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GDC Europe: We Have A 'Responsibility' To Support Indies, Says IGF Chairman Boyer
GDC Europe: We Have A 'Responsibility' To Support Indies, Says IGF Chairman Boyer
August 15, 2011 | By Mike Rose

August 15, 2011 | By Mike Rose
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    7 comments
More: Indie, Business/Marketing



Gamers need to support innovation in games and developers that are trying to add "color" to games just as we support other media like the music industry, even if we don't enjoy particular experiences.

During the Gamasutra-attended Indie Games Summit at Game Developers Conference in Cologne, Germany today, IGF chairman Brandon Boyer said that those who care about expanding what games can be have a "responsibility" to support experiences that can provoke emotion and make us feel better about ourselves.

In a wide-ranging call to independent game developers that also explained his personal influences, Boyer explained that, as an industry, we need to support more personal experiences. These are the games that can really make us feel connected, and help some feel better about themselves.

"Is it something we're afraid of?" he asked, giving a nod to the subtle lifelessness in Nintendo's Pokemon series. He noted Mare Odomo's comic series "Letters To An Absent Father," which plays on the fact that we never see the father of Pokemon protagonists.

"We should appreciate what a game is trying to do, whether we like it or not," argued Boyer, also a veteran of Gamasutra, Edge, and Offworld.com, pointing to how important it is to make games with wider emotional reach.

He discussed the differences between the music industry and the games industry, quipping, "we don't buy a music album and say 'this album was only 30 minutes long'" -- hence, why should we do it for games, he asks.

He also urged developers at AAA companies to "make a stand and go make the games you really want to", citing examples like Superbrothers' Craig Adams - formerly of Koei Canada - who struck out to make Sword & Sworcery with Capy.

Boyer finished by urging developers to consider the following: if a game can't provide as deep an experience as a music album can, then we must question why exactly that is. He asked developers to personally consider the answer for themselves, and attempt to make games that can provoke the same "color" and emotion that music can.

[UPDATE: Boyer has added more detailed notes from his complex, wide-ranging talk below.]


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Comments


E Zachary Knight
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Nobody has a responsibility to support anyone they choose not to support. That is the whole idea behind capitalism. The ideas that the paying consumer wishes to support is what lives.



I love indie games. I also love top tier games. However, I only buy those games that I think deserve my money. Games that offer me an experience that I am looking for. Whether that experience is artsy or just a distraction, it all depends.

Brandon Boyer
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Hey folks -- this is a pretty quick summary of what was honestly an all-over-the-place ("wide-ranging" is putting it kindly!) 45 minute long talk, but specifically on "responsibility" & comparisons to music, I'll cut and paste here what I said (which I honestly didn't totally remember & had to go back and find):



"There are a million other little reasons that aided this, but this consumption model is part of the reason prices have raced toward the bottom on the App Store: it's all part of this pervasive view that says that games are simply the things that fill the spaces in between our lives -- that they’re little more than time killers and diversions.



For too long we’ve been relying on this model that says that games are more or less interchangeable products, marketed and sold as products, and if they’re all just slight variations on the same theme, or if they do little more than give our thumbs something to do in idle time, of course we’re going to be wise shoppers and choose the cheapest among them.



An album purchased on iTunes can cost nearly ten times as much as most people are willing to spend on a game -- even when that album itself is actually embedded in the game -- [the slide here is of the $1.99 NOBY NOBY BOY app sitting right on top of the $11.99 NOBY NOBY BOY soundtrack] but by and large people don’t buy an album to listen to it once and complain it only took 30 minutes to complete.



People value music more because it adds an emotional pitch and rhythm and color to life, it speaks to something more essential, it reminds them of a place and time, it reminds them of where they were when they first experienced it and who they experienced it with.



And there’s no reason that we shouldn’t also be aspiring to that same exact sort of resonance in whatever small ways, crafting experiences that invite people to return to them, not because it extends a dollar value, but because it feels like a place they actually want to re-visit, or adds that same color and rhythm.



And all of us with a vested interest in games, no matter on what level, have the responsibility to talk about games in these terms, in the same way we talk about the creation and the emotion of other arts: to make them feel less like black magic delivered on discs, and more a process and a result attainable and achievable by all, especially as we move into the decades and generations ahead."



Etc. etc.!



The talk will hopefully be on the Vault pretty soon so you can all see it for yourselves!

Steven An
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I value music because I can listen to it while doing other stuff, such as doing stuff outside, doing chores, driving with friends, etc. I actually don't value movies, books, or games in the same way that I value music. I rarely re-watch movies or re-read books. I also rarely replay games. But I've listened to albums hundreds of times because it's practical to do so!



So, in addition to making games more emotional and relevant to modern life (which is great to do anyway), I think we also need to make games simply more time-conscious. Games must not waste the player's time. This means better game design, better technology that runs easily and efficiently, and better distribution channels that make it easy to play games.



Above all else, this means NO FILLER. Let's repeat: NO FILLER. Most games are full of filler. Rare is the game that contains almost no filler (but examples do exist: Braid, Portal 1/2, Limbo). Most games are like 90% filler. So frankly it doesn't surprise me that 99 cents is the market value for most games - maybe a lot of them only have 99 cents worth of ideas (although I'm aware there are tons of exceptions)?

Eric Geer
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I don't know about other gamers--but I generally don't buy a game based on how long or short a game is. Size doesn't matter--(That's what she said!!!) Anywhoo. But in general, I don't tend to feel responsible for anything other than me having a good time playing the game after buying a game--there are plenty of great indie games out there--but to be honest--for some reason I don't really enjoy them--They are starting to become more innovative and fun--but there haven't been many that really strike a cord with me. There is a select audience that really digs the whole indie scene--and we could say this for music as well---but neither indie music nor indie games are my cup of tea---until I find something that will really strike the cord of my interest I will probably continue to pass these games by---and in general as with music--as with games---the main responsibility is for the end user, in this case, ME to have FUN--and if not, the responsiblity only lies in the hands devs/publishers.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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I don't feel that gamers have a responsibility to support an indie game because it's an indie game, "even if we don't enjoy" it. This view alleviates the developer from their responsibility to make a game enjoyable (and I use the word "enjoyable" in a sense that covers games that are not "fun" but that are enriching in some way). Despite this, I agree with the gist of Brandon's statements. Gamers should support good games, be they mainstream or indie, short or long -- but we aren't, are we? What we are supporting are popular, heavily advertised games, and I am guilty of this just as much as you are. The problem with indie games is that they are still undermarketed in a way that good intentions can't fix -- you just can't outmarket the next modern warfare. Good indie games fall into obscurity far more easily than large scale published games. I don't know what the answer to this is, but it seems like awareness is the primary problem. There are plenty of well-intentioned gamers that want to support good indie games, and even more gamers that would enjoy indie games, but they just don't know about them to support them, and there is no magic formula to emulate, say, the viral phenomenon of Minecraft.

Brandon Boyer
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Hey so, on the "enjoyable" part, that's not QUITE the nuance of what I was going for, here's what I said on that, which led into the 'games as product' bit above, and was meant to lead into a broader point about making the process of creating games (which we're exponentially more familiar with in literature, film, music) less opaque to the generations coming up behind us:



"A couple months back there was a conversation going on amongst the people who write about games, who concluded that as soon as we know too much about (or even acknowledge) the process that went into a game, we lose perspective -- we start making apologies for flaws in the eventual product, and we stop being 'consumer watchdogs'.



This is precisely the kind of argument that drives me absolutely nuts. Acknowledging the process is *exactly* what we should be doing -- we should be showing the craft, the art & the science -- of what goes into these things, and why they sometimes fail and don't come out like how we expected them. We should be appreciating them as human attempts to create something meaningful, whether they achieve it or not."



OK!

Steven An
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So I guess when you say "support", you mean in the spiritual sense, not in the monetary sense. I can "support" that :)


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