Thursday, May 13, 2010
I’d like you to imagine a major game developer. Are you picturing Activision or EA? Good choices. They work together for months creating the next blockbuster release. Like good little addicts you and I and hundreds of others line up around the block near a major retailer to be the first to put our hard-earned cash on the barrelhead and walk out of the store with a shiny new game in our clutches. However, after saving all your pennies and standing in line for hours, when you finally reach the cashier and they scan your intended purchase the price comes up as a question mark.
“What does that mean?” you ask the clerk.
“It means you can pay whatever you want,” says she.
“So I could get the game for a dollar?” You inquire, shielding your face with your hands for fear of a violent rebuke.
“Yeah, whatever. If that’s what you think it’s worth.”
“Even just a penny?”
“Sure, that’s fine. Also, we are going to give you four other games. Further, unless you specify otherwise we are going to donate a portion of the profit from your purchase to either helping needy children or ensuring that your civil rights as a gamer are not infringed upon. If you want, you can just make a donation of any size to either of these amazing charities and you still get the games. You don’t have to give the creators anything.”
“Gasp! I faint.”
Waking up on your couch, you realize that such a fantasy could never be. Developers of high quality games do not simply give their products away. They are, after all, in the money-making business, just like the rest of us work-a-day people. Also, with the economy still in a funk it’s unrealistic to expect such generosity from wealthy individuals, much less corporations.
You would be perfectly reasonable to make these assumptions, but you would also be wrong. (Well, not about the big developers, they don’t really do this sort of thing.)
If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, I fully encourage anyone who cares about gaming to check out The Humble Bundle, a collection of great indie games that have attached themselves to some very worthy causes, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child’s Play. While I haven’t had a chance to play all the titles included in the bundle, the first two I sampled, World of Goo and Gish, are well worth a donation on their own merits.
A vital truth, and some would say a key failing, in our capitalist system is that all consumers vote with their wallets. Every time we buy a cola, a bus ticket, or a gallon of gas we are, in a very small way, voicing our approval not only for the product we consume, but for the company who provided us with it. As socially conscious gamers who want the best for our medium and our world at large, The Humble Bundle is an opportunity to make a statement about what we want the gaming industry to be. We also get some awesome games. Imagine if all the industries we paid for our entertainment were so magnanimous; that’s a world in which I would like to live.