Image: From "Kentucky Route Zero"

Sidebar: The Democratization of Video Games

on Thursday, Mar. 28th

Zeb L. West is a video game developer in Austin, Texas. West begin his game career at the Mac publisher Aspyr before joining BioWare, creators of Star Wars: The Old Republic. After losing his job in a post-release round of layoffs the actor turned game dev decided to put a stake in the ground and go indie.

West is an old college friend, and he acted as my sherpa on a recent trip into the wilds of Austin’s indie game scene. He was present during a roundtable interview with the development team at Stoic, and during that talk West dropped the following knowledge about the state of the indie game world. Specifically he talked about what the “democratization” of game development, and I thought it would be worth quoting in full.

A buzzword you hear right now is “democratization” and you hear that across genres right now. I was just at a fashion trade show in Vegas and they were talking about the democratization of fashion. Which is like the fall of haute couture which people don’t even know how to pronounce anymore. To just fashion that’s of the people and younger designers who are not afraid to get their stuff out at larger markets like Target.

The democratization within the video game industry happens within the tools.

Take something like the Unity engine, which has a licensing structure where it’s not prohibitive. Everyone can download it and if you develop it to where you are making a certain amount of money they just ask that you buy licenses.

That’s great. That’s infrastructure that’s in place. Then you take how Kickstarter adds to that. That democratizes the funding aspect of it. So all of a sudden you can just, in your own bedroom with your iPhone make a video that’s hopefully decent enough. Tell your story of what you dream of doing, and then the tools are in place to distribute that. Get as many people as possible who are passionate about it to invest in your dream as you can.

The development tools are in place, the funding system has been upend, and already successful indie marketplaces on Steam, iOS, and Android phones will be joined by their console counterparts later this year. There may be no better time since the 1970s to be an indie game developer.

West’s own company, Binary Solo, is looking to make its first game this year on the Android platform.


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