Video games have come a long way in a short amount of time. Compared to the early days, they have increasingly involved players in a much bigger way. More now than ever, players are participating on many different levels, not just playing. Some critics say this is good as this invites a whole new level of immersion for players and creativity gaming developers have always strove to unlock. However, others say this prevents gaming developers from pursuing their vision of game development or wastes huge amounts of players’ time. For better or for worse, gaming seems to favor increased player involvement for the foreseeable future. What are some of these new involved roles players have taken on?
1. Players as Content Generators
It wasn’t long ago that gamers were hard pressed to find a video walkthrough or a written guide for any game anywhere. Namely, this was because the internet did not exist. Typically, it was a game developer’s job to create a written guide to go along with the game, but often these guides were short or limited. Even when the internet was just becoming popular, there was very little gaming related content on it for quite some time. People just didn’t have anywhere to post information or the means to record game play. However, as any avid gamer can see now, there is an enormous amount of gaming content that can be found online.
What kind of gaming related stuff can you find on the internet? Well, how about guides, walkthroughs, playthroughs, speed runs, high scores, cheats, hacks, gold sellers, item sellers, forums, message boards, chat rooms, mod downloads, maps, shopping, collector’s items, etc. The list goes on and on. Virtually all of this different gaming content is player created, not developer generated. Most of it also exists outside of the actual game itself and is created by third party sources.
Most of this content is created, updated, maintained, and used by gamers. Why is this important? For one thing, this content aids gamers do the things they want to do: play a game. Second, this information is always available. This information is free and always around if you ever need to access it. Third, gamers do a great job of keeping content up-to-date. Gamers find satisfaction in getting information for other gamers. Since most games have a following, there are hardly ever any gaps in information concerning old or new games. This takes a huge burden off the developers’ shoulders and lets them focus on game development rather than database maintenance.
2. Players as Brainstormers
Idea creation and development is no longer only exclusive to the gaming industry. It now belongs to players, too. Though not responsible for designing or implementing content, players can be an invaluable asset to game development. To prove my point, which two groups has more collective brain power? A gaming company with 10,000 employees or a gaming community with 50,000,000 people? It’s not a trick question. Gamers are a large group and they all have ideas.
Gaming companies often lose sight of what makes a game great. They focus on a few aspects, but leave some forgotten or undeveloped. Gamers, however, are a very large group who often look at every aspect of a game. Gamers are likely to grasp every single detail and quirk. They understand what needs to be improved or what should be left alone. Even so, many developers are hesitant to embrace this type of feedback and insight…justifiably so.
Giving game development control to gamers can have a negative impact. Some ideas are good, but many others are bad, and of those some are REALLY bad. By letting too many ideas get implemented, developers can drastically change the style and direction of play within a game. Player involvement and ideas need moderation by gaming developers. Without this moderation, games take on a life of their own, becoming potentially inconsistent or rife with too much unwanted content.
3. Players as Community Members
I used to think gaming was an individual activity. For a long time, this was true. Most games had a singleplayer mode that was typically the main game mode. Multiplayer used to be very clunky in early games and limited to only a few players. However, things have changed to the point where multiplayer is the predominant game mode. A game without multiplayer is doomed to not be as successful as most other games on the market.
Gaming has become much more community oriented over the years, albeit in a limited capacity. Players are much more interconnected and able to communicate with each other, but they still hardly know much about the person on the other end. Gaming communities aren’t as close as real life communities or friendships in many ways, but they are better than no community at all. This community aspect makes gaming more enjoyable and fun.
It is troubling in a way to see that players have more reason to “waste time” with so much gaming content online. No longer can players game and discover all there is to know about a game on their own. Nor do they game just to have fun. With so many ways to be involved with gaming, players are constantly spending time with video games rather than following other pursuits. That said, it’s great to see gamers have the opportunity to be more involved with games. There’s no harm in wanting to achieve the best gaming experience possible for you or for other fellow gamers as well.