UGC Filters

9 08 2007

UGC is becoming a huge games buzzword thanks to startups like Areae and projects like Spore. Tadhg Kelly talks about it at Particle Blog. This point in particular:

at some point novelty itself must give way to depth.

is one I heard made at Develop in relation to new platforms (Richard Garriot’s keynote, IIRC): New technology drives games developers back to basic gameplay, and with familiarity comes innovation. Tadhg applies it to UGC though:

The backlash against user-generated content is gathering pace from all quarters, but what’s missing from it is the understanding that it’s not the whole thing that’s borked, it’s the essential lack of editing/vetting that makes it so. Editing is what weeds out novelty with no purpose from novelty that is an actual font for creativity.

Turning to games, what this means is that the content vetting still matters. Casual portals perform this function automatically by ranking on popularity, but the games sites and news arenas are much more important as both seeds of discussion and vetting that which is not. Yet they have the problem of being so wrapped up in the industry’s press whorl that they really often become mouthpieces.

As a result, the thing that the industry actually needs is not more indie games or more access for developers or whatever (well it does, but that’s a separate gig). What it actually needs is a site/magazine blog that focuses its energies on being the vetting force behind indie. There is more than enough reportage on the activities of the main industry with its boom and bust, its half a thousand cliche’s and its endless wranging over meaningless theories of game design. What there isn’t is an indie media mag that effectively tunes all this out and spends its entire time finding the cool stuff.

Certainly some fair points. As someone who comes from the UT mod community, both as player of and a project lead for third party work, I’m used to wading through lots of crap to find the good stuff. It’s not exactly an issues new and unique to UGC though; exactly the same goes if you’re considering exhibition proposals for an art gallery.

I can’t help but think Tadhg is a little bit behind UGC and media in general, since plenty of blogs are doing exactly that kind of filtering for other niches, but it’s a well made point: Games are expanding to the point where they’re going to need good filters. As consumers of games and extra content, we’re going to need something to winnow down what’s available. That could represent a bigger transition than it first seems, from push to pull media.

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