The process of game development can be mysterious to gamers who aren’t curious enough to research for themselves. Developer Double Fine lifted the veil on some of that mystery with their documentary Double Fine Adventure, which chronicled the development of crowdfunded success Broken Age. Read on to find out why ScreenCritic Joe thinks more developers should follow Double Fine for the benefit of players, developers, and publishers alike.
Before I became really curious about game development in high school, I had no idea how games were made. I think we all have the same general mental picture of development: a bunch of people sitting at desks, putting code into a computer until it spits out a game. Of course there is so much more to making a game than just coding, but unless you really delve deep, it would be easy to gloss over all of the moving parts that go into creating a game.
Around a month and a half ago, I started watching Double Fine Adventure at the recommendation of some internet personalities. Double Fine Adventure is a 20-part series, now free to all on Youtube, chronicling the entire development of Broken Age – the first major crowdfunded game to come out of Kickstarter. Broken Age was pitched as a new entry into the then dormant genre of classic adventure games like the Monkey Island games or Grim Fandango.
While I’d wager that Broken Age’s development was not typical for most games, Double Fine Adventure personified game development better than anything I’ve ever seen or read. Being able to vicariously experience the stresses of meeting deadlines specific to development and understanding how each facet comes together was an entertaining and educational adventure. No anecdote or developer interview could ever compare to being able to view the process in its totality. If nothing else, I now have a much greater respect for all those who choose to make games. The job isn’t glamorous or easy; the work looks gruelling and methodical. In the case of Broken Age, the outcome was probably worth the immense effort, but now I feel a bit crestfallen for the games that don’t succeed as well commercially and don’t justify the hard work.
Here’s a little insight into myself as a gamer: I’m not into adventure games. I tried Broken Age last year on my Vita while traveling and only got through the first hour before deciding it wasn’t really for me, despite the critical praise. I’d always wanted to try and fill that gap in my gaming repertoire, specifically with Broken Age, but never had the motivation. Double Fine Adventure is what really kicked me into gear and got me through the game. Believe me when I say it was a struggle. I managed a decent amount of puzzles on my own with trial and error, but by the end of Act II my ineptness had almost completely taken over and I was viciously dependent on an online guide. Honestly, I probably won’t go out of my way to play another adventure game because they just aren’t for me. Despite not meshing well with the game, I picked up on some choices I likely would have taken for granted had I not viewed DFA. Knowing what went into Broken Age gave me a greater appreciation for the music, sound, and art direction, than I usually get out of gaming. I don’t think I’ve ever had the credits be my favorite part of a game, but being able to put not only a face, but a personality, to so many of the scrolling names brought me a strange (and unbased) sense of pride, like ‘great job guys, you did it!’
Not every game needs a documentary. Broken Age was a self-published game, so there were no developer/publisher conflicts in the documentary. I, along with a ton of other gamers I’m sure, would love a documentary on the development of Metal Gear Solid V that delved deep into the Kojima/Konami breakup, but that probably isn’t desirable for one, if not both, parties involved because of how it may negatively portray them. And as a critic, having a documentary that creates sympathy, whether consciously or not, affects one’s ability to judge a work critically. So developers don’t need to open their doors to the scrutinous eye of the public for every game, but I do believe that if we got more inside looks, it would be all-around beneficial. Broken Age, a game that hasn’t any sort of new content since 2015, is still being discussed with reverence in 2017, still taking up mind share and likely making Double Fine, the publisher, money. Furthermore, educating gamers on the development process allows them to build a knowledge they can use to get more out of games while simultaneously creating an understanding of the hard work that is required of creators, which fosters a more positive gaming landscape for developers. So if it benefits the gamers, the developers, and the publishers, one can conclude that this course of action makes every aspect of the gaming industry better, which is why we should see how the sausage is made more often.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments or tweet at me @Paradise_Mayor. Did you watch Double Fine Adventure and/or play Broken Age? Would you like to see more documentaries about video games?