Ep. 146 - What Is Wrong with Video Games and Nine Other Questions

Insert Credit examines the balls on the stuff. Opening and closing theme created by Kurt Feldman.

**Questions this week:**

  • 1. What the hell is wrong with video games?
  • 2. What the hell is wrong with video games?
  • 3. What the hell is wrong with video games?
  • 4. What the hell is wrong with video games?
  • 5. What the hell is wrong with video games?
  • 6. What the hell is wrong with video games?
  • 7. What the hell is wrong with video games?
  • 8. What the hell is wrong with video games?
  • 9. What the hell is wrong with video games?
  • 10. What can we do to make games better?
  • LIGHTNING ROUND: How have games gotten better in the last ten years?

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    I thiiiiiiiiiiink there are actually 11 questions this time because of my interjection!?

    I haven't listed yet but this description had me very excited.

    I feel like this is a personal punishment for me for asking for more clear descriptions of the questions on the post for the last episode (but its cool, i am amused)

    i loved this episode. i feel like you could do this once every year and just update it with what‘s going on or any meaningful changes. also, there’s so much to talk about, y‘all didn’t even have time to touch on a lot of the AAA labor conditions stuff!

    Yeah in retrospect maybe we shouldn't have done any “fun” ones

    @exodus#4804 i think it's kind of a nice palette cleanser honestly, because this episode was getting pretty heavy at times

    Not to make everything about myself, its just been on my mind lately, but the discussion about creating an equitable gender environment seems super relevant to the way Virtual World intentionally went out of their way to try to be more gender inclusive. but obviously wanting to have a more diverse audience and wanting to have more diverse development team is two very different things.

    the second I saw the description I knew this episode was gonna be flames. conversations like these make me even more hype for the guests y'all talked about having on.

    holy crap y'all

    This is the best episode in a while, maybe of the whole show. Great job y'all!

    Great stuff and completely agree with the points. On a personal positive note - I grew up in a rural Ohio town in the 90s and playing games as a kid gave me glimpses into other cultures and beliefs, helping to expand a narrow world view I might have otherwise been indoctrinated into.

    I am trying to make games better by making a 3-4 hour campaign

    I wanted to comment on the discussion about videogame mechanical complexity and accessibility. There is another dimension to this issue. Games are often designed almost entirely in conversation with other (often previous) games. Accessibility aside, this sometimes makes me wonder what the progress exactly is all about.

    An example might clarify: I showed my wife Minecraft when it came out. To me, Minecraft represented a big step forward in like verisimilitude because it presented a totally malleable, effectively infinite, virtual space (if a course grained one). But to someone who doesn't keep up with videogames, who doesn't see how impossible Minecraft would have been say 15 years ago, that idea is totally meaningless. Minecraft got a lot of its force from breaking down a barrier you had to be a gamer to appreciate.

    That is cool and all but you wonder how much unexplored territory is looked over because we're focused on innovating entirely in terms of the limitations of _previous games_ instead of in a broader context.

    The discussion about being forced to access games through particular hardware got me thinking about the Crystal Chronicles remaster that comes out in 9 days (I'm excited for it) and how it has cross-play between switch, Playstation, android, and apple devices. And if you have a friend who owns it you dont even need to buy the dang thing to play most of it. Seems like a step forward.

    i agree with a lot of stuff mentioned here. though i definitely have a lot of more Marxist materialist analysis i‘d be throwing down about why “gamers” as a status are so toxic (i.e. so many people take refuge in “gamer” communities as an identity because it’s an expression of downwardly mobile people who are isolated and atomized from any other sort of community), why the mainstream industry continues to eat itself and pump out the same thing over and over again (skyrocketing cost of game development leading to risk aversion, dev burnout meaning people never learn from their mistakes, etc), why the target of mainstream games seems to be perpetually so narrow (again highly risk-averse marketing, hyper-specialization of game development skills that tends to follow a factory model) and a lot of these just lead me to the answer that the Market is fucked for supporting creative or interesting art and the end result is invariably going to be a snake eating its own tail over and over again unless there are substantial interventions made to a) regulate the market and b) far more substantial and sustained industry worker organizing (not just workers in AAA but people who work in indie etc too). that‘s why i’ve kind of moved beyond seeing it as being about whether someone makes an effort to be a good person or learn from their mistakes or not, because there are too many structures out there that benefit from people never learning from their mistakes and the industry endlessly reinforcing that behavior.

    one lighter point i'd also bring up that you guys missed is that i wished there was way more of a dialogue between indie development and triple A. i routinely see all kinds of interesting stuff released on the fringes but every AAA game seems to draw from the same pool of inspirations and there is just seemingly a total lack of interest in or curiosity towards something that may be approaching game design/game presentation different unless that thing happens to make lots of money. we've all been brain damaged thinking that financial success is the only indicator of quality and that the financials are always first and the artistry is always a very distant second... and i don't think many people even reflect on the ways that consensus is reinforced throughout the industry again and again because they're just so used to the status quo that they can't see anything else.

    also another point i'd make is that i would like people to see free games, fan games, mods, etc to be seen as just as culturally valuable and worthwhile and as much an expression of artistic intent as full-priced commercial games.

    Yeah, there‘s so much we didn’t talk about, I would‘ve especially liked to talk about creative decisions that are decided by board meetings, or even by the approach of a fiscal deadline. But we wanted to keep it partially light so it wasn’t all the heaviest stuff. We should proooobably do another one

    Also Liz eventually we'd like to get you on the show, we could talk about free/mod/etc games then!

    @ellaguro#4848 Yeah it's a real “duck in the bottle” scenario. Everyone can make games now, but how do you find an audience? Games can be as big as they want now, but how do we make something for everyone? I feel like most creative businesses are at odds with themselves since the producer and talent relationship has been stressed by the internet, both in terms of distribution and preservation. My solution - open a local shop and make games on degrading physical media that lasts for 10 days, but you can eat it afterwards :laughing:

    I loved this episode. It's been interesting seeing discussions pop up on Indie being primarily seen as a brand now rather than an actual term used for independent developers, I was having this discussion about a week ago with a friend/colleague after a meeting, going over what we all saw during the Guerrilla Collective event over the summer, and some of the indie labeled games on the Microsoft/Sony showcases.

    It just appears to be going full circle into indie being this sort of revival of the small dev in the 80s/90s wandering into the wild west of game development where ideas felt a bit more loose, right back into this rigid, slow crawl of, "But how much will it sell? Is this idea financially viable for us to even continue? This game will take 5+ years with a team of 10+ to make."

    Smaller publishers don't want to take many risks, so a lot of mainstream indie games I'm seeing under the spotlight are starting to kinda look same-y in some ways, with some exceptions, but it's clear to see some patterns forming. Also feels like a Kickstarter could potentially hurt any further/future publisher talk if it fails, since now crowd funding is more of an excitement gage, as well as a supplemental thing for them than a viable platform for making a game that's not just a super small project.

    It's been quite a ride pitching our current game, and we've definitely been asked the, "How much time on average would it take to play through it?" by literally every publisher we approached, which has been fun to hear since our goal has been to make this one shorter. So, I guess, thanks for that Steam.

    _Something that improved over the last 10 years_
    It's cool to see so many dev tools become more accessible to people not in a big company. Blender has improved by leaps and bounds since I used it back in 2011, it actually feels like a piece of software humans can use now. Opening that thing in 2011 was pig disgusting, I can't imagine anyone using it before then. Clip Studio Paint is a blessing for digital illustrators and is an affordable one time fee (if you're not using the iPad version, which is still worth it), and you can readily access Unity as well as Unreal Engine without much fuss or shelling out a fortune up front all at once.

    And despite my growing contempt for indie, there are still cool things coming out of the scene that I'm excited for, even more so than most big budget titles, that's for sure.

    yeah, totally feel the “indie turning into midsized studio mentality” thing. you have to in america!! in other countries where they give grants, it‘s possible to try things, but oddly I feel some sort of distance between them and me. a friend in norway is making a mystery game about the cabin in the woods she visited as a kid, and all the stuff she’s doing sounds real neat! and it‘s all because she got a grant, and because she got that grant it became easier for her to get a publisher deal on top of that, and she’s just off doing her thing not worrying about the consequences too much.

    And I'm over here being like okay, how do I get this game that people don't like that much, and which isn't really that different from any other game, but which was the one I could get funded, to become profitable!? it's just like we're living in different worlds.

    I'm hoping our 4th game will be the one that ignites people's imaginations, but it's STILL not that different from anything else. And a lot of that is my own fault! The ideas I get excited about would be great if they just came out within 6 months of my having that idea. But that has not happened one time!

    also yeah blender is a good one, we sure use that over here!