A strange thing thing has been happening.
At least for me anyways.
Since I’ve been poking around, looking at what Winnipeg has to offer the creative mind, I’ve been bumping into a lot of would-be gamer developers. A lot of them. There are so many of them that a documentary has been made (and currently being shown) at the Sundance film festival called Indie Game the Movie. It’s been getting quite a bit of local buzz. All about the independent video game developers here in this city and some other places as well. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it has shown up enough in my digital and real life that I think I’m going to have to pick myself up a copy in the future.
It is strange though. I never would have thought Winnipeg of all places to be a hotspot for indie-game development. But after joining the Secret Handshake and meeting a number of developers and playing the Winnitron arcade game, I may have to rethink that preconception. Makes sense when you think out it. Winnipeg has long been the home of really great independent animation. The Cat Came Back and The Big Snit come to mind. So it‘s not a great leap to imagine video games as being the next natural progression for independent creative expression here in the ‘Peg.
So all this buzz about indie gaming has got me thinking about my one and only time I ever had a very brief encounter with video game development. And the strange convergences and coincidences that are a hallmark of living in this city.
Waaaaaay back in the day (when I was in high school) I had this friend of mine, Ryan, who was a real computer nerd. Always had some programming project up his sleeve. He reminds me of the character Jason, from the Foxtrot cartoon. Anyways, he showed me some drawings he was putting together for a video game he was programming. The graphics were deliberately crude stick drawings, mostly because Ryan couldn’t draw and he wanted to harken back to the vector graphic video games of yore. I helped him out with a few things drawing-wise and a few snide remarks I made about his drawings (keep in mind I was 17 at the time, everything coming out of my mouth was snide) actually helped developed some of the rather gruesome aspects of the game (again, we were both 17 at the time). The game was called Robot Revenge and was released as shareware. It can still be found here I believe. I promptly forgot all about it afterwards.
Years later, both Ryan and I met up at our 10 year reunion. And he got to talking about that shareware game. You see, there was a “cinematic” opening sequence of the game where a flying saucer containing a bunch of killer robots flys down and kills someone close the the main character that you play in the game. And it‘s followed by a, “You bastards, you killed so-and-so”, and then the game starts as you get your revenge on the robots. Any of this sound familiar? The game was released as shareware in the very early 90’s, long before a certain infamous cartoon killed a main character in the exact same fashion (and continues to kill him off at every opportunity).
Now it does seem unlikely, that an obscure DOS shareware game could have influenced a couple of animators in a totally different part of the world to create an aspect of their cartoon that would lead them to fame and fortune, but it is fun to speculate. And considering that Winnipeg is some sort of strange nexus of convergences and coincidences, it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility. As they say, everyone is seven degrees of separation from knowing everyone else in the world. In this town it seems more like 2 or 3 degrees of separation. Either way, my friend Ryan wasn’t that bothered. It was an amusing story to tell people he hadn’t seen in years, I suppose.
So to sum up, independent game developers should take heart, the world is watching you. If programmerators in Winnipeg, of all places, can make inroads into the popular culture of our times (even if it is only in our heads at times), surely to God you can make a dent wherever it is you call home.