How can I create and share videogames?

This Tuesday an article I wrote for The Escapist was published on their website. It is roughly based on the invited speech I delivered at Tokyo Game Show / CoFesta in September. At that event, by coincidence, Robin Hunicke, Raph Koster, and myself wound up giving consecutive presentations that all focused on very similar ideas: how can we make games more accessible to more people, whether they be developers, players, or grandmas (no offense to grandmas)? It was quite interesting to see that we were all thinking about similar problems. If you’d like a copy of my slides from the event please drop me an email at mdeloura at this website, and I’ll send you the PDF.
At that time, Raph said to me, “hey, we should talk more!” And if you know about his new venture, Metaplace, you know why. Raph and his company are working to make games easy to create – well, they aren’t as much games as spaces you can be in with your friends, that CAN be games. I won’t try and explain beyond that what it is he’s setting out to do, I’ll let him do the telling. But it’s exciting stuff. Go check out the Metaplace website.
In the article, I mentioned a few websites and resources for people who want to create and share games. There are certainly many, many more. Kongregate is the most advanced site for sharing games at this point. Unfortunately many of the websites that are available are completely focused on sharing games, and they don’t really help you to create them. Diving into the Flash toolset is not the most intuitive experience, so some help to ease the difficulty ramp would certainly be appreciated!
There are quite a few websites and books that help you learn to create games in other programming languages, but these languages create games that are harder to share with your friends than ones made with Flash. When using C#, C++, Scheme, Basic, and so on and so on, you either have to distribute an executable to your friends, which should scare both virus-sensitive people and grandmas alike, or you have to install an ActiveX plug-in to your web browser. I don’t consider either of these options to be a particularly friendly way to distribute a game to my friends!
So this largely leaves Flash as the distribution system of choice. Adobe claims Flash penetration on web browsers is above 95%, and I believe it. So there are few people who won’t be able to play your Flash game with a simple click. And there are a lot of Flash games out there – JayIsGames is another great site where you can find interesting Flash games.
What drove me to create the CoFesta presentation, and write the article for The Escapist, was how fascinating I found playing games from people in other parts of the world. I learned things about people I’d never met, and understood perspectives of people in cultures I’d never visited, and I did it all from the comfort of my well-worn desk chair. I began to think of the community of game developers as a brotherhood. We may all have different backgrounds, but we’re bumping our heads against similar problems when it comes to creating games. If we can make those problems simpler, our true perspectives will more easily emerge through our creations. Fundamentally, this is the same philosophy that led me to create the Game Programming Gems series.
In the months since the CoFesta presentation, I’ve been talking with people around the world who are trying to make games. For some of them the difficulty goes even beyond creating the game, as they have precious little access to resources and personnel, or even have to deal with censorship issues. What can we do, what resources can we create, to help these people out? Frequently it is the people from these communities who have the most interesting stories to tell.
The Serious Games movement is focused on the creation of games with a purpose, with a message. Political games, advertising games, educational games, I love all of these things – I find the concept fascinating. But what I find most compelling are “serious games” from other places. I want to learn about the world by experiencing the lives of other people, by playing the games that they create, living the stories that they tell. Games are a unique form of media that allows me to experience a world by letting me interact with it and make my own choices. How do we make it easier for more people to create these experiences?