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推动游戏产业变革编辑本段回目录

在NESTA举办的一个活动中,Ian Livingstone和Alex Hope发表了一份关于英国教育问题的报告。他们的谈话内容主要是关于如何教授学生在数字产业,如游戏或者视觉特效领域中以更好的技能武装自己。

在那里我发现,尽管我已经37岁了,但是在参加活动的人群中我却算是最年轻的一位。虽然这个房间里满是英国数字产业中一些显赫的大人物,但是他们却几乎都是一些秃头或者白发苍苍的中老年人。年轻的公司在哪里?新一代游戏产业能人在哪里?

对于这种普遍的问题,我觉得它本身就是一个问题。

the elder(from whatgamesare)

the elder(from whatgamesare)

坚定的领导者还是果敢的创造力?

高龄的领导统治有利也有弊。优点是他们拥有长远且专业的看法,声誉较高,足够聪明且有威信。而缺点便是他们容易犹豫不决,太过顽固,总是执着于过时的网络技术并且没有太大的爆发力。而问题是,对于一个充满活力的产业,如游戏,到底是需要坚定的领导还是果敢的创造力?

今天的很多中年领导者也就是在25年前改变了这个世界的人。一些游戏如《Elite》,《创世纪》,《Populous》以及《毁灭战士》都是由当时一群充满激情的年轻人所创造,那时候的他们甚至不知道自己正在做些什么,也从没想过退缩。而与之形成鲜明对比的是《Kinectimals》,《Tabula Rasa》,《神鬼寓言3》以及《毁灭战士3》,从这些游戏中我们可以看出,随着年龄的增长,开发者的果敢也在日渐趋于平淡。

但是也有可能这只是我们的一种错觉。但是今天的游戏产业与10年前的最大不同在于规模的改变。如今那些“创造者作品”(相对于精品游戏而言)的游戏发展速度大大放缓了,反而更多开发者侧重于那些精细,且符合玩家口味的游戏。反观看来,并非开发者的激情消失了,而是他们开始受到金钱的驱使。

如果这样,是否新兴产业会变得更加适合于追求名利的野心人士?根据NESTA,现在的英国教育应该更加关注于硬性技能,如数据额和计算机编程等,以此为学生以后的产业专业培训奠定基础。他们认为在英国的国内市场中大量缺少这类型的人才,所以现在最迫切的任务便是弥补数字产业中的如此空缺。

在这个观点背后有2大可能性:游戏制造业在未来10年内还是如此,没有变化;并且它将越来越倾向于职业驱动而非创业驱动。

游戏产业中的每个年轻人(低于40岁)都知道,这是一个充满危机感与紧张感的领域。如果你浏览了游戏产业论坛,如The Chaos Engine,你便会发现里头都是一些关于工作保障,挫折与压力的话题。数据显示,游戏产业中的多数人在不到5年的时间里就会离开,并且因为面对外部一些强大公司,如Zynga的挑战,新的掌机游戏销量也在逐渐下滑。

掌机游戏的前景,机遇的减少以及对于其它市场的需求都是我们这些关注着产业动态的人所谈论的问题。但真正的问题是,10年后的游戏产业会发生什么样的变化。我认为它必将发生巨大的变化,以致于它现在所关注的视觉特效产业可能也将不再与之相适应。但是似乎,NESTA(以及大部分老派产业家)关于游戏产业未来的发展观点与我不同。我们主张的是,未来的游戏产业需要更多的创造性而非坚定的领导者。

朝臣角色

游戏产业中有一类人扮演着朝臣的角色。让别人感觉到他们高高在上,但是却与外部缺少足够的联系。这些人很多都是受到封闭的发行结构的影响,特别是在整个产业趋于垄断时表现得越发明显。而这导致越来越多没有声望,但却拥有创造性观点的新人与这些产业传奇之间的隔阂变得越来越明显。

这就像是在革命前的法国,朝臣与农民之间的关系,并且这不只是有钱人和挨饿者的区别,其中也存在着思想和理念的不同。越来越多外来者开始挑战朝臣的专制,而朝臣也不得不努力维护自己的地位。

外来者希望通过创业精神改变这种局面,但是那些高高在上的臣子们却认为唯一可行的方法是政府的资助。英国游戏产业中有些人要求减免税收,就像电影产业那样,虽然这么做会减弱游戏产业的独立性,但是也让他们能够更加稳定地维护自己的地位。这是那些扮演着“朝臣”角色的产业老手们希望达到的稳定,以此保住他们的现有利益。

资助年轻骨干

NESTA同样也聚集了一个自费发行游戏的独立开发者联盟。他们请求每个开发者都能够投资2万英镑,而他们对于“独立”的定义拥有少于250名员工的公司。

与此相反的是,一些小公司会参加如“World of Love”(游戏邦注:英国独立游戏开发大会)等活动,这里会聚集一些有望成功的人才,他们共同讨论如何制作游戏,寻找为游戏找到出路,以及为何游戏产业情势如此难以理解等问题。这些公司才算真正的独立公司,他们没有2万英镑,甚至连2千英镑都没有,他们必须依赖于外界的帮助才能发行游戏。

“朝臣”开发者们并不想投资年轻游戏开发者。相反地,他们只愿意为他们提供岗位,让其为自己效劳。如此直接的态度翻转啊,想想看作为企业家的Ian Livingstone从最初自己创造了如此成功的游戏企业到现在却说“我们不希望受到其他新兴企业的威胁,我们只希望这些有能力的人为我们效劳。”

很多游戏传奇人士都是通过创业而赚大钱,但是他们现在却不愿意资助年轻人让他们步上自己的成功之道。

硅谷之所以能够如此成功是因为其中很多成功的企业家成为了投资者。他们知道投资新兴企业是有利可图,并且那些依靠自己能力的新兴企业也在努力寻找理解他们企业发展的投资者们。

产业传奇们应该是那些能够推动更多新游戏创业诞生的投资者,但是事实上他们却从未做到这一点。或者他们需要一个领导者,就像是硅谷创业之父Paul Graham 这样。再或者他们需要适当的激励(如抵消税收等福利),才能贡献出更多投资。

事实上,我认为这些产业传奇们最需要的还是信仰。关于朝臣一代的最大问题便是,他们的视野变得越来越狭窄,导致游戏产业中的掌机平台已经很长时间处于封闭状态了。虽然产业中许多大腕们一直在寻找有能力的年轻创业者,但是他们却不相信App Store或者Facebook平台能够为其带来更多利益。他们也许也期望一些新兴公司能够做的很好,但是根据自己以往的经验,他们认为提供给这些新人职位便是最大的资助。

也许他们的观点是对的,但是我们需要相信,未来的游戏产业并不是公爵间为了赢得国王关注的斗争。

年轻开发者的未来

我认为NESTA的报告不会带来多大变化,但这并不是他们自助发行游戏的错,只是因为关于这些问题有太多的分歧,并且也没有足够的资金能够推动变化。更多的制作公司会选择中国和印度为落脚点,因为这里有大量廉价的劳动力。而对于众多年轻人来说,他们的未来所面临的最大挑战是,避免沦为封闭产业中的一份子。

他们必须学会创造未来。就像在家上班的独立开发者,他们正是朝着一个难以预见的未来前进,所以他们成为了传奇。如果拥有足够的创造空间,年轻人们也能够创造自己的未来。这就是传奇们能够带给下一代的资助与教导。

对于我们所有人来说,最大的挑战是让未来不再重蹈过去。过去一代依附于“朝廷”的生产方式已经不再是当今年轻人应该走的道路了。

让我们高喊,革命万岁!(本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,作者:Tadhg Kelly)

The Games Industry’s Age Problem [Trends]

I was at an event hosted by NESTA in which Ian Livingstone and Alex Hope presented a top-line summary for a report talking about the problems of education in the UK. Specifically what they talked about was how to train young people with better sets of skills to equip them for digital industries like games or visual effects.

The thing I noticed more than anything else, however, was that (at 37 years old) I was one of the youngest people there. In a room of luminaries from the digital industries in the UK, all I could see was a mass of bald heads and grey hair. Where were the young companies and the new generation?

Nowhere that I could see. I think that might be a problem.

Steady Hands or Wild Eyes?

There are both good and bad aspects to having an aging leadership. Among the good are  better longer term perception, celebrity, wisdom and authority. Among the bad are hesitation, intransigence, a tendency toward old-boy networks and a lack of energy. The question is whether a vibrant industry like games needs steady hands more than wild-eyed invention.

Many of today’s middle aged leading figures are the same people who, twenty five years ago, changed the world. Games like Elite, Ultima, Populous and Doom were made by bright young teens and tweens who had no idea what they were doing, and so no sense of why they should hold back. Contrast those examples with Kinectimals, Tabula Rasa, Fable 3 and Doom 3, and there is a strong case to be made that as game developers get older, they become less daring.

Or perhaps that is an illusion. The big contrast between the industry today versus in decades past is that it operates at a different scale. The development rate of founderworks has tailed off, to be replaced by sophistication and genre preferences. So the counter-argument is that it’s not the developers that are less crazy, but the money that finances them.

If so, is the new industry really better suited to careerism? According to NESTA, the UK needs more focus on hard skills like maths and computer programming to provide a basis for effective industry-centric training. Their primary concern is that there isn’t enough good qualified labour coming through in the domestic market to satisfy demand. So in essence it’s about existing helping digital factories fill vacancies.

There are two assumptions behind that logic: That the game production industry will still be here in 10 years time, and that it will increasingly be careers-driven rather than entrepreneurial.

Every younger (below 40) worker in the games industry knows that it is a place of crunch, retrenchment and closure. If you visit industry forums like The Chaos Engine, the talk is overwhelmingly that of job security, frustration and tension. Statistics suggest that the majority of people who work in games do not stay beyond five years, and now console game sales are in decline in the face of outsider companies like Zynga.

The prospects of fewer console games, declining opportunities, and of the need to diversify into other markets are all that anyone paying attention to trends (like me) talks about. And yet at the same time, NESTA-style reports focus on ways to keep the companies of David Braben or Charles Cecil in business, when the model that those companies are built on is arguably dying. It’s not about David or Charles personally (they are both heroes of mine), but rather whether the old guard economy that they represent is really worth saving.

The real question that should be being asked is what the next decade industry is going to look like. I think that it will look very different, so much so that the conflation of its concerns with those of the VFX industry seem out of place. NESTA (and the old guard in general) do not seem aligned to the future to me. We need less steady hands and more lunacy.

Life At Court

The games industry has a kind of life-at-court character. It feels sewn up, reputation- and relationship-reliant, and increasingly out of touch. A lot of that comes from its closed-format publishing structure, and is pretty typical of what happens when industries become oligopolies. A divergence is growing between newcomers with no reputation but disruptive ideas versus Industry Legends?.

It’s like the disconnect between courtiers and peasants in pre-Revolutionary France, in that it’s not just a difference of moneyed versus hungry, but of ideas. Outsiders increasingly don’t relate to courtier issues, while the courtiers increasingly seem to be trying to hold on to their position.

Outsiders want to change things via entrepreneurship, but for those at court the only viable answer seems to be rely on the patronage of governments. Some sections of the UK games industry want tax breaks, like the film industry, even though that would largely render the industry into a dependent but stable adjunct of UK PLC. They reason they want them is for stability, to shore up their existing interests.

Investing in Youth

NESTA have also put together a self-publishing coalition of independent developers. They are asking for investment of £20,000 per developer, but their definition of ‘independent’ is a company that has fewer than 250 staff.

Contrast this with the tiny companies attending events like World of Love, where small bands of hopefuls gather talk talk about making games, finding their way in the world and wondering why the  games industry is so difficult to comprehend. Those are the actual independents who are in need of publishing help, but they don’t have £20,000 to throw into a pot. They don’t even have £2,000.

The courtier generation is disinclined to invest in young game makers. Instead it wants to give them careers. How exactly did that flip happen? How does Ian Livingstone, an entrepreneur, go from setting up thriving games businesses to fronting a report which pretty much says ‘we don’t want disruption, we want workers’?

A number of game legends have managed to make fortunes (enough to even get to space in one case) through entrepreneurship but there is very little sign of them reinvesting in the young. Phil Harrison is trying to put together an investment fund, and Ian Baverstock is in charge of a seed fund named Tenshi Ventures, but there is not enough of this sort of thing going on. Where is Peter Molyneux’s seed fund? Where’s Jez San’s VC? Where are Richard Garriot’s angel investments? Where are the Stampers’ debt-convertible loans?

I don’t mean to name names, just to highlight some examples. One of the reasons that Silicon Valley works so well is that many of its successful entrepreneurs become investors. They understand that there is money to be made in new ventures, but also that ventures live or die on their ability to find funds and mentorship from investors who understand their business.

Industry legends are ideally placed to become next-decade investors that could spur many new game startups, but they are nowhere to be seen. Perhaps they need a leader, as Paul Graham is in the Silicon Valley seed funding community. Or perhaps what they need is incentive (tax write-offs etc) to make the prospect of investment more attractive.

Actually what I think they need more than anything is faith. The problem with life at court is that it tends to make a courtier’s view of the world myopic, and the games industry’s court of console platforms has had a very closed-doors attitude for a long time. I think many of the luminaries in the industry feel for the young entrepreneurs, but simply don’t believe that the App Store or Facebook are arenas that will ultimately amount to anything beyond an additive for their existing interests. I think they want new companies to do well, but their experience tells them that the door is shut to all but the lucky, and so the best kind of patronage that they can offer is simply jobs.

Perhaps they’re right, but I need to believe in a future for the games industry that isn’t reliant on octogenerian dukes vying for the attention of the King.

The Kids are All Right

I doubt the NESTA report will yield many tangible results, nor their self publishing unit, because there is too much intransigence and too little funding available to make a difference. Production houses will inevitably move to China and India because the grunt work of production is simply much cheaper there, so the challenge for the kids of the future is not to become members of an industry which is closing up shop.

It is to invent the future. The bedroom coders did that, and their future took many of them in directions that they could not foresee. They became legends. The kids of tomorrow can invent their own future provided that the powers that be allow them enough room to do so. This is where legends can make a difference, by investing and mentoring.

The challenge for all of us is to remember that the future does not have to look like the past. Just because the older generation went down the road of large production houses reliant on life at court to find their way does not mean that the kids have to pay homage.

Viva la Revolution!(source:whatgamesare

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