And yet this community is only for the customers. Try to offer your screenplay to the director just in for lunch and you'll get a swift boot to the face. To make a PopCap game, you have to work for PopCap (or bump into them at GDC). To make a Pogo game, you have to work for EA.
Some casual sites are also game brokers, soliciting game designs and sifting through them for the gems. Some of the starlets signed from these casting couch acquisitions can go on to B-game stardom, or at least sign a deal for their next game. Some veteran developers even are finding new life for their old talents at places like Crazy Monkey. But for every Boxhead or Turret Defense, there are hundreds more developers making lattes while waiting for their big break.
"When a game is completely accessible to anyone with a computer and an internet connection, far more people end up enjoying your games than if they were commercial releases," says Brad Borne, developer of Fancy Pants Adventures, a side scrolling, 2-D Flash game starring a stick figure in fancy, yellow pants. "Taking risks is no risk to Flash developers. We don't have to sell our ideas to a publisher, nor market to a specific crowd, or even have to 'look cool.'"
If the game industry is Hollywood and casual games are B-movies, sites like Kongregate are cable television; allowing anyone with an internet connection and a game to get involved.
Kongregate works like this: You design a game, you upload it to Kongregate's servers and the Kongregate community plays it and scores it relative to other games. It's an easy way to get games in front of people, and the people, not some marketing executive, decide what's popular.
"Instant feedback and reviews is definitely something that I appreciate," says Borne, a self-employed, self-taught game designer who's been designing Flash games for over four years and "can't really draw. ... I couldn't see myself doing anything else. I love creating things, and I love videogames."
But even for a pro-indie like Borne, the lure of the bright lights is attractive: "There's so many things that I'd like to do if I was actually designing a game with a real budget and staff, but until then I'm just going to enjoy the freedom allowed by building a game from the ground up for no one but yourself." Today Kongregate. Tomorrow, the world.
Russ Pitts is an Associate Editor for The Escapist. His blog can be found at www.falsegravity.com.