It’s almost an understatement to say that in today’s era of gaming options, we’re a pretty spoiled bunch. The last two decades have seen an exponential rise in game titles released, the quality of those games, and the evolution of game design itself. From inception to delivery, every facet of the gaming hobby has been uplifted at a rapid-fire pace.
For many, this newfound era of high quality gaming consumption begins and ends with a finished commercially printed product. The new hotness, the latest mega title, the newest hip game from the newest hip game company.
There’s nothing wrong with this, of course. We are yielding more spectacular titles year-over-year than ever before, and it can often be difficult to even catch up with the release schedule of established publishers, let alone anyone else.
The thing is, contrary to popular opinion, such games are not the entirety of the gaming world. Kickstarter alone has proven that to be the case. Since Kickstarter’s inception, it has quickly revolutionized how games get made. For many smaller and medium sized game companies, Kickstarter (and similar crowdfunding sites) has gone from shaking up the status quo of how and which games get produced to being the status quo in a few short years. It’s allowed for a vast array of game titles to be created and shared with the world that may not have seen the light of day otherwise. The ripples of its impact in the industry are still being felt, let alone figured out.
Because of the openness and accessibility of Kickstarter, though, the degree of games that come through it can be quite uneven. As a result of this, many people are wary or outright dismissive of Kickstarters that aren’t de facto pre-orders for existing publishers. It’s understandable to some degree: for every successful hit like Alien Frontiers or Viticulture, there have been dozens of mediocre games. Nothing against the effort and desire of their creators, but dozens more that are just bad, sad as that is to say.
This in turn has led to the belief that Kickstarter is the one and true home for indie games to try their luck in the market…except that’s not actually true.
For a variety of reasons, there are plenty of games that exist – good games even – that never make it to Kickstarter. They remain overlooked from even the indie-favoring crowds, existing as self-published games, print-and-play variants, or, in many cases, as one of the myriad games found on sites like The Game Crafter.
Yes, The Game Crafter does more than print prototypes. It has a litany of games that can be bought, played, and enjoyed. Games that have been designed, developed, and tested. Games that are actually quite decent, even if they don’t have the same polished look of the games on store shelves. These are the games that exist in the indie gaming wilderness, past prototype stage but never trying their hand at the Kickstarter scene. Many titles there have just as much play value and merit as those you’ll find in cellophane or on Kickstarter. More in some cases. In fact, some publishers even go diving into this region now and again to find their next title.
We actually guarantee that you’ve probably heard of a game that or two that started off as a Game Crafter level game. Like Kickstarter, it can be a raw territory, a developmental playground, and not everything there is good. There’s plenty of titles on there that will never (and should never) go beyond that stage of creation.
Still, such avenues are highly undervalued. We’ve said this for some time. Part of our founding mission at the CR has always been to give a little extra help to the games that aren’t the latest hotness, and we know it’s an area that’s often neglected by gamers writ large – ourselves included. We just haven’t had the resources to devote to wading through what places like The Game Crafter have to offer
We’re happy to announce the start of Frontier Gaming, a new light review column devoted to this slice of the gaming world exclusively. To do this, we welcome newcomer Rob Cramer to the team as he has bravely offered to dive into the good, the bad, and everything in between in this truly overlooked area of gaming. Please help us in welcoming Rob and his monthly contributions to the site!
Photo Credits: American Frontier by Mick Burkey Photography.