2013-02-18

The Democratization of Videogames


The ability to work in any art form with the digital game's unique capabilities for expression shouldn't be restricted to a privileged (and profit-oriented) few. If everyone is given the means to work in an art form, then we'll invariably see a much more diverse, experimental, and ultimately rich body of work... this transformation of games - and the role games will play in the art and culture of the twenty-first century - is not only necessary, but inevitable.
 
- Anna Anthropy


Sooner or later, art that used to be created by specialists becomes democratized.

People are creating more artistic content than ever, be it at an amateur or professional level. Photography reached the masses with Kodak's point and click cameras. Video has been relatively affordable to produce and accessible to the masses for some time now. It's also easier than ever to create videos or photos and share them thanks to the internet. Soundcloud and similar sites allow musicians of any skill level to share their music with the world. Sure, a lot of this mass art creation is mediocre, but the more people who create, the greater the variety of the works.

But what about videogames? The rise of the indie game in recent years shows that smaller teams (and sometimes even individuals) are making more and more games. Why? Because it's easier than ever.

First, it's super easy to distribute games thanks to the internet. Just like photos and videos can be easily shared online, so can videogames. In the past, it would've been much harder to distribute smaller scale games, but thankfully that isn't the case today. As soon as a game is online, it's instantly available to a very large potential audience.

Second, you don't need to be an extremely skilled computer programmer to make games. More and more game development tools are available, ranging in style, quality, and simplicity. My weapon of choice has been RPG Maker, a software program designed to allow the creation of 2D Japanese-style role-playing games. Although the games may seem dated and simple, the editor allows for in-depth design and complex systems and logic operations while remaining very user-friendly.

RPG Maker VX Ace
I've spent countless hours on an RPG Maker project called noRmPG. What started out as a joke turned into a semi-serious inside joke 10-hour fantasy epic. Over-ambitious and unbalanced, the project was doomed, but I learned a lot during its development that will undoubtedly prove essential during my future projects.

Twine is a free program that lets you make interactive text-based experiences (think choose your own adventure books without physical limitations). You can download it for free here: http://www.gimcrackd.com/etc/src/Anna Anthropy compiled a list of Twine games on her web site: http://www.auntiepixelante.com/?p=1769. Game Maker and GameSalad are good development tools for 2D platformers and puzzle games, Adventure Game Studio can create great, well, adventure games such as the excellent Chzo Mythos series, and Unity is becoming increasingly popular as a 3D game making tool, used for successful games like Slender and Rochard.

In her book Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, Anna Anthropy talks about the democratisation of videogames and how everyone gets to express themselves through games. She's especially adamant about minorities creating games: the subtitle of her book is How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Dropouts, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You are Taking Back an Art Form.

Her vision of the future of videogames is a bright one: an endless variety of games for an endless variety of players. Games can made to be personal and shared with friends: they don't have to be focused on selling a million copies. She's also created games that fit her bill, including the autobiographical Dys4ia (http://www.auntiepixelante.com/?p=1515).

With the indie game and art game movements, videogames have begun expanding more than ever. They're exploring new themes, venturing into uncharted territory and entering other fields, such as journalism, politics, sociology, and education.

If you like videogames and are interested in trying to make your own, there are many approaches you can take. You can make a game that's fun. You can make a game that's funny. You can make a game that's serious. You can make a game about your experiences. You can make a game about whatever you like. The important part is that you make a game!

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