It's Not Whether You Win or Lose, It's How You Write the Game


Admit it: You've often longed for a video game where Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises battle the forces of totalitarianism by shooting dollar signs out of their hands–The Revenge of the Austrians. Now, finally, this dream can be a reality.

Microsoft announced yesterday that it plans a fall release of a basic version of the tools required to write games for PC and Xbox. Amateurs can get the software for free, and users who become part of the "creators club" (for a relatively cheap $99 a year) can build, test, and share versions playable on an ordinary Xbox game console.

In retrospect, it's surprising that it took this long–lots of the geeks who write code for Linux and make AMVs are gamers, too. They've been tinkering on the edges for years, of course, but real game production has been the exclusive province of studio with huge budgets and full-time staff.

Microsoft thinks we're ready for the revolution now, as opposed to Sony's failed effort in 1997, because of the massive cultural shift taking place from what Lawrence Lessig calls a Read-Only culture to a Read-Write culture. Scott Henson, a director for Microsoft's game developer group was quoted in the New York Times acknowledging that "we're going from a monologue world to a dialogue world" and expressing the hope that XNA Game Studio Express will the YouTube for gamers.

The conventional wisdom casts Microsoft and other big developers as the losers in this transition, but Microsoft might not be as dumb as certain geeks claim. True, the main motivation behind this release seems to be desperation: The Xbox isn't dominating the market, and gamers are wearying of endless sequels and Hollywood retreads.

Microsoft's hope for the future, it seems, is us. As technology analyst Richard Doherty told the San Francisco Chronicle: "While some of these people can't work at Microsoft yet, you can still have that talent work for you." They're mimicking Wikipedia, My Space, YouTube, and other tools for user-generated products and content: Get people to work for free, then beg/borrow/steal/hire the best stuff.

So call me, Microsoft, if you're interested in Revenge of the Austrians. It's going to be awesome.

NEXT: Anything You Can Do Chuck Can Do Better

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  1. microsoft may be smarter than they look – user-accessible development is the first real tip of the balance between 360 and PS3 that I’ve seen yet.

  2. I think it’s a good idea. We’ll have to wait and see how it plays out.

  3. Katherine,

    I think this is brilliant. This is how microsoft got ahead in the first place, by licensing out their product to anyone and everyone. After this happens, will anyone ever write a game in a non-microsoft platform again? People will go crazy over this. A huge online community will develop and the evil microsoft will win again.

  4. im looking forward to people writing mods for existing games…imagine a multiplayer, Day of Defeat mod for XBOX’s Half-life 2…

    now am i the only one that thinks cannabis is a video game performance enhancing drug?

  5. I want a digital version of the old space RPG Travellor. I always thought that had great video game potential and never could understand why no one ever wrote one.

  6. I predict lots of porn-based games. Not that that is a bad thing.

  7. I want a game where Sophists can kick the crap out of Plato. 🙂

  8. In the mid 90’s Doom and Doom2, for the PC, had lots of tools to make your own maps and populate them however you like. The Beavis and Butthead and Simpsons spin-offs were very popular. In other news, I hear Microprose is coming out with a video game where you can actually learn to fly a Cessna 172 right out of Meigs field!

  9. That day is already here. I was playing Unreal Tournament 2004 online last night, and a guy named “Ludwig von Mises” kept kicking my ass with spider mines and the Goliath tank. I asked him what this had to do with the free market but he didn’t say anything.


  10. Phileleutherus Lipsiensis,

    How about a version of ultimate fighter only with philosophers? The obvious favorite would be Nirtzche who would of course fight dirty. Schopenhauer would be the weakest one, since he could only cry a lot about hopeless things were. Heideger of course would be dressed in a brownshirt uniform and would be pretty tough. Aquinas would be as fat as a sumo wrestler.

  11. John,

    They made a couple of MegaTraveller games at least in the late 80s or so, MegaTraveller 1: The Zhodani Conspiracy and MegaTraveller 2: Quest for The Ancients.

  12. Alt-PL & John,

    There is an outside chance that someone will see the

  13. How about a version of ultimate fighter only with philosophers?

    That would be cool. I would like to see Daniel Dennett swordfight Ayn Rand!

  14. John!

    Whatever nasty things I may have ever said about you here I take them all back, despite the spelling mistake. I can’t diss a Fellow Traveller (pun semi-intended).

  15. PL II,

    Well, the Sophists were pre-Socratics. So which pre-Socratics would they be fighting? The Eleatics? The Pythagoreans?

  16. Kant v. Ayn Rand – Judgment Day

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