Punk’s Not Dead: An Introduction

Deep in the year 1977, an upstart fanzine called Sideburns printed a drawing of three guitar chords. They were A, E and G, if you really want to know. They were scribbled down the page like one of those desperate reminders in Memento. “This is a chord. This is another. This is a third,” the reminder said. “Now form a band.”

This message scrawled on the photocopied pages of a doomed fanzine was the distilled essence of an entire genre: punk rock. No, you haven’t fallen off the edge of the internet. This is still RPS and I’m talking about music. This is real. This is happening. Deal with it. It’s happening because the ‘do it yourself’ mentality that characterised punk rock has returned. Not to the music industry, bloated and deformed as it is by the constant battery of X Factor and Britain’s Got Wash-outs, but to the games industry. Programs like GameMaker, Adventure Game Studio and RPGMaker have, in the past few years, democratised videogame development in the same way the lousy vocals and poor strumming of the late seventies democratised the notion of forming a band. So there you have it. Punk isn’t dead after all. Instead, a brand new Law of Thermodynamics has been invented. “Punk can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only be transferred between media.”

And with snot-flicking gusto, people are taking advantage of this fact. To The Moon was made in RPGMaker. Nidhogg, in GameMaker. Gemini Rue and Snakes of Avalon in Adventure Game Studio. And there are a lot more too.

In truth, there has never been a more appropriate time to celebrate the resurgence of the bedroom coder. And Rock Paper Shotgun, as the world’s benevolent PC gaming dictator, is not going to let this movement go undocumented and unnamed. At least, not as long as I still have the power to pester Jim into commissioning this series. But what should we name it? Cyberpunk? No, already taken. Bedroompunk? Reads like a bad smell. Whatever, youse’ll come up with something good in the comments.

Meanwhile, over the course of whenever I feel like it, we’ll be looking more closely at a few of these homemade punk marvels and interviewing the people behind them.

Some of these people will be angry, some of them will be absolutely lovely. Some of them will be scarily intelligent and you should watch these people particularly closely with as many eyes as you can muster. But in terms of programming language knowledge they might know only a little. They might hold the lump sum of Fuck All. And yet their games will prove worthy.

This week, we’ll be forgoing the close look at a particular game in favour of a long chat with Oakland’s resident ‘Pixel Provocateur’ Anna Anthropy. For a cool, refreshing taste of Anthropy why don’t you have a brief play of the Wizard of Wor homage Lesbian Spider Queens of Mars. Then come back and listen in while I get some chat from her. We’ll be talking about GameMaker, the internet’s problem with women, and coder ‘bullshit’. Plus we’ll be seeing just how far we can stretch this whole punk rock metaphor. To breaking point? I hope so. Breaking stuff is what punk is all about.

RPS: Hallo there! How are you? Are you working on anything at the moment?

Anthropy: At the moment I’m actually working on a game for Occupy Oakland [http://www.auntiepixelante.com/?p=1461]. A couple weeks from now, the 28th [of January], a bunch of activists are going to take over a building downtown and convert it to a social centre. And a friend of mine realised, you know, what a social centre needs is an arcade. So he’s currently building an arcade cabinet for this occupied building using a game that’s going to run in it all day. [In the end, Occupy ran into some, er, problems].

RPS: Oh yeah, I think I saw you tweet a picture of that.

Anthropy: Yeah, we had this skeletal arcade cabinet sitting around in our apartment for, like, at least a year now. Finally it has a purpose.

RPS: I guess your games aren’t always this overtly political – but sometimes.

Anthropy: I mean, every game has politics, every game has values. I feel like the values that I put into my games are usually pretty different from the values that most games embody and that’s kind of important to me.

RPS: I’m throwing out this theory of ‘punk’ games as a genre, as chin-tickled by Thecatamites. I’d put your games in among that crowd but you’ve got a different name for it from what I read: Scratchware.

Anthropy: I usually try to avoid using labels entirely because I feel like that gets into scene-ness and cliquey-ness and weirdness. I mean, Scratchware is a word I like to drop because I’d like more people to read the Scratchware Manifesto because when I encountered it ten years or so ago it really resonated with me. And I think it’s still important because the problems it identifies are still problems that videogame have.

RPS: Would you say the amount of people now who are using DIY programs like GameMaker or Adventure Game Studio are embracing that kind of spirit, even if they haven’t read that manifesto?

Anthropy: Even if they’re not embracing it in letter I feel like that kind of mentality, that attitude towards creation, is kind of what the manifesto was talking about. Doing it for yourself, doing it outside of the system.

RPS: Do you still use GameMaker and things like that to make stuff yourself?

Anthropy: I’m actually using GameMaker for the game that I’m making right now – the Occupy game – because… it’s easier to do weird file-saving and loading stuff with GameMaker. Normally I just use anything that can make me a flash game because usually I want games to go out there so anyone can play them. But when I make games for particular spaces, that are supposed to run in a specific event, then I tend to use GameMaker. Which is what I’m doing right now.

RPS: Did you ever get very experienced coders looking down on the use of programs like that?

Anthropy: Whenever I mention GameMaker on Twitter or something people will tweet at me and say, ‘Oh, you know the real solution to your problem is to just learn a real programming language’ or some shit like that. That’s all bullshit of course. That’s coders feeling smug about what has historically been their protected space and if some coders wanna feel emasculated by the fact that people with no computer engineering experience can now impede on what I guess they perceive as their territory, then that’s their problem. I don’t really see it as a problem. I’m also not really interested in doing any more coding than I have to. Like, I’m very much interested in learning just what I have to to make my ideas work and not so much that I really [begin to] hate coding.

RPS: So it’s about being easy for you to do and also easy for other people to play?

Anthropy: Mm-hmm. Well, before I started experimenting with GameMaker I had no – or very little – programming experience. The kind of chasm between the games I wanted to make and my ability to make them was just insurmountable. But once I discovered a simple program like GameMaker, suddenly it wasn’t so insurmountable anymore and that’s a big deal. I want everyone to be able to have that experience.

RPS: That’s where one of the similarities to a punk movement come in, right? With the ‘do it yourself’ mentality.

Anthropy: Yeah, coding is like this huge barrier that keeps so many people – so many people – who have all these interesting ideas from contributing to game making because coding is a wall. It requires years and years to learn, like, even how to approach it. But if there are shortcuts around coding, like GameMaker, like all these DIY tools for non-programmers then that’s amazingly liberating.

RPS: You said you’ve had developers giving you cheek on Twitter. But do you think it might put some players off as well?

Anthropy: Well, I mean, I’ve seen people be snotty. ‘Oh, you just made this in GameMaker that’s you know…’ But that’s bullshit anyway, those are people who already immersed and entrenched in cliques and are very hostile to new things. And those aren’t the people that I really care about or who I’m appealing to. I want my games to reach people who kind of aren’t already in the magic circle, people who are ostracised by this kind of culture, to give them a way in. And I think those people certainly are not going to be repelled by me making this game in GameMaker instead of Visual Basic or something.

RPS: The art style of your games can be quite scrappy. It’s colourful but can be twisted and dark at the same time.

Anthropy: Okay!

RPS: Where do you get that visual style from or is there someone else who does the art for you?

Anthropy: Well sometimes I collaborate with other people who do art for me [the out-of-game artwork for Spider Queens was done by Mariel ‘Kinuko’ Cartwright or do music for me or whatever but the art that I do comes from a lot of places. Usually it comes from…um, other games. Not necessarily sampled directly, although I do do that a lot. But I try to work simply so that I can create a lot in a small time and I try to create images that will resonate with existing images. Like, pixels sort of suggest this whole history of games and the way we’ve looked at and thought about games and if someone can look at one of my games and place it in the that history, or maybe a little off-set from that history, then that’s really valuable to me. Some of my games are very thrown together because a lot of them are made very quickly, then I just tend to use found art from wherever. That happens a lot.

RPS: One of the games that I remember well, apart from maybe the lambasting of Dan Savage, was Lesbian Spider Queens of Mars because on a functional level it was quite fun to play.

Anthropy: It was actually a real game! Not one of these stupid little five-minute things that I throw together.

RPS: But it also had that rough-around-the-edges feel but purposefully so, that I feel is similar to other artists who do things through GameMaker, like Messhof or Cactus. Do you see yourself aligned with them, even artistically?

Anthropy: I like a lot of what they’re doing. I was actually on a panel with them a couple of years ago at NYU. I think there’s a lot of overlap between our work, especially with Messhof because what he’s been doing for a long time is making games for very specific showings. He’ll make a game that will run in this museum, using this very particular set of hardware, controlled in this very specific way that’s very hard to reproduce in different settings. That has actually informed a lot of my work because I’ve been trying to do a lot of games for specific spaces. The game that I’m doing right now for Occupy is that kind of game. It’s being designed for a specific setting instead of for the lowest common denominator of computers for everyone to run at home alone. That sort of thing has always been really interesting to me and I’ve always appreciated what Messhof brought to it.

RPS: You’ve talked about cliques and the ‘magic circle’ – do you think people like Messhof and Cactus and everyone else who starts to use these programs to make these kinds of games are in danger of imploding, in the same way punk did? Could they ever ‘sell out’, so to speak?

Anthropy: Well, I mean [laughs] – I’m a sell-out. I sold out long ago. I think for a community of games to implode it actually has to be substantial. The people you mention like Messhof, Cactus and other self-identified indie game makers, those guys are white male nerds. And frankly, they’re already in the magic circle! Like, the people that I want to see more of – I want more games to be made by queer people and women and people who have historically not been the ‘in’ group and I think we’re nowhere near having that kind of diversity that I want to see. I don’t think that we’re in any danger of imploding, I think the danger is that not enough people are getting involved in making games.

RPS: There are gender issues like that in a couple of your games –

Anthropy: A COUPLE of my games!?

RPS: Okay, lots. Like, the Dan Savage one was the most overt attack I’ve seen on a chat show host. Is that your raison d’être when you’re making a game? To politicise that issue and highlight that fact?

Anthropy: The Dan Savage game is about this columnist in a major newspaper but the sort of hostility that’s there is similar to the hostility that’s always present in [mainstream games culture]. I had a… a scrap I guess, with Jim Sterling a year-ish ago about [how] videogame culture is very homophobic, very misogynist, very afraid of anything that’s not a white straight nerd. And as a woman on the internet, whether you’re involved with games or not, it’s impossible to escape that, to escape a culture where you’re constantly reminded that you’re not the intended audience. And also that you’re probably a slut and ugly. I mean, that’s constantly in front of me when I’m doing my work and what I want to do with everything I create is I want to make people who are uncomfortable in that culture feel more comfortable, a little bit more welcome. I want to make games that, for example, other trans women can play and be like, ‘Oh, I feel a little less unwelcome in videogames now’.

RPS: Do you think that it has even started to come around to being more inclusive?

Anthropy: I hear from a lot of queer women who message me on Twitter or whatever who are like, ‘I really like your work, your work is really important to me, I really like this game’. That – I mean, that’s a small thing but it’s a great thing. I see more women and more queer people making games now, like little DIY games, than I did ten years ago or even five years ago. The tools are still not super-there yet for non-programmers but they’re pretty close and I think that a lot of people have become involved in the discussion and involved in making games that never were before and that’s super exciting. I think there’s only going to be more and more of that exponentially as time goes on.

RPS: Do you think there’s a perceived split in indie games, as in punk music, between those who feel they‘re authentic and those who aren’t considered authentic? The whole punk/poseur thing?

Anthropy: I certainly see that there are similar patterns and yeah, there’s definitely a sense of some people’s values have changed from what they were and they’re no longer about creativity and experimentation as much as they are about producing marketable products. Yeah, that certainly is there. But I guess I would be careful about trying to wedge this one community into the history of this whole other community… I would say that certainly those sentiments exist but I would advise against pursuing a metaphor like that so stringently that it begins to transform the way you think about this other thing that’s going on. Which is: people making games.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

Well, would you look at that? With one fell swipe of her reasoning, Anna Anthropy appears to have killed this whole metaphor before it even got off the vomit-masked ground. But wait, punk’s not dead – that would be silly. We all know punk can never truly die. Because we all know our Laws of Thermodynamics, don’t we? “Punk can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only be transferred between media.”


  1. Inigo says:

    I like reggae more.

    • ksdfsdadsd says:

      We have a large number of sources! If you can purchase a large number Price promotions!

    • sonofsanta says:

      Dear RPS: your report thing doesn’t work as it won’t let me submit the comment to finish reporting spam.

      On topic: Gamepunk, clearly.

  2. Spinoza says:

    yeah, fuck the system.

  3. JoeFX69 says:

    Grunge is not dead

  4. Koozer says:

    GameMaker stole $20 from me.
    Now I’m doing a Software Development MSc.
    Quick, someone think of a moral to this story!

  5. WMain00 says:

    I would, except I can’t for the life of me draw, so that ends that.

    • JackShandy says:

      Text Adventures, son! Inform 7‘s free and easy. Go.

    • WMain00 says:

      The game I’d want to make wouldn’t work as a text adventure. It would probably work as an adventure game, but as I say I’m rather devoid of the artistic skill to do it.

    • JackShandy says:

      The ceiling for these things is very, very low. What you want to do is get wedged into that very specific kind of terrible art that is actually awesome. See: Crime Zone, XKCD. If you can make it obvious what is happening on-screen at any given moment you can make a game, art be damned.

    • Okami says:

      Don’t see how that would be a problem – you can prototype most game ideas with placeholderart and everyone can do that with paint, gimp or photoshop. Or you can steal graphix from other people -it’s punk, remember? Later you can always worry about tricking some starving graphic artist into providing you with nice and pretty pictures for free.

    • RobF says:

      Honestly, don’t worry about the art thing. First step is just saying “nob it, I can make something if I want to” and worry about the thing you -really- want to make a bit later if it’s going to be a stresser. Once you’ve cracked that bit, YOU’RE INVINCIBLE*

      Come join us in a few weeks doing something for the Pirate Kart for a good place to start ( link to piratekart.com ). Whatever you make, even if it’s Advanced Lawnmower Simulator:One button no graphics edition goes on the GDC floor for someone to stumble upon and have a play with and there’s no pressure at all on what you make, how you make it or how good it needs to be.

      This goes for everyone btw, let’s all make games.

      *may not be invincible.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      Can you make a bunch of colored cubes?

      You’re good to go.

    • Vagrant says:

      If Sid Vicious could make it without an inkling of musical talent, then surely you can make zero art ability work!

    • hjd_uk says:

      See: “Dwarf Fortress”, “Minecraft”, “VVVVV” etc etc etc

    • zaphod42 says:

      If you implement your game idea as a mod, you can use all the art assets of the game you’re modding. :)

    • Snargelfargen says:

      I’m looking forward to creating mods for skyrim when the creation kit is released. That counts, right?

  6. asshibbitty says:

    More like FruityLoops (is) Not Dead

  7. Mirqy says:

    The reformation is a good metaphor too. You don’t have to know a special language to deal with religion/making games, you don’t have to have a coder or priest as an intermediate, you can just get on and do it yourself.

    • phlebas says:

      Like when Johnny Rotten nailed his gaming manifesto to the church door?

  8. Faldrath says:

    Very interesting interview. Was that Occupy game released anywhere?

    As for the metaphor, the problem with punk is that it had that connotation of “let’s forget everything that was done before”, which arguably isn’t what gaming needs right now.

    • RobF says:

      If punk was about dispensing with anything that had gone before, surely it wouldn’t have had so many records based around tried, tested riffs, standard rock and roll and blues chord progressions etc… ?

      When we’re at a point where mainstream games are basically filled with as much pointless superfluous wiggy shit as a bag full of hippies getting high off the smell of Keith Emerson’s used pants to the tune of Dark Side Of The Moon, then we need that DIY ethic, we need the stripping out of beardy PRESS X TO CRAWL SLOWLY whilst listening to someone taking a script-poo down your earhole and we need people who aren’t invested in that whole sorry culture to pick up the mantle to help us go places the tired old formulaic wastrels will never take us.

    • alantwelve says:

      Punk’s legacy was far less the music itself than the sweeping away of the tired, middle-aged, middle of the road pop and self-indulgent rock dinosaurs that made up the mainstream at the time, leaving a space for new and inventive music to grow.

      If the punk metaphor is a valid one, then I, for one, am looking forward to gaming’s Devo, Blondie, Talking Heads, Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, Human League, Heaven 17 and many, many more.

      Not Joy Division though. They were pish.

    • Edgar the Peaceful says:

      @alantwelve – that narrative – that punk’s vitality swept away the deadwood – is a hackneyed old trope in itself. It has been pedalled by the ageing punk journos who are now the very establishment that they fetishized overthrowing.

      I’ll take Steely Dan thanks. (And I’ve played with punk legends in various bands)

    • RobF says:

      That’s like arguing grunge didn’t change anything because Dave Grohl is some sort of rock aristocrat now or something. Or the sixties blues explosion did nothing because Jagger is a rich nob now or whatever. It’s kinda how things are supposed to work.

      Out goes punk, in sweeps post punk, pop stars with synthesisers, nice pop, jangly bedroom mopers and what have you else on the back of three chords and a four track. And then something else comes along and kicks that up its arse for a new generation.

      The DIY ethic of punk and what that brought with it (yadayada Svengali yadayada I know – just in case) is still absolutely relevant to me, it doesn’t mean I can’t think some bloke from a punk band who climbed the industry ladder the enemy or some old blokes doing the nostalgia circuit laughable, y’know? Because that bloke from The Undertones is now a voice of everything I despise doesn’t change how many people who were compelled to geetar after Teenage Kicks.

      And if everything works out for the best, that’s how it’ll go for gaming too. I look forward to the day when Anna is aristocracy.

    • zaphos says:

      The occupy game was released on her blog; follow the link in the interview for it.

    • Edgar the Peaceful says:

      “Out goes punk, in sweeps post punk, pop stars with synthesisers, nice pop, jangly bedroom mopers and what have you else on the back of three chords and a four track. And then something else comes along and kicks that up its arse for a new generation.”

      I totally agree with this and, actually, that’s part of the point I wanted to make. But I would argue that punk shouldn’t privileged above other ‘scenes’ on the continuum of popular music. I despise the ‘Year Zero’ narrative of punk – as if the deadwood had to be swept away, and punk had this necessary ‘trash cleaner’ role. It has become an orthodoxy in itself and a conservative one at that.

      I love much punk, but then I love music from most genres, particularly in the 70s. I really dislike the ‘with us or against us’ dumbness of that idea.

      I love the DIY ethic too, but that existed in many scenes – skiffle, folk revival, early 70s garage bands, pub rock.

      I’m not anti punk per se, I just think it has an overblown myth surrounding it – particularly in the British media -and it has generated to rather conservative ideas about what – retrospectively – it’s ok to like.

    • Edgar the Peaceful says:

      Wanna go down the pub and thrash this out? :)

    • RobF says:

      I’d argue there’s far more damage done by the mainly white mainly middle class media pushing the white boy with guitars are more authentic than your face angle than is ever, ever done by the media with regards to punk.

      What’s more conservative, wanting to stick with and acknowledge the old or encouraging the ushering in of the new?

      Mine’s a JD, btw.

  9. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    That was a great interview and Anna Anthrophy seems to be an a really cool person. Interesting to see the counter culture of gaming connecting to the counter culture of Occupy.

    Also your italised intro made me think of this video: link to youtube.com but I know nothing about music so maybe that was the wrong inference to draw.

  10. JackShandy says:

    Scorpion Psychiatrists of Saturn ‘salright, son, but a real punk interviewer would’ve gotten the Crime Zone guy on the line.

    B Caldwell, though – you’re the Games Journo Story man, right? Massive love.

  11. Jockie says:

    I’ve never heard of Anna before, But I have to agree with her sentiment towards the end of the interview –

    “I guess I would be careful about trying to wedge this one community into the history of this whole other community… I would say that certainly those sentiments exist but I would advise against pursuing a metaphor like that so stringently that it begins to transform the way you think about this other thing that’s going on. Which is: people making games.”

    It’s at once both more complex and more simple than labelling these games as punk. there are subcultures within the subculture, and people who are pursuing things from completely different angles, with different attitudes and outcomes in mind, trying to apply a label of ‘punk’ here doesn’t necessarily fit. Punk wasn’t just about accessability (the suggestion that you don’t have to be good at playing music to be good at punk), but about image, attitude towards authority etc. I think even within this space of games, there’s not really any shared ethos or image present (I mean Anna herself, seems to be aiming toward a particularly niche audience, [Trans, Queer, anti-corporate] and dissassociates herself from supposed contemporaries).

    And again as Anna says, at the end of the day they’re all just making games.In some ways, trying to wrap a label laden with complex associations like punk around the people making those games, is trying to hard to fit them into a cultural context that doesn’t necessarily apply.

    Another way of looking at most indie games and smaller studio games (and occasionally larger studios with autocrat game directors) that I prefer is ‘authored games’, games where you can see that the features haven’t been designed by the commitee and are made for reasons other than to ‘enhance gameplay’ (or other such meaningless terms).

    By the way, don’t mistake my disagreement with some of the terminology for disapproval, a good read and it’s great to hear from some of the more underground/ left-field gaming scenes on RPS.

  12. Jockie says:

    Bah, the really long comment I just wrote got eaten by the comment system. Short version : I’m not sure the punk label fits (as per Anna’s comments near the end), but still a great read.

  13. GT3000 says:

    As a coder I firmly point my nose in the air at this disgrace. However, my socially liberal attitude demands (cautiously) more on this..PROCEED.

  14. CMaster says:

    Here is an appropriate soundtrack for this article

    As it happens, I was working on a game in Unity yesterday. I’ll work on it again tomorrow.
    I’m sure I’ll fling a link in at least the direction of the RPS forums at some point.
    (Oh, and I was making games back when I was 8 years old, with Klick and Play)

    • MadZab says:

      I was about 12-13 in my K’n’P-phase… I only had the demo-version but my young mind found a lot of work-arounds for its limitations. Importing score- and life-objects from the example-games, spawning invisible objects for colisions where non-related things happening were called for etc… I actually made some games that were quite playable and enjoyed by me and about 1 friend of mine…

    • CMaster says:

      http://games.linxsoft.co.uk for those who are at all interested. I wouldn#t go as far as saying any are good, but they are there.

    • Vitruality says:

      Klik & Play made me the man I am today. *twitch*

  15. lhzr says:

    Good stuff, Brendan. Looking forward to more of your words-on-electronic-paper !

  16. NathanH says:

    The thing is, though, that punk is terrible.

    • alantwelve says:

      Narcissus Plant were ok, but not a patch on Daffodil Disambiguation.

  17. hjd_uk says:

    or Hardcore Mode:

    This is a IDE
    This is for Graphics
    This is for Input

    Now make a Game-Engine, Artwork, Audio, Front-End, and a Game!

  18. Jorum says:

    The point raised about coding is an interesting one.

    I can’t help but feel computer games have been massively held back by the fact that almost exclusively game designers have to be also be programmers.

    This means there a probably a lot of potentially very good game designers discouraged from entering the field, or who find barriers to advancement once there.
    This technical block is not present in most other media.

    Imagine if you couldn’t be a board game designer unless you could design injection moulding machines and die-cutting equipment.

    Or if you couldn’t be a novelist unless you first became an expert in typesetting and digital reprographics.

    • JackShandy says:

      This applies to every kind of art, though. You can’t make a living as a great painter unless you’ve accumulated a totally different set of skills related to networking and getting your stuff into a gallery. You can’t be a novelist unless you know how to talk to publishers, and you can’t get any job at all without knowing how to make and hand out resumes, etc. Being successful at every job involves a bunch of side-line skills that a lot of the greats never mastered. Poe died a pauper, etc.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Given that Miyamoto started as an artist and Fumito Ueda as an animator, it seems more designers from a non-coding background would be a good thing.

    • MadZab says:

      I wholehartedly agree with that sentiment. Especially when it comes to dialogues and stories in video-games, a lot of them make it painfully obvious that there are people more capable of fiction out there but they aren’t working in the right field because it’s coders-only. I’d add the example of a movie script-writer needing to be able to act and wield a camera too…

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Though caveat #1: they still have to know and understand games.

      The games industry likes to bring in big names from the outside sometimes, but they’re sitting on an army of creatives that probably know more about making games than they think and would show it if they let them.

    • Jorum says:

      @Ninja Dodo
      Agreed – although games covers a bigger area then they often think (hence my point about boardgames)
      And I agree they probably have a lot of hidden or undeveloped talent in-house.
      Although the danger of always looking within the club is that you get few innovations as people are habitualised into thinking in already existing videogame terms and concepts.

      And definitely, *definitely*, when it come to things like dialogues and plotting the industry needs to start giving writing due respect and get people who know what they are doing.

      Devs wouldn’t dream of shipping a game with placeholder graphics, yet many are happy to do so with what is equivalent to place-holder writing.

    • RagingLion says:

      I definitely agree. I think we’ve just hit a point where a new clutch of people is being drawn and lots of people ho have followed and read about games for a while and have had that one random game design idea that one time now are feeling they can jump in and try to make that happen. This could still go further of course.

      I want to see all those games created by people who were totally disinterested before because they had no interest in arcade games or beat ’em ups or FPSs but now realise more can be done with the medium and feel like they could contribute something from totally left-field.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      @Jorum: I agree, but I’d still prefer a decent writer with a solid understanding of design to a master of words who just wants to make Oscar-winning cutscenes…*

      *to be clear: not saying that all writers coming from movies or TV just want to write linear stories, but just that the whole point of bringing in new perspectives is combining the strengths of both, so an understanding of the medium is a basic requirement.

      (this whole argument applies equally to animators, illustrators and other disciplines)

  19. Tom OBedlam says:

    This is why I fucking love RPS

  20. jezcentral says:

    Alas, I’m too busy learning to compile Java applications with Maven, constructing Arduino boards, writing a sci-fi novel, doing my job, doing DIY and getting ready for Jezcentral Jnr to build games, as much as I want to learn UE3/UDK or CryEngine3 and build my Bioware-like Magnum Opus.

    I barely have enough time to play games nowadays.

    Hell, come Steam sale time, I probably spend more buying games than playing them. :(

  21. Rao Dao Zao says:

    I was going to say “modding”, but that’s actually more difficult than going stand-alone with a shiny game maker in a lot of cases.

    • jezcentral says:

      More difficult, maybe, but far more interesting and enjoyable. A bit like there are probably far more people who get into music by learning their favourite songs, and going on from there.

  22. Shortwave says:

    -pukes up blood and drunkenly grabs his sisters ass-


    And oh yea’ this is an amazing read.

  23. Saarlaender39 says:

    >B. Caldwell: But what should we name it? Cyberpunk? No, already taken.<

    How about Cyberpunk`s illegitimate child: Cybergrunge? ;)

    • RobF says:

      The New Wave Of New Wave Of British Indie Metal.

    • JackShandy says:

      Ok, I’ve got a great name for it: Jank. From now on, these games shall be known as Janky games. Playing them is Janking.

    • Vagrant says:

      Gaming + Punk = Gunk. Gunk’s not dead, it’s just clogging your intertubes!

      If the punk analogy goes 1:1, I can’t wait for the phase where aging punk gamemakers switch to making folk games. Bring on the Frank Turners & Billy Braggs of game design!

    • tossrStu says:

      Riot Nrrrd?

  24. Unaco says:

    I think there’s some definite and glaring flaws with your analorgy here… That these DIY/Indie/Bedroom games are to be likened to Punk. You start prattling about tools, and I don’t seem to remember Punk making much use of tools and systems and the like. Better analorgy would be to the production/creation of dance/electronic music, making use of software packages, and the democratisation of that.

    • Jorum says:

      The analogy is that punk was about the idea that anyone, -everyone-, could make music and it was no longer under the control of publishers. You just learnt three chords, grabbed a guitar and put it out there.

      Although the analogy with the dance scene is very good. Software came along that was accessible enough that suddenly all these people appeared who were making hit records from their bedroom.

    • Oozo says:

      I agree. In lots of ways, in the 90s, electronic music took up the DIY-ball that punk had dropped. And so did, in fact, Hip-Hop (which is, of course in lots of ways similar, at least the beats-side of it.) When some friends and I decided to start making music, it was not punk. It some sort of weird Dadaist easy listening-stuff, built on samples, and… Hip-Hop. We did not even actually like it too much. But, in a way, it was even better than punk: If you had a guy who had a copy of MTV Music maker or Fruity Loops or whatever and had a modicum of talent was gas a producer, the rest of the gang did not even have to learn to play an instrument… I mean, we all can talk, right? (Of course, the results were as bad as that idea was naive. Even though the guy who did the beats does now make a living with it, so…)

      Of course, the analogy falls flat because Hip-Hop turned into the most popular music genre on Earth, but, apart from that, I think you’re spot on.

    • Bhazor says:

      I’d say the work is too heartfelt to be dance. If it’s anything it’s mid 90’s Lo-Fi/Grunge.

      What it really is though, is a return to the Amiga/Spectrum era.

      Either way it is not punk.

    • RobF says:

      “I’d say the work is too heartfelt to be dance.”

      Hahaha, what? Those crazy unfeeling robots with their crazy bleeping sounds.

  25. ukpanik says:

    Never mind the testiculus

    • Treebard says:

      I was going to throw out The ROMones just to get people going, but this is just as good.

  26. Terragot says:

    I call my technique Guerilla Deployment.

    I can’t get a job in the industry above QA temp, but I’ll make games anyway.
    I’ve yet to earn a cent for my work, but I’ll make games anyway.
    My documented education consists of 1 or 2 GCSE (couldn’t tell you the grade), but what has that to do with making games?
    I’m not a coder, not a designer, not an artist or animator. I’ve never created audio samples. I find an experience, and replicate it.
    I’ve worked as a concrete erector, hostel night porter, door to door sales, warehouse operative. All these funded the game.
    Yet you’ve never heard of me, because I’m the guerilla developer, hidden in the jungle of development, waiting to deploy.

    link to imageshack.us

    • Skabooga says:

      And apparently, you also have wood.

      Truthfully, all the power to you. People with creative hobbies/passions/pursuits make this world a better place, even if most of them never get the recognition they deserve.

  27. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    My dream is that they’ll interview the author of Corporal Buggy Bear.

    link to rpgmmag.com

  28. bluebogle says:

    Excellent article and interview both. Please keep them coming!

  29. Bhazor says:

    Dear 30 Something Journalists

    Stop trying to link everything to Punk.

    Your Faithfull Reader.

  30. Mike says:

    I hope this series sees Brendan getting in on the action too. Practice what you preach, and so on! It’d be cool to see an RPS-ite have a crack at it.

  31. Skabooga says:

    Power to you, Auntie Pixelante! Keep on doing what you do.

  32. cuchlann says:

    I’ll suggest “bitpunk” for your naming needs.

  33. tigershuffle says:

    punks not dead…………..its just resting

    lovely plumage though

  34. John DeSavage says:

    Next time you link to a news article, you may want to find one that was written by someone actually on the ground with a proper time line, than someone who just pieces stories together at their desk, from official police press releases, to make the most shocking narrative.

    You will know who these reporters are, because they are the ones who got arrested.

    • Brendy_C says:

      True. In hindsight, the story I wanted to link to was this:

      link to motherjones.com

      But I’d forgotten that when I was writing and just did a Google search for some random news item. Cause I’m lazy.

  35. newprince says:

    I’m pretty neutral to movements like these. Thousands or millions of people are inspired to create, the the results are that .01% of it is good. That .01% might be revolutionary and game-changing, but it’s rather like winning the lottery.

    A more apt comparison would be to hipsters, for they seem to know all and be able to do anything.

    Er, just kidding! Keep making games and anyone can do it, etc.

  36. Bhazor says:

    No mention at all of the bedroom coders in the 80s? For shame RPS.

    • RobF says:

      They’re old people.

    • Bhazor says:

      Kieron wouldn’t have let them get away without talking about it.

      Seriously, everything he’s talking about was happening 25 years ago. They were closer to punk than anything he mentions up there.

      Just look at the original box art for Jet Set Willy.
      link to nikbull.co.uk

      Thats punk. Spider Queens of Mars? They’re the new romantics.

    • RobF says:

      Seriously, fuck ’em. They’ve had their day. They’ve had their credit, they’ve done their shit. Move over grandads. They’re meaningless here.

      They’re about as relevant to most people today as Pat Boone is to a My Chemical Romance fan.

      On the day they’ve announced The Atari Wilburys, there’s never a better time for everyone to stop, think and consider who speaks for our generation with videogames and whether we let these old people shape our views or whether we spend eternity deferring to them just because they were there first. No. No. Stuff them. This one’s for the kids and the not them.

    • Bhazor says:

      Both Adventure Game Studio and RPG maker have both been knocking about for 15 years.
      Game Maker has been around since 1999. These weren’t even the first of their kind.

      These are old people, dude. Certainly not “kids”.

    • Unaco says:


      Wow. Really? The old bedroom coders aren’t asking to be put on a pedestal, they aren’t asking for praise and for us all to turn our eyes to them… in fact, I don’t think they’re asking for anything. But what they deserve is some recognition and some respect. As Bhazor says, they doing this sort of thing 25 years ago, without these tools, without the support, the internet, the knowledge that they built up… they were the originators, the source. What’s coming now is copying them… is trying to be like them, to replicate what they did.

      And you say “F*ck them! They’re meaningless! They’re granddads! Irrelevant!”? Firstly it’s not true. And further, it’s disrespectful, mean, and angry. Who the f*ck are you anyway to be making these proclamations?

    • RobF says:

      “Both Adventure Game Studio and RPG maker have both been knocking about for 15 years. Game Maker has been around since 1999. These weren’t even the first of their kind.

      These are old people, dude. Certainly not “kids”. “

      Bhazor! They’re not people, man. They are packages. If the tool is old, what of it?


      “Wow. Really? The old bedroom coders aren’t asking to be put on a pedestal, they aren’t asking for praise and for us all to turn our eyes to them… in fact, I don’t think they’re asking for anything. But what they deserve is some recognition and some respect.”

      I don’t think you’re quite grasping the point here.

      They’ve had their recognition, they’ve had their respect. They have my respect for what they achieved. This isn’t about them though and trying to make it about them, insisting they get a mention, demanding it is what I take offense to.

      “As Bhazor says, they doing this sort of thing 25 years ago, without these tools, without the support, the internet, the knowledge that they built up… they were the originators, the source”

      …as I said, we shouldn’t constantly defer to them just because they were here first. And again, they’ve had their applause. They’re not gods though and shouldn’t be treated as such.

      But what they’ve got to do with what most of the kids, what most of the up and coming people making games are doing? Absolutely nothing whatsoever. These kids are informed by things *they* grew up with, not what *you* grew up with. And you know what? There’s absolutely no reason they have to be informed about what people were doing in the eighties, they can make their own fresh mistakes if they want and find their own routes through life and game making.

      “What’s coming now is copying them… is trying to be like them, to replicate what they did.”

      Don’t be silly. It absolutely isn’t at all. There might be parallels in approach but nope, that’s not happening at all and that’s precisely the attitude I’m railing against here.

      “And you say “F*ck them! They’re meaningless! They’re granddads! Irrelevant!”? Firstly it’s not true. And further, it’s disrespectful, mean, and angry.”

      Ok, you go up to a 16 year old kid and ask him who Matthew Smith is and then when you’ve finished getting a blank expression and shaking fitfully in disgust at him, we’ll talk about how relevant these people are to them. When you’ve got a kid namechecking Steve Turner as his design inspiration or Mel Croucher or Joffa Smith (may he rest in peace), when we have that, you can tell me it’s true. Until then, it’s defensive bluster.

      As for disrespectful, it’s nowhere near as disrespectful as insisting that a bunch of kids are copying people they’ve never even heard of. (I’m not talking Anna here, Anna is stupendously well versed in videogame history but the point in general remains)

      “Who the f*ck are you anyway to be making these proclamations? “

      I’m a slightly more rotund than I used to be old man who makes videogames and types crap into comments sections. Just FYI, the emphasis there should be on “old”.

    • Bhazor says:

      My point is that this has been going on continuously for 30 years and Caldwell seems to think it’s only just started happening. Ignoring that is incredibly near sighted.

      Also you read up the inspirations of any modern musicians from Gaga to Radio Head and they’ll name drop bands that split before they born.
      The thought of any down beat rock band not listening to The Smiths or The Cure is absurd. Have you heard of an art rock band who has never mentioned a Talking Heads album? Have you heard of an ambient musician who wasn’t inspired by Brian Eno or Oldfield?

    • RobF says:

      “My point is that this has been going on continuously for 30 years and Caldwell seems to think it’s only just started happening. Ignoring that is incredibly near sighted. “

      What has? What’s been going on for 30+ years? People making games? Everyone knows that but what the hell do the people making games in the early eighties have to do with *anything* beyond your desire to point out they were there, man, like it’s ‘nam or something?

      They’re the old guard, the ones who came before. This is about the new blood.

      There’s only the vaguest of parallels between the two and there’s no real comparison between where we are with digital distribution and easy toolsets as we were in the early eighties when they were plying their trade by coding as close to the metal as possible and maybe selling their games to Cascade for £10 or to Virgin to not get any royalties or what have you.

      It’s kinda point missing to bring bedroom coders up because the point is NEW THINGS NOT OLD THINGS, NEW PEOPLE NOT OLD PEOPLE). They’re being ignored because they’ve got absolutely nothing to do with this.

      Also you read up the inspirations of any modern musicians from Gaga to Radio Head and they’ll name drop bands that split before they born. The thought of any down beat rock band not listening to The Smiths or The Cure is absurd. Have you heard of an art rock band who has never mentioned a Talking Heads album? Have you heard of an ambient musician who wasn’t inspired by Brian Eno or Oldfield?

      Yet, there are vast swathes of people who will have never heard of any of the people who shaped our industry into the bastard thing it is today yet still make games. You get people who make arena shooters who have never played Robotron, you get people who make platform games who’ve never played Donkey Kong of Miner 2049’er.

      How does this all work again? By your logic, it can’t or couldn’t. Yet it happens every day. We don’t need to be saddled to the past.

    • Unaco says:


      I might ask the kid who Matthew Smith is, and the kid might not know, but I wouldn’t shake fitfully because of that, because the kid isn’t straight up disrespecting him. If the kid started shouting “Seriously! F*ck that guy!” then I might take exception, because that is just plain rude.

      If you think that there is no inspiration, no ideas or anything coming through from the ’80s in these modern games, then you’re delusional, frankly. “Lesbian Spider Queens of Mars” has its title inspired by “Leather Goddesses of Phobos”. It’s embracing the 8-bit aesthetic. In Alec’s article on it, he had this to say…

      It’s very simple, very knowingly silly, but very tight – an accurate evocation of the unflinchingly absolute control systems of the era of games it’s homaging/mocking

      “the era of games it’s homaging/mocking”. I’ll repeat that line. One more time, yes… “the era of games it’s homaging/mocking”. Then, there are your very own words, in a comment on the article…

      I’m totally jealous of how perfectly this mimics early arcade era gaming but affords itself the luxury of more modern things being included.

      “this mimics early arcade era gaming”. I’m sure I don’t need to repeat that. Yes, there is something new… I’m not denying that. But there is also a definite link between these games today, and those of the past era, and it’s more than just a linear progression. A reaching back and an embracing of the past era. The adoption of the retro, 8-bit aesthetic, pixel art, chip tunes etc.

      Another example… Let’s look at Nitrome. Their latest, Rainbogeddon takes inspiration from Dig Dug, Pac Man, BomberMan. The ‘Spectrum’ Maze games… I’m not sure if that refers to the Spectrum era, or the pretty colours, or both. I’m going to plump with both. Then there’s Forget-Me-Not… Try telling me that has taken no inspiration from games of that earlier era… No, please do, I could use the laugh.

      Do all of this ‘new wave’ of bedroom games copy and take inspiration from those of the ’80s? No. Do a significant number of them, and should that be recognised? Yes.

    • Unaco says:

      @RobF… again…

      I just watched a video for one of your games, War Tw*t, which appeared to have some affiliation with retromasters.co.uk. Retro, huh… the deliberate adoption of an outdated style, relating to the past and the way things were. That is conscious acknowledgement of the links between these two eras and movements.

    • RobF says:

      “If you think that there is no inspiration, no ideas or anything coming through from the ’80s in these modern games, then you’re delusional, frankly.”

      In mine and Anna’s games? Yeah, of course there is. That’s precisely why I never said nor argued that, right?

      Spider Queen is a riff on Wizard Of Wor, yeah? Anna also wrote the best Bomb Jack and Redder is the best SNES game that never was as well as being something *more*. She’s one of the smartest people I know when it comes to pulling apart what games do and how they work.

      I play with Vidkidz meets Minter in a dark alley stuff and make absolutely no secret of it – I explicitly credit my influences in my work so that people can trace a direct line from what came before to what I write. I’m in the credits of a Minter game! My next game *stars* Kevin Toms. I also run Retro Remakes, designed massive parts of Jet Set Willy:Online and oh, look, I could go on. It’s hardly catching me bang to rights or anything saying that I’ve got one foot in the past. I’m old – I’m pushing closer to 40 than I’d like, y’know?

      I’m not arguing what you seem to think I’m arguing and at no point have I said that no-one can or no-one does draw influence from games that have gone before. Because that would be stupid.

      I’m saying they don’t have to. I’m saying that most people aren’t me, they aren’t Anna. I’m saying that what people are doing today is their own thing, not trying to be like what some old men did 30 years ago (that is markedly a different point to “some of us make games like old games”) and it’s insulting to insinuate that they are, I’m saying that no-one has to be deeply versed in videogames so they can make their own things. I’m saying that coding and releasing a game in the eighties is pretty much not like writing and releasing games now on either a tools or a distribution level.

      Saying that what’s going on now, what’s been happening for the past 6 years has always been happening or has happened before is rubbish. This is the first time we’ve had the tools, we’ve had mass distribution on such an easy scale, we’ve had attentive and easy to reach media and where we can do all this ourselves *and* we don’t even have to be spoddy tech nerds to do it. That last point is the really, really important take away, right? Can you say the same of game development in 1983? At a push, you might be able to use Quill to write a text adventure if you’ve got the patience and sell it mail order or something. It’s not *quite* the same is it? It’s not even remotely the same, come to think of it.

      But no, in an article about new people doing new things, POST ABOUT OLD PEOPLE OR SHAME ON YOU. Yeah, that’s great, that.

      Remind me again, what the point of talking about these old men is or what it’s supposed to achieve? I mean, it’s not like these people don’t already get plenty of credit of their own, right? Christ, there’s a magazine out there that does nothing *but* talk about what they do (Retrogamer), but yeah, that’s not enough, we need to talk about them when we’re talking about new things too.

      And that’s why I say “fuck ’em”, they’ve already got plenty and they’ve had their moment in the sun. Let someone else shine, eh?

      And let’s not fall back on “it’s always been happening” or “praise the bedroom coder for they were there first” as it’s far too convenient and allows us to disregard or trivialize something MASSIVE that’s happening RIGHT NOW.

    • Jibb Smart says:

      [forget about it… I ignored some of the initial comment]

  37. Cpt.Average says:

    If Valve put together a gamemaking platform and sold it to us we could call it SteamPunk. HaHA!

  38. Gira says:

    Suggesting some corpulent otaku with a copy of RPG Maker is “punk” is pretty hilarious. I hope Richard Hell spits in your general direction at some point in the not-too-distant.

  39. MadTinkerer says:

    Actually, I am learning C++ because those programs can’t do what I’m aiming for. That’s not a criticism of Game Maker or RPG Maker in any way (haven’t used AGS at all yet), because those programs weren’t designed to do what I want to do. In fact, every commercial 3D engine from Source to Unreal isn’t designed to do what I want. Really, I need to understand Voxlap and voxel stuff on an engine level and that means learning C++.

    And the great part is, if I get too frustrated with the super advanced stuff I can always boot up GM or RPGM and do a quick “sketch” game since the engine is already there and I don’t need to worry about allocating memory for each sprite.

  40. Leandro says:

    But those are not the 3 chords you need! They aren’t even on the same key. You need I, IV and V, so instead of A E G you could have A E D or A G D.

    But not A E G, no.

  41. NinetySevenA says:

    George Tabb from MRR once wrote an article talking about how video games are the future of punk.
    It would be good to interview him too.