Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day of Lolz

With a blog stuck into its most lethargic state to date, a new issue of them LOLz wasn't really due. I suppose it makes sense to launch one of those criticism missiles every once in a while, assuming my blogging activities are important. But they're not. I lost interest in blogging after realizing that it wasn't worth the time spent on it, since all that mattered was traffic built through tricks and social network pimping, not through the value of the content itself, which proved to be quite irrelevant. Add to that the fact the industry itself isn't as teasing as it once was. The next big thing could be brainwave-controlled games, but that's quite a mere gimmick in the domain of so called "interaction". As to the rest, what can I say? I fail to see anything truly exciting. The whole affair is most likely going in circles, and the most lively and challenging domain of games is about what I could call scholastic work.

However, I should have known that there's always something to laugh at these days, partly due to the overall mediocrity of professionals given so much attention that they think they can say anything stupid and not be called on it. And they aren't!
But I do shout. See, what I typed yesterday about the asinine Kotaku preview could have been worth a spot in a post about the silly shit that goes on in video game land. I prefer my LOLz to be about different topics, so focusing on just one bit wasn't worth a new entry in the series. But now that I have gone down a few links inside Kotaku and read some of their stuff, perhaps, after all, there yet was a time for another Day of Lolz.
So what is it about? Check it out: The Search For The Video Game Auteurs, by Brian Ashcraft.

The guy goes on a long tirade about the film industry's auteur theory, mostly picked from wikipedia in fact and a few other things you can find on internet in less than two clicks. When you think of it, the article is actually very poor in content, when you consider the time these people have on their hands. Nevertheless, Asscraft compares films and games to see how parallels can be drawn between both regarding said theory (which is pretty much a proven one and well considered a fact now). The auteur theory existed because it was felt that a particular director's style could be recognized throughout several movies he made, in opposition to the idea that there was no such style. Basically, if one were to transpose this concept from the director to a whole studio, and thus coin the term of studio theory, team theory, or as Asscraft put it, the studio auteur theory (sic), we would be considering the idea that a studio's style could be palatable throughout a series of games the studio worked on. This is not a given so it's a fair point to realize that some studios just generate games without any particular recurring trend of elements, while other studios clearly have something that makes their games recognizable.
But see, Asscraft doesn't get it that way.

In game development, because the studio is so important and because the team is so important and because there are so many variables, the auteur ends up being the studio itself. It's the, let's call it, the Studio Auteur Theory. More often than not, the studio heads or lead designer at the studio are driving the vision — not only for one title, but for all the titles the studio makes. They are setting the tone. That filters down through the rest of the studio. There are exceptions, of course, but look at Sam and Dan Houser at Rockstar. They have a clear vision and that vision becomes the vision of the entire company. Look at Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo. They are inseparable. It's inconceivable for Nintendo to make non Shigeru Miyamoto games and equally inconceivable for Miyamoto to make non Nintendo titles.

It's frankly stupid to claim that teams in video game development are "so important", as in opposition to movie teams, like if they didn't matter as much. How the heck does he think movie teams operate, for crissake?? Does he even think they're somehow more superfluous? It's a team, no matter the size, and it has a point.

Also, notice how he actually ends chasing his own tail. Silly boy. He claims that it's the studio that is the auteur, hence his awkward conflation manifesting as "studio auteur" (as alluded to above, an oxymoron, since the opposition is between an auteur and a team, aka the studio). Which is plain wrong, since in fact it is key people inside the studio (studio heads or lead designer) who matter.
So, Asscraft, call it the designer theory if you acknowledge that the vision is the fruit of one or a very few studio leaders, you dolt. But if he were to do that, he'd contradict himself in the span of two sentences.
In his mind, it is the studio, some kind of enigmatic hivemind entity, that upholds the vision as a whole, not key people inside it. Sure thing... Even the greatest propaganda doctrines are the fruit of a few minds. But now we're supposed to believe that a whole studio (preferably a large one considering the examples he picked), not key high-tier personnel, is the entity that builds and maintains the vision. Yeah, 25+ people have the same vision. What's that? Borg Collective? When do we laugh, again?

The real question is:

Who is responsible of the vision at the core of the studio?

That is all. Is it one "dictator" or is it the fruit of an agreement within that core?

Asscraft's understanding of the real working of a studio (try working inside one for a change mate) is so deplorable that it's not surprising he manages to miss the meaning of Truffaut's axiom. He ends saying something as doubly stupid as that:

The auteur theory is just that — a theory. The Studio Auteur theory is just that as well, but it encompasses more. It's bigger. There is room to breath and room for than one single author. Games are akin to encyclopedias. There might be a handful of editors, but there is a small army of writers filling each page. Even later in life, Truffaut acknowledged the collaborative nature of film production. "There are no good and bad films," Truffaut once stated, "only good and bad directors." And in video games, there are only good and bad developers.

Emphasis mine.
First, is that his grand theory? That there are good and bad developers?
I couldn't have figured it out myself. The term developer is so encompassing that it cannot drive any point through.

Secondly, what Truffaut said is that you have those directors who know how to drive a team and get the best out of its parts and the technology said team uses, while keeping a vision in sight and conforming to it (in more or less recent years, popular French examples would be Besson and Jeunet, whose movies are unmistakable), and those directors who don't know how to or don't care about any style at all.
Same goes with a studio. It doesn't matter if a few souls or half the team out of fifty or a hundred have understood the vision, because if there's no good project director to max them out as to obtain the product the studio's head or heads aim at, the game will be a failure. For anyone who has actually worked in large teams before going small, it's very obvious that the game is not a kind of egregious consensus that is the sum of all workers' opinions, miraculously adhering to some unique revelation. That's just bull, especially in larger teams. Many people are just skilled technicians and nothing else. Some are good programmers but suck in the arts department at large. Then there are the artists who have no mathematical logic or organization, and sometimes can get very enthusiastic about their work but need to be maintained on very specific tracks. All of these workers need a clever direction, and that direction comes from the core of the studio. Then, and only then, a studio may begin to produce games which are comfortably recognizable in their style, genre and themes.

Moving on. Here's an ad for a small video game about the crisis and the bankers pitted against humans.

Cookie to you if you if you can spot the major problem in this silly trailer.
Here's a clue: it's all about the phenotypes.

No comments: