There was a time, not so very long ago, when games could be made by anyone who had the passion and the desire to do so. Small teams of friends, or even single people, could make games that were pushing the technological envelope of the medium, and they could do it in mere weeks. Many of these people were computer scientists, or university students who wanted to be computer scientists, giving them access to the required hardware. This was the golden age of videogames.
Unfortunately, that era has passed. While independent games are still made with this DIY ethos, and are sometimes even commercially successful, the real envelope-pushing stuff is being made with a a much less soulful approach than the homebrew projects of yore. The top of the videogame heap now belongs to multi-million dollar companies with HR departments, middle managers, and – most detrimentally – shareholders who expect a hasty return on investment.
The result of this increasing corporatism of the videogame industry is an overall decrease in the appetite for risk-taking. Less and less games are made with a truly unique and genre-defying design vision, and more and more games are made as bland sequels in easily digestible franchises; in other words, “safe” games. Games that won’t lose those all-important shareholders their money.
For most modern gamers, this is a story they’ve heard many times. The creative malaise in the industry is not a brand new phenomenon, and has been evident for more or less as long as the publisher-developer business model has been around. Fortunately for the videogaming populace – for whom the current industry model has been largely detrimental – a remedy may be in sight. Continue reading