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Lord Regulus

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Game Design Paralysis

I feel like shit today. Forgive the ranting; I'll do everything I can to keep this relevant.

You guys all saw this, right? I'm sure you did. It's not unreasonable to expect that this little bit of sensationalism, coupled with a number of other thinly-veiled fetishistic ramblings that have skittered and swarmed across the smoldering wreckage of what used to be meaningful debate, would send at least a few people into paroxysms of uncontrollable rage. We were even warned, by a man whose judgment I hold in very high esteem, against the dangers of responding to this sort of behavior:

What, then, is the source of this imagery? To find it, you must drill deep down through the artifice and find the undulating reservoir of sexual fetish that boils beneath. This scheming, grotesque caricature of a 'concerned citizen' is about as transparent as it gets...

...I urge you not to encourage any further outbursts on his part: the man is strictly small-time, and you have the power keep it that way.

Wise words, in my view. But did you actually read the shit that went down afterwards? Look at McCullough's account of the ensuing response:

To a person (after being hyped a bit by gaming blogs) and no doubt instructed to flood my inbox with response, the gist of these responses went something along these lines, 'YOU LIED, YOU LIED, YOU LIED.' Some called me a yellow journalist, some just typed the 'F' word something like 27 times, and signed it, 'have a good day'...

...Look, if the Gamers need outlets to find adult oriented gaming options - then make them drive to the outskirts of town and be forced to frequent those places that no one wants in the community to get them...

...God didn't design it that way, and no matter how many gamer-nerds spam my inbox with profane dreams of seeing my dead corpse sodimized (sic)...

I will always speak up!

Alright, it's Accountability Time™. Who the fuck wrote those responses? Are you people batshit? What the hell did you smoke, and how much, to think that you were going to spark any kind of intelligent discourse - or even shut the guy up - with that kind of ignorant, mouth-breathing, adolescent fuckwit retaliation?

Did you not see the way Ms. Lawrence spoke to Geoff? Darling? Do you not understand their tactics? These people are being deliberately disrespectful just to get a rise out of us; to make us lose our tempers in the public forum so they can use it to discredit us. I'm proud of Geoff for not falling into their trap, and I didn't expect the rest of us to be any less mature.

Maybe other gamers really are a pack of fucking lunatics.

I have major problems with not being taken seriously. I've always had a vivid imagination, and I've been thinking up weird, implausible shit since I was a little kid - that's the life of a science fiction writer. I've come too far in my life, and I've put too much effort into attaining a modicum of credibility, for a landslide of prepubescent philistines to drag me kicking and screaming back into the primordial geek-fantasy miasma that it has been my life's greatest challenge to avoid.

As someone with ambitions of game design, the possibility of not being respected - of being viewed as a childhood-destroying mastermind or an eccentric builder of silly little toys - is fucking terrifying. If I awoke to find that, like Gene Roddenberry, my fanbase consisted of 35-year-old virgins still living with their mothers, or hostile knuckle-dragging mongoloids such as McCullough's ill-advised "critics," I'd probably blow my brains out. I'd rather be nobody than be loved by fucking idiots, and the last thing I need is to have my artistic integrity defended by underdeveloped sociopaths who at any moment might turn around and give me lip for not allowing them to dismember their opponents in my games.

Which inspired yet another, deeper fear: suppose nothing I create has any substance to begin with? I'm hammering out a game idea right now that revolves around the relationship between a warrior and a priestess caught on opposite sides of an earth-shattering war, and I'm hoping with all my heart to say everything I can, with as much subtlety and tact as the medium can muster, about the brutality of sexism and the redeeming power of romantic love. I really hope I can pull that off. But what happens if I fail?

What happens if everything I want to say becomes lost in blind adherence to tired gameplay conventions that I am too steeped in video game culture to question? What if none of the things I want to say ever comes across, and all that remains is a passionate sex scene (yes, there will be sex) with no emotional substance remaining to motivate it? And what if that's all the world ever sees? Another "Sex-Box" devil machine to warp the minds of children? And the only people still playing are in it for the titties?

God dammit, I'd rather die.

But I'm so in love with my ideas that I can't turn my back on them. I'm in love with video games, and I'm in love with what I know in my heart they are capable of achieving. I can't bear to face the possibility that we're just going backwards; spiraling into an uncontrollable tailspin that can only result in the blanket prohibition of video games, or worse, the permanent marginalization of an entire creative medium, lumped for all eternity into the same cultural cesspit as bukkake and Faces of Death.

And my biggest fear is that all the while we'll be proving those ignorant bastards right.

For the love of all that is creative, empowering and meaningful, what the hell are we doing with ourselves? Are we destined for a total meltdown? Are truly forward-looking designers like Jonathan Blow, Jason Rohrer, and (damn I hope so) myself just pissing in the wind?

I just don't fucking know anymore. But it makes my skin crawl.

Maybe my next game will be titled Fear of Failure.
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About LordRegulusone of us since 12:22 AM on 04.05.2007

Founder and Sole Member
Midgaard Studios

PRO TIP: Regulus was the ice boss in
Bomberman 64, a great game that was
nonetheless forgotten so quickly that I
currently own half of all the existing
cartridges. The other one belongs to a
seal trapper in Finland, and if the two
are ever brought together, it will bring
about the End of Days.