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China rising: Ricky Rouse aims his gun at culture-churn

Wednesday, 3rd September 2014 10:34 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Game writer and movie director Jörg Tittel is preparing to go loud with his comic book tale of “borrowed culture,” Crazy Birds and exploding heads. We spoke to him in London.

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“I would love an independent game developer to make a rip-off video game starring Ricky Rouse. Maybe Canabalt Rouse or Flappy Rouse. Nothing too complicated. And if they did that, then Ricky Rouse himself will promote them at PAX or some other big video game convention by showing up in person. I’m sending out the challenge.”

We don’t normally write about graphic novels, but Ricky Rouse Has a Gun is different. Drawn by John Aggs and written by movie director, theatre producer and occasional video game developer Jörg Tittel, the hyper-violent comic tackles the perception of China in the technology world, including games.

“I was living in LA when I first came up with this madness,” said Tittel. “China was and has been on the rise since, and probably won’t stop for a while. Suddenly, all I could hear was about another remake and a prequel and a sequel being made, and it hasn’t changed much in the last few years. I thought, ‘Wow, we talk about China making our iPhones and iPads and video game consoles, and at the same time we accuse them of being rip-off artists. We aren’t exactly coming up with a lot of original stuff in the West.’ The source of the idea was definitely Los Angeles and Hollywood.”

Game references feature prominently in the book. There’s a Crazy Birds ride, “which may be loosely inspired by the Rovio game,” and an environment made entirely out of plastic based on Sonic’s Green Hill Zone. The book’s plot itself is rooted in movie and game design.

“To me, Die Hard, which is still the template for the perfect action movie with comedic elements, is also still the perfect template for the ultimate sneaky survival game. It kind of invented half of the stuff we’re still doing in video games today. It’s quite extraordinary how inspirational that film still is.”

Tittel’s latest project may be a graphic novel, but he has a long history with games. He most recently contributed to The Crew for Ubisoft, and is currently working on a game project in London with a “top developer” he’d rather not name.

“We’re not ready to announce that yet, but [the developer is] pretty major and awesome. That’s something I’m writing and creating the world for, and they’re doing the game. We’ll hopefully announce it in the next month or two. I’ve definitely stayed well in touch with games.”

It shows. Rick Rouse is a US Army deserter who escapes to China and starts work at Fengxian Amusement Park, an Alton Towers-alike influenced by Western culture. Tittel’s background in games helped with the project’s production.

“Having worked on video games, and actually being rather obsessed with them, helps with comic books,” he said.

A music video inspired featuring Ricky Rouse himself.

“There’s this awesome game coming out hopefully later this year called Framed, which I think is an absolute masterpiece in the making. It perfectly illustrates how linked comic books and games are in concept. Framed makes it overtly clear in a beautiful way, but they are quite similar because one image affects the rest of the book. It’s a very interactive experience, writing a comic book.”

Writing about games isn’t new to Tittel. His work featured in Next Gen Magazine, the American Official Dreamcast Magazine, Famitsu and others while he was completing his degree in New York. He told me his goal as a games writer was always to uncover and report on the creative process. He refused to do reviews because “just to poop on the crazy hard work of 40 or 50 people… was so disrespectful.”

Games writing lately has been less concerned with reviewing and more focused on the role women play in the industry. The subject has left Tittel baffled.

“It’s just sad,” he said. “It saddens me. Has the industry matured? I don’t think it has. I think the people who’ve always been mature and intelligent have decided to pretty much leave the industry behind and become independent developers. You have amazing people, like the creator of Papers Please, who seemed to never want anything to do with it to begin with. They’re always on the outskirts, and that’s what allows them to be such amazing game makers.

“In Assassin’s Creed, for instance, I saw that there’s a section in the game where you see a prostitute on a boat and she gets her throat slashed within a second of appearing on screen before gameplay begins. I mean, come on. Is this really necessary? You don’t even get to meet the character. There’s no humanity to it. It saddens me to see that’s still going on. Why? Why do women have to be portrayed in a way that even b-movies would shy away from? I don’t get it.

“I was trying to promote the people that were way ahead of their time, and actually approaching it as creatives and individuals, rather than members of anonymous teams belonging to corporations.”

Jorg is writing more comics, with a young adult sci-fi series currently on the go, as well as working on a motion picture adaptation of György Dragomán’s novel The White King with his wife, Alex. But, despite the diversity of his output, Tittel can’t leave games alone. Are you a developer looking got a quick boost?

“I would love an independent game developer to make a rip-off video game starring Ricky Rouse. Maybe Canabalt Rouse or Flappy Rouse. Nothing too complicated. And if they did that, then Ricky Rouse himself will promote them at PAX or some other big video game convention by showing up in person. I’m sending out the challenge.”

Ricky Rouse Has a Gun is out on September 5 in the US and UK. The launch event takes place at Gosh! Comics in London this Friday.

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