GDC: Day 5
Friday was the last day of GDC and my body clock had finally adjusted (more or less) to California time. Which means that I actually made it to a morning session (although not the 9am session). The talks I attended were:
- The last minute or so of Emil Pagliarulo’s keynote for the Game Careers Seminar
- The Game Critics Rant
- The Dating Game
- Real Time Research
- Games Have Feelings Too!
It’s amazing how much more content you get when you arrive before lunchtime. I should remember that for the future.
I only attended Emil’s presentation to get a chance to put a face to his name and meet him afterwards. I can’t deny that I am a Fallout 3 fanboy, but I also wanted to speak to him about the work of a student I am supervising. Dan Staines is writing his PhD thesis on videogames as a vehicle for moral education. He is currently writing a paper analysing the moral choices offered by a variety of games, including Fallout 3. He is writing for a philosophical audience but I think his insights would be useful for game designers.
Talking about this with Emil, he said that in Fallout 3 they began with an emphasis on clear black-vs-white moral choices backed up by the Karma system, but in the later stages of the design they moved more towards morally grey areas, especially in the newly released expansion The Pitt. I’m definitely going to have to try out this extension if that is that case.
The game critics rant was interesting. I can’t exactly match the names on the program to the topics they spoke about, but as far as I remember they covered: the poor quality of writing in game criticism (especially the overuse of ‘compelling’ and ‘visceral’); the embarassing representations of race in games; the foolishness of assigning numerical ranking to games and the way such rankings are taken by Meta-Critic; and the dysfunctional relationships between developers, critics and players (explained by Leigh Alexander with the aid of soft toys).
The most uncomfortable rant of all was Heather Chaplin’s “You aren’t men. You are stunted adolescents.” denunciation of the games community’s obsession with escapist power fantasies. The youth of the discipline, she said, is no longer a valid excuse. Games are over 35 years old, an age at which film was making much more mature content than we can claim.
It was a bitter pill to swallow, and I will be interested to see what response it provokes. Personally I would be hard pressed to make a strong counterargument.
I’m going to stop here as I’ve been sitting at my laptop too long. I’ll write more on the other events later.