Suda-51 Is Not Actually Punk

The Lollipop Chainsaw and Shadows of the Damned developer is a lot of things, but "punk" isn't one of them.

by

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.

There's more to the punk spirit than just a wardrobe.

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.

Discussion

64 comments
timoteo2k1
timoteo2k1

Clearly, a white bread, Canadian, Journo school mama's boy is the definitive authority on punk. however in the real world just skim the comments on this article and you'll see complaints about the games spirit not fitting in with the vaginal PC world we live in... and today that's punk.

jack_is_cool
jack_is_cool

PS- Keep doing articles like this anyway. Criticism is good, even if you have to drag your adolescent readership up to speed. Journalism should hold its subject to account, with all of this fuss over sexism in games, etc, it highlights the need for thoughtful articles. IGN have shown themselves to be an embarrassment in lahr sexism spotlight with their grotesque marketing campaign for Lolipop Chainsaw, which seemed to drag the industry back into the 90s. Gamespot should continue to pass thoughtful opinion.

jack_is_cool
jack_is_cool

That was a bit like reading one of NME's 'totally cool' journalists' articles. Very cringeworthy. I still don't know why Suda 51 isn't punk or why he's supposed to be. Was too busy reading 'HE IS MAINSTREAM AND NOT AN INDIE DEVELOPER THUS NOT COOL'. As for the outrageous claim that his games are all pretty much normal, bother playing them? The deconstructionist, post-modern narrative of NMH was a step up for the industry, close to that of MGS 2.

amidreaming
amidreaming

Punk is more than just a genre of music, punk is thinking for yourself. Suda 51 does a damn good job of that when he creates games that break away from the norm.

grey_fox1984
grey_fox1984

I actually think the James Gunn team-up on LCS is the most fitting thing that could've happened. 

Gunn is a former Troma director; but his more recent movies (Slither and Super) are far more polished than Troma films. At the same time, they retain a lot of Troma's spirit: over the top violence, dark humour, comically bad acting (though much more specifically targeted in the Nathan Fillion "Holy Avenger" tv show sequences) and specifically cheesy dialogue. Suda51s games have all of those traits (based on the ones I've played - No More Heroes, Shadows of the Damned and now Lollipop Chainsaw). I would argue that Suda's game play more like interactive Troma films that exploit the video game medium (coins falling out of dead enemies, and other obvious "gameplay"-isms over immersive experience) the way Troma movies exploit the film medium (watch "Terror Firmer" to know exactly what I mean).  

lewishim666
lewishim666

This from probably the least punk person ever. Oh wait this article must be his punk rock initiation. Proving further how punk he isn't with his need to prove it.

ffviiifreak
ffviiifreak

I really love Suda 51 games and I don't know why people are constantly attacking his image all the time especially on sites that don't even allow cussing in forums and comments. Personally I think he has the right to portray himself anyway he wants as anyone does. In my opinnion the NMH games are very Punk rock they seem to hit all the notes mentioned in this article in my opinnion which is something I personally am entitled to in case someone was thinking on writing an article about that.

ruffluffs
ruffluffs

But for some reason we all read it

Kansas687
Kansas687

Because I come to Gamespot to hear what some guy I don't know thinks about a game developer...

Just stick to facts and game reviews GS. If I wanted to see an pre-pubescent argument about whether something was punk rock or not, I'd go read the comments on Myspace pages.

Funployee91
Funployee91

What in the... hell... is this article.

drgribb
drgribb

seriously? this article is a joke. Discussing how "punk-rawk" or not something/someone is and trying to call everyone out as a "stupid poser" is a task best left to the middle-school crowd. This is seriously an article? Hey, brendan sinclair, get a real job ya f***in hipster journalist! Way to get the big scoop. You totally outed that poser suda51 bro. This has no business as an article on gamespot. I can't stand listening to a**holes argue about "whether someone's punk or not", or "how/when punk started", or "what it means to be punk", "is punk rock dead today", etc. This is why we can't have nice things.

psycho75
psycho75

@128bones nope,its a long story but here is the short version,it "began"with an american band called Stooges around 69 who spread their influence to many others bands in the 70s decade like Ramones,Dead Boys,Television,GG Allin,etc including the fake posers Sex Pistols who later brought the idea to UK labeled as punk rock,from there punk took cultural/political form spreading across europe then bouncing back to US as a faster version called Hardcore in the 80s that had a strong scene across the WHOLE country. Punk culture has yet some strong scene in various parts of Europe today and is the most diverse style of rock to date (my opinion)and a strong way to give voice to oppressed people...of course this has nothing to do with games but there you have it.

twztid13
twztid13

@RealFabioSooner Well said, sir. Bravo!

jazilla
jazilla

@BillyColeman: Have you seen what Lollipop Chainsaw is about? It's a high school student made out to be an adult dressed like a stripper with a chainsaw. What exactly needs to happen before you perceive this as borderline pedophelia(I am being really diplomatic using the word borderline here)? So because they claim the character is 18, that makes it OK? Why not call the game "High School Stripper Wit a Chainsaw"? They don't because people would flip out. I am just calling out the game for what it is.

moonlightwolf01
moonlightwolf01

Never going to be easy to sell anarchy and irreverence to publishers specially since they're the system that a 'punk' game developer aught to be smashing. not surprising that the real punks are indie devs.

20years
20years

Suda 51 is a little bit "show off" ish , yea , look at Lollipop Chainsaw's trailer : "from the twisted mind of Suda 51" !!!!!! P.S : as a Rock music fan I must say Rock is dying . days of Queen , Pink Floid , Nirvana , Animals , Beatles , Guns n Roses ... is over . what are the Rock bands today ? Linkin Park ? 30 seconds to mars ? ah please ...

RealFabioSooner
RealFabioSooner

@Polybren I'll answer with a simple reference: The Great Rock n' Roll Swindle. In 1980 the Sex Pistols were making fun and poking jokes at the whole idea of punk, at the whole absurdity of THEM - out of all crazy chaps in England - becoming rock stars overnight. You want to know what's punk today? It is to manage to bring your Nth bizarre game out, always through a different publisher, and finally manage to carve yourself a nice niche without ever compromising what makes your games unique. You know what's subversive? To win on your own terms. Suda 51 may not fit the classic definition of punk. But he's all that punk can be after punk has become just one more music genre in the shelf.

galduke
galduke

Also, being "disruptive, outsider, angry, or antagonistic" describes any number of groups, from the mostly pro-big government occupiers to Christian militants to school shooters to the Incredible Hulk, and I don't think any of these are particularly "punk" (Hulk's just irritable). Also, Phil Fish is just another "indie" developer feeding his own ego and thinking his opinion is worth more than it is. Guess his "original" 2D platformer is better than an entire country's industry, at least in his opinion.

127bones
127bones

s_h_a_d_o Posted Mar 7, 2012 9:18 pm CT 127bones wrote: Punk rock was meant to offend the suburban dweebs of the 80's. @127bones Might want to check your facts there, buddy - punk rock's nascency was the mid-70's. Hey, your right but that was in the UK. Punk Rock didn't make an impact in the US until the 80's and the youth in the US chose heavy metal to show their angst, so puck never went anywhere in the US outside of LA and New York. So what are you, like 55 or something?

galduke
galduke

"Punk" has changed in definition throughout the years but in these days I think it's primarily about A.) ignoring the opinions of others and B.) enjoying the general punk music/culture. You don't have to be a nihilist, narcissist, or even an anarchist to be "punk", such "qualifications" would be counter intuitive to the very ideal at the culture's core: individualism. Is this game somewhat or very cliche? Yes. Does that make it less "punk"? Only if it was made cliched in order to sell more to a wider audience. Ironically enough, "selling out" by paying a jingle for a company in spite of protests from others is more "punk" than putting on a Ramones shirt and drawing a little anarchy A in your text book just because you feel obligated to express your "punk" status (it's also passive aggressive).

s_h_a_d_o
s_h_a_d_o

[QUOTE="127bones"]Punk rock was meant to offend the suburban dweebs of the 80's.[/QUOTE]

@127bones Might want to check your facts there, buddy - punk rock's nascency was the mid-70's. Come to think of it, were any of you kids here at Gamespot even for the birth and rise of punk culture?

g1rldraco7
g1rldraco7

I don't see how this is punk. Awesome games though.

X-RS
X-RS

Ugh....I'm sorry but th eClash is definitive punk. The ycan be rough around the edges sometimes and equally soulful, as well as widely diverse wit many differnt styles. And I hardly see Japanese games as junk nowadays. You guys gave SFxT an 8.5?

ptrpedrohung
ptrpedrohung

Brendan I love you, but I just don't see the point of this article. Like you quoted clearly, Suda-51 said he wants to make "GAMES that reflect the spirit of punk music." not "PRESS CONFERENCES that reflect the spirit of punk music." Just because you do punk art doesn't mean every aspect of your life needs to be punk. For what he has done, I feel that at least Shadows of the Damned definitely embodies aspects of rage, antagonism, and delightful hyperbole. Also for what it's worth, telling people how to be punk is probably the least punk thing one can do.

megakick
megakick

Suda55 is No More Heros, the new stuff is copy and make it crazy. Lollipop, old... Shadow of the Damn, old... Suda55 is nothing original now and doesn't need to try anymore I guess...

127bones
127bones

I agree with this article because the word 'punk' when applied to a medium, means that it is trying to offend someone. Punk rock was meant to offend the suburban dweebs of the 80's. Punk horror was meant to offend the pop fans of Stephan King in the 90's. Suda's games are more comical than punk. He can claim to be punk but if he doesn't truly offend the common gamer, his works are not punk.

SlimeSwayze
SlimeSwayze

This is the most pointless article I've ever read. It seems to exist only to reassure the author of his own credibility, which he ironically lost a bit of by even writing this in the first place. How did this get published?

makryu
makryu

Say what you will, he's the closest thing to a disturbing, innovative and over-the-top developer we have in mainstream gaming, by far.

Renunciation
Renunciation

"Disguised pedophilia"? Oh, come on. She looks like a typical Barbie doll; I suppose Barbie dolls cater to "disguised pedophilia" as well?

NINEINCH-Tool
NINEINCH-Tool

@Polybren congrats on debunking that one!! everyone's got the right to form a perspective. You are, however, critiquing Suda's perspective based on what you believe it connotes. This article is pretty much irrelevant; if you take anything out of context it simply does not stand. Alternately, anything can be connected/related so keep writing and I'll keep an eye out for that bieber article...remember this site is home to more than just your friends, so be smart, be pertinent.

kid23455
kid23455

Are we really talking seriously about a game about a teenage cheerleader killing zombies?

kid23455
kid23455

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Polybren
Polybren

@RealFabioSooner The point of the article was more a response to Suda co-opting the punk image and applying it to his own studio as a marketing identity, and then promoting it as if the game (and Suda himself) was like every other mainstream publisher product. I'm not particularly strident about what counts as "punk" and what doesn't, but I don't think I'm straying too far into the realm of logical fallacy to say there's some disconnect there. If not, then I guess tomorrow I can write a blog on why Justin Bieber is completely f'n death metal.

jazilla
jazilla

For all the haters out there hatin on my previous comment, what about Lollipop Chainsaw doesn't seem like disguised pedophilia to you? What "adult" woman dresses like that? Isn't the main character supposed to be an 18 year old in high school? This game is nothing more than exploiting teen sexuality, and saying that the character is 18. Disguising a character as 18 and in High School is a ploy to sell copies to teenagers just like big tobacco did with cigarettes in the 90's. The industry needs to grow up.

VilandasUK
VilandasUK

''Japanese games ''are f***ing terrible nowadays''.'' f***ing idiot, who made Dark Souls? Japan and just how good is the game called Dark Souls?? It's amazingly fantastic, don't believe me?? Try it.

VilandasUK
VilandasUK

Never knew that GameSpot really cared about such things, it's probably because they got nothing else to do :lol:

Chronosknight
Chronosknight

@ Fabio I couldn't agree more. This isn't news. This is hardly journalism. What a pointless article. Well, it's not true journalism anyhow. =P

Fooljeff
Fooljeff

You said he has a reputation of a punk rock game developer and then talk about a preview event like it has anything to do with game development. Aparently all it takes to be punk is to say something is terrible. When did trolling become punk?

SlimeSwayze
SlimeSwayze

I had such hope for Suda after the release of Killer 7. There are so few games with its complex and truly mature themes. I hoped for and expected more of the same from him moving forward, but it seems like with each new game he trends towards a younger demographic and becomes more predictable. It's really a shame, because he seemed to have so much potential in terms of really expanding the scope of the medium.

OGKNav
OGKNav

Well said Fabio, I was just thinking; what's the point of this article?

Fursnake
Fursnake

Suda51 is definitely not punk. I would describe his games/style more like weird and at times juvenile and focused too much on sex appeal. No More Heroes was an ok game but I just can't get into anything else he has done. Shadows of the Damned was not that interesting to me and a lot of the juvenile and cheesy dialogue and one liners really came off as lame. I'm not feeling Lollipop Chainsaw at all; the cheerleader with a chainsaw setup just does not appeal to me and this looks like an attempt to rip off Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a bit of Scott Pilgrim thrown in.

magicmonkeymatt
magicmonkeymatt

If your concern is about how 'punk' you or anyone else are perceived? Then maybe you should just grow up a little!

RealFabioSooner
RealFabioSooner

Brendan, I'm sure you're familiar with the fallacy of the True Scotsman? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman Don't want to be a jerk, but I believe you can do way better than a whole article on something that's essentially a longer, more involved version of that fallacy. In other words - if anyone cared about Suda51 being punk or not, that person had the wrong idea since the very start.

SOLI0snake
SOLI0snake

You don't have to be an ass to be punk, which is what Fish sounded like. Suda was trying to sell something that he worked hard on and cared about, so it makes sense that he would want to make sure the event went well. Maybe he didn't trash and set fire to the bus, but in my opinion (and I wish I was getting paid for it as well), there is such a thing as an intelligent punk. If being an ass and saying stupid things is punk, then I think I'd prefer supporting a "non-punk" developer. Suda seems like a nice guy that makes interesting games, and for that he deserves our respect, not OpEd articles about the level of his punk-ness.

RealFabioSooner
RealFabioSooner

@KillerJuan77 "What's up with gamers and indie devs and their egos?" Too many people, especially in the press, are stuffing lots of indie devs with the absurd idea that being indie equals goodness *in itself*. It doesn't. It's pretty much the same thing as saying that only AAA, high-polish titles are worth playing; both statements are logical jumps, artificial distinctions that ignore a gigantic array of decisions and design factors that lead to a good game. Budget and having to answer to a publisher or not are only two factors amongst dozens.

jazilla
jazilla

Lollipop Chainsaw seems more to me, "Disguised Pedophilia" for lack of a better term. With all the hubbub surrounding the fighting game community lately, it would be nice to see sites like GameSpot start calling out devs like this. Just because it happens in so many forms of media doesn't make it ok.

NINEINCH-Tool
NINEINCH-Tool

well though, a lot of unwarranted cheesiness would be ousted if we could just play versions of jrpgs that weren't localized for an uncertain teenage market. I don't know how much leeway there is in that these days, rpg games used to get cut up and bleached before they'd get to us back in the nes/snes days.