Psh. Man. You know who sucks? Activation. Ooh, and EA! Those guys are awful. Sure, they release dozens of games each year that gross, like, about, I don’t know, what, A BAZILLION OF THE DOLLARS. But they’re evil and soulless and moneygrubbing corporations.
They’ve let themselves be turned into that by the way they treat games. Video games are an art, this is a truth all of us knows. Look at Shadow of Colossus or Limbo or Until Dawn or Journey or Okami or, for heaven’s sake, Portal. These are brilliantly constructed pieces of an artistic medium that make us think and make us feel.
And I mean, that’s something beautiful, isn’t it? Some of these games, man, they leave you near tears afterwards. Hell, I’ve cried after playing a few of them. Or a lot of them. I don’t know about you guys, but in my opinion, that right there is a signifier of an amazing game and an amazing piece of art both.
But big corporations don’t care about that. They’re not interested in making art, they’re interested in making money, and no amount will ever be enough for them. They do every little thing they can squeeze money out of us like blood out of a rock. Micro-transactions. DLC. Season passes. Every year it’s like there’s a new service we have to play for but can’t seem to play without.
What does that leave us with?
Small, independent developers.
Those glorious, magnificent, final bastions of hope. Glowing pillars of light to save us from the darkness. Corporations are giant, monolithic despots who try to suck the money out of us. Small, independent developers just want to make games that people love because they love games.
Really, they have the perfect position for it. Triple-A titles might have a massive budget, but they’re also forced to act as slaves for the production companies. They have to Hollywoodize everything, have big name actors and massive cinematic events. There needs to be explosions and set-piece moments and RPG elements.
But we don’t want that, do we!? No! We want real, deep, intimate, innovative gameplay. We want something new. We don’t want a billion sequels. Massive companies don’t care, but the little guys, they know what we want.
They have freedom, the freedom they need to construct an amazing game. They might have a bewilderingly complex narrative, like The Stanley Parable. Or maybe it’ll just be simplistic, but with everything a player needs to spend hours thinking about it, like Five Nights at Freddy’s.
And! They can explore innovative game space! For example, there’s a brilliant little indie game called One Finger Death Punch. The game is about stick figures having an epic and bloody martial arts brawl, ala the Crazy 88 scene out of Kill Bill. You know what the controls are? Right and left click. That’s it, you just have to time the clicks with the approach of enemies. That’s amazing and unique and fresh and we love it.
Because that’s what small, independent developers can do. They’re free from the constraints of corporate shackles, able to pursue the dreams they want to craft the games we love…
And Let Me Tell You Why You Shouldn’t
…kind of. I mean yeah, all of the indie games I mentioned earlier are amazing. I’ve played them into the ground because of both how fun they are and just because they make me feel so much. I mean dang.
At the same time, though, it’s not like they’re the greatest games ever made. If I had to choose between The Stanley Parable and Rise of the Tomb Raider, sorry but I’d pick the latter.
Because, yeah, it might sound like something a sellout would say, but there’s a reason triple-A titles are the way they are. They work. Set piece moments? Dramatic cinematics? Explosions? All those things are great. But not just that, consistent, quality content. Good graphics, polished gameplay, sound and level design. These things are infinitely easier for development teams with an actual budget.
And that doesn’t actually make them any worse for it. It’s not like indie developers have some moral imperative, some divine mandate saying that they own good stories, for example. People like to whine about how awful stories are in games nowadays but you know what? People need to stop drinking their gosh darned hatorade.
What about Fallout 4? Or the previously mentioned Until Dawn? Heck, I know they aren’t exactly the pinnacle of storytelling, but at the end of the day even the Call of Duty games have some pretty decent stories. And it has nothing to do with freedom, except maybe the triple-A tendency to leave openings for sequels. But it’s not like the sequel bug hasn’t hit the indie industry.
Let’s back it up a sec, why were even mad at larger corporations? Because they continue to make games that sell incredibly well? Oh no!
Spoiler alert people. Being successful and practicing a business model that makes money does not make you a soulless, money grubbing, monolithic entity. It makes you a business. No more and no less, and certainly not any worse than anybody else. I’m not sure at what point people lost sight of this, but literally the point of a business is to make money. For some reason that got demonized along the way and now we hate companies for not giving us their stuff for free.
You know what’s the greatest reason you shouldn’t hate these companies and love indie companies? Because you don’t even want to. Look at the math. For all people claim that they hate the endless cycle of Madden’s and Call of Duty’s they still sell. Because you can say that you want new things and innovation, and to some extent you do. But not nearly as much as you think.
The simple truth is people like what’s out there, and they want more. Larger corporations, triple-A titles, they’re not going anywhere. Sure, lots of smaller game from indie developers sell well, but they also cost $10. That’s a pretty big factor in demand.
So stop yelling at EA and Activision because they offered you a product in exchange for money.