25 January 2010

January Challenge #25:
Return to Jingo Corner

There are days when I just want to slap the stupid off someone. It's not nice, and it's not fair, but that doesn't make the urge go away.

Earlier this month, I complained about jingoism in gaming. I was mainly speaking in reference to the games each of us likes to play, but this time it's about the games we make.

There's something that needs to be said to everyone out there making their living in the game industry, especially video and computer games. Listen to me, people. We make games for a living! Games. Amusements. Entertainment. For a buck. We are not feeding the hungry, healing the sick, or housing the homeless, and we are not doing it out of the generosity of our loving souls. So for chrissakes, do not try to claim that the type of game your studio makes is somehow inherently more worthy than the type of game the next studio makes.

Does this really need to be said? I'd like to think not, but as soon as you assemble game developers from two or more different market-genres, feathers are going to get ruffled. Someone will say something dismissive about someone's demographic or something pointed about hardware requirements or something uninformed about a platform. Sometimes they get an answer in a spirit of helpful education, and even then it frequently goes badly from there, but more often the response is heated.

In the spirit of not-so-charitable education, here are some things to keep in mind before you open your mouth at the next convention. I've either used or had occasion to use each of these in the past month.

Social game developers did not just stumble into a magic formula for popular games. It's the result of some very shrewd design well informed by solid marketing sense. Your "obviously superior" AAA game will not do even better at the same trick once you figure it out.

AAA game developers are not bitter about the runaway popularity of your very successful social game. Dismissive maybe, but that's more out of honest ignorance than a grudge.

Casual game releases look just as good on your resume or portfolio as AAA game releases. And for the same period, the casual game developer released on average six titles to your one AAA title.

More women in their twenties buy and play games than do teenage boys. Just because we're still struggling with gender inclusive game design doesn't make the market worthless to pursue.

The Hispanic market is a potential gold mine with literally trillions of dollars to spend if we can figure out how to make games with broad appeal to that market. Or even niche appeal within the market. A game aimed at Hispanic Tweens that hits the mark will seriously put a studio on the map.

Shovelware not withstanding, there are still more Wiis in homes than Xboxes and PS3s put together. Its "lesser" hardware capability is not making Nintendo any less money. Their target demographic doesn't care and neither should you.

There are plenty of people outside our industry who are down on us because our contribution to the human condition is something as frivolous as games. They don't understand the value of games and play to the human psyche, the potential good for the global community as a whole, that positive messages can be carried as well or better by gameplay as by oratory. Doesn't it seem more than a little stupid to be down on each other because you or I don't understand the value in the other's specialty?

The "plenty of room under the bigtop" allegory is overused, so I'll tweak it a bit. There are plenty of desks in the classroom for all of us to teach and learn from our colleagues who might be doing something a little different.

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