Friday 4 August 2017

Making something "for everyone"

When making a video game, you're not making something that's going to be fun for everyone. In fact, I'm confident in saying that no medium has ever produced something that literally everyone likes.

Any given food has its fair share of critics, just like any popular enough video game is going to have several detractors. Neither of these things mean that the game is bad. By making a game, you're putting a very subjective piece out into the wild and some people just won't see the vision in your head, nor will they feel the emotions that you feel it should evoke. Somebody is inevitably going to get it wrong.

As a nice case study for this, let's take Shadow Warrior. Praised by critics such as TotalBiscuit, I decided to try it since it was free on the Humble Bundle store.

I spent precisely 13 minutes in-game before I realized that I really, really didn't enjoy it. The graphics looked nice albeit somewhat discordant, but the main kicker was the camera. Some people found the copious camera shaking very satisfying, but others didn't get on with it- myself included.

I'm not exactly sure why, but this is the first game I've ever played wherein I've felt genuinely nauseous after such a short span of gameplay. The point is that it's not necessarily the developers fault, nor is it even my fault. I can't control the fact that playing Shadow Warrior makes me want to throw up, nor can the developers read my mind and cater to my particular desires.

So why on earth have I been telling you about Shadow Warrior? Well, it's to exemplify the fact that a developer can be successful without catering to absolutely everyone. As a developer, not everyone has to explicitly enjoy everything you make, let alone everything you enjoy. Other people are other people and that's perfectly fine- good, even. You can exchange experiences and maybe gain some a new perspective into what it's like to not be yourself.

The point is that different people are different people and the differences between them are usually super cool.

Maybe I've gone off on a tangent here, but let me provide a quick summary. You don't have to make something that anyone else will like. It definitely doesn't make your piece in some way inferior. The only caveat to this is that if you're making games for a living, you simply might not be able to afford to make a game about your favourite wall-crawler in certain demilitarized parts of Germany. This can be related to the concepts of "pop" and "boogie", popularized by YouTube creator Digibro in his video on "Invitational Art". If you don't know what these are, worry not for I will provide a quick description.

"Pop" and "boogie" relate to the two kinds of content that someone can produce. "Pop" is the flashier stuff; it's the stuff that the average Joe can see, nod their head at and continue their day with fond memories of. However, that average Joe is much more likely to come back for whatever other media you create. If you create something a little more involved or a little bit more personal - a.k.a your "boogie" content - that average Joe will understand it better and enjoy it more. That Joe knows you slightly more intimately, but they no longer have to get acclimated to your style or personality. They've already done that when the stakes were lower.

Since they enjoy this more, they're likely to visit more of your work. You've gained a fan!

If you're struggling to make a living, you don't want to make your "boogie" content. You want to be making "pop" until your "boogie" stuff can support you, and even then you might want to keep some "pop" around just so as to not scare any newcomers off.

This really did go off on a tangent and by now I can't remember what the original point I was going to make was, but hopefully you've gleaned something useful from this. As usual, thanks for watching and stay tuned for more videos either about Mass O' Kyzt, this, maybe Ludum Dare but most likely not, or any other game-related topic.

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