Comics / January 29 2018

Cross the Streams

Michael Edwards

                                 As we have all had the great pleasure of experiencing, gaming as we know it has been, and continues to change. I myself have had the luxury of growing up with the original Atari 2600, all the way to current gen systems. Today we will focus on the advantages and disadvantages of the modern era of games, specifically marketing, streaming, and personal videos. Gaming is no longer singularly for gaming, but is for the expression of entertainment in all its forms as well.

          From the video craze of media acclimation through outlets like YouTube, and various streaming services such as Mixer, and Twitch, gaming is now a multi-media platform for nearly any form of entertainment. In the past few years especially, we have seen the advent and mass wave of YouTube game stars for walkthrough and playthrough videos become media hits. We have stream stars who broadcast their live gameplay for all to see. But these bring both good and bad things to the medium.

          On the plus side, there is a level of exposure and creativity unseen in the gaming community, where previously we were all seen as escapists and social outliers. We can quite nearly all become stars in our own right through the level of dedication and hard work these new social stars put forth. The “everyman” is now the best person in media because they are fun, and best of all, relatable and approachable. Nearly everyone can tell you who “smosh” or “pewdie pie” are from their laundry list of gaming and playthrough videos. Content creators like them have become a common staple of the gaming community and are a window of opportunity.

          Of course the downside to the massive upsurge in content creators also brings in one of the lesser talked about downsides in the community: oversaturation. More often than not, blockbuster companies will push through marketing and advertising campaigns, which will include content creators, which is great for exposure, but overall, can usually lead to the constant never ceasing exposure of singular franchises or titles and can leave smaller companies and even lesser known gold standard games left in the dark, if not abandoned altogether. A fine example of this would be the game Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning and the dissolution of Big Huge Games.

          The game was a wild overnight success, with fans begging for more content and a sequel. It drew in its massive following with unique fantasy based art, and a fantastic and innovative combat style, allowing for mass versatility. What ended up killing the game and its producing studio was the lack of funds and promotion from distributor EA games, which at the time was pushing for more solid revenue balances from their major franchises of Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and Battlefield. This push for its larger franchises left Big Huge Games in developer hell because they couldn't produce or distribute another title without permission and backing from EA. So, the franchise died within its own luster, bringing down the developing company with it.

          On the flipside of that same equation, streamers and content creators themselves have often been one of the larger voices to bring light to lesser known titles and franchises. This is accomplished through their creation of content, using new or existing titles away from their norm simply because it exists in a genre they love. This same level of exposure has led to the cross promotion of streamers and content creators from major and upcoming developers to promote their own titles, which gives viewers newer content, and the creators new games to devour and engross themselves in while doing what they love.

          This allows for a new forum to exist for the new gamer and experienced gamer both to gain viewership and knowledge of newer and lesser known properties, on top of the other games they know and love. It's not just walkthroughs and playthroughs anymore; now it is all a beautiful tapestry of game and entertainment worlds. It allows developers low costing feedback and promotion, while simultaneously generating viewership and anticipation, and thus expanding many genres at once without as many drawbacks and possible failed marketing strategies.

          Then there are companies who take that to the next level, with the community itself being the forum and machine through which they engineer their games. The greatest template for this event for me has to be Digital Extremes and their masterful approach to the ever expanding title Warframe. DE has taken to the skies by creating a symbiosis of community based feedback and content creation, with their own streaming and marketing. For those unaware of the title, Warframe is an ever expanding mmo based ip that combines space, ninjas, superpowers, tech and a continually expanding mythos that slowly reveals itself for the gem it truly is. DE's approach is to combine their streams of hotfixes and upcoming content, with actual footage of builds, mixed with trailers for added content. But the grandest, and I feel most crucial and undersold part of Warframe, and it’s fantastic dev team are the community tools and forums. They hold weekly streams to show what issues are prevalent, what changes will be implemented and even give wonderful little teasers of upcoming content.

          DE constantly asks for feedback from the community, and in the ultimate testament of listening, released their own dev tools to the public, who were then allowed to generate content in a variety of ways, the majority of which are not only added into the game as implemented items weapons accessories and skins, but all are credited to the original content creators, which adds a very personal touch for fans and creators both.

          I could drone on and on for forever about how everything has changed for the better and the worst, but in all, the gaming scene has become a fascinating study of how communities affect the outlook and direction of media. I hope you all enjoyed this look into how I feel the landscape has changed over the past few years in my eyes, and thanks for reading.

michael edwards is a contributor for the GoG