I was just reading that Tarn Adams received more than $54,000 in donations from Dwarf Fortress players in 2010. That's remarkable, don't you think?
Of course, that kind of money would be a drop in the bucket to a big game company, but we're talking about a lone game developer who gives his game away for free. And yet, his fans keep him going - for ten years now - through voluntary donations. Yes, I think that's quite remarkable.
Note that Dwarf Fortress has ASCII graphics (i.e. virtually no graphics at all). When I play it, I use a fan-made graphics pack which is minimal enough as it is. And the game has a killer learning curve, too. The wiki certainly helps with that, but the game still isn't for everyone, not even close.
Still, there's a reason why Dwarf Fortress fans are willing to donate money, over and over again, to keep the game development continuing. The gameplay is remarkable, it really is. There's really nothing else like it.
True, there are a lot of games out there, but that's kind of my point. These days, unconventional game development is possible. Not everyone has a Dwarf Fortress - or a Minecraft - but there are a ton of games being made by imaginative game developers who don't have to work for a multinational corporation.
And since their games don't cost hundreds of millions of dollars to produce, they don't require that kind of money to keep going - which means that they don't have to appeal to the lowest common denominator in gameplay. This is something like the movie industry. Blockbuster movies can be great fun (or not), but film buffs can find a lot to like in smaller, independent efforts, too.
Computer games are the same, but even more so. There's a game to every taste - a game that won't appeal to everyone, but might just suit you. Big corporations must try to appeal to the single largest game-buying demographic, because they have to sell millions of copies just to break even.
But maybe your tastes are slightly different? Well, thanks to the internet - and to people like Tarn Adams and Markus Persson - there's a game for you, too.
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