Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Karma Banana
September 4, 2007

Debating politics is probably the most excting form of dialectical gaming. Gaming because it gives us tools we eventually use for our survival in the social world. And even when it’s with bright and smart individuals, it may go beyond the boundaries of reason onto the realms of passion. But the thing with politics is that we definitely take it too seriously: Our pride makes us stubborn on changing our opinion and thus, it makes harder to understand our opponents points. And this is a good thing for me: The stronger the collision of ideas, the better the outcome in the long term, when reflection comes.

Karma Banana

After taking the reccommendation of Papamook and Patrick Dugan, I saw the excellent piece of documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. A great testimony of the coup Hugo Chavez had back in 2002 and proof of the importance of the so called Fourth Power. Yet, although the events portrayed in this documentary may certainly be important to Venezuela’s history or unknown to the institutional traditions of USA, Europe or Australia they aren’t even a novelty if we correlate them to the history of Argentina (and so many other latinamerican nations).

This documentary is about the karmic spectre that has been haunting latinamerica -the spectre of Populism, the spectre of Dictatorships. The vicious circle that keeps trapping real progress.

Throughout history, dictatorships and the shameful external politics of the United States have been the best allies of leaders such as Peron, Chavez or Castro -you know, that kind of leader that has a thrill for reforming constitutions and get eternal presidencies at the same time they declare themselves men of the people and democracy. Nobody, in its sane mind, would prefer a dictatorship. And when that happens, it only helps to expand the figure of such leaders. It happened over and over again in Argentina during the second half of the XXth century.

I’ll put a personal note here to make clear were I’m standing: My big interest for politics came when I read for the first time The Communist Manifesto, a piece of writing that still feels updated today. Since then a lot of utopias inspired me to pursue a path that would help me contribute in the process of making a better world. But when I went to Cuba for a month, it taught me many things and the essential difference of having an idea and living a reality. One thing came up clear to me: Ideologies are just like religions (but without the god thing). They only blind people behind impossible ideals and lead to massive wars.

Communist Massive Games
August 29, 2007

I have a fetish for communist propaganda. It’s simply amazing how fucked up ideologies are. Juan José Sebreli once described his experience traveling to Mao’s China in the sixties as the witnessing of a collosal work of art. He was shown “the model factory”, “the model school”, and “the model hospital” with all the workers cheerfully doing their repetitive job. When he finally assisted a big parade on Tiananmen’s Square, he concluded that totalitarian leaders end up to become -evil- artists that try to make of the whole reality surrounding them, a big façade.

Kim Jong-il isn’t an exception, and he has taken the madness to a magnificent level of artistic genius: Each year, North Korea celebrates their national pride under a massive gymnastic event where almost 12,000 kids transform themselves into pixels and make of the whole stadium a gigantic screen for the enjoyment of “The Great Leader”.

This massive game, not only displays beautiful imagery of the communist ideals, but it also effectively reduces the individual to the collective experience. A complete parade is online in 11 parts at Youtube.

Guy Delisle worte an autobiographical comic about the time he spent on North Korea. For western eyes, it’s certainly a very hard thing to understand such level of oppression. And living in a country where Castro and Chavez are worshiped by some, it’s also scaring.

World Intellectual Property Day
April 27, 2007

Probably you may not know that April 26th is the day we celebrate Intellectual Property. The date was chosen due to the foundation of the WIPO. And due to the lack of a “Game Developers Day” this was the first time that someone congratulated me on a profession’s date. Not only that: I’ve been kindly invited by the Legal Software entity in Argentina to participate on a panel about IP.

Intellectual Property Panel Debate

That panel was integrated also by creative colleagues such as Juan Jose Campanella, the most prestigious filmmaker in my country (Oscar nominee The Son of the Bride being his most famous film); Oscar Mediavilla, a musician producer that was jury of a show like American Idol in Argentina and script writer Graciela Maglie who worked on important local TV shows.

Without surprise, I found myself to be the youngest member of the panel. And, being a person from the universe of software, the most profoundly affected by the issue of piracy. Graciela and Oscar represent the syndicates that defend the rights of artists like them. Think of them as RIAA-managers kind of people. And just like you would expect, Graciela claimed on her rant that “There’s a dangerous discourse of an apparently ultra progressive, hyper democratizing ideology that blinds creators from their proper rights imposed by entities such as Creative Commons”.

It was the first time I hear the words “progressive” and “democratizing” used in a negative way, and after that reactionary comment from someone who’s just protecting her interests, I became a spokesman of the digital revolution. I’ve tried to explain Graciela how the internet’s revolution permits taking culture onto new unknown layers of expression through the remixing of digital creations; or how information networks permit services of exchange between creators and consumers that it’s better for both parties because we no longer need publishers, distributors and retailers pumping up the value chain.

Still, I wanted to comment to Graciela that 500 years ago, when the Movable Type revolution was beginning, the first persons to claim reactionary thoughts against that where the drama wirters like her, wanting to avoid the distribution of their plays by using big theatre corporations fighting hard against independent authors and printers.

Isn’t it fascinating how history repeats itself ?

Autopirated?
April 19, 2007

I’ve been feeling a little bit nostalgic lately, and I did a very strange thing: I played my own game, Football Deluxe. It may sound strange, but I think that I haven’t played a full session of that game more than 5 or 6 times in spite of the fact that I coded the whole thing in no-less-than 3 years.

Football Deluxe - Formation
My favourite screenshot of the game.

Games are alive only when they’re being played. And after 3 years of its world release, FD is not being played much anymore. Considering that we live in an era where we can share culture by copying and distributing information to any part in the globe at an imperceptible cost, it seems foolish not to share my own creation.

So I’ve decided to share it. And read me closely: Sharing does not mean pirating. Don’t get me wrong: every time I see someone on the streets selling software or music that was made by other people, I do believe they’re stealing. But if I see the whole world sharing knowledge and culture through a free network and not asking for anything in exchange, I believe we are in front of something big, a revolution that’s just beginning…

So, here are my 2 cents for the revolution: check the ludography section for further details.

A Socialist Game?
December 21, 2006

Two years ago, I’ve made this teaser video for a game project that I had back then. The figure of Che Guevara fascinates me due to his firm beliefs and how he acted according to what he felt was right. He was probably the christ of communism, that atheist religion inspired by the words of a particular Moses named Marx.

The animation has its issues, I’m not a professional animator as you can see, but it was a fun job to do. The audio is a discourse Che gave in the UN back in ’64. The excerpt says:

No people of Latin America is weak, because it is part of a family of 200 million brothers beset by the same miseries, who harbor the same feelings, have the same enemy, while they all dream of the same better destiny and have the support of all honest men and women in the world.

Future history will be written by the hungry masses of Indians, of landless peasants, of exploited workers; it will be written by the progressive masses, by the honest and brilliant intellectuals who abound in our unfortunate lands of Latin America, by the struggle of the masses and of ideas;

Games are quite affected by this postmodern era of dead ideas. But they have a huge potential to test concepts not only through theory but also through artificial experiences. To me, if used right, we are dealing with a very powerful medium to awaken the minds of human beings. I wonder if we’ll see more social games in the future…

Towards Collective Culture
August 12, 2006

I’m posting something that’s not directly related to games, but in my beliefs needs to get spread all over the world so we can understand how our culture is changing and we’re becoming witnesses of a silent revolution.

This is a conference from Lawrence Lessig (Creative Commons evangelist) on how we’re rediscovering culture as a collective work where anyone can have its place to express himself. And in many ways, it’s a talk on how we must fight for our freedom. It’s 45 minutes long, but it’s worth every single minute. Oh, and has spanish subtitles for the hispanic readers of the blog.

Games are clearly the most genuine form of expression of the “remix culture”. The interactive nature of our medium opens its doors to mods, machinima and lots of genres that allow the player become a creator. Talks like these can offer light on the huge future that arises on the horizont for games and digital art.

About Cultural Monopolies…
August 1, 2006

Just like in the beginnings of any major art form related to the advances of technology, monopolistic companies are pulling the strings of the game industry. And these monopolies often go for the money rather than the artistic expression, you know, it’s a natural thing for big fishes.

 

knight.jpg

Lets go back in history when Guttenberg’s invention started changing mankind’s vision of the world. In those days, the owners of the big Theater companies of Europe put pressure on their drama writers so they would not give their manuscripts to printers. They wanted to keep their writings being made by hand so no other Theatre house could interpret those plays. Sounds familiar, right? MP3 anyone?

Same thing with movies. The studio system of the 1920’s enabled the 5 biggest hollywood companies to have control of the 76% of available movie theatres in all america. If you wanted to make an independent movie, you wouldn’t get any big exhibition possibilities. These went on going until in 1948, the Supreme Court decided that no studio should own a movie theatre because that went against freedom of speech, and against movies as a cultural expression.

Makes you wonder.. How only 3 companies in the whole world own the entire console market for videogames. Fortunately there seems to be an opening space for indie games within consoles… but still, as long as videogames are not seen as culture, we might need to start worrying on who’s deciding what goes and what doesn’t.

Games with Social Message
February 6, 2006

Political Games Against the Dictatorship of Entertainment

That’s the tag-line that can be found on the Italian website MolleIndustria.it. A collection of games that make a statement on the rampant consumerism of modern societies. I find it particulary interesting the McDonald’s game and celebrate the brave effort to use the company’s name (which obviously they do not have the authorization to do so).

industria.png

The popular blog We-Make-Money-Not-Art (great title) has published a translation of the article “GAME as CRITIC as ART 2.0” an essay that explores how simulated violence can denounce real violence. A transcript of the article’s initial parragraph below:

The appropriation and deconstruction of the software of any videogame – reverse engineering – is a subversive act that implies a double intention: critical (revision) and creative (regeneration). In computer games written by artists, games, critics and creation combine to generate surprising and parodical products which invite further exploration…”

Find the original article here and the english translation here.

Fight for your Rights
November 23, 2005

“Are we just mad because they don’t see Shakespeare in our Transformers?”
Ron, as usual.

At his blog, Ron Gilbert answered back to David Jaffe (game designer of God of War) who wrote an editorial proclaiming that people who write about games aren’t true journalists and that we deserve better critique to our work.

I do believe most game reviews aren’t enlightning -at all- and very few magazines are truly worth reading. But as you can guess from what I quoted at the beginning of this post, I also believe on what Ron Gilbert said: we aren’t feeding journalists with truly artistic and meaningful games either.

We could still blame the publishers though. That they’re money making machines that love to prostitute all the brilliant ideas game developers have. But they do it for the sake of selling more copies, so they would blame it on Consumers who are the ones that actually decide what’s good and what isn’t. Though.. they read magazine reviews to see what they’ll buy next.. damn, seems like a catch 22.

r_to_the_people_.jpg

There must be some way to destroy this buck-thirsty machine. And in the end, it is our responsibility. We are the ones that make the games people play and journalists review. And in order to do better games, bet on original ideas, we must stand up for our freedom to create. An important step on this direction has been made by the talented Eric Zimmerman, who wrote the very first Game Developers’ Bill of Rights. This is a fundamental document that every one should start considering when negotiating a publishing deal for a game.

If we believe that games are culture, fighting for our creative freedom is an obligation for our medium to finally become a major art form.