Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week: digital distribution, online generation gaps, and something awful.
Who Will suffer
The most interesting post I’ve read this week comes from Greg Costikyan, who discusses the ‘dark side’ of digital games distribution
. Costik points out that when the consoles have full digital distribution of games it’ll be the manufacturer that will benefit, and everyone else who will suffer.
“What we're talking about, in essence, is vastly increasing the negotiating leverage of the console manufacturers--in the first instance at the expense of the retailers (by eliminating them), and in the second instance at the expense of publishers. If publishers depend on manufacturers not only for dev kits and product approval, but also for access to the only path to market for a particular console--their negotiating leverage is vastly diminished.
”Even today, the manufacturers are the real winners in the game industry. Yes, independent publishers like EA do very nicely, but remember that Playstation is basically what keeps the whole of Sony afloat, Sega cratered with the failure of Dreamcast, DS and GameCube and Wii make Nintendo vastly larger than it would be if it were just a publisher, and even if Microsoft has yet to see big returns on Xbox, if they can supplant Sony as the largest manufacturer, they will, in spades.”
Costik goes on to mention some of the problems that Vista is causing
for indie games developers, and wonders whether Windows could one day falter and lose its status as an ‘open’ environment, uncontrolled by MS. As the big guy says, it’s hard to see it coming to that, but you have to wonder. One of the most exciting aspects of the PC is that it is unconstrained, and a furnace for creativity. Anything that makes indie development more difficult can only be bad for the community as a whole.
Although strictly not games blogging (when as that ever stopped me, eh?) an essential read arrived in my browser via Clive Thompson’s blog
, in the form of a NYMag article by his wife
, Emily Nussbaum. The article discusses how the internet is creating an generation gap the likes of which we’ve not seen since the early rock ‘n’ roll era. She’s bang on with her commentary about MySpace and other youth-focused exhibitionism.
“Because the truth is, we’re living in frontier country right now. We can take guesses at the future, but it’s hard to gauge the effects of a drug while you’re still taking it. What happens when a person who has archived her teens grows up? Will she regret her earlier decisions, or will she love the sturdy bridge she’s built to her younger self—not to mention the access to the past lives of friends, enemies, romantic partners?
On a more pragmatic level, what does this do when you apply for a job or meet the person you’re going to marry? Will employers simply accept that everyone has a few videos of themselves trying to read the Bible while stoned? Will your kids watch those stoner Bible videos when they’re 16? Is there a point in the aging process when a person will want to pull back that curtain—or will the MySpace crowd maintain these flexible, cheerfully thick-skinned personae all the way into the nursing home?”
What’s interesting to me about this article is that games are increasingly becoming just another facet of our ‘extended identity’, or the social persona we create online. Of course games in general are gaining the sense of ubiquity that previously only seemed evident with literature - where past generations would have expected to see newspapers, magazines and books everywhere, now we’re increasingly seeing games too. Where there’s a screen, there’s a game.
But there’s something even more important with the online aspect of gaming, which is that they’re seamlessly integrating into our social, imaginative and expressive lives. As a net user, I will often have Second Life
running at the same time as posting on a forum about Okami
or checking the Eve
account I leave running on my laptop to spook some of my in-game enemies.
Furthermore, gamers increasingly see games as social outlets – the inhibitions about making friends through games are rapidly breaking down in a way that older generations are terrified by. Is it really okay for me to fly off to Iceland to get drunk with five hundred people who were only previously known to me via third person spaceships? I guess it is, but my mother sure doesn’t approve.
Meta Guild W-Hat?
Finally, this week I was interested to read Mark Wallace’s post W-Hat Is Emergent Gameplay?
over on Terra Nova, in which he looked at the Something Awful/W-Hat/Goonswarm phenomenon in various MMOs.
“In Second Life, the Something Awful Goons are known as "W-Hats," after a forum meme that would get you banned for using the word "what." Members and past members of the W-Hat groups there have been responsible for some of the most outrageous builds in all the virtual world -- including satirizations of the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the assassination attempt on the pope. They are also among the most creative and talented builders and scripters in the world, however. A rotating gallery of their creations can be found in the Baku region.”
Wallace asks how important the meta-guild idea that SA forumites are promoting really is. Perhaps developers should take it into consideration in their own games?
Actually what’s even more interesting than Wallace’s post are the comments that follow, including some typically harsh words from Second Life
’s arch-critic Prokofy Neva:
“Um, I'm not interested in studying criminals further. I've studied them up close for a year. I'm interested in prosecuting them now, thank you very much. And no, no, no, NO, Mark, I will NOT let you put up this crap about "games" and "meta guild theories" and prettify the ugliness that is W-Hat by forking off to some fun, groovy, Ludology around them. No way. I'm here to remind you that your fun, groovy, Ludology is *based on criminality*. Meta-guild THAT Mark!!!!”
Oooh, yeah. Ouch.
[Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]