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Of Giants and Little Armies: a visit to Madrid Games Week

by David Serrano on 11/09/13 05:49:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Last visit to Madrid Games Week was a complete dose of amazing deployment of sovereign giants willing to show the kids the flagships of high-on-saccharine titles. And it wasn’t something weird or unexpected: the scene, portrayed itself as a ritual, held never-ending waiting lines of youngsters willing to test the upcoming worlds of joy, just as they were their idols. Nothing far from reality the scene was full of promises, fireworks and kind words.

Beyond, there was darkness, solitude and a feeling of emptiness that pushed a little segment of such crowd to think if the entire environment surrounding them was still capable of holding its ground. Games, in their more purely and basic form, seemed to have vanished in an astonishing percentage. Instead of it: clones, copies, superficial feelings, layers of unconsciousness and self confidence which rather seemed a political speech than an open minded forum where players held the keyword.

Lots of stuff has been wrote about the issue of why AAA titles can’t seem to find their way on a diversified market that no longer seeks aged formulas re-painted each year; but even though they are there, seems nobody on those high layers of the industry is eager to pay attention, in order to take its toll on doing an small re-invention of the wheel.  And the feedback loop from such community of youngsters, that when heard are just something  far from amazing by using their specific vocabulary as mad scientists do, is returning in something small and barely whispered, without any lack of weapons to struggle and demand a change.

In order to briefly describe the medium,  the main hall was filled with highly colored marketing stands with the games that held the formula of “same name + number” , and such numbers were way higher than 2. Until somebody became able to see a new formula published or some tunnel of refreshing air, he had to dig down deep dodging all the lights, and it was no easy thing. Such “refreshing titles” represented the light and hope of those high superpowers that seems to be staining their spotless mottoes with the claims of an increasing community of rebel players. But still they were hidden in their own way, with low efforts on letting them breathe and evolve and with dubious explanations on why, when and where it fits everyone.

Aged formulas have been proved to work, but that’s just because the feedback on specific communities is so well tested that, if such effort could have been driven into taking a different path by choosing another rising hand on the brainstorm process, then we could have seen how fun and engaging systems able to pump up the hearts of a glued community.   Wish I could make a list on how many games seemed a re-do rather than something new, and it didn’t help pretty much when I just heard from child, endless speeches about how the mind-blowing announced features were just nothing else than product of a rush for quick stock depletion, rather than a wishful thinking about how to bring to life an experience worth playing… and paying.

But lying on a corner, as a small army trying to hold its position by looking on how the old were preaching about how bigger and prettier is the eternal dream, were the indies: people with dreams bigger than any budget, but with budgets smaller than any dreamer. I was able to talk with all of them and hear how some ambitious ideas were tackled to deliver something different. Titles where decision making was the way to make the player feel immersed while pixel art acted as a vehicle for making the player build a layer of reality that is equally comparable with the shining mishmashes of beauty polygons we’re used to; puzzles filled with irony and flow lines that looked like something carefully placed on the measuring chart; music tackled in a heart stopping way; art re-discovered in terms of taking care of the player as a powerful imaginative tool, etc. Cool formulas, better people, way better thoughts. Their little problem: huge struggles against the media, and nobody can doubt about it; the jungle is cruel and tons of ideas are being placed on the markets daily, waiting for their time to shine.

I even heard of developer’s speeches made by staring at asking eyes with a complicity smile, wishing for a change on the media and hardly being heard because of the high subwoofers of those magnificent stands announcing same shiny cars on same endless roads. They weren’t lost, but comically exhibited as a collective of protesters that saluted pretty shy to charmed and excited crowds.

Far from that on the conferences held inside there was some light thrown on the debate and they proved to be existing teams fighting for their place on the games world, some pretty numbers showing some success, crazy names that hide fresh systems, and even couples with more power than (still being heard by their subwoofers) the giants. Talking with them showed the way things are starting to be shaped and how the struggle is still being kept and getting higher, competence it’s there, but right now is so easy to talk to each other that brainstorms are even made out of silence.

What I wish is that these hopes will turn into an increased presence on such places. I enjoyed the environment as any other kid could have done, but sadly I just came more disappointed than them. Being a little but inside the media turns thoughts way dangerous and compromising than they did years before, where the only thing that mattered was to think on how well they made the sweat out of a polygon stone. Wish we could see some great titles coming out from such Spanish teams filled with ideas that no longer require fireworks to be announced but a simple come out and play.

 I Wish we were ready, I think we are.

I'm just feeling as I'm not adding anything else to the bonfire settled of the struggle against Giants and Little armies, but the feeling of being lost inside a colourful settlement of media eaters pushed me to write about it. Sorry for bothering but thanks for reading. Hope I'm not the only one.


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