Thursday, 17 November 2011

Storm A Brewin ...? Week: Day 4 - Gone Horribly Right

E.g. what happens when a company pays attention and says "This seems like a good idea."

Well, now that I've got the worst of it out of my system I can start on the downslope of this week. Today I'm looking at the potential concern for the types of gimmicks and cheap tricks we see in the products like Farmville making their way into video games proper. I certainly hope that I'm off the mark on this, and I certainly also cannot guarantee that this will ever come to pass or that it will become a prolific problem in the first place.

I can honestly only hope.

Despite that though, there are some ... worrying signs that the industry might be paying more attention to these kinds of things than we think. And if a company like Zynga can produce something like Farmville, what do you honestly think is going to happen when a company like Valve or Blizzard tries to give it a shot?

Again turning to the story of Who Killed Videogames? I submit that a big name company has already started to hone in on this trend. November 2009, EA acquires Playfish, a company that EA says "leads the social gaming industry in innovation and creativity with award-winning, category-defining games designed for friends to play together." Sounds innocent enough at the outset certainly. By why did EA suddenly take interest -- in the tune of being willing to pay $300 million USD all told -- in a company that does make games for any market that it was currently interested in? Simple: they saw that companies like Zynga were making profits off of Facebook and other social network apps and decided "Hey, if they can do it then I bet we can do it better."

And do it better they did.

Now, the damage here is still only to the tune of a social network app. But how long is going to be before EA decides it works well enough to give it a full test run on the PC or on one of the consoles? Now I will admit that certain elements are already there and not even that harmful in and of themselves for the most part. I was the guy that caught and traded for all 150 of the original Pokemon, got to level 99 in RPGs whenever I could, and a lot of other stuff, so I know the allure of a game where you have to be the best. What I'm concerned about is when the line is cross and 150 becomes infinite instead, where there is no level cap, no endgame in sight, only the grind. Sure, some of us will scoff at such a thing, but will some gamers out there, who have grown up with these apps, be able to know any better? Will they be able to discern that a game actually shouldn't work this way? Perhaps, but the danger is that they do not, and that is in my mind at least a danger that demands attention.

It's a far cry from what I'd say is a current reality, but the more younger people get on social networks first might not know better, and when people start assuming that this how games do work, as opposed to exactly how they shouldn't, then it can branch out more and more into the mainstream, bringing the larger problems present in the premise of the products themselves into the gaming world at large, and I for one believe that's a genie that needs to stay in the damn bottle.

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