March 13, 2012
Anyone can make games!
I have followed the blog of the videogame developer and, I dare to say, videogame activist Anna Anthropy a while ago, and I have a great affinity with her speech (I like her games a lot too). Now she is fundraising for a tour around North America. Would be difficult to see her speaking in the brazilian Campus Party (where we heard the most goofy things about videogame), but always is good propagate a good initiative, even though we can’t be there. Beyond that, Anna is someone who every player or developer should know.
My first book, Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, is coming out in march! it’s about how everyone – not just corporations and programmers – can make videogames, and why it’s so important that everyone is allowed to make videogames. it’s also a guide to getting started and making your first game.
Even without having read her book, I recommend it. The central point of her speech is: everyone can make games. And it is actually everyone, not only the nerds in your building. And one detail that makes me think a lot, was the use of the word “zinester”. We are accostumed with fanzines (or simply zines) about literature, comics, illustration, informatives, music, films, but we are not accostumed to think videogames in this same sphere of underground culture that the fanzines propose. The dynamics of fanzine consists in free creation and exchange of content without the involvement of corporations, without the obligatoriness of prices (or the obligatoriness of the absence of prices), all moved by the passion that a group of people have about the same subject.
This dynamics has been extended over the internet, and most of the blogs we read would be printed in photocopies if the internet did not exist. In the same way, the internet facilitated the distribution of videogames, whose fruition depends of computers and that, before the web, needed to be recorded in tapes, chips and discs to be shared. Then the videogames always had the disadvantage of physic medias, in comparation with the acessibility of photocopied fanzines. The videogame industry, that from its inception was a risky and courageous ploy (imagine that!), had the means to record and distribute videogames in a large scale. Today it is unnecessary, because we have the internet. We can photocopy our games!
Here in These Violent Games, I have questioned the role of industry in the development of videogame as a language and culture, and I feel the lack of this thinking between brazilian players (who are much more “consumers” than “players”). I see some independent initiatives between developers (or indies, like the people prefers call), but most of these initiatives consists in seek a gap in the industry, fitting yourself in a niche market and thus become the newest “indie developer” revelation – it is the myth of fame, fortune, yachts and women – a goal that theorethically can be achieved by anyone, just by good ideas and lots of sweat.
The good ideas, in this case, are those formats that the industry will chose to hammer on the consumers’ heads. The videogame crytics, as is commonly, will buy these formats and put any game that appears in this same funnel. Peculiar characteristics become “design errors” and the pleasure of make a game in accord with your own ideas become the obligatoriness of please your consumers. Note the difference between this situation and the simple “I like it, I don’t like it, I understand it, I don’t understand it”. Doesn’t exists wrong preferences, and different people prefer different stuff. Let the videogame grows up naturally and the creative freedom of the game makers defines new genres, subgenres and ramifications that go beyond known videogame aesthetics and mechanics, or take them to their extremes – or do the same stuff as ever without fear to be old-fashioned.
It means we need to like everything? No, myself dislike a lot of things, and hate a lot of others. But we need to remember that we are people with opinions, personal preferences, roots, experiences and different contexts, and not a bunch of consumers with our hands on the telephone ready to call PROCON (brazilian government organ what protects consumers’ rights) because we don’t like a game on the internet.