Monday, May 7, 2012

GDC 2012 thoughts

reposted from Robert Yang's blog (with some edits here and there)

i'm still reeling from my first time at GDC. on the one hand, i felt it was some sort of dream come true. it was this far-off ambition of mine to go to GDC, and i actually made it there! but now that that feeling has worn off, i still can't get over how upsetting it was to feel like a spy into an event based around a thing i've loved my whole life. i know that most people who work in games probably got into it for the same reasons i'm getting into it. these are people who have chosen to devote their lives to videogames when they could have chosen a much more "serious" profession, which is very honorable (of course i know plenty of other people get into it because it's a business that makes money). and it's not as if my love of games is better or more pure than theirs because i'm an "indie" and they're not, because it isn't. some indies may honestly believe that, but i really don't.

there's just a barrier that exists because of the culture. even though i grew up among people who lived and breathed games, and idolizing game industry figures, being in that world is now far outside of the realm of possibility for me. it requires buying into a set of values that i can now see with clear eyes as hollow at best and evil at worst. i grew up, put games aside, got into film and other kinds of art, had serious life changes and went through some major soul-searching, and now i'm as far as anyone could be from being a part of the culture of videogames. now i'm an "other". game culture has no interest in me anymore - in fact, it's hostile to me, if it's even aware of my existence. i'm starting to understand how someone like Dani Bunten must have felt. what must it have been like to go from one of the most respected game designers in the world to a target of complete dismissal and hatred, forced to the fringes just because of one choice she made with her life?

seeing this is just another reason why i feel that i don't trust the culture and it's very difficult for me, emotionally, to call myself a participant in a thing like GDC (even as an "indie") without feeling like i'm part of the problem. i don't want to be part of a culture that empowers misogynists, bullies, and bigots, even if it is based around a thing i love. i see an underlying emptiness that seems to color every action of the people involved with videogames now. how much do people who are part of this culture really know or understand about other human beings? probably not a lot.

i guess that's why i find this whole thing disturbing. what has happened to cause these barriers? what have the games, themselves, been doing to contribute to that? why am i in such a different place than all of this now? is this really something i want to support, or be at all part of? i guess it's just a reality that most people who have been around GDC are well aware of, but this year it was entirely new to me.

i am glad about the constant debates/arguments that happen in indie circles. it's extremely important for people to be able to air their frustrations in an open setting and have them not completely dismissed. that's why i hate it when some of the more successful indies dismiss oftentimes valid complaints as just jealousy.

i am a bit scared, though, that a lot of indies don't seem to embody any values that are different from the ones espoused in the industry. many are still in it to make a product, even if there's a bit more personality in that product. i feel like that's why there are a lot of games based around mechanics-based gimmicks with values that are no different from those of triple-A games. it starts to feel like they're just there to be a selling point for the game and not so much to break new ground. and then on the other end, if something as agonizingly heavy-handed as "Dear Esther" is what most people see as a deep, emotionally-resonant experience than i think we have a long way to go on that front as well. 

but at least some sort of alternative exists now. and there were also many bright spots at GDC; "Proteus", "At A Distance" etc etc. are a very good indication that things are starting to change, even if it's not a change i could have any context for on my first time there.
i am also glad that people are taking Anna's book seriously - that's one step of many needed to make a world of videogames that i might actually feel proud to call myself a part of.

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