Flip on Games

After a bit of a break, the flip blog is back with a new look and some excellent advice for working in games. An excellent addition to the Advice For Students section of the ARC resources.


Gabriel Yanagihara said...

This blog was such a great find. So much information and awesome posts!


Ian said...

Hey Gabriel

Thanks heaps for the positive feedback :)

frank said...

Hey Ian

I have a philosophical battle in my mind about games. But games are where the jobs are.

My current perception of the games industry is that it panders to a market that is feeding on themes of destruction.

There are quite a few TV advertisements for games leading up to Christmas based on cliched concepts of male heroism that tend toward destruction and explosions.

I have researched a few local games studios and there is an emphasis on killing, blood letting, rev heading, hooning, shooting type games.

Are there any places that create games without the destruction?

I feel i might be 'selling out' (my soul) by contracting to animating things that I don't agree with based on personal principles? *God dang hippy me*

What happens to animators who speak up and say they are morally against an idea that has landed on their animation desk?

Ian said...

Hey Frank

I can't help but think that your on a bit of a slippery slope here. 

I guess we all need to make value judgements about our work, but when it comes to this sort of thing I'm wondering where you are going to draw the line.

When I worked for an online company I ended up making cheese cake.

When I worked for a TV company I helped to introduce 24 hour marketing for the biggest of fast food giants to China.

Once I went along to a pre marketing meeting thing for one of the Disney movies I worked on and it became apparent that I had been busting my gut on a film that pretty much existed in order to sell cheaply made crap from slave labour factories in the third world to kiddies.

It could be said that almost anything we do as animators encourages people to sit on their buts and do nothing when they could be out experiencing the world, getting healthy, avoiding diabetes and heart disease.

Sure I could look at any one of these projects on a more micro level and single out things that I'm proud of, but if I choose to look at them in a certain way they all have flaws. Is any job going to be that black and white?

When I look back on the jobs I've had its the good people I worked with that stand out in my mind, and here is the news flash. Despite the moral ambiguity of some of the products I have worked on, non of them were sexual perverts, lovers of violence, or corrupters of innocent little children (well as far as I know). They were just like us, artists trying to find their way in the world, be as good as they can, to grow and learn in good company. 

You once told me you were looking forward to being a cog in a machine, its how well you fit with the other cogs around you that will make the difference, more so than what is coming out at the end of the machine. All character animation is the creation of a performance that is intended to transport the viewer to another world, to take them on an emotional journey, that is our craft, our magic trick. It's entertainment, I know you well enough to know that you are aware of some much bigger issues in the world than some young men who like to pretend they are zombie slayers.

There is also give and take to consider. One studio here in Brisbane is working on a War Hammer game, but they also made a Spungebob Squarepants game. At another they made a Star Wars game but also made a Viva Pinyata party game with cute animals. Surely you don't expect a studio where you get to love every single product you work on, especially starting as a junior.

I suspect working in games doesn't fit in with the fairy tale you had in your mind, but I think you would find its much the same in this regard. Could it just be changing your course that is hard rather than overcoming a moral issue? I know a few people working at another non games specific studio at the moment who are struggling with a project because it uses a lot of mo cap, but I can see that its just part of the natural fluctuation that occurs in the work in any studio. Its actually a good thing because it make for more variety.

There is no point in you applying for work at a games studio if you can't sort this out in your mind first. But I don't think you are as far away as you might think. I've seen your excitement at creating a good character performance, you just need to sort out who you are willing to share those performances with. 

Here is my final question. 

You are without a doubt the strongest personality I have ever taught, a confident communicator, a strong focused mind, established principles and goals. In your class you had a huge influence, at times you even had us teachers scrambling to adjust and refocus. So why are you asking what affect a workplace might have on you and your work instead of what affect you will be able to have on a workplace?

If you love animation and have opinions on the role it should play in the world then you are not going to have much influence over it looking in from the outside.

My understanding is that one big games company in town has an unofficial policy of not making any games rated above M

frank said...

Hi Ian

Thanks for continuing my education.

I know that I'm the square peg and the animation industry is littered with round holes.

When you say a slippery slope, I see the wall of a wave, and guess what I'm a surfer. The key is to keep my balance. That is to keep my own personal balance of morals and ethics with reality and wanting to work as an animator.

It would be silly to jump in a pond (games animation) without checking the murky looking water. Maybe even stirring it up with a stick to see if there are any nasty bities.

So I post on your blog for more information and read the links as they can be trusted as you are a fine and wise educator and ...

I went along to the State Library of Queensland free public lecture last night as part of the "Game On" exhibition that is travelling internationally.

It was quite an academic talk and well attended. Some of the audience were concerned parents.

It was exciting to hear that computer games are the new 'rock'n'roll', the new art form that is evolving from its most basic form to line up against film, theatre, music and literature.

From that point of view it is definitely worth looking at as a career... and that it is the only part of the industry offering any employment at the moment.

It was really interesting to note that highly intelligent games programmers and designers, academics and commercial people team up to use basic behaviour science to... this where I would hope it would say 'improve societies, generate tolerance and understanding amongst diverse cultures, educate humanity toward the survival of our planet'... nup, it's to make money.

They know that there is an area in every human brain that is primitive. It is called the limbic system and controls the most basic biological urges of violence, sex, gathering and collecting, defending collected possesions or resources.

So the beancounters know that a potentially commercially successful game, one that will subconciously appeal to the most basic primitive urges of everyone, particularly in the target market of under-developed brains of children, adolescents and young adults, is one that stimulates the limbic system. The results are treasure hunt collection games, shooter games, slayer games, games where violence is perpetuated for reward, car driving games (strange that that would appeal to a caveperson)...

Woo hoo! Commercial success! Everyone's goals are attained, maybe? The animator gets paid and does not starve.

Woo hoo! It's the same formula for action movies or some horror movies. Primitive appeal we find hard to resist. But if you sit down and think about it, turn on you higher, reasoning brain, then more evolved people can sense there may be something wrong.

This is the foundations upon which the games industry is being built upon. There are concerns in-built.

There was a lot more to the lecture and I know that the SLQ video taped it, hopefully to have on their web site.

It was good to hear the fastest growing market in games in Australia is women over the age of 35 or 50 or something.

It added to my understanding but was disquietening at the same time.

Justifications of allowing people to break societal taboos (e.g. thou shalt not murder) and saying by murdering someone in a computer game reinforces that it should not be done down at the local high school didn't sit comfortably with me. It sat right next to allowing a child to murder a person in a video game, putting that education in their conscious behaviour centres, might actually teach them to do the same. The thinking is quite tangled and needs some time, data analysis and debate to sort out.

I'm asking myself, do I want a part of the evolution of humankind's latest art form, or do I want a part of a bunch of twisted thinking based on creating commercial success from portraying unacceptable behaviour?

I think I'm justified in asking questions before I consider the games animation path. If I choose not to become a games animator I'll be disqualified from the debate (er, um, maybe...). I don't hold any lofty sense of hope of changing anything as a junior animator but my personality won't allow me to sit still and quiet and accept things that my primitive senses tell me are not correct (as you know). Maybe that is a good reason to go for it.

Ian said...

How is someone studying the way treasure hunting connects with us different to a story teller who knows how to create suspense through a sequence of scenes, its all the manipulation of human instincts, its what we do!

I think there is a double standard here. Games are just different, and when looked at on a level playing field are possibly no more or less evil than any other part of the animation biz.

So you want to look before you leap? Fine. But be fair. Would you have turned the same level scrutiny on the TV animation industry if there had been lots of jobs around in that field at the moment? Have you watched much children's TV animation of late? My opinion would be that about 80% of it is formulaic, clich├ęd, vacuous crud with nothing to say. It numbs young minds, promoting ideas like revenge, vanity and selfishness, or is a thinly veiled ad for a toy. 80% is probably a figure in the same ball park of how many games you would find too violent.

To exist commercially animation must be a collaborative exercise, we covered that in week one of the course. How would it affect things if only projects you wanted to make were realised? That's just not how it works, you pay your dues and wait for the opportunities to work on a project you are in sync with. That's what I did? That's what every other successful animator I know has done.

I spent the other weekend playing a game called Viva Pinyata, the object of the game is to build a garden and then balance the eco system within it. I wonder how many army games the animators made before working on that one?

Ian said...

As you know Frank I'm the only person I know who has made their own TV series, 32 episodes of a show made for little kids. Its a show about exploring the world and using your imagination. The themes are of my own design, they cam straight from my conscience, the show connects deeply with my values and what I wanted to share with the world as an artist. It is largely unknown in the wider world for now, but it is the thing I am most proud off in all the animation I have ever made.

The skills I used to make it were learnt while making products I would never buy myself, and I was able to support myself financially while I made it ( through teaching and freelance work) because of the experience and reputation I had after being involved with the industry.