If you were to ask a pretentious indie developer anarcho-communist Bolshevik swine like myself about which recent game I enjoyed the most, what kind of answer would you expect? Given that I've made games like The Museum of Broken Memories or The Great Machine: A Fragment, you might think I'd pick games with titles like Your Grandmother Is Depressing or Pointless Anxiety 2: The Return of the Big Sad. Or perhaps I only play mysterious French games developed on digital toilet paper by a nameless one-eyed dwarf living in the Paris underground, with evocative titles like Chien Sans Nez and Mangez Les Chaussures. Or maybe "I prefer not to call them games, it's such a misleading word, really, I much prefer (inter)active aesthetic narrative spaces."
The game I've enjoyed the most in the last couple of years, the game I've played the most with my anarcho-communist (aspiring writer) wife and our good Bolshevik (aspiring poet) friend, is Borderlands. Yes, the action-RPG/FPS about blowing the heads off bandits on an alien planet. The one that sold a lot of copies.
The game I get the most nostalgic about is Gothic II. I've played dozens of hours of Civilization IV. I adored the visceral combat of Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. The next game I'm going to buy is Two Worlds 2. And if someone made a proper X-Com again, I'd be the first to stand in line. These games share one major trait: They're all mainstream titles. Not a depressing grandmother or one-eyed dwarf in sight.
Now, I know this is going to sound radical, and I know some people don't want to hear this ... but the mainstream games industry has produced some truly, truly great games.
There. I've said it.
I don't blindly worship the games industry. Quite the opposite - being the kind of insufferable Marxist that I am, I could write down a list of what's wrong with the industry that would send the word count of this article into outer space. There's a reason I'm an indie game designer and never tried to get into the games industry.
But we have to give credit where credit is due: There are many mainstream games that are simply fantastic. Not perfect, perhaps, but still absolutely brilliant. Some of them were financially successful, some weren't - but that's a different issue. They were all created by the mainstream games industry, and they rock.
So why does this matter?