Tag Archives: Canadian Media News

GDC for You and Me

i’m heading out to GDC tomorrow. Here’s what Untold Enertainment is up to in San Francisco:

Fact or Fiction Panel at FGS

i really have to wonder if the Flash Gaming Summit will be around next year? They’re calling it FGS, and distancing themselves from the word “Flash” much like Kentucky Fried Chicken tried to bury the word “fried” by re-christening themselves KFC. The difference between Flash and saturated fat is that one is a gross gloppy mess that can stop your heart and end your life prematurely, and the other is saturated fat.

To that end, i’m moderating a panel called Fact or Fiction? with a dream line-up of panelists, to have a rapid-fire opinionated discussion about the FUD surrounding the high-level game and app development world. We’ll be poaching the elephant in the room with very first slide, which asks “Fact or Fiction? Flash is Dead”, and we’ll keep going from there. Joining me are my esteemed colleagues:

  • John Fox, GM, Games.com
  • Ben Garney, Chief Engineer, The Engine Company (Loom, Pushbutton Engine)
  • Pany Haritatos, VP of Mobile, Kongregate
  • Matt Rix, Founder, Magicule (Trainyard)
  • Scott Walker, Partner & Head of Production, Ninja Kiwi (Bloons, SAS: Zombie Assault)

The panel is Sunday at 5:30. i hope to see you there!

Education Panel at PAX East

If you read your program and lined up for hours to see me speak and to sign your boobs at PAX East this year, sorry to disappoint you! There was a mix-up. The inestimable Steve Swink of Enemy Airship will be speaking instead. Although, if you think the charismatic and chiselled fellow at the front of the room who does CrossFit five times a day is actually me, so much the better.

Steve Swink, the game industry’s answer to Viagra™.

Spellirium at GDC Play – Even for Women

i’ll be demoing Spellirium the OMDC GDC Play booth Tuesday from 10-1! This is the new alpha build that will become available very shortly (look for an exciting announcement on April 9th). Spellirium is the game that three years ago, the casual games portals told me women were “too stupid to play“. Guess what? i made the game anyway. i’ll be at GDC assuring women (and men) that they are, indeed, smart enough to play Spellirium. i’m sure that will come as a relief to all involved.

Spellirium is hard! *giggle*

Visiting Video Game Exhibit Smells Like Victory. And Rec Rooms.

It was my great pleasure to speak on a panel last night to kick off the Ontario Science Centre’s new GAME ON 2.0 exhibit. Here’s me, next to Assistant Professor Sara Grimes from the University of Toronto, and James Everett, a designer at Ubi Soft Toronto:

Photo by Douglas Gregory

Marc Saltzman, who is essentially our evangelist to the unwashed mainstream masses, moderated. We spoke briefly about a number of heavy topics, including violence in games, women in games, and whether consoles were doomed. (No, yes, and yes in my opinion). As usual, i played the contrarian; as an audience member, i can’t bear panels where everyone is polite and agrees on every topic. We’re competing with reality teevee here, folks … some idiot has to take his top off and gyrate while standing on a chair. And it might as well be me.

And Speaking of Exhibition…

The exhibit itself is fifty flavours of cool. Clearly curated by someone who know what he’s doing, the gallery (on loan from London) features most of the game you’d expect to be in there, coming off as a living, breathing “50 best” list from any reputable games magazine. This is very much an exhibit for the masses, so you won’t see any fruity indie games (but who really cares about those, anyway?) The one notable exception was Ian Bogost’s A Slow Year, which looked downright important encased under glass.

A Slow Year is the token black guy in an overwhelmingly blonde-haired, blue eyed collection of games.

No – this is triple-A in all its rapidly fading glory. You’ve got Halo, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Rock Band (or was it Guitar Hero?), Dance Dance Revolution, Tomb Raider, /New/ [Super] (Mario) World/Bros/64 – most of what you’d expect to be there is there, and the bonus is that it’s almost all playable. But as i waxed nostalgic, i was delighted to turn corners and see some delightful surprises, a few of which i’ll ruin for you here:

The exhibit kicks off with playable, original versions of Pong and SpaceWar. SO awesome. On one wall were mounted original animation cells from Don Bluth’s laserdisc hit Dragon’s Lair, right across from some original character napkin character design sketches of Mario from Donkey Kong (although these looked like they may have been prints?) There’s a nice (if slight) nod to educational gaming with the NES Sesame Street carts, a big collection of units from the ever-evolving GameBoy line, and one very early pinball machine with an analogue score counter!

The value of this exhibit to me is that i can take my daughters there and tell them tales of WHEN I WAS A BOY like a crotchety old coot, and enthusiastically take them through the history of this craft to which i’ve devoted my life (and to which i’ve committed their well-being). One hot tip, though, is to avoid March Break like the plague – that’s when the Science Centre becomes a zoo, and the Toronto Zoo becomes … well, just take my word for it.

Indie Game Dev Goes Down in a Blaze of Glory

For some people in the video game industry, this is where the debate about games-as-art will be tried in the court of public opinion.

Until today, indie game developer David S. Gallant was a part-time customer service rep in a Canada Revenue Agency call centre. David did not enjoy his job, and wanted to make games instead. Desperately. So he committed to spending one day a week at the Untold Entertainment offices to learn whatever he could about the industry and our craft. After leaving Untold, David made a few games on his own, including I Get This Call Every Day, a game he used to express his frustrations about his job.

Today, after an incendiary Toronto Star article in which the reporter appears to have tipped off the office of the Canadian Minister of Revenue Gail Shea (David was always guarded about where he actually worked), David was fired from his job.

Never Again the Burning Times

The claim by TOJam co-founder Jim McGinley and others, who are seeing red, is that the Star article (and the Minister’s reaction) reveal a distinct bias against video games as an art form. Jim asserts that if David had expressed his frustrations through any other artistic medium – writing, painting, stand-up comedy, film, interpretive dance – he would not have provoked the same reaction.

As someone who has been fired from his job for being critical of his employer, i’m not so quick to call this an anti-games witch hunt. A few years ago, i remember being so aghast at the incapability and apathy of the students at the Hervé Velasquez School For the Digitally Inclined (my nickname for George Brown College), that i wrote a pair of articles called What’s Wrong with Ontario Colleges (Parts 1 and 2) expressing my frustration. In those articles, i went much further than David did in his game, by actually naming my employer (among other schools), and by being a general dick about it. The Dean at GBC sniffed out my articles in a Google vanity search, and i was fired from my teaching position shortly thereafter.

i regret to inform you that your employment is hereby terminated immediately! (How’s THAT for a catchphrase?)

Sidenote: i regret nothing. When you’re so unhappy with a job that it oozes – achingly – into your art, getting fired is an absolutely blessing … a fact i truly hope David will come to realize in time.

Gag Reflex

The best consolation i received from anyone about being fired from George Brown was that in this new age of digital media, old institutions like schools (and governments, in David’s case) need to control the message. And thanks to blogs like this one, where i can freely criticize George Brown College, these institutions’ inability to control the message drives them completely bonkers, and they feel that their only recourse is to aggressively dig out the cancerous cells with a spoon. Bleeding be damned.

There. We’ve burned this relatively-unknown novel “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”. That’s the last we’ll be hearing about THAT.

Of course, as we’ve seen so many times, these institutions don’t stop to consider the backlash their knee-jerk reactions cause. In my case, after my firing was widely publicized, i was able to single-handedly dismantle all heartless Ontario college diploma mills and replace them with tightly-focussed, effective programs that produced skilled and educated students (and uh … and then i woke up.)

In David’s case, the video game community is rallying to his cause with Twitter hashtags like #saveGallant (David is currently trending on Twitter in Canada), and organizations everywhere are encouraging people to buy and upvote his game. (PROTIP: By paying more than the $2 minimum donation suggestion, you can help float David for the next little while until he finds a new job. Give generously!)

So does the Star’s article betray a bias against video games? i’m not sure it does. Plain and simple, you can’t bite the hand that feeds you, even if that hand is also strangling you and periodically feeding you shit. Did i do something wrong for slagging off George Brown College? Yes. Am i thrilled that i’m no longer working there? You betcha. Did David do something wrong by criticizing his call centre job? Most likely. Will he one day be thrilled that he’s no longer working there?

You betcha.

Ryan and Cassie at TEDxToronto

i feel incredibly honoured to have been asked to give a talk at the upcoming TEDxToronto conference.

The fun hook here is that TEDxToronto crew has also asked my 6-year-old daughter Cassandra to take the stage with me, to talk about the game we made together and the work that has grown from it.

i’ll admit i’m somewhat nervous about giving a talk with a little kid. The last time the spotlight was on Cassie (at 7 in the morning on live national television) things went a little sideways. But she’s a year older now. Cassie is precocious and talkative as ever. She has absolutely steeped herself in video games, to the point where she has vivid dreams about them. She woke up this morning and showed me the real-world game she had drawn out on stacks of paper in crayon when she was supposed to be in her room sleeping. She couldn’t wait to get to daycamp to show her friends how to play it. It involves frogs.

My KID Knows More About Technology Than *I* Do!

The follow-up to Ponycorns for Untold Entertainment is a site called GamesByKids.com, which is actively under development. It’s meant to help bridge the gap between children’s passion for games and technology, and grown-ups’ fear or lack of understanding of the same. Grown-ups are responsible for teaching our kids, at home and at school, about how all this marvelous technology works … but because they themselves feel overwhelmed, i worry that kids aren’t receiving the training they need to excel in a knowledge-based (as opposed to manufacturing-based) working world.

That’s what Cassie and i are planning to share at TEDxToronto in October: we want to encourage grown-ups to take the wheel and get messy with technology, taking kids by the hand and leading the charge into a wondrous sea of unknown buttons and features and functions and doo-dads.

Head of the Gorgon Preview on InnerSPACE

i can tell just by looking at you that you’re dying for a status update on Head of the Gorgon. The old-school graphic adventure game based on Greek mythology was created by the world’s largest game jam team, Project Overboard, a few short weeks ago at TOJam.

This past week, SPACE Channel dropped by to shoot a segment on the game for InnerSPACE. The show’s host, Ajay Fry, voices Perseus in the game. You’ll also get your first glimpse at Medusa, who is voiced by Toronto comic Hunter Collins.

Head of the Gorgon is due out soon. All the proceeds go to sending kids to computer camp. Donate now before it becomes cool!