Prepare yourself for some full on, unrestrained self-promotion. Ready? Good. Panegyric GO.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Robert Fearon. I make games with pretty colours. Sometimes my games don’t have pretty colours but mainly they have pretty colours. I am six and a half.
No wait, I’m not six am I? Sorry about that. It’s the pretty colours, they effect my brain. I’m actually 35 and I’m a UK based maker of games, all of which can be found somewhere around www.bagfullofwrong.co.uk. As well as making games I’m also the custodian of Retro Remakes, a site which for various reasons is dwindling in purpose but still close to my heart.
Take us through your past experiences at GameCity, and what has been your favourite moment?
Well, I’ve rolled up to a couple of GameCityNights and had a rather wonderful time there, both showing a bit of my own work and for the luxury of lounging around on the rather majestically comfortable sofas at Antenna observing the work of others whilst consuming alcohol. And lo, they were good nights to be had that I’d recommend to anyone.
I was invited along to GameCity5 to be part of a panel with the ever lovely Martin Hollis, Paul Carruthers, Tom Wooley and James Newman discussing the art of remakes and game preservation. Now, obviously, this was quite the fun thing to do – especially when in such esteemed company and the opportunity to cuss Sonic on stage is one that no-one should ever turn down. I would, sadly, be quite the hairiest of liars were I to say that was my favourite moment, mind you. That surely goes to one large table in a tent, a mound of craft materials and my six year old kid (who actually is six, unlike me) wearing the biggest grin on his face ever, scribbling down a monster that would later appear in Adam Saltsman’s GameCity Game (playable here – GC). Considering we’re talking the kid who’d already managed to create his own unofficial tribute to the works of Adam Saltsman with Canabalt For Pink Daleks (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/07/22/your-thursday-silly-canabalt-for-pink-daleks/), you can only just begin to imagine how exciting this was.
GameCity has been described as “the shining beacon of light in a bleak and desolate landscape devoid of happiness”. Do you agree?
You’ve just copied that off a cereal box! That was on my Cornflakes!
Oh, seriously though, to a very great degree, yes. Very much yes. You see, go back to what I was saying earlier about being able to give my kid a massive, massive smile.
Here’s a thing, yeah? If I take my kid to anywhere else videogame-y, what do they get? Either some boring people talking about boring things “Oh, so I fixed the sprite scaling on the oojamaflip by overlaying the texture of Omnicron 8 into a bananaphile using the powers of procedural StarTrek Generations” or they get a big room with some games in. Don’t get me wrong, I like games and my fondness for big rooms truly, truly knows no bounds but it’s boring.
It’s niche and not necessarily in a good niche way. I took my good lady wife down to another show and spent more time sitting outside watching boats go by because her interest in Archer Maclean’s Wheelspin or Heavy Rain: Rain Harder is approximately zero, y’know? There’s absolutely nothing anywhere else that would engage both my wife and kid with videogames. All that stuff, it’s fine for people like me but it’s not for them. Bah and humbug to excluding people like that. Bah, humbug and bah,bah, humbug, right?
So, GameCity. Long journey from ‘oop north for all of us. Grab a hotel, get some kip, head into town and there’s this super massive tent. A tent with not one but two entrances and already there’s some excitement there from the kid. So he goes into one end and has a bit of a muck around, nips into the other end and as I said, massive table with craft materials. Massive screen with something Projector Games have knocked up also and all around this table, there’s folks showing off their games too. It could, so easily, be nerd. Yet it’s not, because there’s a room full of kids and crayons having a cool time.
We go off, do some other stuff, it’s almost time for me to do talking things. Normal situation? Wife has to bugger off somewhere and do something dull. Go to a cafe, nip for something to eat, go and flick bricks at passers by, whatever. GameCity? There’s a bloody big room full of lego.
There’s a big room full of lego whilst some old people talk about making, remaking and having their games remade. How cool is that?
And it’s not just the kids, yeah? It’s the hey, public, get fit with the Wii stuff. It’s the running around Nottingham games. It’s the Spot The Nanosuit stuff and everything else inbetween. There’s something for everyone, yes, even including you at the back.
How you could roll up to GameCity and then have a miserable time, I have no idea. Unless someone stole your head, perhaps. That would make me sad.
Why should GameCity’s approach to videogame culture matter?
Right, I sorta have this thing. I honestly, truly believe that anyone who wants to write a game should be able to. Ok, I have two things. I honestly truly believe that anyone who wants to write a game should be able to and I honestly believe that more people should be able to enjoy games. I’ve stood on wobbly chairs before now and sort of politely pointed out to developers that they’re for the most part not very good at including the not we. I’ve stood on stages and sort of less than politely pointed out to developers that a fair too many folks take the attitude that game development should be a super special thing for special people with their special friends and big bag of game development books or whatever.
The one thing that the videogames industry as a whole is incredibly good at is this. We keep people out. We’ve spent years getting really good at this. We never used to be, we used to be inclusionary but we lost that. More money in nerds? Who knows, but we did it wrong. Games stopped being about us and instead became about them. The demographic more likely to call you a nonce for liking the PS26 instead of the XPen 490. More buttons. Bigger controllers. More hats. Hang on, forget the hats. You get the picture.
Yet somewhere in the early 2000’s, digital downloads sorta opened up this whole market of folks buying games. Housewives, “non gamers” as the more snobby types prefer to call them. And it was massive. And then Nintendo come along and make a Wii and everyone goes “OH MY GOD, DUMBING GAMES DOWN FOR DUMB PEOPLE” or something and then PC gamers moan about the consolification of their inventory management systems as they’re now only required to use one button instead of 30 mouse clicks, a keyboard overlay, an 800 page manual with a code wheel and a hat. No, forget the hat again. Where was I?
Oh yeah, exclusionary. That’s what we’re good at. To the point that it’s now something that’s so ingrained in the culture that more often than not, it’s just there. Being exclusionary. And we need more things that break down those barriers. More things that say “Hey, Mr Public, games aren’t just for Captain Pizza Consumer over there! They’re for you too”. I’m not talking giving Mum 50 points for brushing her teeth a week on Tuesday here, I’m talking introducing Mum to something she might have perhaps been more than a little afraid to go near. Or introducing Mum to something she’d not likely come into contact with. And mixing it all up with a dash of for the kids, a dash of for Mr Manshooterfan, a dash of for those less able, a dash of those very able and saying “folks, it’s ok, we’re all good for playing and doing things about play”.
I like that if GameCity were a text adventure it wouldn’t be “You are in a dank, sweaty hall. To the left is a stinky man, to the right is a stinky man”. It would be “You are in a massive open city. As Frankie Goes To Hollywood once said, the world is your oyster. Go forth and play, my friend. To the north, lego. To the south you see a windy path with a man dressed as a hedgehog, to the west you see a conference hall and to the east you see someone dancing on a mat”. You see a sign and it reads “Everyone welcome”. You smile.”
It matters because the more we contain games in a nerdhole, the more of a narrow path we carve out. The less we get as a whole. The less progress we make and the less fun everyone gets to have.
And outside of Big GameCity:The DaddyEvent, there’s GCN which gives an outlet to smaller developers to show off their work. In a pub. Oh yes.
No-one left behind. That’s why GameCity is important. It’s for everyone.
In no more than 30 words, finish this sentence; “GameCity changed my life because…..”
…it shows there is another way. And I love GameCity for that.
What would be the last game you’d play before an impending apocalypse?
Space Giraffe. I’d want to go down with the brightest lights, the shiniest stars and the sound of the KLF ringing in my ears.
Wow. Thanks Rob. That was a barrage of kind words. You’re too kind!