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Developers Leave Slamdance Following Columbine Controversy

Developers Leave Slamdance Following Columbine Controversy

January 8, 2007 | By Brandon Boyer

January 8, 2007 | By Brandon Boyer
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Developers of the indie-produced titles Braid and flOw have announced that neither will be participating in this year's Slamdance Guerilla Gamemaker Competition, following recent news of Super Columbine Massacre RPG! being cut.

News of the controversial RPG's removal came last week, with show organizer Peter Baxter informing game creator Danny Ledonne that while the game's inclusion was technically "consistent with Slamdance's philosophy but somewhat naive," the eventual decision to remove the game from the list of the event's finalists was necessary but "deeply flawed."

Said Ledonne at the time, "I don't want to paint them as the villain in this. I don't think the real issue is a couple of guys at Slamdance who decided to reject my game, it's the larger pressures placed on them.

In response, Jon Blow, developer of the time-shifting platformer Braid, posted a response on his game's site, saying:

"The game lacks compassion, and I find the Artists Statement disingenuous. But despite this, the game does have redeeming value. It does provoke important thoughts, and it does push the boundaries of what games are about. It is composed with more of an eye toward art than most games. Clearly, it belongs at the festival.

So, in protest of games expulsion, I have dropped Braid out of the competition as well."

"Games should be taken seriously as an art form that can expand the boundaries of human experience," he added. "Games can help us to understand situations in a fully-engaged fashion, as participants and co-creators, which the passive media cannot do. As an art form they contain a tremendous power to shift perspective and to heighten wisdom. For the art form to achieve these potentials, game developers need to explore the space of possibilities in earnest. But if games are denied their appropriate level of societal recognition, growth of the form will be very difficult, and human culture will be the lesser for it."

Though admitting the move was not a "huge act," Blow said it was "the strongest protest [he had] the power to make."

Following this, the team at thatgamecompany, makers of cult indie hit Cloud and the forthcoming PS3 downloadable flOw joined in the effort.

The news was similarly posted to the developer's blog, stating in part:

"As game designers, each project we have done so far, and plan on doing in the future, aims at showing games as a serious and expressive medium. We cannot help but wonder, if SCMRPG were a film, if the reaction by the Slamdance organizers would have been the same. Removing it from the festival is discouraging, because it implies that games are still not to be taken seriously, that games are only for mindless fun. If we are trying to work against this stigma as artists, then we also have to fight against this stigma as entrants in the festival as well.

At best, we hope that our act, in solidarity with Jonathan Blow and SCMRPG, might encourage Peter Baxter, President of Slamdance, to re-admit SCMRPG, in which case we will return. At a minimum, our act can only serve to demonstrate how strongly we disagree with this decision, and all that it implies about what we consider to be our art."

As yet, Slamdance organizers have not responded to news of either, but we will continue to update with further events as they happen.

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