With more and more internet adoption worldwide, collaboration and sharing as a genesis for creativity is becoming the norm. The marquis example is Wikipedia, of course, although we've noted a general theory that great ideas can spring from sharing and collaboration, often leading to unexpected (but fun) results. That's one of the reasons it's so fun to see things like the following emerge (completely NSFW, unless you're employed by Dark Helmet Inc.):
Yes, that's the trailer for a new video game to be released shortly, and it was inspired almost entirely by an online group and the resulting internet meme the group produced. Included amongst this list of video games resulting from internet memes, the entire premise of the game began with what was essentially a bitch-session online over how awful shooter game sequels are.
It all started with a joke on a forum. One NeoGAF forum user, annoyed with how lazy shooters had become, complained that he was tired of games like 'Dudebro 2: It's Straight-Up Dawg Time.' It grew from there.
The phrase became a byline for tired, me-too games, but it was so absurd that it got people thinking. Soon, it had mock cover art and a storyline. Before long, a team of fans were working on an entire game, a 2D platformer, and it's on the way soon. It even stars Jon St. John, the actor famous for voicing Duke Nukem.
Apparently, somehow, the entire premise for what looks like a hysterical game was generated spontaneously online in a collaborative format, as was the trailer, cover art, and storyline. Now, it may quickly be pointed out by some that the end product of this creativity is subject to copyright by default, but that misses the point entirely. This is simply another example of how creation occurs and how sharing and exchanging ideas freely can produce an interesting project as well as a great deal of fun. As collaboration of this nature expands due to the ability of people to connect on the internet, the overall need to lock up ideas relative to creative output is going to weaken. There may still be some "artists" who create simply for monetary gain, but their ranks are lessening.
Today, the always innovative Humble Bundle launched yet another great new project. This time they've teamed up with Tim Schafer, whom some may remember as the founder of Double Fine and the creator of their insanely successful Kickstarter campaign (and others may remember him as the creator of several classic adventure games). The project is a twist on the standard Humble Bundle system: instead of paying what you want for a collection of existing games, contributors get to vote on various game ideas from the Double Fine team to decide which ones get prototyped. The whole development process will then be live-streamed, and contributors will be able to download the prototypes at the end. The ideas themselves come from a feverous internal brainstorming process called the Amnesia Fortnight, the secrets of which are being revealed to the public, as best (and most entertainingly) explained in the video:
It's rare, maybe unprecedented, to see gamers brought into the development process on such a wide scale and at such an intimate level. Though participation takes the form of an single vote, you can bet that people who get involved will have lots of feedback and questions, and probably a few demands, as the process continues — which, in addition to forging a strong connection with fans, could actually be kind of scary. Today I spoke briefly with Tim Schafer to ask more about the thinking behind the project and his expectations for where it might go. For him, the key revelation from the Kickstarter campaign was less about identifying demand for a new adventure game, and more about discovering that a more transparent development process can be a really positive experience:
We're building off of one of the things we learned from that project, which is that it's okay to open the doors. We've had this Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory thing for many years, and the Kickstarter changed all that.
We let people see the making of the game and realized it's okay. You think people will laugh at us or they'll judge us for the work or they'll get mad when we cut something from the game. ... We realized that the players are smarter than people are giving them credit for.
He expressed some slight anxiety at the idea of handing the choice of games over to the public, but it was far outweighed by curiosity:
It's really interesting. Usually I pick, usually I deal with the deciding. I think I just wanted to try a different way to see. I like getting my way some of the time, but not all of the time. If you don't have any sort of agent of chaos or wild card then you never have any sort of evolution of ideas, and fresh blood. ... I really want to see what the people at large have to say, to see if it's different.
Similarly, he noted that live-streaming the development process would be a real dose of reality for some gamers, and he's interested to see how they react. While there's plenty of fun stuff to show, like the Art Jams where they flesh out a game's visuals, there's also the painful side, like the budget meetings where exciting ideas get reluctantly cut. But such things are necessary, and as he notes, displaying them helps to humanize the process — which is something we talk about a lot when it comes to connecting with fans and being open, human and awesome.
It's going to be great to see the results of this team-up. Schafer started his career at Lucasfilm Games when secrecy and control were the orders of the day, and developers tried all sorts of wacky schemes to prevent piracy — that's what he was used to, and he credits the Humble Bundle with helping to inspire a different outlook:
Besides the fact that they bring a lot of smaller, lesser known games to light, a lot of what's inspiring is the business model.
Keeping things secret, hoarding information, protecting your copyright. That's just what I was used to, and Humble Bundle says let it go, open it up, let people have it for a penny or a dollar, let people pay what they want and give all the money to charity if they want.
You can't have this 100% watertight, airtight grip on that stuff. You have to make other people not want to pirate, make it easy for them, and respect them enough to let them choose. People respond to not being treated like criminals.
If you want to get in on the project and cast your vote for which games get developed, you can do so over at the Humble Bundle site — there are also two existing prototypes of other games for contributors to download right away.
A few years ago, people always referred to the Beatles as the biggest holdouts in terms of releasing their music for sale as MP3s online (mainly iTunes). However, the Beatles finally came around in November of 2010. After that, people started putting together lists of who was left and AC/DC and Kid Rock seemed to top most of those lists. So it seems noteworthy that both have just caved. Kid Rock's new album is available on iTunes, with someone saying that he finally realized that he could "no longer ignore how much money he was leaving on the table." And, the latest is that AC/DC has come around as well. Of course, AC/DC wasn't just not selling downloadable tracks, but they seemed philosophically opposed to the whole concept based on some of their quotes:
"I know the Beatles have changed but we're going to carry on like that," guitarist Angus Young told Sky News in May 2011, after the Beatles had ended their own iTunes holdout. "For us it's the best way. We are a band who started off with albums and that's how we've always been."
Back in October 2008, the band were even more hardline. "Maybe I'm just being old-fashioned, but this iTunes, God bless 'em, it's going to kill music if they're not careful," singer Brian Johnson told Reuters.
"It's a...monster, this thing. It just worries me. And I'm sure they're just doing it all in the interest of making as much...cash as possible. Let's put it this way, it's certainly not for the... love, let's get that out of the way, right away."
Yup. But apparently they're finally realizing that maybe it helps to go where your fans are. A bit late.
Of course, looking at those quotes, they sound mighty familiar to what we're hearing these days about other services like Pandora and Spotify. Why is it that there's always a contingent of musicians who so want to hate the services that actually deliver a legal product to fans?