Just got back from GDC last night. A day has passed and I am still *spent*. Didn't help to get back to the airport to find my car battery dead either. *sigh*. A half-hour and a pair of jumper cables later and I was on my way home.
I plan on doing a pretty lengthy post about GDC, sessions, impressions, etc, but I wanted to first post my thoughts on the Chris Hecker, Wii-rant debacle.
So, for those coming up to speed, here's the short version:
GDC has had a 'rant' session three years running (summary of 2005, 2006, 2007 ). In one of the rants from this year's session, Chris Hecker (who works for EA/Maxis) gave a rant about the Nintendo Wii in which he called it a 'piece of sh**', also claiming that Nintendo doesn't care about games as art. The short version of the fallout is that the game bloggers all had a simultaneous blogo-gasm over the provided provocative headline, the Nintendo fanboys decended upon the internet with torches and pitchforks, and I'd imagine that EA's PR depart told them to get in line and wait till they were done getting medievel on his heiney. Hecker issued an apology the next day, but the torches and pitchforks continue to flame/poke on the web, and I'd imagine there are many calling for his head on a pike around the EA PR office. Perhaps they'll end up getting it.
With all the noise on the subject, I'm not sure my two cents is worth even that, but I'm going to give my opinion on the subject for those who care.
First off, I think it's clear he made a huge mistake, not knowing the weight and impact his statement would have, and more importantly, how it would be associated with his role at EA. Chris has spent the past (10? more?) years working as an indie. He's well known (more on this later), but it's different when the press can say "Spore Developer says...". Now, while I think he made a mistake not thinking about impact, I *agree* with what he said - at least if taken in the context of the talk as well as the rant session.
Chris' talk and it's intent have to be taken with the Rant session's setting in mind. People over state for purposes of firing up the room and to bring issues to the surface in hopes that people will consider those issues, discuss them, and perhaps do something about them.
My own read on Chris' intent with his talk was as follows:
- That while people have raved about their innovative controller and the more risk-taking games they have brought to market, this should not give them a 'get out of jail free card' on the fact that they have delivered an underpowered machine.
- That while it is certainly possible to deliver works of art in a minimalist fashion, artists shouldn't be REQUIRED to do so. (Just because it's possible to render fantastic art using only a piece of charcoal, that doesn't mean artists can't also accomplish a more varied spectrum of work using color, if you'll pardon the pun). This is as valid an argument as that of the people saying that "high def doesn't mean better games". Amen. [Worth noting that Hecker's rant last year was anti-Sony and anti-MS, chastising the two platforms for being graphics-heavy and general-computation-light]
- The other part of his talk was chastising Nintendo's focus on lighter-weight fare and on 'fun' as being detrimental to the industry's efforts on getting games taken seriously as art. While I agree less with this one, I do think it was valuable to state, if for no other reason to get people having the conversation.
Since the talk, Chris has taken a lot of heat, and a lot of people have said some not-so-nice things about him. He's got thick skin, but it's got to be tough to have that many people coming down on you.
The Nintendo fanboys and others that are responsible for coming down on him like that should at the very least put this one rant in perspective with the rest of Chris' work. He won the IGDA community contribution award last year, and a ton of people said fantastic things about him. I still beleive those things are true. I respect Chris a great deal and would ask that those that are reacting to this one rant try to look past it and at the bigger picture.