Close
Are you sure? Are you sure you want to report this comment? I understand, report it. Cancel

Social games aren't evil, they're evolutionary - Brathwaite

Fri 04 Mar 2011 2:49am GMT / 9:49pm EST / 6:49pm PST
Social NetworkGDC 2011

Brenda Brathwaite rants back at those accusing social of ruining the industry

During the Game Developers Conference today, one session took multiple social game creators and gave them the microphone to rant for ten minutes on a simple subject: why social games aren't evil and why the people that create them aren't ruining the industry.

GamesIndustry.biz attended and was blown away by the passion, sense and love in the room, but it's difficult to convey in a normal news story or feature. So over the next couple of days we'll present three of the best rants in their entirety. The first is from Brenda Brathwaite, game designer for over 25 years with experience from Wizardry to Def Jam, and is now working at Loot Drop on a social game for RockYou.

"I resist this rant, I resist it's leading title and I resist the will to fight.

I will not turn against my fellow developers who have supported me through thirty years of my career.

We've been through this before. It begins in 1981 - "you're ruining games you know." My Dungeons and Dragons DM said this to me when I started working at Sirtek software on the Wizardry series of games.

"Games aren't meant to be played this way. Not this game."

He had heard about Wizardry, how I could create six characters and take them on an Apple II adventure without interacting with any other human beings. It wasn't social like D&D was - it wasn't even particularly intellectually challenging. The entire game had maybe three puzzles in it. It was an absolutely endless series of button mashes - fight, fight, fight, parry, parry, parry.

It could of been a click-fest, but we didn't have mice on our machines back then.

I remember people writing letter after letter when they found the demons and lesser demons in the lower levels of the maze. They called this evil and said our games were Satanic. They weren't, and we weren't but it was a reflection of the times we were in. It was a challenging time, and we stood together, you and me, because we loved games.

They called this evil and said our games were Satanic. They weren't, and we weren't but it was a reflection of the times we were in.

I remember when graphics started to replace text and we worried that games' deeper meaning would be lost and that soon they would become nothing but meaningless images incapable of transmitting any deep type of play. Never mind the complete fear of the loss of story.

I remember lamenting the loss of the text parser and railing against the use of keyword conversations because to me they dumb down all things to the level of toast. Not even good toast.

I remember when cutscenes appeared in games and we committed the cardinal sin because we took the game from the hands of the player because we wanted to show them something cool and wow them, even if they just sat there waiting for it to pass.

I remember these things, you remember these things, because we loved games. I remember when we started having fun and players were slamming the shot out of each other in arcades and at home playing Mortal Kombat. It seems so quaint now, the ripping out of the opponent's heart.

Concerned legislators pulled NightTrap in front of congress in 1993. That same year in a further state congress, SEGA and Nintendo fought each other like two foolish characters in front of the world. Then Doom was blamed for Columbine and every police officer stopped asking 'did he listen to Ozzie Osborne' and started asking 'did he play GTA?'

We stood together because we knew that games were games and games couldn't shoot people, real guns and real bullets did. We were called murder simulators, sex simulators, rape simulators, insensitive and horrible.

In this very state, legislators tried to class games along with drugs as dangerous substances in order to prohibit their sale. If you remember these things, like I remember these things, we stood together because we loved games. I remember when a cut feature was found and hacked and hot coffee no longer referred to a steaming hot beverage and instead became a steaming pile of shit, as once again the games industry was threatened, regraded and subjected to over one-hundred new pieces of legislation in response.

I remember Elder Scrolls getting re-rated because they revealed that underneath a woman's bra, and I hope I don't kill anyone by revealing this, there are nipples. More recently Fox News called Mass Effect a virtual sex simulator.

We stood together, you and me, because we loved games.

Although the powers that be asked us to work a little bit more, and that little bit more turned into a lot more, then into seven days a week, we supported one another. When seven days turned to weeks, and months and sometimes years, we stood behind a lone courageous voice: EA spouse. And forwarded her call to everyone we knew.

And when they came for our products, our creativity, our companies, for our hours, for our families, we did everything we could in public and behind the scenes to fight against the people in suits and for our games.

We stood together, you and me because we loved games.

I remember when, at this very conference we fought against allowing console games entry for submission. We vigorously debated letting our beloved CGDC become just GDC. I remember when I first heard games called addictive. I spent the following morning volunteering in the alcohol detox centre. I wondered what their definition of addictive was.

I remember that horrible September of 2001 when flight simulators were blamed for the horror that was 9/11. Racism, hate crimes, violence against women, children and animals - these have all been our crosses to bear.

We stood together, you and me, because we loved games.

I have seen the strip miners make their entry into games. I have seen them exploit technology and new platforms

And then we came to FaceBook. I know that things are upsetting to you, and I can assure you that they are also upsetting to me. I have seen the strip miners make their entry into games. I have seen them exploit technology and new platforms. Not for the purpose of crafting beautiful creative works but for the purpose of taking the audience for all they can get. They are not one of us, nor are they from us. Rather they are from another space.

They cannot understand this contract that we have had with our players since 1978. We are our players.

These people do not care about gameplay, they do not care about games, they do not care about players. They do not care about fun. Do you know what? I dislike them just as much as you. I have witnessed decisions made not for fun but for fortune. I have seen games gutted and players churned and burned. I have seen things I never want to see again.

The game developers on this stage are not like those people. They do not come from their world. Like you we want good play, we want compelling experiences we want casual and we want hardcore. We want to make a great game for the 43 year old Facebook mom, because she deserves a good game.

We are absolutely not the ones making what some of you call 'evil games'. We are the first wave - the marines storming the beach to take our culture and our medium back. As you look upon these games you will see on the very same horizon a great space of possibility. I hope that you will some day be the occupying force.

We stand together, you and me, because we love games."

2 Comments

Terence Gage
Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
Reading through this, I realise how almost every terrible man-made event that's occurred over the last 20 years (and more?) has been blamed in some way or other on videogames.

Posted:3 years ago

#1

Abel Oroz
Art Director / Artist

16 0 0.0
Yes, very nice catchphrase she repeats to appeal to our hearts, but I can't find many of the arguments very solid. All those past inquisitive movements against the gaming industry were run by people who didn't give a damn about its future. That profile doesn't really exactly correspond with Jonathan Blow, who is obviously the alluded person.

From mrs. Brathwaite's words I draw that every evolution is good, and everyone against it is a retrograde, but as noble as the point of view is, I can't help but disagree. Unlike natural evolution, the evolution of the industry can be driven, or at least influenced, by its members. When the "revenue vs art" battle comes into play, there are obviously better and worse paths to take, opinions to consider, dead-ends to reach and where to get out from, and we could even say there's a (purely moral and subjective) "good and evil".

This means that saying "social games are evil" can perfectly be a valid vision from within the industry by people who definitely care (and even greatly help advance, in the case of mr. Blow) for the industry's wellbeing.

Now, probably Jonathan Blow's statement might have been a bit unfortunate, in that he might mean that current trends in social games ARE evil, but thinking that there is no room for something potentially good in mixing the concepts of "social" and "gaming", might be a bit shortsighted. In any case, I opt to believe that Blow's arguments were only refering to the current situation rather than the potential, and the problem was only in the form rather than the content.

As unfortunate a statement, though, is using FMV cutscenes as an example of a good thing in the evolution of games. Cutscenes happened, and what's done is done, but games might have evolved dramatically in all these years if cutscenes (and also QTE's) hadn't been a lazy placeholder for playable narrative. Good thing that modern design sensibility is making designers realize about it as a burden.

Now it's not so obvious who's who is doing a better good for the future of games. Time will tell, although I have my personal bet.

PS: please excuse if there were English mistakes.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Abel Oroz on 4th March 2011 2:45pm

Posted:3 years ago

#2

Login or register to post

Take part in the GamesIndustry community

Register now