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User-generated Videogames

Will videogames play a role in the Id web, as one of the factors that contribute to the definition of a personal online identity? Or, reframing the question, how could users add their "gamer" tile to the online identity mosaic?

I can see two different ways to do this: an indirect way (by reflection), that is by sharing the list of games that an individual might like, play, buy, put in a wishlist or write a review of, and all these activities would clearly tell something about the personality of that individual in the same way as lists of favorite books or movies do.

Shift
Another way, less immediate and requiring a much higher degree of
involvement, is the same as it happens with blogs and media sharing
services such as YouTube, Photobucket or Flickr: the direct, creative
way, carried out by means of publishing content created by the user
himself.

There is a huge difference, as creating a videogame is an exceedingly complex activity and thus requires specialized skills. And yet, the same could be said – to a lesser extent – about video, but this has not stopped user-made video from becoming a major phenomenon. So, let's look back for a while.

Twelve years ago, it would have been difficult to predict a phenomenon like YouTube. In the beginning, the web was a text medium – with a few images, uploaded with caution and regard towards sensible usage of the tiny download capacity. And editing your own text was a difficult task, requiring HTML knowledge. A combination of three trends made something unexpected happen:

  • affordable consumer electronics, enabling digital imaging and video recording at a modest price;
  • widespread broadband connections, enabling people to move megabytes all over the web;
  • finally, a large variety of freely available software tools for creativity – free software in which I include not only open source, but also software that is distributed with the Operating System – such as Microsoft Movie Maker.

At the same time, services around those contents became increasingly interactive: not just with interactive functions provided around content (comment, embed, vote), but services that are intrinsically interactive – surveys, wikis and, why not, prediction markets.

Back to videogames: widespread adoption of flash has moved things a lot in the direction of making videogames development accessible to a larger segment of the online population, and made it easy for videogames to be widely distributed by embedding them in blogs, on pages and on thriving platforms such as newgrounds.com.

Things are made even easier (i.e., requiring a smaller amount of code writing) with make-your-own-videogame software engines such as AGS and such tools have been around for a while, and making them widely available on a dedicated website and therefore providing a powerful distribution platform is a further step that could really transform user-generated videogames into a significant (though small, I bet) fraction of the user-generated-content phenomenon.