In the grand scheme of things, video games are but a baby in the world of entertainment. With video gaming only taking off commercially in the 1970s, with a few pioneering developers making groundbreaking work before then, it puts the life span of gaming at under 50 years. When compared to forms such as prose fiction, music, and film, video games are only a blink of an eye in the media world, developing strong gaming trends within that short period.
Within that time, certain video game creators have taken a self-reflexive and critical look at the entertainment form. With so many tropes set as solid foundations within the gaming world (including some we would like to see disappear), and solid expectations of what mechanics certain genres should hold, it’s no surprise to see the occasional adventurous developer playing with a gamer’s preconceptions of a title. Here’s our pick of some of the best meta gaming moments in video game history.
A brief warning before we start – the following choices inevitably include spoilers surrounding the games discussed. With that said, let’s take a closer look at some major meta moments in gaming.
Game Dev Tycoon
The mere concept of Game Dev Tycoon is so reflective of gaming that it nearly hurts. The title is a video game about creating video games, running a studio during the development process and trying to achieve success. Taking a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the problems within the development community as well as offering up a fun and engaging sim in its own right, the title has achieved a cult following.
Unfortunately, not everyone who played the game actually paid for it. According to developer Greenheart Games, after a day on sale 3104 of the 3318 copies being played were pirate versions. Greenheart Games built in a rather brilliant anti-piracy measure, however. In pirated copies of Game Dev Tycoon, the player’s video game will suffer from huge financial loss due to pirates, rendering financial success impossible.
It’s too bad the message was lost on many pirates, who took to message boards and forums to ask about how to beat the in-game piracy mechanics. Ironically, many of the pirates asked about how to bring in unpopular anti-piracy measures such as DRM as a way to beat the game – a strategy partly to blame for the infamous Sim City launch. Greenheart Games remained surprisingly calm about the level of piracy Game Dev Tycoon faced, however, requesting that pirates who enjoyed their time with the game look to purchase the full release version.