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August 17, 2010

Most Expensive Meal Ever

I guess it's a first-world problem, but I have a confession to make: I recently spent quite a lot of money on not a lot of food, and it's not the first time I've done it, either.

The setting was terrific, a little place in Virginia's wine country¹ a few hours from where I live, looking out on fields in the sunset, in a very well-appointed large converted parlor of an inn there. There were amuse-bouches, a small appetizer, a small first course, a palate-cleanser, a slightly larger second course, dessert. Each portion was rich and bursting with a carefully balanced set of flavors crafted from extremely fine ingredients by very skilled chefs. The experience, and others I've had that are similar, was one of the finest meals of my life thus far.

But by the standards that appear to apply to games, I should have been nothing but disappointed by the fare -- the servings were small and served on tiny plates, no matter how attractively presented. For what I had spent on the small piece of hiramasa in my second course, I could have purchased dozens of Filet o' Fishes or greasy plates of cod at a local pub. Shouldn't I feel robbed?

But the fact of the matter is, it takes significant skill and effort to hone a craft to the point of being able to deliver a meal of the caliber I enjoyed a week ago. It takes careful consideration of the available ingredients, and selecting the very best. It requires the cultivation of an extensive wine cellar to accentuate the variety of foods which might be served. It requires the staff to prepare it and present it in such an alluring manner, in a beautiful setting. Anyone can slip a frozen fish patty into a fry-o-lator and plop it onto a bun a few minutes later... but those of us who enjoy fine food are more than willing to pay ten times for more than mere calories.

So it is with games -- trimming a game down to its very essence and only presenting the choicest, most flavorful bits requires dedication, craft, and temerity, and I see no reason not to pay a higher "per-minute" price for fun so skillfully achieved.

So bring on the Limbos, the DeathSpanks, the Braids, and dozens of other small titles I've downloaded over the years. Give me Sleep is Death, and World of Goo, or the titles by any number of the folks linked below. Give me the little projects that Double Fine will experiment with now. Give me options to spend a little more for a little better, or a little different. Give me game developers who are willing to craft the very best experience, and trim out the filler, the useless breading, the empty fat. Give me meals worth eating, and games worth playing; I'm willing to pay.

¹I note that the second-most money I've ever spent on a meal, and likely the third, was also in wine country, albeit in California. VA's wines have a long way to go but they were competent.

I wrote this in honor of today's "Indie Voices on Game Length" day... Here are some others:

Jonathan Blow of Number None

Ron Carmel of 2DBoy

Chris DeLeon

Jamie Fristrom

Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games

Mike Gilgenbach of 24 Caret Games

Eitan Glinert of Fire Hose Games

Cliff Harris of Positech Games

Chris Hecker of Spy Party

Scott Macmillan of Macguffin Games

Noel Llopis

Peter Jones of Retro Affect

Lau Korsgaard

Martin Pichlmair of Broken Rules

Greg Wohlwend of Intution Games

Jeffrey Rosen of Wolfire

Posted by Brett Douville at August 17, 2010 06:11 PM