Just finished watching the second part of Mr. Scott Steinberg’s video doohickey, Video Games are Dead, which he’s posted over at Digital Trends (Part 1). I’ve got some thoughts on the whole thing. (Video after the jump)
I think the video offers a fascinating look at changes happening in the games industry due to the spread of gaming among the masses. A lot of interesting viewpoints are expressed by guys like Chris Taylor and Dave Perry and my old boss, Dr. Ray Muzyka, and really, I’m immensely excited about the future of games. I have so many ideas floating around in my head that could feasibly see the light of day given the many options available to prospective developers today. And I’m not very smart… just imagine what actual smart people could do with these options!
I understand the appeal of social gaming. I’ve played Farmville. Yeah, what? Wanna fight about it? So I’m a virtual farmer. I, like millions of others, have timed my day around my crops — “I’ll be drinking by 9, so I won’t be able to effectively tend to my raspberries.” It’s free, too, so it’s got that going for it.
I love small-scale games and indie projects. Tale of Tales’ horror game (?) The Path was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had on my PC in years. I’ve been playing Shadow Complex, OMFG. I have no beef with that stuff.
BUT! What bothers me is that a lot of people seem to be writing core games off entirely — like they’re some unwanted and shunned older child, just not as cute as the fresh newborn social baby. It’s like the PC Games Are RUINED thing all over again… finally we can take the spotlight off of of that argument. What this whole shift shows us isn’t that one medium is going to succeed over another, but that there are a lot of people who want to play games and they want to play them everywhere. As long as there’s an audience, companies will be there to deliver a product that fills the demand. In the case of big blockbuster games, there’s a huge audience out there, and it’s going to take a looooooong time (long) for those gamers’ tastes to shift so dramatically as to kill that market.
With the potential core gamer audience growing, pricing becomes an influential element in the gamer’s product of choice. Can $60 games succeed in a world where gamers can get a longer-lasting game for free online? At $30 or even $20 I know that I’d buy a lot more games just to try them out. I’d love to see someone try that. But shouldn’t we be looking at this all as a huge opportunity instead of the second coming of Pauly Shore? Armageddon is not here yet, folks.
It seems reasonable to believe that core gaming on the PC might actually thrive in this new market — social gaming acting as a gateway to more in-depth experiences, all just a click or two away from Mafia Wars. Mac gaming should be a big open door, with the strong brands and gaming appeal established by the iPhone and iPod. As an Xbox 360 connects to Facebook, it becomes a conduit between two completely viable gaming platforms.
With the creativity that exists in the world and the increasing power of tools made available to creators, gaming only stands to benefit from its status as the new hot-shot in the entertainment industry. We can make broad, sweeping epics and we can do minimalist projects that challenge the definition of the word “game.” Let’s ditch the end-of-the-world crap and embrace the fact that the future is full of possibility.