Chungking Espresso


Posted in Gaming by Simon Ferrari on March 26, 2010

This isn’t as cool as it looks. Tom rubbed off his “B.”

Atomic Games is here at PAX East. They’re not showing off Six Days in Fallujah. Instead they’re giving a sneak peak of (what I sincerely hope is) an early beta of their new XBLA project, Breach. It looks like and plays like a really ugly Bad Company without a crouch button (that I could find, anyway). Let me back up.

The only reason I walked up to this booth was because I forgot the name of Brink and thought for a second that it was called Breach. Tom Cross and I walked up to this booth for what I thought was Brink and began staring absently at a demo of not-Brink-but-Breach.

“Who is this by?”

I noticed that one of the boys playing the demo had the word “BREACH” fake-tattooed on his lower arm.

“What game are we looking at?”

A beautiful Indian woman walked up to me and Tom. I knew what was coming.

“Do you want a Breach tattoo?”

“No, thanks, I have real tattoos.”

“But they don’t say Breach, do they?”

(She had me there). “No, they don’t. But I really don’t need one, thanks.”

“They wash off.”

I realized at this point that I was being rude and that I should let her do her job. I was causing a scene. Jerry Holkins was standing a few feet away, asking what the hell this game was. I wanted very much to not be causing a scene in front of him, because he makes comics that make fun of people.

“I know, but, okay.”

I braced myself for what was about to happen. I knew that, as far as the physical sensation went, I would be enjoying myself. Once when I was in Paris I went to get my hair cut. The woman who volunteered her scissors was quite beautiful, and she smelled good, and she had auburn hair on her arms and her hands were soft. I knew it was going to be like that. But I don’t have a problem enjoying a haircut and having somebody whose job it is to wash my hair run her fingers through it with warm water and shampoo.

“Where does it have to go? Can I just put in on my wrist?”

I pulled back my sleeve, she grabbed my left hand. Her thumb pressed into the soft place in the middle of my palm, pinky to pointer bracing it from below. Her hand was warm. She asked Tom to hold her spray bottle.

“I don’t have three hands,” laughing.

That wasn’t a Shakti joke. I bet they gave her a script for this. The same script they give to the white girls. Tom took the bottle. She pressed the tattoo to my wrist.

“Your hands are warm!”

There’s no way she actually thought my hands were warm. I thought her hands were warm, which means that, to her, my hands had to be cold. The script again.

“Yeah, well, I’m wearing a sweater.” I turned to Tom, “I’m not wearing deodorant, they wouldn’t let me bring it on the airplane.” I was testing her, as if I were sitting at an ELIZA terminal or something.

“You didn’t have to tell me that,” eyes smiling.

That was her throwing an error and spitting out a default. After that, she didn’t have anything else to say to me. She took the spray bottle from Tom, gave my wrist a few sprays, and pulled the paper away to reveal the BREACH. It was crooked, because I guess I’d started shaking at some point.

“It was almost awesome,” moving onto Tom now.

While she was doing Tom, I asked her what company was making Breach. That’s when I found out it was Atomic Games. I asked if they were also showing Six Days in Fallujah this weekend, and that prompted her to go get a slightly older woman whose scripting authorized her to answer that question. It turned out the older woman was just a packet switcher whose job it was to find a man dressed like a soldier for me to talk to.

They aren’t going to be showing Six Days in Fallujah, because the game isn’t finished. They’re using the development of Breach to add new features to the Six Days project, “but the art’s all done and ready to go.”

I told him that I was really happy they were going to be releasing Six Days someday. He said that they’d gotten a lot of that lately. I told him that I was publishing a book in August about games that engage with the news, and that the Atomic/Konami fiasco featured heavily in our chapter about documentary games. And he gave me his card.

I looked at the card just now; it doesn’t even have a human’s name on it:

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11 Responses

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  1. Ben Abraham said, on March 27, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    This was the coolest. But what, I don’t even

  2. Ichiro Lambe said, on March 27, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    > That wasn’t a Shakti joke. I bet they gave her a script for this. The same script they give to the white girls.

    Simon, you just rock.

    • Simon Ferrari said, on March 28, 2010 at 9:27 pm

      Ichiro, it was wonderful to finally meet you. A Reckless Disregard was one of my favorite pure play experiences of last year, and I’m still playing it now every time I get the itch. I wish I’d written about it when it came out to help with the publicity effort, and I won’t make the same mistake the next time y’all release something. Hopefully, at some point, as I develop more on what i think about how game spaces work (because spatial design is obviously where it shines), I’ll be able to do a critical analysis of the game that will do your work justice.

      Good luck with the iPhone port and your future endeavors; I’m a big fan of your YouTube design brainstorm snippets! And hopefully I’ll be seeing you at conferences for years to come.

  3. poor girl giving out Breach Tattoo said, on March 28, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Sorry your tattoo came out crooked… i think it WAS because you were shaking 🙂
    But you were a brave soldier.
    And your hands WERE warm.
    No scripts, I am just naturally witty… and modest.


    • Simon Ferrari said, on March 28, 2010 at 9:18 pm

      I’m going to put a disclaimer on this.

      I’m really glad Atomic Games still exists and is making games, and this was an early build of an XBLA game so I’m not judging the quality of the demo. The destruction elements are great, because they explain some of the aspects of Six Days in Fallujah that got bad press. Remember that at one point Atomic took heat for claiming the game would be “survival horror.” Tamte explained that what they meant with the term was that it would be scary because of how realistic the counter-terrorist experience would be. Enemies would be hiding behind doors, and the destruction element was going to be in there so that players could blow out walls that they suspected might be hiding a pocket of hostiles. It’s kind of surprising that more tactical shooters don’t allow destructible structures, considering the amount of military research that goes into the genre.

      In other words, Breach is a day-one purchase for me, because I want to support Atomic and help them make enough money to release Six Days in Fallujah at some point.

      This piece was mainly about me having my first, troubling booth babe experience. I’ve talked with some people about this; I’m calling it the Jim Crow period of the booth babe problem. The woman doling out the tattoos was dressed modestly—she wasn’t the traditional booth babe wearing a bikini or a ridiculous sexy cosplay outfit. I found it frightening that they were paying an attractive woman to apply fake tattoos to people, though, because it required her to touch strangers.

      I’m somewhat disappointed with the end result, mostly because it didn’t turn out as well as I had it in my head. I’ve got no experience writing this kind of stuff, and it shows. Also, Frank told me the Shakti line is borderline racist, and it is. I was trying to convey my anger and discomfort at the situation, but it probably misses the mark.

  4. Frank said, on March 28, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    “Borderline inappropriate”. And it was a compliment.

  5. Priscilla said, on April 6, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    I understand your write-up and discomfort was probably well-intentioned and genuine, but it comes off as just a bit infantilizing of the booth hand to me. It suggests that she’s incapable of coming up with her own lines for something as simple as getting people’s attention and bantering with them, so frightened of contact with strangers in a public space that simple non-sexual contact to put on a tattoo is an unpleasant chore she’s forced to carry out. Ultimately, she chose to take the job of her own will, and it didn’t require anything questionable.

    There’s a lot about the booth babe practice that I don’t agree with and find extremely unpleasant, but I think you’re overreacting a bit to a very chaste and simple interaction that was probably just a day job to her. Why so much discomfort? That level of representation and interaction is, objectively, no different than being a face painter at a county fair, or those people who stand around on corners handing out fliers. It’s only the reactions of the target audience that can make it unpleasant. (And let’s be fair, it’s mostly the reactions of an aberrant few.)

    • Simon Ferrari said, on April 6, 2010 at 2:07 pm

      Great points. I admitted above that the piece missed its mark and strayed into territory that I didn’t intend to go, and I’ll keep your criticism in mind in the future.

      Though it has given me the idea to, at some point, think more about the differences between painting faces at a county fair and standing on corners handing out fliers (I actually made a game prototype about the latter, but we never got a chance to balance and polish it).

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