Thinking further

A GameSpot reporter wrote an article about Limbo’s lessons for the mainstream and interviewed a few people regarding it – a piece that surely took some work, but it seemed to me there must be more important things to spend your time on.

It is the classic argument that most mainstream games are “…off-brown shooters requiring you to mow down hordes of vaguely foreign nationals and/or aliens” and that AAA developers need to be inspired by the independent developers, since they do not have to care what anyone thinks and therefore everything they make is amazing. Well… Maybe not that harsh, but that is the general idea that seems to fuel articles like these.

Sure, it is a valid point – most hobbyist or otherwise independent developers do not care about what people think and so you are more likely to see something you did not expect coming from them – but there are also loads and loads of games that are too uninspired, too weird or just plain too badly implemented to ever get any mainstream attention. Similarly, there are plenty of mainstream games that do new and interesting things well – the definition of an AAA game is muddy but I would say a higher percentage of them try to do something new and interesting than the collective indie catalogue.

The difference is – and here the article states a very good point – there are a lot of AAA games that try to give customers only what they want with minute improvements, and a lot of mainstream games that for one reason or the other are marketed heavily even though they are not very good. Games made by independents usually have little to no marketing other than word-of-mouth so no-one will push a bad indie title on you – hence, it does not get recognized and people with a good grasp on games in general but a poor grasp on independent gaming will hold up “indie” as something synonymous with “innovative and amazing.”

And is Limbo that good an example, really? I really like the game, it is atmospheric and genuinely creepy with it’s unique visual style and dramatic, silent scenes. In the end though, it is just a solid puzzle/platformer with really good art direction – not a bad game, but the only innovative thing about it is pairing the silhouettes and hazy backgrounds with one of independent gaming’s most common genres.

I do not really want to encourage more infighting between indie enthusiasts and… well, I suppose some claim to be fighting “mainstream games” but few people seem to be fighting back. I am just tired to see the entire AAA games industry be discarded as derivative and boring every time an indie game reaches the mainstream game media.

Can’t anyone look at a list of AAA games of the recent years and talk about the important innovations they brought to the industry? If no-one else will, I’ll write an article myself.

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Posted on Dec 01/10 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »