Friday, March 27, 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-



Anonymous said...

Woah. Someone just had their ass handed to them. I think she's the one being immature, not being able to accept that games are a successful medium and not every freaking thing in life has to be a damn moral/lesson giving medium.

Anonymous said...

Why even make the comparison to citizen kane? Can you name a book or tv show that would be the citizen kane of those mediums? The difference is about budget and risk. Books > movies/tv > games in terms of this.

Plus we play games for fun, we enjoy the ridiculous things like hiding in a box. Who wants to play a game like citizen kane? It's not a fun concept. Plus games cant get away with adult themes like movies and tv can. I'd love to see something like pregnancy addressed in a game, but it'd hardly be suitable when the standard gameplay involves killing things.

da criminal said...

I think games CAN be about things that are NOT killing. I think in some ways that is her point and it's a valid, good point.

But it doesn't make the games that are currently the mainstays of the industry any less because they are not trying to deal with heavier topics.

TrevDogg said...

yea those comments show she has no understanding of the industry at all. how does she expect us to do this? and how does it negate our manhood? all i can say to her if this is true is GO FUCK YOURSELF! game journalists are the "cool" guys like u mention dave and game devs are the "band geeks" xD good stuff. imo i hate gaming journalism now a days, it makes me want to major in journalism so i can fix this :-D but fuck that i want to major in business.

Unknown said...

I didn't get to see you at GDC...awww maann..

Kilrahi said...

I think those of us stuck in the "serious" jobs of the world are eternally grateful for people out there like yourself who create amazing worlds where we can relax and just blow shit up for a night.

I don't think all forms of entertainment need a complex deep meaning at its core, and truth be told, the best ways to unwind probably never touch that kind of depth. Thank God.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised if she unfriends you on facebook to try to avoid you. She really had no right to say those things.

Anonymous said...

If Heather has a problem with the game industry why does she not go make this meaningful game developers were suppose to have made already and stop bitching. Really, what has she done for this industry or anything else? NOTHING! Heather, you're the one who is the adolescent here, get that through your head.

Anonymous said...

That was AWESOME! What a great read. Man, where were you when Ebert was spouting his hatred for games?

Thomas Grové said...

I attended that rant session. I was offended by Heather's rant and went up to her after the presentation to present my critique and counterpoints. When I went up to the front of the room there was a female developer from DoubleFine who was even more upset than me and giving Heather an earful.

Heather's point was well taken, but it totally neglected the fact that games have had their equivalent of a Fritz Lang and that films still have power fantasies, etc. Beyond those technicalities, her statements about developer maturity were derogatory.

Bryant said...

Well written, Jaffe. Clearly the purpose of these "Burning Fire" rants is to be hyperbolic and controversial. I don't know if that's good or bad, but I think anything that comes out of these presentations needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

Heather said many things, but I think she simply wants people to evolve the primal and barbaric game mechanics seen in products like Gears of War or God of War.

The industry is full of brilliant people, as you said. But guns and bullets are easy to model and simulate. Social dynamics are not. So why are we wasting our problem solving talent on violent game mechanics when there are much bigger and more interesting challenges to be solved?

I'm pretty sick of the Citizen Kane comparison; I don't think it adds anything to the conversation. But I do feel that if you look at the verbs we've given players from the birth of video games to today, you'll agree that our vocabulary hasn't grown all that much.

Video games are adept at exploring physical relationships and patterns of behaviour. Where are our sex games? Where are our games about the husband who always leaves the toilet seat up? What games explore the use of body language, or the physicality of fleeing a pursuer while you're carrying your newborn baby? These are hard concepts to tackle. But how could you call yourself a game designer or software engineer if you don't love solving hard problems?

Maybe Heather's "call to action" shouldn't have been "Grow Up and Act Your Age," but instead should have been "Quit Wasting Time on the Boring Problems, Step Up to the Plate, and Start Working on the Really Hard Stuff!"

Briankbl said...

Jaffe............I love you lol

If there is one thing that people respect about you most, it is your honesty. I have always been a fan of yours and really enjoy your blog.

Thank you for always being YOU. We all really appreciate it.

Have a good one, David.


Anonymous said...

Her rant was way out of line. Hitting below the belt. And for what? And if to show motivation she means to put forth a metaphorical mirror in front of the faces within the industry to display how poorly the business has become? If so that's not how it's done.

With incompetent remarks, as those that have passed the lips of Ms. Chaplin, she obviously has no clue as to how the industry functions; nor does she know the hard work that is put into a game with many hours, weeks, months, and years, of a person's life spent in the dedication to their products just to be called kids. If it wasn't for the great minds within this industry there simply wouldn't be much of technological entertainment.

And entertainment is what video games are. It's not meant to be anything other than entertainment. Sure some of the guys are immature, in some aspects, but it's not that important enough to call them out on it for seemingly no particular reason than to menstruate all over the industry with no repercussions, which will come shortly when she opens her email inbox flooding with all the hate from gamers, men and women alike.

This reporter is way out of touch of what the gaming industry is about (that seems to be the theme as of late in this country). Why is she even here?

da criminal said...

Bryant, my biggest issue with Heather's rant was her assumption that just because she doesn't like what I like, I am less of a man for it. If that really was her thesis then she needed to back it up versus just dropping a shitty insulting attack.

I have never said that games can't be about other things than what they are currently about on a surface or gameplay level.

What I HAVE said tho is, I make the games that make me happy. I step up to the plate every fucking day to make games I love, the team loves, and that we think our customers will love. It's not like we REALLY want to make a game about sex and human dynamics. We don't! And that doesn't make us adolescents it just makes us ADULTS who don't want to make a game about sex and human dynamics.

Plus, I am not convinced games can really be about those things in a meaningful way that impacts the audience. Perhaps they can, perhaps not. But the fact that there have been 4000 years of board and card games before Pong hit and in all that time, can you name a game that is ABOUT something other than the pure mechanics? And I mean ABOUT something in a way that is clear to your average person without explaining that chess is a metaphor for war, GO is a metaphor for life,etc. That may very well be, but when you get to that level of metaphorical abstraction, your arguments become so subjective that they are not useful in this context.

Not saying games can NOT do all the things you are suggesting, but beats the hell out of me how to do it and right now, I'm just not that interested in figuring that out. That makes me a child?!? Sheesh.


Unknown said...

I think there is still a valid point some where in her rant, but I think she got side tracked by goodness knows what.

As a grown man I enjoy many things, and I enjoy many aspects of women, but I still have an issue with every woman in a video game is sexy, curvy, and has breasts the size of a HEMI. Same thing plagues comic books, and I don't understand it. Honestly why do we even wonder why so few women bother to buy/play video games? They're already assaulted with so many things that make them think so little of themselves, and here games do the same thing.

Why don't we hear that story, instead accusing an entire industry - as well as it's customers - as extended adolescents.

da criminal said...

tdh- I hear you and agree to an extent but our industry is not much different from other industries in its portrayal of women (as limited as games can be in conveying people at all...we're still in the icon stage of portraying people no matter how good they start to look).

But there ARE probably as many realistic women in games- if not more- as there are in movies. What women in movies are portrayed realistically? Lots of sex being sold there as well.

But games have Alyx from HL2, Jade from Beyond Good and Evil, Yorda from ICO, the women from Prince of Persia, the woman from Unchartred, and for all her T&A Lara Croft is still a strong female character.

jaszhix said...


Even if she thinks games are immature its strange to see someone calling them self an adult trying to level an entire group of people with personal insults.

Miguel said...

Just when I was starting to get fed up with your random rants, you post this goodness and remind me of why you're still one of my favorite people in the industry.

Anonymous said...

Wait, Gears of War is about a guy who tries to save his father, but can't.

Wasn't Cliffy B a teenager when he got the news that his father had died of a heart attack on the golf course? Wasn't Cliffy B playing a video game at the time?

She...doesn't see any sort of connection between the two, or thinks it's not "grown up" to address the fantasy of being a powerful enough adolescent to keep your father from dying?

Hexfix93 said...

I can see both sides.

I think video games in general are really bad intellectually. Yeah that does piss me off. But i still have fun with the mechanics.

I see games the same way i saw my toys when I was a kid, I used to have radio controlled cars. We used to play guns. I didn't need a big story or reason to want to race, or shoot when it comes to play time.

Sure heavy rain and some others will probably make this a lot better intellectually. But man, if i want to sit down and have fun, I'm not going to want to watch the joy luck club or grave of the fire flies. Give me a break.

Hexfix93 said...

I can see both sides.

I think video games in general are really bad intellectually. Yeah that does piss me off. But i still have fun with the mechanics.

I see games the same way i saw my toys when I was a kid, I used to have radio controlled cars. We used to play guns. I didn't need a big story or reason to want to race, or shoot when it comes to play time.

Sure heavy rain and some others will probably make this a lot better intellectually. But man, if i want to sit down and have fun, I'm not going to want to watch the joy luck club or grave of the fire flies. Give me a break.

Déjà D'être said...

............citizen a comparison............with the video-gaming industry. really can't do that.

PLAYING A VIDEO GAMING and WATCHING A MOVIE are two completely different things.

If she's talking about why games aren't as "artistic" with symbolism and stuff as Citizen Kane was umm...well that's simply because as Jaffe said...WE DON'T WANT THEM TO BE.

I mean sure they can have that sometimes, Metal Gear Solid usually has that sort of thing, but in the end people don't want to see their video game turn into a movie. BECAUSE IT'S A VIDEO GAME!!! You interact with it...and you're supposed to have F U N with it!!! You don't freaking play it to say ZOMG...look at the camera angle in that one cutscene oh wow that's amazing...this is a truly groundbreaking experience. The more fun and fun video games get...the more and more the gaming industry is advancing.

So is the gaming industry filled with little dogs?'s filled with wolves and growing dogs.

LitViews said...

Its a great counter, just add a little piece of HTML script to your blog and your done...

And hey can you email me at...

I'd like to talk to you about an interview, and if your not interested, or to busy its cool.

sjschmidt93 said...

Very nice response to that rant, Jaffe. Well played, sir, well played.

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GoldenPigsy said...

I know this is a bit late, but I didn't even know that Mr. Jaffe had a blog until very recently, please forgive my tardiness.

The last home console I bought was a PS2, I was sixteen at the time. I haven't bought a new console (although my friends own every available console and handheld with all of the "important" games) and I don't plan to. And it's not because I've outgrown games or am no longer interested in them; it's because I've grown tired of the games that are being made right now.

I can commiserate with Heather Chaplin -- even though she clearly missed the mark in parts of her rant -- because I will seriously flip the shit out if I have to save one more generic JRPG fantasy world, make one more meaningless "moral" decision in a blatantly obvious "choice and consequence" dialogue branch, shoot one more alien, nazi, or terrorist in the head, or play another rhythm based sex minigame. If I have to sit through one more cheesy, poorly written and directed cinematic sequence (whether rendered in game engine or cgi, or anime) I will puke my displeasure all over the place.

Game developers might not be adolescent, but their subject matter and their tastes certainly are. That isn't a problem in and of itself -- there's obviously an audience of men with expendable income that don't have families or girlfriends or investment decisions to worry about that will happily pay for it, hence the industry's continued growth even in the middle of recession. However, you've long lost me as a customer. I don't play the sort of games you develop. Not anymore, at least.

You're probably wondering what any of this really has to do with Miss Chaplin's rant. Like you I don't believe in games as art (although I await the first one that can genuinely claim that title), and that's why I can't stand the preposterous, unavoidable and often roundly praised crap that is heralded as this generations greatest contributions to gaming.

I tried playing Mass Effect at a friend's behest, and was shocked to find that the developers behind Baldur's Gate had basically made a lame shooter with some extraneous role playing elements and a ridiculous "choose your own adventure" space opera plot. As I played, I asked my friend about the gameplay -- whether or not the character stats would eventually start to matter -- and all he talked about was the graphics and story. I stopped playing Star Ocean 3 after sitting through roughly forty minutes of awful dialogue. I loved the previous games in that series, and at least the dialogue never lasted so long that I cared how awful it was.

If game developers don't want to be called out on the crappy stories you tell, on the adolescent wish fulfillment that informs the endless barrage of games that continue to come out, then quit trying to make movies out of your games. Make games, don't tell stories, and don't make movies. You will be judged by the standards of what you try to compete with. All of the childish fixation on big guns and boobs was fine before the accompanying "story" became an inescapable part of the gaming experience.

If you game developers are going to treat your product as a story telling medium, step up your game, or learn to live with the charge of adolescence, because I cannot think of a single game with a competent, adult narrative that wasn't undermined by fixation on violence or sexuality.

Also: video game novelizations suck.

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