Friday, October 5, 2012

For Gamers, By Gamers

Something I've recently seen being brought up a lot on video game websites and forums is all the people in this industry that don't actually have any real interest in the art or craft beyond the cash which can be made from it.  The most obvious example of this is Xbox Live which has become more and more like an advertisement ridden entertainment hub rather than a dedicated video game platform.  But it goes well beyond that.  Guys like Riccitiello and Kotick have increasingly demonstrated that they really want to reduce game development down to its most addictive aspects.  To give a pair of analogies it's like coffee that has everything taken out but the caffeine, or if you prefer beer that with every brewing is pushed nearer and nearer to the 100 percent alcohol mark.  It's not healthy, enriching or good for the hobby and industry as a whole. 

So what's the cause of this?  Well, it really comes down to people running the game industry who don't play games.  CEO's and their lackeys aside, marketing departments blow tons of cash on events that are ostensibly meant to promote new games, but in reality expend a lot of budget resources on B-list Hollywood talent, flavor of the month musicians and circus performers.  Make a good game and it will speak for itself!  If anything all this sloppy advertising takes away from the games since it's money that doesn't go toward actual development.

It gets worse when you consider that this money obsessed mindset leads to games that are meant to maximize short term gains rather than cultivate the medium. To paraphrase what one successively Kickstarter funded developer said in promo video; the problem with producers is they're really just looking for the next Angry Birds.  In other words time waster games with simple mechanics and low budgets, but high potential for quick profits.  The ugly twin of this philosophy is stuff like Call of Duty which is more akin to a military themed roller coaster ride than a video game with its flashy spectacle but shallow game play (even by FPS standards).

I've painted a rather grim picture here, but there is still hope.  FTL is selling well and one reason is it's made for gamers by gamers.  The basic modus operandi being "make the game you want to play."  So, the fact that this crowd funded game is both a finical and critical success makes me very happy because it's a sure indicator that there are a lot of gamers out there that want more than the "junk food" of the video game industry. Perhaps this new form of gaming philanthropy will be the saving grace of the industry? Regardless it's nice to have some kind of counterweight for the shortsighted corporate greed that plagues this generation of entertainment software.

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