Courtesy of Richard Smith and Geograph.org.uk

The passing of another year offers us a chance at renewal, starting fresh, wiping the slate clean. And Holygrenade is off to the races. Here are some predictions for the gaming industry in 2013.

Looking back on the past year, the gaming industry and I had much different existences. Mine was uneventful and stagnant, while the industry offered controversy after controversy that dominated headlines. And these were not just small spats, either, but ones with far-reaching implications which entered mainstream opinion.

In covering the news these past six months, I’ve gradually learned what type of site I want to make Holygrenade. A beacon of opinion, commentary, criticism, and a driving force behind how games affect us emotionally and creatively. Also to explore themes in deeper context, not post sporadically on random issues. 

For a solid beginning to a revitalized Holygrenade, to embark on a new year I wanted to offer some resolutions for 2013. Both personal and for games to follow. These are trends going into next year that I feel will spark many conversations, and possibly some controversies, for us small-time bloggers and industry vets to mull over.

Mobile is only growing bigger

There is a staunch divide between mobile and the rest of the industry. It has exploded largely on its own, without console or PC as a backdrop, and major media refuses to cover anything except the biggest names. Either of Angry Birds fame or nothing at all. That needs to change.

In 2012 smartphone gaming grew exponentially to become the third tier of ways games are played. It is now equal to console and PC in that regard, but the media refuses to acknowledge its newfound status. More discouragingly is how most of the gaming populous tends to shake it off as well.

But mobile is here to stay. Nintendo, always the beacon of innovation, presumably sees the promise in mobile by fitting the Wii U GamePad with a screen, like a tablet, to make it feel familiar to tech savvy players. Except for mobile franchises releasing console/PC versions, this is the first time the mobile and console industries have worked in tandem.

The big thing to watch in 2013 is whether Microsoft and Sony adapt their new machines in any way to appeal to a broader base. Not necessarily follow Nintendo’s lead by adding a screen, however it wouldn’t surprise anyone given how quickly they added motion control, a “gimmick” popularized by Nintendo.

Resuming the fight for equality

2012 was particularly notable for many controversies relating to how female characters are sexualized, and how women working in the industry were subject to general male ignorance. It was depressing and sometimes scary to read through #1ReasonWhy,a hashtag wherein women spoke bravely about dealing with a gender gap in every industry, not just in games.

This year maintains that run, and the controversies should turn grander in scope. A larger awareness of these issues make it likely for mainstream outlets to pounce on the editorial opportunity; those Tomb Raider comments set the blogosphere ablaze, decrying the game and its studio, Crystal Dynamics, at every turn. But that debate made us question how games can portray strong and empowered female characters without resorting to rape.

Worryingly, while teaching valid lessons for evolving games for the better, some ruckuses lay the kindling for explosive exaggeration, whereby the media takes it to another level. The media dramatizing events is nothing new, but the industry is still transitioning to an unprecedented peak of popularity, thus writers are on high alert for any loose quotes. (Personally, I hope “girlfriend mode” is gone forever from the gaming lexicon.)

More Kickstarter craziness

Double Fine stunned the world in February by reviving point-and-click adventure, a genre famously done by Tim Schaefer, the studio’s founder. The massive sum began a chain of names turning to Kickstarter for funding to bypass publisher influence. Obsidian, Peter Molyneux, and the OUYA crew to name a few.

Widespread use brought forth many troublesome issues: abuse of the system, stealing donations from legitimately independent studios, and if publishers were losing dominion. (I was going to write something long and thoughtful about Kickstarter’s role, but many of the big sites had beaten the topic to death.)

The calls of fairness and abuse will trend straight into 2013, where more prominent projects come from nowhere to ask for crowdsourced funds. Records may be broken if the right project has perfect timing. Project Eternity from Obsidian has the most to prove moving forward, only because how quickly funders were turned on by the idea. Making four times your $1 million goal is impressive, but turning that cash into a playable title is a different story.

2013 is gearing up to be a spectacular year for games. For regular Holygrenade readers and the one-time visitor, I wish you all good fortune this year.

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