Recently, I had the opportunity to play the newly released Broken Age, a point-and-click adventure video game created by Tim Schafer and his studio at Double Fine. The game itself is great, but it’s not what I want to talk about right now. What I want to discuss in this blog post is something that I has been stirring in my mind since this game was announced through the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter. This thought was that medium-sized development studios could see a resurgence through the Kickstarter platform. When Double Fine announced their this new game through Kickstarter, it was first time that a major developer had used it to make a game. When Double fine exceeded their goal by a huge margin, it caused other developers from other studios to create their kickstarters. Like Double Fine, the most successful of these promised an “old-school” style of game saying that the genre had been dead and traditional publishers would not fund them the money in order to make the game. It’s no secret that video games have increased in cost and the risk to make them has increased. During the nineties and 2000’s many medium-sized developers were acquired by major publishers, bringing them into their own branding. In my mind, this along with the increased costs, of producing a video game feels like a loss in creativity among larger games, particularly the very popular of these.

When we read Dunne and Raby and their talking about how society defines what we prefer and how we can shape that in a limited way with our role as consumers and, this idea came back to me. I would argue that Kickstarter has given people more access to the design of their video games through being able to interact in a more meaningful way as consumers for specific projects and yet still is limited in key ways. In a way I could see parallels to the traditional role of the patron. With that said, there are still some interesting power dynamics that I find curious in Kickstarter. There is still a very limited amount of interaction between the designers and the kickstarter backers. Kickstarter provides few tools that allow backers to organize themselves and alter the direction of the project. The most important is the comment system where a user can post a general comment about the project as a whole. Another aspect kickstarter campaigns engage in after reaching their goal amount is to create stretch goals as further incentives to make more money. These stretch goals are in general presented to the users by the designers with no input from the users.

Double’s Fine Broken Age is one of first major games to be released through the Kickstarter platform and I feel it is a good mix of old and new, but I’m certain there will be bad games that arise from the process. I’m not sure what all this means if I should assign a value judgement to the undemocratic aspects of kickstarter, and the direction that it should go in, but I think kickstarter has the potential to offer a way within our current society these medium-sized developers to create unique games, at least that’s how I see it right now.

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