161: Rise of the Videogame Zinesters

Rise of the Videogame Zinesters

"There are lots of independent game developers trying to make a living off of their craft - I'm occasionally one of them - but there's a growing number of people who create free games simply to make their voices heard. These are people for whom game development is not a primary profession; whose background is not in computer science or 3-D modeling; who build games in their spare time out of a curiosity and love for the medium and a desire to make the games that no one else will. Hobbyist game developers, self-published authors. Videogame zinesters."

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Hmmm. Interesting article, so kudos there. (You can either have my approval or the little candy bar, whichever seems more appetizing) I just don't know if this is really feasible. Writing was a natural extension of speaking, and it certainly was wide-spread before the printing press. Video games have always been less of a natural extension...one could easily argue they are the paradigm of the artificial extension of thought. When I read a book (when the internet isn't working) I'm not just reading an immersive story. Its an actual conversation, as the author makes points and counter-points and paints an argument over hundreds of pages. A video game, even if time consuming, doesn't involve that dialogue. In the end, it will always be about the user's decisions.

I don't know, perhaps I'm being overly cynical. I would deeply enjoy a game that doesn't just throw in the plot after the gameplay has been decided. Heck, maybe some company could even hire a writer to create a plot that actually is...a plot. But I don't think that's going to happen.

In the end, a great piece of art must be recognized as great by other artists. For books, I believe the great reviewers are other intellectuals. And, despite how big my head can be, I am no intellectual. And I don't think that an intellectual leadership exists in the gaming community, at least not at the same level as one that would exist in other fields. Money attracts money and intelligence attracts intelligence. And with none of the latter, we will be stuck in an industry that lives for the former.

Just my humble opinion. Again, I think its a very good article.

Very good article, good job. I will say that I think video games won't go beyond that blockbuster-budget AAA title mark. I know that indie developers are giving games to the masses through various mediums, but when a big title comes out, the world stops.

Most people don't go out on the internet searching for games. Most indie developers probably don't advertise very heavily, therefore it's harder to get your game out there. I think Kevin P. on G4 is doing a FANTASTIC job of giving the indie scene a little exposure with his little short clip "indie games". He tells you about a new indie game he's found like Boomshine. It's usually a fun little internet game that could eventually become an XBOXlive/PSN title. Granted most of the games that he looks at have a decent amount of exposure already, but it's still getting somewhere.

But I digest... (yes, don't grill me on this, it's overused a thousand times. had to do it.)

Games like The Baron just don't seem feasible to me. Games are an escape from reality. Something like that makes us deal with problems in the real world. We should do this, of course, but games like that aren't going to sell as well as drugged up space marines shooting dildos out of rocket launchers. It's a simple fact of right now. Maybe in the future, the small niche of cultured gamers (Not me, I love gore and blood and I want to kill sexy space aliens.) will gather and make a game that will reset the bar for video games. Until then, we'll just have to play our Halo and love it (We do, right?).

The indie gaming community has the same problem that the rest of the internet has, even if there are a few gems (Audiosurf and Nabacular Drop come to mind) most indie games are derivative, non-sense or just plain bad.

Shushyne4np2ne:
Games like The Baron just don't seem feasible to me. Games are an escape from reality. Something like that makes us deal with problems in the real world. We should do this, of course, but games like that aren't going to sell as well as drugged up space marines shooting dildos out of rocket launchers. It's a simple fact of right now. Maybe in the future, the small niche of cultured gamers (Not me, I love gore and blood and I want to kill sexy space aliens.) will gather and make a game that will reset the bar for video games. Until then, we'll just have to play our Halo and love it (We do, right?).

For the Indie game developer types mentioned in this article the need to make a popular game does not exist. The need is rather to make their game their way. As a Indie developer that doesn't care about money I do however care if people like my game. But I would be happy if 10 people liked it and ecstatic if 1000 people like it. I view it more as a piece of art than something that makes me money.

Thank you. I have said, in various stages of frustration, every paragraph of this article in conversation. It's nice to see it consolidated in a meaningful and eloquent way.

As with indie musicians, indie video game designers will always struggle against the big companies. That said, even indie musicians make it big every now and then. Similarly, indie video games will bubble to the surface every now and then. As people become more serious about wanting to find good video games (and it's happening; I'm now one of them), they will go out in search of something different and the indie's will be found.

The challenge for an indie video game is immense. Without highly-paid artists or marketing teams, an indie game has to be several times better than a blockbuster title in order to be found. But when it happens, you can guarantee that people will jump all over it. Audiosurf is a great example -- it got my dollar.

Shushyne4np2ne:
Games like The Baron just don't seem feasible to me. Games are an escape from reality. Something like that makes us deal with problems in the real world. We should do this, of course, but games like that aren't going to sell as well as drugged up space marines shooting dildos out of rocket launchers. It's a simple fact of right now. Maybe in the future, the small niche of cultured gamers (Not me, I love gore and blood and I want to kill sexy space aliens.) will gather and make a game that will reset the bar for video games. Until then, we'll just have to play our Halo and love it (We do, right?).

I am very curious about games that attempt to say something about the real world. I like escapism but I also want something more. I like it when games attempt to say something.

edit: I just tried Baron and it's very interesting.

Great article, I registered just to respond to this. I will just keep it short and sweet by saying that it was simply a beautiful piece of prose and kept me completely enthralled throughout.

Three cheers for Anna Anthropy, I'm excited to see you're next work. People like you really are a ray of sunshine in the gaming society.

I myself have always enjoyed games that seem to question your true ethical beliefs. Baron didn't come to mind when I first saw this, but Bioshock did instead.

You have to choose between saving these little girls, or saving yourself. That decided the overall outcome of the game. I decided to save them, being the goody-two-shoes I have always been. My friends, however, chose to be greedy psychopaths, harvesting the innocent little girls for their own personal gain. How could they be so insensitive?

I started thinking about the ethics of what they did as I fell asleep. It was truly amazing to me how a person in their right mind could do something like that. Games that make me think are what make me feel like I really have a choice. Some people choose to be selfless and help other people while lowering themselves, and some people choose to rise up alone, like selfish bullies who only have their own interests in mind. Then it hit me. THIS IS HOW PEOPLE ARE.

I had always viewed the general world with disdain and anger, but Bioshock opened my eyes. I truly think we need more games like this: ones that apply their ethics to real life. Whether it tells you how the world is or how YOU are, they are both truly amazing in the way they apply themselves to real life.

Thank you, video games, for showing me the truth behind the common struggle today: GOOD and EVIL.

Let me finish my post with a speech from Andrew Ryan about his city, Rapture.

"A man has a choice. I chose the impossible. I built a city where the artist would not fear the censor. Where the great would not be constrained by the small. Where the scientist would not be bound by pity morality. I chose to build Rapture. But my city was betrayed by the weak. So I ask you, my friend, if your life was blind, would you kill the innocent? Would you sacrifice your humanity? We all make choices, but in the end, our choices make us."

In a way games such as this describe are simply pc gaming returning to its roots.
In the 80's and early 90's most games where shareware produced in parents garages (Doom and Warcraft are two notable examples).

From one perspective pc gaming lost it's way by focusing two much on providing polished games equivalent to console games, rather than experimental and more interesting games.

 

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