A beginner’s introduction in the sense that I am a beginner, that is – I’ve never taken to the genre with my full powers of sitting-in-front-of-a-computer. During the last couple of weeks I’ve played this stuff more than usually, though, largely because of my brother Markku, who plays this stuff quite a lot. Consequently I can recommend some excellent games to anybody interested in video game design or just playing innovative games.
Browser Games, Casual Games
After scratching the surface of this exciting genre of games, I think that browser games are where some of the most exciting game design has been done this decade. While expensive A-list video game industry has descended from intellectual leadership to curiousity to irrelevance, I find many of the values that attracted me to video games in the first place to be enshrined as a matter of course in the browser game media; it seems that the constrained technology works to keep the development costs down, allowing ideas to shine instead. While I’m personally mostly lukewarm towards modern computer games (haven’t read the industry magazines since the end of the ’90s, for instance), this stuff intrigues me – I could imagine working with something like this myself at some point. In fact, playing some of these games reminds me of my own mission statement towards casual gaming, which I wrote up as a sort of a set of connected game concepts some five years ago; I see a lot of similarities in my thinking at the time and much of this game design I se in browser games now.
About casual games – I have to say that I don’t see the browser game platform as a primarily casual one. There are some quite heavy and involved games created for this platform. This is of course a perspective error, as casual gamers like my sister Mervi certainly don’t play the hardcore stuff, and for them the platform is all about the simplest games. Still, despite the intellectually rich environment, the truth seems to remain that the best stuff is still created towards a hardcore audience, limited platform or not. This is probably largely because I am myself a hardcore gamer, and therefore can appreciate the increased nuance, which makes me flat out ignore much of the casual genre. Then again, it might not be – I know that there are some casual games that I can appreciate, and some games where hardcore interests match with casual ones.
A word about the industry behaviors of the scene for those who know even less than I do: it seems to me that browser games nowadays are made mostly in Flash and some similar technologies, and published through large aggregation/collection sites like Kongregate or Armor Games. The revenue model seems to mostly involve advertising, either by the publishing website (which splits the profits with the game creator) or embedded within the game code itself. I have no idea how lucrative this sort of thing is, but then, game development for the platform is easily within the reach of a minimal design team, and game contents are usually not very extensive, so this stuff can be created as a hobby, too. I know almost nothing at all about the people behind these games; from my viewpoint they just pop up in my email as my brother sends me links to them. I assume that some people dedicate themselves to the form and establish studios or something.
All that being said, let me recommend some good browser games. I can’t say that my list would be nearly comprehensive, as I hardly know this platform myself, but I can say that each of the titles I introduce are worth a look for general video gaming interests. Because browser games are free and hassle-free (no difficult installation prosedures in modern browsers, just click a link, wait a moment and go), there’s not much reason to skip this stuff aside from the bother of having to skim through the hundred bad or average games to find the gems. For that reason, recommendations – I wouldn’t have discovered most of these games if Markku didn’t send me links to interesting games all the time.
I was going to put all of my recommendations here as a list, but I actually have a bit to say about each game separately, so I think I’ll write separate posts about each. So expect some game reviews shortly, with the above context in mind.