Culture

Rambling Dispatches: Avaricious game developers

pokemon

Every Thursday in Rambling Dispatches, resident malcontent Quinn McGee rants about whatever he damn well pleases.

So I subscribe to a few gaming news channels on YouTube. While I’m not a super gamer who plays non-stop, I like to keep informed in case I ever want to venture into the gaming world for something new. While watching one of the daily gaming news shows, I heard a story that made me inquire further. Apparently some of the members of the 4chan community are endeavoring to create a completely fan-made and free Pokémon game. Now, you will not see me recommend certain parts of this particular web community to anyone, but the /vp/ (or Pokémon) community there is pretty safe.

Sure, there have been fan-made creations using Pokémon, but the one creative thing that stands out about this project is the fact that they’re creating completely new Pokémon and sprites for the game. All of this is happening on the boards among a group of people there so that it can be distributed for free. It’s not easy creating a game like this; I tried many a time to create my one RPG game with the same programs that they’re using, and failed miserably. I played the demo for the game, and it’s honestly better than some of the things that can be found in existing Pokémon games. It’s a rather short demo, with a lot of the features we know and love from Pokémon games missing, but it’s a great sign of what’s to come from this collective.

This got me thinking a lot more about fan-created content and what it means for the future of all media. You don’t have to travel far on the internet to find an article damning some aspect of the mainstream media. People complain about the massive amounts of money wagered on the shallow and action-filled stories in movies. Transformers comes to mind, as that whole trilogy was nothing but breasts, explosions and a loose plot within which Michael Bay could place those breasts and explosions. Movies aren’t the only area of pop culture that’s plagued by the money and bullshit of the business world. Video games are also guilty of this.

It would be hard to miss the hatred aimed at Electronic Arts in the past year, and even before that. They were voted the worst company in America, beating out Bank of America in 2012. They won this for being a company that comes in, buys up smaller companies and ruins them with strong-arming business tactics. I never really understood this change from quality to quantity when I was younger, but as I learn more and more, I understand that this is just the way of society. You can see how the gaming market in light of EA has gone from favoring well-crafted, complete games to skeleton releases with more pieces being withheld or altogether removed to release games and turn a profit faster.

EA is not the only company that has gone the way of embracing subpar games. The developers at Ubisoft are starting to show signs of the same bad habits that EA previously did with its micro-transactions attached to the multiplayer elements of their games. Almost every game from either developer has some kind of skin pack, Day One downloadable content or pre-order release crap to get people to spend more money than they used to. It’s part of the reason I don’t buy more video games; instead of a 60 dollar game, they start costing almost double for all of the content. As a RPG gamer, it’s really important to have all the content, so I’d just rather not even start the game. Sure, there are developers that still hold true to the idea that complete, great games can still be made. I always think of Bethesda (Skyrim) and CD Projekt RED (The Witcher 2, which released almost 10 GB of free content for free to players who owned the game) when I think of these developers.

Apart from these, though, the industry is starting to slowly shift back to independent development, and I think Kickstarter is a huge part of this. The thing about video games is that they’re absolutely interactive, so making the funding of these games interactive is kind of a natural progression. There’s a new video game console coming out soon called The Ouya, which is powered by Android and heavily developer-friendly. Its development was all crowd-funded. It’s a great thing, since it means more developmental control for people who want to make games and a cheap system for people to buy to help support these games. It also shows the power of Kickstarter, which recently saw a video game get funded for over $3,000,000.

This might sound like a lot of doom and gloom, but just taking a look at the industry also shows some spots of hope. I heard in a podcast about a year ago that Kickstarter was going to see its end soon. That the site just wasn’t going to pick up enough steam and that the honeymoon period of crowd funding was over. Luckily they were wrong, and Kickstarter seems to be alive and kicking (lol), with a bunch of similar websites springing up to help in other fields, such as music and web television. It brings to mind the whole “bundle of sticks” analogy that you hear in really bad action flicks from time to time. Crowd funding allows people with more meager means to throw their money together behind a common cause and goal, which is incredibly powerful.

I’ve only ever crowd-funded three projects in the past, and I have to admit that all three times, I felt like I was really a part of something, though I never actually contributed creatively. So when I heard about a group project coming from the 4chan community in which they wanted to make a game for free, I got excited about it. It’s a sign of times to come, a sign of the media community starting to take a personal role in the development of future content and take pride in what they’re accomplishing. I can’t wait to see what the future of media is going to look like in another 10 years, because we could be looking at a revolution of what is considered popular and acceptable.