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GDC: The Fantasy of Control Part V - Baiyon And On
A series of daily scene reports from GDC 2010 in and around the Moscone Center, San Francisco. Part V: Baiyon and incandescence.
[A series of daily scene reports from GDC 2010 in and around the Moscone Center, San Francisco. Part V: Baiyon and incandescence.]
I’m speaking to Baiyon, the composer and graphic designer on PixelJunk Eden. He talks about how different the show is from CEDEC, Japan’s counterpart to GDC.
“I like CEDEC, but I feel like they are a little too serious, thinking too much. Here, I did a talk with Richard Lemarchand, Lead Designer on Uncharted 2, and there I answered a question on how to get ideas for games by saying my method is that I go on a date with a girl, have some drinks at a bar, and then spend some private time together, and the next morning I’ve decided what to do."
"That was a kind of joke, but many people were talking and tweeting about it. I also played a set at GAMMA IV. It was so fun,” he says. “I love the GDC people– the whole thing is like a party.”
We also talk about what it’s like to work with Dylan Cuthbert, and he describes some details of his approach to his next collaboration with Q-Games– a music visualizer called PixelJunk lifelike.
We end our lunch conversation with a story about something Keita Takahashi, of Katamari Damacy and Noby Noby Boy, created in college: a goat-shaped planter where excess water comes out of the goat’s rear end. I’m not sure if learning this contributes to my understanding of his work at all, but I’m inexplicably pleased to hear the anecdote anyway.
The press room is something of a refuge from the loudness of the show, but there is very little relaxing taking place there. Game journalists rush in from the talks, set up their laptops and spend fifteen or twenty minutes filing their stories; they all know each other from before and have clipped conversations with each other about the topics of the day while they work.
These include how Zynga was received at the Game Developer’s Choice awards last night, the Final Fantasy XIII talk in which screenshots of Hitman and Tomb Raider were used in a slide to represent “Western RPGs”. Robert “Bob of Bob’s Game” Pelloni and Tim Rogers stop by in the room and enliven the place with their antics while the other writers mostly ignore them.
I meet up with Steve Gaynor, designer at 2K Marin, congratulating him on BioShock 2 and discussing the feel of its story in comparison to the first game. He has a lot of opinions on where it succeeded and where it failed, which I very much enjoyed hearing; I tell him developers that are their own worst critics are the best kind.
We also discuss the difficulties inherent to being part of a new team assembled to make a sequel to an established studio’s successful title. Unlike some people I know from some similar situations, however, Steve says he’s happy with where he is right now and is looking forward to the studio’s next project.
At dinner that evening, Michael Abbott, of The Brainy Gamer blog and podcast and a theater professor at Wabash College, marvels at the scene of the show. “Compared to the theater world, this is just amazing,” he says, pointing out that academics usually don’t talk to the people who are actually out there writing plays and putting on productions.
“Look at this place– look at just who we have in the restaurant right now,” he says. “We’ve got working game developers, academics, and people who cover games in the media all in one room talking to each other.”
Stories from all sides are traded. I listen to writers for mainstream publications talking about fighting huge battles simply to move games coverage from the Technology section to the Arts or Entertainment sections (“they finally realized that games are entertainment,” one person says, a phrase that succinctly captures the maddening sclerosis of the old newspapers).
I tell Trent Polack of Lightbox Interactive and freelance writer Chris Dahlen about my tribulations with source control tools after I went independent. They listen eagerly, and I’ve overcome with the feeling that everyone here is an incandescent rock star, radiating knowledge and ideas and unshakeable faith in the potential of the video game medium despite the larger world’s often-demonstrated indifference.
As I power my stiff legs back to the hotel in the wee hours of the morning after another evening of excess with inadvisably cheap liquor, I can’t help but finally mentally confront the quantity and exceptionally wild quality of San Francisco’s bums. One of them is staggering back and forth, screaming inhuman sounds at the top of his lungs. Someone rides by on a bicycle and yells “Shut up!” at the old man, who, after an unsettlingly long amount of time near to me, eventually limps his way into another part of town.
These people are impossible not to see, but the crowds and I walk down Mission or Market street pretending not to, lest they cause us problems or remind us of things we don’t want to remember. It is so strange, I think, how discretely we often view the world, with our categories and our assumptions and our constant, reflexive blotting out of such large parts of our perceptions. Hotel roommate Jeff Ward and I mumble some confused words comparing the transients in various cities around the world before I slip into unconsciousness.