It’s Thanksgiving in the United States, a time to gather with family, eat tasty food, and reflect on our blessings. As a gamer, it’s also as good of a time as ever to reflect on what makes gaming special.
Let’s face it. While most of the people who are reading this presumably love this industry, it can be a difficult space to work in. The large pockets of creativity and positivity are pockmarked with toxicity. But I’m not going to dwell on that. I’m going to focus on the good.
Developers and support staff
The people who spend countless hours rummaging through code, designing the characters that we love, and writing complex interwoven plotlines are at the top of the list for me. They make the games that we love possible. Despite this, their jobs can often involve long hours, online harassment, and without due credit.
Sure, we can all name the Hideo Kojimas and Shigeru Miyamotos of the world, but how many programmers and character artists can you name off the top of your head? Their names don’t appear prominently in the credits or on the box. They don’t have studios named after them, yet no one can honestly question their contributions.
Just as important to a game’s success is the role of support staff. They may work in quality assurance, helping to ensure that game-breaking bugs are caught before release. Or maybe they work in public relations or marketing, promoting a new IP that no one has ever heard of.
Everyone on the development team and support staff have a role (or roles) to play. Ultimately, it’s a team effort, but each individual member of the team matters for the success of the whole. So to the teams that make the games that we play possible – big studios and small indies alike – as well as the support staff doing work that often gets unrecognized: thank you.
It wasn’t all that long ago that PC and console gamers largely lived in silos. Although there were notable exceptions, PS4 players mostly played with other PS4 players and Xbox One players played with Xbox One players. Microsoft was better about supporting crossplay between its Xbox platforms and PC, but it wasn’t always a given. And if you wanted to play with someone on PS4? Forget about it!
In the past couple years, those walls have begun to come down in a significant way. Smaller studios led the way first. For instance, Rocket League supported cross-platform play between PC, Switch, and Xbox One beginning in 2018. Starting this year, major games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare feature crossplay for the first time.
It’s not a perfect feature for all games and all genres, but it is a welcome development overall. It encourages competition between platforms, and it connects friends who may own different systems. At least with games that support crossplay, you no longer have to worry about being left out if your friends are playing on a different platform.
Competition and choice
Speaking of competition, that’s another thing that I am thankful for as a gamer. Whether it’s the PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC, tablets or the various mobile offerings, there is no lack of competition and choice in 2019.
You can play console-quality games on your smartphone. You can play Nintendo Switch ports of PS4 and Xbox One games while riding the subway. You can stream a game with PlayStation Now or Google Stadia. You can download an entire library of games with Xbox Game Pass or Uplay+. You can claim a free game every week at Epic Games Store – no purchase or subscription necessary.
Games today are plentiful, they’re affordable (especially if you wait a few weeks or months after launch), and they are of high quality. In fact, it’s easy to collect a backlog of unplayed games. Twenty years ago, it was an entirely different problem. I was happy just to get a few new games every year. Today, I can play a new game every week and not break the bank. The real issue is finding the time.
In short, there has never been a better time to be a gamer, and the future is looking even more promising. I, for one, cannot wait to see what is in store for our industry in 2020 and beyond brings!