The video game industry is in the midst of a massive sea change, says Divide By Zero's James Portnow -- so what's going on, exactly?
In a new Gamasutra feature
, Portnow sits down to examine major turning points in everything from tool simplification to distribution network changes, and what it means for games as a creative medium.
One factor is increasing sophistication in game education programs, he writes:
For the first time in history "game creation" is being taught as a focus of higher education. From the bachelor's degree given out by DigiPen to the masters degrees offered by more traditional universities such as USC or CMU, today people are getting rigorous formal training in game crafting before entering the industry.
But, perhaps more importantly, these institutions are providing the next generation of game developers with a safe space to innovate and create, outside of a corporate environment.
Game schools will do for us what film schools did for film. They are a place for wild experimentation and valuable, if not immediately profitable, research. These schools focus a community of dedicated, energetic young people and give that community the critical mass it needs to allow these young people to learn from each other and formulate new ideas as a group. Our Lucas, Coppola, and Scorsese will come from these schools.
On the audience side, broadening demographics are playing a role:
The term "gamer" now means nothing. At best it's a pejorative stereotype for what once may have been the most highly visible form of video game enthusiast. Today the gamer is your mom and your grandmother, the five year old on the swings and the cop directing traffic. Today the gamer is the lawyer and the doctor and the movie star.
This broadening demographic is calling on us to create games which suit their unique needs and, slowly, the invisible hand guiding us, we have begun to do so. Soon we will realize that grail of designer myth, the Universal Game, because the raw economics of our diverse audience demand it.
And for today's active developers, new tools are both streamlining process and lowering costs:
As limited as we are by technology we are even more limited by our own capacity to use that technology. In the last 10 years game development has gone from an impenetrable wall of cryptic recondite arcana to something... a bit more approachable.
We're still not the point where making games is as easy as picking up a camcorder and hitting the on switch but I've seen eight year olds remake asteroids and college kids turn out next-gen experiences.
We're entering a period where the tools available to us will drastically reduce the cost of making marketable experiences and exponentially decrease the expertise required to make such. This of course means a lot more terrible products, but it also means more independence and a larger number of great works.
The full Gamasutra feature
highlights a number of crucial changes taking place in the industry and analyzes their impact, putting it all together to create a picture of this important transitional period (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).