Once upon a time, I was a child.
And in my childhood, there was a game. It was called The Neverhood.
And this game was phenomenal.
Our hero, Klaymen, wakes up alone in a deserted world, and must solve puzzles and brave strange dangers to discover what happened to this abandoned paradise. It's cool and weird and wonderful, with a colorful world (not as empty as it seems!), characters that sear themselves into your brain-engrams, and a story that goes eight miles deep. And if there's one reason why it's my favorite game of all time, I'd have to lean on my previous post to explain it. There's love and passion and one-of-a-kind creativity pressed into every clay thumbprint. It is unique, irreplaceable, a point-and-click platypus: accept no substitutes, because there aren't any.
Sadly, The Neverhood didn't sell well. It's long out of print now, and so old that most computers can't even run it. EA have been sitting on the rights for fifteen years, stoically disinclined to either sell them or develop a new game.
Then came Kickstarter.
And then came Armikrog.
"What's this?" said I, when it first hit my radar. "Doug TenNapel, storied creator of The Neverhood and Earthworm Jim, is making a new game? And he needs my help to do it?! Quickly, kitten - dredge the couch for quarters!"
Let me tell you, friends - I salivated over the Kickstarter page. I pored over every pencil sketch. I watched this trailer too many times to count.
I have not pledged to this project.
Y'know, a lot has changed since The Neverhood came out in 1996. What I know now, and what I couldn't have known then, is that Doug TenNapel is not only a brilliant, fantastically talented artist, but also a person with personal views I find appalling, and - here's the crux - a penchant for shouting those views from the e-rooftops. MostlyRetro covers the specifics pretty well, but the AV Club's also done an excellent writeup. Short story: while I would never advocate actively silencing him, I can't buy from this guy anymore.
"But Tex!" the kid in me says. "It's not like he's the man in charge - he's just the designer the studio hired! And what about all those other perfectly nice wonderful people the studio ALSO hired? When you go to a movie, do you think not a single one of those million and five people in the credits gives money to causes you find objectionable? Come on, it's not like he's the CEO of a huge multinational corporation - any money he donates to Fear the Queers Inc. because of this project is going to be negligible at most. And if you don't use your dollars to help prove that there's still a market for great games like these, how will they ever get made?"
My inner child can be a real punk sometimes. Moreover, the super-annoying thing about being an adult is that you're old enough not only to know what's bad for you - cookies, all-nighters, methamphetamines - but also to have acquired some idea of what's bad for other people. The alternative is saying, "don't worry, cherished friends and neighbors - I stand by you and support your fight for equality. Except when I really want a new video game. Or a fried chicken sandwich." (And no matter which side of that fence you're on, I think we can all agree that selling your principles for a toy is poor form indeed.)
"Wow, Tex," you may be saying to yourself at this point, "this sure is a long-ass post for what basically amounts to patting yourself on the back. And if you're so sure this guy doesn't deserve funding or a platform, why have you just spent 500 words showcasing his game?"
Well, three reasons:
1. Armikrog and The Neverhood ARE interesting and special, and the more people are exposed to them, the more readily they can seek out and support projects LIKE these from people who aren't TenNapel.
2. There are worthy conversations to be had, especially in this community, about separating art from artist and how the Internet has changed our ability to keep our idols safely up on their pedestals where we can't hear them.
and 3. If you choose not to support this project, it ought to be because you've made a reasoned decision about it, and not because you never even heard of the damn thing. (For one thing, it's worthy of notice, and for another, it's harder for people to claim censorship and oppression when everybody has seen and discussed the subject and THEN turned away.)
Anyway, the Kickstarter's still got a couple of days left, and I'll be interested to see how it turns out. In the meantime, somebody tell me I'm not alone - when's the last time you regretfully stuffed money back in your wallet?
After many years' journey, Hoborg returned and was ready to build "The Everhood," a neighborhood that would last forever... so long as nothing went wrong.