Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Why Nobody Has the Time to Make Greenlight Work

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 13 May 2014 12:00
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I think it's fair to say that it's possible to have too much of a good thing. One could almost argue that it was proverbial. While it is vitally important that there be platforms by which the non-triple A developer who isn't cleaning wads of C-notes out of their shower drains can release indie games, created for the love of creation as opposed to the love of fat stacks of cash, I worry that the current avenues are overdoing it. It's like how a shopping plaza will usually be much more crowded than, say, the interior of a quiet cocktail bar, but counter-intuitively it's actually a far worse place to actually meet people.

You see, as I mentioned in the FTL review, my usual attitude when there's been no major triple-A release to review (and I can't think of any retro titles that stir the flinty pieces of what remains of my cold, fragmented heart) is to pop over to the new releases on Steam and try out whatever's new and not in a genre that doesn't immediately make the corner of my upper lip rocket up my nostril. Or rather, that's what it WAS. Because now when I trot over to Steam I see constant streams of indie games I've never heard of, mostly from Steam Greenlight. And I did make the effort to download a bunch and see if anything fired the imagination, but it soon became clear that I couldn't spare all of them the time to give them a fair go. And besides, it's only fun to harshly critique the rich and powerful. Burn down a McDonalds, fine, fuck the man, but don't kick the surviving cashiers in the stomach as they lie choking for air in the car park.

Now, I like Steam Greenlight. But here come two very important clarifying words: In Theory. I like that there exists a means for struggling indie games, created by people working to realize an auteur dream rather than maximize profit, to have a chance to get their game out there without having to swim with the sharks. It's just a shame that so much garbage gets put up there that it becomes harder and harder to isolate titles of actual interest.

And I'm faintly ashamed of feeling that way, because to my mind, the ideal situation for game releases would be something like YouTube. Some generous-spirited person willing to pay massive server costs for the benefit of an utterly thankless audience establishes a system that allows anyone in the world to upload content and have anyone else in the world view it. It's supposed to be the great equalizer, reducing the means by which something gets around to word of mouth alone, ensuring that the only factor that leads to success is the actual quality of the work, not how much money can be pumped into marketing.

Maybe that's less the case nowadays with YouTube 'Recommendations', a system rather insidiously designed to ensure that the videos with the most views continue to get the most views, but generally speaking it's a level playing-field. Imagine some kind of version of Steam where you put up your game project, set up a one-click pay system where buyers drop you a buck or two for the download, and then whether people see it or not is up to word-of-mouth recommendation and whatever publicity you can swing. The essence of encouraging artistry and auteur development in games is to place fewer and fewer technical obstacles in the way of someone who just wants to create for art's sake. Development tools are intuitive enough that the actual creation is straightforward enough at this point, it's just publication and monetization forming the major stumbling blocks for the artist at this point.

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