Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Slamming Slamdance for its Slights

Some pretty big news in the game world this week doesn't come from reports on sales figures but from a controversy generated by the Guerilla Gamemaker Competition of the Slamdance Festiva;. After courting the game, electing it by jury, and advertising and promoting its status as finalist, the organizers pulled Super Columbine Massacre RPG from the competition. The game is pretty much what it sounds like, that is to say you role-play as Harris and Klebold on the fateful morning of the Columbine Massacre. In all likelihood, this description elicited either of two reaction from you, either complete disgust that anyone could make a game of such a tragedy, or that this is just in line with the production of fiction films like Gus Van Sant's Elephant that explore one of the darkest moments in recent history.

Needless to say, this variation in potential reactions is fueling a pretty big debate and backlash. Besides a number of debates raging on the usual gaming sites, Grand Text Auto, The Ludologist, and Water Cooler Games are reporting that Brad, flOw, and Everyday Shooter have dropped out of the competition in protest.

Before you pass further judgement, take a look at some screenshots from the game here. The two quotes at the bottom (and their inclusion) are to me very telling. The whole issue also seems to drive home the question of what games can do, and what they as a form are allowed by the media and the public to do.


Photendoist said...

God I hate that ludologist...

Hardy said...

One word: Meh~!!!

One wishes for drama for free (negative) publicity. The other acts overly dramatic. Sounds rather expected to me...

Considering I'm quite an expert at causing drama, this don't really surprise me, nor does the unsatisfactory game impress me in anyway. Perhaps it's because, once you have been thru real danger wherein you truly almost died a few times, things like this feel rather mundane.

Only the naive overact over all this... (not to imply else other than the parties mention ni teh article).

Al said...

I am not too sure, Hardy, what side of the debate you think are "overacting", but most people do not go through life-and-death situations and instead must busy themselves with everyday life. And for myself, everyday life and the mundane things that comprise it, especially the media, are not only of interest but incredibly important. Oftentimes they are related to life-and-death moments, such as SCMRPG.

Furthermore, I think that, like denying that the world goes on by avoiding the news, downplaying the importance of events that are not of mortal or corporeal significance is a form of naivete in its self. Perhaps it is subtle, but this act of censorship in the form of dropping a game from a competition has significant impact on not just video games, festivals, academics, and indie game-developers but on our society and cultural mindset overall.

Video games, like books and magazine articles and films, transmit messages. And with the striking popularity of video games, we need to be more finally attuned to what these messages are. Games like SCMRPG are trying to break the mold of what games are expected to communicate, and yet this incident simply underlines how difficult this journey will be and how censorship is alive and well, based not on the prosaic matters of funding and sponsonship but on the more troubling question of morality.

So really, this trivial little incident is about morality, freedom of speech, art, communication, video games, McLuhanism, Habermasion discussion within the public sphere... I could go on. Oh, and in the case of all those kids at Columbine, life-and-death.