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Games As Plain, simple and honest fun

Do you think iPhone and this console generation changed everything in our industry? As a first part of an analysis I'm doing on the subject, I'll try to explain why it's not exactly true.

Fabio Daniel Ribeiro, Blogger

January 24, 2012

5 Min Read

When Wii and PS3 were released (joining Xbox 360), many of us felt that this generation was going to be different; be for the aggressive console's horsepower, new paradigms, things would not be the same again - for better or worse. I remember how much expectation was created when Nintendo showed up Wii, offering a whole new world of possibilities, branching a plethoria of new game genres, styles, and possible consumers. Nowadays we know where things went, and in fact, everything is different.

Many may argue that nobody was expecting that, a year later, Apple would show iPhone and, some months later, the App Store. They could argue, even, that this was the great point of change this generation - if you want to consider iDevices as a platform, even this not being their original objective. But, at least for me, those devices are not exactly the main point of change - they're just the best place for the change to take place, considering the available options. And what change is it? If you take everything that is different this generation - the industry, the market, consumer types, game types, the debate on the needing (or not) of new monster consoles - I say that the game universe grown up, found his way.

Look: the painting, originally used on funeral and religious events, turned into an expression, reality-analytical tool; the photography, once a "replacement" for painted portraits, changed to a whole new visual language; books, an ancestral knowledge repository, became the mainstream of communication, ranging from educational books to comics. As well, the gaming/hobby of yesterday became the apex of the arts and communication, by adding the all-artists dream ingredient: user interativity. And this change is not a consequence of this generation, but the contrary.

The actual generation isn't just a extrapolation of the last one because finally we got the tools we needed to show what games are: not a hooby, not a child's activity, but a contemporary tool of expression and personal experience. People no more look at games as a child activity, and this is not because of the spreading of Wii, iPhone, or Angry Birds; they do so because we changed the way we use our medium. All those games, consoles and controls are a consequence of that, not the contrary. If we used this generation only to make what we always made on the other generations, things would be the same today: no moms, granmas and family playing, but just complaining.

The flourishing indie market we're seeing today is a consequence of this: as a grown-up medium, there's no more room for kid-quality games. No more 384857 FPSs, 27475 action racers, etc. A consumer of a mature medium wants refined content, not more of the same. There's copycats out there as always (unfortunately), but the situation is becoming clearer. On the console universe, only the consolidated titles are remaining; on mobiles, the "different" games (not to say innovative) gains more and more attention. To the others, I think, remains the always trustful PC market (now with Mac).

The great companies are struggling, and will likely struggle more. They actually fit better on the console space, but with the same "old-school" game formulas, they will remain looking like a child product - and, as a consequence, losing their relevance. Meantime, people creating a fun and different experience for iPhone (for example) are gaining space. Individually they're not a menace, even talking about the great companies like Rovio, Madfinger and Mika Mobile; but as a whole they not only menaced, but already did some serious damage on the traditional game business. Just look at Rochard, Trine or Samurai II to see what you can achieve without needing to be an EA or Activision.

I'm not talking about money here. Those big companies unfortunately need to talk only this way, but there's only one thing more valuable than money that they're losing for being slackers: relevance, spotlight. The indie revolution, combined with accessible portable wonders and (more importantly) accessible gamedev tools, wants to be the bearer of that light. It's soon to say what we will get from this, but bringing some "democracy" to the game universe is always healthiful.

My point with this text is that we're in the middle of a big change (it's not finished yet), maturing our medium (for good), and I hope this process will never go back. Hardcore games probably will not be the mainstream anymore in a short time, but those casual/social games of today will not receive the spot as well. They're just a palliative solution to a struggling jurassic industry - which will, like in the other mediums cited befored, become the "curators" and "critics" fo the game industry - just like what Valve/Steam, EA/Origin does today.

People doesn't want hardcore shit, nor stupid forever-clicking games. They want quality experiences, as everybody does with everything. Anyone with conditions of developing a good time-killing experience will have an opportunity. For the deeper experiences, though, all you need to do is rip-off those infinite cutscenes and offer... well... deeper experiences. Anything different from this have a chance of being spotted as a deception, which is never a good thing. That's why Nintendo always seels more games on their platforms than third-parties, and that's why Wii/Kinect/Move are more interesting to the wider audience than a regular console: plain, simple and honest fun.

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