Thursday 21 August 2008

The Democratisation of Game Design

No sooner did I finish my last blog snippet on the democratisation of level design, then Brenda Brathwaite, game designer par excellence posted a well considered entry on whether procedural game art was the end of the video game artist.

As she concludes, of course it isn't. Neither is procedural generation the death of the level designer, as I initially suggested. Procedural generation in both these areas will initially be techniques that supplement the skills of existing artists and level designers. But reacting to procedural generation as an explicit threat, one which I will admit to deliberately goading by choosing a provocative title for my essay on the subject, is as misinformed as the British textile artisans who smashed the first mechanical looms back in 1811.

In the long term, the skills of level design or texture artist are as important as those of the monks who hand lettered the medieval texts that predate the printing press. You'll probably be luckier in that you'll survive long enough to resemble the shambling corpse that is the comic industry as opposed to fading into complete irrelevance. Unfortunately, progress will roll gently by like an driver less steam roller and leave you in its tracks.

It isn't until the game design tools are liberated into the hands of the masses will we truly be in the era of gaming (With apologies to Marx). There will be a place for Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft in this new world, just as there is a place for the major print publishers, but gaming needs to be as popular and accessible as newspapers, magazines, blogs - not as hard to publish as novels or make as movies.

At least, that is my first instinct. I'm sure to move from this bilious invecture to a much more nuanced and well considered opinion on how both sides of the argument can live in peace. But for the moment, you'll have to put up with my crazy eyed ranting on the subject, with jagged hands raised to the heavens.

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