An example of a commercial playful technology that has been shaped by the organization of the industry is the modern video game industry. Over the last century, the industry has gone through a number of phases. The industry itself was born; it has declined, boomed, shifted power and become more lucrative, among other things.
However, what has become of the industry today would obviously be quite different if there were
no constraints placed on the industry. Without the constraints, which are mostly determined by publishers, it is hard to fathom what might be defined as video games, but it is also completely unrealistic to do so. Constraints such as: release timetables, project budget concerns, technical limitations, a high degree of competition, meeting manufacturers technical requirements, etc.. These are constraints that stemmed from the industry’s growth and have not limited the industry, but have probably strengthened it and improved the overall quality of video games.
I believe the effects of these constraints can be best evidenced by a crucial turning point in the
video game industry. The North American video game crash of 1983, which occurred early in the industry’s lifetime, at a time when there were nearly no third party publisher controls. The results were that the market was flooded with a number of consoles and numerous low quality titles. Many small console manufacturers abandoned the industry and retailers were convinced that the video game fad was now over.
A result of this was that more constraints had to be placed on the video game industry. Nintendo rose from the ashes of the nearly dead industry. They drastically changed the situation, requiring game cartridges to have a special key chip for the game to work on a console. This would
eventually become the industry norm. Nintendo rationalized this innovation by ensuring that all games on the console were of a certain quality.
This example ties into an example given in “The Game Design Reader”, an article by Ken Birdwell describes the design process for the hit PC game Half-Life. This article exhibits the effects from industry constraints which were felt by the development team. Constraints like a target release
date, forced the team to pool their resources and develop an efficient and high quality design process. Several parts of the article discuss how the team was trying to implement certain
advanced technical aspects to their game (a new method to produce beam effects was mentioned). This was most likely a result of a high degree of competition that was present at the time. The design team felt that they had to make their product stand out in a market where first person shooters are a dime a dozen. This attitude, along with the Cabal design process, enabled the staff at Valve to create one of the most memorable PC games of the 90’s and evidences how
constraints of the video game industry have actually helped the overall quality of the industry.