Treachery In Beatdown City has one of the most alluring one sentence Kickstarter pitches I’ve seen in all of my years on the crowdfunding beat. It’s a turn-based tactical take on Streets Of Rage. That in itself would be enough to grab my interest but over the first two weeks of the campaign, creator Shawn Alexander Allen has been providing updates that cover topics far more interesting than hit point counters and special move meters. Beatdown City is a place where politics, pop culture and personal memories of New York collide. Shawn has posted about growing up with graffiti, recreating urban decay and why being a bad enough dude to rescue the president can be a serious calling. Fascinating.
For those who skipped all of the links above, here’s a few paragraphs that might convince you to go back and check.
I found graffiti to be very interesting, as messages were relayed through giant call to action slogans and murals showed obsessions with culture, both pop and of proud people. Puerto Rican flags and black power messages were painted across huge walls mere feet from paintings of the Joker, Mario, other heroes and villains.
I also shared my mom’s sentiment to an extent, until I was a teenager. It was then that I became interested in replicating the art of graffiti, and was constantly discouraged from it by everyone around me. It was considered unskilled, and not something worth my time. In High School I dabbled in it, frustrated in an art program in a tech school to come up with my own writing, my own brand. I never went so far as to tag up in public, but I did so all over my book bag, and was stopped with a friend, presumably because we were brown skinned, and searched on a platform for spray paint. I’m not sure where any of my HS art is currently, but all of the letter work I created still holds a warm place in my heart today.
I had left a lot of that behind for art school and then my job, but now, as an independent game developer, and also as a black guy working to encourage others to join in on this independent games thing, I found myself digging through Hip-Hop’s past and finding a strong correlation between the visible, but hidden ownership of somewhat outsider art, which videogames still are today.
It is perhaps unwise to follow the eloquent words of a New York resident with my own musings about the city, but I think almost everybody who grew up watching American films formed a relationship with New York City, even if it doesn’t return our calls. I recently finished reading Let The Great World Spin, which is equal parts elegy and love letter to one era of the city’s life, and a few particular moments and the people that inhabit them. Treachery In Beatdown City’s Kickstarter updates reminded me of a short chapter about a young guy who is fascinated by graffiti, risking liberty and limb to discover and investigate well-hidden tags.
What I’m saying is, I didn’t expect a turn-based brawler to remind me of a great melancholy American novel but that’s what happened this morning. Gaming is an ever-broader church (or forum, if you’d prefer) even when it appears to be calling back to its own past. Good times.
Treachery In Beatdown City has 14 days to reach its $49,000 goal, with a current total just shy of $16,000. I’m rooting for it. The Kickstarter page has loads of uncut in-game footage and details of Shawn’s previous experience, which includes a few years at Rockstar.