Monday, December 5, 2016

A progressive future for VR: why VR is already getting worse, and how to make it better

Last time, I wrote about how I think of game culture as too conservative and too product-oriented to truly change or redirect toward more artistic ends -- and I confessed that over the next few years, I'm going to start transitioning out of working in games, and more into"virtual reality." Why? First, let's talk about what's happening in VR right now.

The audience isn't really flocking to VR yet. Only about ~0.21% of Steam users have Vive headsets, which means about ~200,000 users in the entire world. This slow VR adoption makes sense, considering how the Vive is still really expensive at $800.00, and there's still a lot of unpleasantness to using VR, from simulation sickness to judder to obtrusive tethers, but these are all engineering problems that the industry thinks they know how to solve. In 2017, we'll start seeing tetherless third party headsets, and then in 2019-2020 one of the big three (Valve, Oculus, Sony) will presumably sell a technically-refined "VR Jesus" headset that will finally save us all... or maybe it'll just turn out to be another Kinect rotting in your closet.

Until then, even the most embarrassing VR evangelists are preaching patience for 3-5 more years. But it would be a huge mistake to "wait and see" until VR is a success or a total waste of time. Artists and queers and weirdos need to hit VR now, and hit hard, before VR culture ends up as conservative as the worst of gamer culture. Why is it worth saving?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Level With Me: a new Twitch livestream show about level design, Wednesdays at 6 PM EST

Regular readers of this blog will note that Twitch continues to ban my gay games from broadcast, and their policy is intentionally vague and ambiguous, and the selectively-enforced rules are designed more to punish and intimidate small independent game developers rather than maintaining any moral code or community norms. I've complained to the internet at-large; then I went to GDC and complained to a captive audience of thousands of game developers; and of course, nothing has changed.

This calls for a new strategy: build-up an audience on Twitch, and eventually start advocating for change on the Twitch platform itself.

So that's why I'm starting a new level design livestreaming show on Twitch called "Level With Me", riffing off the original interview series I did for Rock Paper Shotgun.

Every Wednesday at 6 PM EST (3 PM PST, 11 PM GMT) I'm going to play some kind of level design-y game (usually a first person game) and offer a bunch of commentary on the environment art, the floorplan, the lighting, etc. and hopefully it'll be interesting to watch. Eventually, I might even host guests, or do some level design during the broadcast, etc.

(At some point, I also might start doing a show about sex games, but that won't be until after I figure out how to do this whole streaming thing.) 

Anyway, come tune-in at!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Please nominate Radiator 2 for the "Whoaaaaaa Dude" category for the first annual Steam Awards!

Hello everyone! If you enjoy pointless exercises of internet democracy, as well as artistic depictions of male sexuality, then please consider nominating Radiator 2 for the "Whoaaaaaaa Dude" category for the first ever annual Steam Awards!

To nominate Radiator 2, simply visit the Radiator 2 Steam store page and log in to your Steam account. Once you're logged in, just click the big purple box button below the video embed, and select the "Whoaaaaaaaa Dude" category.

Thanks everyone for your support! Tell your friends! Let's make Steam sexy again! Resist capitalism!

Monday, November 7, 2016

For better or worse

When I do the occasional interview about all the gay shit I do, I'm often asked, "are games getting better?" What they mean is whether the game industry as a whole is getting more inclusive, more diverse, more tolerant, more progressive, more whatever.

My standard response used to be "a little", then it was "this is a bad question", but these days I'm leaning toward "no, but hopefully it won't matter."

Some journalists hope I'll hand them a nice optimistic little quote to end their article, so that I can resolve their nagging fear that video games will never actually grow up. If you buy that next Halo game and (gasp) enjoy playing it, then are you part of "the problem"? And if you are, hopefully you just have to say 5 Hail Marys and donate to 5 queer people of color Patreons to be forgiven, and that means the numbers are getting better.

My gay sex games are not some sort of statistical outlier that magically increases the arithmetic average gayness of all video games ever made. Even gay initiatives like GLAAD's"studio responsibility" scorecards fall into the same trap -- the idea that culture is a type of math, and as long as the grades are getting better, then we can rest easy with this misleading summary of how people supposedly feel.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Games exhibitions and talks in NYC and Vancouver, Oct 28 - Nov 2

My new year's resolution for 2016 was to do fewer events and focus more on finishing my projects... so I guess that's why I'm doing 4 different events across 2 different cities over the next week or so:

On Friday night (October 28), we're running the 7th annual No Quarter exhibition, NYU Game Center's free video game party that I curate. The RSVP list just got a few more open slots added, but if you don't register in time, you can always arrive on the tail-end (at like 10-11pm) and hopefully it'll clear up by then. (Free, RSVP required.)

On Saturday night (October 29) the night after, I'll be doing a quick casual artist talk at ArtCade Con, an independent game festival around the East Village in NYC. There'll be lots of cool great games there, some of them fresh from a tour at Fantastic Arcade, so it should be a pretty exciting night. ($5-$16, use promo code 'PANELS' to get 2 for $20)

Then the week after, I fly to Vancouver for, like, one and a half days. It's a very brief whirlwind visit, unfortunately.

That Wednesday (November 2nd) I'll be giving a talk "You Can Have Gay Sex in Video Games And Eat It Too" as part of the UBC Noted Scholars Lecture Series hosted by the Social Justice Institute. I'll be talking about how I view the problem / question of "sex games" in relation to wider video game culture -- like, in a sense, Overwatch is probably the most popular sex game ever made? What does that mean for how games approach sexuality? (Free, RSVP recommended.)

Later that same night, I'll be hanging out at cool hip Vancouver pop-up alt-arcade Heart Projector run by some fantastic alt-games folks, where I've curated a selection of games about "first person drifting". I'll also be on-hand to readily complain about Civilization 6, so I hope to see my Vancouver readers there? (To be honest, I'm not actually sure where the exhibition is, but I guess you should sign-up for their newsletter to find out where and when the show is!)

Phew. Busy busy busy. I'll make time for this urinal game after this week, I promise.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Interview with Patricia Hernandez of Kotaku about video game urinals

I talked to Patricia Hernandez at Kotaku for a bit about my upcoming urinal game, tentatively called "The Tearoom", so please check it out if you're interested. In the post, I talk about a lot of my process and thinking, and the politics I want to explore in the game.

(Sorry for the sparse updates lately; I've been busy with traveling and work.)

Monday, October 3, 2016

No Quarter 2016, October 28th in New York City

I currently curate No Quarter, an annual games exhibition sponsored by NYU Game Center. We basically pay 4 game designers to make whatever they want (and they keep ownership over whatever they make) and then fly them to New York City for a big fun party.

This year the party is in Bushwick, Brooklyn, the current street art capital of the city, and we've commissioned Brendon Chung, Holly Gramazio, Catt Small, and Stephen Clark to make awesome games for us.

It's going to be a fun night, I hope you can join us. Entry is free and open to the public, but RSVP is required.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The golden age of urinals

This is work in progress on a new project branching off an existing project... it's probably a game about cruising. I wanted the bathroom to feel old, so I did some research on old vintage public bathrooms -- and the Hinsdale urinals are widely acknowledged to be the supreme "Cadillac of drop urinals" so here they are. The bathroom itself is inspired by the bathroom in Old Town Bar in Manhattan.