To the Editor: Warren Spector's "Gaming at the Margins" continues to be essential reading. Part Four, "Breaking Out of the Best/Worst Trap" raises some very interesting points concerning the role of mainstream vs "marginal" work in creative fields. But then he offers this vision of the future:
"If we do all that, we might just find ourselves appealing to a larger, more diverse audience than ever before. If we do all that, we just might succeed."
With my game developer hat on, it seems to me that this epitomizes the problem. Speaking for myself, I don't want to appeal to ever larger and more diverse audiences. That's what the mainstream does. I see the way out of the trap involving small independent studios making games which appeal to smaller, less diverse audiences.
With my consumer hat on... it's the same story. Whether it's music, film, food or games I don't share the tastes of the mainstream. But if someone wants to start making games just for me, they'll certainly get more of my custom. (Currently I buy only two or three games each year.)
Like many people with similar views, my hopes for the near future are currently pinned on Greg Costikyan's Manifesto Games. If all goes according to plan, that could easily become a flagship for the kind of innovation that we need to complement the mainstream staples.
Of course niche markets have to mean lower budgets but that need not be a bad thing. I don't think innovative games need teams of twenty artists any more than innovative films need large production crews. At least not if we're serious about the emphasis being on gameplay and narrative.
To the Editor: Just wanted to thank you for your wonderful magazine.
I stumbled (>Firefox PlugIn Stumble) over it today and couldn't stop reading in it. In my opinion your design concept is the best approach ever that I've seen for a Web-Magazine with the feeling of a "real" magazine.
Keep up the great work!
-Bernhard from Germany
From The Lounge: [Re: "WAL*MART Rules" by Allen Varney] Good article, Allen.
The dream of infinite shelf space, while solving some problems, has its own issues. When there are thousands of titles to choose from online, getting found becomes difficult. Marketing (viral or otherwise) becomes much more important. Sure, user recommendations and various social networks can help, but it's still going to be difficult. Small developers will be able to create original titles without retail oversight (if they can afford the development budget on their own), but they're going to have to find ways to make people aware of their games.
Still, I look forward to seeing digital distribution become more popular - it should result in more titles, more originality, and better rewards for small developers.
From The Lounge: [Re: "Friction Costs" by Jason Della Rocca] Great article and there is lots to do but one thing I'd really like to get clear. Game development is not software development, it is Entertainment. 70% of most teams are artists. Our job is not to follow a functional spec, our job is to create entertainment.