The End of Big Media?
Raph Koster is the author of the book ‘A Theory of Fun’ and presents some groundbreaking ideas in a GDC Podcast titled ‘Where Game Meets the Web’. Raph’s blog can be found here.
The linear media industries have been hearing about all the implications of Web 2.0 for the past two years and it’s taking hold. The Australian prime minister has even taken to launching major political statements on YouTube. But if YouTube is eclipsing television as the medium of choice to reach the younger demographic what does Web 2.0 mean for games? This is exactly the topic of Raph Koster’s talk which was originally delivered at GDC. Oddly the audience reaction is incredibly subdued either because they are in complete shock or highly skeptical of what is being said. I’ve got to say that this presentation is one of the clearest and most controversial I have heard on the far reaching implications of Web 2.0 for ‘Big Media’ whether console games, broadcast television or cinema.
In terms of gameplay, Koster has some interesting hypotheses, particularly on the transition from asymetrical to symmetrical games. He says that symmetrical games are actually more established in the history of game playing – cards, chess, etc. Asymmetrical games are what the first generation of computer games have developed – pitting individual players against the machine. But with online games people play against each other and this is becoming the dominant form of gameplay which is ’symmetrical’ according to Koster.
On production methods there are some grenades thrown into the audience of hard core games developers. He talks about protracted production on AAA games as being obsolete and future production methods being about rapid turnaround. With iterative development done in partnership with online audiences he points to a world of radically lower budgets and major brand partnerships. He points to a recent Gamasutra article ‘How to Prototype a Game in Under Seven Days’ which features Carnegie Mellon students’ Tower of Goo game which was rapidly developed in their ETC program. There are many new opportunties for online entertainment and we’re only at the beginning. Koster points to branded entertainment as the future direction of the games industry in a world where “bits in a box is obsolete”.