January 5, 2007

Door Slams Shut on Super Columbine RPG

by Nick Montfort · , 2:19 pm

Kotaku is reporting, and Water Cooler Games confirming, that Super Columbine RPG, accepted as a finalist for the Slamdance Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition, has been pulled from the copetition by festival organizers under pressure from sponsors. Apparently this is a first for any film or game that has been accepted to Slamdance. Oddly, the game was actively courted by Slamdance before submissions were due. See the comments at GamePolitics.com, too.

Update (January 6): Two-time Slamdance finalist Ian Bogost says the decision was personal, not a business move, and declares the Slamdance Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition dead.

10 Responses to “Door Slams Shut on Super Columbine RPG”


  1. andrew Says:

    Wow, this is terrible. Reportedly the reason for pulling SCMRPG! from the festival is because one or more of the festival’s sponsors — the bigger corporate ones being Kodak, Fiji water, Dos Equis beer, Michael Collins Irish Whiskey, Jewel wines and All Seasons resorts — threatened to pull funding, and therefore cancel the festival.

    I’m sure the festival organizers, including Sam Roberts whom we met last year when we competed there, are devastated by being forced into this. I don’t think it’s odd they courted SCMRPG! for the festival, but in hindsight, it was a little too risky. Sam is a good guy who wants to push on the frontiers of gaming; he must be very disappointed. But he and the other organizers should be proud they had the guts to originally include it in the festival, I hope people realize it was against their wishes to pull it. It would have been unfair to the other finalists to have not pulled it, leading to the festival being cancelled.

    It’s unclear how much this will tarnish the reputation of Slamdance, or the broader game industry somehow, but hopefully this event will lead to more debate and discussion about games as a medium for serious expression. Although school shootings are a very incendiary topic, I think it’s a better tool for debate than, say, the more puerile controversies over the right to have prostitutes and hidden soft-core sex in the Grand Theft Auto games.

    I also recommend everyone rent Elephant, if you haven’t already — a movie on the same topic as SCMRPG!, which won the top prize at film’s most prestigious festival, for crissakes! The irony is thick here.

    (Trivia: As I mentioned once before, my local Portland game developer meetings are sometimes organized by a guy named Corwin Light-Williams, who made the videogame parody footage for Elephant by programming an actual custom videogame, which allowed players to shoot at Gerry. How many people get “video game designer” in a movie credits?)

  2. josh g. Says:

    For those like me who aren’t sure they can stomach actually playing the game, but want to know what it’s about artistically, here’s a really good review with some spoilers at the end.

  3. andrew Says:

    Ian links to a Newsweek blog post critiquing Slamdance for their decision.

    Part of me agrees, for sure. But, would it have been better to have resulted in cancellation of the festival? Again I suggest that would have been unfair to the other finalists; a better solution is to hold protests at the festival, or some other activism.

  4. michael Says:

    Wow, what disappointing news. I tend to focus on the design and technology hurdles involved in building games able to comment on the full range of the human condition – sad to be reminded (yet again) that there are also cultural battles to be fought (not to mention the business and marketing battles).

  5. Patrick Says:

    Cancellation of the Festival was just a red-herring, much like that preacher first denying his visit to a gay prostitute and purchase of meth, then admitting to it with a caveat. Baxter claims it was a moral decision, but really he’s threatened that a game can generate more press than any film in his originally founded festival. Its a gutless move that threatens to undermine Slamdance’s entire future credibility, but by groundswell will probably do a lot of good for games. I really believe Super Columbine is the Rosa Parks of game design. Not as well composed as MLK (maybe Facade is the MLK of game design) but more explicitedly challening to the cultural barriers.

  6. noah Says:

    For more info along the lines of Patrick’s comment, Water Cooler Games has an important follow-up on this issue.

  7. nick Says:

    The developer of Braid has withdrawn the game from the competition in protest.

  8. Water Cooler Games Says:

    Slamdance: SCMRPG removal was personal, not business

    Yesterday I reported that the Slamdance festival had pulled Super Columbine Massacre RPG from its lineup of game finalists. Based on conversations with creator Danny Ledonne and the statements he received from the festival, I concluded (as did Brian Cr…

  9. scott Says:

    Does this mean that if Book & Volume wins, it gets an asterisk in the record books?

  10. jill/txt » Rune Klevjer’s trial lecture to be on Super Columbine Massacre! Says:

    [...] bine Massacre! is a game about, you guessed it, the Columbine school massacre. It recently caused a controversy when it was pulled from the Slamdance Gu [...]

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