Billy Ocean Pwns You at Mortal Kombat
When it comes to video games, it’s amazing what can be accomplished these days. The recently released Bioshock, for example, combines cutting edge graphics and first person shooter gameplay with moral ambiguity and the philosophical ideology of Ayn Rand. This is a far cry from eating mushrooms and saving princesses. What’s more, a big studio is behind this, which, in the risk averse world of top tier game development, is something of an anomaly.
But sometimes we just want to run, jump and shoot. Intellectual stimulation is great, but there’s pleasure to be had in just blowing shit up or playing a game with little to no investment. Casual gaming, as it’s known, is increasing in popularity every day. Small companies like PopCap and Big Fish Games are finding huge success in small games that don’t require a brand new $400 console or the latest in PC hardware.
Muscling for space among the large game studios creating games with million dollar budgets and the small studios making simple but polished games, a third class has evolved: the independent. This is a guy in a basement making a simple flash game or maybe a group of friends who scrounge up the funds for a larger development project they work on out of a garage. There are some amazing things going on in this space. Freedom to take risks and work without publisher pressure allows the medium to move forward and innovate, something I doubt you’ll find in Halo 3. Sure, the industry may occasionally produce a Bioshock or a Spore, but generally, it’s dependent on finding that sweet spot between just enough innovation to keep you interested and repeating the model that was successful in last year’s version.
If you’d like to see what the little guy has been doing when nobody was watching, check out Game Tunnel’s recently published list of the top 100 independent games.
Another site I like with homebrew games is Kongregate. User submitted games, some of which have an Xbox 360-like achievements system in place. Community driven, it also has a touch of that social networking the kids love so much these days.