Games For Windows – Podcast

Games for Windows is hosting an audio interview they did with me during GDC:

Welcome to GFW Radio, the podcast homepage for Games for Windows: The Official Magazine. Here, through the glorious magic of the Internet, you can listen to the GFW editors and occasional guests pontificate and yammer about all sorts of PC game related issues. Plus they might even break down on-air, adding an element of tension to the whole affair. 

The Jeff, Shawn and the guys were kind enough to have me on so we could talk about things like Bad Day LA (what went wrong?!), doing business in China, Grimm, and my weird name. All in all, a really good “brodio”. You can find the podcast here.  

Danger – I Made This!

An interview on Gamasutra today posed some interesting questions, including:

American McGee On Creative Outsourcing
GS: What do you think “American McGee Presents:” in front of a game title means in the minds of gamers?

AM: That depends on the gamer. I’ve seen positive and negative responses. For the “fans,” I think they have come to expect something a little different from the mainstream. That’s my hope anyway. For the detractors, I get the sense they feel I haven’t earned the name-above-the-title right.

Soon after the article posted I received this comment to my blog:

I used to believe you putting your name on your products was just a reflection of your pompous, narcissistic nature, but now I realize after playing your latest “butt mud” that it was a bit of a warning sign. American McGee on a title now has the same effect to me as the Surgeon General’s warning on a pack of cigarettes. “DANGER: AMERICAN MCGEE MADE THIS” Just wanted to say thank you again.

Blahahaha. Awesome. This guy gets it!

When looked at from this perspective you’d think the haters would have reason to rejoice at my name being in the title. They never have to worry about accidentally playing a demo or buying a game that I’ve been involved with.

I wonder if he’d mind my borrowing his idea. From now on games I’m involved with could be called something like:


Well… you get the idea. And the best part is that all these bored, irritated detractors could go off and lead safe, happy lives. Only if they become addicted to, or affected by second-hand usage of my games would they have reason for their anger and grief. Like a cigarette smoker who inhales despite the warnings, then sues someone when he gets cancer.

But then, what would they have to vent their unfocused rage upon? Maybe at that point they’d start using their time and energy to write letters about things that matter, like genocide victims in the Sudan, the false “war on terror”, or hell, something more “selfish” like their rights as American citizens being taken away in the name of “protecting freedom”.

Nah, what’s the point in that when you can slam on a silly, budget video game that you haven’t even bought a copy of!?

It’s All Around You – Animated Short

A great little animation highlighting the ridiculous nature of fear. Thanks to Jacob for the link:

It’s All Around You – Animated Short
An original animated short created specifically for the Final Destination 3: Thrill Ride Edition DVD.

This sort of thinking is what Bad Day LA is based on. The idea that people worry about the big, highly unlikely forms of death more than they should. They allow the fear of terrorist threats, bio-chemical attacks, bird flu, and other media-spread “dangers” to control their lives. People trade their freedoms in exchange for “safety” from what are basically non-threats.

On a recent trip to China one of my expat friends commented to me on the fact that the Chinese government and media work in the exact opposite fashion. If there’s a chemical plant explosion, a plane crash, or a hi-jacked school bus, the media will down-play or even hide the event. The Chinese government forcefully discourages the dissemination of information that would cause panic or “civil unrest” among its population of 1.5 billion.

I guess because the Chinese government already has absolute control they no longer feel the need to rule by fear. Their primary goal now is to maintain stability and peace. For the US, I suppose that’s good news: As soon as the US government is as controlling as the Chinese government, they too will stop using fear as a tool on their own people.

Controversial ‘BDLA’ One Of Few Video Games To Tackle War On Terror

Take that war on terror! Although sometimes tells me the war will hardly notice:

MTV News
“I’ve had a unique perspective being American for the last 12 or 13 years, traveling the world,” he said. “I introduce myself. I say my name is American, and it used to be it didn’t matter where I went: From Japan to India to Korea to Russia people were like, ‘What a f—ing cool name. We love America.’ These days they’re like, ‘What a f—ed-up name.’ Getting that cultural temperature of the world whenever you introduce yourself to people, that tends to drive you to wonder what’s going on with America’s role in the world.”

The game is now available in the US. Enjoy!


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.

Awful Day LA

What can I say…

Something Awful: The Internet Makes You Stupid
Just as Alice took existing material and showed a lack of creativity by dumbing down and “darkening” an already dark tale, Bad Day LA stubs its toe on the foundation laid by South Park. It has a simplistic style, it has politics, it has poop and puke, it has over the top violence, and it has characters saying crass things. It just has no idea what to do with any of it, aside from fuck up.

Some people like it. Some people hate it so much that they burst organs on their way to raping it in their reviews.

It is what it is.