I want to say 2015 has been an interesting year for the game industry, but besides being cliché, it’s superfluous. When you work in an industry whose core is a crazy concoction of art and tech, the “interesting” is actually a daily routine.
The media environment in this business is slippery fast as well, where speed and quantity are valued over quality. Interesting has a shelf date on the Internet, which you can clock in minutes. In this world, it’s becoming the norm to see good stories slip by unnoticed, blown aside by our need for quick hits that can be tacked to our social media walls.
So I’ve asked my fellow GamesBeat writers and editors to dig into their backlog of 2015 posts and pull out some of their favorite original stories from the year. These are the pieces that may have been shoved aside by the freight train of instant interesting delivery.
An ex-state prisoner plays Prison Architect
When dealing with the bizarre and cruel realities of the world, game designers often find themselves teetering between mindful cognizance or trivialization of these issues. Where does a game like Prison Architect, where the player takes on the role of a prison warden, land? In an attempt to gain a more educated perspective on this topic, I sat down with an ex-state prisoner who had done time for extremely violent crimes and had him play the game.
The group helping war veterans with video games
Prison Architect may not be as realistic as we thought, but what is definitely real are the men and women who served in America’s armed forces that are struggling during their return to civilian life. Dan Crawley, a freelance writer for GamesBeat, met up with Iraq war veteran Capt. Stephen Machuga. Crawley discovers that Machuga’s love for video games uncovered a new source of comfort and escapism for war veterans, which snowballed into the games-to-soldiers charity Operation: Supply Drop.
Let’s hook a 5 year old up to virtual reality
Back in civilization, some of us are doing some crazy shit. And I’m definitely one of them. When the Samsung Gear VR hit my desk, I couldn’t resist the urge to take it home and strap some virtual reality to my daughter’s face. I expected a mind-blowing experience for my little girl, but the reaction I received was not quite what I expected.
What virtual reality may be doing to us
After strapping the Samsung Gear VR to my daughter’s face, some readers brought up health and safety concerns around extended use. Earlier this year, Crawley explored this issue with several experts in psychology, optometry, and neuroscience, who discover that we may be unintentional guinea pigs for a medium that could have long-term effect on our sight and mind.
Cleaner by day, Forest Guardian by night
The video game medium is great for those looking for a coping mechanism in their lives, but it can also be a source of awesome creativity among its fan base. Crawley met up with Angelique “Idromy” Heikens, who by day is a cleaner in Belgium, but at night is an incredibly talented costume designer, whose work includes a massive Forest Guardian from the Witcher series.
Let’s have a real discussion on diversity
The gender and racial make up of the video game audience is wide and diverse, but what about the industry side of this medium? Diversity in the game industry has been a hot topic in op-eds and features for years, but GamesBeat’s lead writer and organizer of the GamesBeat 2015 event, Dean Takahashi, wanted an actual discussion on the issue. So he added a panel on the topic, lead by University of Southern California’s Gordon Bellamy, with Asra Rasheed, the executive producer for Disney’s game division; Bandura Games CEO Justin Hefter; Contagious Creativity’s Megan Gaiser; and senior business manager at Xbox Katy Jo Meyer.
Siberia’s indie game developers
While the western game industry struggles with diversity in its workplace, the workplace itself is breaking loose from being centralized in specific parts of the world. During a jaunt in Israel, Takahashi bumped into MyTona, an indie development studio based out of Siberia whose biggest game has over 30 million downloads.
The game industry of Mexico
Siberia may have ways to go to becoming a hot spot for game development, but one place that is ripe to explode is Mexico. GamesBeat freelance writer Nissa Campbell explores the growing gaming market and community of developers south of the border.
How the ~ key killed Fallout 4
Some people can’t seem to control themselves around certain things. For some its alcohol, drugs, sex, and chocolate. For GamesBeat writer Jeff Grubb, it’s the tilde key, which grants access to Fallout 4’s command console. Grubb essentially ruined Fallout 4 for himself when he found he could unlock all the weapons and go into God mode with the input of a few development side commands. Let his folly serve as a lesson to others.
Multiplayer avoiding players
The one thing you can’t cheat your way out of in video games is online confrontation, but some game designers are starting to make their multiplayer experiences a bit more passive in nature. GamesBeat freelance writer Suriel Vazquez takes a look at this growing phenomenon of making typically directly competitive online play less about taking down a real-life opponent.
Is Sega ready to fix Sonic yet?
Speaking of design trends, one series that can’t seem to get its game design together is Sega’s Sonic The Hedgehog. GamesBeat community manager Mike Minotti takes a look at the franchise, and instead of doing the usual (and tempting) bash job on it, he tries to constructively critique how the next game can be improved. The road to improvement, however, is going to require Sega to face its many creative mis-steps their flagship title.
The small things in video games that will kill you
It wouldn’t kill Sega to take some of Jeff’s suggestions, but do you know what kills us every day in games? The small stuff. Evan Killham ends our list with a humorous look back at all the tiny, yet deadly, entities roaming around the video game world.