The Maxis Game Club letters are a short series of letters I wrote back and forth with fellow designer Matt Yang about our video game experiences in 2019. Read the previous letter here.
I was thinking about the absolutely wild number of games released on Steam in 2019 that you pointed out, and I think it reflects on the real evolution of the democratization of game-making. It’s interesting to consider that early games were developed by a single designer/engineer only to have the industry create mega-studios to dominate the space, which then caused creative burnout and the rise of the indie game.
The first Humble Indie Bundle came out in 2010 and really announced the arrival of indie games on the scene. A decade in, indies have not only carved out a large portion of the gaming space, they are also the place where a lot of game design innovation and experimentation happens. This isn’t to say that all the innovative designers are working indies, but rather that with the plethora of tools available for game creation so easily accessible, individuals can (and are!) quickly turning ideas into released games.
With so many games, it may be harder to find a diamond in the rough but those that emerge really shine. Larger studios, meanwhile, have managed to perfect the kinds of games that necessarily take large teams – games with huge worlds, epic single-player campaigns, motion-captured performances by famous actors, and planned expansions and events that can last years.
As a player, I really love being able to explore the games in this somewhat over-saturated landscape we now live in, and I’ll happily take too many and weirdly different games over a space that’s too small or narrow. In the deluge, there is – of course – a bunch of garbage being put out, but if that’s the price we pay for giving the power of game creation to the masses, I say we pay it and pay it gladly.
So with that, I’ll wrap up these letters for 2019. Thank you for corresponding with me in this silly little project. Thanks to the games we played in 2019, to the games we look forward to playing in 2020, and to everyone out there with the creative energy and drive to keep making these wonderful little interactive experiences that are unlike anything else in the world.