Creator-Community Symbiosis: The Culture of Gaming

As a member of the culture of gaming I have to agree with John Banks when he states that “The success of media enterprises such as games developers may rely on effectively combining and coordinating the various forms of expertise possessed by both professional games developers and creative gamers, not displacing one with the other” in his essay on “Co-creative Expertise in Gaming Culture“. Recently, I was studying the subreddit for The Binding of Isaac, a roguelike game that was initially developed for PC and later for consoles. Over the course of three days, I recorded the results of my analysis of r/bindingofisaac, discussing topics such as the layout of the subreddit, things I learned from going to the subreddit, and analytical data on the activity generated by the community existing within the subreddit. Unlike the games mentioned by Banks, Spore and LittleBigPlanetThe Binding of Isaac doesn’t currently have a focus on “user-created content”, but it has created this content nonetheless and here’s how.

The community on the subreddit, as well as myself, highly enjoy The Binding of Isaac game series, so much so that they take the time to share their ideas and experiences with other people. The members of r/bindingofisaac are always coming up with new ideas on how to make current items or game mechanics better and new items and challenges that could be added to the game. When the Afterbirth DLC was in development, Edmund McMillen, the game series’ designer, reached out to the fans to get suggestions for new items that he would add to the game. As promised, when the extra content was released, at least two fan created items were included. This created a new level of equality between the developer and the gaming community, because not only was their voices heard, they were shown to have a say in the creation of permanent aspects of the game. This is part of the reason that the game series has sold over 5 million copies combined.

McMillen has made continued efforts to ensure that the idea that “Gamers increasingly participate in the process of making and circulating game content” is a staple in his games. He understands that the fan community has the ability develop great ideas and that working with them works toward both his benefit and their own. He is going so far in reaching out and making the community a part of the development experience, that he is not only looking for more item ideas in the next and final expansion he is releasing for The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, McMillen is also giving fans the ability to mod, create and share their own content for the game. I would definitely have to state that as a game designer, McMillen does “recognize and respect the contribution of gamers’ expertise in the context of a co-creative relationship for mutual benefit.” This is a great example of the kind of spreadable media that other game developers and companies should strive to accomplish. Game companies may be in it for the profit, but the fans generate that profit, so games made for the fans, with the help of fan ideas and suggestions, create a product that is even greater for everyone in the end.

Works Cited

Banks, John. “Co-creative Expertise in Gaming Culture.” Spreadable Media. N.p., 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.

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