I’m going to talk about something everybody likes talking about, but I’m not going to talk about it in the way most people agree with, or like to hear. If you’re of the belief that violent videogames need to become a relic this might not be a read for you, yet I still respect your opinion.
When I was little, I collected G.I Joes. I thought The Terminator was badass and seeing Kano rip a fighter’s still beating heart out was so cool. On the flip side, I recall seeing news reports of the gulf war. Charred bodies, frozen in their final moments of agony. My blood ran hot, tears started to run down my face and all I could think of is “oh my God. what if that was my Dad? or my Mom?” I began to bawl my eyes out in a terror and sadness I could barely comprehend.
Humans are torn animals. We’re complex enough in our thinking to recognize not all our desires should be pursued. We carry in our DNA remains from nameless ages. Times where terrible acts of murder, rape, thievery and carnage were keys to survival. Thankfully, as we continue to collectively grow, so does our sense of empathy and compassion. We know better, but we don’t always want to BE better. So where are we left to safely handle those remnant visceral urges?
We hunt, we wrestle, we tackle each other in physical contests of endurance, we race vehicles, we engage in consensual sex acts where one partner is subservient to the other in the bedroom, while fully respecting one another as equals once the fantasy ends.
It’s not just fun to pretend, it’s integral. Halloween in the United States moves more individual pieces of merchandise than Christmas and Easter combined. The costume stores stock more adult costumes than children. Pretending is in our blood. It doesn’t magically vanish once we hit 18. We just learn where to place it better.
Nobody has become a chart topping rapper just by playing Parappa The Rapper. Nobody has become a master chef after playing Cooking Mama. While these acts of pretend can be good inspirational tools, they require years and years of dedication, support from friends, and real world experience. Equally, Grand Theft Auto isn’t a hooker murder simulator, and Hotline Miami isn’t a guidebook for how to become a hit man.
Sometimes we like to pretend we’re rock stars. Sometimes we like to pretend we’re plumbers. Sometimes we like to pretend we are bloody wrecking machines. Violent games provide us a safe place to have these experiences. Violence is fun, and despite the violent acts of a handful of psychopathic people, I have faith in the general consensus of humanity’s understanding between reality and fantasy.
As years go on, I truly do hope to see more games that explore human concepts beyond crush, kill, destroy. Conversely, I hope there never comes a day where those baser urges become shamed topics, squashed and stifled into complete silence.
The creepiest people I have ever met are the ones who have tried the hardest to ignore and mask every unpleasant facet or desire of their being. Forgetting to pretend can turn you into a monster hiding.
I love Amon’s work. Looking forward to his new stuff like a finished and realized In The Kingdom.
If you remember, I ordered a custom figure from him this year. :D
master - Game Center CX: Arino no Chousenjou 2
(Indieszero - DS - 2009)
Anonymous said: Completed the latest Tomb Raider for the third time recently, and as much as I like that game I can't help but feel I preferred the platforming and exploration of those games. As a fellow Tomb Raider fan do you pine for the days of that old school Tomb Raider?
Yes. Yes I really do.
Listen, there’s virtue in wanting Tomb Raider to move on, but there are so few AAA games these days that let the player experience the magic that used to happen in that very first Tomb Raider.
1) Few AAA games today let the player feel vulnerable in the way that Tomb Raider allowed. The environments were vast, cavernous, mysterious. Unsettling. Lara’s body was spindly, looked gymnastic yet somehow frail. Her bare skin was showing. The ambient sound was sinister, echoing, quietly insidious. The environments felt somehow claustrophobic and vast at the same time.
2) Tomb Raider used to be full of tension. Many of the elements of early Tomb Raiders, particularly the first and best, had more in common with Resident Evil and survival horror than it does with Uncharted. Animals would leap out at you with no warning; you had trouble navigating and controlling Lara just like Jill Valentine, you were constantly anticipating traps or failing bridges. Bats would take a lot of health off you. Lara’s scream as she fell was unsettling and stinging to the ear. Lara’s deaths were traumatic.
3) Although guns were your main mode of defence, they seemed more like milestones back then than collectibles, and I feel a lot like ammo was much scarcer back then. There was a sense of conservation (although not to the animals). Collecting things seemed difficult and rewarding because there were so few secrets, and they were legitimately hard to find, particularly because the environments were so labyrinthine and full of secret doors and hard-to-find levers. The achievements systems have probably screwed this up, because of the power fantasy emphasis, action games have become more about How Many Guns Can You Ram Into Your Shopping Trolley And Still Push It. Video games have become the fucking Dawn Of The Dead model: commercialist shit, all about how many shinies you can collect and not about what they do and when and why. We just run around environments these days picking up stuff and lobbing it any which way because there’s so much of it. We have become overstimulated babies in a toy shop. There’s value in constraint sometimes. Sometimes you want to have the leather bound classic instead of twenty trashy novels.
4) There was time for wonder. These days in third person action games cutscenes happen, people talk too much, you are airdropped in and you are running from place to place as soon as you get there. There’s no respect for slow pacing because maybe the gamer might suddenly drift to sleep in the ten minutes you’d not had an explosion or someone radioing you to tell you to buck the fuck up. This means that hardly anything narratively speaking is a dramatic high point any more. Because you have no dramatic low point to compare it with. Compare with the excellent opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. There’s no talking for a really long time. It’s about discovery. Then it’s about skill. Then it’s about running the fuck away. There’s hardly any man-on-man violence so that when it happens they emphasise it: the darts in the back.
Indiana Jones’ primary job is to run away. Why are we making Lara Croft confront everything these days? In 1997 I made her run the fuck away.
Look at Journey if you want an example of exceptional pacing: you could do that with an action game, it’s just that no one thinks about it and people focus test it to shit.
I miss walking out into the coliseum arena and knowing some shit was going to go down there, but taking the time to stare in silence anyway. They preserved a lot of this feel in Tomb Raider Anniversary, but that game still wasn’t gloomy enough for me and I felt like a lot of the fear (e.g. the T-Rex moment) had been neutered.
How I’d make an old-school feeling Tomb Raider without making it frustrating or boring
If I were to do it, this is how I’d do it.
1. Invest in environment artists and level design primarily, and get narrative designers in at the start. Plan to have large, gloomy, labyrinthine levels that intimidate the player, that scare the player. Use the Silent Hill method: there’s not usually any kind of enemy over the horizon most of the time, but you think there is and so you’re ready all the time.
2. Lara Croft is a tomb raider. She probably works alone. So keep her alone. The original painted her as a bachelorette. There’s no way she gives two shits about coming home to a man or a woman. This is a person who fucks and leaves. She’s rich: she’s the Bruce Wayne model. And there is nothing well-adjusted about Bruce Wayne or Lara Croft.
3. Understand that Lara Croft doesn’t even need to speak to have her be an interesting person, and so I would make her terse, so that she only speaks when she has to. She raids tombs because she likes the silence. Have her personality come through in the choices available to her. Steve Gaynor used to talk about this: what if a certain action were available to the player that demonstrated what sort of player you wanted to be, choices that change no variables in the game, but that tell you what kind of feeling you should have about it. Steve’s example was you could press a button at certain points to pray, but Lara’d probably take photographs. She’d probably document stuff. She’d probably cover her tracks for people trying to pursue her. Maybe she’d lay traps for the next tomb raiders. Maybe she would decide not to kill anything in the tombs - she’s an archaeologist. Why would she want to eliminate the things she finds on sight?
If you want to introduce other characters, have them be dead on spikes in tombs, and have her recognise them, Alien-style. Or have Lara try to lure her enemies into being dead on spikes in tombs.
4. Man what would I give to have Randy Smith make a Tomb Raider level.
5. Do not start a reboot. Lara Croft has been young and in pigtails a number of times already. We can accept who she is because we have known who she is for a number of years. In many ways she is as ubiquitous as Mario, even outside of video games, and I couldn’t give a fuck how or why a plumber started rescuing a princess from a giant green whatever Bowser is.
6. Make her older. Make her fucked off. Make her weary. Make her bad. Make her the Indiana Jones you see after he thinks Marion’s dead. Make her really quite aware of what she’s doing. Make her the Godfather of games. She knows she’s stealing history and you still admire her. Lara’s not young any more. Why are we treating her like she is? For some dumb idea of female attractiveness? Fuck that shit. Lara’s probably had spikes through every part of her body and I bet she has metal pins holding her limbs together. She’s sturdier than Ripley. You know who I think is a hero? A woman who doesn’t care who thinks she is fuckable. She lives in the dark. Who’s gonna look at her? A mummy?
7. Make the puzzles absolute bastards. And make Lara traverse scary places to solve them.
8. Give her fluid, satisfying hand-to-hand combat. Lara has long legs. She is a rich girl with access to as many trainers as you like. She is built for krav maga. Give her a shotgun and a pistol so that she has them if she needs them. Make ammo scarce. Try not to give her a machine gun unless there’s some sort of implausible set piece at the end of the game. She is a tomb raider. It is implausible that she would be responsible for a large scale massacre, because she would literally rather run away with the goods than stick around to get shot.
9. Terrify the player, but also make them so curious that they can’t possibly switch it off. Bioshock had a pretty nice balance on this because the environment was so interesting you couldn’t possibly switch it off.
10. If you must do it, don’t have the weird supernatural monster ‘reveal’ until near the end. It’s always completely mood-dampening to realise that weird monsters are going to be thrown at you consistently until the end of the game, because you aren’t surprised or scared by them any more. Keep those moments discrete or one-offs. Somehow Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines keeps the supernatural bullshit to a minimum even though you are technically a vampire, and manages to ground most of the things that happen to you on the right side of suspension of disbelief. It also has a quest that has the most terrifying haunted house in the world, but once you’ve left it it seems like a horrible nightmare. This is the right side of the bullshit. Keep it compartmentalised. Use it to make things difficult, not for cannon fodder.
That’s all I can think of right now.
I love Lara and I want her to be well. I am excited for the next one.
You can read my old Gaming Made Me about her here.
"FILM THE POLICE" B. Dolan ft. Toki Wright, Jasiri X, Buddy Peace, Sage Francis #FILMTHEPOLICE
IGDA Webinar, 4 August 2014: Business 101 for Indies with Dan Adelman
VA-11 HALL-A Cyberpunk Bartender Action: Prologue is gold! in gamedev lingo it means it’s ready to ship, we are just sitting on it while we plan some cool stuff for the release. HUGE thanks to testers!
Oh and we have wonderful news…
VA-11 HALL-A is being published by the folks at Ysbryd Games!
Yay! that’s right! we now have a very cool partner that will help us to get this game done and we couldn’t be happier. We can now further polish the game and get more people to play it, please be excited! I know I am lol.
Ysbryd Games is a new cool publisher with some amazing people at charge, you can know more about them at their website.
We have even more exciting news for this little big game in the following days, I’m sure some folks that love playing on the go will totally dig it.
High res: http://37.media.tumblr.com/1b8c223a8e7a09364e979b969ba7efd2/tumblr_n9lqfyQ6jU1qg8i80o1_1280.jpg
Nashville needs more game-creation focused events. We need game jams. We need art installations. We need to get people interested in the interactive medium. We need to expose the development process. We need to teach kids in schools that anyone can express themselves through games.
Having said this, I will not be participating in the “Nedap Game Jam”, and will not be showing up to the regular Friday meetings starting today. I will probably not be returning to them until after the “Nedap Game Jam”. After we had a wonderful conversation about what the right thing to do for the Nashville scene is, he’s made the decision to use the his format as originally intended.
I hope everyone in our scene will at least go into the jam knowing these facts;
- You will not be developing a concept.
- You will be working as a single team.
- You do not own any of the work done during the duration of the Game Jam.
- Exclusive rights to your time spent, assets, designs, music, all of it belongs to “Nedap”.
- You will be signing a contract at the door.
- The Game Jam is being filmed. This would be a positive thing, but I’m not confidant that we’re ready for it quite yet.
I believe this event is toxic, not because of the people involved, but because of the decisions made around it. While the heart of the “Nedap Game Jam” is in the right place, I believe it to be not in the spirit of what Game Jams, or in the spirit of what they are based on (Film Festivals) are about.
Understanding this, I hope you’ll be able to make an educated decision about whether or not to participate in the game jam. If you do participate, good luck and have fun! I look forward to seeing whatever comes out of it.
Game Jams are about bringing people together to celebrate the act of creation. A microcosmic simulation of what full development is. Things made during jams usually never see the light of day. They don’t always have to. They exist to help you get better at your art, at your craft. If something amazing comes out of a jam, then maybe you consider working on it more with the people you met there. That’s a beautiful and amazing thing.
Nashville needs amazing things. Nashville needs us to show them that games are meaningful. That they are the sum total of all arts, of all forms of expression before them, but made interactive.
The Nedap Game Jam is counter to the soul of free and open creation, but I know it’s not intentional.
While writing this quick post, someone I often disagree with made wrote a completely poignant tweet.
THE WORK YOU DO IS VALID,
THE WORK YOU DO IS HARD.
THE WORK YOU DO DESERVES PAY.
STOP DOING ‘FAVORS’ FOR PEOPEL RICHER THAN YOU— daphny (@daphaknee)July 19, 2014