I don’t want to scandalize anyone here, but you (yes, you) are in a love triangle. You may not realize it, but that doesn’t make it any less true; if you’re involved in creating or playing videogames, you’re in a fantastic, frustrating, frightening triangle of developers, publishers, and gamers. And like it or not, we all need each other more than we probably realize.

Developers love publishers for absorbing the considerable expense and risk associated with making games and the publishers love developers for giving them a product to sell. Gamers love developers for generating the fun, thoughtful experiences that enlighten and entertain, and developers love gamers for creating a market for those visions. Gamers love publishers for underwriting the whole process to games to our desktops and living rooms, and publishers love gamers for … well, by now, I hope you know why publishers love gamers.

It’s clear that, although we all want slightly different things from the other two partners in this relationship, everyone can get what they want so long as everyone else’s needs are also being met. Developers create fun, and gamers consume it, and publishers make their money in the middle. But none of these groups live in a perfect world and sometimes this relationship is thrown off balance as the needs and interests of one party impact the needs and interests of the others.

Like any good love triangle, there are frequent opportunities for friction and misunderstanding. Do publishers let profits influence a developer’s artistic vision? Do developers compromise their artistic vision for the sake of sales? Do gamers leverage their twin resources of rage and entitlement to diminish the artistic and commercial possibilities of the industry? The answers to all these questions are buried deep in the complexity of the three-way relationship between developers, publishers and gamers.

This week The Escapist takes a look at some of the finer points of these mutually beneficial (and sometimes hostile) relationships. In Secrets of the Guild, Robert Rath explores the world of developer education by taking us inside the celebrated school for gamemakers, The Guildhall. Robert Zacny shows us what it’s like to Die at the Hands of Your Own Creation with a close look at what went wrong with Alan Wake. Michael Samyn outlines the intersection between high art and commerce in Almost Art. Finally, our own Greg Tito’s Tactical Advantage relates how Sony took the time to ask gamers themselves how to make Magic: The Gathering even better.

So feel free to demonize or praise the other two parties in this relationship. First, just make sure you understand what they need and what they’re offering.

Steve Butts

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