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'Nobody wants your cock,' and other highlights from the Rant Apocalypse

'Nobody wants your cock,' and other highlights from the Rant Apocalypse

March 20, 2014 | By Kris Graft

For the 10th year running, GDC hosted its annual rant session, where people who are involved with video games publicly air their grievances.

Jason Della Rocca with Execution Labs and independent developer Eric Zimmerman hosted the event once again this year. It’s a difficult session to cover, with its rapid-fire ideas and presentations that border on performance art, but here are the highlights.

After Della Rocca reviewed 10 years of rants, Zimmerman played an interesting game: He revisited past problems that ranters ranted about back in 2005, and then evaluated whether or not those problems were still present in 2014. If the problems still existed, the point went to 2005 " if they’ve been adequately addressed, the point went to 2014. Here were the results:

Game industry veteran and Loot Drop senior game designer Greg Costikyan afterwards took the stage to explain that while there have been great opportunities and successes for independent game developers to make and sell games, “the walls are closing in once more.” Platform holders, whether it’s Facebook or Microsoft or Sony, put business before the passion of making games, he argued. “Apple doesn't care about games. Google doesn't care about games. Facebook doesn't care about games. Valve may care about games " but my bet is that they care about money more,” he said.

“How many of you go to work every day thinking, ‘I want to maximize shareholder value’?” Of course, no one in the audience answered in the affirmative. Game developers go to work thinking of making the best game possible, he said.

Independent game developer Justin Hall ( said there’s plenty of things to complain about, but his concern today is that due to the nature of online and digitally-distributed games, when a company closes down or a game is shut off, often the games simply cease to exist. And it’s not just the games themselves that are lost, but the work and the lessons learned by game developers who work on ill-fated games.

He encouraged game developers to not only preserve the work that went into a game, but to share it using the Twitter hashtag “#OGDY,” which stands for "Open Game Data Yes."

“It’s pronounced ‘Oh goody,’” said Hall. “You can be timeless, you can be an example, you can be a role model. Your games can live beyond their shelf life.”

“Share and discover your source code, player data, financials with #OGDY,” he said. “Be excellent to each other.”

Ian Bogost is an author, critic, game designer and professor at Georgia Institute of Technology. His presentation was “‘Taxonomy of Extinct Terrestrial Tribes’ (A microfiction),” in which some type of scientist or researcher looks back at this extinct race, some of whom were known as “developers.” In this dystopian era, games had become less about entertainment and art, and more about monetary transactions.

“While historians agree that ancient works like Civilization and chess still provided inspiration, games primarily became a specialized form of banking,” read Bogost in the voice of the fictional researcher.

Heather Chaplin, founding director, for the Journalism & Design Program at The New School joined by pre-recorded video, and took to task developers who create “games” that are merely digitized Skinner Boxes.

She touched on the the free-to-play market’s use of the term “whales” for the users who pay the most money towards a free-to-play game. "“Whales” is also what casinos call the big spenders.

"When you're taking something from the slot machine industry, you really have to ask yourself what kind of moral ground you're standing on,” Chaplin said. “This trend [of Skinner Box design] is actually not only morally reprehensible, but actually bad for business if you just design down the hole leading to addiction.”

SpyParty developer Chris Hecker took the stage next, and after duct-taping Della Rocca and Zimmerman together (yes that happened), pointed out how many great games came out in the last year " games that were by different kinds of people, commenting on different types of subject matter through games.

Hecker seemed more content than usual, so he said he’d run a RantStarter campaign to get some new rant material. He’s already got support from Double Fine’s Tim Schafer:

Commentating on free-to-play business models, he actually stopped his presentation mid-sentence, when this slide came up (he didn’t continue till someone in the audience gave him a dollar):

Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris is founder of The Tiniest Shark, developer of the game Redshirt, a game that’s about social networking on a spaceship that also serves as actual social commentary.

Khandaker-Kokoris said she “fucked up” when she didn’t leave a trigger warning for one of the playable races (a race that was a commentary on the sexy green alien female trope), which attracted unwanted advances from certain characters in the game (see more about that here).

Khandaker-Kokoris explained the reason for updating the game with a trigger warning by first defining what happens when someone is “triggered” (“It’s evoking a physical and/or emotional response to a survived trauma or sustained systemic abuse”) and by explaining why they are important.

“Trigger warnings mitigate harm,” she said. “Art should never be at the expense of the people you’re advocating.” She added that when a person is triggered, it does not mean that the person is just made angry or sad about a topic or situation. When a person is triggered, they feel real physical symptoms.

She doesn’t see the inclusion of such warnings as compromising her artistic vision, nor does she see trigger warnings as some effort to be politically correct. “Trigger warnings are about inclusivity,” she said. “As a game developer and human being, I choose to give a shit about people.”

Frank Lantz is a long-time game developer and also director of NYU’s Game Center. To get the gist of his talk, just say “You’re doing it wrong…” and finish with any of the following:

- If you aren’t proud of the game your’e working on
- If you set the difficult to easy so you can see all the content
- “Mediums” (this is not the plural of “medium,” he stresses)
- If there aren’t any games that you love
- If you can’t summarize your opponent’s position and give the best existing arguments for it
- If you run on your last click
- If you think everyone else is doing it wrong.
- If you are flat broke. (“Overcome the anxiety we all feel about money,” Lantz said.)
- If everyone is mad at you
- If you’re sitting in a giant beige box and doing PowerPoint

Veteran game designer Brenda Romero of UCSC gave a powerful, blunt talk regarding sexual harassment in the game industry and urged people not to blame the victims of sexual harassment.

She started off by bringing up the ugly incident involving a game journalist whose brilliant plan to get information out of a developer was to harass her on Facebook by saying things like “I will kiss your vagina.”

Romero took to task the people (often men) who said what the victim should have done " that she should’ve been more blunt and just said “stop it.” But when you do that, you’re blaming the victim, and putting the pressure on the victim to control a negative situation that she did not choose " or want " to be in.

“Stop blaming the victims,” she said.

Romero also told of another disturbing incident, this time involving herself. (I suppose I might need to insert a trigger warning here for sexual harassment!)

Romero explained how she was in the lobby of a hotel during GDC, having what she thought was an interesting and enlightening conversation with a colleague she respected. The other person then moved his jacket, which was on his lap, to show that he had an erection, right there " in his pants, but there.

She left, and went back to the conference. “I felt like a deer in the fucking headlights,” she said. “And we know what happen to deer.”

Part of her point was that in awful situations like that, you don’t know how you might react. But one thing is for sure. “Nobody wants your fucking cock, ok?" she said angrily. "Nobody.”

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