Rami Ismail @tha_rami
Rami Ismail @tha_rami
Hilversum, Netherlands
Chief Executive Business & Development Guy at indie game studio Vlambeer. Creator of presskit(). Drinks only real cane sugar coke.
Feel free to ask me any question!
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Did you have a stuffed toy or blanket or something similar that you favored as a child?
Yes. I had a giant plush bunny that I always thought was a bear. It was called 'knuffie', which translates to 'plushie' in English. I tore the material near the armpit by accident some day, and after that it started sort of causing me throat irritation because the stuffing would get out when I rolled near it while sleeping.
It got a spot across the room where it could watch over me when I was sleeping - and I think it remains in that spot in my childhood room to this day.
I just want to write here and let you know that you're a really awesome guy! I've never met you in person and I'm not sure if it means much to you, but the way you go about yourself online is commendable and I thought it'd be a nice thing to tell you that :P Salaam!
Shokran, and thank you so much for taking the time to send a little positivity my way!
How does an indie developer get backed by devolver digital? Thanks!
You e-mail them with a great game pitch. Like everything in the industry, step 1 is actually doing things. Whether they succeed or fail is step 2. Either way, it's one step ahead of just lingering at step 1.
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This is a bit complicated, but as someone who went through a shooting, how do you want people to react to you when similar news happens? I am thinking about Kenya and that intense photo. Part of me wants to check in on a friend but what if doing that makes it worse, like introducing a trigger?
This is obviously a personal answer. Every person is different.
If you're only talking to them because they went through a shooting, that doesn't help a lot. At least, it didn't help me. It just reminds you that something out of the ordinary happened, and that something is awful. If you can talk normally -ie. the conversation would've happened regardless of the shooting- and you can raise the subject, that's fine.
Ironically, if you're not sure whether someone was involved in a local shooting, when things like these happen a lot of people ask whether 'you weren't there, were you?' expecting a 'no' as an answer. Don't be that person. It's really tiring to keep explaining to stunned people that 'yes, I was at this awful thing'.
How would you describe compare GameLoading to IndieGame: The Movie for someone who has yet to see the former.
In Indie Game: The Movie, there's this scene where Edmund gets a phonecall from Danny Baranowski. It's the one moment in the movie where it hints at the fact that indie games aren't made in a vacuum, but as part of a community.
GameLoading is the movie about that community, the games, people, trends thoughts and issues in it, in the period from 2013 - 2014.
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What do you think about #freethenipple?
My feelings on that are complex.
Personally, I'd prefer everybody just covers their chests and/or nipples - independent of gender. Then again, my feelings on that are prefixed with 'personally' because that is my preference, and I don't believe my preference is relevant in what other people do with their bodies or clothing.
As such, I guess I'm a silent supporter. I don't openly retweet or endorse the actual act of being topless (again, gender-independent) - but I support the idea of 'people should be able to dress as they want', and 'if male nipples are legally and societally OK, why can't women nipples be OK too' behind it.
If the law went and prohibited anyone from showing nipples in public (obviously, with the exception of breastfeeding), I'd be just as fine as if the law went and allowed all of it. It's the imbalance between men and women that I think is wrong.
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You mentioned awhile back that your spoken Arabic was rusty. How is it after your trip to Lebanon? How much continued use does it take to knock off the rust?
Still rusty. I think it'd take me two or three weeks to get a flow going again, two or three months to get back to something resembling fluency. I'll get those in sometime in the future :)
Do you EVER get tired? It seems like you have more hours in the day or something with all of the amazing things you do.
I think I've learned to sleep smarter. There's this whole story about sleeping more making you more productive, but while it's true that being well-rested is paramount to productivity, simply saying 'more is better' is ridiculous.
There are also myths about sleeping during the night and I don't know what. I sleep about 4 to 7 hours a night, and if I didn't hit at least six hours total for the day, I'll take a number 20 minute powernaps throughout the day to make up for it.
Your body is really good at hiding that it's tired, so that does take some discipline sometimes. Lack of sleep stacks up, though, so it's better to just not let it happen at all.
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Would you rather sleep on a plane or a boat?
Plane.
Kinda, hardware-related, but what lenovo laptop do you & JW possess?
Lenovo IdeaPad Y510P, if I'm not mistaken.
Do you have a favorite color of toothbrush?
Blue. I don't think I've ever owned a toothbrush that wasn't blue. With two siblings, each of our toothbrushes had seperate colors, and since I was the first born, I picked first and I picked blue. So that stuck.
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In Nuclear Throne there are quite a few menu options that are disabled. As a beginner game designer, this makes me curious. I've heard developers say to build a menu system first because you won't want to do when the game's done. Is it that, or simply to communicate something that's coming later?  Cam
Nope, it's that. Sadly, we've by now established that what we have is terrible, so we'll have to redo it anyway.
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What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
If I can pick two scoops, I pick chocolate at the bottom and mango on top. If I can pick a third one, it's either melon or a good vanilla, depending on my mood. Always whipped cream.
What are your views on putting a political message in video games. Because games like Mario and Monster Hunter obviously don't need to stress this, but do all story driven games need a political message or can they still be an enjoyable story on their own merits?
I think not all games intentionally have a political message in them, but I do feel all creation is reflective of our culture and worldviews - and as such our politics too. That means that every game has those personal reflections in there, and every story has them too.
Some of my favorite games have an enormous amount of politics involved in them. Deus Ex, Bioshock 1, Papers Please, Metal Gear Solid, Braid or Assassins Creed are highly political games that I thoroughly enjoy playing. Honestly, I think a game can be much richer for having a political core, but that core can also be cultural (Farsh), or a relationship (Gone Home), or an elaborate spreadsheet (Starcraft), or mastery (Super Meat Boy).
Personally, I get a lot of enjoyment out of playing games while wondering what the intent of the creators was for the game, or the mechanic, or the level, or the character, or whatever - seeing where they succeeded or failed to do that, or where they diverged or tried to cut corners. Sometimes, you can even tell a little bit about the team dynamics of a production by looking at a rough version of a game. It's a way of looking at games you have to learn if you want to give good feedback to students and other developers, and it's how I enjoy playing them now too.
But when you do that, you suddenly see that there's a bit of politics in every game. Vlambeer games don't feature alcohol because I'm muslim. It's no grand statement, but it surely is a socio-political one. Every game makes a statement about what games are, or could be, or should be. Every creation tells you how the creator views the world, themselves, in some cases how they see social structures or heroism or life or death or politics.
I read this article on Polygon the other day (http://www.polygon.com/2015/3/30/8297515/africa-draft) in which an African developer discussed their thoughts on RPG's - and I thought it was a great quote.
"American RPGs are based on conquest or saving the world for justice or peace," says Meli. "European RPGs, even if they draw upon Greek or Nordic mythologies, are often based on Christian philosophies and focus on prophecies of a chosen one. Japanese RPGs are based on the Hiroshima trauma. The hero tries to avoid a big explosion."
While that is, of course, a simplification - there's a truth there. We tend to base what we make upon what we know, and what we know is colored by what we -and those around us- believe and feel. If I were to argue that games weren't by definition a reflection of our cultural, political and personal beliefs, I wouldn't be comfortable arguing that they are a personal expression.
If games are a creative expression, they are a reflection of their creators as a whole. That includes the political. If the creator wants to make that, all power to them. If they don't, that's awesome too - there'll still be a bit of their political views there in the background noise of creation - but it won't be the focus. That's cool too.
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Have you checked out the reddit button?, any opinions on that? cant avoid to relate it with twitch plays pokemon, which i loved so much http://www.reddit.com/r/thebutton
I barely managed to not press it. Reminds me of games like 4 Minutes and 33 Seconds of Uniqueness by Petri Purho (http://www.kloonigames.com/blog/games/4mins33secs) - social experiments like these become so interesting when you've got something like Reddit as the pool for it.
Hi, I don't know wether you'd be able to answer this, since I don't know if you know spanish, but I have never ever met a muslim, so the little I know about Islam I read it here: http://yaelfarache.com/islam-101/ it puts in in a very bad light, and I wanted to know how much of it is true.
I think the main thing you should take away from that article is that there are 1.6 billion muslims around the world, or about 23% of this planet's population. If Islam truly was a religion of war, we'd be fighting World War 3 right now.
That does not mean the religion is free from bigoted or regressive views, or that the Quran is free from violent passages. But one thing about Islam that is important is that even the Quran itself says that no human should take it as an absolute, for its true meaning is known to Allah only. More problematic content exists in the human written content that is part of the culture in Islamic countries nowadays, which includes the Sunnah and Sharia. For me, Islam is based on the Quran, and as said, the Quran explicitely states that no human knows its true meaning.
The phrase that muslims use to communicate that idea is الله اعلم, pronounced "Allahu a'alam". It translates to "Allah knows best". If any muslim ever says something absolute, or communicates an absolute judgement based on the Quran, a wiser muslim will retort with that phrase. The wiser the muslim, the less likely they are to want to judge another human based on religious texts - instead they'll leave judgement up to Allah.
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Thanks, I understand that point of view better now.
You're more than welcome. Thanks for asking!
I've noticed some people going ,,lets have a month without books written by white cis men'' or ,,I'm not interested in a podcast if it's mostly white guys''. I'm an SJW, but hell... I think this kind of approach is equally awful to racism against non-white people. What do you think?
I don't think so. Jenn Frank wrote an amazing article called The Rolodex ( http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JennFrank/20140327/214022/The_Rolodex.php ) about how privilege structures affect people's chances in life. The idea of not reading work by 'cis white men' is less about the 'cis white men' than it is about finding things that are written by 'the rest of the world'. In a way, it's an active search towards more diverse media and perspectives by excluding the 'usual'.
Think of it this way: if you want to learn something new and interesting about a city you live in, you can do that by simply prohibit yourself from traveling the roads you already know. This is that, but the city is all of human expression, and the roads most traveled are 'cis white men'. It's not about about those roads, it's about the roads you're missing by always taking those.
considering your own religious background and beliefs, how would you negotiate religious practices at home, potentially with your own kids (e.g. if married to a non-muslim, what are rules about alcohol in the house, pork/bacon being served, etc.) - (Male Muslim in Western country)
I think I'm taking the same approach as my dad: teach the mythological, empathic and ritual parts of Islam, and connect the rules to home and house rather than their identity. I believe religion should be a choice rather than a given, so if they leave house they're free to make their own choices.
I won't store alcohol. Anything else will be an ongoing negotiation, as it should be.
I've only heard you speak English. Which do you speak more on a daily basis? English or Dutch?
Depends on where my day is.
Why are developers so insistent on pussyfooting around whether or not they're developing on Nintendo platforms? Every single time the answer is either just dismissive or so vague as to be pointless. I'm happy buying their game on PC, except if they tell me I'm an idiot for wanting it on the Wii U.
Because Nintendo is a strange platform to be working on. The hardware is rather specific, so getting the game to run is unpredictable until it's done. Then on top of that, business with Nintendo is a relative unknown too. Basically, until your game is done or the architecture is solid, you don't promise Nintendo platforms.
One thing that people like less than being vague is being lied to or having promises broken. So if you're in a spot where you're 90% sure, you go with 'we're hoping to hit Nintendo platforms' rather than 'yes' (which might not work out) or 'no' (which means some Wii U lover buys it on PC instead and then gets pissed off when it turns out you've been working on Wii U for months)
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How often do you find yourself trimming your circle of associates based on behavior you either disapprove of or find harmful? Have people burned bridged with you by simply being awful, even if not necessarily to you directly? I ask because, almost daily, I find myself unfriending/unfollowing/muting
Very, very rarely. I might be naive, but I like to believe most people are inherently trying to do good, even if they're failing at that miserably. Pretty much everyone starts with my trust, and they can only lose it from there. It hasn't happened often that my trust has been really misplaced: I've cut one person for leaking private conversations and using the threat of leaking conversations as leverage. Obviously, leaking the conversation did nothing, but it did show that person to be completely untrustworth. That's the one non-spam block I've ever done in my life. I will very occassionally unfollow people on Twitter if I find their contribution lacking.
You have the right to use social media in whatever way you want, whether it's as an open platform, a podium, a one-way broadcast or a tightly curated space. You can use blocks, followback, autoblockers, autofollowers - it doesn't matter. It's your social media. If you feel better for muting or unfollowing, please keep doing that.
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Rami Bear have you had a good insight recently? Please tell us about it. -Definitely Not Lisa
I realized a while ago that all my metaphors on games are about trees, but something always felt off about that. Just the other day I finally realized that they're not really about trees. They're about the processes of growth and life and nurture, not about what those create.
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So I love NC, and decided to look into the people that make it. I've noticed an awful lot of hostility towards "GamerGaters" or whatever they're called. After a little research, I don't see what there's so much to hate about 'em. Just seems like people being people. Your thoughts?
Gamergate is a militarized movement that pretends to be about 'ethics in videogame journalism'. It has been part of a larger movement that has caused a lot of hate, hostility and harassment in the industry. Participants vary wildly, but tend to be radically opposed to feminism, diversity initiatives, academia, criticism of the artform or progressive game design, or a combination thereof.
Gamergate has engaged in dogpiling, threatening, harassing, doxxing and intimidating - and were such a large problem that most major companies in the games industry have spoken up against the movement and the damage it causes to the industry and the reputation of the industry. Individuals tend to speak up against it less frequently, because the damage of Gamergate targeting you can include attempts at getting you fired, personal information being spread, harassment and threats against yourself or your loved ones. Many targets have resorted to using tools to make their social media experience usable again, and two-factor authentication became ubiquitous for people in the industry after the rise of Gamergate.
You can look up coverage about it on most major news sites, including CNN, BBC and in the gaming press. I'm strongly opposed to the movement, having been a minor target (worst I got was a photo of my front door with a threatening message, and that still makes me a minor target!) and knowing several of their main targets.
An upside of the movement is that now it is clear that our industry has community issues. While a majority of the games industry is very supportive of diversity efforts, we still have rotten apples and a subsection of gamers is still very hostile towards 'others'. We have a long way too go.
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What's your earliest childhood memory?
A lamp hanging from the ceiling of the house I was born in. We lived there until I was 3 years old. It's all I remember of the place.