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Democratization of Game Development and Home Construction

The current trend towards the democratization of game development sounds all well and good, but how is it improving the output of the industry? And what the hell does this discussion have to do with home construction?

Chris Melissinos, Blogger

July 24, 2009

3 Min Read

Ah yes, the game development world is chock full of tools that make it easier than ever before anyone, and I mean ANYONE, to start building the "Next Great Game(tm)". Pick a tech/framework: XNA, Flash, Unity, Scratch, Multiverse, Alice, BigWorld, Torque, Lightspeed, etc., go get some cheap models from TurboSquid or make some in GIMP or MS Paint, and off you go!  The list is endless.

While the industry rhetoric would have you believe that it was impossible to build games before all of these wonderful tools became available (which is, of course, total nonsense), the fact remains that there has never been a better time for anyone with an idea to grab a tool set, build a game and leverage one of the dozens of distribution points to get that game to market.  Steam, Kongregate and iPhone App Store here we come!  Publishers be damned!

Well, not so fast there Sparky.

While I do believe that we are currently in an era where a flood of new and exciting ideas can be explored, prototyped, and, yes, turned into full retail product through the use of these newer tools with whizbang interfaces, the reality is that creating games is still as difficult as it ever was.  "Bullshit!", you say. 

'I'm a smart guy or gal.  I have played Super Mario Brothers 3 so many times and KNOW I could have made it much better than Shiggy just by adding some guns.  And with all of these easy tools at my disposal, well, you just wait and see pal!"  Ok, ok, calm down there.

So let's look at another industry that has seen the democratization of creation: home construction.

I personally own three different kinds of electric saws, a 2 gallon air compressor, nail gun, two electric sanders, and so on.  I can call the local Home Depot (I mean, that's what professional home builders do, right?) and order a crap ton of lumber.  Get some inexpensive construction plans off the web and BANG!  I am in business.  After all, I'm a smart guy and can hammer a nail in just two swings.  Why should I pay a home builder for something I can do myself?

The tools are cheap, accessibility is immediate, information about construction is practically free.  That does not mean I possess the experience and design discipline to construct that home.  I would leave that to the people who do this, every day, for years on end. And, to be perfectly clear, I would never let my family enter a stick built home I made myself.

In the book "Outliers: The Story of Success" by Malcolm Gladwell, he examines why some individuals seem to be gifted from birth when it comes to particular knowledge or a skill set.  The reality is, of course, that we all start out the same but it is the path of action that results in some exceeding others. 

In fact, Gladwell has come to the conclusion that, basically, to reach the pinnacle of any particular profession or skill, it takes roughly 10,000 hours of repetition, practice and learning. 10,000 hours.

This timeline lines up quite well with many of the developers we hold in high regard.  Shigeru Miyamoto, Will Wright, Peter Molyneux, John Carmack, Mark Cerny; all of whom have been pursuing their craft of game design or programming for the majority of their lives. It is this length of experience, experimentation and creation that has allowed them to emerge as pillars of the industry.

So, please don't get me wrong.  I love that game development tools are more complete, robust and accessible than ever before.  I love that accessibility to tools are allowing new game design and experiences to emerge from some of the smallest and most unexpected of places. 

Just understand that access to tools that make some of the process easier does not mean that we will suddenly have more games we actually want to play.

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