It's 11PM the night before PAX, and we've accumulated an ungainly entourage, including a three-man film crew, belligerently drunk lawyers, one famous game designer, and a high-ranking Electronic Arts executive. We can’t find our way to the party.
“I crush dreams for a living,”
Says the EA exec, still merry despite having gotten us lost in our own city. The Space Needle is close, but eerily out of sight. Hobbling-drunk and gratuitously praising our shoes, I'm not sure why we followed him. Maybe it's his cheery nature, or that he was scattering corporate secrets like Johnny Appleseed, saying,
“Gentlemen NDA, of course!
“No, really though. We buy these studios, we give them our money, and sometimes they just don’t work out. They expect us to put out this absolute crap. Really, I know. It’s mean. But it feels so good to say this. It’s just crap. Indie games are harder than people expect. A lot of people do it, and to some degree it’s random who lives and who dies.
“Gentleman NDA! NDA, Gentlemen!
“But really, really, it’s like I’ve been asked to catch a unicorn fucking a narwhal. EA is calling it their,” He waves his hands majestically, “Electronic Arthouse.”
Money is great for like, eating and stuff. But the point of an indie scene is to do something outside the established, safe boundaries usually set by big publishers. Like him. The game in question, Shank, sucked. And not just because it technically functioned as smoothly as a junkyard moped. It sucked because the game was just another side-scrolling platformer, and Mario Bros. is – as an idea – only thirty years old.
Since its release, Shank competed on the same field as completely scrappy, unfunded indies. Shank took up space in the coveted Humble Indie Bundle packages, which sometimes means tens of thousands of much-needed dollars for artists whose three other jobs might still pay the bills. That’s not cool, Shank. That’s not fucking cool at all.