Social game developers rage at GDC
The annual GDC rant panel is frequently the place to go for killer quotes, and this year has been no exception. Last night's session saw the premier names in social game design unite and express anger at the perceptions of their craft, no-brain 'creatives' claiming they can do better, and disillusioned app programmers.
Host Eric Zimmerman started the rant session off by stating that social game developers are often seen as “bottom of the barrel” when compared with other jobs on AAA titles. “The social game developers arguably have drawn a tremendous amount of ire and controversy, some would say jealousy, form inside and outside the industry,” he said. Read on for more comments from social gaming's most prolific figureheads.
Zynga chief game designer Brian Reynolds explained how he felt working in social gaming allowed him more more contact with his audience, allowing him to connect with players in a way that had never been possible whilst he was working in more traditional gaming environments. “I think it's interesting and I [now] have a chance to talk to audiences larger than those that I or anybody else have been able to talk to before … People I've never been able to reach or talk to through games,” he said.
Playdom's Steve Meretzky spent his stage time directing his rage towards the non-designers; from company CEO's to mail-room staff that “think you can just waltz into into a design meeting and contribute because you play a lot of games and read a couple of articles on Gamasutra.”
EA and Digital Chocolate founder Trip Hawkins explained his belief that social and mobile game developers were “lambs to the slaughter” as new platforms undermine the idea that games are worth money. He pointed out that the $1 billion generated by Apple's App Store had to be divided up into 250,000 apps, leaving a $4,000 per app average that “doesn't even pay for a good foosball table.”
He likened the many amateur developers trying to make millions with their game idea to American Idol contestants who all think they are going to make it big in the music industry. “There's something very inspiring about that, but just thinking you're going to make the superior game that's better than Angry Birds... what you don't know is about the 1000s that tried and failed,” he said.
Providing a philosophical close to the rant panel, Ian Bogost demonstrated using his satirical game Cow Clicker how even inherently pointless social games could be made into soapboxes for the developers creative expression. He pointed out that the ability to make it a platform for expression wasn't enough, though. He used Nigerian poet Wole Soyinka as an example of his argument, who was forced to write poetry with feces on toilet paper when in jail as a political prisoner.
“Shit stinks,” he pointed out. “When forced to root in it we retch and cower, and yet despite it, we rise above. We find crevices... and rise up out of the filth... No matter what shit we throw, people grow and thrive.”
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