A rant about videogaming. By a man who videogames.

By: Xander

On: July 27th, 2009

Kind of the antithesis of the video from a while back (IT HAS FLAWS!), Anthony Burch of Destructoid.com has been making a series of weekly ‘Rev Rants’ which are basically 4-5 minute critiques of certain parts of gaming culture. These could be simple concepts in games such as moral choice systems, or much more widespread subjects such as this week’s ‘Donate’ video.

‘Donate’ is about the state of gaming in the sense of how we choose to pay for games, what games we choose to pay for and the biggest question of ‘Why?’. It does deal with mainstream games quite a bit but there is a large amount of relevance in there for indie gamers/devs if you care to watch through it. If you can get past the sometimes iffy edits (the problem with appearing on camera for the entire segment is you’re giving yourself no opporunities to cut away if you mess up a take) and the mental image that it could be Iranian President Ahmadinejad ranting about games it’s worth your attention, for this week certainly.

  • Outlander

    I agree with Ninja Dodo and others, I’ve bought my copies of Cortex Command and Dwarf Fortress because I belive in those investments.

    In contrast I loved experiancing Passage but did not invest in it, nor did i donate to the Smithsonian last time i visted.

    I did pay $60 for mass effect and I don’t feel bad because that game happend to move me just like Passage but Mass Effect did it more than once.

    The point I’m trying to make is all art has value but i’m going to be more willing to pay for it if there is something byond a 5min experiance That is thrown together at a Jam, But then again, sometimes I do.

  • Devlin Bentley

    I didn’t like passage. :P Liked his other games though.

    and I never buy games until I have both read good reviews and talked to friends with similar taste who tell me it is good.

  • Ilya Chentsov

    60 bucks for Assassin’s Creed? This is madness. Here in Russia, it’s less than $10 (Director’s Cut PC version).

  • Ilya Chentsov

    Is he actually playing Passage soundtrack with his right hand?

  • toastie

    I think that craftsmanship quality has a lot to do with it. Assassin’s Creed as a product is a much more expensive entity, simply because it involved the work of many people over the course of many years.

    It doesn’t really matter if the end is satisfying or not, the price range is the price range for its kind of product. It’s kind of like going to a movie and then complaining about the admission price when it turns out to be really bad.

    In the same vein, I enjoyed Passage, but I would never pay money for it because I enjoyed it the same way I might have enjoyed a doodle that someone made or a short piece of music that someone wrote… not things that I usually pay money for.

    I guess personally for me, there is a clear distinction in when something deserves monetary support or not. There are many indie games that I’ve bought and supported through development because they were serious projects that required a lot of time and work from their developers.

    Something like Passage is wonderful as I said, but paying someone because they decided to sit down one weekend and sketch out what they thought about life on what amounts to be a digital napkin is a ridiculous idea.

  • renkin

    Good rant. Although I think Passage is massively overrated, I agree with his point. Only I would take La Mulana or Within a Deep Forest or whatever as an example instead of Passage. Also, I’m glad he hates Assassin’s Creed.

  • geist

    Something like Passage was never intended to be for profit, nor do I think any case where the developer asks for donations. Donations are just that, donations. They are meant to be an act of charity not a source of profit and revenue. If you bring the sheer motive of profit into it, it stops being charity and becomes mere begging.

    Thankfully, the Passage doesn’t do this. But the guy in the video really doesn’t seem to understand this at all. The Passage was never sold. It was never intended to “generate sales” or be a source of revenue for the developer. Donations are nice, but comparing them to games that are actually being sold for the sake of making a profit is like comparing apples to oranges.

  • Death Of Rats

    The Passage and Today I die are bad examples. Those two are more concepts and ideas rather than a complete package.

    I would pay for An Untitled Story, Cave Story, or Knytt Stories because they feel like complete games, perfectly designed from beginning to end.

    What playing AUS, CS, or KS for free did for me, though, was earn my respect and attention for any further work they may do, and in fact I do plan on buying CS and Nightgame on the Wii when they come out.

  • Xander

    AUS wasn’t originally freeware either, though it really didn’t cost much when it first came out. I think it could’ve even been a dollar.

  • http://ianmorrison.wordpress.com Ian Morrison

    Uh… actually, I kind of liked Assassin’s Creed. Enough to play it through twice. And hell, if the notoriously hard to please Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation could say “Overall, I liked Assassin’s Creed” then that’s a good sign that I’m not off my rocker and there was a good game to be had there, even if he did have to qualify that statement with “but I won’t blame you if you try to fire it into the sun.”

    In all seriousness, a donation model seems risky conceptually in an age where software pirates and others have little difficulty justifying not paying for something that otherwise costs money. I’d love to be proved wrong, but the freeloader instinct is going to be tough to combat. Some people do it, sure, but I’m not convinced it’s ever going to prove particularily profitable.

    Ultimately, though, the argument here doesn’t strike me as particularily solid. Yeah, the artist isn’t getting paid based on his quality. Guess what? That’s NEVER been the case! Ultimately, one has to be a good businessman as well, or at least be able to find someone who is. Art alone has never been enough, and never will be. It’s a shame, but it’s the reality of the world we live in.

  • geist

    “Yeah, the artist isn’t getting paid based on his quality.”

    There’s a term for that. Starving artist, I think it was. Okay, I’m only kidding but still.

  • traylorpark

    I agree with the man in the video.

  • Jay

    I, too, agree with the man in the video. 100%. Think about this. It’s not a coincidence that at least half (and that’s being conservative) of gameplay innovation seems to come from the indie games scene anymore.

  • Moose

    I understand the viewpoint, but there’s several problems with this.

    First of all, it’s way too subjective. I remember people on this very site, and on several indie gaming sites, railing against Jeff Minter when he complained about the low sales of Space Giraffe. Yet when somebody complains about not making money for a much smaller game that they didn’t even ask for any money for, people rally around the flag. So, basically, everyone wants the game they like to make money. Of course they do. But unless you put up 100% of that money yourself, it doesn’t work that way.

    Secondly, it forgets the need for that great bugbear.. marketing. Getting people to spend money costs money. In fact, it costs so much that often giving something away for free is actually a better deal.

    Finally – I didn’t play Passage, I just watched a video of it on Youtube. I do the same for most single player games that focus on story/cutscenes as the main draw, precisely because I don’t want to pay for them, since the interactivity alone often isn’t worth the price. If your game can be substituted with a video, then it probably won’t sell.

  • Hawk

    I don’t see how people realistically expect mass donations.

    As long as someone is charging me for a game, I am going to save my money for that.

    Let’s say I just played an awesome indie game for like 2 hours. I then find out another game is being raved about but has a $10 price.

    I’m going to save my money from the game I already played and instead use it to pay for the $10 game because I don’t have a ton of money to throw toward everything that I found enjoyable. A short game like the passage, especially AFTER I already possess it, simply doesn’t warrant a purchase.

    Like an earlier poster said, tragedy of the commons. If ANYONE is ever charging for their product, people are going to resist donating in order to have enough money to buy it.

    The only viable solution is to charge for your product if you think it can cut it. If you’re looking to make any money, that is.

  • Hawk

    Oh, and before someone tells me that someone will stop making games if they don’t get any donations:

    What do I care? People might donate if I don’t. My $5 certainly won’t make a difference. And if they do cease making games, there’s plenty more developers out there who will make awesome games, even if they don’t see a dime, and others who will crop up as time goes on.

    It’s the tragedy of the commons, and I’m guilty, as are most people.

  • geist

    I just think the point where people have to say “I am going to stop making games” or anything forceful to that extent becomes the point where it’s no longer asking for donations but just flat out begging.

    Donations are just meant to be a nice thing you do just to be a good person. Like tipping the waiter/waitress at a restaurant, something just decided to do yourself to be nice. Now if they DEMAND that you tip them, then it’s no longer a donation. That’s beggging.

  • geist

    But again, I haven’t seen anyone really do this, although the guy in the video is really upset over people not doing so. But again, he fails to realize that asking for donations is not like actually selling a game even in the slightest.

  • Kamos

    You know, he is not talking about Assassin’s Creed, he is not saying that mainstream games suck and I don’t think he is discussing financial models, either…

    I think his point is that we are all too ready to invest big bucks in something that we know nothing about, other than it having the “triple A” tag, but we won’t invest a dime in something that we know nothing about, other than “it is made by very few people, and because of that, perhaps more creative / less shiny”.

    Also, he proceeds to say that, as a result, we encourage games with “triple A” tags, and limit the amount / quality of “possibly creative, certainly less shiny” games.

    Now, to all the people saying that he is whining, bashing Assassin’s Creed or that Passage sucks, your comments are interesting to read, but kinda miss the point. Of course, I might be wrong and I might be missing the point myself.

    Anyway, thank you for reading.

  • Kamos

    On second thought, he *is* talking about Assassin’s Creed, mainstream games and financial models.

  • SidM

    Scenario 1:

    “Hey mom, I just played this awesome game; can I use your credit card to send the guy who made it some money?”

    Scenario 2:

    “Hey mom, can I get *INSERT MAINSTREAM TITLE HERE* for Christmas?”

    Quick question: In which case will mom shell out money?

  • Anthony Flack

    Good to see some sense being spoken here. We all would like to see our favourite authours be successful, but game developers aren’t charities. And you can’t run a business off pity.

    And to an extent, you can’t expect to have your cake and sell it too. I like the avant-garde stuff as much as anybody, but you can’t make something deliberately uncommercial and then complain when it doesn’t make you any money.

  • Anthony Flack

    I also think it does a disservice to the makers of Assassin’s Creed to complain that it made money. It was *designed* to make money. They had a ton of experienced people working full-time doing everything they could to ensure it was going to make money.

    It doesn’t happen by magic and indie developers can’t expect to be rewarded just for wishing.

  • Jeru

    I’ve yet to work out people’s fascination and high reverence for Passage.

    All I got from it was some clumsy and obvious visual imagery which didn’t really affect the gameplay experience as much as it claims to.

    Also it’s ironic that people largely rail against current videogames developers adding in either moral or just alternate choices throughout the game forcing the player to play through twice to experience the entire content, yet will play passage through again to explore the areas they couldn’t get into if they took a wife. That also completely invalidates the purpose of the game, you should not have an opportunity to go back and visit the areas you could not visit. The game should not even load again. That is life. It’s not replayable.

  • Delta

    I totally agree, but really that is why we have reviews, comments, and all sorts. All most of us have to do is research the game for a day or something if we don’t think its good enough in that time don’t get it. Really its a quality vs price battle, which the price wins every time. people will continue this its all just MONEY! we can’t change it, i’m a serious gamer I only have few games but they are quality and price. All the games I have are worth about $80 and last around 8 hours. Really what happened to the games we used to have they were great more challenging which expanded game play, but they were worth it. All I really have to say is they shouldn’t have such high bloody prices!

  • 0rel

    @scarcity vs unlimited digital abundance (which would be something extraordinarily wonderful):
    somehow, it’s the same dilemma as in the real world: we’re using machines to produces more and more, with less labor. which would be something extraordinarily wonderful too.
    but, same as with digital technology, the economic system didn’t change. we must produce more and more, all the time, to be successful, to be able to compete, to be busy all the time. and consume more, in return. destroy more. exploit everything.
    then we complain about high unemployment rates.
    and bad games.
    — i hate this stupid modern world. —
    and yes. it is our fault!

  • salade

    there was a time when video games were original and quirky and people bought them. that turned into the very thing rev is complaining about.

    money has NEVER driven art. NEVER. oh sure, there are a multitude of crazy rich artists, who are now sitting on their crazy rich arses not innovating. Art is by nature independent. industry can drive entertainment, but not art. whether or not you can make money off of art is irelevant (for artistic purposes). Van Gogh didn’t make any money painting. vidya games are still in their early state, where things are still getting figured out.
    It would work better in an ideal world, but suck it up rev. things are the way they are, and in my opinion, for good reason.

    and I liked assasin’s creed.

    and passage didn’t deserve money.

  • salade

    this is is also why you NEVER risk financial security over art *cough*chris crawford*cough*

  • salade

    what, no asteriks?

    sorry for the triple post, i’ll stop.

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  • davidp

    everyone who goes indie, goes indie knowing they might end working for nothing (payment), don’t know why would you freak out like that, blaming everyone and everything for some indie games not getting payed what they deserve or don’t deserve. call me a “indie traitor”, but Today I die just isn’t worth paying. i mean, it’s nice experience, but srsly, you finish it in like 10 minutes or so. paying for it? you serious?

  • Quanrian

    Very interesting rant, if nothing else. The point of a good rant, to me at least, is to promote discussion, rather than solve a problem. I see a bit of confusion in that simple fact and the misunderstanding of how simplistic a rant is.

    I see a lot of philosophical and economic yarning, but it all packs strong bias, so I’m prone to ignore it. People always want to be right, and this is hardly about being right. You cannot focus on a few games and represent them as a whole, because they do not represent the whole, they simply represent that singular item.

    There are models out there to support Indy, but they must be actively sought out. Services like Community Games on Xbox Live are a step in the right direction, with much controversy to beat it right into the ground. In the end I am not so sure it matters what is right or wrong, just what is familiar.

  • MK

    man, the very beginning of the video is grossly exaggerated.

    Many people did like the game, and those that didn’t usually didn’t out of a comparison to expectations (what they were told) and other 60$ games…. and ultimately these people wouldn’t trade AC for Passage (in the figurative sense ofcourse).

    This is coming from somebody who liked passage more :). I didn’t like AC… but atleast i know reality.

  • Jordan

    People generally don’t pay for free things. The way around that, as far as I can tell, is to socialize the donation act.

    For example, most people pay for donation yoga because everyone can “see” if the other is paying or not.

    Optional payment at museums and churches similarly works on a social element.

    There is no reason why games can’t leverage this technique if they chose to.

    Free games receive something in return for being free: publicity and awareness. If you can make a successful free game, you can build your profile, build community, and position yourself for future success in a very competitive and exciting field.

    If you want to make art, it’s typically not realistic to expect that to provide you with a large income. That’s not to say it’s not worth a shot though…