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David Stafford
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Student of markets, enjoys following their course.
My book:
Around the World in Several Pieces
  • Thoughts On The Video Game Industry. 0 comments
    Nov 14, 2012 1:59 AM

    I've been a huge fan of video games for years. Having grown up around the world, I've noticed that this is a global phenomen. Regardless of where someone's from, one can always create bonds with others even if there is a language barrier over video games. In fact I remember at an early age, the only interactions I often had with the recently immigrated asian communities in the northern Virginia area, often entailed our pseudo-tournaments we would engage in over the newest games at our local arcade, which sadly has disappeared, but needless to say over the years I have come to appreciate video games.

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    As I've gotten older, I don't play them as often obviously as I once did but I've noticed something that may have crept into the video game world. Namely the "boardroom" effect.

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    Having just sat down to the first game that I've played in years that had a "demo", or free stab at the game, I've noticed something very different about this game I'm currently playing. It's not as in your face pop-song polished as other games, but its also great. Its much more fun than other games, and it doesn't feel as though its being presented to me as a VH1 or MTV show. There isn't over the top cgi in my face, there aren't odd pop-culture references, there aren't worthless "gimmes"(vanity items) thrown at me. Instead there just kind of a fun little mystical story, that I can easily follow and understand.

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    In recent years, video game companies have been swollowed up by more board-centric companies and it shows. Eisner's "gong" style throw out an idea in a meeting style company creates kind of a disjointed video games, that often have sort of overdone or bloated qualities that kind of ruin the experience.(see overly intricate stories, novelists are hired to produce, which in turn aim at selling merchanise through literature, overly epic and sort of out of place orchestra style music, also for sale seperately, etc.)

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    If a company has spent tens or hundred of thousands of dollar on rendered cutscenes or whatnot, that kind of is unnecessary, and kind of removes the participant from the actual game play and makes them more of sort of like a third party observer to the game. Other qualities such as unexpected surprises like "loot goblins" presented in some games have a similar effect, they are kind of irrelevant from a players perspective, and are about as fish out of water in a video game as is a mime in one of these companies board meetings.

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    I'm happy to say that some of these games that allow the player's imagination to kind of propel the momentum of the game stilll exist. Its kind of odd when games are full of "winks" from developers and the like, and just kind of make the game disjointed. Maybey these sort of "brainstorm session" based ideas, are great for creating new merchandising lines, but they tend to kind of disturb the creative flow of a video game, and having played "big name" one of a series of too many video games for a while, I'm happy to see that some smaller shops still put out games that are more player centric, than board room centric, and that hence some games, actually give you room to imagine, as opposed to stringing the player along, and constantly trying to package developer imagination into bite size affordable downloadable content or add on packages.

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    Thus, perhaps video games, ironically like hedge funds, are kind of often most productive when small to medium sized. As more cash-flow emphatic companies swallow up profitable shops, its been kind of interesting to see once creative game design companies, turn into very money hungry, and less creative organizations. In a way it kind of reminds me of Damien Hirsch. Now forgive me for not being completely up to date with Mr. Hirsch's work but there was a distinct change in his style as he became even more fabulously wealthy between the 1990s to late 2000's. His 40 million a piece works, shifted from for example, depicting dead sharks, in massive formaldehyde containing tanks, to diamond encrusted skulls. One, the former, in my humble opinion is odd and kind of interesting and intriguing, and the other is seemingly just a somewhat creative display of exorbitance, this is kind of what its like playing a smallshop vs big shop video game. One allows room for imagination, and is kind of funnily odd and intriguing, while the other is sort of "oh wow", and thats that. One engages the viewer/players imagination and sense of curiosity, and the other is seemingly simply a spectacle, and is functionally just a creative veneer over the worship of excess.(Hirsch may have been elaborating on his own opinions concerning excess though his work, but who can say)

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