StateCraft: Update

StateCraft: Update
Local Goldmines

Dana Massey | 28 Mar 2006 07:02
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The Americans dominate the videogame industry, and last year, I looked at how this spread their moral values around the world. This year, I want to flip things around and look at the reasons why foreigners should not only accept, but secretly be happy about the increased political pressure to spread American morals in videogames.

When Wish was cancelled in January of 2005, I saw a talented group of developers and artists left in a sticky situation. They had videogame experience, they had portfolios to die for, but they all had a huge problem finding jobs. Why was this? They're Canadian. The videogame industry is not just morally fixated on the United States, it seems to think you cannot produce a game anywhere besides California. Sure, there are satellite studios around the world, but for a Canadian, unless you work for Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, BioWare or one of a handful of smaller studios, you're out of luck. Since September 11th, this has become even harder as our friendly neighbors to the south tightened security. The entire situation is tragic for talented people around the world.

Yet, every time American developers are pressured by their government to make games that promote their values, it may be a victory for those unemployed Canadians and others like them. The more pressure applied and the further games move into the mainstream, the more likely we are to develop regionally diverse videogames. To date, the Western world has been content making games that appeal to the broadest possible market - the U.S.A. - and playing by their rules. Yet, as it becomes increasingly popular to play games, it becomes easier for a clever company to produce a more targeted product and still make a tidy profit. To me, it is only a matter of time before people around the world see their nation's interests are not being represented by mainstream game production companies. When this day arrives, gamers will be better served by products that actually represent them, their country, their ethnic group, their age group and their language.

It has already begun. While recently in Atlanta, I was talking to Rapid Reality about their upcoming projects, and they explained how Africa - their upcoming MMOG - was being partly financed by Africans living in the United States who wanted to explore the history of their continent in a new medium. This is a history too often glossed over in school books. The success of Africa is uncertain, but it is a crucial first step in the regionalization of the videogame industry. For the first time, Africans - no matter where they live - and people interested in the history of this continent will see their interests manifest themselves in a videogame. Hopefully, people in the industry will stand up and take notice that interesting stories are interesting stories, regardless of who they're about. I don't expect EA to develop extreme niche games anytime soon - that is not their role - but if Rapid Reality does succeed, they might show that highly focused topics can be commercially viable enterprises.

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