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User-generated content is one of the Internet’s big buzzwords these days, covering everything from Mentos videos on YouTube to embarrassing I-was-so-drunk snapshots on Facebook. But the concept hasn’t gotten much traction in the console gaming world until recently. Sony got the ball rolling with Unreal Tournament III. PS3 owners can download user-created levels for the first-person shooter and play them on their consoles.


While the process is a little clunky, since you have to download the levels to your PC and then transfer them to your console with a memory card, it’s a good idea.


While Microsoft has somewhat inexplicably refused to allow user-created levels in the Xbox 360 version of UT3, the company is taking a big leap into user-generated content.


The company announced this week at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco that it will soon let Xbox 360 users download games made by other gamers.


To make a game for the Xbox Live service, you have to use Microsoft’s XNA Game Studio software or be an XNA Creators Club member, and all games will have to be approved by Microsoft. So that “Hit Bill Gates in the Face With a Cream Pie” title you’ve been brainstorming probably isn’t a good candidate for this platform.


But gamers will get a chance to dabble with some cool, creative titles that wouldn’t normally be created by a mainstream publisher. And I wouldn’t be surprised if a handful of the most impressive amateur game makers go on to full-time careers in the industry.


After all, that’s been happening for years on the PC side of the gaming world. The team members who developed the hit title Portal, for example, got their start by creating a similar game called Narbacular Drop while in school and getting noticed by the big boys at Valve Software.


And countless people who modify existing games (“modders,” as they’re called) and level designers creating add-ons for titles such as Unreal Tournament have been picked up by the for-profit developers behind those games.


In fact, whenever I’ve interviewed professional game studios about what they look for in new hires, they invariably say they want to see an example of previous programming or art design work.


Forget resumes, degrees and professional certifications.


In the game industry, it’s all about having a portfolio of prior work, even if the quality of that work is far from a polished project ready to go on store shelves. Just show you can do something and you have a shot to get in the door.


And for those of us who will never be able to program anything more complicated than a VCR, here’s hoping this blossoming love for user-generated content flowers into some first-class games.

Tagged as: xbox 360
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