Do User Generated Content Games Have a Future?

Jack Matthams looks at how user generated content games are developing and their future.

In days far gone, my younger-self had a significant dilemma to solve: Xbox 360 or PS3? It was a difficult choice, and whilst I ended up getting both after a few years, I settled on the Sony console first, mainly due to one particular exclusive that caught my interest: LittleBigPlanet.

Developed by Media Molecule, LBP offered everything in a game that I had ever dreamed of; it was platforming, puzzle solving and, most importantly, all about creating your own content. I remember specifically sitting down before I even had the console itself, drawing out plans for my video game and room inspired levels (I built levels to look like my boring kitchen. I was THAT excited). LittleBigPlanet ended up as a rather underrated series, perhaps deterring many due to its somewhat younger audience appeal, but looking back at the game made me think: why aren’t there more user generated content games on the market?

Well, the first obvious issue arises in the fact that the dominating platforms are rather averse to working together, to put it lightly. User generated content games require a hefty community network, and if they don’t catch on, it could end up a failure of dramatic proportions for whoever develops and publishes it. If there could ever be a way to unite PC, Microsoft, Sony and maybe even Nintendo gamers, then a content creation game could flourish with the ingenuity of millions. However, this is incredibly unlikely, and, as with the likes of LBP, Super Mario Maker and Smash Bros, exclusives have shown they can sometimes work by themselves.

The second issue revolves more around PC. Mods have become a staple for PC gamers these days, and have allowed people to add pretty much anything they want to a game, sometimes for free. I’m not saying all PC gamers have bad attitudes, but I think the general idea of a user generated content game on PC would be scoffed at and mocked to the ground simply due to the fact they can pretty much make or download anything they want already. As much as I hate to say it, the platform competition really damages this genre of games, and with mods arriving on PS4 and Xbox One, it seems the issue is only becoming more prevalent.

But what about the bright side? Let’s not ignore the obvious successes here; LBP might not have been the most popular, but it set a precedent for platform exclusives in the genre, and many games these days have the capacity to allow players to edit and make their own levels. Halo Reach was one of my own past personal favourites, and Nintendo has always been big fans of this style, showing large franchises can also cash in on the potential.

But, perhaps even more importantly, the second best selling game of all time is a user generated content game, beaten only to the top by Tetris. Minecraft was a phenomenon that is still burning brightly, with new updates, developments and creations emerging every day, from players building actual working computers and mobile phones to full-scale replicas of major world cities and fantasy locations. Developers and publishers have not ignored this, and never will. Minecraft has and will continue to inspire many content creation games to come, and remains the brightest beacon of hope in showing they can work.

So what next? Virtual Reality remains one of the biggest hopes for content creation, given that, as well as all the games already out that promote creativity, many companies are releasing software to allow people to build their own VR games. There’s a lot of potential here, and whilst it heavily depends on whether VR can take off, it inspires hope to see so many people harnessing their creativity for the industry. Indeed, games like Roblox are already trying, having taken inspiration from the success of Minecraft.

Media Molecule is also back at it, with a spiritual successor to the LBP series: Dreams. Following the tagline of ‘play, create, share’, Dreams encourages level creation and, as said by Technical Director Alex Evans, will be “defined” by the players rather than the developers. Very exciting.

As someone whose skill-set and passions sit firmly within the creative sector, I’m always trying to find and experience user-generated games. It’s time for another Minecraft, and with the future of gaming at its brightest, it seems I might not have to wait too long.

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