Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Gaming Communities Part 1

"A community brings to life certain objects of interest."

Well, what do we know about the Video Game Industry? We know that we need game development teams and we need publishers. We know that we need software makers and hardware makers (a.k.a console makers) and we know that the business of gaming doesn't just stand still. It is constantly moving in a variety of directions and traffic is directed by the big names of the industry, to be sure, but do you know that there is another source that drives the industry? You'll probably never guess who it is that's just as important as the corporate suits who throw money up in the air or the technology mad geniuses who praise the ideals of advancing gaming technology to ridiculously high levels. 

Take a guess. Who directs the business of gaming aside from the obvious players?

If you guessed gaming communities, or Average Joe and Jane gamers such as you and me, then you would be right. Gaming communities of fans who simply love the products that are churned out onto the market are integral parts to the lifeblood of the Video Game Industry, and fans are more important than what some companies give fans credit for. Are gaming communities hard to figure out sometimes? Yes, of course, but at the end of the day, some respect needs to be paid to these customers because they are the audience that the companies are catering to. The video games that get put on the store shelves aren't going to sell by themselves. They are not going to sprout legs from underneath and start marching out of stores to have a scene similar to what you would see in Braveheart.

Although I am not a hardcore fan of the days of Rome, I do believe that an appropriate analogy can be made to fit the video game fans we have today. I sometimes like to compare video game communities to that of the mobs in ancient Rome who watched the gladiators fight for their survival. In some ways, I think it is also appropriate to compare video game companies to gladiators in the metaphoric sense because some companies are literally fighting for their survival with every game that they put out on the market. Video game companies that aren't as big as the normal suspects run a gladiator-like gauntlet to get their games noticed and sold at good enough rates. All video game companies are at the mercy of the mob, or in this case, the gamers.

Gaming communities are important because they determine what is going to become popular in the Video Game Industry and what will fizzle out after a while. It really doesn't matter how much money a company throws at a certain project. It really doesn't matter how much hype a company gives an upcoming game. There is just something about a new game that has to hit the mark with gamers or else the message will get misinterpreted, skewed or even damaged shortly after the game goes out on shelves. Video game companies certainly don't want that to happen, so establishing connections with the communities that they want to cater to would be wise as long as it's managed properly.

"Win the crowd!" -Proximo from the movie Gladiator

A large community of gamers make up this crowd and they will let companies know whether a game is a big hit or a wobbly flop. Some gaming communities are more creative than others when getting their messages out. Some communities are more aggressive than others (Sonic the Hedgehog fan base, I'm looking at you...). Some communities are more goofy and silly than others. A gaming community knows what tickles their fancy and what suits their style. A gaming community knows the basics of gameplay mechanics even though many of them don't know the complex coding and structuring of game design. A gaming community knows what's really cool and awesome, and what's not that flattering and just plain obscure.

It really doesn't matter how much money a company throws at a certain project. I purposely repeat that sentence because it has been proven. If a game developing company focuses on what really matters first and foremost, such as gameplay mechanics, stories and dialogue that are written well enough, and replayability value, then whatever amount of money is put into the project will go properly used and not wasted. A bright mind is a terrible thing to waste and that should matter more than the numbers on a check. (in theory)

The most successful video game projects have sometimes come from humble backgrounds. Tetris is a fine example. It became so much larger than what the game's creator, Alexey Pajitnov, originally believed. Tetris became a beloved hit for the original Gameboy and it has established a great legacy as a puzzle game. It has a deep and entrenched following of gamers who are puzzle enthusiasts. It was a simple concept - a puzzle you had to solve by filling in lines. Nothing flashy, nothing too complex and it wasn't reliant on any big budget by handheld gaming standards. 

Events that involve a mass of gamers that attend and hang out with each other are very impactful in the way that companies evaluate their made products. If a company sees it in the joy of the gamers who play their games and realizes that what they put out is what works, then it gives that company a better understanding of what appeals to their audience. Seeing fundamental success up close in the setting of a gaming convention or an independently held show does make a difference because it is different for the company to just receive word of their success from afar.

There is that saying "Seeing is believing" and in some cases that is true. With gaming communities, word gets out and spreads from one gamer to the next. Whether positive, negative or mixed, that word will carry weight with gamers in some form and that word will catch the ears of companies. It is a matter of preference and it is a matter of interpreting one's gaming experience. Not all gamers value game genres the same. Not all companies can make an all-around genre game that can satisfy everyone. It's just not going to happen. Gaming communities are diverse in many categories. Game genres, game length, character personalities, cheat codes, Replayability Factor, Single Player, Multiplayer, One Character Only, Multiple Playable Characters... It's one giant web of measures gaming communities take into account.

Be true to yourself!

That's what it all comes down to. Companies need to be true to themselves and stay true to what they want to accomplish with a new game. Constantly changing course of action can lead to many questions that could have been answered early on in the process. The quality of a video game can be seen in the most mundane-looking details. Gamers pick up on this and they carry these details with them in their gaming experiences. This will only be the first part of many that I will talk about gaming communities. I hope readers found this helpful.

No comments:

Post a Comment