Monday, December 7, 2009

In terms of dependable income, game design isn't really fair

Think about it - when someone sells an orange, for example, the other person buys the orange, eats it, then buys another orange exactly like it. They don't expect the next orange to have better graphics or a new feature. They will keep buying the same thing.

This leads to an amount of certainty for the orange seller, since that demand is always there.

But with game design, once you've released something, it's released forever. You can't make space invaders again, it always has to be space invaders with some new twist or graphics upgrade or whatever.

And I'm not sure that's fair. Or I'm starting to think for my own paradigm, it isn't. Sure it's fun to invent new things, but when you look at it as some sort of income for your life, it's just a life of quiet desperation and uncertainty. That's not right?

What's the solution?

I'm not sure. Is there some way to make space invaders again, as an example, and people play it without going 'Hey, that's just space invaders, so I'll wash my hands of this straight away (and thus remove any certainty of income for you)'.

Perhaps some vector like newspaper columnists do, as while columnists also do make new stuff all the time, it's often based around the same principles of real life human concerns and so has repeating elements that can be sold again and again. So perhaps if you take your space invaders clone but plug in some text to it's gameplay about current events, that might give you a more dependable structure of income instead of the 'New! NEW! NEW!' culture of desperation we have now?

I think it'd suit me to try this as an experiment.


  1. This is a problem with any creative industry. Making a living with creativity stinks. A lot.

    Creating and being creative is great fun, but when you have to make money at it, it changes things.

    Of course, if you just make the marketing wonks the scapegoats, life gets a bit easier.

  2. I think the marketing wonks are probably better at making US scapegoats. I mean, that's mostly what marketing is...

    I'm starting to understand why alot of games just repeat the same qualities of previous ones. It's not stupidity - it's an understandable desire for certainty.

  3. Indeed. The numbers guys aren't stupid. They may be soulless game-hating zombies (or they may be great folk, it varies), but they aren't stupid.

    The MMO model of a "live" game has interesting potential for the "staying relevant via news" that you mention. Of course, that might mean new business models and very different subject matter...

  4. I didn't say they aren't stupid, just that the pattern of repeating previous games doesn't necessarily come from stupidity. They may very well be stupid and want certainty. They're not exclusive qualities :D

    In terms of a MMO, I once read a blog on getting more traffic for your own blog. One bit of main advice was to evangelicise your blog - get people so they start preaching your blog. Start a cult, just about. I could see his point. And with MMO, I think it's less about game and more about cult. When I think of an MMO, I think of human resource management more than I think of making a cool platformer or adventure game.

  5. True enough. ;)

    Also, retention in MMOs is heavily social, I'd even argue primarily social. To be sure, there is an addiction factor rooted purely in game design, but I think that managing the social cult factor is a bigger lever for success, both in the adoption phase and the retention phase.

  6. Oh, there was an article basically on that on mmocrunch

    Quoting part of it
    “MMOs are an easy way I can play online with my friends, but I don’t prefer them as games.”