Gamers Digest - Transparent Union Addiction Stories

Inspired by The Sunday Papers from Rock, Paper, Shotgun and a tweet from Christoph Lurz, I'm starting digest posts focusing on the gaming industry.

It's a way for me to create a bit more regular content that is easier to produce on the side while I'm reading tons of articles anyway. Also this way I can comment on stuff in a longer form than on Twitter but I don't have to write a full article myself, which is something that still takes me way too long.

Hopefully this digest is also useful to some people who are interested in the bigger picture when it comes to games but don't spend as much time on gaming websites as I do.

At Barcelona's Gamelab Amy Hennig was talking to about changing work practices in the games industry:

I believe that the key creatives that make up the hub of [a project] are going to become more like free agents as they are in the film business.
— Amy Hennig

I wonder if we will see publishers hire such key creatives for the design and production part and then has its programming and graphic studios ready to develop those games. Or will we even see small specialized studios consisting of only game designers and producers who outsource all other processes?

Hennig also goes on about how this change may bring about unionization in the industry. If we stick with the film business comparison I could see strong guilds forming for those key creatives but I'm not sure how much will change for all the artists and technicians. Just like the VFX workers still seem to be a bit of an afterthought in the film industry.

Charlotte Cutts writes about the WHO's classification of "Gaming Disorder" on destructoid and brings up the important point how we often focus on the addiction or compulsive behavior instead of the underlying causes.

Addiction is ultimately an issue that’s more about a malfunction of the brain than the way it expresses itself. By focusing too much on the question of whether games addiction exists or does not exist, given that anything can be a source of compulsive behaviour, we’re at risk of ignoring the underlying question of why people become addicts. And if we ignore that question, then it is not just a games disorder that young people might be at risk of developing.
— Charlotte Cutts

I think the whole article is an interesting and important read. The industry's problem with the classification is understandable in the light of constant accusations against games and their effects which seem to get justification from the WHO. However, gaming disorder is just another way compulsive behavior can manifest and people on all sides should understand that there is nothing inherently worse or better about games compared to any other activity that can become compulsive.

Writer Rhianna Pratchett has worked on games such as Heavenly Sword, Mirror's Edge or more recently Tomb Raider and she speaks with Gamespot about how she could see Lara as a kick-ass mom in the future and there should be more video game stories revolving around women in different stages of life.

We’ve had a lot of what gets called the ‘dad-ification’ of games. You don’t really see moms in games, especially not kick-ass moms in games. [Lara Croft as a mom is] one of the things that I thought could be one interesting avenue to explore.
— Rhianna Pratchett

She also notes that this "dad-ification" is at least something towards advancing the narrative ambitions of games compared to TV and movies but the games industry still lags behind.

This is very true and while it seems obvious that war and alien stories lend themselves more easily to games, we have enough examples now that prove it doesn't have to be this way. Story-wise we have come a long way from Super Mario Bros. to Celeste.

Just like with movies, I like some popcorn blockbusters from time to time, but I don't feel that the more subtle and interesting stories have enough of a market share yet. Just like Pratchett I'm hoping for a lot more female protagonists and more diverse perspectives.

I get a lot of my gaming news via podcasts and so I also want to use this space to highlight some of my favorites.

Over the last few months I have come to see Kotaku's Splitscreen as my number one podcast that I try not to miss every week. For me Jason Schreier and Kirk Hamilton find the right balance talking about games, news and overarching stories. They sometimes have guests and they usually bring new perspectives to the table. For example, one episode had Chris Plante on, whose voice I recognized from the Vergecast. He gives an interesting look back on his career, at how Polygon started, his time at The Verge, and what he is doing back at Polygon now. Then the three of them go on to talk about why the gaming industry is so secretive and if it would be better if that changes:

If it wasn’t all about the surprises, it would hinge on people being excited because the game looks great. That’s — The Avengers, Marvel came out and showed what they were working on for five, six years, and the excitement was about actually seeing the thing.
— Chris Plante

I like the idea that the news would not focus so much on the big reveals. Instead I'm much more interested in how the game comes together, and who is behind it. That is something we already see happening more in the indie scene and early access games but I do understand that it is harder to keep the momentum going when a AAA title is in development over many years. There is also the risk of disappointing the audience when projects fail. Plante also addresses this when he says that more transparency would mean that people get more used to those basic business realities.