Point & feel: last night was more important than we may think

LAST NIGHT, TWO MAJOR EVENTS HAPPENED. AND WHEN I SAY MAJOR, I MEAN LIKE B.I.G. FIRST, TIM SCHAFER AND HIS TEAM DRANK TO THE 3 MILLION DOLLARS CROWDED FUND FOR HIS NEXT GAME. AND THEN JOURNEY WAS RELEASED.

DOUBLE FINE ON FULL THROTTLE

Double Fine held a live Christmas like party last night. It was past midnight in France when one could witness the talented people behind Psychonauts (Hi Raz!), Brutal Legend and Stacking, partying in front of their backers, to the countdown of the “kickstarter” chronometer fund.

If Tim Schafer is known among gamers for having worked on the dialogs and design of such classics as Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango, it is still surprising to see that is name is not on Hollywood Boulevard yet. Because If the same level of contribution was one of a cinema director, he would be far more famous and recognized by the street public. His invaluable contribution to the gaming industry bears the trademark of wit, humor & imagination galore.

And Tim wants something back. He wants the point & click genre to rise from the ashes and thrive again. Very popular in the 90’s, this type of adventure games waned with the apparition of 3D boosted environment, facilitating the production of mindless action games and FPSes for almost a decade. And it pretty much happened around the time when “Lucas Arts axed the cleverness division” and let such genius minds go.

Now Tim and Double Fine hear the gamers want it back as well, but the publishers he’s talking to say “no there’s no public for it”. So what’s he doing? He asks for gamers worldwide to contribute, with a goal of 400 000 dollars. It gives them a lot of publicity and in the end, they got 3 millions.

The naysayers from dinosaur planet : 0
The global gaming crowd : 1

More than meets the eye
But this is not just about Tim Schafer, the return of point & click games or even gaming. It is about what we do right now and the way internet can serve as a tool to shape or everyday lives, whether it’s gaming, information, learning, working and so on. Internet is not this virtual thing anymore, in a corner of our room with a sad and slow computer. Its going live everywhere through tablets, phones, and soon it will be available on every public screen I guess. It is transforming our way of living, doing and sharing things.  It allows people from all over the world to “connect the dots faster” than the local doxa, media, powers that be would allow us.

So this is a sign of things moving in a VERY interesting direction. People highly paid as intermediate, deciding what’s on and what’s not for the wrongest possible reasons is about to be GONE. And organizations who have only been thinking about customers as “targets” need to rethink their way of producing and communicating. Because the mere notion of “provider” and “receiver” just exploded and we’re all going live in a worldwide, faster than light, everyday life, context.

Tim Schafer last night: ” Well the days of the publishers are not over yet. We still need them don’t we? But as the niche, the super niche, the global one, you are powerful. Make things happen for yourselves. Why companies get to choose music, movies or games you can’t play. This is over”.

Hallelujah. Now the pictures of last night.

One second left on the Kickstart fund chronometer! Double Fine is on fire!

Champagne is on!

Tim reading a thank you note to the fans and premium contributors.

Just after the countdown was over, champagne replaced beers and Tim went chasing fellow colleagues asking them to “put this hot dog suite on or you’re fired”. That was the first hightlight of last night.

A JOURNEY THROUGH THE FUTURE OF VIDEOGAMES

“Crossing the desert was a sort of initiation. Hours and hours of flat terrain and brilliant sunshine, interminable blue, a white hot sky, it was magnificent. It was something that really cracked open my soul.” Moebius, about his 9 months trip to Mexico.

The second highlight was the release of Journey through the regular Playstation Network. It was available one week prior through the Playstation Plus Network but I didn’t have the money to get it and decided to wait its “official release”, which happened on the same night as Double Fine‘s live feed.

Where to begin. This game is short. It’s two hours long. And it leaves you wanting more of it. The good thing is that it gave me satisfaction to a point loads of other games don’t in 10 hours and more of playing. Being short is rather a quality these days. It gives you time to work, do sports, see your friends, well, having a proper life. Videogames are great joy and inspiration when well fitted within a rich and satisfying social and professionnal environment. A balance which is difficult to reach with the tons of interesting games released each year and all the life eating Skyrims out there.

That’s why ThatGameCompany‘s games are precious, as they revolve around life itself: the pacman like cruelty of the abyss with Flow, the breath of the wind over a green prairie with Flower, and now a desolate world where climbing up to a seemingly Dark Tower sacred mountain serves as a metaphor of all our endeavours.

I could pay and enjoy this latest game reasonnably while experiencing one of the most beautiful and sensitive thing I have ever seen. There’s nothing to throw out of these two hours. It is superb from start to finish, with some moments of absolute ecstasy. There was one I’m not spoiling where I almost cried because I have never seen it before, not in any game, movie, photo or painting. I was speechless, without a breath for a good 5 seconds.

Giving the keys to such bright and humanist minds is way more important than the polygon count of the scheer spectacle of things. It allows the videogame industry to venture into a field where literature, music, cinema and videogames blend perfectly into a new form of entertainment. And though their games are speechless, I can tell a great care has been put into their writing and conception. It is time to recognize the talents of constant concept and beauty innovation and not only relying on technology.

Journey is a voyage, it’s music, it’s loneliness, it’s a quest reflecting you own path and hardships, it’s the joy to aknowledge, through a videogame, the presence of one another when you don’t look into people’s eyes anymore in the streets and when multiplayer is mostly about killing, it’s a beautiful greenie statement. It’s a platformer, it’s architecture, it’s perspective. It’s simple so anyone can get it. It sits along Saul Bass’ Quest, Fumeto Ueda‘s Ico, MoebiusArzak or Tim Schafer‘s Psychonauts. It’s all that.

Journey is the beautiful proof that technology today is sufficient to do whatever we want. And that the only limitations is in the minds of people themselves. And producing something beautiful is not only about the polygon count and the fireworks. It’s in the place where american cinema was at the beginning of the 90’s with Terminator 2.

It’s a sad note that french cartoonist & designer Moebius, inhabitant of the “desertb“, couldn’t live to see such beauty on screen. I hear he said Ico was “le top du top” (“best of the best”). I think he would have liked Journey very much.

I have high hopes to witness the future of videogames. I recently played through Uncharted 2, posing clearly as the wayward son of Steven Spielberg‘s savoir faire. I have never seen anything like the train sequence in it. It is spectacular. While being respectful to Indiana Jones, the game itself is a better piece of entertainment than the latest Indy entry. Some comments on Imdb state that Tintin‘s action and pursuit sequence look very similar to Uncharted. The industries are inspiring and getting closer by the day, working along more tightly than ever.

Enjoying such forays into clear, widely enjoyable, popcorn oriented storytelling, ad well as the more abstract, less narrated vibes and feelings of Journey, makes a wonderful context.

Last night, I caught ThatGameCompany‘s tweet toward Double Fine, and I saved it for you:

“Huge props to @TimOfLegend and all at @Double_Fine for making it to $3.3 MILLION with their @Kickstarter campaign”.

TGC‘s three games contract with Sony is said to be done. Now what? Right now, they are the people I’m most interested in, right along Double Fine‘s capacity of still producing original and crazy games.

The transformation of the gaming landscape, with downloadable games allowing some nostalgia, new daring directions and a mix of both, as well as the “crowd Kony funding” rising culture, makes room for the rise of truly innovative games and ideas.

Last night, I think the game has changed. What do you think?

TheNightShift
16.03.2012

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