Some time back Dr. Faust did a small post on the second decline of the gaming industry. In a nutshell: mainstream games are getting worse these days because they're being rushed to meet schedules simply for the sake of staying afloat. Quality is being sacrificed for quantity, and people in suits are somehow forgetting that games are supposed to be fun.
This, of course, does not stop the average consumer from buying the next installment of the Call of Duty or EA sports or Assassin's Creed franchises. Which says as much about the average video game consumer as the companies which make said games.
I suppose this post will be somewhat disjointed and rambling, but it needs to be said anyway. Here's a game which took the spotlight some time ago: Dungeons of Dredmor.
Does Dredmor have amazing graphics? Heck no, it uses indexed .pngs as sprites.
Does Dredmor have a compelling main gameplay plotline? No, it's essentially "bad guy in bottom of dungeon, kill him."
Does Dredmor have DRM? No, but strangely enough people want to give their money to the developers for their work anyway. Sometimes even if they aren't buying anything.
Such a fascinating concept, eh? If only people loved you so much they gave you money for nothing.
What Dredmor does right is that it's fun. It doesn't take itself seriously. It's accessible, without being dumbed down for the average two-bit drooling idiot that mainstream games are these days. The developers speak directly to the players instead of through "community managers" and "customer service representatives".
And if a player doesn't like any aspect of the game, then they are free to mod it as they like with nothing more than notepad. Not to mention the modding community that's sprung up, of course.
Here's the head coder for the game, Nicholas Vining, speaking about how his team went about doing the writing for the game:
Because Gaslamp Games is small, they can do all this - and thanks to digital distribution, they can circumvent having to grovel at the feet of giant publishers and work on their own schedule.
Another well-known indie game developer is Edmund McMillen - his work is amazing, and yet often disturbing. Due to the content of his games, no mainstream publisher would dare to touch titles like Time Fcuk or The Binding of Isaac with a ten-foot pole (play them and you'll understand why), and his sheer genius would have gone unnoticed. Hell, if not for Newgrounds, where he got his start...
Derek Yu? Masterpieces like Aquaria and Spleunky.
Hour of gameplay per dollar spent on the game, indie games generally tend to yield far more than the 50-60 dollar nonsense on store shelves.
The gatekeepers of the old media, be it books, electronic media, music, video games - they are quickly falling apart thanks to the many-to-many model the internet has made possible. The future of media - and gaming in particular - seems to be indie, especially as game publishers become increasingly feminised and inefficient; a small start-up comprising of two pimply-faced nerds in their garages and bedrooms banging away at keyboards can reasonably compete with them, because first and foremost, games are supposed to be fun. Is there going to be a lot of crap? Sure, Sturgeon's Law applies in all fields; one look at the offerings on Steam Greenlight is going to prove that beyond all doubt.
But this is where they are allowed to ferment, to flourish, and the wheat separated from the chaff. The future, it would appear, is small-scale: while others are extrapolating this to the rest of humanity with predictions as to people moving away from cities and into villages, I'm going to stick with what's observably happening now in this regard.