In keeping with tradition, I do a round-up of this blog's "notable" posts from the past year, and offer a bit of reflective commentary. This year, it arrives about a month late, because I forgot. (Oops.) As always, past years' roundups are accessible here.
I haven't finished as many projects as I would've liked this year. Ideally, I would've had one big new sex game ready by now, but both WIP sex games are much more complicated than previous games, so it's taking quite a while to develop the technology for both.
- "Shapeshit" is a short vulgar pooping game made for Ludum Dare 35. (The theme was "shapeshfting"...) Prototyping the dynamic poop technology for this was pretty fun, and this is probably one of the most game-y games I've made in a while. Hopefully it'll make a triumphant return in VR in 2017! Imagine: VR pooping...
- "Cobra Club HD" remaster, prompted by various games festivals needing updated builds. Big features included pubic hair, strap-on mode, over-hauled dick physics, and a half-functioning foreskin mode. At this time of writing, there have been about ~55,000 dick pics from this game uploaded to the internet... yes, you're welcome.
- "Radiator 2" remaster, mostly to put it on Steam and to get my foot in the door on that platform / test the waters. In the end, all I had to do was to mark my game as "for mature audiences" and it was allowed; I hope my future releases go as smoothly? At this time of writing, there have been 150,000+ users, and the game bounces between an 85-90% user rating from time to time.
- "Good Authority", the Robert Moses-y urban simulation game I made in collaboration with Eddie Cameron, is still unreleased. Although it did well in the Power Broker game design competition, we feel the game still has serious problems, and we need to overhaul the mechanics. Look for it in 2017, when me and my husband are less angry at each other, and can finally work on it again.
- "No Stars Only Constellations" was an unfinished stargazing game prototype from 2013 that I cleaned-up and finished for the Fermi Paradox jam. If you're a fan of my Radiator 1 work, from before my sex game phase, then this is basically an alternate remake ("alt-make"?) of Radiator 1: Polaris. Expect this to be remastered for VR in 2017.
THINKING ABOUT GAMES
I've been giving a lot of talks, teaching, and trying to finish my projects, so I haven't had much time to write about games unfortunately. I managed to squeeze these pieces out though:
- "Into" is a small game by Charlie Taylor Elwonger about identity and relationships. I wrote about how it says what it needs to say, and it does it without wasting your time. Pretty well-crafted, and seriously over-looked by a lot of people, I think.
- "Firewatch" and "The Witness" dominated a lot of conversations in February / March. I talk about how these games might seem similar -- "nonphotorealistic artsy first person games about exploring forests" -- but actually have very different attitudes about what environment art is supposed to do in a game. Either way, though, both games represent a triumph of the environment artist as the auteur, which is something pretty recent, mostly prompted by Robert Briscoe's 2014 re-mastering of Dear Esther.
This year I continued talking about Twitch's censorship of my work-- not the fake kind of censorship, like when anime nazis complain about women blocking them on Twitter -- but the actual kind of censorship that involves a platform banning (gay) sexual content from an entire network without even offering any warning, reasoning, or even notification to me... while offering leniency for (heterosexual) graphic sexual content from large game corporations.
- "The game industry needs to get laid and just chill already" was a talk I delivered at GDC 2016 as part of Richard Lemarchand's micro talks panel. I pointed out Twitch's vague wording, total lack of communication, and double standards that exempt big budget action games. I argued that large video platforms like YouTube and Vimeo offer better terms of service, so why can't Twitch? This is not an engineering problem, this is a corporate culture problem.
- "Why I am one of the most banned game developers from Twitch" was prompted by Twitch banning Radiator 2, a set of games originally released a year before, but now suddenly inexplicably banned from the entire platform. I offered three (3) simple concrete reforms that Twitch could implement to make their process more humane. It was subsequently republished by Polygon, only to garner absolute silence from Twitch.
- So I'm changing strategies a bit... "Level With Me" is a new weekly streaming show I've started performing on Twitch. My goal is to build-up an audience and eventually argue against Twitch's policies on the Twitch platform itself. At some point, I hope to start a dialogue with other Twitch streamers and start applying pressure from that direction, since complaining at GDC and Polygon didn't seem to do anything. Wish me luck!
My problems with Twitch (and others), as well as years of attending games conferences and advocating for progressive causes in games, have convinced me that video game culture is basically a lost cause. Conservative gamer institutions will always be both strong and hostile vs. marginalized voices in games. It's time for plan B.
- "For better or worse" begins with my frustration with progressive discourse in games culture -- focusing on representation of fictional characters in commercial industrial games, rather than any real reform of how anything works. To me, it mirrors the industry's colossal failure to stand up against GG at all, back in 2014; "diversity" was "valuable" only if the numbers added up. It's now way too late to ever change how gamers discuss games / dictate game culture. But what if we all just went somewhere else?...
- "A progressive future for VR" is my attempt at articulating how we might avoid a repeat of gamer culture with virtual reality (VR) culture, or at least insulate VR artists from the poisonous consumerism now normalized in games. VR still won't succeed for at least 3-5 more years, but this gap means artists and weirdos need to get in now, don't wait and see! What if we can define VR culture before the toxic conservative gamers do? At the end, I argue that there are three (3) interventions we must make before it's too late for VR too.
As you may have noticed, I haven't written much this year. In fact, a lot of game designers and critics everywhere have stopped blogging, which is probably bad in the long run -- blogging was how we had productive arguments and discussions; blogging was how we defined the critical language we use to talk about games, and thus made critical theories of games possible. With a critical community, at least we could be young and poor together, on the internet!... now we're just young and poor and even more demoralized.
For 2017, I'm going to make a more concerted effort to write and post regularly.
My focus will be slowly shifting from game-specific concerns toward more general 3D virtual design topics and VR history / theory. I strongly believe that much of the work of defining VR culture will involve a critical mass of VR critics to debate and define language and crucial issues, much like what we started doing with games blogging circa 2006.
See you next year!