Wednesday, 30 October 2013


I know, I know, Game City is now a distant memory, but I'm going to record every little ounce of gamey goodness, godammit! So, onward!

Cara & Keith's Power Lunch


I'd never attended a Power Lunch before and was a little apprehensive. The only Power Lunch I could envision was important men in starched shirts shouting at each other over a boardroom table. I arrived to find no such horrors. Cara "Flowers to Womans" Ellison (see above) and Keith "Keef" Stuart were actually presenting a friendly, chat-show style live stream and we were the studio audience!

First guests were Ed Stern (who's now kindly provided a link list for all the stuff he talked about here and in the workshop) and Tali Goldstein from indie developer Minority. However, as I attended another talk by Tali which I'll mention at length later, for now I'll skip to the remaining guests: pixel artist Paul Veer and RGCD's James Monkman. As the pair discussed the fact that retro is finally a valid stylistic choice rather than just an era of gaming, I drifted off a little thinking about the uniqueness of Game City and the strangeness it brings to my home city. Paul and James are both respected in their fields and yet spent their Game City week demonstrating their skills to members of the public who had no idea who they were. Paul spent the week in Market Square drawing pixel puppies for every child that asked. James spent his Game City in the Open Arcade, demoing games to kids more used to hyper realistic immersive worlds than simple 8-bit levels. And yet, neither they, nor many of the other talented individuals giving their time and effort to Game City ever seemed like they felt it was beneath them, or that they'd rather be speaking to fellow developers than kids who called them 'Mister Arcade Man.' I think that's pretty great and I hope it's an attitude Game City always retains.

Stupid and Contagious: Games at the Turn of an Age

I attended a lot of Leigh Alexander's stuff, partly because she's great and her work interests me, and partly because I feel a duty to attend anything by a female speaker as they are still, unfortunately, something of a rarity in the industry. As Leigh discussed the film, music and culture surrounding early games development and the way that culture had affected games then and now, I was struck by the similarities of our childhoods, despite growing up on different continents. Leigh's exactly one week older than me, so maybe that closeness in age (plus a shared love of Nirvana and the Dark Crystal) is part of the reason I found her talk so intriguing. However, I was delighted to see the young man alongside me feverishly noting down the Riot Grrl bands Leigh mentioned. Obviously it struck a chord with him too.

Silent Enemy: Global Reveal

Speaking of striking a chord brings me nicely to Tali's second talk. I knew a little of Papo and Yo prior to attending. It's on my 'To Play' list, as when it was released, it was lauded as a triumph of storytelling, challenging the player to think about alcoholism and its effects on those touched by it. Watching the trailer in which a young boy escapes the reality of his world to move buildings and soar with a robot in the favelas of Brazil renewed my desire to play.

But seeing Minority's next game, hearing Tali speak about it, and seeing the audience's reaction to it did more than that. I didn't just want to play the game, I wanted to support Minority in their endeavours, because what they're doing is wonderful and important. Silent Enemy is, on face value, a simple puzzle game in which an Inuit boy must utilise his animal friends to cross the bleak and snowy landscape. But when the crows arrive and attack the boy, it's clear there's more to it than that. They beat him, take his stuff, taunt him and his friends, a rabbit and a bear, are powerless to stop them. The player can effectively choose how badly the crows treat him, but they cannot prevent the incident altogether.

After the brief video playthrough, I realised I was close to tears and not entirely sure why. I glanced around and saw several others sniffing, or dabbing their eyes. Tali went on to explain that the vast majority of the Minority team had suffered bullying and they wanted to make a game about that experience. How it felt and how they overcame it.

See the resemblance? Shut up.
About the only positive thing I can say about my bully is that he was creative. He called me Tosh
Lines (the implication being that he thought I had a bushy moustache. If he thought it was bad then, he should see it now. It's verging on lustrous.) and mocked me for the colour of my socks, the style of my shirt and the brand of crisps I ate. Utterly ridiculous trivial shit looking back, but at the time it mattered. It mattered so much I hated myself, hated every day I had to spend anywhere near him (But still stubbornly refused to change my socks, shirt or moustache. Because I may have been a kid, but I was still ME.)

Silent Enemy made me sad because it reminded me what it is to be helpless in the face of someone else's cruelty. But from hearing Tali speak, it seems Silent Enemy also seeks to remind players that the bullying is not all there is. There's friendship and loyalty and learning to be strong. How many other games can say they teach kids that?

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