flOw won't be at Slamdance after all.

Posted by on January 8th, 2007

We write to announce that now flOw, along with Braid, has decided to pull out of the Guerilla Gamemaker Competition at the 2007 Slamdance Festival. This has been a difficult decision, and our thoughts echo much of what has already been said by Jonathan Blow who was one of the other participants this year, as well as Ian Bogost, a previous participant of the festival.

The Slamdance Guerilla Gamemakers Festival was a great home for Cloud last year, and we consider the festival organizers our friends. It was a place where some of the best independent game makers gathered and were able to share ideas and engage in thought-provoking conversation; Slamdance allowed for time to really get to know your fellow indie game designers.

And this year we were honored to see flOw listed among games by many of the leaders in independent game design. This list included one designer, who had developed a game called Super Columbine Massacre, RPG.

To hear that the game had been pulled was deeply discouraging. As a group, our opinions on the quality of the game itself range, but we can all agree on one thing: it deserved to be there.

We also agree that the act of pulling SCMRPG is one we cannot condone. But how best to protest this action? Going to the festival, at which prizes are awarded, only to criticize its organizers seemed unfair at best, and hypocritical at worst. Therefore, we have decided to withdraw flOw from the competition. We agree with Jonathan Blow:

If left unchallenged, the expulsion of the Columbine game sets a precedent in the wrong direction. Dropping Braid out of the competition, while not a huge act, is the strongest protest I have the power to make.

As game designers, each project we have done so far, and plan on doing in the future, aims at showing games as a serious and expressive medium. We cannot help but wonder, if SCMRPG were a film, if the reaction by the Slamdance organizers would have been the same. Removing it from the festival is discouraging, because it implies that games are still not to be taken seriously, that games are only for mindless fun. If we are trying to work against this stigma as artists, then we also have to fight against this stigma as entrants in the festival as well.

At best, we hope that our act, in solidarity with Jonathan Blow and SCMRPG, might encourage Peter Baxter, President of Slamdance, to re-admit SCMRPG, in which case we will return. At a minimum, our act can only serve to demonstrate how strongly we disagree with this decision, and all that it implies about what we consider to be our art.

Jenova Chen
Nick Clark
Kellee Santiago
Austin Wintory

Categories: General



Comment by: Bradley Shaner

January 8th, 2007 at 2:49 pm

I agree with the decisions you and Jonathan Blow have made, to drop out of Slamdance is, as Jonathan said, the most effective thing you can do at this point. While this game is not the most enthralling game I've seen, it does deserve it's own place, regardless of it's story. I am all behind you and Braid's decisions, good luck.


Comment by: Tom Buscaglia, The Game Attorney

January 8th, 2007 at 3:09 pm

To the flOw team…

I know how difficult it must have been for you guys to pull your games from the Festival. Getting recognition for the great little game you made is always nice. But getting recognition for doing the right thing ain't bad either.

Kudos for taking a stand against this sort of anti game bigotry, from those who claim to be supporters. Until developers take games seriously as art, we can not expect anyone else to!

Again…way to go!

Comment by: ConGamer

January 8th, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Thank you for standing up for artistic freedom.

Comment by: Amish_Gramish

January 8th, 2007 at 6:53 pm

Just like what the attorney said, how can these people accept many different kinds of art when they don't accept many different games?

Especially when they bring it into the competition and then take it out so soon to the deadline.

Comment by: geekwad

January 8th, 2007 at 6:54 pm


Comment by: dslickbomb

January 8th, 2007 at 7:16 pm

Must have been a hard decision, but you're right. SCMRPG deserved to be there. It may have been controversial, but it didn't deserve to be pulled. It is helping to expand the borders of what we consider gaming. It was unique, something we don't see alot these days. Most games are just the same old games with improved graphics.

Comment by: dannah

January 8th, 2007 at 8:00 pm

I'm proud of you for standing up for what you believe to be true and just.

Comment by: Peter

January 8th, 2007 at 10:04 pm

Adding my voice to those incredibly impressed by your decision. I admired you already for your games, and now you have shown that you are not only amazingly talented, but high quality human beings as well. Good luck to you, and to SCMRPG.

Comment by: Cobra1

January 8th, 2007 at 11:18 pm

In a world where everyone caves in and seems not to support each other's voices, your stand is a beacon for all to see! Whether its games, print, or art, it falls under the 1st Amendment and shouldn't be censored lightly. Good job TGC!

Comment by: Danny Ledonne

January 8th, 2007 at 11:35 pm

This is the first time the guy who made the Columbine game feels like someone is behind him. It's an indecribably satisfying feeling. Thank you.

Comment by: Daniel Persson

January 9th, 2007 at 1:01 am

You guys did the right thing and have my support.

Daniel Persson
Senior Game Designer
IO Interactive

Comment by: droptop GP

January 9th, 2007 at 11:52 am

Good for you guys. You did the right thing. Thanks for taking a stand. More people should do the same.

Comment by: Michael Teplitsky

January 9th, 2007 at 12:20 pm

You have my respect.

Comment by: trojanalum

January 9th, 2007 at 1:38 pm

fight on

Comment by: milieu

January 9th, 2007 at 2:17 pm

Awesome. I am really impressed with the decision you made. I know it's not easy for a small developer to walk away from national attention and possible awards, but you chose to do the right thing.

Comment by: Rob

January 9th, 2007 at 3:21 pm

I want to thank you for standing by your principles and your fellow developer, and pulling out of the competition. That act has earned you my respect far more than any "I won at Slamdance!" blurb could at this point. To be honest I hadn't heard of your game before this fiasco, but I'm happily checking it out now.

Comment by: Anonymous

January 9th, 2007 at 3:42 pm

Rob, we hope you enjoy them :)

Comment by: JW

January 9th, 2007 at 4:16 pm

You guys did the right thing. I look forward to playing your game.

Comment by: Mehdi

January 9th, 2007 at 5:04 pm

Kudos for doing the right thing. I won't forget.

Comment by: Jason Porath (from Japan)

January 9th, 2007 at 10:19 pm

Way to do the stand-up thing. Good for you all.

(oh, and hi Jenova! Congrats on all the success! You`ve come a long way from ITP TAing!)

Comment by: Amish_Gramish

January 10th, 2007 at 9:05 am

This just in!!!!
Three more games were taken out of the competition, so now there's only 8 of the original 14!

Let's hope Slamdance gets the message!

Comment by: Danth Guyth

January 10th, 2007 at 9:51 am

Thank you.

Comment by: Anonymous

January 10th, 2007 at 10:05 am

Hey Jason, it IS quite a long way. How's Japan?

Comment by: KelleeSan

January 10th, 2007 at 10:53 am

You guys completely rock for coming here and supporting us.

Comment by: WHP

January 10th, 2007 at 12:27 pm

Are you people on this blog mindless fools? Implying that games are mindless fun is naive at best. I agree completely that games should be fun, entertaining, provactive, and push the envelope, but a game about a tragedy like Columbine shouldn't be taken lightly. Columbine was America on one of its worst days…it was about children blowing off each other's faces in a school building. Is it fun to be reminded of how those families might feel about learning their children are now shot at by others pretending to be at Columbine? Is it the "right thing" to say…yeah, Danny Lendonne should be able to mock the families, children, and teachers involved? Who cares how they feel? Come on people…have a little empathy for just a moment and put yourselves in their place. What if your family member was a victim of Columbine? Danny should be ashamed of himself. Clearly, this is generating buzz and publicity…which is exactly what he wanted.

Comment by: IQpierce

January 10th, 2007 at 2:31 pm

WHP, your argument doesn't make any sense.

Do you find Bowling for Columbine offensive? Do you feel that making a documentary about that tragedy was a way of making light of the tragedy?

Do you find the film United 93 offensive? That someone would make a movie about such a tragedy was a way of making light of that tragedy?

I don't think anyone is arguing that shooting your classmates in the face is something fun. No one is trying to make light of the Columbine shootings. But why can't a game be a way of dealing with the tragedy? Why is it valid to make documentaries and films based on tragedies, but to make a game based on it is "making light of it"?

I think that's part of the point of the game's existence. Ask yourself exactly why it bugs you. I personally can't think of a reason to be opposed to a game about Columbine, solely on those grounds. (If the game were exploitive or, in PRACTICE, made light of Columbine, I would agree – but people seem to think that the fact that a game about Columbine even EXISTS is an abomination, that no such game could possibly be anything but disrespectful. And this can only show their bias against games as a medium, versus documentaries or films as a medium.)

Comment by: Martin

January 10th, 2007 at 2:51 pm

WHP, I think you misunderstand the argument being made. By removing the game from the festival, Slamdance is implying that games are not a legitimate medium to address serious issues. Nobody here has claimed that SCMRPG is a fun game or even a tasteful game. Games can be disturbing, shocking, and morally uncomfortable, and these attributes should not preclude a game's inclusion in a festival whose supposed purpose is to showcase alternatives to the mainstream.

Comment by: WHP

January 10th, 2007 at 8:41 pm

You're right, I may be misunderstanding…I suppose it's the concept of a game based on a tragedy that is disserning to me. I received an email today from FierceGamer that had a story about this game…and followed the links through to discover this site. While I haven't explored the game, the idea of a game based on these murders is what's difficult to swallow. For a movie like Flight 93, I know it was controversial…but part of the marketing of it included the sign-off by those whose lives were touched. I appreciate the dialogue here and welcome the idea of alternatives to the mainstream. My fear is that kids in junior high/high school play the Columbine game…and get ideas about what to do (and how to do it) at their own schools.

Comment by: ombra

January 12th, 2007 at 4:28 am

i love reading jenova's blog, love the game flow and look forward to all he has planned for the world of gaming..but this move i can't say i'm 100% behind..butt hats fine, our code of ethics may be a bit different..but the vantage point that the game was coming for, not to mention the "hero" aspect being made of two boys (who couldn't handle real life, hated black people, hated jews, hated pretty much anyone who wasn't them or listened to the same music or got the same jokes they did..) to make a game from their point of view is appalling..the difference between United 93 , and bowling for Columbine is they do not make hero's of the wrong doers of this story..a certain story out of the whole columbine massacre troubled..a girl was asked if she believed in God, and after answering yes, was blown away..sure christian pundits praised her and what not,but she's dead to her family now..and hearing about her dying for her beliefs in such a horrible way gives little comfort..of course its in the "game" ..and the press loves pointing that out..an old wound opened for a family trying to get over it as best they can..

this "game" (if you can call it that, to be a game designer of your calibur J, seeing the cut and paste style ripped off from a lot of notable franchises (going to hell at the end and going toe to toe with the monsters from DOOM? thats the way they would have liked to end up, but just including that in the gaming experience..thats not educating anyone about the tragedy, its the game designers "hero worship", him saying his hero's are fighting their "Good fight even now..WTF?

this is a world war three game about Nazi's and you'r the ones running the blitzriegs, and turning on the gas in the gas chambers..this is United 93 from the POV of the terrorist, lets go to flight school, learn to kill thousands with our newly acquired Tech.s..heck, why stop there, what about slavery from the white mans perspective, goto africa, get us a bunch of africans to toil for us, you TOO can whip'em till they're Toby, chop off a foot if they give you sass, or even rape their women to show the men who's boss..

a lot of the victims in the Columbine massacre weren;t adults in the true sense..you're defending a man who makes a game about killing KIDS for the most part..so why stop at defending this jerk though, let me dig into the latest news stories and create a game from the angle of a child killer rapist, now YOU can Be Mike Cooleyi, running through the streets of birmingham; raping 6 year old girls and chopping their heads clean off then mailing body parts to police to taunt them..its just a game after all right? its art and it can't be censored..right?

i rambled quite a bit there..but i have a point..the columbine massacre was an atrocity to a large group of Americans, not only because they lost people they knew and loved in it, but because it was brutal and the reasoning behind it shows us more about our nature and the heirchy of highschools than we've admitted..the worst part is ;it can happen again, the ingredients exist in every american school..why stir the pot..no one needs educating on columbine, especially not the kind that has you shooting bright eye'd christian girls in the face with rocket launchers..

BLAM!! -999 health! UBER LEETNESS ^6%
where is the FLOW theory in that mess?
my personal opinion? i think the game designer wanted to make a name , much more than he actually wanted to create a true game..

Comment by: Anonymous

January 12th, 2007 at 9:31 am

Ombra and WHP, I totally understand your reaction towards SCMRPG's content. I want to clarify here that none of us liked this game. In fact, one of our team member's friend lost his family in the Columbine tragedy. So why are we protesting and pulling our game then?

We are not fighting for this game, instead we are fighting for video game's future, the way people treat video games and the way video games are made. Regardless on SCMRPG's violent and controversial content. It does experiment video game as an alternative of journalism. Like cinema or any mature media and art forms, video games would provoke a wide range of emotions. While this game has nothing to do with the feeling of fun, it does introduce a lot of powerful negative feelings.

Is SCMRPG a game? I think it is. Is it a good game? Hell no. Do I want to play this game? Absolutely no interest. Does it deserve its place at a pioneer independent game festival? We think it does. And pulling a game like this while not pulling similar movies in the same festival is obviously a double standard. And it is like saying "Not like films, Video games are only meant for kids. They are only meant for fun." Twenty years ago, it maybe true. But gamers have grown up, so as video games.

Comment by: Amish_Gramish

January 12th, 2007 at 9:28 pm

I would like to add to Jenova's comment.

This movement has basically gone through every other medium of entertainment, books, movies, music, even paintings.

What this movement is about is showing that video games are more than child's play (Please donate to that charity), just like movies, books, and music has gone through.

When Elvis came around in music, people were saying it will ruin the youth, when GTA and SCMRPG came around, people were saying it would ruin the youth.

We have yet to see if Elvis, GTA, and SCMRPG have ruined our youth.
Also, games should be protected by the first amendment rights, which they are being protected by now, which shows that they are now being taken seriously as artistic mediums.

I also don't even like the concept of SCMRPG, and when I first heard about it I thought it was a horrible idea that anyone could come up with. If it were a movie I would feel the same way. Music, check. Books, check. Painting, check.

But one has to respect the right for those to take place in a competition and the right to exist.

And my deepest consolations go to everyone who lost a family member in the tragic Columbine shootings, and all the school shootings that has happened since.

Recently, in Red Lake, Minnesota, there was a school shooting. My former band teacher's brother in law was the principle at that time, and he was lucky that he wasn't there, because he would surely be dead.

Comment by: ombra

January 12th, 2007 at 10:16 pm

hmm..after getting sufficient sleep and being re-attaining my ability to make some semblence of "sense":

i see your point and have a better understand of your fight (though i still can't help but feel you were kind of "pushed" into this all, but thats niether here or there)..

.. in the end though, there will be games in the future that will push the envelope, that will be more worthy of standing behind with such vigor and determination..thats why i can't help feel that the TRUE, and ultimately "just" motives for pulling out that you and the other "world creators" had; will be ignored, due to the many levels of wrongness the columbine game reached just by existing..in the end though..i can't even be mad at the fella who "slapped together" the game and entered it..i have more disgust for the body that decided it was worthy to be among the other games in this competition, only to decide later that it couldn't take part based solely , it seems, on pressure…. people who can't stick with their guns under pressure especially if they had a good reason for making a decision to begin with really shouldn't be put in charge of anything..

anyways, thanks for responding to my rambling post, i wish you and all who took part in the protest, as the majority of you had a great chance of winning..i guess that makes the sacrifice even more noble..unfotunately i have a sick feeling the the "media skew" will make sure THAT sacrifice and its reasoning are ignored..

Comment by: Grappler

February 7th, 2007 at 4:08 pm

um, sry jehnova i know this is off topic, but because of my parenatl controls I cant recive that validation email. my username is grapple can u validateit for me?

Anways, its to bad you wontbe going to the slamdance……….

i really loved the game

Comment by: Anonymous

February 7th, 2007 at 4:45 pm

Hi Grappler, I just checked the forum I didn't see your information there. Make sure you DON'T put in your website URL in the information, or use emails with .biz .ru .info in the end. Our system bans them.

Comment by: Grappler

February 8th, 2007 at 1:03 pm

sry i meant my name is


my bad didnt mean to say grapple.

anyways can u validate it?

Comment by: BloodyHell

February 17th, 2007 at 10:25 am

im srry, but I agree that the SCMRPG! game did not belong in that festival. At some point, you have to find a balance between free speech/expression and morals. While the developers of SCMRPG! may have had a great idea on their hands, they crossed a line they shouldnt have when they put the player in the character of the shooters.
In United 93, the audience sees through the eyes of the passengers on the flight, and experiences there selfless sacrifice to keep the hijackers from killing other innocent people. The producers did not glorify the terrorists on that plane, who were willing to die like Klebold and co. to achieve their goal. Im not saying that games from the perspective of evildoers are a bad idea, but at some point, developers need to recogniize a sensitive issue and not push it simply for the sake of the controversyit will generate.

Comment by: Brad

February 18th, 2007 at 11:08 pm

The thing is, most developers WANT the controversy. I'm sure the makers of SCMRPG recognize its not wholesome family fun, and are completely at peace with that. There's no helping them, but free speech is an important right. As long as we have moral logical people in our country, letting a game this negative go public might just have the opposite effect. Keep in mind we aren't talking about impressionable 10 year olds playing this game. If they are, then our problems surely go beyond slamdance.

Comment by: Dave

February 25th, 2007 at 1:46 pm

So, were any of these virtuous developers who withdrew from this festival willing to offer to pay legal costs if Slamdance kept SCMRPG in and did get sued?

You all did read Slamdance's statement, right? They ere advised by counsel that they'd likely get sued and couldn't afford to defend?

So, you're taking a moral stance that some small company should stick their a** out to get chewed off by the next Jack Thompson. Well, gee that sure would that help the cause of independent gaming. (not)

Comment by: Mike Watts

March 6th, 2007 at 3:35 pm

Wow this stinks

Comment by: air fares

March 14th, 2007 at 2:14 am

Hi 2 all! good work!

Comment by: Joe

December 3rd, 2007 at 9:17 pm

A little late to the party, but I found this decision very interesting… and quite wrong-headed. I imagine that the festival probably felt it wasn't in their interest to stick their necks out for an (apparent) turd of a game like Super Columbine.

Ultimately, it is good games and festivals that support innovative games that will advance the art form. Games like the ones that you guys made. Festivals like Slamdance. Not shameless "notice-me!!!" RM2k exploitation pieces like Columbine.

Basically it seems like a bunch of good games falling on their swords in the service of one very poor one. And guess who gets all the attention? Guess who reaps all the benefits? Yep, the crappy game, yet again. It seems like a waste, especially after seeing the talent on display here (I wandered over here because I enjoyed Cloud so much.)

Comment by: Chris

December 4th, 2007 at 5:23 am

A bit too late too :D
I think you made the right decision: afetr all it's you that has to cope with yourself! No matter who gets the benefits: in this kind of things everybody loses. But at least you can go to sleep and have good dreams :D

Comment by: Bucks County PA DUI Attorneys

June 17th, 2008 at 10:08 am

the decisions you and Jonathan Blow made were the right decisions =)
good luck in the future!



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