Saturday, December 24, 2011

Philanthropy In Game Design


noun \fə-ˈlan(t)-thrə-pē\
plural phi·lan·thro·pies

Definition of PHILANTHROPY

1: goodwill to fellow members of the human race; especially : active effort to promote human welfare
2 a : an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes b : an organization distributing or supported by funds set aside for humanitarian purposes 


Because Christmas is the Season of Giving, I figure I'll talk about this. There's several reasons why people make video games, mostly a combination of these I'm about to mention:

* To make money.  Dirty sexy money.  Don't doubt that the developers of Minecraft, Angry Birds, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, etc. are laughing their asses off to the bank right now.  Granted, profit is not bad (you NEED money to live) but for some, it's less about the game and more about the money.  We know that.


* To educate or get some point across to the audience.  Like if you hate McDonald's, you make a game about cows getting slaughtered.  These games suck.  Like in Dead Rising *MILD SPOILER* the outbreak was caused by genetically mutated cows.  And there's a subtle message about the "evils" of American consumerism (zombies in a mall).  So instead of buying things from evil corporate Wal-Mart, I should turn of electricity and water, sit at home at my farm, plant a field of and knit a quilt (get the yarn from my own livestock).  Whatever you say, boss.

* This is a big one--you get to make games that personally move YOU.  Think arty-farty stuff here.  You want to make a game about an elf going around stabbing monsters with swords?  Or a game about rolling stuff up in a ball?  Or a game about a dad who will cut off his pinky finger to save his son?  You got it.

Thankfully we have visionaries who will go the distance to make "art" like this.  It's great.  It's where we get the Marios, Sonics, and *cough* Halos of gaming.

* Then there's the opposite of the above.  Rather than make games for yourself, you make games that cater to other people's wants.  Oh dear, who will make a good Sonic game?  Well, Sega will do it because we love the fans (really?).  Or who will a new motion control Zelda game or a Gran Turismo game on the Xbox?  While there's the money motive involved (SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!), you know some Good Guy Greg's (or GGG for short) are patting themselves on the back like "Good job, we made those people happy."

And this is when I reach a conundrum.  I'll say this--my main goal, as sad as it is, is to make a new Daytona game (or some equivalent).  It's just branded into my psyche and it won't go away.

But instead, I'm detoured by all sorts of other games.  Like Battle Fortress Tortoise for school.  Games I'm not as enthusiastic about working on but I know there's a fanbase who'd love to see this game get made.  More people than Daytona USA for sure.  I'm still feeling a bit rebellious seeing as my game pitch never had a chance but am I being an ass for being stubborn in my pursuit for more racing games?

So this is where free will comes in.  Let's throw out money and fame for a second.  If you had the choice to make a game you LIKE that won't please as many people or a game you DON'T LIKE but will please many, what do you do?  A guess a good example would be like Peter Parker in the Spiderman move.  Do you save Mary Jane or the school bus full of kids?  And no, you can't save both--Peter got lucky there, you can't.

Isn't it a bit selfish to make games that you like even though they won't do much good for everyone else?  How is that a bad thing--YOU'RE the one putting in tons of mental labor, not them.  The video game industry is such a mess now with people begging to get "what they want" that you'll leave some out to try and that's the breaks.  Besides, if you make a great game, maybe you'll be able to "convert" them to your side.  I don't think you could make some crazy games like Katamari Damacy or Shenmue without hoping for this to kick in.  Besides, if the majority of fans got what they wanted, then we'd be sitting on a mountain of Call of Duties, Halos, Zeldas, and Final Fantasies.  Geez.

Oh well, I know that Sega is throwing us fans crumbs....we got Daytona USA, Sega Rally, and OutRun 2 ports recently, but I feel there's more.  Like it took the work of people like Bart to emulate Model3 games when Sega seemed unwilling to do so.  The question is how far is Sega going to go to satisfy our miniscule fanbase?  Just admit it--there's not a whole lot of people itching for a new Daytona.  There's however a lot more people itching for a new Sonic and that's what you get--more Sonic games (thankfully, they're better now).

I guess that's why I'm working at becoming a game programmer cause I'm taking matters into my own hands.  Oh, I want people to play games and be happy but if I'm assigned to a project that I have some say in, I don't know which way I'll go.  Be sure to leave feedback so I can know what the people want...rambling idiots on message boards DO NOT COUNT.

Batman was never really "loved" by the people.  He just swooped into the save the day and off he went.  No one knew who his true identity so they couldn't really thank him.  A true GGG.  So who are you going to be--Batman or some egotistical jerk?


EDIT: On the contrary, I went to sleep and was reminded of this quote from Talladega Nights that no one seems to remember.  It's the end of the movie:

Reese Bobby, the bum father waiting in the parking lot, says, "Hey Ricky, let me ask you a question.  Who'd you win that race for?"  And Ricky replies, "I guess if I really gotta think about it, I just went out there and drove...and knew that no matter what happened, my boys, my momma, and my lady would love me."

Maybe there is no shame in doing my own thing since I'm just doing what I love and maybe people will understand.


I think I'm over-analyzing this topic.

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