Flash Games Desereve More Attention
Flash games live somewhere on the outskirts of the gaming medium, as both being ever present and yet completely invisible. Consider popular gaming magazines, websites, and the like… heck, consider any conversation or analysis of gaming in our culture or on the internet. Most talk will focus on: the hardcore, well beloved, gamers games like Call of Duty or I Am Alive, the casual, well known and somewhat despised titles such as Farmville and Angry Birds, and the smaller, but more artistic creations found in the indie circle, such as Limbo or Fez.
But what about Flash games? It’s not often a flash game, however well made or clever it is, makes the news, or garnishes attention or praise. Which is strange, because if the three types of games above were put into a venn diagram, flash games would be the point where all three games meet–they have the broad appeal of casual games, the budgets of indie titles, and the core gameplay mechanics of hardcore titles.
Perhaps it’s this bastardization that keeps them off most gamers radars: after all, hardcore titles, casual titles, and indie titles all have niches they fill and audiences they specifically cater too, while Flash games are so broad that they’re easy to overlook. If games are a buffet, Flash games would be the salad bar–perfectly good, and it can satisfy most anyone, but perhaps not as well or as specifically as the more ‘fleshy’ meals.
Still, I have to say, I’d like to see flash games get more recognition in the gaming culture as a whole. And while the mystery of why they’re not more spoken of more may be a good topic for another day, right now, I’d like to submit some reasons I think they deserve more attention.
1) They’re Universal: regardless of the computer you use or the operating system you have, as long as you have a web browser and flash player downloaded (Both of which are free), you can play flash games. But the universality extends farther than that. Flash games have the unique quality of not only sharing a common control scheme but also a common engine and toolset that all flash creators know intimately. This allows flash game creators who aren’t even familiar with one another to collaborate immediately, with usually positive results. It’s common to see such collaborations on sites like Newgrounds.
2) They’re Risky: Indie games are considered the refuge from the design-by-committee world of triple-A games, which is infamous for it’s radical commitment to tried-and-true formulas that are familiar and marketable. If indies respond to that by gambling on more risky formulas, flash games respond further with an even greater disregard for what common laws of game design dictate. Flash games are a place with a lot of risk because even the greatest rewards have a small payoff, so innovation and creativity are abound. A shooter where you have to get shot to recover HP–a platformer where you use your own corpse as a bridge across spikes–A game where you literally have to buy everything: even the start button. Much of it’s terrible, much of it is trash, but you’ll find anything you can imagine.
3) It’s more personal: Even indie teams and casual Facebook developers answer to investors. Kickstarter is changing that, but still, they’re more responsible to pleasing their people who give the money, rather than the fans. Not so much with flash games: they’re made by fans, for fans, and their income is entirely determined by fans. If you don’t like their work, they will FEEL that impact because their audience is so small. So when you make a suggestion, or have a critique? Most of the time, you’re heard.
4) There’s lots: It’s nearly impossible to get bored with flash games because the internet is flooded with them. There are thousands and thousands of games on Newgrounds alone, and more are being added every day. Then you include Kongregate, and Armor Games, and Free Internet Games… and it gets overwhelming fast. While many of them are short time wasters, there are some truly epic games in that list too: Sonny, Super Mario 63, and RPG Shooter Starwish. Some of these games will last you longer than triple-A games like Darkness ll, which lasted maybe five hours. I spent 20 hours in Starwish, and to this day it’s one of my favorite games ever, even amongst the Triple-A games I own.
It’s easy to dismiss Flash Games as some un-noteworthy aspect of the internet that doesn’t have any place in the gaming culture, but Flash games are more than just internet diversions–they’re just as much a part of our culture as the Xbox 360 or Valve. And the ones that deserve it should be celebrated.