Shadows of the Damned

a review of shadows of the damned
a videogame developed by grasshopper manufacture
and published by electronic arts
for Sony PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
text by tim rogers

2 stars

Bottom line: shadows of the damned is “a videogame.”

Girls (in sitcoms or parts of real-life where people have watched lots of sitcoms) will often describe their boyfriends as “a T-shirt and jeans kind of guy”. I’ve never met one of these girls, though I’m constantly afraid I will. So in addition to having a positively delightful T-shirt collection, I am sure to have fantastic jeans as well. What I mean is, one should be prepared for the inevitable accusation of wearing exclusively T-shirts and jeans by possessing fantastic T-shirts and fantastic jeans.

Fantastic jeans are, of course, relative. A $5 pair of Levis you bought at Goodwill might look better in a certain light than some other guy’s $300 Diesels. A shredded pair of Levis that look like they spent a year under someone’s house — you don’t remember buying them and your friends look like they’ve just seen a ghost when you try to ask them if they remember when you started wearing them — might look like a holy relic in the eyes of a fashion photographer; if you were to try to give them to Goodwill, the guy would ball them up and throw them at the rear windshield of your car when you peeled out of there.

I have many pairs of jeans of many prices. My favorite just so happen to be a pair of $170 Diesel jeans. That’s not so bad! My second-favorite are a pair of jet-black Uniqlo jeans I got in Japan for around $19. Then comes my deep collection of found or received jeans. I have a couple odd pairs with clever holes all over, and I like them enough to wear them sometimes.

I also have a half-dozen pairs of jeans that Goichi Suda gave me. Yeah: I used to work as a game designer at Grasshopper Manufacture. Can you believe that? Well, it’s the darn truth. I was a game designer and a level designer for several years.

My job duties involved wearing tank-tops and Adidas track shorts and flip flops, listening to The Jesus Lizard very loudly at my desk, constantly reminding Shinji Mikami that I seriously considered God Hand a masterpiece (Suda, taking me aside one day: “Seriously, keep telling him that: I think he believes you”), drinking entire cappuccino cups full of espresso, and losing so much weight people started to think I was on heroin.

Also, for the first year of its development, I was the only specifically designated level designer working on Shadows of the Damned, a dozen actually-worse working titles before anyone had ever heard of the game. While the details of the game design were still being worked out, I made maybe sixteen pristine Zelda-sized dungeons in the Unreal Engine, knowing all the while that one day someone could decide the game was something else entirely and I’d be right back where I started. Such is the nature of The Modern Game Development: we understand new things about the audience every day, so we need to adjust our understanding of ourselves.

In a meeting, once (or maybe it was six times), I groaned and said that we should nut up and make, you know, a game we ourselves deemed interesting: “I don’t see too many people’s grandmas buying this game,” I’d say. “Let’s seriously stop designing for grandma.” The only reason I was working there, of all places, was so I didn’t have to sit in a room with people brainstorming about how to get grandma’s money. I just wanted to make honest, evil-hard, stupid games. That was my whole schtick then, and it still is. Well, someone told me I was being selfish to not think of everyone. I said there was nothing wrong with masturbating creatively as long as you do it with style. “Grasshopper game fans are people who flock to these things because they are done with confident recklessness.” Well, now EA is involved, this guy said. I wondered aloud if EA wasn’t working with Grasshopper because of their reputation as a confidently reckless group of punk-rock game-dudes. Why should we doubt the billion-dollar corporation’s taste? “Well, their taste doesn’t change the fact that they also have billions of dollars,” was the sort of answer I got. “You’ll be lucky if this thing sells ten thousand copies,” I told this guy, clearly as a joke — that was the kind of thing I said whenever the other game designers, stone-faced, summarily rejected my ideas (like a shotgun that was shaped kind of like a penis). That particular guy never smiled at me ever again. I guess I’m a jerk. Well, I think Suda liked me.

So every once in a while Suda brought in a garbage bag full of clothing he didn’t want anymore, and me and the other guys got to snatch up whatever we wanted. No one ever wanted the good stuff. They just wanted the super-bland polo shirts — which none of us ever even saw Suda wearing, anyway. The good stuff, though, was incredible, and I took god darn all of it: psychotic Hysteric Glamour T-shirts and tailored denim jackets and fruity-colored Paul Smith pajamas. So that is how I came to possess a half-dozen pairs of Dolce & Gabbanna jeans, including this one pair that literally has a sterling silver plate (see figure one) over the right rear pocket.

figure one

figure two

figure three

The curious thing about these jeans is that the zipper (figure two) is designed to look like my fly is always open — even when it’s zipped all the way up (figure three). The idea is that it turns your crotch into a conversation piece. A person — preferably a female — walks by and says, “Um, your fly is undone,” and you say, “No, it’s not” — and then pull back the flap over the fly, revealing the real zipper. “Thanks for noticing, though.” The girl is then, theoretically, supposed to say “I suppose I will give you my phone number now.”

The above scenario almost happened a few times, though most of the time, people said nothing. I started to guess that ninety percent of the ten percent of people who noticed my fly was “undone” didn’t say anything: they just looked at me and silently judged me, an internal snicker, an id elbow-nudging a superego: “Get a load of that jerk.” So, eventually, I stopped zipping up the real fly. I mean, who cares? That’s just one extra step at the urinal.

Now, about that ten percent of the ten percent of the people who noticed my fly was “undone” and decided to say something: the conversation evolved into some sort of a meta-fling:

“Your fly is undone.”

“Actually, it’s funny you mention that. It’s designed to look like it’s undone even when it’s properly done. The idea is that people will point out it’s undone and I’ll reveal that it’s not and then say ‘Thanks for noticing, anyway’, and they’ll then giggle and suddenly: we’re having a conversation. However, get a load of this: [THE REVEAL]. Seeing as ninety percent of people who notice the jeans don’t say anything, I figure, why bother zipping up? I suppose I could wear another pair of jeans, though these just feel so nice! Look at this! That’s a sterling silver plate! The silver content of these jeans alone is valued at $400.”

And so this is how, among other things, I began a relationship with a girl that lasted a whole six weeks.

And this is also how, many years later, I was wearing these jeans in a hotel lobby in Los Angeles, and there was Goichi Suda. He came up to say hi, because he likes me more than anyone else in the world (because I am pretty darn cool). At least, I think that’s the reason. I am sure I am not mistaken, because I am pretty smart and pretty good at reading people. (Before six hundred flames telling me I am full of myself: here I am employing a weird kind of little irony in suggesting that maybe Goichi Suda’s ability to make people feel cool eclipses my own already-superhuman ability to know what people are thinking about me.)

“Tim!” he said. “Hi!” I said. “You’re like Benjamin Button,” he said. I’m pretty sure he meant that I seem to be aging in reverse. He went on to tell his companions that I am probably the coolest person he has ever worked with and that he is genuinely afraid that my game company will be bigger and better than his within a microsecond of our first game’s trailer hitting the internet. His companions bowed to me; we all exchanged business cards. They left Suda and I together, eventually, to greet the person they had been waiting for. Suda and I talked for two minutes about life and work and film and music.

Five-ish minutes into our conversation, he noted, “Hey, your fly is down.”

And I said: “Are you serious?”

And he said: “What do you mean am I serious?”

And I said, “These are your jeans.”

Suda looked confused for a moment. He looked genuinely baffled. He cocked his head to one side, then to the other. Then he spoke: “What does that have to do with your fly being down?”

The above dialogue is a true story. It is true times ten billion. Consider that, then, The Official Action Button Dot Net Review of Grasshopper Manufacture’s Shadows of the Damned. (Now please kindly stop asking me if I played it. I didn’t play it, no. I don’t need to play it. I lived it.)

tim rogers


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