There is a lot of buzz in the video games industry today about the value of crowdsourcing. Some say it’s simply a fad or a trend that will burn out once Double Fine releases it’s Adventure game and Wasteland 2 makes us all pine for more Fallout; but this business with Kickstarter will be a lot more than just a mere fad – it will be the paradigm shift games need in order to escape the ouroboros of repetition and mediocrity that the games industry is rapidly being forced into.
For those unfamiliar with the changes going on, allow me to briefly fill you in. Double Fine Studios head man, Tim Schafer, proposed a classic graphic point-and-click adventure game to be funded by entirely fans using the crowdsourcing website, Kickstarter. The project was a massive success right from the beginning. Within eight hours the game reached it’s goal of $400 000, then rose to over a million dollars in it’s first day. After 30 days of funding, the project gathered 834% of it’s modest budget; rounding out at $3.33 million dollars from over 87 000 unique backers worldwide.
What this did was prove that there are alternative means of funding games that lie outside the typical publisher pandering. Creative control can be again placed in the hands of their rightful creators, as well as the fans who love the games. Double Fine offered an exclusive community to backers to review and discuss all the aspects of the game – from art design, to characters, to gameplay; the fans have input throughout the whole process, but ultimately the final word goes to Schafer. These two factors work together to create a game that is both true to the core experience that fans want, and allows the creators to create the games they love to make. Tim Schafer arguably was at his best back when he was making adventure games with Lucasarts back in the early 90’s with games like Monkey Island and Grim Fandago. These adventure games had huge cult followings but fell out of “style” in the past decade and were seemingly damned to memory (and Germany) until this point.
But this is about more than classic adventure games, this is about the power of you and I.
The almighty dollar is the lifeblood of all things in this day in age. Without proper funding many great projects would be left to the sketchbooks and whiteboards of the creators – a deferred dream. But now there is a new democracy on the rise, one where artists and fans can collaborate to create works that they are passionate about. Things people loved need never die, even if they’ve fallen out of popular culture. People can vote with their dollar to make these things a reality, and the system has never been more in our favor.
Audiences can get out there and communicate directly to creators, asking for the things they once loved to come back, or encourage and foster new ideas by taking a minor financial risk. Technologically, the system is fully in place too. Digital transactions can be accomplished with a click of a button, and the means of digital distribution are readily available. In the case of independent games, Steam is by far the best place to be. The program acts as a digital store, gaming platform and social experience all wrapped up into one with an immediate audience of millions. Steam is renown for the creative freedom it grants it’s developers, allowing them to put up their works as they were intended. At this point all the game needs is a good word of mouth and it’s almost guaranteed success, no matter how modest. A single successful Kickstarter project can provide all the funding necessary to bring a small studio to fame, as well as financial stability for their future endeavors.
It’s time we took back what is rightfully ours. The industry has changed. There’s more money than ever before going into it, and this life force is giving it strength, while crippling it at the same time. Artists make games for people to love. Publishers make products that sell. Ironically the two do not always overlap. Our time is now. Get out there and back interesting and innovative projects, break barriers. Keep the passion of games and game making to those who love the art, rather than the stiffs in suits who foot the bill and get the final say. Our money is just as good as theirs and let’s realize these innovative ideas with our hard-earned cash. If this trend keeps up and becomes a grand success, then who knows who else might join in. This could expand from beyond mere indie developers in a single apartment, whole AAA studios may be able to create incredible projects, maintaining full creative control throughout the process.
The time is now to act. This is our time to stick it to the man and show him that we can have what we want, not what he says we need. I repeat: get out there. Back projects. Be part of art. Be part of history. The revolution is now.