January 8, 2007

From Slamdance Games Finalists

by Nick Montfort · , 11:59 pm

Dear Slamdance festival organizers,

In recent years, the Slamdance film festival has become a major gathering for independent gamemakers. We were honored to have our games selected as finalists for this year’s Slamdance Guerilla Gamemaker Competition, and were looking forward to meeting our fellow gamemakers, filmmakers, and other festivalgoers in a context where our work was seen as legitimate, artistic, and meaningful.

Recently, the festival has made the decision to remove one of the finalists, Super Columbine Massacre RPG! by Danny Ledonne, from the competition – after this game was solicited by festival organizers, chosen by a jury, and publicized as a finalist. We have been unable to find mention of any other film, game, or screenplay that has been pulled from Slamdance at any point in the past, making this an unfortunate first for the festival.

We object to this decision and strongly urge the festival organizers to reinstate the game in the festival. It is legitimate for games to take on difficult topics and to challenge conventional ideas about what video games can do. No game should be rejected for moral or other reasons after a panel of judges has found the game to be of artistic merit and worthy of inclusion in the festival. We find it very unlikely that a similar decision would have been made about a jury-selected film, and see this decision as hurting the legitimacy of games as a form of expression, exploration, and experience.

In November, we were very pleased to read this statement from Peter Baxter, the president of Slamdance, in a press release:

“Video games today are as important and influential as movies have ever been. The type and standard of creativity we are seeing at Slamdance Games is akin to the trail blazing days of independent filmmaking, a time that artists reacted with more imagination and against the generic fare of the movie studio.”

We believe that reinstating Ledonne’s game is highly consistent with supporting trail-blazing gamemaking. Keeping the game out of the festival would suggest that games are for kids and can only deal with kid-safe topics, that they are for amusement only and cannot deal with matters of importance, and that decisions about a game’s artistic merit are not as valid as are decisions about a film’s artistic merit. Please, for the sake of the Guerilla Gamemaker Competition and the work the festival has already done in support of games, offer to restore the original slate of finalists.

Sincerely,

Nick Montfort
 Book and Volume

Jonathan Blow
 Braid

Jason Rohrer
 Cultivation

John Baez
Tom Fulp
Dan Paladin
 The Behemoth (Castle Crashers)

Jenova Chen
Kellee Santiago
 flOw

Colin Fletcher
Ryan Thom
 Pedestrian Entertainment (Steam Brigade)

Jonathan Mak
 Everyday Shooter