Updates Tuesdays and Fridays.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Introduction

A few weeks ago I was looking over the images showcased in the Art of Video Games exhibit currently in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in DC, and I realized that the next few years will probably show a fundamental shift in video games and how the world sees them. When I explained this feeling to my friend, he wanted me to be more specific, asking me what I thought were the most exciting things in the video game industry right now. After some consideration, I came up with the following:

-The player base for video games is rapidly expanding. Wii, games based on social networking, mobile games, and others are causing a population well outside of the traditional young and/or "geeky" fan base to start consuming video games. Stereotypes about what kinds of people are games are being called into question. Some people are absorbed into the consumer base without really thinking about it, as legions of Angry Birds fans have been, while other groups, such as some female gamers, are trying to create a place for themselves within circles that haven't figured out how to include them. The question "Who plays games?" is much more vague than it used to be, as are its answers.

-The barriers to entry into game design are falling. Certainly, making a game requires dedication and spare time, but two of the most significant barriers - money and means of distribution - are fading. Free game development software is becoming more available and more nuanced, so the number of indie game makers has shot up, producing a number of personal favorites like Jamestown, Braid, or Limbo, any of which might not have been successful if they could have been released ten years ago. While the sheer number of work hours needed to create a triple-a game are still beyond what any single person, or even small, dedicated teams, are able to put together, smaller-scale projects are now well within reach given some of the new tools available. Beyond that, digital distribution is becoming the norm, giving smaller projects with less funding the ability to reach a broad audience. The game makers that didn't exist before are now able to sell their games to game players that didn't exist before.

-The video game, as a technology and an art form, is evolving. Video games continue to employ the latest technologies, but how all those pretty new graphics cards and all that memory is being used has changed. Games like Minecraft forgo seamless graphics in favor of a staggeringly huge world, games like Dear Esther use their visuals not for gunfire and heart-racing but to draw you in to a story that feels personal, honest, hazy, and lonely. Moreover, games come at a time when society itself is changing rapidly to embrace a world connected by technology; we play games with people from all over the world on a daily basis, and we find ways to "gameify" life (consider Fitocracy, a social "game" based on exercising) that stretch our considerations of where a game ends and the rest of the world begins. When one takes together the exponential increase in computing power available to game makers, the broadening of the player base, the advent of a new wave of indie developers, and the emotional depths games are beginning to sound - and the respect that earns the medium as a whole - it's hard not to see this medium as something fascinating, volatile, and wonderful.

I am a game maker, a game player, and a game lover. I intend to use this space to give my thoughts on games - my own, other people's, the gaming world in general. I have a particular focus on indie games; I'm an indie game maker myself, and I love seeing what people do with little money and huge hearts, and to share the not-infrequent treasures the indie game world offers with as many people as possible. I'll be updating Tuesdays and Fridays, and I'd always love to see comments - things people want me to talk about, things people like or don't like, etc. If you enjoy the Twitter, which is something I am still discovering, you can follow @ponderouspixel and I will probably follow you.

Video games give as an outlet, give us a way to be someone we're not, give us a way to see things we don't normally look at and talk with people we don't normally talk to. They require an investment of self, a soul-bearing, that books and films do not demand, and when a game maker catches us in that vulnerability and shakes us alive, we get to see a beauty that no other art form has ever captured so exactly. Video games need more consideration. Consider them with me now. 


  1. Sounds like it'll be interesting - looking forward to reading it.

    I keep hearing about Limbo, but haven't checked it out for myself. Maybe I should add it to the long list of games I'd like to play at some point.

  2. It's pretty great. It came out too long ago for a proper review but maybe I'll give it a shorter-length post just to extol its virtues? Sort of a post-point-five? I don't think I have time to play anything new for this upcoming week's review so that might be the best I can do :P I certainly recommend it - dark and weird and lovely and sad.