The Electronic Wireless: Leigh Alexander GDC!

By Kieron Gillen on March 31st, 2009 at 10:06 am.

RPS didn’t go to GDC. Leigh Alexander did. So we thought it a good idea to get her on the yap-machine to ask her about her experiences. Bit of an experimental RPS-cast this one, being done over Skype. Will the sound quality be enough for the audiophile RPS listeners? I think it’s okay – did some noise-reduction and leveling which seems to polish it up, though there’s a smidge of drop-out right near the end. Ah, that internet wireless. Anyway – you can download it direct here, it has an individual net-home and here’s the iTunes page, while the full running order – in case you want to skip past the bits where Leigh insists on talking about consoles – is beneath the cut…

0:00: Hello!
0:45 Kieron continues to be in denial about Alcoholism.
1:00 Introduction to what we’re actually going to talk about this podcast.
1:30 A little zoo talk. Yes.
2:00 GDC: “What was it like?” Insightful questions by Gillen again. Leigh tells him, with words.
3:50 What’s the big trends coming out GDC? Mobile gaming! Digital downloads! I-phone! Alternative channels.
5:15 Kieron remembers Develop last year. The webgame goldrush.
6:00 A portrait of Gillen domesticity.
6:20 The Gold Rush continues. Problems with finding quality in the Iphone.
7:30 What games were interesting and compelling to Leigh? Prototype games.
9:10 Kieron fails to pronounce Achron correctly and asks Leigh about it. Leigh is scared of the terrain.
10:40 Kieron forces Leigh to play namedropping. She has met all the cool kids, proposed to Suda and hails the funniness of Double Fine.
12:40 The GDC award ceremonies!
14:00 The DRAMAS! Is Pixeljunk Eden indie or not?
15:40 Kieron’s problem with the IGF, apart from the fact he was a shit judge: it gives awards for unfinished games.
19:00 Kieron realises he’s being really rude making Leigh talk about something she’s got a little conflict of interest in. But Leigh is fine!
19:45 What was Leigh’s stand-out presentation of GDC? Hideo Kojima, obviously. Man, this has gone totally non-PC.
21:30 Leigh talks about the Art of Brutal Legend presentation.
22:30 Leigh talks about the panel she was on, the Burned By Friendly Fire: Game Critics Rant panel. She did about an ecosystem of negativity between journos, press and the audience. Here’s some coverage of the whole thing.
23:45 Some very skillful editing from where Kieron had to run to let his girlfriend into the house, as she’d forgot her keys. Oh noes!
24:30 Heather Chaplins’s controversial “Games aren’t immature. Game Developers are immature toe-rags” rant.
26:15 Kieron tells Leigh to fuck off and die. Out of love! Then back to the Developers Immaturity argument.
28:00 Kieron understands Heather’s urge to scream. Leigh thinks it better to be constructive.
28:35 Kieron segues into the Lionhead Homophobic Abuse law suit, wondering whether it could be a good example of developer cultural immaturity which Chaplin was talking about.
31:00 Kieron’s problem on Xbox Live For Windows. Sounding like a tiny girl.
32:15 Leigh asks Kieron about the Zoo. Kieron very quickly goes into a horrific poo-based monkey story. RPS-bestiality porn. Skip this bit if you’re at all sensitive. Somehow Lee manages to turn it into a metaphor for Videogames. Go Leigh!
34:00 Our plans for GDC next year: Performance Games Journalism.
35:00 There was meant to be less press this year at GDC. True or false? Was the atmosphere different? Leigh talks about the joy of actual access to developers.
38:05 Kieron laments never having been to GDC. There are bars there, apparently.
38:47 Leigh talks about the GDC parties. This is turning into Hello magazine.
40:00 Kieron tells a story with all the details removed about how a friend of his got into a GDC party.
41:30 Kieron realises how sickening they are.
42:00 “We probably should wrap up shortly”. We totally don’t.
42:05 Kieron starts talking about the Path.
43:15 Interpretations of the Path. Going to ponce-factor nine. And spoilers abound, so be careful.
44:30 The most important thing about the path: it’s an art game which is available through a major distribution channel for money.
47:20 Some people being scared of the path: threatened by the unfamiliar.
48:20 And we wrap it up quickly. They’re out!

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61 Comments »

  1. ChaosSmurf says:

    I haven’t listened yet, so I have no idea of how good the quality is – but a good way of recording over skype is to just have both people use audacity and then one of them sends their file to the other. That person then inserts the audio from that file into theres and exports as an mp3. Perfect quality with remarkably little effort.

  2. flo says:

    omg, Kieron, where are you from, Essex or something? damn near worst english accent ever … (sorry, but true) Also, Leigh seems to have a much better microphone then you, but maybe that is just the accent?

  3. FunkyB says:

    I’ve done what ChaosSmurf suggests and I can second that it works great. Just ensure that you are only recording your own microphone not the entire audio mix! :) Then it is just a case of lining up the gaps of the two conversations and mixing them into a single file.

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    Flo: I’m a midlander.

    KG

  5. Ian says:

    Midlanders FTW.

  6. skalpadda says:

    Is Leigh your official American correspondent now? If so I approve! :)

  7. Gap Gen says:

    British accents are amazing. It’s our defence against foreigners who speak English understanding what we’re saying.

  8. AndrewC says:

    Games aren’t immature, games developers aren’t immature – it is gamers that are immature!

    Poo!

  9. Nick says:

    Don’t worry, I think your accent is sexy, Kieron.

  10. pignoli says:

    @AndrewC – Well that’s the obvious argument isn’t it? If there was no market for such games, the whole medium would move on and ‘grow up’. But I think that’s a futile point of view, there will always be gamers to whom ‘immature’ game appeal, just as there are (to continue the movie analogy) people who enjoy watching the scary/date/superhero/etcetc movies. That doesn’t mean there aren’t also people out there who want ‘grown up’ films, or indeed ‘grown up’ games. It’s just up to the developers to start doing something about it… I realise now that I’m starting to sound like I’m coming down on Heather Chaplins side in this… eep.

  11. Lewis says:

    Oh god, I’m going to talk about The Path again.

    But your thoughts on it being a $10 game are interesting. I did a podcast last week with JD from Resolution and we talked a bit about the game in that. His view was that he found it fascinating and is thoroughly glad he played it, but only because we got sent it for free. He compared it to some of the more abstract art installations in our local gallery, ones that are usually free to enter. They’re thoroughly interesting, but if it comes down to having to pay to see them, he’d probably not bother.

    Which I thought raised a shedload of interesting questions about A) whether as games journalists we’re guilty of over-praising stuff because we don’t have to pay for it, and B) what justifies charging money for an experience of this type. Food for thought, anyway.

  12. Dreamhacker says:

    Another Leigh Alexander podcast? Gee, I don’t know, insisting visual novel h-games are worth playing gets you written off from my official list of serious game-journos right quick…

  13. Iain says:

    @Lewis:

    I got my free review copy of The Path, played all the way through and then went to Steam and bought it. Twice. Once for me and once for a friend. I’m not shy about putting my money where my mouth is.

    The really interesting thing about The Path is that I could just as easily write another 2500 word review explaining why it’s only worth 1/10. I’m really interested to find out what Kieron’s final conclusions on it are, too.

  14. futage says:

    I don’t think she’s saying they’re worth playing (or worth you playing). Just that there’s something of interest in them.

  15. Kieron Gillen says:

    Lewis: Well, I’ve gone to free abstract art exhibitions – frankly, any chance I get. But I’ve also paid to get into them. And paid to get into experimental film or theatre, occasionally, and gigs where there’s just bleeping and sensation a hell of a lot.

    In other words, I’ve paid for weirdo-art experiences. And there’s a market for them in other media. A niche one, sure, but one.

    Ian: I admit, I’m considering the 1/10 myself. But we’ll see.

    KG

  16. Iain says:

    @Kieron:

    I did consider it, but then I decided it would be much more fun to bait as large a group of fanboys as possible. It’s my new hobby. :-D

  17. AndrewC says:

    @Pignoli – Leigh mentioned cinema being accepted early on as a narrative form and a medium for artistic (or, more generally, human) expression. This is still lacking in games, even with sites like this.

    Reactions to ‘The Path’, even here, suggest a strong push back against game-type-things that don’t involve shooting-in-the-face or, more generally, aren’t based around ‘win’ conditions.

    That, and reactions to the ‘RE5 Is Racist’ furore, suggest a strong push back against game imagery or content meaning anything other than an excuse to shoot-in-the-face and ‘win’.

    So, to very roughly compare films to games, there’s still too much of expecting every film to be an action-explodey film where every attempt at a love story is dismissed as faggy.

    Of course this does still happen in films too – witness the hatred heaped upon girly vampire film Twilight that is not heaped upon equally-dim-but-aimed-at-boys Blade, or even Underworld.

    And also note that a lot of ‘adult’ or ‘art’ films are heavily subsidised.

    So the answer is kind of as Leigh put it that it is a symptom of a more general cultural ignorance – it is developers, media outlook, gamers and everyone else in between – and we have to take our share of responsibility. We can sit here huffing about developers not growing up while we, as gamers, refuse to notice (or get really huffy) when they try.

    It’s about recognising gaming as a narrative form and a medium capable of artistic (or, more generally, human) expression – and that’s down to us. If you want something to grow up, you have to treat it like an adult.

  18. futage says:

    The last thing gaming needs is to become a narrative form, surely.

  19. AndrewC says:

    Depends what you mean by narrative form, really (or ‘story’ for that matter, which is a hell of tangent). But recognising game content as stuff that actually means something is a good start.

    I also know that I am coming from a strong ‘games as experience’ viewpoint here, rather than a ‘games as sport’ viewpoint (where the point is to make the games mechanistically perfect, rather than ‘meaningful’) – but I do believe the ‘wot, it’s just a game, shut up’ attitude holds far more sway in the games world than even the hold Hollywood explodo-blockbusters have over the film world.

    Changing that is not about game design, but about political, cultural change.

  20. Xercies says:

    I think The Path is quite exciting in the games becoming more mature argument. I definitely think its going to be the indie games that are going to get there first. The big developers see the big money they get from “immature” games so they would be more reluctant to try these things.

    Hopefully some of these indie games will make some of the developers wake up and try some more mature games and put some mature story or mature themes in there games.

  21. jalf says:

    @futage: But what it *does* need is to become *capable* of naration. I have nothing against Halo, Dead or Alive, Duke Nukem or any other game based on blood, muscles or boobs. But I think games could and should be able to encompass more than that. And it is depressing to think that after something like 30 years, the games industry still finds it so hard to do *anything* other than adrenaline rushes.

    I don’t know where to put the blame though. It’s obvious that developers won’t make more sophisticated games as long as their fans are crying for space marines and boobs. But it’s pretty obvious as well that the vast majority of developers simply do not have a clue how to even get started on those subjects. There’s plenty of immaturity on all sides, and it’s self-reinforcing. People who expect more sophisticated content are less likely to become dedicated gamers in the first place, and then even less likely to become developers.

  22. futage says:

    @AndrewC

    I agree for the mostpart. I’m not generally comortable with film/game comparisons and (additionally to that, this isn’t the reason for that) I’d not want to see games go the way films have gone (so narrative-centric, at the expense of everything else they could’ve been).

    @jalf

    I don’t think there’s any “games should encompass more than that”, they already do. It just goes for the most part unrecognised. They’re already virtual/imaginative/conceptual spaces which we can explore. They’re already amazingly educational (not necessarily in the sense of just ‘imparting static knowledge’, though they do that too). I don’t think we need to worry about what they will become so much as spend more time thinking about what they are already and go from there.

    I think this is part of why ‘art-games’ often tend to be so utterly disappointing. Their makers have no idea what games are so end up making substandard nominally interactive presentations of (often adolescent) narratives instead of games.

  23. Dean says:

    Call Burner: http://www.callburner.com/ makes taping both Skype Callers very very easy. You both run it, set it to save the one side of the call, do the show, then one person sends it to the other one. Open them both in Audacity, mix together, job done.
    It’s certainly easier than doing any proper post-processing on it. You can also use The Levelator: http://www.conversationsnetwork.org/levelator to clean it up afterwards, which is good if you don’t want to bother with that sort of thing yourself.
    Between those two you’ll probably have a better sounding podcast for less effort.

  24. Kieron Gillen says:

    (This one was levelatorized)

    KG

  25. Poita says:

    It’s complainy time.

    If this is with the same lady who was on a recent podcast then I”ll give it a miss. That last interview was excruciating. The dude (don’t know who, Kieron or someone) was too gushing and the girl was too in love with every sylable that came out of her own mouth.

    On a related topic. Can you try not to be so English in your podcasts in future. (I’m a Brit too so I have a right to biatch about it without it being a national thang). What I mean is, the English ‘styley’ of podcastings seems to be 3 parts. 1 part normal voice and normal and interesting content. 1 part navel gazingly Radioheadingly mumbled so even a fellow Brit can’t make out what the hell was just mumbled. And 1 part ‘Brit cute’. You don’t have to make a cute, pithy comment every third line. I know it’s a way of trying to sound interesting ‘and’ also deflect any possilbe jibe because ‘look, my tone said that i was being cute i.e. that i don’t really care. I know it’s an odd Blackadderish way for we English lads sometimes but in moderation eh. It’s bloody annoying when the chat is always like that. You sound like you are worried some of your none games playing friends and family might listen in now and then and want to show them that you arn’t really serious about games.
    Grow a pair, slam the big hairy buggers down on the podcast table and be loud and proud about the fact that you love games and stop establishing the humour/cutesy escape clause all the time. Now and again ok but you don’t need to Angus Deytonify the whole proceedings.

    Ooo i luv a good rant.

  26. Legionary says:

    Like hearing from Leigh, she has an interesting perspective on some of the more obscure genres.

  27. Kieron Gillen says:

    Poita: You want me to stop having sex with prostitutes and doing blow? Absolutely no way.

    KG

  28. Poita says:

    Now see, at least that wasn’t cute. Just good old fashioned crass American style humour. It’s a start. Now only if we could go a step further, say, make it actually funny and, y’know, maybe relevant then whooooeeeee boy. We got ourselves a podcast.

  29. Gap Gen says:

    Yeah, I’m not sure what to make of the “we had a conversation and you can listen too” format. On the surface it sounds like a terrible idea, but when it works it can actually be quite interesting. I think if you make it more professional in terms of presentation and organisation, there’s also the danger that you close up and say less than you would have otherwise done.

  30. nabeel says:

    Much better podcast this time round, less drunken ramblings and more interesting discussions. The ‘performance journalism’ concept is awesome, perhaps a new movement?? Very interesting points about the Path, I’m looking forward to both your thoughts on it. Now that you’ve figured Skype out, are you going to start podcasting with the other two RPSers? Not that you haven’t settled into a nice setup of two alternating podcasts a week, of course.

  31. Kieron Gillen says:

    We moved to London to avoid speaking to Jim and Walker that often. We’re not going to blow it like that.

    KG

  32. Dinger says:

    Kieron, you already revealed that the major designer in question was Peter Molyneux.

    I do read this blog, sometimes.

  33. Kieron Gillen says:

    Man, I’m terribly indiscreet.

    KG

  34. Iain says:

    To be fair, I think anyone could realistically impersonate Peter Molyneux. All you’d have to do is continually flap your mouth off enthusiastically making promises you can’t possibly hope to deliver on and anyone would be taken in, really. ZING!

  35. Larington says:

    The ever present challenge of maintaining audio quality aside, I’m happy with the way the Electronic Wireless show is and take issue with people who seem to want to tell RPS how it should do stuff as demands rather than suggestions. Sorry, but I just *had* to get that off my chest.

    As far as my thoughts on whats holding games development back in terms of maturity, yeah, theres definately a cultural aspect but I also think that fear is a significant factor here:
    Fear that a genuinely ‘mature’ game wouldn’t sell.
    Fear that a genuinely ‘mature’ game would be poorly recieved by some elements of games journalism.
    Fear that a genuinely ‘mature’ game would be leapt on by general news media for introducing kidies to mature subject matter (Regardless of the rating on the box).
    Fear that a genuinely ‘mature’ game might result in a political backlash from opportunistic politicians.
    But most of all,
    Fear that a genuinely ‘mature’ game wouldn’t sell, potentially killing the development studio in the process.

    The phrase ‘comfort zone’ applies, and its the exact reason why something like The Path is regarded first as a controversy by many, instead of being regarded as an indicator of the potential that games can one day reach.

  36. Lewis says:

    Kieron: “I admit, I’m considering the 1/10 myself. But we’ll see.”

    You do realise what sort of a comments thread you’d be starting with that at Eurogamer, right?

  37. Kieron Gillen says:

    Lewis: I review The Path at Eurogamer, I’m automatically starting one of those comments threads.

    In a real way, if the mark matters to you at all, The Path almost certainly isn’t for you.

    Larington: The reason why I tend to be jokey to people in the comments threads is to prove that we’re paying attention but – really – we’re not going to debate this stuff. We’ll rip off any good ideas and avoid stuff which isn’t our thing, daddio.

    KG

  38. drewski says:

    The podcast is what it is – if you want a generic this happened in gaming and this is news and this came out and was good, go to Gamespot.

    I LIKE the conversation about games and this is what we said style. I wouldn’t listen to it otherwise.

  39. Iain says:

    @Kieron:

    In a real way, if the mark matters to you at all, The Path almost certainly isn’t for you.

    I couldn’t agree more. Which is precisely why I gave it the mark I did. Judging The Path by the same standards and criteria you’d judge Dawn of War II (or even something as risible as the last Leisure Suit Larry game) would be to entirely miss the point.

    Do you have any idea when your review will be up? I’m seriously looking forward to reading it.

  40. Schmung says:

    I’m following the whole Path debacle as well as I am able just to see how it all pans out in the end. I’ve no intention whatsoever to even go near the game because I know that it will irritate the living shit out of me. I am very much not it’s target audience and that much was plain after the first reviews started to appear. What does interest me beyond the comment wars is if it changes things at all. Judging by what I’ve seen and read I think that even calling it a game and treating it in any way as that is misleading. Doubtless someone has made that point previously, but I’ve been away from the interwebs for a bit.

  41. Xercies says:

    Well I’ve just played The Path and I still think its very unreviewable, that doesn’t mean you can’t review it but as a game compared to the rest of the games it would be a 1/10 but as an art experience and a disturbing one at that I would have to give it a 10/10 but those numbers mean nothing because its very subjective.

    @Larrington

    I actually agree with this, when the gaming community can not have controversies about The Path and the other one Dangerous High School girls or whatever its called then we can have mature games.

  42. Lewis says:

    As I’ve said before, having “played” Endless Forest and The Graveyard I was surprised at how game-like The Path was. The problem with this (if there is one) is that these gamey aspects are weak, and served only to pull me away from the atmosphere. I would have preferred something even more abstract.

    And as a piece of art, it’s maybe a little underdeveloped. But that’s going to be subjective. And, y’know, it goes a damn sight further than most games.

  43. TariqOne says:

    Controversy is not bad, mkay?

    Personally, I’m glad people are talking about risky or at least against-the-grain titles. I’m glad people are asking about race in games. Too often we conflate unanimity with positivity, whereas I tend to believe a bit of shouting at each other makes life worth living. Our world has creeped a bit into the “I like his writing because I agree with him” syndrome, when honestly, a lot of the writing I like to read is that which puts forth a bunch of crap that makes me want to punch the writer in the face.

    Or something like that.

  44. Muzman says:

    Interesting stuff. On the maturity thing: I’m encountering this everywhere of late and I think it’s intriguing that people are talking about it. The thing is at times it’s like no one noticed that in the last ten years or so the basic standard of male behaviour, all of them- rich, poor, ‘nerds’, ‘jocks’ -, became what I’ve come to call “Lads Mag”. Calling it schoolboy doesn’t really do justice to how fundamental to masculine identity it has become and implies people might grow out of it all by themselves. But I’m not so sure.
    It could be said that males have always been rude, crude sexist, homophobic and dumb (and loud about it) somewhere, somehow. But this is a bit different. In more polite times and places (mid nineties academic circles eg) this stuff was regularly frowned upon and confronted and it hasn’t really been so for a while. There’s a self righteousness about it now, like “I’m a bloke and this is what blokes do ok. Stop repressing me”, that suggests most never encountered such times/places (and I think the PC backlash effectively made it disappear). There’s also another factor where people don’t seem to consider the internet public space, but that’s aside for the moment.
    But it’s like it crept up on people and I find that interesting, as if various social spaces were largely insulated from how this has gone mainstream. The backlash backlash has well and truly begun though, I think. Stupidity is getting confronted more often. Maybe the guy at Lionhead was being a bit sensitive, who knows, but I’m sure it never occured to the accused that what they were doing was particularly bad or unpleasent. They were probably just ‘havin a laugh’ as far they were concerned, I’m guessing, and I say this because of this cultural shift I’m talking about up there. Juvenile male behaviour (not limited to age) has not been confronted, and I’d say has even been celebrated, for quite a while.

  45. Mil says:

    It could be said that males have always been rude, crude sexist, homophobic and dumb (and loud about it) somewhere, somehow.

    @Muzman: As a man, I wish I could be as un-sexist as you. Please tell me how.

  46. Gap Gen says:

    Most stuff stereotypically geared towards one gender is pap at some level. No doubt if women ruled gaming, they’d pump out shit like Twilight that a lot of the women I know like but all the men who saw it hated.

    I don’t think being juvenile really comes into it. Gaming’s blockbusters are pretty much on the same level as film’s blockbusters. For every casual game there’s a romcom. Indie in games and indie in films are now pretty much at the same level. The shame is not that games are derided but that *both* media could do a lot better, but the market doesn’t demand it.

    I think the main reason games aren’t more mainstream is because we aren’t taught to appreciate games. Film is pretty immediate, while literature is taught at school, even dead literature like Shakespeare where all the really funny jokes have to be explained to you. Maybe FPS or RTS skills should be a class, followed by Leveling Up 101?

  47. HopperUK says:

    Gap Gen: ‘Most stuff stereotypically geared towards one gender is pap at some level.’

    Aren’t a lot of games stereotypically geared towards men, though?

  48. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Leigh Alexander. Kieron Gillen. Two renegade game journalists separated by an ocean, teaming up by podcast.

    They fight crime.

  49. Leigh says:

    We totally fight crime. In the future time.

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