Crowdsourced Games Will Make A Better World

Small start-up electronic entertainment companies the world over rely on me and those in my community. This community of investors are scrupulous in their choices and what they believe they are helping to make. These investments influence many things that can, and have, changed the world. Small things like how a process is viewed, and big things like how something is learned, are all constantly being reinvented through the influence of the crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. Crowdsourcing is a very economical way of looking at the overarching social interaction of investing.

The single largest problem that we face as a community is the possibility of abject disappointment. Once an investment is placed, those in this community are left to just hope that game developers will come close to what they promise us. Even discussing with us, over all the forms of social media available, game improvement suggestions is no relief to worry. No matter what kind of research or amounts of money that is actually invested, the finished product is always subject to change, for better or worse.

In the category of worse are the companies that either fail or attain an extended hiatus status. Sean Murray and his company of Razorblade Games are in that status block now. In “Confessions of a failed indie developer” Sean says he believed that his experience in the game industry was enough for him to build his own game company, game, and even his own game engine. In 2011 he lost his savings and ran through the ten thousand dollars in funds he got from crowdfunding over the course of six months. Though he wants to continue with his yet untitled game, he is unsure if he will get the time and funding for Razorblade Games to be successful.

The market for electronic entertainment is huge and dominated by large companies that are very good at making money, sometimes at the expense of an investors enjoyment of the game. These companies are interested in making a profit and know that previously successful games are their way to continue making profits, namely variations of their, older, successful games. These games though they are not the most innovative are still fun games, yet they tend to lack the imagination of something truly new.

The smaller startup companies can be terrifying for the dominant companies of the industry, particularly with the recent success of so many of those start-ups. The small companies have the advantage of trying new and exciting directions that can make very new and very profitable games. Success stories that are happening due to the unerring support of my community of crowdfunding.

Only a few short years ago the company names of Mojang, Cloud Imperium, and Squad were unheard names in the industry, today it is hard to search on the internet without coming across one of their games. Crowdsourcing has given all these companies and their games the modifications that continue to make all of them as successful as they are. These recent start-ups have made a broad set of games, each specialized in different areas and all that have modern day conventions that could help teach valuable lessons.

Cauleum Space Station Cauleum Space Station: Photo provided by Kordite @ flickr.com

Modification has been an important part of crowdsourcing video games, and pulling in more investment funding. Modders make new functions and new in game products, with these it can change gameplay in a wide variation of ways. Kerbal Space Program has been used in classrooms across america to show how space travel works and some of the limitations that rocket engineers can face. Minecraft from mod to mod has many different education applications from physics to chemistry to electrical engineering. Star Citizen is being made with economics as a huge influence for the online gameplay as a massively multiplayer online genre game, which I believe will be a viable research point for free markets in the future.

“Minecraft” from Mojang has given us simply one of the best possible games for educational use, the range and depth of use and the ability to modify gives unparalleled approaches to innumerable subjects. “The use of video games in the classroom can supplement the use of other media, educational programming… [this] represents another tool in the teacher’s toolkit. Research suggests that simulations and immersive virtual worlds are increasingly being used to supplement traditional teaching methods”1 Daniel Short talks about in his article “Teaching scientific concepts using a virtual world – Minecraft”. Without my community’s investment this game, and this game developer, would not have had the impact that it has had the opportunity to engender.

My personal contribution to Mojang started in 2011 when I first purchased the game and got involved with the modification community. Donating to the modders I found to have the best ideas on what should be added to the game and buying multiple copies as gifts for friends or family. These modders, in fact have influenced the direction of the game as time has gone on with Minecraft being implemented with many small parts of multiple mods.

Through Steam, and its community, Squad, an interactive marketing company, was able to make “Kerbal Space Program” a possibility. In “The atypical story of Kerbal Space Program’s indie flight to success” David Hinkle enumerates the unusual circumstances and efforts that Felipe Falanghe went through to develop his game. Going to his bosses in Squad with a strange proposal to redirect his own efforts, which they accepted and subsequently funded. Squad interactive marketing breaking through into the gaming sector has led to the release of Kerbal Space Program. Whatever Felipe needs for Kerbal Space Program’s development Squad is providing or helping to draw to the game, making Felipe’s dream of programming a video game a reality.

In late 2012 I bought my copy of Kerbal Space Program which seems to make space the perfect medium for game environment. The freedom and room to experiment with physics has let me learn about space travel and many of its constraints. It has also left me with wonder over what we can do next in real life and has spurred me to search online many of the parts or ideas within the game.

Video Curtesy of Youtube User StarCitizen

Cloud Imperium Games came about with Chris Roberts being disgusted with large business video game developers and their influences on the creative process. Having made largely successful games in the past Chris Roberts wanted to make one that would be as well loved and as well received as his previous games with every bit of creativity he could bring to it. Every attempt he gave to large business game developers was stonewalled and he was unable to get started with any well known developers. This led him to form Cloud Imperium Games and start their kickstarter campaign for Star Citizen looking for five hundred thousand dollars and a small fanbase. When Star Citizen had earned over fifty million dollars the kickstarter campaign was ended but the funding and investing has not ended. Over eighty million dollars, and scores of employees added as more of those funds have been added and still more goals built in to the games overall construction.

My investment in Star Citizen came when it was approximately funded at sixteen million dollars in 2012. Multiple layers of gameplay include a linear campaign, a persistent open world that spans space, and a timed battle and race “mini-games”.

My brother Andrew has been in the community of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing since 2004 starting with an early account through gmail when he was invited to their beta testing program by another participant. Since then he has been involved in many crowdfunded and crowdsourcing programs, the most influential of late has been when he got involved with Republic Wireless. Due to his investment and positive reviews all of Andrews immediate family, including myself, have switched mobile phones over to Republic Wireless.

Andrew told me about how he felt a sense of accomplishment and being a part of a bigger whole. Andrew said that, “simply finding what looks good to you and showing a little monetary support can let other people find and invest in the same things, giving them the opportunity to get even better over time.” As he described how crowd based funding gave more immediate feedback and usually more constructive feedback because more discerning or, more truthfully, picky about what they have and what they will be getting out of it.

On the other side of crowdfunded projects are projects that are funded, initially, by a private source or through company funds. Raylight Games in Italy went this way after multiple attempts at crowdfunding their game “Illo: Birth of the Cool”. This leads to large gains in private returns, but the only investors that have any say in how the company uses the money are the single largest investors, specifically if the company wants to continue receiving money. The company gives a larger percent of the profits to those investors, but not everyone who puts money in has a say in how it is used.

With the crowdsourced projects the “crowd” has a large say on how the money is used, usually through suggestions on what to expand upon and what they need to avoid. The only downside for the crowdsourced project investors is that the profit does not get redirected to them but right back into the project.

Overall crowdsourcing, to me, sounds like the way for people to bring the future forward, closer to us. Many people with many professions and specialties all with common goals of improvement of their chosen products, making things better for themselves and others. This way of investing includes far more than just money, including time and advanced specialty problem solving, allowing the company to polish as necessary and refine when needed.

My stance on crowdsourced projects will continue to be that they are the most effective way of making a product the most effective for the time and money that is put into making it possible. As I look into projects in the future I will look for them to be crowdsourced and headed by specialists or experts, because these types of projects will, for me, be the most exciting and most inventive in how they solve anything. Giving us the very best product that may ever come to bear. These games I have been talking about are the first steps to making more of the world user friendly.

 

Works Cited:

1 Batchelor, James. “When Crowdfunding Fails: The Story of Raylight Games.” Develop-online.net. Develop-online.net, 17 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

2 Hinkle, David. “The Atypical Story of Kerbal Space Program’s Indie Flight to Success.” Joystiq. Web. 4 Mar. 2015. <http://www.joystiq.com/2013/09/04/the-atypical-story-of-kerbal-space-programs-indie-flight-to-suc/>.

3 Judge, Keith. “Confessions of a Failed Indie Developer.” – Gamesbrief. GamesBrief, 19 Aug. 2013. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. <http://www.gamesbrief.com/2013/08/confessions-of-a-failed-indie-developer/>.

4 M., Andrew. Crowdfunding Interview 5 March 2015

5 Short, Daniel. “Teaching scientific concepts using a virtual world—Minecraft.”Teaching Science-the Journal of the Australian Science Teachers Association 58.3 (2012): 55.1

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