Saturday, December 13, 2008

Some Thoughts About Provoking Thoughts

I've had some difficulty coming up with something I thought important or interesting enough to write about first. I was reading this Gamasutra article which lists the editors top five indie games picks of 2008. The list itself is interesting, but what caught my attention was the little summary at the bottom with regards to their number one choice, I wish I were the Moon:

"...this indie title goes to the core of what is fascinating about independent games today. At its best, they're different, they're evocative, they're poignant, and they make you think differently about yourself and your life."

I immediately thought to myself, what makes these traits so inline with Indie Games? Why aren't triple A titles considered part of this domain as well? It would be foolish of me to say that this is the oppinion of the entire industry, but it certainly is something I've noticed more online and certainly amongst my peers. The idea that indie games are reserved for the art and making statements, with triple A titles being reserved for more light hearted fun.

In contrast to the above sentiment, there was also an interview posted with Tom Fulp and Dan Paladin of Castle Crashers/Alien Hominid fame. What was interesting about this was where the interviewer asked them what was up with all the pooping animals in the game. His response was:

"I didn't want people to take our game seriously. You know, like that they're thinking that there's some kind of statement that we're making in any form whatsoever. People will do that. I think that the more we show people that, we're just having fun and want them to have fun. "

So here's a guy on the indie side of things saying, "Hey, we just want people to have fun." and here's me wanting to be on the triple A side of things saying, "Hey, why can't we be serious?" Where does the disconnect stem from?

I think part of it stems from the fact that publishers, while being more acceptive of statements than they used to be, are still scared of upsetting customers. So, the biggest outlet for those kinds of games are on the indie side. So now there is this perception that indie games are for art and triple A games are for fun and thats the way things are.

I don't know if there is a solution to the developers vs. buisnessmen debate, only compromises that fall on either side of the scale, but a big step in the right direction is getting ourselves as an industry out of this rut of "This is what an indie game is, this is what a triple A game is, this is an FPS, an RPG, an MMO, etc. etc." The more we fall into that trap, the less we can do with the medium.


Heather Conover said...

Ray, I had this same exact conversation with someone after reading the same article! What I concluded from it all is that what this industry needs is a new mindset that will hopefully come from the younger generations (like us). The industry is afraid to take risks right now, especially in this economic decline. They're going to produce things that will sell, and from looking at the past, Triple A titles with "meaning" hardly fit into that picture. I put "meaning" in quotes because I think that another part of the problem is that we also tend to assume that Triple A titles don't have any meaning, therefore we look over the meaning within it. See: Bioshock, Half-Life. To me, those games have meaning, but because they aren't Indie games the industry deems that they have none. I totally agree with you that we need to stop sitting in the rut of genre definitions and begin to create games that break those boundaries.

Luckily for us, I think that more and more companies will start to hire students once the economic decline is over, and I believe that will really change what is going on in the industry.

Thought provoking entry. Thanks!

Glen Cooney said...

I think the big thing that needs to happen is diversification. That's what's ultimately helped things like literature and film survive in all their myriad of forms.

To some degree, it makes the whole "games should be/do this" or "games should not be/do this" moot, since so long as people respond to it I would consider that game successful.

It reminds me a lot of some of the sort of narrative theory stuff I've been reading up on, and one point is brought up in this video I found where Philip Pullman is talking about how he wrote his "His Dark Materials" series (the first book being "Northern Lights," aka "The Golden Compass" in America). Around 2:00 in this video he starts talking about the shift between "high" art of storytelling and "low" art of storytelling. Fascinating stuff: