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For game designers, less gaming means better games?

Here's another interesting article I came across today, this one from Ars Technica. You can read the article here.

For those who don't want to read it (although I encourage you to), the crux of the article's argument is that game developers and designers who are huge gamers have difficulty thinking outside of the box. Having played games for so long, what currently exists in the industry is all these designers know, and as a result they just keep rehashing the same ideas over and over again and stifle progress overall in the industry. Oddly, about halfway through the article they shift to a discussion of some issues with developer quality of life and the ridiculous hours devs have to put in, and I do believe that IS a valid argument. What I'm writing about now isn't in regards to that claim. The argument they start with and the argument that is the main theme of the article, that more time gaming = less time having "life experiences" = less creativity, is what I'm going to be discussing, and it's an opinion I strongly disagree with.

Sure, there are some game designers out there who just try to remake older games, change the title and the characters, and pass them off as new, but I believe that's more the fault of the companies they work for. I don't think any game designers sit down and dream of making a generic platformer that's just like all of the other platformers released in the last 3 years. I'm sure most of them have all sorts of great ideas for games that they're not allowed/unable to pursue. Being gamers themselves, I believe that, in an ideal world, they would be able to create awesome, original, and unique games all the time. However, they typically can't, and I don't believe it's usually their fault.

As more and more industry mergers happen and game companies get larger and larger, we're going to see even less creativity and innovation. It's not because all the people making games are gamers and can't think of anything original, it's because these huge studios are all about making money and aren't willing to make risky moves with original games. I'm willing to bet good money that, if many of the big names in game innovation today (Shiggy, Kojima, etc.) were just now starting out in the industry, they would never be allowed to create the games that made them famous. They wouldn't be big names, it would be seen as too risky, and whatever company they pitched too would be more comfortable creating Spongebob Squarepants 4 DS since they know that's where the money is.

I also take offense at this notion that being a hardcore gamer means that you're missing out on all sorts of life experiences and that you're uncultured as a result of your playing games. The argument they make later about the industry requiring ridiculous hours holds water, but CliffyB's inane comment about him having all these fantastic experiences that he was able to draw on for GoW because he games less is just dumb. I'm pretty sure him cavorting around London had a lot more to do with the fact that he had a bunch of money than the fact that he plays video games less. What it boils down to now is that the industry has become so corporate that only designers who are already established are being allowed to be fully creative. If you're not a big name, you're not trusted with large sums of money and instead have to fall in line with the generic copy/pasta that the corporations want you to make.

Overall, I think it's vital that the people who are creating our games be gamers themselves. They know what gamers want in a game, and I believe they try their best to deliver. Sure, there are some hardcore gamers who produce crappy games, and there are some people who've never touched a game in their lives who could probably make fantastic games, but I believe those are the outliers and not the norm. Rather than blame the designers, who are often restricted by the whims and wants of the megacorporations they work for, we should be blaming the companies themselves. Take some more risks, let designers run with some crazy ideas, and you might find that what they're pitching will end up making you more money than the 19th iteration of your Madden game.

Most of the big names today got their start long ago, back when the industry was relatively young and they could do what they wanted. (CliffyB actually first got famous off of Jazz Jackrabbit, a game I'm sure many of you are familiar with.) I'm betting there's a number of CliffyBs, Miyamotos, Kojimas, and Garriots out there in the industry today. They'll just never be given the chance to prove themselves.

What's your opinion? Do you think that this article is right and that game designers who are gamers keep rehashing the same games and stories over and over again? Or do you think that being a gamer gives designers a better insight into what's already been done and what gamers want, and that it's the game companies that are holding them back?

[Via Ars Technica
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About Aeroxone of us since 2:41 PM on 12.14.2006

Come join us on IRC!

I'm 23, and have been playing games since I was about 2 or 3 with the super old computer my dad got to bring home from working with the government. I got my NES when I was 5.

I love old school SNES RPGs, and I play pretty much anything now except sports games. I'll play FPSs, but typically not on consoles.

I currently own:
DS Lite

I have previously owned:
A Mac

Xbox LIVE:Aerox47
Mii code:4266-0870-0999-6381


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