The game industry is obsessed with progress, but as we move forward, we leave a lot behind. Game Developer EIC Patrick Miller sifts through the ash heap of history in this column from the May issue.
Had I written this editorial two weeks earlier, I'd probably be writing about how enthusiastic I am to introduce our first-ever mobile-themed issue. In the past few years, mobile games have grown into a part of the industry no developer can afford to ignore, and the fact that Game Developer hasn't ever devoted an entire issue to the topic until now is rather shortsighted on our part.
Then I found out that Game Developer's parent company UBM Tech was axing all its print publications. That's right - if you haven't already heard, Game Developer's last official issue is the next one (June-July). Stick around for it; it's gonna be good.
Of course, the irony of announcing that we're ceasing publication in the issue that celebrates the new and exciting world of mobile game development is delicious, if rather bittersweet. To those of you worried about your future in triple-A dev due to last month's salary survey, and those of you who were laid off because whatever you were working on didn't have enough future-friendly buzzwords to satisfy your management, we understand. We've got a support group going down by the bar, and we'll save you a seat.
In a sense, both the publishing industry and the game industry have experienced similar disruptive patterns from the rise of mobile computing platforms. On one hand, the fact that practically everyone carries around some kind of handheld, internet-connected computer means that our potential audience has exploded. At any given moment, someone with a few spare seconds could whip out their phone and start playing your game or reading my articles. On the other hand, the design of these devices drastically changes the way people want to play or read; we want games to play in 30-second bursts and writing in 140-character chunks.
As creators, we know that there are truly great things you can do with short-form (well, more like microform, really) games and writing. But that isn't the work that inspired us to join this industry ourselves, and it can be hard to embrace wholeheartedly a new aspect of the medium knowing that the work we're doing isn't necessarily the kind of work that personally engages us. We can dig our heels in and resist the change as best we can, of course. It's a matter of pride; we just got the chance to make something good, and now it's being supplanted by something else.
Every New Beginning...
When news of LucasArts's exit from game development hit the wire, I had a chat with former Game Developer EIC Brandon Sheffield and former Gamasutra news director Frank Cifaldi about why everyone was mourning the loss of the studio's legacy despite the fact that all the games we mourned hadn't seen any love for at least a decade.
We don't miss Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
; we miss Monkey Island
and Full Throttle
and X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter
and Grim Fandango
. And, weirdly enough, we miss them even if we haven't played each of those games through; I only played a few of those games myself, but I was just as down as Frank was on that day, and he's probably going to name his firstborn Guybrush Cifaldi or something ridiculous like that.
I think perhaps the best explanation comes from a webcomic called Achewood, on the strip for the day that Michael Jackson died: "He was your Elvis, and when your Elvis dies, so does the private lie that someday you will be young once again, and feel at capricious intervals the weightlessness of a joy that is unchecked by the injuries of experience and failure. In other words, you two died a bit today. Welcome to the only game in town."
...Comes From Some Other Beginning's End
There is pride, and then there is denial. The reality is that game developers who ignore mobile, or indies, or any other major trend in games do so at the risk of their careers and their relevance to the medium. (Same goes for editors.) So like Autobots, we transform and roll out, knowing that the job ahead of us is not to remake the works that inspired us to enter this industry in the first place, but to learn new things so we can make new things - things that might just be the Elvis for someone else. Welcome to the only game in town.
- Patrick Miller Editor, Game Developer @pattheflip