61: Why We Haven't Lapsed

"The game industry is alive and well, and it ain't going anywhere. Neither, for that matter, are many of the developers. Some of the best and brightest people I have ever met work - present tense - in the game industry. The golden lure that yanked me away from graduate school and into games had nothing to do with the "glamour" or any idiotic pipe dream about fame and fortune - it had to do with the people.
But we are bleeding talent at a horrendous rate. This is the real bogeyman for the actual development of games."
Erin Hoffman, the writer formerly known as "EA Spouse," explores the life of a game developer in "Why We Haven't Lapsed."

Why We Haven't Lapsed

Way to say it, Erin - I couldn't agree more.

Duncan

Well said and its good to read something to counter the doom and gloom.

To be fair to Crawford and Costikyan though, they're trying to fix it in their own way not just walking away. Greg is doing www.manifestogames.com and Crawford is off in his lab working on interactive storytelling which whether or not proves to a good thing and something new (outside of gaming) doesn't matter. Its tackling the hardest questions about drama in games and that IS innovative.

If their harsh language in decribing the industry was required to get people to take notice and help fuel this magazine and for us to hear counter opinions such as yours, then that is a great thing.

Wonderful essay. I'm a big fan of what you've done, Erin. In many ways, we are saying the same things, though the particular piece of mine you linked to was a bit on the dark side. :-)

- Focus on people-centric development methodologies. Game development really doesn't need to model itself on the practices of Mr. Disney circa 1941.
- Take advantage of growth markets such as casual games, the DS, and online games.
- Value experience.

I also believe that it is okay to leave the game industry and see how things are done outside our mildly inbred community. Perspective and a omnivorous liberal arts appetite for different ideas can still have a positive impact on game development. As any great game designer will tell you, making a good game isn't just about referencing other games. We all need to pull our heads out of the sand occasionally and sample outside influences.

Many of these gloom and doom comments ultimately stem from a passionate belief in the immense potential that games offer as a creative and social medium. It is customer service 101: the ones who complain the loudest love you the most. Badluckchild's examples are spot on. It is good to have some prickly characters that rile things up occasionally, because they still believe that our industry has the ability to better itself. That warms my heart immensely.

take care,
Danc.
www.lostgarden.com

Thanks for your comments, all.

badluckchild -- I agree with you in part, and I certainly apologize if I appeared to lump Greg in with Chris Crawford, because I think they're too radically different situations. I greatly enjoy and am impressed by Greg's work, and I loved his GDC rant, actually. It WAS what we all needed right then, but it was also 180 degrees separated from the rants the following year. Greg was rallying people to fight and highlighting very real issues in the industry. He also posts some really insightful stuff to his blog that I greatly enjoy reading. I absolutely agree with you that his anger was necessary and I do think it also fueled change, which is the best that can be hoped for.

Chris Crawford I can't say the same for. He did walk away, or he believes that he did -- he talks about his grand exit from the game industry. And he has been saying the same thing for far too many years without taking into consideration the industry's growth and the new directions games have taken since he started that. Now it's just a Chicken Little routine that I honestly just don't understand. I can see at a couple of points in game history where one might be tempted to think the medium was dead -- but to say so now is just patently absurd. And his bitterness has no forward momentum, it's just plain nastiness. If he thought that he was exploring interactive narrative as a branch of game development I could respect that -- I've got a special place in my heart for the interactive narrative -- but instead he believes he's left behind all us poor saps toiling away on this sinking ship to nowhere, and that I cannot respect.

Danc, wow, thanks for responding. I agree that I think we're saying some of the same things. A lot of what you centered on in your blog post (and I certainly wouldn't have responded to it if it didn't have substance and was so well expressed) were issues facing games, but what I wanted to highlight was that they actually ARE being addressed. And of course it is totally all right to leave the industry, and in some cases it might be a good thing -- get a breath of fresh air. If nothing else, I've talked to people that have left and come back and it actually enriches their experience because they understand the value of what we've got here.

Definitely agreed about the need for creative influences outside the industry. This is a pretty darn desperate need, IMHO. Jason Della Rocca I believe had an article in the Escapist a few issues back that talked about this and I thought it was spot on.

A little healthy anger is always a good thing -- I am not zen enough to tell you otherwise. ;) But it's good to keep it productive. And definitely where they still believe the industry can be so much more, I appreciate and applaud that. It's where it gets darker and onto the despair side of bitter that I think it goes too far. Thanks again for replying.

I suppose my view of Crawford comes from never having met him personally or having been on the recieving end of any bitterness directly. I have tried to look past the attitude and have looked at what I can learn from the guy. Regardless of whether of not he thinks Interactive Storytelling is a completely new field and has no relation to the game industry, there is a lot to be learnt from any success or failure he has because it really is tackling the hard stuff about drama, emotion and interactivity head on and that I can respect.

I think perhaps, realistically or not, Crawford had a much different view for the industry and any developments such as Katamari Damacy or the DS fall under the category of incremental innovation in his eyes and his belief is that incremental innovation is never going to fix the industry.

Sounds like I'm speaking on the guys behalf doesn't it. Perhaps he'll drop by and straighten me out :)

Danc, thanks for the Lost Garden. You got me hooked on Dice Wars too :)

 

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