I spent much of this week talking with journalists and enthusiast press about Red Steel 2. It was weird.
I mean, first of all, it was great. When we show the game, the result is nearly always the same: anyone who picks up the controls has quite a good time playing it.
That’s not necessarily boasting – that’s just what I see again and again in the presentations we make. Some people are cool on some aspects of the game, and there are lots of questionable decisions that we made (to be sure), but players seem to be unanimous about one thing: RS2 is fun to play.
But that’s not really what I want to talk about today. I’ve been musing (extensively) on this weird little blip of Internet celebrity I seem to have accumulated, and I want to talk a little bit about the experience.
For those of you who don’t know what in the hell I’m talking about, here’s a quick primer:
- Back in June, I was asked to announce Red Steel 2 at the Ubisoft press conference. As I had just broken my knee, I came out on stage not only looking like my normal freak self, but with a cane. This seemed to clinch things: I was suddenly being recognized as “that dude with the beard and the cane”.
- Since then, I’ve done about 1,453,901 interviews while promoting Red Steel 2. Over the past 9 months, this has slowly changed from “Oh, hi, who are you?” to “I’d really like to get an interview with Jason VandenBerghe, if that’s okay.”
For the record (and, whether or not you believe me) I’m not bragging. Not at all. That’s actually part of the point of this blog post, I think – to open the door a little bit on that.
Yes, I love the attention, yes, I’m a glory-hound, yes, I like talking to the press, yes, I’m fundamentally insecure and am trying to compensate for that, yes. Yes yes yes. All true. But I’m also 100% clear that appreciation is something that fans decide to give, not something that I can “make happen” or “deserve”.
I’m amazed at what has been occurring, but no more feel like I “own” the attention I’ve been getting than I own the weather. People seem interested in me right now, I think that’s cool and fun, it helps the game, and if people get a kick out of what I’m doing, then I hope it continues. If it doesn’t, then c’est la vie, baby. 😉
Either way, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. This week was particularly weird – I had several journalists who seemed to be very interested in my personal creative origins for some of the stuff that appears in Red Steel 2. This is hyper-weird for me:
- First of all, as an American, the concept that the press would be interested in talking about what I do as “art” is just surreal. I’ve learned that in Europe this is not such a foreign (ha ha) concept, but it still takes a leap of faith for me to believe that they aren’t being sarcastic.
- Secondly, it’s an action game, so the interest level about the surrounding details is surprising. Welcome, but surprising. I spent a good deal of time (with one Greg Roach, among others) working out how the “Red West” works as a setting, and it’s great to hear that people are curious. Surprising, but great.
- Third, I’ve been working in this industry for going on fourteen years now, and never really popped up as more than a “hyperenthusiastic designer” in any of my earlier contacts with the press. I’m sure this has at least something to do with nearly every other game I’ve made being a movie game… but it has the effect of lending an “overnight” feeling to the whole thing.
- Fourth, at EA and Activision, this whole thing would simply have been impossible. I do not have the kind of political power and interest that it takes to become a spokesperson at those companies, and my years of (largely) quiet service is evidence of this. I did a few articles, press tours, and quite a few “tourguide” stints with visiting dignitaries and student groups… but nothing like what Ubisoft has done with Red Steel 2. So far, Ubisoft seems to see my quirkyness as an advantage, and are more than willing to let me cavort around to my heart’s content (as long as the game is good, of course).
- Fifth… uh… I seem to be wandering way off the course here. Let’s just get back to the blogging, shall we?
The unspoken “background noise” in this topic is that I have always had a deep-rooted desire to do something meaningful.
Like, from birth. Something that touches people, something that gives back to the culture that created me – that was always the goal, from the furthest back I can remember. This has so completely dominated my thinking throughout my life that I don’t really know what it would be like to live without it.
Even against what is sometimes a cynical, shallow world, I want to do things that matter to people. (Not capital “M”, Matter. Just the regular, lowercase “matter”.)
Juxtaposed against the above “micro-celebrity weirdness” concepts, perhaps you can imagine something like what it feels like when people express interest in my work: I’ve spent my entire life craving the opportunity to do something valuable… and then, suddenly, in small fits and spurts, some people seem to be responding.
I know that this isn’t necessarily because of me personally, but I do experience what can only be described as enormous relief at the idea that perhaps, for once, the inside world and the outside world might be more closely aligned than they have been for the past few decades.
For the record, I’m not 100% sure that I have an actual point here that I’m trying to make. I think perhaps what I’m trying to do is share a little bit about what this whole weird trip has been like (good, strange, confusing, marvelous), and keep up with my long-standing policy of being as bluntly honest about the human nature of what I’m doing in my life as I can be, with anyone who is interested.
Also, I’m rather disorganized as a person, and processing everything publicly seems to be the best way for me to not miss things.
Anyway. This is turning into a boring, navel-gazing style post, so maybe I’ll call it here. If you made it this far, gratz. And, thanks for reading – I hope that at the very least, this post at least makes it more clear that I really do genuinely appreciate the interest.
Why? No clue. I think I was born this way.