Features// Rennie's Gaming Digest - 2

Posted 18 Jan 2008 14:31 by
[b]Image courtesy of www.pauljholden.com.
Gordon Rennie is an award-winning comics writer and BAFTA-nominated games writer who likes to live dangerously by biting the hand that feeds him, although none of the studios he’s currently working for in any way resemble anything mentioned here. Honest.

He now writes an occasional column for SPOnG... this is the second...[/b]

There's an awful lot of secrecy in the games industry. When you're approached about working on a game, you're asked to sign an NDA - a Non-Disclosure Agreement - that more or less guarantees a developer or publisher the legal right to see your balls fed to wild (or, at least, non-house-trained) animals if you tell anyone anything about their new game. Of course, you always have the option not to sign it, in which case – hey – good luck with forging an exciting new career in the games industry.

In this respect, NDAs are rather like the Official Secrets Act, only without the flowery ‘Defence of the Realm’ language and the likelihood of getting a job writing for The Guardian after you’ve served the requisite prison sentence for breaking the agreed terms of one of them.

They’re also, not to put too fine a point on it, mostly a load of old pish.
(Gordon is Scottish, and is therefore allowed to call ‘piss’, ‘pish’. Ed)

Of course developers and publishers are entitled to protect their Intellectual Property, and of course commercial, technological and creative privacy must be maintained in any successful business, but, y’know, they don’t half take the whole thing a little too seriously.

I mean, is the world (or, at least, that potion of it that regularly inhabits games sites on the Internet) really beating a path to my email inbox, demanding to be let in on the big news that the WW2 shooter I might [or might not – NDA legal eagles take note] be currently working on could well involve shooting people of the Nazi persuasion? Does anyone really care that I know that when a developer talks about ‘the innovative new combat system’ that’s going to be in their hush-hush top secret new game, what they really mean is something more along the lines of “ We’ve invented a new kind of shotgun for it. Cool, huh?”?

Frankly, I very much doubt it. No-one in real life really much cares about this kind of stuff. Living as I do in the Athens of the North and about twenty minutes walk from the Rockstar North studio, I generally find that all games industry-related conversations with casual acquaintances abruptly end as soon as I make it clear that, no, I’m not working on GTA IV, and, no, I don’t know when it’s actually supposed to be coming out.

And who could blame them? Does anyone with anything actually important going on in their lives really care that [NDA CENSORED] are working on [NDA CENSORED] and I’m going to be writing it, or that I know for a fact that [NDA CENSORED] is going to be delayed for another six months because [NDA CENSORED] had a mental breakdown after too many weeks of late night crunching, and ran off to Las Vegas with most of the cash from the publisher’s last milestone payment?

No, they don’t. Which pretty much leaves the Internet as the last resort (and natural breeding ground) for desperate attention-seeking and loud but vague boasting about being in the know about what’s going on behind the scenes in the games industry. Yes, ‘Surfer Girl Reviews Star Wars’, here I come!

(Note to anyone out there that I’ve got a current NDA with. Joking……just joking….. Honest.]

Gordon Rennie writes computer games and regularly sprinkles his conversations with words like ‘crunching’ and ‘milestone’, to make it sound as it he knows what he’s talking about. It usually works.

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