Kelgray and Beyond

int game_engine(void) {

The Gaming Industry

This was originally written in response to Matt Jenkins’ blog post: Mastering digital media where he talks about how video games are redefining the way that we communicate, but it got pretty long and involved several tangents so I figured I may as well post it here instead.

 [To Matt]  You sound pretty optimistic about the gaming world.  There’s a downside with the way things are going though.  Both with games and with the internet.  Just as we “interact in a manner that approximates our offline experience”, the internet, and especially the gaming community, is beginning to manifest itself in a close approximation to the corporate world.  Just like Walmart puts smaller stores out of business because they can’t compete with its low prices, the large gaming companies have overtaken the smaller ones as the small companies don’t have the funds or the manpower to produce the same caliber of game that the large companies do.

Once upon a time when our harddrives were measured in Kilobytes and Bill Gates himself still claimed that “No one will ever need more than 640K of memory.” games were made by individuals and small groups.  It wasn’t because we didn’t have the ability or the knowledge to make huge games, it was because no one would buy them because no computer could handle them.  As our computers got more powerful games were able to expand.  Involve more and better graphics and gigantic worlds.  Soon it was no longer a problem of trying to fit everything on something that people could play.  It became a problem of not having enough time to finish writing the many lines of code and painting the pretty bitmaps.  So companies expanded.  The more money a company had the more people and computing software it could manage, which in turn meant that it could make bigger and better games.  Kinda seems like how corporations were built doesn’t it?

Nowadays we have to make laws that outlaw monopolies, and even with those, corporations seem to be controlling the world in many aspects.  Which means that we lose out on variety of point of view.  Often times it seems as though we have a single view in our professional lives nowadays.  The drive for money and power.  A vision that is held by the financial elite, who won’t stop trying to push forward, regardless of how much money and power they have.  Because of this, if one does not value money and power, one is fated to become powerless and destitute.  Okay, maybe it’s not quite that bleak, but sometimes it seems that way.  As I deal with more corporations and big businesses it seems more and more that skills and smarts are valued less than charisma.  Unfortunately it’s an extroverts world.

Anyway, back to the topic.  Big Gaming Industry.  It’s still so much newer than most other industries and is still expanding, but unfortunately, large companies have started to firmly stake their claim on the gaming world and don’t seem to be going anywhere, while the smaller companies are left to either get swallowed up or die.   That may be a bit of an exaggerated and bleak way of putting it, but it can be hard to see otherwise sometimes when you see how large game corporations fixate on making the shiniest game, while people who really care about making a narrative-driven game where the players actually cares about what they’re doing and wonder how it’s going to end, end up making free flash gamesin their spare time while they work for the man.  I’ll admit that not all the high-end games out there are crap story-wise compared to what we used to have, but if you take at least 90% of the high-end games out there and look past the graphics you’ll often find weak (and far too often short) storylines that are simply designed to get you from one playing area to the next.  I’ll be the first to admit that Halo/Halo2 are pretty games, but I couldn’t tell ya how the story goes.  Ask me about The Secret Of Mana on the other hand.

Fortunately, the gaming community has a weapon that mom n pop shops don’t.  Piracy.  It may be illegal and it may even be morally wrong, but does that mean that it has to be a bad thing itself?  Now I’m not advocating piracy or anything.  I’m all for paying the people who make what you want so that they can make more, but I’m not talking about individual acts of piracy so much as the simple fact that it exists.  Look at what it did for the music world.  As it became easier to download songs big names started to complain but small names started to appear.  Good or bad, piracy has opened up the music community so that now we can hear all sorts of music that we never would have been able to come across fifteen years ago.  The indie music scene, the bands that have relied on their concert and merchandise earnings more than their record sales, has flourished as the internet has provided a way to get new music to an audience that wants to hear it.  Now the independent programmer and smaller game companies have a chance to fight back.

As fewer big titles come out for the PC more small titles will.  As much as people love their Xbox they’re still gonna love their computer too and will want something to keep their attention.  Granted, small companies suffer from piracy as well, but these companies have to remember that if the method that people use to pirate their games (the internet) didn’t exist, then many of them wouldn’t be able to sell their games in the first place.  They need to think of it simply as advertisement.  Maybe not for the game itself, but for the company.  If you make something that people love, they’re going to watch for what you do next, regardless of how they came to play your game in the first place.  It may be a harder journey than it was before the advent of Kazaa, but the time between when the internet became a useful tool for game advertisement and the time when rampant piracy began to pop up all over the internet was a short one.  The one comes along with the other, and it seems silly to resent the thing that allowed you to exist in the first place.  Keep at it.  Make your money on advertisements if you have to.  Or make a few games and try to have them pirated so that when you make one that needs to get verification from a webserver, enough people will know about it for you to sell a few copies.  Whatever ya do, keep on truckin’.  Things will get better.  One area that I am sure that the internet is going to improve on soon is electronic debit.  As soon as that becomes cheap and easy to use, independent games are going to soar through the roof and we’re going to have a whole new era of computer games.  Just you wait and see.

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March 24, 2007 - Posted by | Computer Programming, Games, Generalities, programming, Technology, Videogames, Writings

2 Comments »

  1. Is this is about flash games?

    Comment by Robert | May 3, 2007

  2. you can pirate flash games now?

    Comment by Taylor | May 3, 2007


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