Dangerous High School Girls In Award Ceremonies

By Kieron Gillen on January 13th, 2009 at 9:38 pm.

The best writing of the year was clearly the Cassandra Project. The same as every year, because it was that good, and not just derivative of everything I'd been reading at the time.

This is the biggest award-ceremony welcome surprise since Belle and Sebastian won that Brit award: The WGA’s nomination for RPS favourite Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble. Frankly, it deserves an award for the title alone. We decided it was an opportune moment to talk to Mousechief‘s Keith Nemitz about their sudden brush with mass fame…

RPS: Congrats on the nomination. How do you feel?

Keith Nemitz: Overwhelmed at the moment. The WGA gave me a few days notice. By Monday I was considering the use of illegal opiates to keep from hitting Firefox’s page reload button like some Skinner monkey. Adrianne kept emailing, “When the ‘heck’ are they going to post the ‘darn’ news! By 4pm I called the WGA and was told they wouldn’t update their pages until Wednesday, but the press release had gone out at noon. She said she would email a copy if I really wanted… I’m not sure phone lines transmit that moment when the human mind shifts, and the world suddenly seems like something conjured up by Fellini. “Yes, I’ll have two please.”

Right now, I’m a little sleepy but can feel the stress of worry building. Will people really fall for the old line, ‘will the underdog independent defeat the corporate giants?’ Seems a bit silly, but that’s Fellini for you.

RPS: What’s your take on the WGA with relation to videogames?

Keith Nemitz: Clearly, they want to extend their power base in film and television to games. I am mostly a union sympathizer, but when professionals in my core field, software engineering, started talking about organizing, I really felt it was a poor idea. I’ve always wondered about the idea of competitive unions, along the lines of the anti-trust laws that were eviscerated by Ronald Reagan and Co. When the WGA struck over earnings from DVDs, they were largely reviled by the game media. But in movies and TV writing is the backbone. In games, writing is more like a dominant arm. You can do pretty good without it, but it’s really important.

RPS: What’s your philosophy of writing in games? What purpose does it serve? How is it best to go about its purpose?

Keith Nemitz: Depends on the game. I’m a huge fan of Will Wright. He prefers emergent narratives. Customers seem to respond better to the Sims than all the adventure games ever made combined together. Then there are Bejeweled and Peggle and other game games. Who needs a stink’n story? I prefer making interactive stories. Writing stories has been a hobby of mine since I was a kid. I worked for Sierra Online in it’s later ‘good’ days. It was my first game company job.

That isn’t a direct answer to the questions, but games are an awesome art form that can appeal to customers regardless of their story content. Films have been made without stories, but mostly those are films for film nerds. Similar results are true for other arts.

For games that have embedded stories, their purpose is usually the same as in film, the backbone. Gameplay is the musculature. They need each other to go anywhere. Unfortunately, the industry’s development process rarely respects stories. Too often story bones are shit out into a prehensile tail.

RPS: In terms of determining approach and tone in Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble, could you explain your thinking?

Keith Nemitz: The approach was incredibly uneven and disorganized. I would have been fired by any company that had hired me to write the thing. Fortunately, I’m married to the boss. Starting out, I wanted to tell a story that might appeal to older women. It would be a casual game, because that’s where the easier money is for independents. About as many men play casual games as women, but a recent figure put purchasers at 70%. I wanted to write a story that women could respect. Casual games have too many cute waitress chicks, and cute farmer chicks, and cute goth chicks, etc. Sure those characters are tasty like candy, but a candy diet gets sickening, quickly. Casual games have matured recently, but in predictable directions, mystery and romance.

In DHSGiT, mystery is the hook, but the story is about the culture of small-minded people and how strong, truthfully educated women can improve it. I wanted to bring a society alive that players could interact with. The town of Brigiton, USA is a fantastical place in a fantastical period. Before organizing the story, I read a lot of Sinclair Lewis. I read magazine stories from the 1920s. I learned the tone of that period’s writing and strived to write in it. I think it contrasts humorously with the madcap world. I’m not sure I did a very good job reproducing the tone because of the zany events. But it has infected my writing since.

RPS: Thanks for your time. And good luck.

You can download the demo of Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble from Mousechief’s site.

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31 Comments »

  1. Pags says:

    I gotta admit, the name Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble sounds like the sort of b-movie schoolgirlsploitation flick I’d really dig and Tarantino would dig too and end up referencing in his next film. With rollerblades.

  2. The Poisoned Sponge says:

    Also, are the rumours true? Did Leigh Alexander really find this before you Kieron?

  3. qrter says:

    Really like this game. A bit of fun, ladies and gentlemen.

  4. Ginger Yellow says:

    “I gotta admit, the name Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble sounds like the sort of b-movie schoolgirlsploitation flick I’d really dig”

    That’s probably because it’s ripped off of “Catholic High School Girls In Trouble”, a spoof trailer for a sexploitation flick from Kentucky Fried Movie.

  5. NullH says:

    “Who needs a stink’n story? I prefer making interactive stories. Writing stories has been a hobby of mine since I was a kid. I worked for Sierra Online in it’s later ‘good’ days. It was my first game company job.”

    I love this guy.

  6. Mike says:

    That’s fantastic. Really awesome.

  7. bhlaab says:

    Maybe it’s the jpeg artifacting, but that guy in the banner looks awful.

    Wait this is about writing isnt it

  8. A-Scale says:

    Not even RPS can get me interested in this.

  9. A-Scale says:

    Allow me to preface that statement by mentioning that RPS has gotten me interested in some weird shit in the past. I even hunted down and tried out pathologic. It was awful. I see why you thought it was interesting, but still awful. Like a Da Vinci painting done in feces. If this game ends up being any good, someone inform me.

  10. Jarmo says:

    How long has the full game already been out? I remember reading the Rock, Paper, Shotgun posts about the game and the demo a year ago. I decided then and there to buy the game once it’s finished. I was relying on Rock, Paper, Shotgun to tell me when that happened.

    Rock, Paper, Shotgun gentlemen, did you know the game was out? If not, Mousechief really should handle their PR better. If you did, I really would have liked to receive word of it at the time. Still, better late than never.

    I’m looking forward to playing the game soon! There are never too many games with personality and originality in the world.

  11. mister slim says:

    Congrats Keith. I enjoyed the demo and my sister seems to be loving the game.

  12. mister slim says:

    @A-Scale

    It is good. The game has a knack for turning social systems into game systems in a way that is both entertaining and true to the feel of an actual conversation. There’s also a lengthy demo if you’re still cynical.

  13. Kieron Gillen says:

    Jarmo: I did know it was out, but we don’t often do posts just saying a game is out unless there’s a demo for it or we’re doing something akin to a review. And coming out at a time when I was too busy meant that I hadn’t played enough to write about it.

    bhlaab: Yeah – It’s taken from a previous thing I wrote on it, and expanded as I needed a grab quickly and swapped image quality for quality of image, if you see what I mean. Rush!

    KG

  14. Jarmo says:

    Ok, thanks for the information, Kieron! This is good to know. I had not realised your (understandable) policy. In the future, I’ll have to keep my own tabs on such releases.

    I think there would be value in it for many readers if you could alter your policy a little. Could you only post “Just a quick note to let you know Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble is now out.” for small releases such as this one? This would save us from having to keep an eye out ourselves. That, after all, is one of the big reasons to frequent your esteemed halls.

    I see you partly as a conglomeration of information about interesting, often little known games to check out. I don’t need to be told when Dawn of War II is out, that is surely shouted from enough places. But I’d very much like to hear about the game releases from smaller publishers and developers _you deem worthy_. I don’t have the time or the energy to trawl the various and sundry independent game news sources myself. I rely on you to bring us the cream of the crop — and in this I have not been disappointed.

    I very rarely even try game demos. Almost always, I have received enough information from your coverage and the publisher web page for the game to either decide to buy the full game or pass on it. These games are usually so cheap I don’t mind the occasional mispurchase if the game doesn’t ultimately suit my tastes.

    The critical resource in this is time. I save the time used on playing demos to just playing the many games I’ve already bought. The same goes for regularly checking many small publisher pages for release dates. I’d rather have the info in one place, the one I already slavishly follow. Dear Rock, Paper, Shotgun, this is you.

  15. Jarmo says:

    P.S. It seems “Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble” has been out since July 2008, if anyone else cares. Source: a quick perusal of web search results, so the date is not authoritative.

  16. Dan Lawrence says:

    An indie releases roundup type post once a month would be pretty handy I can’t think of many places that actually cover when an indie game has been released. It does sound a lot like work though, man!

  17. Morph says:

    @A-Scale
    I played the demo for this longer than I played Pathalogic. It’s much easier to stomach.

  18. phuzz says:

    Maybe at the bottom of the Sunday Papers, or some other weekly post, “Indie Games We Like That Are Out This Week”…
    Or perhaps we should just start a topic in the forum.

  19. Heliocentric says:

    When nintendo sony or microsoft have a new game on their console they tell the world. Maybe not in a scream but at least in a whimper. Release lists are absolutely complete. But the pc is impossible to do that with. Even “AAA” games totally slip by me. I’ve first seen games in second hand shops for next to nothing when the last i heard was glorious hype.

    Yeah, 2nd hand is bad for the industry, but i’m a customer i consume. Get the publisher to get the product on steam. Have the retail box just contain a 1 use cd key much like left 4 dead. Hell my l4d disk never got used. And make it clear on the box it can’t be resold. Failing that when you do put games on a digital dist service make it cheaper. The shops eat loads of your profit pie i know but how come i can get call of duty 4 from web retail for £10 less than steam? Its true now and at release it was £15. Don’t tell me steams fees are bigger than retails costs.

    Collecting pc releases is hard. Especially when the game will never reach a shop and is sold straight from the site. I don’t think its reasonable to expect the hive mind to follow so much.

  20. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    @A-Scale. It’s good. Quirky, too. Full version bought when this blogpost reminded me of its existence.

    Also the Fibbing minigame got changed to mini-poker when I wasn’t looking.

  21. Juleske says:

    I got this for my birthday from friends, it’s pretty entertaining!

  22. mrrobsa says:

    Good interview, I’m with Keith who seems to advocate a mix of narrative and non-narrative gaming. Lord knows I’d be sad if games stuck to one or the other.

  23. Keith Nemitz says:

    I have to take the entire blame for not getting the word out for the release of DHSGiT. I rely primarily on one distributor of game press releases. The game shipped in June 2008. We released several demos in mid 2007, but final development dragged on and on.

    As the center of the effort, anything that slips by the contractors I hire, ends up in my ‘to do’ box.

    To Ginger Yellow, I freely admit the title was inspired by Kentucky Fried Movie, but the game is ENTIRELY different. Catholic HSGiT was a parody trailer of a porno. And while our game strives to push the boundaries of sexual suggestiveness, no one’s going to get a hard-on playing it.

    I once wrote a parody of Kentucky Fried Movie’s parody, as satirical marketing copy, but nobody got the joke. You’d have to play the original and read my copy to get the joke.

    Readers here looking for regular updates on indie game should check out gametunnel.com. They complement RPS really well, since their focus is on highlighting indie games. They don’t write news pieces. Each month they round up new games in their ‘games of the month’ effort.

  24. Leigh says:

    Poisoned Sponge — it is not a rumor but a COLD HARD FACT.

    BRING IT GILLEN

  25. Jarmo says:

    Keith, thank you for the authoritative take on the release date micro-debacle — and the Gametunnel tip! Still, I’d rather someone else sifted through the various offerings each month and highlighted The Chosen Ones. Someone like Rock, Paper, Shotgun. It is not the lack of information that is the problem with the Internet.

  26. shon says:

    I own the full version of DHSGiT and it’s pretty good. The writing is a superb parody of the genre. It’s mostly mini-games and I mean that in a good way. It’s the rare game that I wish was supported by a book series.

  27. Ginger Yellow says:

    “To Ginger Yellow, I freely admit the title was inspired by Kentucky Fried Movie, but the game is ENTIRELY different. Catholic HSGiT was a parody trailer of a porno. And while our game strives to push the boundaries of sexual suggestiveness, no one’s going to get a hard-on playing it.”

    Oh, I didn’t mean my post as a criticism. I was just pointing out why the title came across as like a B-movie.

  28. Keith Nemitz says:

    “Oh, I didn’t mean my post as a criticism. I was just pointing out why the title came across as like a B-movie.”

    Good! Have you seen our B-movie?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuiaAOUtzSQ

    :-)

  29. Ginger Yellow says:

    I hadn’t, but I have now. Nice. And I really like the game, by the way. It reinvents the adventure genre in a really cool way. And that doesn’t happen often. Do you have a copy of that parody do you?

  30. Keith Nemitz says:

    Ginger Yellow,

    Do you mean the actual KFM parody trailer, or my parody of the narration of that trailer?

    I have both.

  31. Ginger Yellow says:

    The parody you wrote.

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