should/could be without being aware that big companies in the game industry DO TRY at different times to crack this nut and that the problem is not simply that we just don't wanna do it. That's just a bunch of bullshit. What I was also saying was, as an industry worker who has pitched games and been in pitches, people have either tried this and it never got off the launch pad (not cause stupid execs who are just greedy bastards but cause the design sounded boring and/or there was no clear direction on how the designers wanted to achieve their lofty goals and so no one wanted to make it) OR the attempt at emotion was made, the game shipped, and it didn't really resonate with enough people that it became a watershed moment.

#5- Also, remember- even fun, summer movies- the good ones- have heart and character and are ABOUT more than just power fantasies. IRON MAN certainly was, as was the DARK KNIGHT. So you'd think in the last 30 years of video games, even amid the big blockbuster power fantasy type games that we- admittedly- love to make, that SOMEONE would have SUCCESSFULLY slipped some meaning in their game. Going big and actiony is not anathema to character and metaphor and meaning. And look, I know game makers who have tried it (I won't mention the games or the names) but I've had them TELL me that their games- one of which was a MASSIVE HIT, and one of which was a dud- were metaphors for the Iraq war for example; or for going back home to where your soul really is. Hell, I've tried it before mysef. And NONE of us have succeeded at a level that matters enough for me to go, "AHH! We're onto something!" I've said before, it took years and years of work to establish character and meaning and game mechanics that mirror emotion and game play that is metaphor and in the end, very few were moved or affected by it. And the ones that were- while they applaud our efforts- are MUCH More affected by an average prime time television show. See, when we fire with all our ammo, all our effort...we still can't come close to an episode of CSI in terms of emotion. Granted, that's just us. Just cause WE can't do it, doesn't mean it can't be done. But I'm just saying that even our best game makers have not come close to an average level of emotion or meaning that you get from the TV. And yes, I've played ICO and SHADOW and PASSAGE and TODAY I DIE and BRAID and FLOWER and SEPTEMBER 12 and many others. And SOME of those games I've loved out right and are in my top 10 games of all time. Some I didn't love as much but at the very least I appreciated them for what they were doing. And so I am saying is that I am aware of the 'emotional cannon of games' and I still stand by my statement. Granted, it's just my opinion. Your mileage may vary. But I cry at fucking coffee commercials so I'm easy; easy enough that you'd think a great game with artistic and emotional intent would have gotten to me. But so far, nothing worth shouting about.

#6- Finally, I really think when the brain is engaged in gameplay, the thematic falls away. You could give me photo real graphics and smell-o-vision and jack the thing into my brain and put me on that beach landing in Saving Private Ryan and I would NOT be affected in the same way the audience watching the film was. I would not be thinking about the loss of life or the pointlessness of war. I would just be trying to 'solve the puzzle' of 'what is the safest way to get to the bunker at the top of the hill'....because games are simulations...for real life or for fantasy life, but they simulate an experience. And when you are LIVING AN EXPERIENCE- just like when you live your life- you are not appreciating the artistry of it. You are just living it. I really feel it's only thru outside observation of an experience (your own or that of a character that you relate to in SOME way) can we actually be affected and have our thoughts provoked. This does not happen during the experience. At least, this is my take on it.

Now all this is not to say, "Don't try!"...I would LOVE for games to have the ability to affect us more. How neat would that be! But I'm just saying that it's wrong to present the case that games could be so much 'more' if we just tried harder and just wanted them to be and the only reason we don't have our watershed game version of American Beauty or Casablanca or Gone With The Wind is because we just are not willing to be artists. That's bullshit. We're trying and many of us are STILL trying. I'm just saying that, so far, ain't noting happening yet. As for me tho,I've lost interest and would rather focus on what I feel games do very well than try to get them to do something else that other mediums already do crazy good. I mean, what's the point? Why not just go make a movie or write a book? It's like trying to teach your dog to sing. You can KIND of do it; he'll make some sounds that KIND of sound like singing and some folks will sort of go, "Hey it sounds like he's singing HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!' ....But end of the day, if you want to hear some great music, why not just go listen to an actual song? Doesn't mean you shoot your dog. He's great for other stuff. Just not singing. So why force it?

Games as Art?!? Oh Lord, THIS again?!?! :)

And here's his original post:

Ok, back to work- later!


ps. no clue why my sound is always outta sync...

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Let This Fucking Day End...

Sometimes you just need a day to be over.

Today is such a day.

 It’s just too depressing of a day to stay awake any longer.

For reasons totally unexpected the Michael Jackson memorial affected me at a much deeper level than I was prepared for.

Perhaps it’s because his was the voice of my generation. As a little kid, me and my brother competed in dance contests our nanny put on just for us while blasting her 8 track of OFF THE WALL. I also had the albums of OFF THE WALL and THE WIZ. We would listen to MJ on Solid Gold (at least I think it was Solid Gold), a variety music show we watched when my parents were getting read to go out on most Saturday nights.

Then came Thriller and the amazing videos that we simply could not get enough of. Our VHS copy of Thriller -that we'd taped from MTV- was so corrupted from constant playing that I kept waiting for it to snap and the tape to get all tangled and wound up in the heads of our first generation VHS player. 

I remember camping out at the Birmingham Civic Center downtown just to catch a glimpse of MJ. He and the rest of the Jackson 5 were rehearsing the Victory tour in Birmingham (even tho, for some annoying reason, they never performed it in B’ham). So we went downtown (myself, my brother, sister, brother-in-law) to see what we could see. What we saw were MASSIVE crowds just waiting for a glimpse. And we got one…just a glimpse. Jermaine, Tito, and the rest of the brothers who I can’t really name stood out on a balcony and waved for 5-10 minutes. I think one of them actually gave a speech via microphone, talking about how grateful they were to be in Birmingham. And then- after what seemed like forever- came Michael. He rushed out, waved and smiled and then rushed back in. It was over in about 5 seconds. But damn, there he was: Michael Jackson in the flesh.

 And a few months later, my sister and brother in law drove me and my brother to Atlanta to see Victory. It was kind of shit, truth me told, but it was still cool to see Jackson on stage doing his thing.

 And hell, I’ll admit it. Even in high school and college, I was a fan. I remember going to the mall to buy Bad the day it came out. I liked it, too. Good tape. I also bought Dangerous and I dug that. Damn, I even went and saw Captain EO at Disneyland (‘hit the red button Hooter!’) and thought it was kinda…well ok, that was pretty stupid but whatever.

But so I dug the man’s work. And I dug the spirit that he seemed to put into his work. Now this feels stupid to say so let me preface it by saying: I am fully aware of and ok with the fact that I don’t contain .1% of MJ’s talent nor .1% of his success. But that said, I always felt creatively connected to him. Not from a musician or dancer standpoint. Lord knows I can’t do either.  But there was something about the way it SEEMED he saw the world and the energy it SEEMED he put into his work that I related to and admired and aspired to in terms of my own work. Now I say SEEMED cause cleary, the man was a showman and who knows how much of the image that he projected was real. But it was real enough for me to take inspiration from it. 

And now it’s gone. And that makes me sad.

Sad because it makes me realize that even talent like his is mortal. And if someone as talented and successful as Michael Jackson can be snuffed out so quickly and so unexpectedly, what does that say about someone like me who doesn’t possess anywhere close to his gifts?

Sad because he will no longer be able to create for the world. Hell, I'm sad that he will no longer be able to create for ME; no longer able to share the gifts that have inspired me since I was a child. 

Was he a freak or a monster? Maybe. Possibly. According to some, most definitely.  According to others- and certainly according to 12 jury members- he was not. But who knows. Not me. But what I do know is that he was a genuine artist whose work touched and moved my soul. And I am sad that he is no longer here to do so.

Sad because the biggest icon from my generation is now gone. I imagine only Spielberg dying will have more effect on me in terms of the death of someone I don’t know.

And mostly sad because of his children, specifically his daughter who broke my fucking heart today when she spoke. As the dad of two small kids…two small GIRLS, I could feel her pain so acutely and wanted to do SOMETHING to help her. But I could not. No one can. I know she will move on, as countless young children who lose a parent eventually move on. But right now, tonite as I type this (and for a time to come) this little girl is in a world of pain and it really does make me very sad.

So you know, there’s that going on. 

THEN on top of all the Michael Jackson stuff, I’m in Foster City as I write this. Foster FUCKING City. I was never more depressed in my life than when I lived here. And I am back, for my Sony meeting. Looking forward to the meeting and grateful to have a job where I get to make games and do creative work. I’m not complaining about the work. But I fucking hate being in this city. To me it represents the death of spirit, of creative work. To give you an idea, the hotel I am staying in gives away a free set of golf clubs if you stay in the hotel for 25 nights. I mean, that comes about as close to hell on Earth as I have ever experienced.

I just wanna go have a great meeting tomorrow and then hop a flight the fuck out of here and get back to my dear So Cal.  Back to the sun, the beaches, the laid back feel. 

Being here literally zaps my energy. It is my soul’s Kryptonite. And I can’t wait to go to bed. And I can’t wait to go home.

 Sleeping with the curtains wide open tonite so the sun can hit me in the am and I can start fresh. This day- while needed- has been shit. And I’m ready for it to be over.

 Nite ya’ll!


Monday, July 06, 2009

My Freaking Eye + Summer Movies + Six Feet Under+ MJackson's Brain!!!

Not sure why the sync is off...ah well, you get the idea :)



If anyone is gonna haunt a place, it's Michael Jackson! I mean, DAMN that is cool! I so wanna visit Neverland on Halloween one day. And shit...check this story out...burying the man without his mother fucking brain!?!? Fucking creepy!!! Kellan- our art director out at Eat Sleep Play- just told me he thinks it would be great if they stuck his brain in a giant robot! How neat!!!

And look, I am a MJ fan. I dig his music and dancing. I so feel for his kids right now. But as a pure consumer of pop culture, all this creepy, ghostly, missing brain shit that is starting to bubble up now that he's gone is just so fucking entertaining. But that said, I wish the man were still around.


Sunday, July 05, 2009


Sloth Love Chunk!

Yes I realize in light of the post under this one that now ass hole sites are just gonna start using this picture. Whatever. Have fun, cocksuckers.

But I wanted to share :) This is my right eye! OH MY GOD! I have a sty in the damn thing and it's- clearly- gotten infected. So I'm on some antibiotics and hopefully in a day or two I won't look like Sloth...or TWO FACE...or whatever. But for now, I do. Been wearing my sunglasses wherever I go cause I feel like such a freak.

Also, I'm back to blogging and thrilled to be but I'm disabling comments on the blog from here on out. Doing it for two reasons:

#1- I really have loved and been so so grateful for all the kindness and interest and good conversations I have had over the years with posters on this blog. 95% of it has been nothing but good times. But 5% is just pure negative bullshit and I'm at a phase in life where I just wanna clear all the negativity in my life away and really steer clear of that sort of vibe.

#2- While it doesn't take alot of time away from my day to day to respond and read comments, it does take some time. And these days, I'm just too busy to do more than put up a post. The time it takes to check back and respond to questions and such (and I do feel compelled to be a good host and respond where appropriate) is just too much time away from the work that- I hope- you all care about more than a response on a blog.

So I hope you'll still come visit me if you like the blog. As the game gears up to be announced there will be lots and lots more news. And I'll still be twittering as well if you REALLY need to reach me. And as always, please say hey when you see me at Comic Con and GDC and E3 and the like. It's always such a thrill to meet folks who love the work that we do.

Take it easy ya'll! Chat later in the week!


ps. to the regular posters who have been with the blog for years- thank you SO MUCH for your support and interest! It really has been a joy chatting with you!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Dear Mother Fucking Gaming Sites:

Please for the love all all things Holy...stop posting these OLD, OUTDATED pictures of me (that are also crazy shitty pictures of me from almost 5 years ago) when you run a story on me. There are plenty of newer pics you could use to be more- you know- accurate.

Am I being paranoid or do you think they do this just to make me look fucking stupid?


Holy Fucking Cow People...

is the shit!!!

I stumbled upon this today, forget how. But a biz buddy of mine- Raph Koster (he of my fave game design book ever written and if you love games and have not read it, shame on you! ) has just beta launched his groundbreaking new site which I can only describe as The Sims meets Personalized MMO meets Youtube.

My little space- where I can visit and hang with blog readers- is now embedded in the side window over to the right...come by and visit with me from time to time :)

BUT my site is .5% of what this site is capable of! There are games and intricate spaces and so much customization that it blows your mind.

Raph and his team have done a hell of a job and I imagine Metaplace is gonna be one of the next big things when it launches for real in the next x months...amazing job Raph! Visit the site...and be sure to come hang we me in my Metaplace!


ps. don't play in that small on the FULL SCREEN part of the window to get a bigger size to play in...

Return of the Mack

Hey ya’ll- feeling like blogging again. I imagine I’ll be doing a mix of twittering and blogging for a bit as the game gets- and stays- crazy busy. So if you follow me on Twiter- and if you don't, what the FUCK is the matter with you?!?! :) - I'll twitter when I do a new blog post as I don't imagine the blogs will be as regular as they use to be (at least not till the game announce happens)...but who knows. I'm digging blogging again so maybe I'll just go back to a regular sked. I will let ya'll know.

So I figured I’d ramble a bit, if you don’t mind:

This is me, right now:

Kids are at the grandparents so I got to sleep in and am now about to blog, read the LA TIMES, and enjoy that wonderful blend of Diet Coke, Starbucks black coffee, and just a touch of peanut butter on a cinnamon raisin bagel. Ahhh, the simple things in life do indeed rock much.

Well, I have to say, I’m pretty darn happy with our video for the Sony greenlite meeting next week. The gang at Sony San Diego Post Production did an amazing job of cutting and producing a great video. They did an even better job of putting up with my perfectionist tendencies ☺ . So thanks guys! And while the game is still kind of early (the graphics on the video range anywhere from 85% complete to 35% complete) I think the spirit of the game is front and center and anyone who watches it should be able to get a good idea of the kind of game we're making. And that’s why I’m so happy- cause I LOVE the game we’re making! I think it’s really cool and really fun. Will the folks in the meeting this Wednesday feel the same? Hope so! But all you can do is put the vision that you and the team love out there and hope for the best. But for me, I’m real happy with the video and real proud of the team. Will let you know how it goes.

I think we’ll try to put these greenlite videos on the actual Blu Ray as bonus content so folks can see how far the game has come and as a neat behind the scenes look into the process that goes into ‘selling’ the game to the various worldwide Playstation divisions. I've been doing some thinking lately about our bonus features on the disc and I think there’s TONS of stuff we could put on there for folks who dig that sort of thing.

Holy Hell...Entourage returns in just 8 days!!! Fuck Smoke Jumpers...Vinnie Chase is back! By the way, the game ain't great, but I think it's pretty cool that HBO.COM has a VIKING QUEST hack n' slash Flash game you can play!

As a soon to be 40 year old (2 years away) who is newly separated, the show HUNG on HBO- while well made- is depressing as fuck. I don't think I'll be watching anymore of that, thanks very much.

When the ex and I were trying to ‘save’ our marriage, we read a number of books on the subject. If you’ve been married- or are married- you may know the type of books I’m talking about: how to spice up/fix the marriage, how to get the spark back,yadda yadda yadda. Anyway, this morning I read where a woman who wrote one of the books we had read- which if I recall seemed pretty good at the time- is now going thru a divorce of her own. While I feel for her (she’s blogging about her experience and she’s clearly going thru a tough time), this also makes me very happy. I’m not happy that she is in any sort of emotional pain. But I’m thrilled to continue to find out that in relationships- as in the movie biz- ‘nobody knows anything’. Because SO MANY people like to put up this front of 'my relationship is great! Aren't we a healthy and normal family?!?" when- it turns out more and more- that a normal relationship/family is nowhere close to the fairy tale version. And the more the idea that 'normal does not equal perfect' gets out there, the healthier our society will be.

RAMBLE TOPIC #7: KINDLE in the house! Well, it's actually in the neighbor's house...
I finally know someone who has a Kindle! Our across the road neighbor just got one for her birthday! She’s out of town for a few weeks but when she gets back I’m making a point to go over there and check it out. Amazon really needs to partner with Best Buy or some other retailer so folks can get these things in their hands! I hear, once you get one in your hands and mess with it, you HAVE to have one. But alas, Kindle has been out for over a year and I've STILL yet to lay my eyes on a real one. I will still probably hold off on getting one of my own till they do color and they have magazines and more newspapers (that’s the stuff I love to read, versus books). But I’m sure in the next few years I will be a proud member of the Kindle nation...or the Apple version, which- if rumors are true- is coming sooner than later.

Games I’m playing:

HOTEL DUSK- started slow but growing on me.

TOMB RAIDER UNDERWORLD- LOVE IT! Late to a party that I realize was never much of a party as most folks kind of poo-poo’d this game but I’m really, really digging it. Some amazing looking environments and classic Tomb Raider play...along with classic Tomb Raider problems but those don't bug me too much.

INDY JONES AND STAFF OF KINGS- I’m sorry to my friends at LucasArts but this is a pretty poor game and a sad excuse for such a strong license. No one sets out to make a bad game and- to be fair- there are some great touches in the title that really- in some ways- feel more Indy than Crystal Skull ever did. But the gameplay is dull and repetitive and doesn’t come close to giving the source material the kind of respect it deserves. Come on LucasArts…get with the fucking program and start making games worthy of your amazing talent and amazing IP. And yes, perhaps soon, that will happen...if you know what I mean :)
KLONOA- Just picked this up…eager to get some playtime in today.


Holy FUCK! This Facebook app is amazingly addictive! PLAY THIS NOW! Hell, play all the games from METROGAMES on Facebook. They are all fucking great! Although I have to admit, Pixel Ranger was crazy fun when me and a Facebook buddy were jostling for top score. But my top score is 110,000 and then he goes off and scores lke 350,000 and now- great as the game is- I think I'm kind of done as the competition was a huge motivator to keep playing and I have NO IDEA how I could ever get close to that score. Help me Billy're my only hope!

Ok, enough for now. I think me, the Ex, and possibly her father are gonna go try to find a showing of Food Inc. today before the whole family settles in for the fireworks tonite! We are real lucky that, from a single spot just up the street from our house, we can see 3-5 different firework shows from places all over San Diego!

Have a very safe and very fun 4th for all those who celebrate such things.

Talk soon-