Denis Dyack talks too damn much.
I love him for it.
I applaud Dyack and his ilk partly because I operate in a medium that demands constant content, and having people like him around to spout some off-putting remark that can be blown dramatically out of proportion polarizing entire nations of the internet makes me feel about him the way that I suspect a lot of late-night talk show hosts feel about Britney Spears. But, mostly I like it because in an age where everyone else seems to be operating off talking points provided directly by PR firms staffed by self-aware marketing AIs, it’s nice to see people working from the seat of their pants.
I like blowhards. I honestly do, because even when they are being combative, dismissive, argumentative and offensive they are moving discussions about gaming forward in a way that a focus-group friendly marketing message never can.
I’ve had the opportunity and occasional misfortune to interview a healthy number of industry professionals. Most of these interviews are interminable. They stretch on for epochs as I ask pointed and researched questions answered by an interpretive reading of feature sheets and press releases.
I’ve had surreal moments in conversations with gaming’s middle-men that seem to not be related at all to the questions I am asking.
Q: Recently, investors for your game were seen throwing themselves from bridges while burning effigies of you. How do you respond?
A: Super-Parabolic-Asfixiation-3000 will feature twelve online modes, emergent gameplay, with genre-busting, myocardial infarction inducing action. It’s World of WarCraft meets Quake on the bus to Grand Theft Auto’s house, but with mutant elephants!
Annoying? Yes. Unusual? Not at all.
So when guys like Dyack, Mark Rein, Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli or David Jaffe start shooting their mouth off to the press, I think two things:
1) It’s great that there are still guys in the industry willing to be frank about their craft.
2) I hope their PR reps live in states with gun control laws.
That’s not to say I agree with more than a quarter of what these guys say. I frequently think they must be drinking Kool-Aid laced with acid and Altoids. I assume that Cevat’s recent statistic about a 20-to-1 ratio of piracy-to-purchase in the PC market was extracted during a recent colonoscopy along with his own head.
But, the fact that he’s clearly inventing statistics isn’t the point. The point is that he’s keeping the discussion alive; he’s engaged with the audience, even if they are looking for lighters to fire up their flame throwers, and he’s clearly off-the-reservation in terms of keeping to a company line.
Odd as it may seem, his willingness to dig into the mire of the discussion and tackle it head on, even though I completely disagree with his research and his conclusions, gives him credibility. I don’t feel like he’s talking with careful strategies and unclear motives in mind. The man’s heart, liver and pancreas are right there dripping on his sleeve.
He comes from the old-school tradition of game developers; a tradition that pretty much ended when John Romero discovered how swiftly and irrevocably one could annihilate their career by crossing the line, or in Romero’s case being launched by catapult over it. Even Dyack is on that road lately delving into gaming forums where angels fear to tread and meeting the enemy head-on in its native habitat. It's like seeing Lex Luthor urinate on the front porch of the Fortress of Solitude while Superman is home eating Cheetos and watching American Idol.
It’s crazy. It’s audacious. And, dammit if I don’t love him for doing it. That’s chutzpah, friends, and while it’s starting to look like he might take it on the chin, I can't help but cheer for him. In an age where developers are tightly sequestered behind the layered defenses of professional PR, I simply must cheer for the bring it on attitude.
While I give a different kind of credit to the paragons of gaming; guys like Cliff Blesneuiskiewitzer (there’s a reason you went by Cliffy B, pal), John Carmack, Will Wright, Warren Spector and, yes, even Ken Levine, it’s not quite the same. Those guys are bullet proof right now. They’re unimpeachable. They’re Teflon, baby. You can fling as much mud as you want at them, and they'll walk away 99.8% pure. It’s like they’re rubber and you’re glue.
The great thing about Dyack, et al is that when they expose their tender underbelly and dare you to hit them with that baseball bat, they make a satisfying Ooomph sound as they crumple under the blow. They’re vulnerable as kittens. Angry, daring kittens that would scratch a pit-bull and then dare it to do something about it. +10 points to moxie!
More blowhards, I say. If nothing else, they make things interesting.