Infused with passion by reading two books of Transmetropolitan (somebody turn that into an overbudget comic book movie), I’d figured I’d comment on Jon Blow’s MIGS talk this year. Specifically, he compares the games industry to the fast food industry, over-focused on delivering superficial experiences that in their most potent form encourage the formation of addictive behavior.
This isn’t just games, of course (although maybe we suffer from it more acutely right now), but lots of media. I don’t know, maybe most people just don’t suffer as severely from the cognitive dissonance created by seeing the headlines of Britney Spears’ personal problems in the big print, and war headlines in the small print. Despite working at EA for almost a year now, my own cognitive dissonance has yet been that impaired, I swear.
One could almost even imagine an end of the world scenario whereby society delves further and further into these superficial pursuits, resulting in the populace slowly growing fatter, stupider, and more simple minded. You might even call this a plush a… ah, nevermind. What was I saying?
So what’s the solution? Well, much like honest to goodness lung choking pollution, you gotta start somewhere – personal responsibility. The only thing you have control of (one hopes) is yourself. Beyond basic bodily functions, don’t work on the projects you don’t want to work on. Sure, you gotta get paid, and compromises have to get made along the way. No one’s saying you’ve got to convert your car to biodiesel and live in the woods, but every recycled soda can helps, right?
For some people, holding themselves accountable for the games they make means working a day job and toiling late nights alone. For others, it means working your way up through slow improvements in the projects you work on, gaining the credibility & network you need to better work on the projects you feel are a positive contribution. Whatever you try to do, every little bit helps.
But there’s two problems: one is just trying to make games that aim to be more mentally nutritious. The other is actually communicating why they’re of value to people eating the equivalent of tasty, tasty cheesburgers. Someone who walks into McDonald’s with no knowledge of the nutritional value of the food is going to chow down. They have to get that information from somewhere, and it’s got to be convincing. Even Al Gore knew he had to make a movie to make powerpoint on global warming sexy.
It seems like there’s a bit of frustration going around from developers trying to do that. Harvey Smith, in his “exit interview”, accepted personal responsibility for the problems of Blacksite 51, but at the same time expressed his frustration about how certain aspects of the game weren’t seen in the light he would have liked. Jeff Minter’s livejournal post about the reception of his Space Giraffe vs. Frogger was taking as a bunch of whining by teh intarnetz, but it’s pretty clear from reading the post itself he was just frustrated that he wasn’t able to communciate why his own game was better to those players.
So 98% fat free, no trans fats, won’t cause anal leakage – I don’t know what the comparable solution is, but I know looking for it just as hard a challenge as making the games themselves. Talking about it is at least a start, I guess. Maybe we need special channels on services like XBLA, as Michaël Samyn suggests on Tale of Tales. Although ghetto-izing them isn’t the answer, if they were made more of a status symbol… It worked for hybrids, at least.
Oh well, I guess I’ll go watch an epsiode of Ow! My Balls!