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Slamdance, Post-Columbine - Personal Conversations with Freaks and Geeks
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Slamdance, Post-Columbine - Personal Conversations with Freaks and Geeks


January 30, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 2
 

The panel on controversial games, and Super Columbine in particular, was host to much truth and reconciliation. Danny Ledonne noted that he was more surprised at the game being courted than it being pulled, while Peter Baxter noted that despite the press' spin, his organization did not have the resources to fight potential litigation. I asked game competition organizer Sam Roberts if Ian Bogost is more press-savvy than then entire Slamdance organization put together, and he confessed in no uncertain terms.

D.R.O.D. programmer Mike Rimer echoed the opinion of many developers by noting that he has no inclination to play or make such a game, but he respects its existence, while King Of Kong producer Ed Cunningham took the stance that an organization dedicated to showcasing the cutting edge of art should take risks to defend that function - even if that means risking the festival's very existence. A woman wearing hip frames commented on Ledonne's rationale for making the game, saying "This was you purging that anger out of your body through art! I know people who need that outlet to survive."

Ledonne later commented that it was a weak band-aid at best, and was a bit annoyed at Baxter's lauding of Cloud as an ideal example of an indie game; he felt it implied that games should be oriented towards positive messages only.

Roberts and the developers in attendance agreed that a great opportunity was missed in the wake of Baxter's pulling of SCMRPG!. If the ESA had been called in the wake of the game's nomination and asked to cover Slamdance Inc. should any legal issues arise, it could have allowed a precedent to be set for games to be recognized as an art form, rather than simply as "free speech" which is a subtly different classification.


Ed Cunningham and Peter Baxter

The Slamdance Games competition is not a shambles, it is very much alive in cocktail conversations between game and film creators, in people playing, in the lessons each culture can teach the other. For example, the game business can learn a lot from the movie business, about financing projects independently using private equity investment and the value of prestige as a compliment to purely commercial endeavors. On the other hand, filmmakers can draw a lot of rich conceptual material from the cutting edge of game design, and in the case of a Sundance film (Chasing Ghosts) and a Slamdance film (The King of Kong), from game culture.


Peter Baxter and Danny Ledonne

It's a lot like the last episode of the excellent, prematurely canceled TV dramedy, Freaks and Geeks. James Franco plays a freak with poor grades and a dim future, and in the last episode he meets a geek who invites him to play Dungeons and Dragons. The Franco character awkwardly rolls a dwarf named Carlos, but goes on to have a lot of fun wrecking orcs and saving the princess. At the end of the game, the geeks wonder if they're now cool by association, while the freak has had the most intellectually satisfying experience of his life.

Film people are freaks, and game people are geeks. It'd be a real shame if we didn't continue to play in the snow together, once a year, in Park City.


Article Start Previous Page 2 of 2

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