The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on June 12th, 2011 at 11:15 am.


Sundays are for waking up and wondering what is going on. What is going on? Well, it seems that a large number of people are cooking bacon. Others, meanwhile are drinking their morning hot drinks and wonder what was said about videogames in the past week. We can help them with that last part. Let’s do that.

  • Eurogamer chat with Randy Pitchford about finishing Duke Nukem Forever: “All of the intellectual analysis of the reality of the situation – the situation in the market, the state of the software and the nature of entertainment that existed and entertainment that it should be – all of that led to the sound decision of, yes, this needs to happen.” Or did it? Hmm!
  • Paul Callaghan’s speech to the Australian IGDA in Brisbane is a rousing thing, and lengthy. It’s framed against a backdrop of the Australian games industry which has been in turmoil due to layoffs, cancelled projects, and closed studios. He makes some important points about what it means to stay working in the insutry, whether that is as part of a large studio, or as an indie.
  • Cliffski challenges some myths and suppositions over what it means to be “indie”: “Indie means ‘independent’. It means you dont’ work for a publisher that controls your output. It means self-funded, with total control. It does NOT mean *cheap* or *low budget* or *desperate* or *hobbyist*. Granted, there are a lot of hobbyist indie devs, but that doesn’t mean some indies don’t employ a bunch of people, have nice offices, spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on development, produce high quality content, and you know what…. I think it’s perfectly reasonable for a lot of those indie games to sell big numbers, and *shock horror* for the developers to make some decent money without being made to feel like they are worse than Osama Bin Laden.”
  • Daniel Golding is doing a PhD on games and doesn’t always admit to it: “My unwillingness to reveal my interest in videogames was partly based on the kinds of reactions I imagined I would get. Nobody wants to be the videogame guy. Or, more to the point, nobody wants to talk to the videogame guy. And, worse than that, I’m the videogame guy who thinks they’ve an interesting enough topic for a doctoral thesis. In dinner party stakes, I’m only a few steps up from the editor of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Philosophy or someone who writes Star Wars fan fiction.” MAN UP, DANIEL. YOU ARE A NERD, NOW DEAL WITH IT LIKE THE REST OF US.
  • Gosh, Michael Abbott’s going for it in this piece on games and the Buddhist conception of the self.
  • IGN, bless ‘em, go in search of sex games at E3: “It’s not a coincidence that EA chose sex to promote The Sims Social and its experimentation with the details of an ordinary life lived in suburbia. The Sims games rarely get full credit for their creative ambition, but they acknowledged the silly pleasures of making WooHoo almost from the beginning. Adding a layer of social media integration to populate date nights and bathroom rendezvous ‘s with real world people seems as important an evolution to the life sim genre as motion sensing has been to exercise and dance games. “
  • Gamasutra’s Leigh Alexander tries to read the message of E3: “The downside to all this core-pandering was a fairly predictable show. There was plenty to see and do and admire, but little to be surprised by. BioShock Infinite gave a truly breathtaking demo, but then again, we were expecting it to. The hyper-focus on AAA action entertainment, and the blistering levels of quality and realism the industry’s beginning to achieve seem actually counteractive. One view down a gun sight, one shambling zombie, one plummeting bridge starts to blend with another.”
  • I missed this before: “You could say that Portal and Portal 2 are games about game design. GLaDOS is, of course, our game designer, piecing together test chambers for her test subject(s) to solve, helplessly addicted to the process. “
  • The new Alice is not far off, but how was the old one? Not great. I gave it 81%, which seems rather high, in retrospect.
  • Two NYT critics defend slow and boring films, in much the way that I have defended slow and boring games in the past.
  • Will Self questions the rituals of our digital age.
  • A lecture by Chris Crawford.
  • That Jim Rossignol dude got interviewed this week, too. He talks some proper rubbish.

Music this week is via the RPS forums’ thread of metal. Ultimate.

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124 Comments »

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  1. MDP says:

    I’ve always found Chris Crawford’s ideas on game design fascinating.

    • Kunal says:

      MDP – Did you see this conversation.between Crawford and Rohrer ? He brings out some nice points, one of them being how games are fundamentally spatial. And while they have that limitation it will be extremely difficult for games to convey the same thoughts and emotions that books and film can do with (relative) ease.

    • Bobtree says:

      Chris Crawford’s fascinating ideas drive me slightly nuts because he apparently can not make a game based on them, and so I think maybe they are wrong. Granted, I admire him for steadfastly pursuing a seemingly impossible goal, but as a gamer I want to play games more than I want to imagine them.

      What he always comes back to is the “games are flawed because they are about things when they should be about people” idea. It just makes me want to shout at him that I AM THE PLAYER, the only person a game has to be concerned with. I love driving vehicles and blowing stuff up (much more than I like people on average), so that’s exactly what they should give me.

      This reminds me, the new Carrier Command looks great, and I have high hopes for the Carmageddon revamp. They could both hire Chris Crawford to make systems for generating in-game stories about the socioeconomic damage I will do and people I will run over while driving vehicles and blowing stuff up. Hitman Blood Money was great like that with the newspaper “debriefing” about your missions.

    • MDP says:

      Kunal – Yeah, I found out about Chris Crawford through that video. That whole documentary was amazing.

      Bobtree – He has done some recent “interactive story” games (http://www.storytron.com/), but there is yet to be a commercially successful game based on his philosophies.

  2. kwyjibo says:

    Daniel Golding? Denial Golding more like. Fnarr fnarr!

  3. McDan says:

    That studying videogames article is nice, he shouldn’t be ashamed. As you said jim, he should deal with it like the rest of us. And anyway, isn’t videogames as a form of media one of the biggest? If not the biggest? So he’s got that 1-up on people doing media studies on things that are less “big”, as it were, than vidyagames.

    Interesting conversation between that Indiana bloke and some other guy who’s name I forget because I’ve never heard it before. Kind of distracted by the pictures though, every time I see an EVE screenshot or artwork it makes me want to play the darn game! I feel I should say something about the interview… well I agree about the stuff on mirrors edge, been replaying that recently, great game and design, apart from the couple of times I got stuck, but that was probably my fault.

    Crikey that’s the longest comment I’ve written on here, I love RPS (I pronounce it “ruppus” in my head, just thought I’d share.)

    • Rii says:

      The porn industry is larger than the games industry and lies even further from respectability.

  4. bill says:

    I haven’t read Leigh’s piece yet, but i have to say that I didn’t hear any interesting news from E3. That might be because I wasn’t so interested, so I just read a lot less E3 news than I have in previous years, but I can’t think of a single exciting piece of news that I heard..

    ..what interesting or unexpected happened? Was there anything?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      That’s what her piece was about. This was an E3 where what happened was that all the big companies made the announcements we expected them to make. Very much just a statement of “as business as normal”.

    • Kadayi says:

      Yeah lack of any big reveals (like say BG&E2) made for a hum drum event. Certainly plenty of what was shown looked positive, but there wasn’t anything shown to really enthuse about that hadn’t already been discussed. We needed some ‘OMG’ moment and it never came unfortunately.

    • Jumwa says:

      Well there was the Wii U unveiling! /duck

      I kid! I kid! Don’t hurt me!

    • Kaira- says:

      Like Jumwa said, Wii-U will probably be the only thing I’ll remember from E3 this year. Which isn’t all that surprising, every time I think about E3 the first image in my head is Nintendo’s logo. Go figure.

    • Jumwa says:

      Confession: the only thing I was really excited about for E3 was to see just what the heck the new Nintendo console would do. I rather doubt I’ll be buying it, I just don’t console game anymore, but I was curious and a bit intrigued at the rumours. It didn’t disappoint as entertainment.

      Otherwise E3 was pretty much what I expected, no surprises. Was nice to see a bit more info and videos on games I was anticipating, and I maybe even got interested in a game (maybe even two!) I hadn’t been really following before, but that’s it.

    • bill says:

      The clue was in the title, huh?
      i was just hoping someone would point out something exciting that i’d missed.. but i guess not.

    • Zogtee says:

      The only thing that interested me was Nintendo and the Wii U. MS was basically just shouting “BUY A FUCKING KINECT” and Sony were too dull for words. FFS, can someone take Jack Tretton shopping? The man desperately needs decent clothes.

    • terry says:

      The big game of the show for me was Fruit Ninja. Yes.

    • Baines says:

      When Destructoid ran a post asking people what E3 info they would be most excited about, I realized that there really wasn’t going to be anything. We knew the big games already, and had a fair idea of what they’d show. The most obvious next big games were too far away to be meaningful E3 reveals. We had the rumors of Wii U, and the realization that it wouldn’t actually matter what it was until at least next year anyway.

      In the end, my greatest hopes for E3 came down to things that I knew weren’t going to happen, that Nintendo would reveal North American releases for Wii games like Last Story, Xenoblades, and Pandora’s Tower. And indeed, none of those happened. Those games don’t fit NoA’s interest, which is focused on the 3DS and at best only cares about Skyward Sword and party games for the Wii.

    • Urthman says:

      I was surprised by:

      * Catwoman. And how great Batman’s swooping looks.
      * The great animation in Skyrim
      * Far Cry 3

  5. faelnor says:

    Any news about mod coverage at RPS?

  6. Jumwa says:

    I spent a lot of time amongst academics, and the one thing I came away from university with as I moved to the private sector was that the university system was, at the top, snobbery and class-based. If I were to talk to Daniel Golding and hear he was studying video games, I’d probably be hard pressed not to feel a twinge of annoyance too. I think most people would too.

    The notion that such people (usually) have such a high opinion of themselves (and conversely such a low opinion of everyone else) while studying something the rest of us do for fun, can be irksome. I couldn’t help myself from laughing at the Ethno-musicologist, and it wasn’t just because the name sounded ridiculous.

    But then I’m a historian who left academic circles to work in my field in the private world. I’ve dealt with a lot of amateur historians seeking my help, and though they were missing the training I had, the very important methods of understanding and researching, they were clever and intelligent people with a lot to offer (much more than their academic counterparts in some cases), and I saw them get snubbed quite a bit when seeking help or recognition in academic circles.

    I know on the issue of culture items like video games, when I’ve discussed in the presence of a PhD on the topic I get the “You must be too stupid to understand the topic, so allow me to explain how it is before you talk further” treatment routinely.

    Long story short; bitter lower class academic has resentment towards snobbish academia and lacks sympathy for Ethno-videogamologist-or-whatever-he’s-called.

    • studenteternal says:

      There is a Private Sector for History majors?!?!

      :)

    • Jumwa says:

      Shhhh, I don’t need the added competition.

      But really, don’t get your hopes up. There’s not a lot of demand for freelance folk doing family trees, research, tutoring, editing and consulting.

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      JB says:

      On a lighter note, “snubbed” is fun to say.

      Snubbies!!!

  7. Garg says:

    “Indie means ‘independent’. It means you don’t work for a publisher that controls your output.”

    Got to love that niche indie title “World of Warcraft”. I know what Cliffski is trying to say but his definition includes the likes of Valve and Blizzard (I know they’re part of Activision, but do you really think they pay any attention to them?).

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      So his definition includes companies that are, by definition, excluded from his defintion? Um.

    • Garg says:

      They are developers, not publishers, no? Valve isn’t beholden to any form of publisher, only to itself and its employees.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I think it would be a stretch to argue that Valve isn’t a publisher, at least in terms of the functions of distribution and marketing that a publisher performs. It controls one of the biggest publishing platforms in the world.

    • Garg says:

      Maybe so, but where is the line between self-publishing being Indie and non-Indie? What constitues being beholden to someone else “who controls your output”? Are they always shareholders, or do larger, yet independent companies, still have to make commercial decisions as they are responsible for their employees?

      The thing is I agree with Cliffski’s conclusion; that Indie games shouldn’t be ghetto-ised as sub $5 cheap play things. However, he bases his arguement on the definition of what constitues being Indie, which is somewhat nebulous and so undermines his point somewhat.

    • Navagon says:

      Valve actually use EA for publishing their retail releases. True enough they’re a developer and distributor that has only a very limited need for a publisher, but I see no indication that they are one themselves.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Talking personally, I’m totally with Valve being an indie developer. Blizzard however clearly aren’t. If you don’t own your own ass in a true and legal way, you’re not an indie developer.
      You could argue that the second you have employees who aren’t owners you’re not an indie developer. Employees, by definition, don’t control their own destiny.

      (I’d probably tweak that to be “primarily”, but I think it’s kinda handy.)

      KG

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Except that they self-publish, and publish other people’s stuff? No, no evidence at all…

      If Valve are an indie in Cliff’s terms, it’s that they are privately owned. EDIT: Trumped by KG. But yes, I suppose that’s the key point. A grey area, perhaps. Another crucial definition might be to say that you are able to sell your own games direct – by which definition Valve are indie and Blizzard are not. I mean Cliff publishes other indies from positech.

    • The Hammer says:

      Jim,

      Blizzard sell their games through Battle.net, which as far as I know doesn’t have any Activision branding at all.

      EDIT: Not that that makes them an indie dev: hells no.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Right, but that *would* make Activision shareholders richer. So that’s probably the best definition.

    • Unaco says:

      Maybe, just maybe… There is no single definition of Indie. Is it the financial/legal position of the developer? Is it how they publish and distribute their games? Is it in their approach to game design? The types of game they make? Their aesthetic? Their attitude? Their design ‘philosophy’? Is it because Nintendo sent their CV back to them with a post it note saying “LoL”, so they’ve decided to stick it to the man by making yet another retro looking, 8-Bit, 2D f*cking platformer, and have sworn to label themselves and self identify themselves as ‘Indie’ for ever more?

      In the end, I don’t think there can be a ‘litmus test’ of whether a developer is Indie or not. KG and Ronseal say that it’s if they own themselves in a true and legal way… well, what if they’ve taken donations, or a loan from their mother? A court might say that part ownership belongs to those who funded the project. Cliffski defines it as having no publisher controlling output, and being self funded with total control. What if Bobby Kotick took several of his personal millions, set up a developer, independent from any existing dev/publisher, with himself as head honcho (99% ownership) & “Creative Coordinator” with 100% control, and his minions as ‘part owners’ (0.001% ownership each), and got them churning games out, and making them available as digital downloads, and spending millions on advertising and PR? Would that be an Indie company? Would Bobby Kotick get an invite to IGDA? Would he be welcomed into the Circle Jerk? Would he be taken seriously as an ‘Indie Dev’?

      Maybe ‘Indie’ can’t be defined. There isn’t a set of check boxes that must be ticked before you can join the Indie Club.

    • Jumwa says:

      Seems this discussion is trying to edge towards the conclusion that Indie is a meaningless distinction. If Blizzard, a publicly traded company owned by Activision and churning out billions of dollars for its owners while self-publishing much of its work is an Indie company, then why bother with the distinction at all?

    • Navagon says:

      “Except that they self-publish, and publish other people’s stuff?”

      They self-publish, but then that’s exactly what indies do. Indie doesn’t mean nothing gets published at all. That’s just… not being in the industry at all. As for publishing other people’s stuff, don’t you mean distribute? I’ve not seen anything on Steam that lists Valve as the publisher that isn’t by a Valve studio.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “As for publishing other people’s stuff, don’t you mean distribute?”

      Okay, so the actual definition of “indie” should be: your own your IP, you can self-publish but don’t have to, you are not beholden to a publisher creatively, but might be distributed by one.

      Which means Valve are indie, but Blizzard are not. Hmm. Still doesn’t sit quite right.

      Maybe there should be a caveat that states “and you do not own a distribution platform with 30 million registrants”.

    • Jumwa says:

      “I’ve not seen anything on Steam that lists Valve as the publisher that isn’t by a Valve studio.”

      That would probably be because Valve buys up other studios, often Indies, and then publishes their work. Like they did with the Left 4 Dead team (which has now moved over to work for THQ as I understand it, while leaving Valve with the L4D brand), or the guys who designed Portal.

    • Unaco says:

      “Okay, so the actual definition of “indie” should be: your own your IP, you can self-publish but don’t have to, you are not beholden to a publisher creatively, but might be distributed by one.

      Which means Valve are indie, but Blizzard are not. Hmm. Still doesn’t sit quite right.”

      Or, maybe, everyone should stop trying to define what is Indie or not. It’s a Platypus of a definition, and it’ll (probably) never work.

      Just to go on the current definition of Ronseal’s I’ve quoted… What about America’s Army Online. I reckon the US Army owns the IP on the US Army. It’s developed in house by the US Army, and they are not beholden to any publisher. It’s self published by the US Army, they can do that, but it is also part published by UBI… they can self publish but don’t have to. They aren’t beholden to any publisher, but are distributed by one. Does that not fit the definition? Is AAO an Indie game? Are the US Army a member of the Indie community?

      Perhaps you should add a caveat that if you receive Trillions in Tax Payer funding each year, you don’t count as Indie?

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Maybe there should be a caveat that states “and you do not own a distribution platform with 30 million registrants”.

      I expect cliffski would disagree.

      Even in a hypothetical world where Steam doesn’t exist, it’s really a stretch to call Valve “indie” in any meaningful sense. They make AAA games. Who has ever described Half-Life 2 as an indie game? Anybody?

      The literalist no-publisher “independent” definition makes a kind of logical sense. But it doesn’t capture the ethos or the common usage of the term.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      One day we will have all the caveats, and our definition will be complete!

    • bill says:

      So blizzard WERE indie up untila few years ago when activision bought them? ;-)

      I think Indie is one of those “know it when we see it” things that’s very hard to define, but actually pretty clear.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Yes. It’s the kind of thing that can only be understood in context, rather than via an basic theory or definition. Wittgenstein’s family resemblances… Much like games themselves! How apt.

    • Tei says:

      Definitions are tools, and is ok to have any definition, as soon is useful for something. And sould be judged based on that.

    • Archonsod says:

      “I know what Cliffski is trying to say but his definition includes the likes of Valve and Blizzard ”
      Erm, I rather think that is central to his point. Valve are an indie company, a key part of what he’s saying is that indie =/= bedroom coder or poor.
      Blizzard aren’t. Whether they listen to Activision or not is irrelevant as long as they share the same bank account. A bit like marriage really …

      The only real question Steam raises is whether you still consider Valve a developer, or a publisher who also happens to develop in house.

    • tossrStu says:

      Well technically, PWL is an independent label so it stands to reason that the likes of Kylie and Jason can top the indie charts. You might not like it but you can’t go around making arbitrary stylistic decisions over who is and isn’t “indie” enough for the indie charts.
      …shit, sorry guys, I briefly flashed back to my NME-reading days. As you were.

    • Premium User Badge

      RobF says:

      Ooh, is it IGF time?

      Whilst I’m sorta bored with Cliff’s 300 ways to insist games should be X amount of money not Ycheaps (not because I don’t agree with some of his points, I do, I just think constantly vilifying people for not sharing that attitude is a bit wrong when it’s distributors and pubs that are the real problem) the definition of indie absolutely shouldn’t be limited by success/fame/money.

      Why shouldn’t Valve be indie? They make videogames, I make videogames. We both do it the way we want to do it, we both do it with our own money, we’re both only answerable to ourselves…

      That we exist at different ends of the scale is fine with me. I don’t want to run a studio, be a distributor, make massive games, study metrics all day and run Steam. I’d imagine that Valve don’t want to make little games for arcade cabs that look like someone shat a rainbow into a Vectrex and dumped the results on the roadside with a “please give generously” notice stuck to a bucket.

      I’m not personally offended by Valve being indie. But then, I’m from the Pere Ubu school of thought. Fuck Indie, I write videogames (ONE WORD) and it’s not my fault everyone else deviated from the mainstream.

    • Consumatopia says:

      cliffski’s definition is just bogus. Indie means independent, but it’s not just the independence of the corporate entity known as the “developer”, but also of the actual individuals doing the developing. It does not imply “*cheap* or *low budget* or *desperate* or *hobbyist*”, but it DOES imply some limitation in the scale of the development team.

      As Mojang gets bigger, at some point (possibly already past) they can no longer be considered indie. That doesn’t mean they’ve “sold out” or something, it’s just that it’s a big corporation that should be seen as such.

    • Navagon says:

      “Maybe there should be a caveat that states “and you do not own a distribution platform with 30 million registrants”.”
      Maybe being a distributor does nullify their independent status, even though indie refers to (in this context) being independent of a publisher. Either way, Valve is a formidable entity and not easily confused with devs most people would agree are indies.

      @Consumatopia
      Indie just means independent of publisher. It has nothing to do with size, beyond the inherent limitations of not being funded by a publisher. Without any such funding indies are usually small.

      So it’s not a part of the definition of an indie that they be small. But it is a limitation of indies that they must cover their expenses by themselves – thus they’re typically small.

    • Consumatopia says:

      “Indie just means independent of publisher. It has nothing to do with size, beyond the inherent limitations of not being funded by a publisher. ”

      Each of these sentences is false. The meaning of “indie” varies across different kinds of media, but it almost always has something to do with size of the entity creating the work. Check here: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Indie

      Even in the dictionary, you can see that most of the definitions have a lot to do with size. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/indie

    • Urthman says:

      I’m pretty sure that the stuff I love about Valve is largely the same as the stuff I love about other indie publishers. The people working on a game are making it because that’s the game they want to make, not because some publisher is telling them they have to crap out a tie-in to Ice Age 3 that is getting shoved out the door the day the movie is released, no matter how bad and unfinished it is.

      No one is telling Valve or Cliffski or Notch, “Your game must have this feature”* or “your game must fit into this corporate strategy” or “we want an IP that can do this” or “you have to make a sequel every two years.”

      As a gamer, that’s really the only definition of indie that matters to me.

      *er…no one with any authority. Of course there are hundreds of people telling Notch “YOUR GAME MUST HAVE THIS FEATURE!”

    • Consumatopia says:

      “The people working on a game are making it because that’s the game they want to make”

      Surely this isn’t literally true–there are MANY people working at Valve, and some of them would likely rather make a different game. That doesn’t make them mindless corporate drones or mean that they’re working on the equivalent of a phoned-in Dreamworks film, it’s just simple logic–the more people are involved, the more compromises people will have to make, because people disagree. These compromises aren’t necessarily bad! Sometimes they make the work much better! The process of negotiating between a large number of different artistic visions is itself a creative process! But it’s at odds with being “independent”.

      I think the problem here is that signals are being crossed between two arguments. One is whether non-indie things can be any good. The other is over the definition of indie. Some people want to argue that large entities (Valve, post-Minecraft Mojang) can create good things. The wrong way to make this case that is to claim that large entities can be indie. The right way is to argue out that non-indie things can be good.

      Your desires as a gamer aren’t the only ones relevant to the term “indie”. Not only does it strain credulity to call Portal 2 an indie game, but the interests of Valve and the interests of the typical indie developer can diverge. Not to mention that the term “indie” is not a game specific term.

    • Navagon says:

      @ Consumatopia

      No, actually reading what’s written in both supports what I wrote to the letter. There is no stipulation of size other than what is “usually” the case. I’m not denying what is usually the case.

    • vagabond says:

      Actually, given the surreal way that Valve seem to operate internally, it would not surprise me to learn that everybody there is making the game that they want to make.

      The problem I have with Cliffski’s argument is that he doesn’t want making games to be a gamble, but because of the practically zero cost per copy of any digital creative work that modern technology has brought about, without massive changes to the way these things are sold, that’s what it’s going to be.

      You either make something great that everybody wants to play and become minecraft rich, or you make something poor that not that many people want to play and eat pot noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The idea that the consumer should pay more for a game that they don’t like that much just so the people who made it can earn a decent living isn’t going to fly*.

      There are certainly indie games that can justify a $20-30 price tag. Ironically, these are the games that will probably sell so many copies that they end up minecraft rich anyway and could earn a decent wage for the developer at $5 a throw.

      If there’s one decent function that publishers under the old model provide, it’s aggregating risk. You might not like the other crap that comes with them, but since I doubt anyone sells “my game will be poorly received” insurance, if you’re going to strike out on your own you get to take on that risk.

      * Are you going to implement the corollary, where massively successful games are priced low enough that the developer earns a pretty decent wage, but isn’t raking in millions?

    • Consumatopia says:

      Navagon, I just Crtl-F’d “usually”, and the only definition that makes any mention of it is yours. I don’t know whether you’re bad at reasoning or bad at reading, but either way its amusing.

      Items from the wikipedia disambiguation page I linked, with emphasis on instances when scale or nature of the organization from which the art is independent of defines what is “indie”, not what indie “usually” is:

      Indie art, fine arts made by artists independent of commercial fine arts establishments
      Independent film, a low budget film by a small studio
      Indie Literature, a book published outside of mainstream publishing.
      Indie role-playing game, published outside mainstream means
      Independent soda, made by small privately run companies
      Independent record label, operates without major corporate funding
      Independent music, subculture music that is independent of major producer

      Also:

      Independent video game development, video games created without financial backing from large companies

      The scale of the organization behind the art is the core of what “indie” means, across most types of media to which the definition applies.

    • Veracity says:

      @Garg (below, re wage slaves): Still doesn’t work, I think. A two-person company farming out sprite design for its quirky physics-happy platformer or music doesn’t disqualify itself from being an independent developer – ok, that’s a contractor, not an employee, but you’re still involving someone without a proportionate stake in the product’s fate.

      Also not sure where The Misadventures of P B Winterbottom or Zeit² fit in. Those weren’t, as far as I know, publisher funded in the up-front fees and milestones sense, but they were both put out by major publishers despite being basically student projects.

      I don’t see anything offensive in the idea Valve’s an independent developer. They’re just obviously a weird outlier, and unlikely to be relevant to most discussions of independents in general.

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      Oozo says:

      Reminds me of that old debate on whether George Lucas is the most indie film maker ever – considering the fact that he own about everything necessary to make and distribute movies. Including the SOUND SYSTEM in the movie theaters you’re likely to see his latest Star Wars reharsh in.

    • Consumatopia says:

      It’s not Valve itself that’s offensive. I like Valve. It’s the corporations-are-people logic that leads one to conclude that because a single corporations calls the shots that this means its products are somehow “independent”. I guess Soviet propaganda, published by a single organization that owned everything and everyone in the USSR, is the most indie work of all time.

  8. Kwix says:

    Jim Rossignol you say, never heard of him. I shall read his interview with hearty scepticism.

    • MD says:

      I wonder if he’s related to our very own Jom Rissignol.

    • westyfield says:

      He’s Jom’s moustache-twirling, monocle-wearing, top-hatted evil twin.

  9. Kadayi says:

    Heh I always enjoy listening to Will Self, if nothing more than for the fact that his spoken lexicon is vast & complex, but he always manages to convey the gist of what he means. I shall seek opportunities to drop ‘confreres’, ‘fissiparous’, ‘anomic’ into conversation during the week to perplex my work colleagues.

  10. Tei says:

    FYU, heres what a bad game looks like.

    “GTA London” (name is a lie)

  11. Garg says:

    “You could argue that the second you have employees who aren’t owners you’re not an indie developer. Employees, by definition, don’t control their own destiny.”
    I think this is a much more rigorous definition.
    “Except that they self-publish, and publish other people’s stuff? No, no evidence at all…”
    Well Blizzard certainly only self-publish their own stuff via Battle.net. I’m not realistically argueing that they are Indie, but I’m just trying to illustrate the flaw in Cliffki’s central arguement; that you define Indie by creative independence from a publisher.

    EDIT: gah. Meant to be a reply for above.

  12. Premium User Badge

    sendmark says:

    The Will Self video is very good, some astute observations in there.

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      Agreed. He’s sort of inching toward the Jon Blow/Clint Hocking idea of new media being unfettered by narrative, but he applies it to the webbertron instead of games.

  13. Unaco says:

    “All of the intellectual analysis…”? Duke Nukem Forever? I can tell he’s bullshitting, I don’t need to read the rest of that jargon laden, turd of a sentence.

    • kwyjibo says:

      What he means, is that he picked up dnf for a bargain, and that it’s going to make him a load of money in the future.

      He’s right.

  14. YourMessageHere says:

    I love that Alice ‘retrospective’ simply because of how spectacularly it fails. Get someone who’s never played it before to play it, look at it through modern eyes exclusively and without any emotional attachments, then call it a retrospective, because it’s about an old game, d’you see?

    So, predictably, she hates it. She can’t get over the age of the engine (because old engines are bad, because they just are) and the slight clunkiness of the gameplay, and thanks to 20:20 hindsight is conflating it with vaguely similar ideas that appeared in mods a bit around that time. It’s of scant importance who did gameplay mechanic X first, what matters is how it is in this game, and that it shares a game with Y and Z, and that it comes across as a successful narrative, rather than a compilation of gameplay mechanics.

    She laments the long-paced autosave mechanic, plays the game on hard and then complains that she has to use quicksave a lot because it’s hard. The solution is right there, you know. Apparently, the accents are faux-British, which, as a Briton, I oddly failed to spot (but I do live in Newcastle). Given the limitations of games of that era, the emotional range Alice (a child in Victorian England, shall I re-iterate) exhibits may be limited now, but it was better than anything comparable.

    I mean, never mind that this is one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever seen, and that the art direction is spot-on to the original Tenniel woodcuts, while expanding and evolving that into a whole world. That’s not significant. Never mind that games and literature generally had nothing to do with each other before this. The successful reproduction of Carroll’s joie de vivre and understanding of curiosity in children (and, in this case, gamers) is not apparently worthy of note. Chris Vrenna’s score (of Nine Inch Nails) is irritating and repetitive – yet after all the games I’ve played, it’s one of the scores I never turned off, and I can count them on one hand. And no mention of the Victorian Aphorism Button, a feature no other game before or since has possessed. No, it’s a ‘hack-job’.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Honestly, I stopped having any faith in her opinions when she says Madness are of questionable worth in the first paragraph. Piss right off, sez I.

      KG

    • kupocake says:

      I kind of resent the idea that you have to like and have played a game to evaluate its place in gaming history, but then I would, because I wrote this thing. The first three paragraphs are one long mea culpa attempting to excuse myself for writing it (so, hey those scare quotes are kind of unfair), because, chances are that people reading an Alice retrospective are doing so because they liked it. Turns out it’s difficult to like it as a modern player. Since this was my experience of it, that’s what I wrote about, and I can’t really apologise for that.

      Ok, so I’d question whether calling it a retrospective is wise, precisely because it prepares readers for something gushing with praise or at least in awe of some aspect of it (even if, again, I’ve written 1/4 of the article about why it shouldn’t be called a retrospective). It’s certainly true that I am dismissive of or incapable of seeing a lot of what you fondly remember, but I was hoping to get across precisely why I wasn’t seeing that stuff. I guess that didn’t work this time :)

      Still, I do completely believe I’m onto something. McGee has been trying to repeat the exact same formula for a decade now with widely panned results, and it kind of stands to reason that he never got it right in the first place.

    • Premium User Badge

      Arathain says:

      If you didn’t like it, you didn’t like it. I think you gave a reasonable breakdown of why it isn’t a great playing experience.

      I thought the shootering and platformering were just fine enough that they didn’t detract too much from the astonishing level design. The Schoolhouse is one of the all time great levels in gaming, and realised something that astonishingly few developers have done since- that physics and spacial continuity are tools to be manipulated, not rules to be followed. Only Psychonauts stands out in this regards among major titles I’ve played.

    • Soon says:

      You’ll find plenty of people who consider Alice overrated and have done since it was released. The art style was the original hook (well, and the fact it was Alice) and was certainly the only thing to hold my interest. I didn’t enjoy actually playing the game much at all.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      I think you’re missing the larger point, kupocake: DEFEND YOUR OUTRAGEOUS MADNESS SLANDER!

      KG

    • Unaco says:

      How can she KG? That would be defending the indefensible. To attempt it even, would be madness.

    • Acorino says:

      I didn’t expect gushing praise, but I did expect a comparison between past impressions and current ones. With that amiss, you should have simply called it a review and dispensed with the opening paragraphs.
      Standards change with time, as do our own expectations what a game should be. That’s why a comparison between the memory and the current experience would’ve been much more worthwhile to read for me.
      You speak like retrospectives equal a view through rose-tinted glasses. I wonder who ever said that. Sounds like a defensive straw-man argument to me.
      Retrospectives should be a help for people who never played said game before, heard described it as a classic, and wonder if it’s worth a try. But it’s kinda old, they might think, and that often enough has more implications than just aged graphics, so they’re wary.
      And otherwise, gamers who did play the game back in the day may also wonder if they should start it up again or better let it dust on the shelf to not soil the beautiful memories.
      For me, that’s what retrospectives are about.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      @ kupocake: If you want to evaluate a game’s place in gaming history, do that. That’s not what a retrospective is, though. A retrospective is looking back at something you experienced previously. And don’t claim it’s not intended to be one – the title, and you yourself in the sentence directly after you say you’ve not played it, say it is.

      And it’s fine to not like it, but how can you evaluate a game you’ve not played? Resent it all you like, but that’s on a par with reviewing a film you’ve not seen. Of course you have to have played a game to evaluate its place in gaming history. More importantly, you need to have played it in context. When I watched Bullitt, I wasn’t that impressed by the car chase, but that chase basically set the bar for car chases that cinema then went on to fractionally improve on by increments over 45 or so years, to the extent that the original looks tame out of context. The context is the whole point of this sort of article. Sure, you failed to see what was special about an 11-year-old game you didn’t play in context 11 years ago. That is highly predictable, and not worth an article.

      Perhaps the fact you spent three paragraphs trying (unsuccessfully) to justify your article suggest that it wasn’t the right thing for you to be doing in the first place; why did you write it, and not someone more suitable?

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      Welcome to RPS, kupocake. We love to argue about definitions.

    • Urthman says:

      Lots of people savaged Alice when it came out. The shooting is not as good as contemporary games like Heretic 2, the platforming is definitely not remotely as good as what was available on consoles at the time. Many thought the whole “dark, edgy” take on the Alice story was stupid.

      Most of that review could easily have been written when the game came out. I liked her point that Alice lends itself to a lot of the weird level designs you were seeing in mods at the time, and so the game captures some of that 90s crazy-mod feel.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      To be fair as a video game (you know those things we play for entertainment or “fun”), Alice is a bit terrible. The Quake 3 engine doesn’t translate to 3rd person mechanics very well or at least American McGee’s implementation of it doesn’t. That’s not to say I didn’t finish it multiple times as it’s a lovely imagining of the story with spectacular level design as many others here have said.
      However comparing it to similar games from the period e.g. Shadow Man or Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver & as a video game it is quite easily humbled in actual gameplay. Everytime I played it all I could think of how much better a game it could be & have been hoping there’d be a remake to tie in with the sequel. Alas……..

  15. BooleanBob says:

    Was that Jon Hopkins playing at the start of the Will Self vid? Because I was listening to Hopkins at the time it started playing, and for about thirteen seconds things were very confusing indeed.

    It’s a very interesting analysis (the sinister triad of ‘fascists, communists and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans’ made me choke on my tea) of the intartrons, with Self skirting warily the pitfalls of building from that analysis out across the dangerous chasm of extrapolation. I read this as him not wanting to slip across that eternal [young, liberal, excited by the new/old, conservative, afraid of it] divide. And he did look surprisingly old in that video.

    The one fear he does venture to express – that ‘as we have a generation who grow up in this environment [the internet/information age] that it will undermine their ability to suspend disbelief in some of those more collective modes of imagining’ is a disappointing route by which to come full circle, though.

    It’s a twisted, gothic mess of an articulation, so I have no idea if I understood it correctly/entirely, but if some kids growing up today will read too much tvtropes and lose interest in opera; too much wikipedia and lose patience with the notion of religious faith; too much wikileaks and lose faith in the illusions of globalism and democracy – well, I’m not at all sure we’ve got much to be ‘worried’ about.

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      Again, I feel I should point out that he’s just saying that new forms of media are unfettered by narrative, in the way that television, books, movies, and music are. He seems kind of wary, but not exactly crotchety.

  16. googoogjoob says:

    i love the persecution complex at play in cliffski’s post

    also the way his argument is based on a personal definition of “indie” which he tries to pass off as OBJECTIVE AND AUTHORITATIVE

    i dunno maybe i’m being too judgmental but i really hate the tone he uses

    • Archonsod says:

      I think it’s based on the dictionary definition. Which is about as objective and authoritative as you can get when it comes to language.

    • Soon says:

      The users of the language are the greater authority.

    • katinkabot says:

      I want to roll my eyes so bad, but I fear the movement would be so severe they would just fall right out of my head.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Try reading an academic paper in any field and only using dictionary definitions for every word.

      All fields create jargon by necessity. A word is refined to mean something more specific than its general definition. Context is everything.

    • Archonsod says:

      Yes, and jargon is usually regarded as a bad thing.

    • Baines says:

      Dictionary definitions change over time with usage, so how authoritative are they really?

      Besides, some are just wrong. I don’t think I’ll ever accept “dice” as both the singular and the plural, which became accepted simply because so many people didn’t realize the singular was “die”.

      Ultimately, even a printed definition of “indie” can change if you get enough people to agree on a new definition. Or just get the right people to shout it loudly enough that whatever official bodies that govern word usage decide that shouted by the right people usage is now officially accurate.

    • googoogjoob says:

      is there a dictionary definition of what exactly “independent” means in the context of “independent games”? what are indie game devs independent from? does the word “indie” as slang have a meaning independent (dohoho) from “independent” in this context?

      “indie” and “independent” with regards to video game development and publishing are very nebulous, subjective terms, and i don’t think it’s really possible to precisely define either without either leaving out or including someone who shouldn’t be

  17. Premium User Badge

    Arathain says:

    Jim, that interview was great. Lovely meaty stuff. I’ve always loved the optimism of your vision for gaming environments. I look forward to your own output.

    • V. Profane says:

      Rossignol’s book is “a wonderfully literate look at gaming cultures”.

      Am I the only one that thinks that sounds damning by faint praise?

    • Johnny Lizard says:

      I’d say that of all the writers presently working in the English language, he is one of the most literate, and perhaps also one of the most numerate.

  18. Johnny Lizard says:

    Just stumbled across this that might interest RPS folk:
    “Jon Hare and the Stupidization of the Videogames Industry”.

    “Suddenly the average intelligence of your gamer nose dived and we were making games for the not-so-clever kids in school, who didn’t want to have to struggle so much to master something and were more inclined to play it to follow a pack… that happened at the same time as 3D came in, so you got massive production cost increases, all the media companies sniffing around… and at the same time your audience was less able to cope with more challenging content.” Strong stuff.

    • Rii says:

      If only I could be bothered.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Not watching 22 minutes of the guy, but I’m not sure someone who is primarily known for creating football games really has any business being so condescending.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      People seem to get so offended (cf. comments by Roberta Williams) whenever it’s observed that the computer game market used to be only middle class nerds, and now it’s expanded. But it’s just true.

      Games were once made primarily for one audience, now they’re made for another. This shouldn’t be controversial. It’s a statement of fact.

      It also shouldn’t be particularly surprising that the once-pandered-to middle class nerds are now feeling a little deprived.

    • Premium User Badge

      RobF says:

      That was 22 minutes of the most infuriatingly stupid and insulting drivel I’ve ever had the misfortune to sit through.

      At 20 minutes when we hit the “and I have to say, a lot of them are women” we seemed to reach some sort of idiot-o-geddon level of bitterness and stupidity that I consider myself privileged not to have to encounter often.

      Watch if you fancy a trip through computing history via the medium of some sort of advanced hallucinogenics, where the Megadrive opened the floodgates to all the stupid people in the world and let them play games alongside the clever people who used to populate gaming and 3d killed all innovation stone dead. All with a fantastic dollop of insulting just about everybody and ending on a hideously sexist note.

      Otherwise, steer clear. Recommended for batshittery alone.

    • Rii says:

      @TillEulenspiegel

      The observation isn’t offensive of itself. It’s the way it’s expressed, the attitude accompanying it, which makes it so or not. And looking at that excerpt tells me everything I need to know about which category this particular rant falls into. And courtesy of RobF now having selflessly sacrificed his time and sanity for the cause, it seems that my preliminary assessment was right on the mark.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      I agree with Rob, mainly because I was somehow sitting through it at the same time as his live-tweeting it. It’s utterly horrible and ridiculous.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I’ll happily accept that the actual video is so much drivel; haven’t watched it yet. But the quoted paragraph is, again…just true. The general audience for videogames is now the same general audience as for Hollywood movies or TV shows. Same key demographic age range, too. These producers of content typically don’t think much of their audience’s intelligence.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Till: Maybe the quoted paragraph is more defensible if we replace every reference to intelligence with a reference to wealth. I can’t see how it makes a lick of sense otherwise.

    • DiamondDog says:

      When exactly was the videogame market the sole preserve of the middle-class nerd?

    • Archonsod says:

      “whenever it’s observed that the computer game market used to be only middle class nerds,”
      Most of the early gamers got into computers from the electronics side of things. Electrician isn’t generally considered in the middle class professions. Back in 1980 if you wanted a computer you had to assemble it yourself; and it wasn’t quite as easy as sticking a graphics card in the right socket. Soldering was often involved.
      He’s looking back with some seriously thick rose tinting on the spectacles. While I’d agree there was probably more innovation within games back then, trying to portray it as some golden age of imagination requires ignoring the clones, knock offs and similar which also sprang up whenever a game was successful. They were less prominent than they were now, but then the market was much smaller back then. I’d also suggest that the reason for the apparent skew towards imitation is not entirely based on the audience, but the fact that most developers now utilise the same genre-specialised engines to create their games rather than building the entire thing from scratch.

    • vagabond says:

      Being a mid to late 70s thing, the solder together your own PC is probably a bit early on in terms of gaming to have a huge influence. I also think that the number of electricians building their own computer pales in significance compared to the number of children who grew up in the 80s with access to a PC, an Apple2, a Mac, a TRS80, a C-64, an Amiga, an ST, an Atari 2600, a ZX Spectrum, an NES, a Master System, or one of the dozen or more other systems that existed at the time. That’s the demographic you’re talking about.

      On the IBM compatible PC side, until the mid 90s the hardware was so expensive it was probably restricted to the middle class due to cost. In terms of doing any serious gaming on them, until Windows 95 came out you had to be a nerd who actively wanted to understand how the damn thing worked to be able to get anything to run properly. (editing config.sys and autoexec.bat to free enough memory that you could run the game and load your mouse driver at the same time. Know what IRQ and DMA are? No? Shame your soundcard doesn’t work then…)

      And whilst most of the other systems I mentioned are stick in the cartridge and turn it on simple (or close enough to) and cheap enough that most people could afford one, by the time I hit high school it was acceptable to have played some Super Mario Bros at some point in your life, but regular gaming as a hobby marked you as a nerd to be ostracised. Being a socially well adjusted human being and also whatever was the equivalent of a core gamer back then had some serious negative feedback working against it.

  19. phenom_x8 says:

    I have a lot more interesting article to read than you, Jim! Here we go:
    1. http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/hwkjy/iam_robert_bowling_creative_strategist_on_modern/
    Robert Bowling(MW creative startegist) dare to challenge the PC community about anything they want to ask related to CAll of Duty(or not)
    2.Related to E3, No actual game footage blog have very interesting article regarding to why we call PC as the winner of this year e3. check it here http://www.notactualgamefootage.com/featured-articles/why-the-real-winner-at-e3-is-pc-gaming.html
    Yeah, I thinks it enough for today! Its almost Monday (in my country) when I write this, yet I’m still read this sunday papers!
    Edit: sorry I forgot this one http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/windows_8_integrate_xbox_live_support
    LIVE will be integrated towards Win 8(and guess what, it will be called Xbox LIVE for Windows), is’nt that nice ? /sarcasm

    • Jake says:

      Xbox Live for Windows… the thing is it’s such a sensible move, but you could see this naming problem coming a mile away.

      The idea (I assume) will be that you can sign into the same Live on any device and share content – like a film or music you buy on your Xbox – on your PC or phone. Eventually I guess this will extend to games as well. I actually like this, especially with the new attention to design that MS seems to have finally adopted – Win 8/Win Phone looks beautiful and I’d expect this design to carry over to the NextBox 720 as well.

      But with all this ‘Xbox Games for Windows Live Mobile 8′ stuff the branding is getting messed up, they are trying to make the Live carry across platforms but I think they need to drop any prefixes or suffixes and just have Live as their cross platform network.

  20. Rii says:

    From Leigh Alexander’s piece at Gamasutra:
    “Booth babes were back, too. After a few years wherein the industry seemed eager to prove it was adult and welcoming by banishing scantily-clad promotional models from its floor, the industry brought out plenty of costumed women once again.”

    Talk about a step backwards. =/

  21. Rii says:

    From the NYT piece on ‘the slow and the boring’:

    “MOVIES may be the only art form whose core audience is widely believed to be actively hostile to ambition, difficulty or anything that seems to demand too much work on their part. In other words, there is, at every level of the culture — among studio executives, entertainment reporters, fans and quite a few critics — a lingering bias against the notion that movies should aspire to the highest levels of artistic accomplishment.”

    Hmm, this sounds awfully familiar.

    In any case, ‘slow’ is defensible whereas ‘boring’ is not. Fortunately the latter is rather more subjective than the former. One man’s ‘boring’ is another man’s ‘fascinating’ and vice-versa.

    For my part I watch a great many slow films. My taste in film skews somewhat towards the art-house, although I’m hardly incapable of enjoying more mainstream productions. The dumbest of the dumb – stuff like Transformers, Iron Man, etc. – does tend to leave me cold, however.

    With gaming it’s a little different, in that I would describe my tastes as mainstream, but at least a vaguely refined form thereof that, again, excludes the dumbest of the dumb. But still, most games I play would be considered mainstream, in the ‘core gamer’ sense of the term. I appreciate innovation and provocation within that context and there are indie and art-house games that I play and find appealing (e.g. Braid, Flower, etc.) but there are more that leave me cold. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being ‘Transformers 2′ and 10 being ‘The Five Obstructions’, I would put my taste in film at 7-8 but my taste in games at 5-6.

    I think the difference lies in the fact that games make execution demands on the player. The more off-the-beaten path the game is, the greater the unfamiliarity and the effort required to engage with it to the point where no longer struggling with the interface or controls and are able to appreciate the nuances of what’s being presented. Whereas with a film, you just watch. Sure, you might have to cast yourself in a different frame of mind, and actively think through what’s being presented to you, but it’s a far easier process than, say, working out the ‘how’ of The Void.

    • Jake says:

      I think Transformers is far more dumberer than Iron Man.

      I like slow films, but I don’t think there is much correlation to slow games. I find slow films like say – Valhalla Rising – to be a sort of meditative thing: peaceful and relaxing where you can get lost in your own thoughts or interpretations. I have to admit I found The Void frustrating, probably because the slowness feels like a restriction or like an artificial limitation and instead of getting relaxed I find myself cursing at how long it takes to do things that seem like they should be quick. Plus the environment is hostile so you can’t relax in the same way you can with a film.

      I can’t think of a slow, relaxing game – probably as slow is synonymous with boring in games, though perhaps World of Warcraft when just exploring or riding around. I used to enjoy that too.

    • Thants says:

      I guess good slow games would be 4x games live Civ and city management games like Tropico or Anno. Also, buildy games like Minecraft.

    • Premium User Badge

      blind_boy_grunt says:

      for me games to be relaxing or even meditative aren’t about being slow but about repitition. You do the same thing over and over again until you get in a sort of trance, like solitaire for example. Yes, yes solitaire isn’t per se a video game but the way i play it(for speed) it would be far to bothersome with real cards and a completely different experience. For a long time the only way to listen to a new cd for me was while playing solitaire (somehow it kept my mind from wandering and my attention on the music)
      And there are of course the games i play(ed) so often i know everything that will happen, for me: gish, pandemonium and some i can’t remember right now.

      edit: and of course you could always try this:
      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/06/12/ambient-works-proteus-ep/
      ;-)

    • Nick says:

      The difference between Transformers and Iron Man is one of general screenplay quality, likeable characters and decent dialogue. Transformers is (tedious, in my opinion) special effects and nothing else to give a shit about.

    • Thants says:

      Now if he had said Iron Man 2…

  22. KRVeale says:

    I don’t think anyone should be ashamed of studying games.

    I’m doing a PhD on videogames, and I’m out and proud!

    In fact, my thesis defence is on Friday!

    In conclusion, I really shouldn’t be reading RPS right now!

  23. Tetragrammaton says:

    That bonafide nut-box in the brainy gamer article comments is both scary and hilarious.

  24. benjaminlobato says:

    The only thing I know about Will Self is that I like Karl Pilkington much more: