All this week, the Slamdance Film Festival has been going on in Park City, Utah. Curiously lacking in the gaming press has been coverage of the festival's Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition. That's probably because all the big news about the event already unfolded over the months leading up to it: Slamdance's initial invite to the creator of Super Columbine Massacre RPG! to submit his controversial game, the game's nomination as a finalist in the Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition, and then, well, let's be blunt: Slamdance chickening out and dropping SCMRPG from consideration due to what they claimed were concerns over legal threats.
Lots of people got mad over this, which included the creators of seven of the games which were also nominated as finalists. They were so upset that, in a show of solidarity, these people decided to pull their own games from the competition. Here's how significant this is: Not including Super Columbine, Slamdance nominated 13 games.
As Slamdance draws to a close this Saturday, we here at The Escapist decided to pick our own winner from the seven games of which the creators decided to stand up and fight the good fight for the art of indie gaming. But first, we spoke to some of the creators behind the nominated games:
The Escapist: Congratulations on your game having been nominated by Slamdance! And congratulations for withdrawing from Slamdance! How difficult (or easy) was it for you to make this decision?
Zach Peterson (Lead Developer, Toblo): We're incredibly honored to be withdrawn from Slamdance. We've kind of been waiting for the opportunity to stick it to [Slamdance President] Peter Baxter, so thank goodness this controversy came along.
Stephane Conde (Lead Programmer, Once Upon A Time): It was rough that we had to make this kind of decision at all, but the decision itself was not even really a decision: We felt it was necessary.
Jon Mak (Creator, Everyday Shooter): It was like having paid 12 dollars to watch an Uwe Boll movie: Do you eat the 12 dollars and leave, or do you stay and try to get your 12 dollars worth?
The Escapist: How did the Slamdance committee respond to your request to withdraw your game from the festival? Did they beg you to stay?
Conde: They explained the situation in an unsatisfactory way and asked that we reconsider and join them in Park City Utah to discuss the issue.
Although I question their claim that they could face legal action had they kept SCMRPG! In the competition, I proposed another alternative: Close the competition and declaring a default would have been a much better option than booting a game already judged to be a finalist.
The official Slamdance statement on the issue states that there are "moral obligations to consider." Those should have been addressed before asking the [Super Columbine] game developer to submit his game and making it a finalist.
The Escapist: Let's pretend that your game is considered "controversial" by critics. What would be the most "offensive" thing about your game, which you are most proud of?
Peterson: Much like Grand Theft Auto, most of the people who play Toblo simply can't separate the game from reality. Hey, it's not our fault your kid picked up the TV and hurled it through a window. Where were the parents when all this was going on?
Conde: Sexism since the princess screams for help from the other players. We actually designed the game with quite the opposite frame of mind. We had intentionally made the central character female and quite powerful. Each of her spells is much more powerful than the other characters' abilities. She just happens to have one weakness: being picked up. As a side note, we've actually had more female buyers than male.
And The Escapist First Annual Slammy Award goes to ...
Why? These kids originally pulled their game in protest, but were then overruled by the school they attended, where they made their game: DigiPen Institute of Technology (which happens to also advertise on the Slamdance website). So Toblo was resubmitted by DigiPen and accepted once again by Slamdance. Still, the creators of Toblo reaffirmed their refusal to accept any possible award - they're protesting against two institutions.
Oh, and Toblo, like Super Columbine, is controversial in its own right: Players attack one another by tossing exploding LEGO-like bricks at one another's towering block structures, in order to cause them to collapse. See, folks, it's obviously a terrorist trainer.
Congratulations, Team Toblo Terrists!
Here's the complete list of nominated (but voluntarily withdrawn from Slamdance) games: