Anti-American

Love it or hate it, people certainly have strong feelings about the demo. And, as you can see be some of the comments being made, they have pretty strong feelings about me personally. I guess that’s to be expected when a guy puts his name on top of everything he makes.

A couple of thoughts about what I’ve been hearing. First off: Yes, I moderate the comments that post to my blog. Better that than becoming an instant billboard for Online-gambling-penis-enlarging-stock-trading Co. And, hard as it may be to believe, if you write something that’s pure insult then I’ll probably not allow your comment to post. My mom reads my blog.

Next thing… aside from what a lot of people consider the general “suckiness” of the demo, this interview seemed to generate the most anti-American sentiment:

Computer Gaming World: So you take all these jobs overseas and deal with these hassles. How does it compare to here?

American McGee: U.S. game development teams are really creative, brilliant, innovative—and they’re really headstrong. A guy that I’d hire to be a junior artist would try to force an idea into a game and hijack the production, throwing a major monkey wrench into the process. That’s the Western development team. It’s the opposite with the Chinese team. If you come up with a good idea and you give them good direction, they’ll stamp it out. Problem is, they will not deviate a f***in’ inch from what I say. So the challenge is coming up with enough of a good idea, and…like, I find my days are now 80 percent just giving directions. And it’s really frustrating and really annoying and boring, but it works. Otherwise, I’ve had people following orders until there was nothing else to do. They just sit there and stare at the screen.

CGW: And do what?

AM: Nothing! They’re f***in’ frozen.

CGW: Are there any benefits, at least?

AM: Well, there is one obvious one. Labor is incredibly cheap in China and Hong Kong.

CGW: OK, Kathie Lee Gifford….

AM: Hey, that’s normal. It’s not like we’re doing something that everybody else doesn’t do. And what it means is that Bad Day L.A. has 120 unique NPC characters in it. That’s a lot of unique models and unique animations. That’s a lot of art assets.

I’d like to make it clear that my intention was not to ridicule or insult workers in China. I’m pointing out a clear distinction between two styles. US workers tend to be highly autonomous and self-motivated. Chinese workers have been taught by their government for decades that self-rule is a very bad thing. “The nail that sticks up gets the hammer” best describes the mentality I’m talking about. And I’m not the only person in the world to note this reality. It pervades every aspect of Chinese work-culture and has spawned dozens of books for Western managers working in China. Seems I didn’t express the point as maturely as I could have. Might have been because (as the interview notes) I was drinking while answering. Yeah, I can get drunk and make an ass of myself like the best of them.

Next, regarding the cost of labor in China. The reality is that an average game industry worker in China makes between US$500 and US$2000 per month, depending on position and experience. The guy making US$2k per month is receiving the equivalent of a US$100k salary in the US. The cost of living in China is really low, especially when compared to a high income/high cost of living country like the US. So, a workforce in China is going to be cheaper overall, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t paying them or that you aren’t paying them well by local standards. Also, you aren’t working them insanely long hours – as might have been the case in the US before EA got itself sued by its employees. Not only because it isn’t ethical, but also because we’re not talking about machines here. These are skilled artists, animators, and programmers. They might have an unusual work mentality, but they are still human.

If you are uncomfortable with the concept of cheap, off-shore labor being used to produce the games you play, then I suggest you start making your own. We’re heading towards a world where %40 (or more) of a typical game budget is being spent on outsourcing. This money goes to places like China and India. That’s the reality of the world we live in. (Same goes for the majority of cartoons you watch, products you buy, etc.)

“As much as McGee rants and raves about EVIL corporations benefitting by manipulating the common man, it’s worth noting that he outsourced Bad Day L.A. to Chinese workers so he’d only have to pay slave labor wages, then he proceeded to ridicule them as mindless drones far beneath him…” -SA

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I think companies like EA, Sony, Microsoft have a beautiful model for making money. My rants usually have to do with the fact that this model tends to skew towards “safe bets”, ie film license games, sequels, me-toos, etc. Doing something different is tough – Bad Day LA might be a good example of that.

Bad Day LA wasn’t outsourced to China. It was built 100% in China. “Slave labor wages” doesn’t make sense in today’s world. There is a normal market economy at work in Hong Kong and China. You offer someone “slave wages” and they’ll laugh in your face. Shanghai is a good example of the effect industry can have on the wages. As companies like Ubi and EA expand their operations the cost of labor goes up – for everyone. Again, we’re talking about highly skilled people – not assembly line machines. Finally, I don’t view anyone I work with as beneath me nor as drones.

Glad we could get that out of the way.

A serious amount of thanks to all of you who DO enjoy the game and have taken the time to say so. To the rest of you, I’ll do my best to let your negative comments through – but at least try to insult me in an original or funny way.

33 thoughts on “Anti-American”

  1. They don’t hate your demo because of some sort of anti-outsourcing agenda. They hate it because its terrible. The graphics, the voice acting, the controlls, the dialouge. They’re all awful. It’s not a fun game to play and the “david chappelle-esque” humor is grating.

    Did you honestly think “butt mud” was funny?

  2. I absolutely love the demo for Bad Day in L.A. The art style fits the game perfectly. The characters remind me somewhat of cartoon playmobile toys. Thanks for the great experience. I can’t wait to play the final release.

  3. SA may have been off on the politics and of their appraisal of you as a person, but they were right that its absurd that a game coming out in 2006 doesn’t allow you to change the graphics or control settings. Is this a problem specific to the demo, or is the full game going to come out like that as well?

  4. The demo was fun to play, a joy to behold, and honestly, I can’t wait for it to show up in my local store shelves. That is of course unless Hillary barricades the stores (that should have totally been a level in the game, if they can take cheap shots, why can’t you?). Also, to the pompous jerk above ranting about the ‘Chappelle-esque’ humor, perhaps you’d like to explain how many viewers have tuned into the show? It’s called a target audience pal, which you’re obviously not a part of.

    Did you honestly think your argument was relevant?

  5. “It’s the opposite with the Chinese team. If you come up with a good idea and you give them good direction, they’ll stamp it out. Problem is, they will not deviate a f***in’ inch from what I say.”

    This was the only line I don’t agree with. Though it’s only because you don’t elaborate on the line “a good idea”. I hope you mean by that a design decision that’s agreed upon and argued to the full benefit of the games vision. Not just something you’re saying should be done. I’d hate to work on something where my input was completely rejected.. Though I’d love the gloating I could do with the “I told you so.. ” when the game releases.

  6. This should probably go in the post below, but this one is more fresh, so I’ll comment here.
    I haven’t really been looking forward to BDLA myself. It just doesn’t look like my kind of game at the moment. It’s not that I think any part of it sucks, it’s just not for me. But I do enjoy American’s work, and I do keep an eye on the games he makes. Thus far, Alice is the only one I’ve really enjoyed, but it’s enough to have me looking forward to his games. (Scrapland had some cool concepts indeed.) It’s like Chris Taylor. I loved TA and I keep an eye on his games, but I never really cared for Dungeon Siege. Game developers will not always produce games that are perfect, but as long as they’re trying to make something fun, fresh, and enjoyable, they’re on the right track.
    Take, for example, Daikatana. Just about everyone can agree that the game was . . . sub-par. And yet it did have some cool ideas, such as the teammates, fighting with a sword that leveled up, etc. Really cool stuff, I think. The important part was that the developers were trying to make something new and fresh, and that’s the important thing.
    And now that the gaming industry has become so huge, (too huge, I think), more and more companies are taking the safe route with sequels, licensed games, etc (as American mentioned). And none of those games are really that enjoyable. In fact, I haven’t bought a single game since last year, and that was Falcon 4.0: AF, which is a flight sim. (Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m a hardcore gamer. Really, I am!) Nowadays, many of the fun games are done by indie developers and regular shmoes programming games just because. (Cave Story is a prime example.) And they can do it because they have little to lose, as the development of their games doesn’t cost so much.
    And so, while I don’t care for BDLA, nor am I drooling with anticipation for Red or Grimm (yet), it’s good to see that at least American and the team are attempting to create new and original games.

  7. Your picking apart of the SomethingAwful writeup is pointless. SA is about hyperbole and exaggeration for comedic effect while retaining the juicy sarcastic-truth center. The central issue here is that you are a hypocrite, drunk or not, and you haven’t addressed it.

  8. I haven’t really looked into what critics/reviewers have said about BDLA, and I don’t really care.

    I wouldn’t say BDLA is a bad game, but I was a bit dissappointed by some stuff. I like the idea of the game. It’s awesome political satire. Graphics remind me of Tintin which is a good thing.

    But like Fergus said above it’s strange that the game doesn’t allow to change the key bindings or anything. And collision detection feels antiqued in some places.
    I think this sort of technical slugginesh is the worst part of the game, also gameplay feels sometimes unpolished according to my experiences with the demo. There are certainly some minor details that I would have done differently, but that’s just a case of personal preferences.

  9. I was really disappointed with the demo. If you overhaul the engine, refine the jokes, and add options you may have a masterpiece. Otherwise it won’t even be pirated(by bad people). I’m a fan of yours goodluck.

  10. So the Chapelle Show is popular. That just means that Bad Day LA is derivative.

  11. I haven’t yet tried the demo, so I’m not going to tell you your game so far is a failure. I don’t know yet.

    But so many people have been taking long good shits all over that poor little demo. Is it that bad because some slantey-eyed, anti-individualistic, brainwashed morons made it?

    (Above comment considered sarcastic, do not sue. Or else…)

  12. I’ll admit it – The demo isn’t great. I’m not a big fan of the voice acting/dialogue, but I still appreciate other aspects of the game. But then again, I do feel this is tied to my (lack of) tolerance for this type of humor. BDLA comes off as being too silly (in my opinion). If the game hardly takes itself seriously, how am I supposed to? I had the same problem with the TV show “Psych”.

    Despite what I’ve mentioned above, I will be buying this game. I like that this game is meant to cast humor on the fear-culture, and I do find some humor that suits me. Altogether, I see what you are trying to do, and I respect the effort you put into the project.

  13. OMFG! Best game evar!! You, sir, are a god among mere mortals!! Please, allow us to kneel before your mighty member and suck the delicious gaming goodness whole!

    And, you’re so smart, too! “Sheeple”?! Brilliant!!

    Lol!!l!L1L!L!l

  14. The game seriously just blows. It’s just a bad, bad demo. The graphics I could care less about. I love KozynDan’s style and the game LOOKS fine… just the actual gameplay, no control defining, no video display settings, no funniness is what MURDERS it.

  15. “Doing something different is tough – Bad Day LA might be a good example of that.”

    A third-person action game in an urban setting with edgy humor and quite a bit of violence is “something different”?

    Yeah, that doesn’t sound at all like a series of games I’ve played a lot over the last few years. What was that called again? Grand… Steal… Car, maybe?

  16. Contrary to what people have decided about you or BDLA and Im about to sound like a complete brown nose but I really admire what your doing with this game and I hope you succeed, especially with all the negativity thats flying around. Im glad that your breaking the mould, hope your game hits the UK soon, so I get chance to play it.

  17. alice was great, then you make this?

    go back to ID software and maybe, JUST MAYBE, they’ll give you a janitor postition

  18. Huh?… Was that about the game, or about the fact American produced it in a studio in Hong Kong?…

    When I was reading the wages comparison, I felt kinda odd, becouse number-to-number comparison, they do earn 5 times less… But you’re right, due to differences in standards/costs of living in China/HK the de-facto earnings, its worth, is actually higher.

  19. Ok, I have not had time to check out the demo yet.

    That being said, I agree with you about all of this outsourcing talk. It seems that you have a wonderful point of view and opinion regarding the use of Chinese labor in your businesses. The world of business is changing, and it’s becoming less of an American-European deal in the software industry.

    I see this as a good thing. My thinking on the matter is that this world is full of human beings. Everyone should not be looked at according only to where they are living, what their social situation is like, what religion they practice, or any other arbitrary criteria. The fact of the matter is, everyone has a skillset. If I were applying for a job, and I were up against a Chinese (or Indian, Afghani, Polish, Djiboutian for that matter) knowledge worker with a more robust skillset than myself, I would think an employer out of his mind to hire me over said worker, simply because of my geographical location.

    I think the willingness to use knowledge workers from any walk of life, according to their skillset, regardless of all of those arbitrary criteria mentioned above, shows that an employer is of the world mindset, ready to advance the human race in whatever small way possible. This is something I admire.

    As for moderating your blog, that’s completely your decision. I’d like to say hello to your mom, just in case she’s reading this 🙂 You’ve raised an intelligent, outspoken, and well-rounded individual.

    Keep up the good work, and I expect nothing less than for you to keep the edge that you have here in your personal thoughts. Ignore those that bash you personally, because not all of the people in the world are as hostile as they are. Some of us are true fans, through good times and bad. Keep this place around if not just for us 🙂

  20. Dang… I really wanted to like this game, but the demo isn’t so hot. It’s just good enough to make me want to like it more, but not good enough to impress.

    I like the graphical style a lot, and I like the protagonist, but the script (both dialog and events) is terrible.

    Also, the gameplay felt extremely unfocused and linear. It’s odd that those two things could appear together, but appear they do. Get to the fireman? What for? It forces me in a direction, but fails to give me any clear idea of what I’m doing.

    On the plus side, the talking squirrels were cute, and I didn’t have any problem with the controls like some people did.

    I’m hoping this demo isn’t too representative of the whole game, because I’m completely sold on the concept. Just not the execution.

  21. Slavery is as slavery does! the chinese artists are slaves to money as we are slaves to our technology as it enslaves us as we enable the money to be our master.

    When i graduated I felt i was heading in the right direction, I have a good job. I make 38K per year. I work my ass off to sipport my famialy and expect my reward at the end of each month. I live in america and i can not afford to pay my college loans.

    I work at a university in an IT dept. i see students with better cars and teeth than I will ever be able to afford. I think “why do I try so hard to please my masters?” I do it for money, as do we all. if the money wasn’t there there would be no bad day LA.

    mcgee, how much do you get paid for evey copy sold? i’ll send you a rubber check.

    also, mcgee, never stop rocking!

  22. I was a bit bewildered by the lack of video options or control settings. And while some of the dialogue seemed stilted, I think the arcade-style game play was fun.

    The biggest thing, though, is this is a demo. That’d be like taking a ten minute scene from a movie and then dissecting it. You have no idea how the rest of the game will be and yet you’re making conjectures that the whole game sucks or is awesome? That’s one of the problems inherent in demos.

    So, really, don’t judge until you have the full work in front of you to analyze. You just come off as sounding stupid, hater-ish or fanboy/girl-ish.

    I, for one, am looking forward to playing it and reviewing the entire game as a whole.

  23. I really like the demo and I’m going to buy the game when it hits the shelves here in Germany, i.e. on Thursday.

    It’s a pity my Thinkpad isn’t powerful enough running Scrapland though the BDLA demo works just fine. Is there any chance your (future) games will be ported to the Mac platform as well, like in the case of Alice?

    btw: Your blog’s start page sidebar isn’t accessible using Safari – maybe some CSS float/width problem. It’s right beneath the content but far more left, almost invisible.

    Keep on rockin’!

  24. You know what really burns me is that I’m pretty positive that 90% of the people who do the worst b*tching about outsourcing labor and human rights (be it in games, trucking, automobile manufacturing, what have you) shop at Wal-Mart.

    I’ve gotten into heated discussions (usually with family) about the logic behind buying a Ford or Chevy truck just because it’s made in the U.S.A. – something you buy once every 5-10 years – but then going out to Wal-Mart every other day and sinking money into a store that keeps its prices so noncompetitively low by buying overseas and paying their workers minimum wage.

    I guess when it’s *their* pocketbook that’s getting low prices every day it’s a different story.

  25. Tobias: Since Aspyr (The publisher of BDLA) is mostly known for it’s mac ports, it’s almost assured 🙂

  26. Fergus: You’re right! Hopefully this won’t take too long. I can’t wait to stress this Mac’s video card. 😉 Being an Intel iMac user myself, there are only few universal binary games to be found. Most of them are…. okayish though not really stunning.

  27. How do I go about aquiring my own Chinese labour force?

    How many employees did you have? And what’s rent like? 😀

  28. I know talented folks in South Dakota that would surely work for less than what you purportedly are paying people in China, if in fact that is truly how much you are paying them. Maybe you were all to lazy to shop around, or maybe you get a little kick out of throwing a wrench in the machine.

    If you say that there is no shame in outsourcing (and yes, no matter how you look at it, taking your creativity and having people create the content based on it IS outsourcing) this work to China is not shameful, then maybe you need to change your name to Asian McGee and move there.

    I’m sorry, but the only way one could possibly claim they aren’t outsourcing, is if they live, work and pay taxes in the country that produces the content. The only reason to produce the content overseas is because it saves you money… Plain and simple. You are reaping the benefits produced through the artificial capitalist outside, communist inside market that China offers. In short, you are greedy, and you profit on the concept of ‘reletive standard of living’.

    Why don’t you make a contribution to America, instead of being one of the all-to-common money grubbers tearing it apart?

    You know why America is so fucked up? It’s because the only good jobs that haven’t been outsourced are Medical and Government-related.

    This problem results from the million or so of you outsourcing work ‘over there’. The government is the only safe place left in America, thanks to greedy Capitalists like yourself. I’m certainly not a communist, but capitalism is on its way out in due time… Like all civilizations, this one too will erode to greed, and I’ll be all to happy to take my fair share back when it happens… My guess as everyone else will want the same… Just remember that. If it all goes to shit, and your fellow American smashes out the windows of your house and jacks your shit, remember that it’s YOUR fault. You got no one to blame but yourself. They’re just taking back what you diddn’t allow them to work for, that’s all..

    And No… I don’t buy ‘Pounded in China’ , thank you very much, so by outsourcing your shit you’ve pretty much screwed yourself as far as my purchasing your product is concerned… Enjoy the bad day in LA when it comes to you house…

  29. I’m going to have to agree with the Resolution and controls issue……I have a widescreen and everyone is squished….so because it was missing a video options mode i can’t enjoy the game as it was intended….My compy is also a laptop, so the controls are a tad uncomfortable (I always change my controls on every game, so this was a little disorienting) btw, jumping and running is a bitch! The game is great, but those are seriously 2 issues that could easily be resolved with a simple patch!

    We love you American…but please fix it!

  30. “I guess that’s to be expected when a guy puts his name on top of everything he makes.”

    Not just everything you make – even stuff you don’t make.

    “American McGee Presents Scrapland” has given little, if no credit, to the game’s actual designer. I even tried looking on the Scrapland website, the REAL developers’ website (mercurysteam.com), but nope, only your name is emblazoned on the search engines. Even wikipedia (erroneously) has YOUR name on the designer’s credits!

    I think this article pretty much hits the nail on the head:

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_zdcgw/is_200501/ai_n7182347

    And personally, I think you are doing a great discredit to game designers, game developers, and gaming in general.

    Stop using your name as the unique selling point, because it is getting old real fast, and unfortunately for you, gamers aren’t just a bunch of mindless twats (mind you, that’s TWAT: a man who is a stupid incompetent fool, NOT the one that refers to female genitals – for respect to your mom) that can’t figure this out. And when they do, “American McGee” will carry about as much cachet as John Romero.

    Get off your high horse, get down to earth, and get to actually MAKING some REAL games, willya? (No, Mr McGee, Scrapland does not qualify, but BDLA certainly does, and we all know what a game that turned out to be…)

  31. I love Bad Day LA. This game has many flaws that actually make it beautiful. I love the graphics regardless of the bugs. I get a warm feeling when I play the game regardless of the ‘darkness’ in the humour. It really is funny, and the not-so-professional voice acting is lovely. Oh yeah, those squirrels are really cute:) (no i’m not gay). I am your fan AM, I love Alice and I love Bad Day LA (because it really is fun, reminds me of Postal 2 which is also hated but great nonetheless). Can’t wait for Oz to come out (hopefully).

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