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Is Big Business Gaming Infringing On Individual Creativity?

For the record, I am not blindly anti-corporation, in that I believe any company that has over a certain number of employees is automatically evil. I'm simply not capable of exhibiting that level of illogical idiocy with a straight face.

However, when one mixes any form of art or creative expression with a big business mentality, things can get strained. Just ask former Electronic Arts developer and World of Goo co-creator Ron Carmel, who described working for EA as "working for a machine."

"The reason I left EA was because it really was a machine. There was the designer/producer who came up with the design document--it’s literally this packet of paper that’s 50 pages deep--and it was handed to me.

It was my role as an engineer to implement the design document, and so I could steer it maybe one or two degrees in any direction. But I really felt like I was a factory worker more than a creative worker."

The bottom line is that Carmel says he wasn't able to be as creative as he could be, even though he felt he "had a lot to contribute." He also added that such conditions aren't only found at EA; in fact, they can be found at most any large company. Carmel said that working for a big company makes you a "specialized tool," but it's the opposite when you're creating something independently with a small team.

So is it fair to assume that as video games have become more mainstream, innovation and originality have fallen by the wayside too often due to corporate suffocation? Suffocation of individual thinking and creativity?

Tags: ea, electronic arts, video games, gaming industry, game business

12/4/2012 10:20:54 AM Ben Dutka

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Comments (19 posts)

Beamboom
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 10:38:11 AM
Reply

As one who has worked both for large and small companies, I can at least confirm that it's definitely true that in larger companies your field of work typically becomes much more specialized, while in smaller companies you get a wider involvement.

This is not always negative, though. It all depends on what kind of person you are, and what you want to do.

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xenris
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 11:30:58 AM
Reply

I have been saying this for such a long time, and I'm glad someone from the industry came forward and said this.

Big Publishers are ruining the industry IMO, its why some of the best most creative games to come out in the last couple years have been indy titles.

Sure we have gotten games like Dishonored, recently which really did some things different which is great. But so many games just seem to be following protocol which is sad. Whats more sad is ones that try something different get burned most of the time for not implementing the new feature perfectly, Binary Domain is a game that comes up in my mind often as a game that was treated unfairly.

I just hope something changes soon.

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telly
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 11:41:23 AM

I agree.

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Beamboom
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 2:09:07 PM

I disagree. We need both.

We need the giants too. Only the big publishers can handle the big releases. And as fun as the smaller indie games are, they are only spicing up the dish. The main courses are from the big publishers.


Last edited by Beamboom on 12/4/2012 2:11:04 PM

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telly
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 3:29:47 PM

Beamboom, well said. I agree with you more :)

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xenris
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 11:32:27 PM

The big publishers put less into the final product because all big publishers are privately traded except for Valve. That is why we are seeing more and more DLC as the years pass. Because the company NEEDs to try and outperform whatever quarterly earning they made the prior year in that given quarter.

Kickstarter is showing us that fans will pay for good ideas. Look up Star Citizen, crazy big ideas and it got over 3 million in funding and that is before its released. Most of the people who backed it will get it.

A lot of devs who are in kickstarter have been in the industry for years and a lot of them say that a lot of publishers are terrible to work for and use more money for PR than for actually game development. EA for example has been taking money out of Research and Development and putting it into PR over the last several years, and overall cutting costs where they can. Yet we get overall shorter games, and more DLC...that doesn't sound right to me.

I dont know what you mean only they can handle big releases? Kickstarter has shown that for 3 million dollars you can make a game with a team and profit from it. So when a publisher says they need to ship 5 million units to be successful, I call BS. Big publishers in my mind aren't adding anything, and a lot of the kickstarter devs feel the same way and like I said most have been in the industry a long time.

Games were plenty good in the late 90s early 2000s when lots of smaller publishers and devs were coming out with some awesome stuff.

Any JRPG fan will tell you that the PS2 had some amazing rpgs from really small publishers. Shadow Hearts:covenant, Suikoden 3, Dark Cloud 2, all the shin megami tensei games, Jade cacoon 2, Arc the Lad, Star ocean, Valkyria Profile 2 and Radiata stories. Sure some of these were published by bigger publishers like Square at the time, but they were creative and risky. Big publishers really aren't that willing to take the chance, and while it happens it is the exception not the rule. Dishonored is the most recent example of a big publishers taking a risk.

But for me, I see more awesome games coming from smaller teams this gen, games like Torchlight 2, The Witcher 2(my favourite rpg ever pretty much) and Natural Selection 2 that not only do things differently and better than the competition but they give you WAY WAY WAY more value. Which is my biggest problem with big publishers.

I honestly think kickstarting is the way of the future for games, seriously look up Star Citizen and tell me that that game doesn't look/sound like its going to be amazing.

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Beamboom
Wednesday, December 05, 2012 @ 1:40:13 AM

Yeah, I've said it before, Kickstarter is probably the best thing that's happened to gaming the last few years. It gives niche titles so much more of a fighting chance.

I've backed several projects on Kickstarter already. Star Citizen is one of my most anticipated projects on there.

And these Kickstarter projects might have an even greater impact than just us getting a few more great games: It shows in volume the big publishers that we, the gamers, *want* more complicated games, niche games, and games that's not 100% geared towards action. The market is much more diverse than so, and the successful Kickstarter projects shows so better than anything else.


Last edited by Beamboom on 12/5/2012 1:41:14 AM

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xenris
Wednesday, December 05, 2012 @ 9:45:10 AM

<3 Beam

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telly
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 11:41:01 AM
Reply

I am also not reflexively against big business at all -- but if you're going to be honest with yourself, you have to acknowledge that a publicly traded corporation's bottom line obligations to its shareholders can interfere with an open and free creative process. It's important to remember, I think, that this industry has quite a bit of creativity in it these days -- journey, dishonored, gravity rush, etc., all released this year -- but there's a reason so many games steer toward proven formulas. The big companies have enormous obligations, and they are not about to roll the dice with highly risky games all the time. That's just the reality when big business and art mix.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 12:45:30 PM
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I think the evidence is pretty clear across the industry, the workers are treated as drones and the customers as sheep with cash. That is unsustainable for a creative industry. The directions of Resident Evil, Dead Space, and Final Fantasy are a microcosm of coming collapse of customer trust.

But it hasn't squashed all innovation and risk by any means, I think we've had some of the best indie projects ever this generation and many have even been successful. The evil publishers are likely to take notice of that soon.

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Temjin001
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 7:16:22 PM

Microcosm was one of the worst games I ever played.

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BTNwarrior
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 1:56:10 PM
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The thing is that people keep saying that we are loosing creativity in the gaming industry, yet nobody wants to point to the psn, steam, or xbla because when you look on any of these services you see a plethora of unique games that couldn't have existed in the ps2 days because back then there was no such thing as an indy title or a 10-20$ title, everything was a full priced game. And with the addition of greenlight on steam even more creative new games are becoming available for the masses. It is like saying all we get at the theater is massive blockbuster films that giant studios made. Though the independent film industry is bigger than it has ever been

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Beamboom
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 2:12:47 PM

This is so true. In addition you got the mobile platforms, and it all adds up to a potential for the indie scene with opportunities never seen before.

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Lawless SXE
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 2:23:11 PM
Reply

Absolutely. People don't work at their best when their underneath someone, especially when that someone else is the one that orders the direction of a project. Never mind that big publishers are less likely to greenlight risky titles that aren't "guaranteed" to sell. It falls to smaller companies to allow that creativity to flow and I think that, of all the publishers that spring to mind, Take-Two is the best.

Anyway, the indies are a different thing altogether, considering they are, generally, separate from the bigger publishers.

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Rogueagent01
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 7:05:06 PM
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Big corporations are both good and bad for the industry. They are good in the sense that some companies that would have folded can get a second chance by either being aquired by a big company or by using the big company as a publisher.

However we have seen time and time again in all industries that big corporations run things in a tyrannical fashion. They have a very close-minded approach to their industries, they feel because of their size and power that their decisions are always right, and that the workers and consumers just don't know what they're talking about. If you happen to go against the grain in any way they will find a way to either get rid of you or make your job miserable to the point at which you quit. EA isthe one that comes to mind the most in this case as they love buying up smaller studios and then slowly getting rid of all the people that made that studio what it was.

But...

There is light at the end of the tunnel in this sense. Big corporations have alienated so many that these start-up companies like Kickstarter, Indie Go-Go, and a few others are going to become the future of gaming, art, and ideas. It turns out consumers are not as dumb as corporations thought they were. Us consumers have shown that we are more then willing to fund great ideas while asking for next to nothing in return, unlike the corporations. And because of that I believe(and I have said this several times now) that we are literally going to see a massive change in the world of business over the next couple of decades. Corporations are now sitting on a pervertible time bomb that if they don't act accordingly could reshape how they work in the future, and not in their favor either. They still have a chance to save themselves at this point by treating their employees better, being slightly more open minded, and showing respect to the consumers. However if they keep going at the rate they are going I don't want to think what may happen to some of them.

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Temjin001
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 7:10:23 PM
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At least I can look forward to employment opportunities with the big wigs.

btw, EA, thank you for being cool. Cool in that you released Mass Effect stand alone on PSN for only $15.

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Beamboom
Wednesday, December 05, 2012 @ 1:33:57 AM

That *is* cool.

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xenris
Wednesday, December 05, 2012 @ 9:46:36 AM

I think you will enjoy it :) Have you played it before? Its seriously one of my favourite games this Gen next to the Wither 2 and some others. Beat it 8 times or so :P

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___________
Wednesday, December 05, 2012 @ 3:52:30 AM
Reply

fair?
its been proven time and time again!
theres a reason why indie developers are the only ones delivering the unique amazing, risky, rare experiences!

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