Imagine Rembrandt with his financial manager:
- mister R. do you really Have to have that expensive hue of blue, and have you not put enough details in the face? We could be halfway with another portrait right now!
Aren't we glad the great artists had no financial managers? But let's be honest: they had to eat too, and without their wealthy protectors, the likes of mister R would never have produced such great works of art as can be found in good museums.
So the problem is not that art and finance have a relationship, but the kind of relationship they get to develop.
The function of a mécène or patron of the arts (in modern terms, a sponsor) becomes blurry and damaging to the art when artistic decisions are subject to previous financial approval. The artist, unless he/she is a lunatic without any sense of reality, already unconsciously takes into account that same reality. He/she knows that not everything is possible, and that the end product must appeal to enough people to make the efforts put into it worthwhile.
But what we are seeing nowadays is the total control of the art by the patron, with as a result games with no personality or flavor.
We need to go back to basics and give art back to the artists, without forgetting that artists need to eat too.
these are the sad byproducts of capitalist economics and free market. but hey they were around before and we got decent games before too.
so, I think you bring up a good point, but this "problem" has existed before (I don't mean back in 1600s but back in 1990s), that doesn't mean that in the past we didn't get any good games.
I think the bigger problem that before, only big companies could let themselves do game development, in order to make sure to make quality product that sells if they invest in it and if they don't return the cash that it wouldn't bankrupt the company.
Today, the video gaming industry is very competitive and at the same time there's lack of innovation in video games. So you are looking at a market where to make profit you need to make the bomb on a very tight budget or you will not make the ends meet (this only the case for smaller companies). Companies like blizzard can still spend money on some game and if it doesn't quite work out, oh well so be it.
"result games with no personality or flavor" - yeah this is happening, but I don't think this is only because game devs have to run on a tight budget. Basically, would you say wii got any more games with personality/flavor over PC? I don't know, I never really liked the wii, but they got new innovative ideas there that bring new possible features to games. What has a PC market got since the 1990s that would let us have new exciting features? better hardware that results in more FPS? better graphics? yeah ok but the keyboard + mouse has stayed exactly the way they were back in 1988. So, all the games we see today is basically the same old stuff someone has already done before.
ok I lost my train of thought there but anyways, the assumption "investors controlling the game development cycle = *** games" is a bad assumption.
you bring very interesting points t the discussion and i thank you for that, though i do not see how you come to your conclusion. i do not think that "investors" are overseeing anything but the end results, something they well should do if they do not want to go bankrupt. it is the job of project managers to male sure team activities remain within the limits of the budget, and whether their influence is such as i described in a sketchy manner is something that concerns all users/buyers.
that's absolutely true, but if the project manager is competent he should be able to budget the time spent on development accordingly so that the deadlines are met and the budget is not drained for useless things. This mostly comes down to the whole managing team, not only the project manager to keep track of all the workers are doing and that everyone is being productive.
I work in an engineering field and in our company project managers often waste money by taking the client out to lunch too many times or having a field visit to the facility with 4 people when 1 person could have gone and gotten the job done. All that is bad management skills that lead to blowing the budget, but such is the world of men.
There is absolutely a concern for that, but I think if a project manager blows his budget on several projects in a row for no good reason the upper management won't be excited to keep that person around for very long.
So, even though part of the meeting the budget procedure comes down on project manager shoulders, I feel that the budget restrictions themselves define how well the game will be developed and for how long.
You mentioned in your opening post "remember that artists need to eat" that is true. But, if you have a set budget and if the artist is working full force and at 100% productivity there's still a time limitation a budget imposes in terms of how long it will be able to compensate the said artist at the appropriate rate. Now, when you take that into account and multiply by say 50 employees or so that work on the game, the quality of the game will be largely dependent on the size of the budget you have and the quality of work put in for the said amount of time till the project runs out of money. One way or another, I can't put my finger firmly on any of the people that are involved in the development process of the game or that act as support/managing staff that end up being responsible for "bad games"
I do think that the market is a much larger driving force, companies tend to cater their games to larger audiences to make the most profit. If that concept could be eliminated, then games could have the chance to go in a direction the developer feels is the right way to make a particular game with features, graphics, characters, etc being the way they see fit into the game, rather than appeal to most people.
Coming back to your original example, the artists of the old, they were just painting what they thought was right. Say Michelangelo, do you think when he was painting mona lisa he was aiming at pleasing a large variety of viewers or simply doing the best job he thought he could do in depicting her on the parchment. I don't know for sure myself (I think maybe he was trying to please 1 or 2 people, but certainly not the gen. pop.), but the philosophical idea behind game development and painting is different, simply due to marketing efforts it is aimed at.