Good idea: Creating a reality show web series about competing teams of video game designers.

Bad idea: Trying to create a false sense of drama by using sexism to pit contestants against each other.

As luck would have it, that wasn’t the only problem with the reality web series GAME_JAM, but it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. But it seems that this project was doomed to failure, from the recruitment, contracting and implementation of the series, the whole thing collapsed before a single episode had finished shooting. Indeed a single day of shooting hadn’t yet been completed when the series was called off and everyone went home, and while it’s partly the fault of Mountain Dew, it’s really the fault of the producers for wanting to skewer the drama with some good old fashioned gender stereotyping.

The blow-by-blow was provided by several of participants in GAME_JAM in a Mashable Post, but it comes down to a couple of things. First there were contract issues, and even if you’re not a lawyer, you ‘ll have to admit that these provisos and caveats are a little much for a web series aiming to capture in the indie aesthetic:

Exclusivity: participants were not allowed to appear on similar shows or syndicated YouTube networks for the full duration of the main broadcast time frame for GAME_JAM.

Waiver of privacy: participants had to agree to waive all rights to privacy in any area that is not the bedroom or bathroom. This includes the ability to use hidden microphones and cameras in any area of the production, including “co-ed living quarters”.

Right to misrepresentation: GAME_JAM held the right to, in all and any way, misrepresent the developers, their actions and intent for dramatic effect. This wasn’t limited to exaggeration or fabricating stories.

Obligation to travel: participants are obliged to travel to the event, and to any other promotional activity or show GAME_JAM required of them. Flight expenses would be paid for only if the participant was more than 200 miles away.

Marketing: participants would be required to participate in branded activities, including but not limited to ‘drinking Mountain Dew’. On top of that, participants would be required to advertise the show as requested by GAME_JAM, and would not be allowed to speak ill of the jam, its sponsors or its organizers.

Waiving one’s privacy, right to engage in other YouTube channels and being forced to travel anywhere and everywhere on the whim of GAME_JAM is one thing, but drinking nothing but Mountain Dew? Yes, Mountain Dew was the official drink and funder of the prize money, which actually wasn’t going to exceed $300 each for the winning developers. But if you managed to willingly debase yourself this far, the final phase of humiliation was when, according to participant Adriel Wallick, the developers were asked questions like “Do you think the teams with women on them are at a disadvantage?” and “Do you think you’re at an advantage because you have a pretty girl on your team?”

Reporter Jared Rosen, who was on set when the shiznit hit the fizan, talked about what happened next:

I cannot begin to impress upon you the psychological effect this line had on everyone. The idea that these professionals, who stake their livelihoods on code and design, might be reduced to “pretty faces” and antiquated gender stereotypes, an idea perpetuated by the guy who was ostensibly in charge, was like hitting the biggest nerve in the history of nerves with a pneumatic drill. Adriel built shit that flies around in space. It’s probably flying around in space right now.

Wallick’s version:

[Director Matti Leshem] had the audacity to approach me later and explain that it wasn’t personal. This wasn’t a personal attack on me – he knew this was a sensitive topic in the industry and wanted to address it.

Well, you know what? It was personal. You sat there and overtly questioned my skills, my intelligence, my life. It was so personal, that I can’t even wrap my head around the fact that someone could even pretend to believe that it wasn’t a personal attack.

Most of the team members decided to walk away after that, and who can blame them. I’m sort of reminded of the controversy around the treatment of female cosplayers, who some people treat like sex objects at conventions. In other words the boys don’t like it when the girls play in their toy box. It’s possible that the producers of GAME_JAM saw the situation as a humorous, albeit simplistic way to stoke drama, but clearly they didn’t do their homework and understand that a) women make up a significant and enthusiastic percentage of the gaming community, and b) when you put a bunch of artists together to create something, drama and theatrics will happen. Even if they’ve been friends for life they’ll be at each other’s throat at some point, and probably over some bit of trivia.

I think the story also highlights the exploitation of nerd culture. Clearly, the producers bought into the stereotypes and thought they could build something gamers, nerds and affiliates would dig, but it sounds more like Syfy reality series like Fangasm and Heroes of Cosplay, series that coop nerd culture because it’s been deemed “hot” right now and it’s being exploited by people who aren’t really a part of it, and thus don’t really understand it. The result is obvious, like if a bunch of people who’ve never seen a football game decided to put together an NFL franchise. Sounds to me like GAME_JAM is best left unseen.

Source: The Mary Sue

Category: Nerd Culture, Videogames

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