It's your year to make a videogame. In 2013, making games is cheap, easy to learn and, for the first time in history, comes along with any number viable of ways for you to get your game out there. While indie games have been around for some time, these pioneers of garage game making have blazed the trail ahead; with a plethora of ways for you to make games. While the barrier of programming has always dissuaded many from venturing into game design, there are now a multitude of intuitive tools you can use to get around programming, or God forbid, even learn how to code.
WHY MAKE A GAME?
Today’s videogame industry seems to be buckling under it’s own weight. As this console generation comes to a close, heralded by the arrival of the Nintendo Wii U and the inevitable announcement of the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 successors, we’re seeing studio after studio collapse under the high stakes business of making a big budget game. We’re seeing publishers become more and more conservative, pumping out sequels and franchised games to milk as much profit as they can from their safe bet games, lending to rather dry year for gameplay innovation.
On the other hand, the indie scene is bustling, with more and more of the public eye catching a glimpse of our little world by way of Indie Game: The Movie recently being added to Netflix; a swell of brilliance coming from Kickstarter; and the continued success of indie acolytes like Minecraft creator Marcus “Notch” Persson. This year is mounting up to be a watershed moment in the history of videogames.
Indie Game: The Movie offers a glimpse at the lives of the creators behind some noteworthy titles
Aside from the gratification that comes from the creative act, I believe videogames, specifically independent videogames, are due for some fresh voices in the mix. To really change this medium--to make it grow and expand--we need these new creators to explore their ideas through interactivity. As it stands now, videogames may have a dark future as an insular, nostalgic junkyard, desaturated and uninteresting to audiences outside its established reach.
BUT I DON'T KNOW THE FIRST THING ABOUT MAKING VIDEOGAMES
Well, maybe you don’t. But give yourself some credit; have you played videogames for many years? Are you able to talk about what you like in certain games, and what you don’t like? If you can, you are critiquing a game. That’s integral, because if you know what you like and what you don’t like then you can make design choices that will make your game your own.
There’s nothing wrong with your game being reactionary to the games you’ve already played. In fact many indie hits are reinterpretations of Super Mario Bros., which is still currently the most common ground for our collective experience in gaming. Platformers–games like Mario where your primary actions include running and jumping--are simple to understand and have been unofficial proving grounds for fledgling designers over the years.
But maybe you’re more interested in making an adventure game, or an RPG or a puzzle game. Don’t be afraid to work on something that’s comfortable to you. No need to reinvent the wheel. Yet.
So, that’s your first step: playing videogames, and talking about them. But maybe you’re new to the world of videogames entirely. This makes you, the most beautiful vestial virgin, are the key to gaming's future. You alone are not burdened with your own expectations of what a game is, and I for one will not soil your splendor with a list of gaming classics to check out. As strange as it sounds, you’ll be able to create an experience unhindered by the short but overwhelming precedent that gaming history has provided.
Anthropy's Rise of the Videogame Zinesters is a great place for you to begin thinking about making games
I’ve always appreciated talking to friends who don’t play videogames because they always have great ideas that could translate into a game. I’ve heard everything from a young kid’s idea to make a game about cardboard turning into monsters to a woman’s idea about making a game about the difficulties of bra shopping. Both sound great. They're experiences to share from wholly unique perspectives completely absent from game creation today.
Last year, Anna Anthropy released the brilliant Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, which aims to capture the zeitgeist of videogames today. If you need further encouragement, you should pick it up and catch a glimpse of Anna’s particular vision for the future of videogames. In addition to giving you good reason to get involved with the medium of videogames, she’ll give you tools and design practices you can incorporate into your project.
Stay tuned to Motherboard for Part II.
Illustration by Colin Snyder. Follow Colin at @scllopdelion