Suda-51 has played up his reputation as a punk rock game developer, and it's not terribly difficult to draw superficial parallels between the developer and his favorite musical genre. Much like punk, Suda-51's games are usually violent, tastelessly garish, and unashamedly unpolished. And even if you couldn't connect the dots yourself, his studio Grasshopper Manufacture prominently touts its desire to "make games that reflect the spirit of punk music."
But Suda-51 is not actually punk. The spirit of punk music is that of an outsider. It is disruptive, angry, and antagonistic, a deeply felt emotion with the volume knob cranked to the point distortion precludes articulation. But as the Game Developers Conference kicked off Monday night, Suda-51's adoption of the punk spirit felt as authentic as a pair of pre-distressed designer jeans.
The developer was in San Francisco for a Lollipop Chainsaw preview event organized by the game's publisher, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The gathering took place in a posh event space in an alley off of 2nd Street, a regular host of press events mere blocks away from the offices of GameSpot, IGN, 1Up, Gamasutra, and (until its recent demise) GamePro. Inside, attendees could get hands on with Lollipop Chainsaw, have their pictures taken with zombies and the game's perky cheerleader protagonist, and take advantage of the first open bar of GDC week. In the alley outside, there was a pre-distressed school bus given a Lollipop Chainsaw paint job. On board the bus, the Grasshopper CEO comfortably sat down with the press, a translator, and various PR representatives to talk about his game in a quiet environment.
It was well organized, professional, and very controlled. It was also 0 percent punk. As much as I love the shocking and strange worlds that Suda-51 creates, it's tough to describe them as disruptive, outsider, angry, or antagonistic (with the possible exception of Killer 7's controls). On Monday night especially, it was tough to make out any semblance of the punk spirit being reflected behind Lollipop Chainsaw's publisher-funded shindig, retailer-exclusive preorder incentives, trendy pop culture monsters of the moment, and "on-message" PR handling.
At the same time a few blocks away, in a Q&A following a screening of Indie Game: The Movie, Fez designer Phil Fish was telling a Japanese audience member that Japanese games today suck. The next morning, Fish took to Twitter to apologize for being rough with his response. And then, within the same 140-character-limited tweet, reiterated that Japanese games "are f***ing terrible nowadays."
Clearly, the punk spirit survives in gaming today, just not with the people who are actually trying to claim that mantle.