At IndieCade East, Robert Yang compared the mod Black Mesa Source to makeover shows and hopes to catch football captain Valve Corporation's attention.
Independent developer Robert Yang spoke to IndieCade East attendees on Feb. 15 about his work on Black Mesa Source, a total conversion mod of Valve's Half-Life, and the impact of indie makeovers. Makeovers can be judgmental, but they can also be a transformation and improve something or someone both physically and spiritually, Yang proposed.
Yang began his work as a game modder as a way to build a portfolio for breaking into the industry. He presented to a laughing audience a collage of himself and the Half-Life logo photoshopped onto a high school couple and images of Wolverine stroking a picture of Valve Corporation's Gabe Newell.
"We really privilege entering the game industry as this really special moment that happens," he said. "Valve is one of the most powerful, influential, prestigious game companies to work at. Valve is the queen of the lunch table and the prom queen. Valve is the captain of the football team... What will make Valve like us? The answer is a makeover."
Throughout his talk, Yang drew comparisons to modder culture to the makeovers present in entertainment. Showing a clip from TLC's What Not To Wear in which the hosts belittle a woman, makeovers were shown to be mean-spirited. Yang asked, "Is that really what makeovers are about?" His experiences indicated otherwise.
He proposed the idea of "indie makeovers." Yang redirected discussion to the 1997 film Romy and Michele's High School Reunion where two women fail at giving themselves a makeover for their high school reunion. He disagreed with the film's moral that the makeover - and self-improvement - was never necessary. Instead he values Romy and Michele's new position at the end of the movie. The two women give themselves a makeover on their own terms and become successful small business owners. Yang calls this their indie makeover and compares it to independent developers trying to make a living from their games.
"Walls are coming down. Things are getting a bit better," Yang said, commenting that Black Mesa Source is in preparation for commercial distribution. "And one day we will destroy the video game capitalist death machine. Until then, I guess all you can do is own your work and own yourself and try to do work on your own terms, like Romy and Michele."