I don’t watch TV. It’s full of trash shows aimed at DEMOGRAPHICS, and crap (but unbearably popular) attempts at BEING FUNNY. But that’s my opinion. I’m often angry about TV. But I won’t give way to an argument in favor of the REALITY TV SHOW phenomenon. Ha! Don’t laugh, it’s not funny…it’s real.
The hilarious (by which I mean ‘not so hilarious’) thing about REALITY (emphasize the shit out of that word) TV shows is that they are unreality. Place a bunch of people inside a set, make them perform tasks and generally survive, physically and socially, and then watch them break down into stressed-out fleshy things for your own entertainment. It’s good gossip material, and makes people feel great about themselves because at least they’re not as disgusting/vile/horrible a being as that person on the TV. It’s an unscripted performance; incubated people not being themselves because the cameras are on them and they’re stressed.
You know that Bulletstorm parody of Call of Duty? it’s called Duty Calls (eat that link). Reality TV show is that moment when the player gets shot and the screen turns into a bloodshot eyeball.
“BLOODY SCREEN. SO REAAAL.”
That, that right there, is reality TV shows.
And, somehow, 400,000 corporate American dollars was thrown at one called GAME_JAM (actually, it was never going to be on TV, but on YouTube), which featured indie developers making a game over four days with popular YouTube personalities by their side as cameras and studio lights bore down upon them. Just picture that for a moment: a magnificent studio made of plastic and desks illuminated by three-point lighting. Mountain Dew has been thrown around like confetti at a wedding. There are Directors and people whose job it is to zoom a camera in at every ensconced motion of angst and stress that would, more than likely, naturally fidget out of someone given the circumstances. Get the camera on one of them bawling their eyes at and you’ve got TV GOLD right there. Dry their eyes with cotton dollars for a perfect analogy.
Then (here comes the punch line), add the likes of Zoe Quinn, Davey Wreden, Robin Arnott, Arcane Kids, Adriel Wallick, Tom Jackson, Cale Bradbury, and a small team of USC students. These are people I’ve never met in-person, but I know of their presence; pink and purple hair, Burning Man, building satellites. This a clash between people who are actually Real (honest, creative, persevering), and the bright lights of fake-real TV.
The Arcane Kids, god bless their incredible minds and hearts, apparently got shouted at for not holding a bottle the right way for the purposes of ample product placement. That’s the fucking Arcane kids; they hold bottles how they want to hold them (tangent: when do you think they’ll start teaching How To: Product Placement in schools? Maybe they already are…).
There is so much friction here. A recorded game jam featuring people deemed ‘indie game developers’ was given the green light for shoehorned product placement. How did we get here? Someone could write a book, right now, and title it: Indie Game Developers – From Bedroom Coders to Corporate Investments, and it would sort-of make sense. I guess I’m just shocked about seeing “indie games” emerging as a small group of people, to having a few websites about them, then becoming a category in digital stores, then as faces in a documentary for people to cheer and boo at, and now this.
Adriel revealed what the pitch behind GAME_JAM was. Just read this:
“Green Label Game Jam seeks to provide viewers with insight into the technical and artistic process of developing a game, in the format of a reality competition show. We seek to do for indie games what “Top Chef” did for cooking.”
Trying to make the Top Chef of indie games means packaging the creative process and all the emotions it brings into a form of entertainment for the masses. Manufactured drama that completely and purposefully misrepresents its subject. This was never going to work.
One of the biggest criticisms of Indie Game: The Movie, considering its title, is that it only represents a very small slice of successful indie game developers. GAME_JAM, at least, had a little bit of diversity in its developer line-up, but that’s all for nothing now. Why? The guy connected to Pepsi, the apparent loud-mouth on set calling many of the shots, decided to ask questions directly to the teams about whether or not they were disadvantaged because they had women on the team. This is the kind of shit that reality TV show producers try to stir in order to get that TV GOLD. They need that stress, those emotions, the desperation, the drama.
Oh, and they got the drama, but not the kind they were after. All of those that had cameras pointed at them walked out of there.
I’m glad this happened. Not that some asshole decided it would be a good idea to harass the women on set, on camera. No. But the result reminds us that we don’t have to put up with this. We can walk out. Raise a middle finger. Turn our backs on corporate shilling and product placement. If there’s to be a public representation of “indie game developers”, as that’s what this mysterious entity is being called, then we can present it in our way, not theirs.
A fucking reality show. They made Davey remove his nail varnish, and even attempted to make Zoe cover up her tattoos. They were trying to mask their identities because they had to hold bottles of Mountain Dew in front of a camera and smile.
I guess my point is that we need to really think long and hard about how we represent indie games to wider audiences. I haven’t really thought about this before because it wasn’t so necessary. Let’s Keep It Real, and refuse to subscribe to the other, fake realities that others would try to mask it over with. GAME_JAM seems like it was going to be full of negativity and manufactured drama, when it should have been so positive. Bit of a waste, but now we know what to prepare for.