By Stephanie "Bobbi Bergman
I hate writing these introductions. Really, how in a paragraph do you summarize who a person is? It's unfair to do to complex people. In this case, however, my introduction was written for me when Andy Smith described himself. I could hardly write something better. So, in his own words, "My focus is the issue. Period. I don't care if people don't even know who I am, as long as they read what I write and let it get into their head." Meet Andy Smith, one of the folks behind PlanetCrap.
Name/rank/serial number? Andy Smith, critic / writer, 25 years old.
Who are you? :) Just a guy who writes about stuff that interests or concerns him. Which is what EVERYONE should do. I'm really into consumer rights, but rights on a human level, not just a legal one, which seems to have been forgotten about nowadays.
I suppose I still like to think of myself as some sort of activist but I'm not exactly active nowadays, other than with my writing. I'm more of an armchair activist, campaigning for junk food and soft furnishings, and if I can change the world in the process then that would be cool.
What is Planet Crap? That depends on the reader. To some it's just a web site with a load of people spilling their opinions. To others it's a forum for healthy debate. To me it's something that could make a real difference if only people would forget about all the stupid politics and realise that we're all on the same side.
Where did the idea for Planet Crap come from? The main guy there, Morn, started it as his own little place on the web where he could comment on stuff that interested him. He added the discussion threads and it developed from there. I think the original intention was very different from what it has become.
Did you ever think the site would become as big, and really, as influential as it has, where developers and publishers are regularly reading and posting on it? I wasn't involved with the site until a couple of months after it started, and I didn't even know about it until a week or so before I joined the team. I think I realized immediately that there was a great potential there, but I also realized that the politics and squabbles were going to hold it back, and that's still happening. At the moment it's like one big army made up of people who all want the same thing, but we don't realize it so we keep fighting each other instead.
Where do you get the ideas for topics on Planet Crap? Some are submitted by readers, some are from things seen on news sites, and the philosophical stuff is usually just whatever's been bugging me that week.
What's the strangest comment you've seen? There have been a lot of strange comments that were just stupid or ridiculous, but there are a few "odd" ones that really shocked me at the time. Three that spring to mind, if you'll indulge me...
1. There was a thread about Monolith in which we tried to get Jason Hall to answer some questions that he'd been avoiding for about two months, and in the thread he was really slippery and evasive, and then one reader posted a comment like "I don't know who you are Mr Hall, but you've found another fan. You're the winner here!" I was like, WTF? The guy's a rodent, and you're calling him the winner? And since when was it about finding a winner? Jeez...
2. Another Monolith one, I'm afraid, and it was when we were trying to get Jason Hall to justify Shogo having been released with such appalling multiplayer. He avoided the question for days and days by just insulting me with these really sarcastic, personal comments, and then eventually gave some explanation about how the blurb on the box only said the game would WORK, not that it would be GOOD. Crazy! I mean, can't we ASSUME that a developer thinks his game is good?
3. One of the Epic developers recently said that Epic weren't obliged to finish Unreal after they'd shipped it, as if they were doing gamers a favour by doing so. Now okay, that was just his own personal opinion, but is it any surprise that the industry's in such a mess if that's the sort of attitude some developers have?
You'd written a number of very volatile editorials prior to Planet Crap, making a number of people extremely angry. Did you know that your writing would have such an effect on people? I think my editorials anger two types of people - companies who are ripping their customers off, and the customers who don't want to believe anything bad about those companies. I don't think I ever try to anger people as such, but I know that those people won't like what I say and I don't really care.
My intention is to share my view of a subject in the hope that people will consider it and perhaps look at things in a different way, even if they still don't agree with me.
What do you think is going too far? Failing to stop the car when you've got to where you were going.
No, seriously, I'd say you've gone too far if you do anything that isn't honest, is exploitative, or has an innocent victim. And if you're criticizing someone in a way that is directly beneficial to yourself then that's wrong, because you could never be sure that your motives were pure.
You seem, and it may be inaccurate, but you seem to have built a site, and a great amount of writing on having strong opinions. Is that true? What is your background...how did you end up with such strong feelings on so many subjects? I have strong opinions, yes, but doesn't everyone? I think I'm just more vocal than many people.
There's a clear explanation for why I have such strong feelings, and that's because I was raised to live my life by what is right, not just what's right for ME at any given moment. When other people live differently I find it very difficult to tolerate that. And is there any reason why I SHOULD tolerate it? I don't think so.
A few topics for you to comment on...just how do you feel about each? :)
The Daikatana Demo/Mplayer/Ion? I haven't seen the DK demo and I don't really want to, but from what I hear about it, I'm concerned for ION's future. I mean, if you were John Romero, wouldn't you want to make sure this demo was the best possible representation of your game? Then again, maybe it IS? Let's hope not.
MPlayer - I desperately want to have an opinion one way or the other about these guys, but I'm still not sure. On one hand, they're providing a service to people that might otherwise not have the first idea about getting into online gaming. On the other hand, they're Satan's spawn ripping the guts out of the industry. Tough call.
ION - living proof that money isn't a major factor in making good games. We've had starving developers churning great games out for decades, and then ION comes along with the finance of a small country and as much talent as anyone could want and what have they produced in two years? Not a lot. What will they produce in the next two years? I'm looking forward to finding out...
Walnut Creek/cdrom.com? It's a brilliant service. Imagine if there was no Walnut Creek and nothing similar in its place - how different would the games community be? How many of the current developers would never have got their jobs because they could have never got such wide exposure for their work?
Let me put my old biz suit back on for a sec and say that a service like Walnut Creek is the perfect business model because it finances itself in a solid, consistent, ETHICAL way. It's a "we scratch their back, they scratch ours" sort of deal, isn't it? We let them sell our stuff on their CD's and they give us global distribution for our creativity. Everyone's getting what they want and everyone's happy. Lovely.
Biz suit off again. :)
Then again, if any of your readers feel like popping over to Planetcrap for a few minutes, they might like to read the story we posted about Walnut Creek and GameSpy Industries a while ago, called "<a href="http://www.planetcrap.com/917396566/"><b>Mirror, Mirror</b></a>". That's a classic example of how competition and money lust can potentially (and realistically) ruin a great philosophy, even if in this case it's just an ugly conflict of interests (but you'll have to make your own mind up about whether it is or not).
Mod authors and EULA's? Mod authors - I don't really have much of an opinion about them, other than that they're providing people with some good stuff and they're not charging for it, so more power to them!
License Agreements - think of them as corporate warfare against democracy and that's more accurate. The only intention of an EULA is to deny YOU of all the consumer rights that the people and government of your country have worked to secure and maintain.
Put it this way - you go to the poling booth, vote for whoever you want, and then eventually the elected politician gets into power. You get dozens or hundreds of those politicians and that's your government. They make decisions on your behalf, and one of those decisions is that you should have a basic right to stuff that works properly. So how come Joe Lawyer at Blah software company thinks he can come along and overturn that decision?
Software EULA's are the purest form of corporate evil. They're condensed commercialism. They say that YOUR government is wrong, and that YOUR vote was wrong, and that YOUR country shouldn't be allowed to take care of its own people. They try to deny the most basic consumer rights that the law of your country says you should have.
They couldn't even put that sort of disclaimer on ammunition or explosives, so why the hell should they be able to put it on computer software? It's one of those stupid "that's just the way it is" situations. It's been this way for so long that people accept it, without ever stopping to realise that it's fundamentally WRONG.
Software EULA's should be illegal, simple as that. We've made some progress here in the UK in that they're no longer enforceable, but it should be an actual crime for them to be included, because not everyone has the time, finance or ability to research the law. <b>And they shouldn't have to.</b>
The Gathering of Developers? I don't know much about them, but I like the idea of what they're doing as I understand it. If their goal to put the developers and their games before all the industry politics works out then we should be seeing a lot of great stuff from them in future.
To be honest, I'm quietly confident that these guys (or any similar group) could lead the industry into the next millennium. I just hope they've got the guts to stick with it.
Sexism in games? You've got dweebs making games for other dweebs - what did you expect? :)
I think this issue can only be discussed on an individual basis. Sexism to you may not be sexism to me, and vice versa. Is it sexist to show a naked woman in a game? I'd be inclined to say yes, because she's probably only there to give the male players a cheap thrill.
But should women (or anyone) be offended by that? I don't think so. If there was a naked man in a game, it wouldn't offend me. Why should it?
I think so many claims of "sexism" are based on little more than someone finding another person sexually attractive. Are porn mags sexist? You could argue one way or the other about the stories, but I don't think pictures of a naked body are sexist. What's sexist about nudity? Nothing, it's natural.
Not directly connected to games, but on the same subject, one thing that has always amused me is when someone complains about a woman being thought of as a sex object. What's wrong with that? That's EXACTLY what women are. Same for men. We basically serve one purpose, and that's to reproduce, so we're all sex objects. Society's attitude to sexism might mature a little if we remembered that.
Advertising and Quake3: Arena? Don't get me started. :)
If my "claims" about the Q3A ads are right then we're not even talking about advertising... it's marketing, pure and simple, and very ugly.
I think of advertising as a company telling a potential customer that their product is available. Nothing wrong with that. Marketing is trying to force a sale where there wouldn't otherwise be one.
The sad thing is, Q3A (and Unreal Tournament, for that matter) will probably sell 90% of what the companies want them to sell without any marketing at all, but of course they have to get greedy and push for that extra 10%, don't they? And if that means deceiving or lying to people then they don't have a problem doing it.
Then again, you have to remember that we're talking about Activision and GT here, not id and Epic, although it's hard to believe that the developers don't at least placate what the publishers are doing, even if they don't actively encourage it.
What do you do in real life? I don't have a paid job because my financial situation doesn't require me to have one. That doesn't mean I'm rich, I'm just cheap! My only extravagances are the telephone and obscene amounts of Coca Cola. (And remember folks, "wherever there is fun, there's always Coca Cola"... which is kinda weird, seeing as I've had fun loads of times without Coke. We should sue!)
I do some voluntary work in the local community, and I also write fiction, although it's more philosophy than stories nowadays. Apart from that, most of my time is spent either reading or working on stuff for the 'net.
What are your favorite games? The original Quake, TOCA Touring Cars Championship (rally car simulation), Red Alert, Yoshi's Island, Thrust (old 8-bit game) and Paradroid '90 (old Amiga game). Paradroid '90 would probably have to be my favourite of all.
Recently I've been playing Baldur's Gate which is really good.
Away from the computer, I love playing chess. I've got an ambition to play against one of the grand masters just for the experience. It's more ego than confidence, but I'm good at chess and I'd love to find out if I could beat one of the best.
What are your favorite websites? My only "favourite" is Smallprint, but it's not a games site. If you go there, make sure you follow a load of the links as well because they'll take you to some really amazing pages.
Thanks!! No worries, I enjoyed it! ;:)
Check out Planet Crap at http://www.planetcrap.com!
- Stephanie "Bobbi" Bergman is an associate editor at loonygames. She's probably the most normal person on the staff. That's really sad.
Credits: Community Profile logo illustrated by and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Community Profile is © 1999 StephanieBergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is just a bad idea. We have lawyers.