Monday, April 4, 2011

The spoilt dream

What do the graphics add?
I was reading a profile of someone which listed them as being a gamer for 25 years and also having the dream of making a video game.

Okay, this is just a guess, but I imagine by pure over expectation they will never make that game.

Why? Well, what was out there 25 years ago? Sprites that came in one colour and with pixels the size of your thumb (almost!). Often coded by one dude in his bedroom.

That was the definition of a video game back then.

So what's the definition of a video game today?

Well, it's full 3d, surround sound, massive FMV, physics...damn, I could go on and on.

Really what's happened? Gamers have adopted a medium as being the very definition of game that they are audience to, that they have absolutely no hope of ever becoming an author in.

They can hear, but cannot speak.

By being spoilt by fancy graphics, gamers have, en masse, become mutes.

The adopted towering definition of a game these days means that someone who loves 'games'...can never have their own baby. It could also be described as an infertile relationship.

Just raising it because it's interesting to see how by catering to the flash and glam desires, you can actually silence millions. Clever, aye?

And yeah, I know, indie authors are putting out little games with retro looks. But even retro looks are being fetishised, until 'retro' is not at all 'retro'. See here as an example of faux retro - I mean, I like the game, but again were in the style and looks technology race, which again makes mutes of most people. Even the small developer starts leaning toward the same artificial graphics hurdle.

It's just a guess, but I think, for wanting to make their perception of what a game is, they'll never make one. Even though they've got something to say.


  1. You are correct and you are wrong. Gaming is at an awkward transition right now, where you have the traditional style of development (our big AAA experiences) and then you have...well, everything else. People are doing some really surprising things on the iPhone and iPad, right down to old skool JRPG style games. Facebook is seeing major and minor support as well. There's also the XNA platform on Xbox Live, though if you can't get exposure on the actual Marketplace you'll be cursed to the Indie Games, which resembles pre-Crash Atari days.

    I think right now the "Indie" scene is littered with games that are trying to be too experimental or just provide too many Tetris experiences, where you pick up, play a few minutes and toss it aside. Gaming snacks, if you will. They CAN become addictive, but for the most part a lot of people will, well, play it like they used to play Tetris.

    I think the big issue with the industry is that it's easier to get into if you're anything but a writer or other sort of creative type. If you're not a master programmer or artist of some sort, or don't have a studio in your area to which you can work 10 hour days for $9 an hour doing so-called QA, well, you're kind of screwed getting into a studio.

    I've been to a few industry panels, and a lot of guys recommend GameMaker as a good place to start if you have little technical know-how. Thing is, I've never heard any success stories from there.

    I think the bigger question is, who WANTS to work in the industry right now? Homefront just sold 1 million copies and THQ STILL had to lay off 30 people. Disney Interactive recently laid off around 80 I think. Bizarre Creations had to shut down. This stuff is happening constantly enough to be worrisome. I want to make games, but right now I think I'm going to look into it as a hobby rather than a profession.

  2. I think I read in a gamasutra article some time ago (I can't find it at the moment) that the greatest problem of today's games is that they arent being designed by actual game or genre freaks. like ccesarano said, a big issue is that being a 'genre insider' or just generally knowledgeable or creative, won't automatically get you a job - you need to have some programming background or great artistic/software design skills. probably also a solid education to show for.

    which is a pity imo because you really need both; MMORPGs live so much of atmosphere and coherence and require "script" as much as design and numbers. Funny enough I just published an article on this myself today - and yes, I am fully aware nobody in the industry will ever care for my opinion. ;)

  3. Hi ccesarano,

    Hmmm, if I'm reading you right your casually refering to addictiveness as a sought after goal - I'll just say I've presented addictiveness as not a good thing before. I rather think people have to say an addictive game is good - what else could they say? Their will is easily subverted? Anyway, that's the hypothesis I present (which I'll look at evidence against it).

    Also I guess I don't really care about the industry or getting into it or being 'successful' (by whoevers definition of successful). Atleast for this post I'm thinking will the guy make a game, even if not a single other soul on the planet plays it?

    Has the well been poisoned if he doesn't? He can't even make a game for himself? That's almost like being illiterate, isn't it? Can't even write a diary?

    In terms of the different subject of who wants to work in the industry - well, I agree in that it's the classic case of who are the guys being laid off? The top guys? Yeah, right! I think the very process shows that by working in the industry your not being creative, your simply being a cog in some top guys money making scheme. Maybe you'll be creative doing that, but it wont be ABOUT creativity, that's for sure.

    Hi Syl,

    Man, the whole 'get a job' thing - it really expands out to a bigger picture.

    I mean, I'm trying to say that even before you think about how the people with knowledge can't get a job...even before that...why are we even discussing having to get a job with these giants, before we can express ourselves?

    That's part of my idea of the spoilt dream - it's the recurring habit of either you sign up with a giant, or you are mute.

    Rather than the problem being that game/genre freaks, it's that the giants own the airwaves, perhaps it's more like that the giants own the airwaves and we support that? Each time we see some game we like get super hyped, were all 'Yeah!', but as we cheer that, we cheer there being one channel of communication and that it's the giants that own it. So when finally they bring out games that make us go yuck or hmph, we realise we have nowhere to go?

  4. I wouldn't say addictiveness is a sought after goal, though there is a fine line between immersion and addiction. Time can fly when you're absorbed into a game because it's just so fun. Time can also fly when you're unable to pull yourself away because you just need more...whatever you're playing to get more of.

    As for making a game for oneself, it is an admirable goal and the tools are there for it. Just depends on whether that person's genuine interests are simply in making something.