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Does gaming need curation? What will pass?

Any game has the right to exist, but any marketplace has the right to remove it from its store. But what is the limit?

As of writing this, we are still in the second gaming golden age. Great titles, new genres, and many of it. Well, maybe too many.

by Lyubomir Atanasov
by Lyubomir Atanasov

As game development tools evolve and get more accessible, many of this potential gems are being able to be made. Or you could just a tutorial, 1 level, non-original asset flip and post to the store.

There are a lot of these “game developers” who flood digital storefronts (mainly Steam) and make it really difficult for legitimate indies to get their polished (often several years in the making) games. This excess of “asset flips” and “tutorial titles” is why we get lists, like my “hidden gems” one.

Since this is a pretty consistent problem, it also carries with itself the consistent question of “Why don't we have curators for the store, to keep the trash out?”

The answer to this question is often answered with another question: “What is considered a 'trash' title?“. That leads to the question of censorship, gatekeeping and such.

Each platform has a different method to deal with this.

Here is a screen shot of "Life of Black Tiger", a game borderline unplayable. yet made it to the PSN Store. — by Lyubomir Atanasov
Here is a screen shot of "Life of Black Tiger", a game borderline unplayable. yet made it to the PSN Store. — by Lyubomir Atanasov

I will start with the console market. Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony have storefronts, where there is some sort of quality control. Each having a submission and approval period to them. Now not much is known about these processes, but it has mixed results. Even though they have much cleaner stores, there are titles that of very low quality that slips through, such as bad ports or just bad in general.

PC digital storefronts exhibit many different methods of curation. The ones I will comment on are that of Steam and GOG since they are the biggest ones.

Steam has a hands-off/ do it yourself style of curating. A small fee, a percentage of sales and done, your game is on steam. Now people have been vocal about how bad this sort of practice is, they have since added “curator” system. Essentially anyone can make a group where they can add games too and it will show that list anyone following them. This has led to some great groups, often spearheaded by a popular online presence. But these groups are just a band-aid on a chopped off limb.

If Steam curated, this horror hit would might not have been as popular as it was. — by Lyubomir Atanasov
If Steam curated, this horror hit would might not have been as popular as it was. — by Lyubomir Atanasov

However, Valve response to all of this debacle has always been that they don't what to be judges since gaming has way too wide of a spectrum. If it were up to them, stuff like visual novels would have never got on Steam.

But there is still a majority who think that there should be some sort of curation, without realizing the dangers.

And that was shown in a recent accident with GOG.

Opus Magnum is a puzzle game, where you must use dumbed down machine programming and cycles to solve problems. It was simple, non-political, outside of a little joke mission description, clean. But it had its submission to GOG revoked since GOG has a curating staff. Reason? Allegedly it was because it was thought that the game was too complicated and it won't be fun for the users to play. The only reason that you can find the game on GOG is that of a fan outcry! Yes, GOG like Valve found out that anything can be fun and of interest for anyone, in this case, puzzle games with programming elements. Other titles of this sub-genre are Hack'n'Slash, Quadrilateral Cowboy, and Human Resource Machine.

by Lyubomir Atanasov
by Lyubomir Atanasov

So what is the answer here? Well for me, a player of indies, a man who enjoys fun risque games like Hunnie Pop and Senran Kagura or the like, think that curation will lead to more problems than its worth. Games are as much art as they are entertainment. And like all art, not everyone will get it, hell very very little might at getting it all, but it does not make it any less art. Yes, shovel-ware and lazy junk exist and it is a problem, but it's not worth it to risk creating un-passable gates.

The power of a king is the same of that of a tyrant.

This article was originally published on @thetubich