I've been following this industry for some time in a variety of fashions, as a gamer mainly, as a retail peon who specialized in game sales, and as a freelance writer (okay, that's exclusively her on BitMob, but I digress) and one thing has been sticking at me. Okay, not only one thing, but those aren't the focus of the article. As I was saying, one thing's been getting my ire up consistently, and that's the use of terms like AAA, indie, casual, hardcore, and the like, often in a biased discussion.
For example, I hear people saying that they will not buy any game apart from a AAA title because they are the best. I also hear people using the term indie title as a club to beat down games that don't have $50 million devoted to their making. That's not to say that it's only one way though. I have heard just as much bashing on a big production game as a disappointment or smaller team titles getting free passes for major flaws because they're “indie”. Of course, the less said about the casual vs. Hardcore debate the better (though my observations seem to say that people define “hardcore” as drab military shooters or sport titles and casual as anything else) though it's just as prevalent when people like to park themselves in a particular camp.
One person is making the new virtual crack.
Here's the problem with the abuse of those terms: they mean nothing. All they are is buzzwords that publishers and developers coined garner attention for a particular title that the rest of the industry picked up on, then subsequently, the gaming populous took to heart. You can ask a dozen people to define the terms I mentioned and a few more,and you will find at least totally different responses, and a variant on those 5 for each person. These are the definition of buzzwords. They are terms that mean nothing that are used for marketing yet people try to define them to make themselves important.
“But Bobby”, I can hear you crying out. “It's an indicator of quality and devotion to a game by the development team.” No it's not. Red Alert 3 and Fallout: New Vegas were considered AAA releases, yet they could barely function on launch and are really nothing more than cash ins on an established brand. Magicka and Space Pirates And Zombies are literally a few people in a building (the latter is 2 roommates even) yet the former uses a publisher so it's not independent and both games are relatively well polished for their contents. I'm sure you can give examples disputing mine, but that just furthers my point that the terms are meaningless.
$200 million and hundereds of people can still make a poor quality game.
There was a time when such terms did not exist. “AAA” was a side of beef and “indie” was a director who made artistic movies with no plot. As far as games though, there was only one definition scale: Good games downward to Bad games. Honestly, it should be that way again, not whether a game is regarded as AAA or indie, and there shouldn't be allowances granted in either case. Don't be fooled by buzzwords. Judge the game on it's own merits, not something a PR person threw out there.