The Firm

The Firm
Unrisky Business

Mark Wallace | 11 Oct 2005 08:03
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But first, gaming needs to become cool - and I'm sorry to say that it just isn't yet. Gaming is cool if you're a gamer, sure. But to most Americans, even to many who own a console, gaming is still a curious, new thing. It doesn't yet have the cachet of the movies. Tourists don't descend on Austin to visit the gaming Walk of Stars. Even famous novelists get more play than famous game designers. Marvin Mogul may be aware that games do as much business as Hollywood movies do box office sales, but he doesn't realize that for no more than it cost him to fund an independent film, and often for much less, he could fund a new game that stands to make him just as much money.

Even if he did realize that, what he can't yet get out of gaming is glamour. But in about five minutes, that's going to change. It might be the huge success of Spore, it might be the dismal failure of The Godfather. It might be some game EA hasn't yet sunk its teeth into, or one that comes from somewhere else entirely (World of Warcraft, anyone?). But it's going to happen, and the game that makes gaming as cool as the movies were 10 years ago is probably going to come from a company like EA, a company with the money and the reach to market the hell out of a product, to get it in front of everyone in the country - not just gamers - to draw people's attention to games as just another fixture of the entertainment universe.

Whether the game itself succeeds or fails is almost unimportant. What counts is that it will open a new door for the developers and designers who have to content themselves with making browser-based games and freeware today. They'll still get their start making small games, but now they'll be able to get them in front of the public. And gradually, being an indie gamedev will come to mean something very cool, not just to gamers, but to everyone.

We're still a few short steps away from that time, though, so wish EA luck. Whether it's a Cleopatra, a Heaven's Gate or a Jaws (one of the first modern blockbuster successes), one day soon, a big game is going to make a big splash and end the age of the gaming mogul. And once again, the guy with the best game will win.

Mark Wallace is a journalist and editor residing in Brooklyn, New York, and at He has written on gaming and other subjects for The New York Times, The New Yorker, Details and many other publications.

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