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GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 14: OnLive, Co-Op on Resident Evil 5 and Do Game Developers Need to Grow Up?

Tim Spaeth's picture

Is the game industry in a state of arrested development? We present our take on Heather Chaplin's incendiary GDC presentation. Plus, the proliferation of co-op, the viability of OnLive, and lessons learned from Leisure Suit Larry. With Chi Kong Lui, Mike Bracken, David Stone, and Tim Spaeth.

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Platform(s): Xbox 360   Wii   PS3   Nintendo DS  
Key Creator(s): Shigeru Miyamoto   Peter Molyneux  
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Movies, Music, Videogames

I just wanted to comment on the part of the podcast where Mike I believe was talking about Heather Chaplin. I can't help but feel like he dwelt too much on the comparisons that she drew upon, and not the central argument, which is that games are still too wrapped up in male power fantasy. Whether or not her comparisons stood (I would agree that they didn't), her point is still valid and needs addressing.

Mike later made a point that he didn't feel the need to explain the merit of games to those who weren't interested in it, in the same way that no one needs to explain to him the appeal of Romantic Comedies. But the thing about that is Romantic Comedies is a sub-genre of movies. There are still tons of movies out there for any kind of person to see and to like. Games aren't like that, I would argue that IS a fault of the medium.

Videogames aren't the only genre that has a ton of best-selling lowest-common-denominator material. It is, however, the only one where almost the entire catalog of popular, low brow products are adolescent male fantasies. And I think there's nothing wrong with calling the industry out on that.

And just a small correction, Madworld wasn't from Suda 51. It was from platinum games, which is the current incarnation of Clover.

Podcast Stuff

OnLive has the possibility of stopping the much slower rat race of the console cycles as well as constant computer upgrades. You won't have to worry about the PS4 or Xbox 720 or WiiHD if this idea suddenly takes off in the way they're hoping it will.

In regards to Chaplin, I chose to take her confrontational and incendiary tone as a way to draw attention to what she was ranting about. You also need to take into context the panel she used: "Burned by Friendly Fire: Game Critics Rant." The panelists are encouraged to talk angrily (rant) about things in the industry that they find annoying (it's advertised in the same way on the GDC website). The tone she had fits into the panel she was apart of, so complaining about her being to harsh or unfair (when she was supposed to be) feels a little off. Otherwise, I appreciate you guys not resorting to calling her a feminazi or other such nonsense.

boy wrote: And just a small

boy wrote:

And just a small correction, Madworld wasn't from Suda 51. It was from platinum games, which is the current incarnation of Clover.

Funny behind-the-scenes story: I actually originally had this right, but I wasn't sure and I asked for verification from the group who convinced me it was Suda 51 and not Clover Studios. Curse you guys! ;-)

Hargrada wrote:

In regards to Chaplin, I chose to take her confrontational and incendiary tone as a way to draw attention to what she was ranting about. You also need to take into context the panel she used: "Burned by Friendly Fire: Game Critics Rant." The panelists are encouraged to talk angrily (rant) about things in the industry that they find annoying (it's advertised in the same way on the GDC website). The tone she had fits into the panel she was apart of, so complaining about her being to harsh or unfair (when she was supposed to be) feels a little off. Otherwise, I appreciate you guys not resorting to calling her a feminazi or other such nonsense.

I think we all got that and said as much on the show. I just thought it wasn't a good strategy and I agree with Mike when he said it backfired in many ways because while many people are talking about it, almost everybody is talking about the wrong thing. I don't quite get the logic of how deeming something a "rant" gives someone the license to make inaccurate, misleading and questionable statements and not be taken to task for it. You have guys like David Jaffe defending his adulthood by saying he's responsibly raising two children. He does also make a decent case for why he makes exactly the type of games that Chaplin dismisses. Jaffe's comments of GoW mirror that of David Stone's nearly word for word. I think we stuck to topic as best we could given the circumstances and there's more content for bonus episode that takes the discussion a little further as well. Tim will perhaps elaborate on that in his usual post mortem on the show.

Stuff

I don't think what she said shouldn't be challenged or questioned, only that a lot of times the discussions that people have about the topic can be broken down to simply "I sorta agree with what she said, but she didn't have to be so mean about it!" Which I see as being counter-productive.

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

I just thought it wasn't a good strategy and I agree with Mike when he said it backfired in many ways because while many people are talking about it, almost everybody is talking about the wrong thing.

Did it really backfire though? The other speakers on the panel didn't get half as much talk after the fact as Chaplin did. Are a lot of people focusing on the wrong points of her rant? Of course, but i'm not so sure it would play out that differently if she'd been "nicer" about it.

I'm inclined to agree

I'm inclined to agree here.

A lot of people feel a need to defend the industry even when they agree wholeheartedly with the criticism aimed at it. It happens when Jack Thompson pops up, it happens when their mom, dad or other relatives criticize it or them for spending so much time on gaming and it happens when someone close to the industry takes it to task.

Chaplin went to a panel where you rant. She voiced an opinion on whatever she had a beef with. I don't see why everyone needs a criticism to turn into a thesis paper, complete with quotes, notations and a bibliography.

How seriously would it have been--would anyone even pay attention--if it could be boiled down to: "The games industry already has many great quality titles and luminaries making them... it just needs more"?

I think people, including some of the people here, need to get over that and just have the discussion about the content of her rant.

Enough already

She hit things spot on. Look at the comments on the page you linked to about her rant:

http://g4tv.com/thefeed/blog/post/694389/GDC-2009-Smartbomb-Author-Heather-Chaplin-Tells-Game-Designers-To-Grow-Up.html

'get back in the kitchen'

'Guy's make these games because they don't have a woman's emotional roller coaster getting in the way.'

The list goes on and on. The fact is that there are a lot of self-entitled, sexist douchebags in the gaming world who get their panties in a bunch any time someone points out how stupid their video games are. The worst part is at no point did she say "stop making adolescent male power fantasies into games". She was just saying "make other kinds of games too"! But that's not enough for these whiny little brats, whose masculinity is challenged as soon as a woman has the gall to suggest that the video game medium has more potential than the endless parade of FPS clones out there.

Well I'm sick of it. I'm sick of these pansies making all men look bad with their ridiculous behavior. They're not real men - they're little boys. Real men aren't afraid to hear what a woman has to say. Real men can disagree with a woman without putting down her entire gender. And real men can appreciate a wide variety of games, including BUT NOT LIMITED TO hack-n-slash and shoot-em-up. And it's the real men like me who get the real women - who are able to enjoy games like Gears of War but still recognize how much bigger (and how much better) the world of games could be.

Various Comments

OnLive: According to Wikipedia, there actually is an OnLive console called the MicroConsole.

I think there's great convenience and economics supporting OnLive, but I'm worried that it could permanently slow games down. When internet connections get better, the bandwidth goes up, but latency doesn't really go down, unless the servers are extremely close to the consumer. The twitchiest games on the market require some responses of 16 ms, but in online games, 100 ms is about as good as it gets. Input lag has also been a significant problem for HDTVs. How committed is OnLive to putting numerous servers close to customers, and working with telecoms to keep latency low?

Co-op: Does co-op go in and out of vogue? I remember it being very popular in the late 80s with Contra, Ninja Turtles, etc. Then it went out in the 1990s when Street Fighter 2 and Doom made multiplayer all about versus play. I'm a couple years behind the latest games, but apparently co-op is the rage again?

Games too male/adolescent: I agree that casual gaming, especially the Wii, shows that gaming is growing far beyond the stunted male base. Everybody buy Wii Sports Resort!

If you don't want to compare video games to art forms, try comparing video games to spectator sports. Halo is mainly about team vs team play. Maybe multiplayer games will finally draw a large viewing TV audience. The thing is, traditional specator sports are still very male and macho, but they're not about "killin', drugs and genatalia", at least not on the surface. Maybe that's enough to allay criticism?

I think it's more valid to compare video games to other art forms when you're talking about Japanese games, because most of the games that emphasize movie-like qualities (storytelling, aesthetics, music and cutscenes) over gameplay come from Japan. The reason for this is simple: America has Hollywood, so anytime someone in America wants to put a story on a screen, they go to Hollywood. Japan never had such a strong movie export industry, but their game companies have great creative, technical and marketing talent, so when somebody like Hideo Kojima or Hironobu Sakaguchi wants to put a story on a screen and get it seen worldwide, they figure out how to make that story as a video game.

Wow that one guy sounds

Wow that one guy sounds exactly like Kermit the frog.

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Episode 14: After the Show

In which your humble podcast producer shares riveting behind-the-scenes tales and secrets, Oprah-style.

This week we were excited to welcome back Mr. David Stone, who would play an instrumental role (get it?) in my Grand Plan for the Heather Chaplin segment. I wanted to take advantage of having both David and Mike on to dismantle Chaplin's comparison of the games industry to the music and film industries, and they both nailed it.

In retrospect, we probably bit off more than we could chew, because my the time we got to the second part of my Grand Plan, that being our segment on Chaplin's main point, we'd already been talking about her for 20 minutes. Chi, David, and Mike were fantastic, but I kind of buried the lead in trying to pull off my Grand Plan.

I mention all this because believe it or not, I cut nearly 70 minutes out of the show, which I'll be publishing as the very first GameCritics.com Podcast Bonus Episode. We're taking a few weeks off while I tend to my new baby (coming Wednesday!!) but we didn't want to leave you without something to listen to. Included in that 70 minutes, among other things, is a great piece by David on how casual games relate to Chaplin's talk. We also each answered the "What Is the Citizen Kane of Games?" question. Despite our uniformly rejecting the premise of that question, it's still a fun discussion to have.

I also want to apologize to Chi, who knew exactly who developed Madworld but nevertheless we all insisted he say it was Suda 51. Too bad none of us had any sort of global information network at our fingertips to verify the accuracy of our claim. Sorry Chi.

With that, I'm off to meet Gayle and Steadman for a massage. I'll see you in a week or so, in what I presume will be a sleep-deprived delirium. Thanks for listening and keep on commenting!

PS -- the GameCritics.com Podcast iTunes review page sure looks empty....

Boy wrote: Mike later made

Boy wrote:

Mike later made a point that he didn't feel the need to explain the merit of games to those who weren't interested in it, in the same way that no one needs to explain to him the appeal of Romantic Comedies. But the thing about that is Romantic Comedies is a sub-genre of movies. There are still tons of movies out there for any kind of person to see and to like. Games aren't like that, I would argue that IS a fault of the medium.

That was a bad example on my part because I wasn't trying to make a film comparison but rather just pointing out something that I don't like in general. It could have just as well been "I don't need people to explain the appeal of butterscotch candy to me"--I don't like it, but I can accept that other people do.

Casual vs Guy-centric Games

boy wrote:

Videogames aren't the only genre that has a ton of best-selling lowest-common-denominator material. It is, however, the only one where almost the entire catalog of popular, low brow products are adolescent male fantasies. And I think there's nothing wrong with calling the industry out on that.

Have you been to your local Game Stop lately. The shelves are more over run with Carnival mini-games and petz sims for the Wii than guy-centric games.

Dale Weir wrote:

How seriously would it have been--would anyone even pay attention--if it could be boiled down to: "The games industry already has many great quality titles and luminaries making them... it just needs more"?

I think people, including some of the people here, need to get over that and just have the discussion about the content of her rant.

I don't think any of us said that she shouldn't have attacked the maturity level of game developers. We did say that she needed to bring in a broader look at gaming history and a more accurate representation of the overall games industry (i.e. casual games) so she doesn't get written off as some sort of bitter fem-nazi, which is exactly what happened.

Agreed with Chi. This

Agreed with Chi. This podcast is going to be like Blade Runner: Director's Cut. Wait until you hear what didn't make the initial run. I think it will spur further discussion, and should hopefully be as fun to listen to as it was to talk about.

None of us disagreed with the premise that many of the top attention-getting games (i.e. Gears of War, God of War, GTA) are machismo-filled games. But, like the news, big booms sell. There's lots going on in the industry (I went on a big tangent about casual games that unfortunately didn't make the cut; I think Tim said that it would be in the bonus podcast) and she never went across the hall to see it.

What is the relevance of "big booms sell"?

David Stone wrote:

None of us disagreed with the premise that many of the top attention-getting games (i.e. Gears of War, God of War, GTA) are machismo-filled games. But, like the news, big booms sell. There's lots going on in the industry (I went on a big tangent about casual games that unfortunately didn't make the cut; I think Tim said that it would be in the bonus podcast) and she never went across the hall to see it.

Dave, I'm still not seeing the relevance of "big booms sell." Who is selling what to whom? What does big sales and hype have to do with Chaplin's point that game developers need to grow up?

Transformers Movie was not crappy

And Mike, Transformers was not a crappy movie! ;-)

Immaturity

There's a lot of immature garbage coming out in the industry, no question. I also have no doubt there are a fair amount of attitudes that Chaplin describes within the industry. But remember that these games are multi-million dollar productions with tons of marketing behind them that pushes it towards the exact type of person that Chaplin is referring to.

So let's face it, games like this will continue to sell because people want it and are buying it, not because the industry has some burning desire to produce it. So while I agree with Chaplin's claims of a "stunted adolescent" attitude within many games, let's shift at least some of the blame off the industry and onto the culture of consumers who buy them.

Richard answered this quite

Richard answered this quite well before I could get here, but essentially, "big booms sell" (like I said in the deleted footage) means that it - big booms - has both marketshare and mindshare of the industry right now. Which games are ALWAYS in the mainstream news? Sure, you get the occasional news bite about Wii Fit, but reporters are still referencing the original Mortal Kombat from the early 90s!

The adolescent games and gaming ideals are the ones that grab regular folks more than, say, the latest version of Dream Chronicles (which, btw, is poised to sell buckets in the next few days). This is due to the general ignorance of what's actually going on in the industry right now. You yourself said, "Have you been to your local Game Stop lately. The shelves are more over run with Carnival mini-games and petz sims for the Wii than guy-centric games." And yet, the fact that this is out there - for better or for worse, which is another discussion - seemed to fly completely under the radar for Chaplin. She didn't look across the hall to see the other paradigm in gaming: the one that has no interest in blowing things up while groping a giant boob.

Granted, it does seem like the pendulum has to swing to either side of the spectrum right now, but that's all part and parcel of gaming still trying to figure itself out. (This was, of course, a big part of what Chaplin was attacking, saying that gaming wasn't a new medium; Mike and I put an end to that.) We couldn't even come to a consensus on what criteria a "Citizen Kane of Gaming" meant, so how the hell are we supposed to find all the sub-genres that Chaplin wants us to find?

Notice that she NEVER suggested any alternatives (whereas we, contentious though they may be, did). All she cares about are the games that grab the headlines, and in the mainstream consciousness, appear to crystallize our medium and seem to sell the most, whether or not it's actually happening. And she should know better.

David Stone wrote: The

David Stone wrote:

The adolescent games and gaming ideals are the ones that grab regular folks more than, say, the latest version of Dream Chronicles (which, btw, is poised to sell buckets in the next few days). This is due to the general ignorance of what's actually going on in the industry right now. You yourself said, "Have you been to your local Game Stop lately. The shelves are more over run with Carnival mini-games and petz sims for the Wii than guy-centric games." And yet, the fact that this is out there - for better or for worse, which is another discussion - seemed to fly completely under the radar for Chaplin. She didn't look across the hall to see the other paradigm in gaming: the one that has no interest in blowing things up while groping a giant boob.

Whether or not its due to ignorance, you are in a backwards kind of way justifying what Chaplin saying. Unfortunately, the perception is often the reality so even if its not an 100% accurate picture of the industry, she's right to make the point based on the perception. Which is why I don't understand your point about "booms sell."

To play a little devil's advocate, I could also argue that Chaplin perhaps only concerned with taking the "leaders of the game industry" to task.

Chi Kong Lui wrote: Whether

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Whether or not its due to ignorance, you are in a backwards kind of way justifying what Chaplin saying. Unfortunately, the perception is often the reality so even if its not an 100% accurate picture of the industry, she's right to make the point based on the perception. Which is why I don't understand your point about "booms sell."

To play a little devil's advocate, I could also argue that Chaplin perhaps only concerned with taking the "leaders of the game industry" to task.

Not at all. To simply say "perception is the reality" is simply throwing your hands up and not bothering to fight this perception. If people all had the idea that games were just a child's plaything, Gamecritics.com wouldn't exist. Let's face it, there are STILL people who think this. Even more people feel that games are a vapid waste of time - no matter what the game.

The other issue here, of course, is defining "the game industry." More than ever, the industry is splintered. I think if she were saying quote-unquote "hardcore" games are male fantasies, it's a little harder to argue against. The issue I have is that she was painting the entire industry with this brush, and that's just a load of crap.

The "booms sell" isn't just a financial thing. It's what sells news stories. So often, whenever there's a violent, senseless shooting, what's the first thing blamed? It's not the parents who beat the child, the school system that failed him while he was bring brutally abused by his family or peers, but the one game of Counter Strike he played six years ago.

Rather than trying to help work with the industry to sway the public's perception of the truth of the state of the industry (as well as promote things like what we're hoping to do with this site), she simply contributed to the problem.

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