The mainstream video game industry is destroying itself. Between the annual releases of sequels for major game franchises and the push for more senseless and shocking violence, the quality of major games has not improved. As technology gets better, we see a high degree of polish and veneer but the underlying games themselves are built on cheap, lazy mechanics. But there is hope, and I see 3 steps to making better video games.
1) Independent Developers. Indie developers have the ability to make a massive online shooter targeted towards teenage boys, but they can’t afford to. If they did, they’d be going head-to-head with Call of Duty, Battlefield and other major franchises backed by multibillion dollar companies. Instead, indie developers have to compete on creativity and uniqueness in order to stand out. Fantastic releases like Braid and Minecraft prove that creativity is not dead in video game development, as long as independent developers have the tools to build games and the channels to sell them.
2) Rich Storytelling. Roger Ebert, the film critic, once wrote that he didn’t consider video games to be art. I respectfully disagree. Just because mainstream games look more like your children’s fingerpainting than Picasso doesn’t mean we diminish the value of games. It means we need to explore the unique ability of games to allow you more interactivity than movies. Rich, great storytelling needs to be a part of this. As the gamer touches the universe, the game should give back lore and history, immersing the player in the culture in ways that film and books cannot.
3) Avoiding Greed. Greed will be the downfall of major gaming franchises. You can attempt to sell a game to 100% of the market, but in order to please everyone you can have at best 15% of what people want. I prefer the opposite. We want to find a small segment of gamers who are unhappy with modern gaming and give them 100% of their needs. By creating a beautiful and unique game, we build a fantastically captivating product that our fans will love. The mistake is assuming that everyone needs to be your fan in order to maximize revenue. We prefer to maximize customer happiness.