[Continuing his new ‘Tales from the GDC Vault’ series, digital historian Jason Scott showcases his digitizing and contextualizing work for Game Developers Conference content for the GDC multimedia archives, showcasing Ian Bogost’s newly-free Cow Clicker talk and a new GDC 2000 press reel.]
Jason Scott, GDC Historian and Archivist here. Great news for you, if you’ve been hearing a lot about this “GDC” thing and want to know what you’re missing.
Game Developers Conference has not just been freeing up older, classic talks like the ones I’ve been digitizing from over a decade ago – they’ve also released a variety of just-recorded talks from recent GDCs. All of these are recorded using the digitally speaking mechanism, where you can watch the speaker and slides, just the slides, just the audience, or whatever works for you.
There’s a growing pile of these present-day presentations that you’ll get your hands on, and I’ll be pointing out some of the ones that really grabbed me, looking over them.
So here’s a great talk to check out from this just-past GDC, one of the more surreal and meta-referential talks that was on the lineup: “Making a Mockery: Ruminations on Cow Clicker” by Ian Bogost, originally given at GDC Online 2010 in Austin in October 2010.
In one of the stranger success stories in the history of modern gaming, Ian Bogost of Georgia Tech created a social media game called Cow Clicker, in which you… well, you click a cow. Every once in a while. To get prizes. And more cows. Intended as a parody of the gamification craze in social media, the parody was well-enough designed that it became a hit in its own right.
Bogost is no slouch when it comes to understanding the full context of what he’s doing here. As a game critic and theorist, an author of multiple books about games and game platforms, and someone who doesn’t like a lot of the aspects of social media games, calling them “manufacturers of dread”.
Yet here he was, implementing many of the mechanisms and tricks of the social game genre to lull tens of thousands of people into clicking cows. The talk covers, with clever aplomb and self-awareness, the resulting reactions, reviews, innovations, and even a clone game that shows up, cementing Cow Clicker‘s validity as a Facebook game as far as Bogost is concerned.
Trust me, it all starts out absurd, and then becomes an absurdity wrapped in an even more deep absurdity, until you can’t believe how this soufflÃ© of absurdity is still standing. Check it out – the talk’s well worth the time.
The good news keeps coming in, as well.
The initial set of tapes I was sent for this project were all lectures, workshops and presentations, things best suited for the GDC Vault. But a fortuitous set of circumstances (for me and for you) meant I was eventually sent every tape, video and audio, lying around the office.
As a result, I now have all sorts of interesting extras awaiting my attention. After talking it over with folks in charge, I’ve opened a separate free section on the Internet Archive site, called the GDC Extras Archive. This will be stuff that has no home elsewhere since it doesn’t quite fit on GDC Vault, such as random attendee interviews, promotional material, or gameplay demonstrations.
The first of these is now up: The GDC 2000 Sizzle Tape, a promotional video showing a bunch of news organizations discussing the 14th GDC and the buzz surrounding it (hence the “sizzle” term). My assumption with no other knowledge is that this sort of tape might be sent to a potential vendor or exhibitor to show how much excitement is generated around GDC – or perhaps to organizers to show them the extent of the TV coverage from the event.
Buried in among the various news reporters touting video games, are appearances by Bill Gates (announcing that new “Xbox” idea), Ed Fries (doing same) and an early appearance from Phil Harrison of Sony. It’s a very short tape (sizzle doesn’t need to go on too long) clocking in under seven minutes, so you’ll be through it in no time.
The work continues! I just won an auction for a Betamax SP player, which will be allowing me to transfer the best professional-grade recordings of GDC events digitally. There’s a huge stack of those tapes, some completely anonymous and unlabelled. Who knows what treasures are in there – be patient while I get them online.
While you’re waiting, I know this great game about a cow you could play.