Remember Dead Island? Maybe you saw the award-winning trailer some months back. Internet audiences were captivated by its short, strangely affecting story of a family torn apart by zombies (both literally and figuratively). The reviews coming out now, of course, paint a picture of a game pretty unlike that singularly remarkable advertisement, and the comparisons aren’t really favorable. Dead Island’s ad seemed to promise something new that the game itself wasn’t prepared to deliver, something that developers still have yet to make a reality, something that gamers and even broader audiences are still hoping to see – and it isn’t just an especially emotional zombie game.
I wanted to share with you an anecdote from Jerry Holkins at Penny Arcade:
I received the strangest question in an interview once: somebody wanted to talk to me about MC Frontalot, who coincidentally has a new album out. They wanted to know why rap about nerd things, or make comics about nerd things…. I scrunched my whole face up, and the region between my eyebrows shifted tectonically from plain to mountain. But he could not see this, so I was forced to express my confusion with the human words.
This was a person writing an article for a newspaper, a device which transmits culture, but he didnâ€™t seem to understand what he was doing! Maybe he was confused because he was taught to â€œspeakâ€ without â€œvoice,â€ that is, to communicate neutrally. Maybe he found the printing press in the woods, and operates it via dimly understood rituals. But hereâ€™s the apparently impenetrable math: people create culture. And they create it by describing the world in terms which are relevant to them. Who does he think makes all this stuff?
All that changed was the hand on the tiller.
I find myself having a similar conversation quite a bit. I try not to hold it against people who don’t understand, though. It’s not always obvious to outsiders why the whole “nerd” thing would remain relevant to us into adulthood. I guess that’s why I wrote a dissertation trying to explain it.