Kickstarter and digital delivery means more games, and Levine loves that.
“I think Kickstarter’s is the best thing that’s ever happened because what it means is more games,” says Ken Levine in a Wired interview. “It means more artisanal games.” Games that can afford to appeal to a niche audience, and which don’t have to sell 10 million copies to be economically feasible. Kickstarter and digital delivery have changed gaming, and Levine loves it.
That doesn’t blind him to some potential flaws in the system. “I’m starting to think there’s almost a yearning for nostalgia that’s almost limiting to coming up with stuff that’s very unique in visuals,” says he. “I don’t feel there need to be as many pixel art games as there are.” It’s the lack of risk-taking that worries him, in a field where experimentation ought to be the name of the game.
It’s something he misses, because – being a company man – he can’t create the kind of artisanal game he enjoys. The economics of it prevent, say, BioShock Infinite and its Burial At Sea DLC from playing around with mechanics or concepts. Gone Home‘s approach to narrative is something he admires, and wishes he could emulate.
“What I’ve really been thinking about recently is narrative, and how to make narrative replayable,” says Levine. “And that’s a super, super hard problem.” How do you break narrative down into its component parts, remix it, and still come out with something legible even with significant plot changes?
“I almost think it’s a problem you can’t take on in a huge game because it’s just too much risk for a crazy sort of indie experiment idea.” He wants to make a game out of it. He just doesn’t know how; not yet, anyway.