Global Game Jam 11 went down last weekend, and Paolo Pedercini, founder of Italian indie developer Molleindustria, produced a powerful video postcard for both GGJ11 and the Italian chapter of the International Game Developers Association. In it, he addresses the scarcity of Italian game developers, the resulting misrepresentation of Italian culture by the outside world and, most importantly, how there is no longer an excuse for anyone to not make the games they would like to.
This address is entirely serious, but don’t forget that Paolo Pedercini is one of the funniest dudes we’ve got in indie game development. Remember, he’s the guy responsible for Run Jesus Run, as well as that hilarious IndieCade panel full of excellent (read: terrible) game ideas. This is a man of many talents, is what I’m getting at.
The video is in Italian, but included below is an English translation courtesy of Wired Italy’s Matteo Bittanti.
“Hello everybody, my name is Paolo Pedercini, and I have been developing alternative games since 2003 under the moniker of Mollindustria. Somewhere I read that “Molleindustria is probably the best known Italian videogame studio abroad”. I should be proud of that, but the idea that a 29-year old guys who’s making Flash games in his spare time is the “most relevant thing that this country can offer the world” makes me really sad.
Italy needs to have a real presence in the game industry. Who gave a group of Canadians the right to tell us what our Renaissance is about? [=> Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Ed.] And why should we subjected to a pathetic adaptation of the Divine Comedy made by a bunch of American idiots? [=> Electronic Arts' Dante's Inferno, Ed.]. And why no Italian company is educating us about the violence and tragedy of organized crime and instead we get “our lesson” from games that simply perpetuate the stereotypes produced by Hollywood movies and televisions series? [=> Electronic Arts' The Godfather, Ed.]
I heard this story so many times: in Italy there is no a “proper” game industry. There is no infrastructure. We lack the proper know-how. There is no funding. And the only solution seems to flee the country and move to the United States, to those cities where the major production studios are located. Well, I’ve been living in the US for a few years and I can tell you that things here are not as idyllic as one might think. I’ve seen things that you, Italians, could not even imagine. I’ve seen 25-year old guys quitting their job at Rockstar Games. Grand Theft Auto3D modelers who get tired and leave, only to do rendering at architectural firms, so that they could have a social life, you know. I’ve seen programmers quitting their position at Electronic Arts because they have no chance to develop their own projects. I’ve seen young game designers that do not even care about job offers from major studios.
Well, the good news is that we don’t need a game industry any longer to create games. The process of concentration of game corporations that began fifteen years ago is now slowing down, or even reversing. It does not make any sense to try to keep up with an oppressive production model dictated by Moore’s Law. Innovation in games means more than adding the latest technology to your project. Or making sense of spreadsheets.
Besides, the gamers’ tastes and sensibilities are changing. For so many people, nowadays, the number of polygons on the screen does not really matter. The production tools are becoming cheaper and more accessible. It is much easier for young developers to enter the scene. Above all, the distribution channels are multiplying. Who needs stores full of boxes? Who need spineless, fearful, conservative middlemen, scared of innovation, who have full control of what goes (and does not go) onto the shelves? We don’t need to enslave ourselves to a patron, to launch a company just to develop something. Guess what? The best, most interesting games of the last few years have been produced by small, independent teams with no offices.
Coming back to Italy, I think that the precariousness, the high rate of unemployment, an academic system that is literally falling apart are giving us, paradoxically, the most important raw material of all: free time. Free time to develop our own projects, autonomously… Projects that may fail, sure, but failure is not necessarily bad, failure is part of the process of learning, of trying things out… It is also good way to meet people, make connections.
It’s such a commonplace that in Italy, if you’re under 30, you have no future. And yet, this country, this country of mobsters, racists, charlatans, has proved to the world that we can work miracles, when you least expect it. Think about the Neorealism movement, Italy’s most significant contribution to cinema. It started right after WWII, when the film industry was in ruins. Neorealist directors hired non professional actors and began making films with the tools at hand, dropping the blockbusters and epic productions, and decide to film what they saw in the streets of their cities. The influence of Italian Neorealism on the French Nouvelle Vague, the British Free Cinema was immense. Even today, it continues to inspire documentary filmmakers from all over the world.
Sure, contemporary Italy is so different from post-war Italy. There is no real tension, no desire to change the status quo. There is no urge to embrace democracy, an urge that was felt so vividly after the conflict. We live in the middle of a cultural desert created by more than thirty years of Berlusconi’s supremacy, Berlusconi’s videocracy.
But let’s not forget that cultural industries do no operate in a vacuum. They are not separated from each other. Innovation can only happen in a context. For instance, when the Vespa scooter was a worldwide phenomenon, [Carlo Emilio] Gadda was working at the RAIcorporation, [Italo] Calvino and [Cesare] Pavese were working at Einaudi publishing company, and films like Germany. Year Zero were playing at the local movie theater.
The age of Berlusconi may be coming to an end. Or maybe not. At any rate, it is crucial to forge allegiances with all those cultural enclaves that are resisting the pervasive idiocy. If you cannot find valid game designers in Italy, well, look around, start working with designers, graphic novel artists, musicians… The best things that the indie scene has been creating is not those quirky, zany little games. The real products are friendships, relationships, situations… This turmoil is taking place online and offline, through events and exhibitions and conferences and meetings and forums and contests and game jams…
I mean, take Sweden for instance. And all the Scandinavian countries that have an insane number of young developers, a vibrant scene that materialized from almost nowhere… Italy should take inspiration from these guys. So the bottom line is that Italy’s “loser mentality” has no reason to exist any longer. Take the punk’s DIY mentality: “Here’s a chord, here’s another one, here’s a third. No go on a form a band”. My suggestion? “Here’s a computer, here’s an internet connection, here’s some free software, now go make a game.
…And please: learn English!” (Paolo Pedercini, translation by Matteo Bittanti)