Interview with Surfer Girl, darling tipster of the industry underground

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If you’ve had your ear to the ground, then you’re probably aware of the feisty diva of gossip and news who splashed onto the videogame press scene this year. Surfer Girl Reviews Star Wars has quickly become one of my favorite blogs to visit. After breaking the news on three major titles this year (LA Noire, Prince of Persia 4, and Brutal Legend) many of us quickly became glued to her site, waiting for further predictions. And she’s certainly delivered, giving us pithy hints on future Wario titles, and glimmers of hope on Beyond Good and Evil 2. Better yet, she’s interspersed her multitude of insider tips with passionate asides on current political issues of human rights, torture, and imperialism.

Surfer Girl shrouds herself in secrecy though. She’s stated she plays an insider role in the industry, but all attempts at discovering her identity are quickly rebuffed. Message threads on the Internet have proliferated rapidly, metastasizing into a giant smorgasbord of speculation, attributing her writings to everyone from Jade Raymond on down to Peter Moore. As her tips and ponderings multiply daily, her readership can only wait to see if the house of cards she built will stand firm. So far she’s gotten a lot of things right. Can she sustain the pace as developers churn forward? Will her incisive whispers materialize into real games we can play?

Hit the jump for the coy and entertaining interview Surfer Girl was gracious enough to provide us. She also interviewed me in return for her site, which you can view here. And seriously, please check out her blog. It’ll keep you pleasantly puzzled for days.

Destructoid: A couple of months ago you had the idea of running ads on your site to support charity. Have you decided on the best way to implement this, and if so, what charity would you be most likely to support?

Surfer Girl: No, it was more of an idea for a system that would donate ad revenue to charity.

D: Have you seen how groups like The Hunger Site and Free Rice run their ads?

SG: Yes. Those sites are admirable, but I forget to do that everyday.

D: Yeah, it’s tough to keep up with when there are at least 100 sites or so in the constant daily rotation. Your blog’s given some attention to the inner workings of Wikipedia, with mentions of the Lost/Gabon incident, as well as some things about the Blackwater controversy. Do you feel that currently Wikipedia is being run in the best possible fashion, and if not, do you have any suggestions to improve the way it functions?


D: Do you find that you get a lot of private feedback for the political segments of your site? Those sections tend to get less public comments.

SG: No, sadly. I find those posts far more important than anything about games or whatever. My initial intention was for the posts about games to attract attention to the political posts, but it did not work out that way.

D: I wouldn’t have found your site without the game news, but I ended up sticking around for some of the political links. I especially liked the clip of the MSNBC commentator giving the impassioned speech against water boarding. I forwarded that to a lot of friends. With the more attention your site gets, it seems that your comment sections get bombarded with questions about everyone’s pet videogame projects they’re interested in. Remarkably, you take the time to answer almost every single question. Did you envision your site becoming the magic 8-ball of videogame news?

SG: I don’t answer every question. I have comment moderation because people ask the same thing twenty times.

D: It does seems like the comment sections have been huge lately, though, and that most of the activity on your site happens there. Are you happy with the new direction your site has taken? Is it still fun for you?

SG: I have a blog, not a site. I really have not paid attention to what direction the site takes, but I don’t enjoy this as much as I did before. I’m considering stopping all game related posts and concentrating on other things.

D: Are you ever afraid that there will be repercussions for the secrets you’ve been divulging? I also work in the film industry and between that and the videogame world I’m swimming in a sea of NDAs. There are topics that I would love to talk about publicly, because I think people will be excited to hear about them, but I’m deathly afraid that the hounds of the law will hunt me down. What motivates you to spill the beans?

SG: I have not broken an NDA yet.

D: Do you just not sign them?

SG: Nothing I’ve said so far has applied to one.

D: Why all the secrecy then? You often reveal your information in a cryptic, playfully mysterious fashion. What’s it all leading up to? Do you have a master scheme? Will there be a huge showdown on the roof with the coppers? Or are you going to reveal that it’s all been a big joke on us?

SG: There are topics I cannot talk about because of NDAs.

D: Does that mean you’re getting permission to tell us the things you’ve said so far?

SG: Nothing I’ve said so far would be a breach of an NDA I have signed because I’ve talked about nothing that’s under an NDA. The ears, the mouth, the eyes are my sources, primarily. Not so much the nose.

D: You’ve said you’re an industry insider. What attracted you to work in videogames in the first place?

SG: Videogames seemed far easier than other things. There are things that happened that made me slide away from being a journalist. Maybe this blog is me attempting to justify that college degree.

D: Do you have a personal passion for videogames?

SG: I like games, sure.

D: I’ve read statements by you bemoaning the lack of creativity from publishers. What’s one thing that’s holding the industry back that you would change if you could?

SG: Hesitancy, I’d eradicate that like Ron Paul wants to do with the federal government (like a crazy, crazy irresponsible man).

D: Do you mean hesitancy to embrace new ideas?

SG: Yes.

D: I personally think misogyny is a big problem in the videogame industry that needs to be addressed, both in the actual developer/publisher side as well as the fans and press who comment on it. From the perspective of someone who works in the industry, would you agree?

SG: Definitely, definitely.

D: I feel that the problem, while not necessarily larger than what goes on in other subcultures, is both more ignored and at the same time more “in-your-face” in the world of videogames. How do you think these attitudes became so entrenched and what do we do to fix them?

SG: The females in creative roles are still forced to output things that conform with male interests.

D: Does this mean we need more females in producer roles? More self-funded/developed games?

SG: We need females who are willing to express themselves. Jade Raymond is not doing anything remotely unique. Assassin’s Creed is great, but it is just another game. But then you have someone like Kellee Santiago with a passion and drive to do something different and something mind-blowing results.

D: Is she the one with that worked on Cloud?

SG: Yes. She’s producer and president at thatgamecompany. She has produced my favorite PS3 game thus far [fl0w], which is just an expansion of a Flash game.

D: Are you in a position where you could one day see your ideas for games realized?

SG: In a way, that already occurs. Sorry that I cannot elaborate on such a vague statement.

D: Do you have plans to reveal your identity eventually to the public? Or will this be a long-running mystery?


D: From statements on your blog, it looks like we’re both fans of the author Thomas Pynchon. My pen name that I write under is Tristero, from The Crying of Lot 49. Your public persona has some similarities to the reclusive author. You’ve inspired a similar following with wild speculation and fanatacism. What appeals to you most about his writing? Which books have you tackled?

SG: I never thought of it that way, but that prospect of any similarity is actually somewhat inspiring.

D: People enjoy scavenger hunts. It’s part of the whole mystique.

SG: He is far more entertaining than I am and far more verbose, but verbosity should not be feared. Gamers should read beyond Halo 3: the Novelization.

D: No kidding. I feel like some of us are afraid of books, or films, or anything else for that matter taking supremacy over the precious games. I like games, but they’re just one facet of my life. It’s hard to keep them from taking over.

SG: But the text in some of these Japanese RPGs that has to be read are like tomes that rival five Ayn Rand books stacked high in volume. Similarly pointless and redundant as Rand’s work, without the manifesto. Maybe now that BioShock did well, Atlas Shrugged: the Game will not be so far off.

D: I do like how BioShock played off of Rand’s ideas, but showed how awful they could be in practice if actually implemented.

SG: If Rand had a cameo, I’m sure male gamers across the land would be declaring it “the scariest game of all-time.”

D: Any last cryptic comments you’d like to give the readers of Destructoid? You do know every word you say leads to ten different google searches, right? Want to throw any more hints to the crowd?

SG: Because I feel gamers do not read enough, I am considering launching Surfer Girl’s Book Club. I’ll be like Oprah.

D: Do it! I’ll read your books. Good luck with everything. It’s been fun.

SG: Thanks, same to you as well.


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