Indie Haven August Developer Roundtable – Should Personal Politics Stop You Playing a Game? Laura Kate August 1, 2013 Features 1 We at Indie Haven like to get you as close as possible to the games you love and the people making them. That’s why every month we aim to bring together a wide selection of of Indie Developers from all walks of life, from BAFTA winners to teenage and student devs, to discuss the hottest issues affecting games, development, coverage and the Indie community. These chats will be broken up into chunks and released across the month, before we start all over again with new developers and new questions. This month we welcome a brand new group of developers to the Roundtable. We’ve got Olivier Penot (Ethan: Meteor Hunter), Jonathan Prior (Gameolith), Matthias Zarzecki (Neuclear Wombat), Craig Johnston (Cloudface), Hamish Todd (Music of the Spheres) and Byron Atkinson-Jones (Veteran Dev). If you’re an Indie Dev of any size that would like to take part in a future roundtable, please email Laurak@IndieHaven.com and let us know a little about yourself. The more the merrier. Introductions Laura Kate: Could you all start by introducing yourselves for any readers who may not know you. Olivier Penot: Hi – I’m Olivier, Producer & Co-founder at Seaven Studio, a new French Indie studio based in Lille, North of France. We’re self funded & self publishing on PC & PS3 with Ethan: Meteor Hunter, our very first project! Jonathan Prior: I’m Jonathan Prior (@xShrewsbury), I own and run the cross platform digital distributor Gameolith (http://www.gameolith.com) and in my spare time I write and make games and music. Matthias Zarzecki: Hi! I’m Matthias Zarzecki (@IcarusTyler), Indie-Designer Extraordinair. Currently I’m at Paladin Studios, where I do Programming & Level-Design. I also publish my own games under the name Nuclear Wombat on iOS, Android, and soon Ouya. Craig Johnston: I’m Craig Johnston (@oatsbarley) and I haven’t really done anything people would know me from except doing the programming for Cloudface (http://www.indiedb.com/games/cloudface)! Hamish Todd: I’m Hamish Todd, and I’m best known for my writings and lectures. I do level analyses like this which try to look very closely at the way developers express meaningful things to players and set up mechanically sophisticated propositions. I’ve also shipped two games, Music of the Spheres and The Stranger Loop, and I currently work in educational game development. Byron Atkinson-Jones: Hi, I’m Byron, or @xiotex on twitter. A bit ancient, been a game developer for 20+ years. Worked for EA, Lionhead, Introversion, Sega SI, PomPom Kuju and a couple of others and currently baking in the London weather. Matthias Zarzecki: Nice to meet you guys 🙂 Olivier Penot: Same here! Craig Johnston: Same! Laura Kate: Thanks. Our first question comes from @Tristix on Twitter. “Should Personal Politics and the way a Developer presents themselves effect whether people play their games?” Hamish Todd: Nope. Richard Wagner was an horrific Anti-Semite, but your life isn’t complete until you’ve experienced Tristan and Isolde. Olivier Penot: I think it does automatically – it shouldn’t but when you’re aware of someone/something related to a game you play, I think it does have an effect on people. It’s like “you can’t have two first impressions”. Matthias Zarzecki: No. A work of art stands independently of the artist. You can enjoy something even though you might dislike the person behind it. Craig Johnston: I agree completely with Hamish, and I don’t actually think it does happen so much in a practical sense. People really get hung up on the way Phil Fish puts himself across but he’s sold a ton of copies of Fez (This Roundtable was conducted before the cancellation of Fez 2). Laura Kate: An example I’ve seen in other media is Adolf Hitler painted some beautiful art work. I’ll admit they’re beautiful, but that doesn’t mean I’d want to support his art career if he were alive today. I guess that financial support to the arts creator is the sticking point and why many don’t like playing games when they dislike the creator? (I know mine was a fairly extreme example) Hamish Todd: To take an extreme example though: I can imagine a developer at Zynga saying “all our customers are idiotic, our job is to manipulate them”. That would be a self-presentation thing that tells you something about their games that you didn’t previously know and it’s rational for your purchasing decision to be affected by that. Matthias Zarzecki: Of course this wouldn’t give people Carte Blanche to behave any way they like. Olivier Penot: A game is about an experience you buy – now it’s getting about supporting a person, a brand behind it, which confuses it all a bit. Hamish Todd: Well, people know that buying gasoline is literally going to cause the world to end, but they do it anyway. People are mostly idiotic and amoral about their purchasing decisions. Olivier Penot: If I buy this game, do I support the game or the guy’s ideas ? Jonathan Prior: If it’s a for-profit work am I, by giving money to the creator in exchange for their work, implicitly supporting the creator or their ideals? Olivier Penot: It’s a bit annoying if you just enjoyed the game. Jonathan Prior: Look at Orson Scott Card – it’s pretty much common knowledge that by buying his books and works he earns money and will then go on to give that money to organisations that promote homophobia. Laura Kate: Orson Scott Card is a great example, he is someone who actively uses money he makes from his work to support things many people don’t want supported. Craig Johnston: Yeah, I love Enders Game but it made me feel really weird finding out he was such a homophobe. To be honest I haven’t bought another book by him since I found out, but that might be more me being lazy. Hamish Todd: Yeah, one would hope this question is more about Scott Card than Phil Fish. Jonathan Prior: Phil Fish isn’t going out of his way to support causes that people would have a problem with. Laura Kate: That’s the question I guess, should you boycott a great game because the creator stands for something you don’t want supported? Craig Johnston: If I knew the creator was standing for something like homophobia or any other sort of hate organisation I definitely wouldn’t buy their game. Hamish Todd: I will say that I boycott Apple because of their censorship and mistreatment of workers. Jonathan Prior: I don’t think I could ever bring myself to buy, distribute or otherwise support a game from a person who actively supports the hatred and oppression of others. Hamish Todd: “Art is just different though” 😡 Byron Atkinson-Jones: This is an interesting discussion, I wonder what your stance is on oppression of free-speech? Should that be encouraged? Hamish Todd: Eh, deadness is a weasely argument. Matthias Zarzecki: What if a criminal makes a piece of art – doesn’t that deserve the same amount of recognition as everything else? Purposefully putting something at a disadvantage just because of the type of person behind it sounds like an uncomfortable idea. Craig Johnston: I think it’s two separate issues. Whether you can enjoy a game made by somebody with horrific values and whether you would buy a game by the same sort of person. Because one of them is appreciating the thing they created in and of itself and the other is directly supporting the things they support. Laura Kate: RE: free speech, this recently came up in talks between me and the comment moderators at a few big name sites. Is it censorship of free speech to censor hate speech? Byron Atkinson-Jones: Laura: That’s the problem – where does the line get drawn. Olivier Penot: I’ve always been a huge fan of watching art on its own – going to the movie without knowing a single thing about the movie is my best experience. Just the art. Laura Kate: Is the big thing then just being informed? Be an aware consumer and decide personally if the bad of supporting the creator weighs more than the value of the art to your life? Jonathan Prior: @Laura’s question: It’s really down to where it’s practised. Hamish Todd: @Laura: I don’t think this is a question of “weight”.You could give as much weight to the horrible creator as you like, but their artistry can always be “extracted” from it. Jonathan Prior: Removing hate speech from a website of your own is like throwing someone out of your shop. Hamish Todd: Uhh, that gets complicated when you’re talking about app stores, or the Xbone store, say. And with that we end another segment of Indie Dev Roundtable here at Indie Haven. Next time we return with another lively discussion of gaming. Let us know who you’d like to see in future roundtables or what topics you’d like discussed in the comments below or on Twitter @Indie_Haven. Stormbringer If what you crave is really great art, that’s pretty rare; take it wherever you can get it. If you compulsively buy into commercial products, maybe use your judgement and follow your instincts. We turn away from the dark side of our humanity, you know, summon the courage to look this reality straight in its deep black eye. Keep your wits about you though, it could swallow you whole.