I like target. Yeah it's a big box store, but it's commitment to good (or at the very least passable) design is admirable. And when you need a reasonably priced paper towel holder at 10pm there really aren't a lot of places to get one; and i have a lot of things to wipe down at that hour.
So I'm in Target the other night, and i saw a rack of tee shirts. Pretty standard target fair, simple, flat, flash style illustration, interesting but not exactly cool enough to warrant actually wearing. I think the look skewed a little younger than my demographic, maybe more the 12-17 year old speed (although after later considering the end content this doesn't feel like a good choice). To be honest I'm not sure what drew me to these shirts, but i'm glad i gave the display a second look. I was about to abandon my casual perusal when the (rather large) tags caught my eye. Instead of a little paper strip with a price, these were big, obviously heavy cardstock affairs. My first thought was that maybe the tags were small books. Here's a photo i took of the display as a whole so you can get a look at what i'm talking about:
So after closer inspection I discovered that those tags, each one contains a CD, and on that CD is a short-form, experimental, independently developed, PC game. Yeah, seriously. Not only that but they dedicate a lot of tag real estate to talking about the creator of the game –in much the same way you might talk about a hot new band. The shirt was like a tour shirt for the game, cool graphics from the games –remember we're talking indie development, so illustration and flash art, not 3d rendering, IE: stuff that looks good screenprinted on cotton.
The company is called EGP Apparel, and their website is really just a “coming soon” page. www.egpapparel.com. As far as I can tell EGP stands for “experimental gameplay project.” An offshoot of this site sort of a repository/community for these kinds of games.
The games are all pretty interesting sounding. Not your usual game content, for example there is a game where you're a little dude with a gigantic head (like, your head has gravity and that effects play) trying to grow a dozen roses so you can attract the attention of a girl with a gigantic head. Or you are a robot spider in some uncertain distant desert future that has to traverse a dangerous landscape all while keeping your egg sac safe for future generations. The games get variously more abstract from there.
They very specifically weren't the kind of re-skinned games you normally see as cheep promotional items. There was no cars are fast and awesome tokyo drift game. There was no shoot the aliens with your space AK-47 game. There was one giant robot destroying a city game, but from what i could tell it was actually about finding true love with another city-destroying giant robot (a weird theme is developing here).
You see what they did? The shirts are eye catching and appealing enough to be worth wearing or at the very least examining in the store but the real product was the game. The shirt is a promotion, a benefit, a bonus that the game audience gets. You like this game? Why not wear the shirt for it, let your friends know. If these games were sold in the toy or software section they would get lost in the crowd. They aren't halo or grand turismo or whatever iteration of GTA they are up to, and thats the point.
These games are short, they play in the time it takes to watch a tv show or a youtube video, not an epic mini series. These are games for people who like games but don't have the interest to invest 40+ hours of their lives in cinematic immersion. At the same time this is an informed audience. They are aware of the big games out there. I would imagine most of these folks probably have a "gamer" buddy who they play with once in a while, who informs their opinions about games. These more serious players buy and try the products in the game software aisles. The games that make the cut get filtered down to your casual crowd, our t-shirt buyers. These games are about pure fun.
These games are a thing apart, and hence they aren't put where that other stuff is. The kind of person that would be interested in playing a game called "Tower of Goo" might not be interested in the sort of long form high gloss hollywood production that mainstream games offer. These shoppers may not even have the console or system requirements to play those high-end games effectivly. So why put these experimental games in the game section where the people who would be most interested wouldn’t see them?
Quite simply, that audience won't be found in those parts of the store. The casual gamer is just that, casual, less interested in that department because there are other sections of the big box that interest them more, like say the casual wear section.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about looking at different delivery avenues for games, about exploring new markets and focusing selling effort on the “casual” gamer set. I think that things like this are pointing in the right direction.
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That's very cool. The independent, short-form game community has really grabbed my attention lately. The idea of having an innovative concept and tight implementation is pretty great and provides a very different experience than more traditional games.
I hope to see more stuff like this in the future.
Wow. That's fucking brilliant.
Actually, it exemplifies a lot of what Seth Godin talks about in his various marketing texts. This is a "free prize" (see: Free Prize Inside), creating a remarkable (that is, worth remarking upon) product that's going to go far on word of mouth. Really interesting.
Edited at 2008-03-13 10:05 pm (UTC)
On March 22nd, 2008 04:30 am (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
FWIW, I get your point about casual gamers playing these games. But also, nearly all game developers themselves play these games as quite a few of these shirt games are regarded as beacons of creative light in the industry. Tower of Goo and Gish, for example, garnered quite a bit of industry press.
It's funny when you think about who these games could appeal to. In order of game passion:
Casual -> Hardcore -> Developer
These games appeal to the Casual and Developer crowds, but many so called "Hardcore" gamers would never deign to play these games.
On April 15th, 2008 02:08 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
2D Boy is a core team of two guys, Ron Carmel and Kyle Gabler. Their swanky San Francisco office is whichever free wi-fi coffee shop they wander into on a given day. Kyle Gabler is one of the guys behind the Experimental Gameplay Project, and recently a game designer and magic rapid prototyper with Maxis & EA. Ron Carmel was previously a game developer with EA's pogo.com. Before that, he developed visual fx software and immersive haptic simulations. Together, they are an unstoppable force on the front lines of the indie revolution. Ron on the left, Kyle on the right, 2D Boy all aroun