The video game development community has changed drastically since the inception of the internet. In my parent’s age or even my own childhood, you bought games based on the television ads, the box art/description, or from friend’s recommendations. Nowadays we’ve got reviews we can read before buying, and there’s bountiful videos of not only various trailers but also gameplay we can watch. It’s never been easier to make an informed decision before buying. Equally so, game development before, during, and after a game releases is much more interactive. When I was a kid, if there was something I wanted in the next Pokemon game, I had to just hope that Nintendo and Game Freak had the same ideas I did. Today, video game developers are only a tweet, forum post, or email away.
It’s way easier now for game developers to connect with the communities focused on their games. Because of that, a completely new era of video game development has sprung up. Rather than being monoliths or islands unto themselves, devs can connect and interact. This is no small thing since those interactions can shape current game releases, and future ones.
Take the Call of Duty franchise, for example. Players have been practically begging for another World War II version of the game for years, and now one will be coming this fall. When Halo 5 released, the fan base was vocal and adamant that Master Chief having such small cameos was a travesty. Now Halo 6 will be all about the Chief. It’s moments like these that make you feel good as a gamer. Like your word counts for something, your opinion matters, people listen.
The same can be said for games that are currently in development. By connecting with the creators through avenues like Twitter, Facebook, forums, and email you can have your voice heard. The ability of the company to react and the level on which they can connect is dependent on a lot of different things. The popularity of the game and size of the community for example. This goes hand in hand with the size of the company.
Large communities can be managed by large companies, and they have the time and manpower to make big changes if they like. But a downfall is too many chefs in the kitchen. Large companies also have a lot more people to put potential changes through. If enough employees or investors disagree, then the fans’ opinions might not have an impact. Some smaller companies, while having less people to manage a community, might actually have a better fan/company relationship. With less corporate hearts to sway, player feedback can be initiated in the game pretty immediately.
These are some extremely generalizing statements as this is not always the case. Some small companies have games that don’t initiate any player feedback. And then there are some giant developers that take every little suggestion seriously, and do what they can to have it implemented.
No matter what, it’s still true to say that we live in an era very different than that of yesteryear. Video games have always been a communal activity. From my dad playing Diablo with his brother across the country, to me battling Pokemon with my sister locally, to exploring Second Life with people halfway across the world, games are about community. This is even more true now with developers keeping a close eye on their players. Many of them want our feedback because they know it will make their games better. Video games have always been a labor of love, but now the players can be included in that labor. Our opinions matter, and that’s an amazing thing.