Kickstarters, Gaming, and Diversity: Have We Really Come a Long Way?

Heading into the E3 season, I believe there’s one thing, one motto that the gaming community has made abundantly clear this year: nostalgia sells. This isn’t anything new, of course: retro chic is a style that never goes out of fashion, and in the world of video games, nothing seems to get people’s boners raging more than good pixel art and overworld maps reminiscent of Super Mario World. Despite the truth in this statement, large name developers are continuing to push the graphical limits of these current gen systems, doing bigger and more modern things with these shiny new graphical capabilities. As they should, honestly. Retro-styled games and more modern looking games don’t have to stand directly opposed to each other, but with current developments, it does feel like that’s the precedent being set, as none of these recently popular retro games seem to have been created with the blessings of the larger distributors. In fact, in some cases these retro games have circumvented the need for these distributors entirely. How is this possible? Well… Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is full of terrible start-ups, but when placed against mainstream devs, the gaming platform as a whole benefits from this—if a Kickstarter idea is terrible, it probably won’t be funded; if a proposal for an AAA title sounds completely underwhelming, the game is still more than likely going to be released. And while big name game devs are more than capable of putting out beautiful, fun games, Kickstarter is proving to be the place to go when an indie team has an idea, and gaining a reputation for creating beautiful things, such as Shovel Knight.

Foe once, everything isn't terrible.

For once, everything isn’t terrible.

This year—and partly last year too—has seen the emergence of a somewhat new trend: Kickstarter isn’t just a place for indie developers anymore, it’s also a place for larger names that you may have grown up with. With some dumbass business decisions (looking at you, Konami)  and falling-outs, many developers have taken to Kickstarter to put out the games they weren’t able to put out underneath their old employers, those big name companies. In most cases, this means heading back into what they were known best for, perhaps inadvertently hitting that nostalgia button. This is all well and good, but looking at two Kickstarters that fall under this trend, I’m noticing something worrying: these developers aren’t necessarily taking full advantage of the opportunity given to them. What I’m saying is that if your project isn’t constrained by what some higher up is telling you, then nothing is stopping you from making your games more diverse. Except yourself.

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On Game Design and Departures, Briefly.

Much of the video game news that I’ve been getting lately has been depressing. Don’t get me wrong, some it has been pretty neat, like the new playable character announcements for Ultra Street Fighter 4, or the first trailer for the new Angry Birds turn-based RPG. But if you’ve been paying attention, maybe you’ve heard that two of the most notable video-game developers in the industry are losing significant talent. Koji Igarashi (Iga), who has designed and produced more games in the Castlevania franchise alone than I care to mention, will depart from Konami after twenty-four years with the developer. Just under two weeks ago, noted game writer Amy Hennig left Naughty Dog, for whom she wrote and directed all four games in the Uncharted series.

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