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Anyone Can Make A Game

By on May 17, 2011
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Through 15 years in games, mobile and web development, Kevin Hassall has worked as a producer, project manager, executive producer and publishing director. He now works as a freelance producer and outsourcing consultant, through his consultancy Beriah Games Ltd. www.beriah.net

Once upon a time, game developers – professional game makers – made games. And someone, either a publisher or a customer, bought them.

That was good news for game development companies: if anyone wanted a game made, that person would have to come to them. It was also really bad news for most of the people who might want to have games made. For years there was talk of brands, ad agencies, license holders, etc., all making their own games, but it rarely happened, partly for logical reasons (measurability, for example) but largely because the ability to create games was the preserve of people who didn’t much care about what these clients wanted.

Anyone can make a game but most game developers haven’t noticed

Now, that situation has changed. Now, anyone can make a game. And the weirdest thing is, most game developers haven’t even noticed.

I’ve worked with companies within the conventional games space who are, basically, one or two person companies. They have the drive to get a game made, and they make it happen (or I make it happen for them, as the case may be). These are people like Revolution in the UK, or PlayPen in Hong Kong. These firms are seen as an oddity, but most people in the games industry accept, however grudgingly, that companies like this can be very effective: Revolution’s Broken Sword series, for example, is widely admired.

But what is more significant is that people are now coming in from outside of games, and making games. And for them, making a game without involving a game development company is absolutely normal.

For example, I would argue that the single most striking game of the last two years was iHobo. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a “virtual pet” type game, where you take responsibility for looking after a virtual homeless person. It ignores almost all the conventions of games – there is no score, no levels, no choice of “pet”, no replay value, and you have to play when it wants you to (when the Push Notifications prompt you) not when you want to. But the result is dramatic. You play the game for a few seconds at a time over the course of two days, and in the end you will look at homeless people differently. It’s a game that changes how you relate to other human beings: that’s a startling achievement, especially from a game which is so technically simple.

The people who wanted iHobo made were Depaul UK, the homeless charity. They didn’t go to a game developer. They went to Publicis – a Communications (PR) agency.

And this is not unusual. Agencies, brand owners and charities are now creating games simply by marshalling individual resources or working with tiny (one, two or three person) companies. They can make games with freelancers alone, so long as a capable project manager is in place, so why would they want to bother contracting a games development company?

For most of the games that are being made – browser, Facebook, tablet and phone games – nobody needs to involve a “game development company” in the making of a game. And increasingly, people aren’t bothering to. This is great news for brand owners, charities, ad agencies… and consumers. But it should terrify most UK games development companies.

About Kevin Hassall

Kevin Hassall is Director at Beriah. Beriah builds better developments for a variety of video game companies: simply, Beriah frees developers from their resource constraints.