"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

On the Demise of Looking Glass Studios

“Most video game developers play it safe; they create games in established genres and follow the conventions of their predecessors. Then you have those few brave developers that dare to continually try new things, to tear down the barriers of tradition… In the PC game world, Looking Glass Studios’ refusal to follow a set path has contributed to its success…

Released for the PC in 1994, System Shock defied all genre conventions. To this day, gamers are unsure how to classify it. Is it a first-person shooter? Is it an adventure game? Is it a role-playing game? Well, it’s all of these things…

thief: the dark project

Like the previous Looking Glass games, Thief refused to be pigeonholed into a rigid genre definition. ”

What does it tell us about how our systems of value such as credit and cash work if a studio that consistently makes some of the highest quality, most innovative, most influential games goes out of business while others that insipidly cater to a mass market succeed? Why might offerings that try to please everyone seem insipid and watered down?

Just as an individual vote loses its power when millions of people can vote, individual preferences lose meaning in a mass market.

We can see that consumerism is actually a heavy-handed form of democracy. If you do not share preferences with most of the other billions of people on the market, especially those who have the purchasing power, don’t count on being able to buy the best possible products for your needs.

Perhaps ‘tribes’ of people who share preferences and have least in common with the worldwide majority ought to have their own closed systems of exchange to create markets that consistently manifest the things they actually want.

As a person with heterodox preferences, it is common for me to go into stores and be hard-pressed to find goods that are suited to my needs.

Take the poor quality of American food for instance. In this case, the market demand of millions of consumers make it almost impossible to find anything else. Most people want low quality food.
A minority who don’t like it are out of luck.
Being shackled to the mass often proves to be a liability rather than an asset in our lives.

Imagine, then, cultivating a demand base and closed exchange system that supported a company that produced a regular stream of games on par with System Shock, Thief, and Deus Ex.
Or for that matter, consider the often cerebral high quality content in adventure games when only a narrow market of nerds owned PCs.

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