Thursday, January 9, 2014

"Black Mesa Source: Makeover Xtreme" at Indiecade East 2014

Indiecade East in New York City is happening in... about a month... and I'm giving a talk there. (A talk that I should start writing. Shit.) I should also note that the entire speaker lineup is very exciting and diverse and Indiecade is a lovely games event with a very good signal-to-noise ratio.

My talk continues the "technical politics" theme of my other talks these past few months:

"Makeovers are serious business. That's why dozens of modders volunteered to makeover Half-Life 1 (one of the most influential games ever made) in a new game engine with new graphics, architecture, animations, voice acting, choreography, sound effects, etc. So much work goes into the video games we play, but what exactly does that work involve? Get ready for excruciating detail about the blood and sweat that goes into just one room of one level of one game -- and why us modders w-w-work it for years to give it away for free. See? Makeovers are serious business."

My relationship with Black Mesa Source is strange -- I did a lot of work for them for a few years, then left because I couldn't commit time to it anymore -- so I recognize a lot of the content, but at the same time it feels somewhat alien to me because someone else finished it.

There's something interesting to dissect about the identity of work, here, especially given the intangible status of mods.

Are mods "games"? In terms of distribution / ownership / sales, no. In terms of artistry / concept / craft, yes. Is this Black Mesa Source level mine? Yes and no. When you get a makeover, are you still you, or someone else? What are the politics of makeovers? etc.