Panellists at Reboot Develop conference aim criticism at game selling platforms.
A group of indie developers took the opportunity in last week’s Reboot Develop conference to voice concerns with marketplaces such as Steam, the App Store and Google Play. A panel was held at the conference to discuss representation and diversity, and the conclusion of panellists was that certain types of games are being stifled and prevented from making it to market.
Panellists such as Rami Ismail from Vlambeer and Robin Hunicke from Funomena started by agreeing that indie games are widely acknowledged to be artforms as well as entertainment. Hunicke described the indie game scene as being similar to “punk rock”, with many devs using their games as a form of self-expression, or even using them to convey a serious message.
But the panel then went on to criticise perceived “double standards” in where platforms draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable content, claiming that the “unmoderated” atmosphere on Steam is sometimes tainted by censorship. Ismail gave the example of the lack of games with Americans as the ‘bad guys’. He noted that a game set in a modern conflict with Americans as enemies was unlikely to make it onto mainstream marketplaces, saying:
“Until we see a game like that on Steam, I’m pretty convinced that this is not a reflection of the world.”
Hunicke then gave an example of a game about male genitalia showcased at Nordic Game Jam, which was denied access to most marketplaces, claiming that if it had been a heterosexual-themed game it would have been a different story. She said that the developer in question, Robert Yang:
“Can’t sell his games about hooking up with dudes because it’s ‘too gay’. Too gay for iOS. Too gay for Android. Too gay for Steam. That is so un-punk.”
Hunicke then went on to describe an ideal future in which game publishing became more democritised, with a “battle for content” between a larger number of marketplaces, where it would be easier for studios to find their audience and connect with them.
She criticised the poor relationship between corporations like Valve and the developers they host, and cited the upcoming platform Kartridge as somewhere that should have “a more artistic and friendly policy about curation,” also adding, “maybe a female-led platform, made for indies, will solve some of these problems.”
Ismail meanwhile said that the level of satisfaction with Steam is at an all-time low point among indie developers, and concluded:
“If anybody is going to pick a fight with Steam or create an alternative, the time is now.”