Revenge of the Nerds

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Revenge of the Nerds

It's time we gamers put aside our insecurities and realize that yes, there's a lot about our hobby that's adolescent and no, that isn't always a good thing.

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I completely agree with this article and the points that you did bring up were very well thought out. Gaming as a whole is slowly becoming some kind of insular society where your made fun of and called names if you even TRY to get into it. We already as whole did this to female gamers and will obviously do this to newcomers, the same ones that were labeled as "Casuals".

Make no mistake, I do not condone or support this course of action but you have to realize that many of the same people who make video games and play them as well- these people were bullied and treated like shit in high school and hell, that still happens even to this day. Picture in your heads the stereotypical picture of a video game nerd? It isn't flattering, and that is what gamers had to put up with for years. In order to say to us to grow up, you must first cast away all preservations and images that you imagine and pidgeon hole us all into.

It is indeed a visious cycle, one with no apparent "good" end in sight. I strongly believe that regardless of how much media we have and how much more grandious video games become, we will never grow up as a medium. We will always be satistfied by violence and titties. It's stupid and slightly depressing but it is a very well-thought out and very realistic outcome or our constant shunning of other people.

Great article, I guess. Really makes you think.

Well, I do agree with your article, but I have to ask: What is a 'mature' game (aside from, obviously, sexual themes)? Can we really look to the mainsteam TV or cinemas for inspiration? Because presently, TV is still obsessed with the insipid 'Reality TV' craze, and cinema is stuck on poor quality romantic 'comedies' or ...well, stuff like XXX - the same power fantasty stuff we're looking to move on from.

Not trying to argue, I just want some thoughts, see?

Although this initial post will be short I would like to commend Mr.Ward for talking about both sides and what video games can do and could do. I also like that you mentioned that the video game industry might be heading towards the same problems as the comic book industry but I am surprised you did not mention hollywood as well.

A really great article and I will try to comment a bit more later with my personal opinion on what I see games can do and have forgotten to do.

EDIT: Is there a site where one can read her article or video of her making this speech? I'd really like to view it for some context from her perspective and stance.

It's not that Heather Chaplin condemned some games as adolescent, which they blatantly are. It was she complained that ALL games are adolescent, which is exactly what the game industry has been trying to get away from. But if we're going to be told off as kids, why bother?

I've always felt there is a difference between legitimatly mature games (Good examples are the SMT Games, The Silent Hill Series, Condemned 1+2) and the shock shlock that makes up 90% of the M-rated games out there. Glad to see I'm not alone.

RebornKusabi:

It is indeed a visious cycle, one with no apparent "good" end in sight. I strongly believe that regardless of how much media we have and how much more grandious video games become, we will never grow up as a medium. We will always be satistfied by violence and titties. It's stupid and slightly depressing but it is a very well-thought out and very realistic outcome or our constant shunning of other people.

Great article, I guess. Really makes you think.

Well... I think thats wrong...

Let me explain:

The Wii has outsold the other two primary gaming consoles put together. That kind of cash and success talks, especially in the current economy. The 'next gen', if/when it comes around, will have to shift to focus on the so called 'casual' gamers (although some way of registering how many hours the casual games/consoles are played for would be interesting).

Add to that, the next generation of console players will probably get exposed to the Wii first. And that will shape how the see gaming.

I'm not saying the cycle will be broken over night, but its not a stable system.

Nice article.
Although one minor thing about the swearing: I dunno how it goes elsewhere, but where I live its absolutely among the most common things, even though it's considered rather rude. My friends swear, relatives swear, random guys in the street swear, even my grandparents swear a lot. Oh, and I do, too. So that means that everyone's adolescent?

Tenmar:
Although this initial post will be short I would like to commend Mr.Ward for talking about both sides and what video games can do and could do. I also like that you mentioned that the video game industry might be heading towards the same problems as the comic book industry but I am surprised you did not mention hollywood as well.

A really great article and I will try to comment a bit more later with my personal opinion on what I see games can do and have forgotten to do.

Mature as in questionable content, I'd say. You know, violence, sex, drugs, gore, etc. Nothing important, like, you know, difficult to grasp themes and complicated plot. I'd say, in terms of an art, that's the 'mature' we should look for.

I'd have to tell you straight away that the reason why violence, sex, etc in games affects many children like it does is because of society's attitude towards them. It's the whole 'its forbidden' scenario. If society took time to rationalize with children over this sort of content rather than try to hide it from them, everyone would be all the better off for it.

But that's a pipe dream.

Since when did entertainment have some kind of social responsibility to display a level of maturity? If I'm doing it for fun in my free time, why should I feel stupid because someone else thinks it isn't quality?

Am I really abnormally arrogant to not care what some random stranger thinks about my fun?

TheBluesader:
Since when did entertainment have some kind of social responsibility to display a level of maturity? If I'm doing it for fun in my free time, why should I feel stupid because someone else thinks it isn't quality?

Am I really abnormally arrogant to not care what some random stranger thinks about my fun?

Not at all, sir. The point I was trying to get across is that it isn't necessarilly what should be idolized and respected.

Brainbomb:

TheBluesader:
Since when did entertainment have some kind of social responsibility to display a level of maturity? If I'm doing it for fun in my free time, why should I feel stupid because someone else thinks it isn't quality?

Am I really abnormally arrogant to not care what some random stranger thinks about my fun?

Not at all, sir. The point I was trying to get across is that it isn't necessarilly what should be idolized and respected.

Sorry, boss. I wasn't directing this comment at anyone in particular, just in general to the topic.

I of course have my own standards of what I consider entertaining, and those only include "immature" content if something coherent and interesting is done with them. This is why I like Saint's Row and GTA, and consider GoW and Manhunt a waste of time. I'm not against violence and other puerile junk, unless it's just boring and soulless, a weak attempt to shock me into thinking something has value. But I wouldn't yell about it being "immature," so much as corporate and boring.

This can be applied to any form of media.

Chaplin had a point... but much less of a point than she thought. There are game titles out there that don't rely on bombs/bullets/booze for their impact. That she (and Ward as well) decided to ignore them and focus on the usual suspects is a grade-school way to argue the point.

Let's talk about books, but ignore Shelley and Atwood to focus on The Destroyer series and Harlequin Romances. Or perhaps we'll argue the merits of the film industry while concentrating on Micheal Bay and Uwe Boll's ouvres. How valid are the conclusions we would draw?

If a critic is going to take a medium to task for its immaturity, I'd like to see said critic be mature in his/her criticism.

-- Steve

Adventure Games.

TheBluesader:

Brainbomb:

TheBluesader:
Since when did entertainment have some kind of social responsibility to display a level of maturity? If I'm doing it for fun in my free time, why should I feel stupid because someone else thinks it isn't quality?

Am I really abnormally arrogant to not care what some random stranger thinks about my fun?

Not at all, sir. The point I was trying to get across is that it isn't necessarilly what should be idolized and respected.

Sorry, boss. I wasn't directing this comment at anyone in particular, just in general to the topic.

I of course have my own standards of what I consider entertaining, and those only include "immature" content if something coherent and interesting is done with them. This is why I like Saint's Row and GTA, and consider GoW and Manhunt a waste of time. I'm not against violence and other puerile junk, unless it's just boring and soulless, a weak attempt to shock me into thinking something has value. But I wouldn't yell about it being "immature," so much as corporate and boring.

My appolgies for making that assumption.

I understand that everyone has their own values for entertainment. I like GoW myself, not because of the ramped up core that practically had its own engine devoted to it, but because the game-play felt fresh and strategy paid off in multiplayer. The story was and is crap, but that's not what I played it for.

I think something should be said for a medium that has really pushed the limits of society in such a (relatively)short amount of time, like video games have.

Could it have something to do with the fact that there's barely a single game available in which you play a realistic human character and do not resort to violence or killing to progress through the game?

The Sims.
Most of the puzzle game genre.

Sorry, that bit just really bugged me.

Brainbomb:

My appolgies for making that assumption.

I understand that everyone has their own values for entertainment. I like GoW myself, not because of the ramped up core that practically had its own engine devoted to it, but because the game-play felt fresh and strategy paid off in multiplayer. The story was and is crap, but that's not what I played it for.

I think something should be said for a medium that has really pushed the limits of society in such a (relatively)short amount of time, like video games have.

Astute observation. Sometimes I just sit back and am blown away at how much I've seen gaming technology radically change in my lifetime, and I started paying attention to it in the early 90s. It's almost an honor to follow a medium that changes so rapidly and so radically on the cutting-edge of technology.

*wipes nerdy tear away, transitions back to standard snark*

I find it interesting that instead of providing valid points and counter-arguments for Chaplin and Ward's statements you changed the subject to maturity in books and movies. I'm not saying that you don't have a point, but I always prefer to be shown what the point its instead of just a "well you're wrong and that's stupid" argument.

Also, one good book, movie, or game compared to the vast majority of bad books, movies, and games means that the focus would indeed be on the bad ones. Sure, you could point out that one game that was awesome(it just didn't sell well and therefore did not get a sequel), but why point out that when there were fifteen games focused on lazy design and "mature" themes?

I think Chaplin's point was that she wants to see more games like that one great one, but since they aren't as popular as an adolescent's(and game designer's) love of guns and breasts(and Micheal Bay movies), they don't sell. And that's the problem. She wants people to grow up a little and focus on the quality of the product, and not the best type of jiggle-physics.

To be honest, although like many of the posters I agree there was some truth to Chaplain's rant, making broad generalizations about an artistic medium is typically a sign of burn out in a writer. You play the 8th or 9th pew pew game, you start to just get angry at the whole enterprise and take it out on everyone.

If anything, 2008 has been a golden ray of sunshine for video games. Man-boy macho games did not come close to selling as well as an exercise game and a mini-game collection. Braid, The Path, and every single tiny gem that came out over the past ten years were equally ignored by her.

As someone who has played fast and loose with generalizations and definitions before, they are a great way to get attention and drum up publicity. I just wouldn't take it as a sign to give up hope.

TheBluesader:

Brainbomb:

My appolgies for making that assumption.

I understand that everyone has their own values for entertainment. I like GoW myself, not because of the ramped up core that practically had its own engine devoted to it, but because the game-play felt fresh and strategy paid off in multiplayer. The story was and is crap, but that's not what I played it for.

I think something should be said for a medium that has really pushed the limits of society in such a (relatively)short amount of time, like video games have.

Astute observation. Sometimes I just sit back and am blown away at how much I've seen gaming technology radically change in my lifetime, and I started paying attention to it in the early 90s. It's almost an honor to follow a medium that changes so rapidly and so radically on the cutting-edge of technology.

*wipes nerdy tear away, transitions back to standard snark*

Hehe, I must cite Moore's Law for that one, the bane of PC owners everywhere, *chortle*.

Hehe, I was born in '90, so I sort of missed everything before 95. I was raised on the SNES and Doom. I like to think that I was born at the right time to be perfectly adapted to the current growth of gaming. :)

Super Mario World was my damn NIRVANA.

Brainbomb:

Hehe, I must cite Moore's Law for that one, the bane of PC owners everywhere, *chortle*.

Hehe, I was born in '90, so I sort of missed everything before 95. I was raised on the SNES and Doom. I like to think that I was born at the right time to be perfectly adapted to the current growth of gaming. :)

Super Mario World was my damn NIRVANA.

I played Super Mario Bros. 3 so much I had the pattern of every enemy memorized.

My first gaming 'Nirvana' was Lords of the Realm II for PC, 1996 or something. Oh, the hours sunk into that thing...

Comics never escaped from the adolescent audience? Is that why comics are now studied on university campuses and why comics are being reviewed right alongside "real books" in magazines and journals? Is that why libraries are advocating for their inclusion in their collections and promoting them as legitimate literature? Yeah, I can see why you say comics never left the adolescent audience, and why you say Watchmen and Sandman came too late.

I've said it before, I'll say it until people stop trying to make video games become movies:

THE VALUE OF A GAME IS MEASURED BY ITS GAME MECHANICS, NOT BY ITS CHARACTERS OR STORY.

These are games that we are talking about people. Yes, they have potential to be great story-telling mediums. Yes, they have potential for emotional exploration. But they need to be great games first. That is why games that tell great stories AND are great games stand out: they've gone above and beyond.

I don't take offense to Chaplin's words, other than the fact that they are inaccurate. I wouldn't call Jonathan Blow, Gabe Newell, Peter Molyneaux, Jason Rohrer, America McGee, or Will Wright an adolescent. I do however, have this to say to Chaplin's words:

YES, MOST GAMES ARE ADOLESCENT IN NATURE WHEN IT COMES TO NARRATIVE. AND?

It's the game that matters. Not the characters or the stories or the voice acting or the social value: it's the game. Everything else is window dressing, a bonus. So please, and I address not exclusively to the author of this article, please stop expecting games to be movies. They. Are. Games.

level250geek:
Comics never escaped from the adolescent audience? Is that why comics are now studied on university campuses and why comics are being reviewed right alongside "real books" in magazines and journals? Is that why libraries are advocating for their inclusion in their collections and promoting them as legitimate literature? Yeah, I can see why you say comics never left the adolescent audience, and why you say Watchmen and Sandman came too late.

I've said it before, I'll say it until people stop trying to make video games become movies:

THE VALUE OF A GAME IS MEASURED BY ITS GAME MECHANICS, NOT BY ITS CHARACTERS OR STORY.

These are games that we are talking about people. Yes, they have potential to be great story-telling mediums. Yes, they have potential for emotional exploration. But they need to be great games first. That is why games that tell great stories AND are great games stand out: they've gone above and beyond.

I don't take offense to Chaplin's words, other than the fact that they are inaccurate. I wouldn't call Jonathan Blow, Gabe Newell, Peter Molyneaux, Jason Rohrer, America McGee, or Will Wright an adolescent. I do however, have this to say to Chaplin's words:

YES, MOST GAMES ARE ADOLESCENT IN NATURE WHEN IT COMES TO NARRATIVE. AND?

It's the game that matters. Not the characters or the stories or the voice acting or the social value: it's the game. Everything else is window dressing, a bonus. So please, and I address not exclusively to the author of this article, please stop expecting games to be movies. They. Are. Games.

The point I think you are missing is what the game is trying to achieve. That view is narrow-minded. A crappy story, crappy voice acting, crappy characters (where appropriate) make for a crappy game. You can harp all you want about the mechanics but it should be noted that video games have come further along than just that. Games as a medium are not necessarilly trying to immitate movies, necessarily, but have become their own beast. They are games, yes, but that doesn't mean they are only to be viewed as such, but that doesn't mean you should in good conscious try to reduce them for the sake of defending them against unintelligent attacks. In fact, doing so gives credit to their argument, a bit.

level250geek:
Comics never escaped from the adolescent audience? Is that why comics are now studied on university campuses and why comics are being reviewed right alongside "real books" in magazines and journals? Is that why libraries are advocating for their inclusion in their collections and promoting them as legitimate literature? Yeah, I can see why you say comics never left the adolescent audience, and why you say Watchmen and Sandman came too late.

I've said it before, I'll say it until people stop trying to make video games become movies:

THE VALUE OF A GAME IS MEASURED BY ITS GAME MECHANICS, NOT BY ITS CHARACTERS OR STORY.

These are games that we are talking about people. Yes, they have potential to be great story-telling mediums. Yes, they have potential for emotional exploration. But they need to be great games first. That is why games that tell great stories AND are great games stand out: they've gone above and beyond.

I don't take offense to Chaplin's words, other than the fact that they are inaccurate. I wouldn't call Jonathan Blow, Gabe Newell, Peter Molyneaux, Jason Rohrer, America McGee, or Will Wright an adolescent. I do however, have this to say to Chaplin's words:

YES, MOST GAMES ARE ADOLESCENT IN NATURE WHEN IT COMES TO NARRATIVE. AND?

It's the game that matters. Not the characters or the stories or the voice acting or the social value: it's the game. Everything else is window dressing, a bonus. So please, and I address not exclusively to the author of this article, please stop expecting games to be movies. They. Are. Games.

But the problem is the games that have the stories that we want people to be exposed to AREN'T ACCESSIBLE!

Lost Odyssey is a JRPG with an absolutely outstanding narrative. But it is Turn Based, it is 40+ hours long. It's traditional, it's turn based. It's not accessible.

The same goes for say MGS3. Arguably the greatest video game narrative of all time yet requires at least decency at video games.

In order for us to make a great game with a great story, we have to give something up. And that's accessibility.

Sadly, when gamemakers make great games with accessibility, they often forsake the narrative or gameplay.

Maybe oneday we will get the perfect blend, but not soon.

Brainbomb:

level250geek:
Comics never escaped from the adolescent audience? Is that why comics are now studied on university campuses and why comics are being reviewed right alongside "real books" in magazines and journals? Is that why libraries are advocating for their inclusion in their collections and promoting them as legitimate literature? Yeah, I can see why you say comics never left the adolescent audience, and why you say Watchmen and Sandman came too late.

I've said it before, I'll say it until people stop trying to make video games become movies:

THE VALUE OF A GAME IS MEASURED BY ITS GAME MECHANICS, NOT BY ITS CHARACTERS OR STORY.

These are games that we are talking about people. Yes, they have potential to be great story-telling mediums. Yes, they have potential for emotional exploration. But they need to be great games first. That is why games that tell great stories AND are great games stand out: they've gone above and beyond.

I don't take offense to Chaplin's words, other than the fact that they are inaccurate. I wouldn't call Jonathan Blow, Gabe Newell, Peter Molyneaux, Jason Rohrer, America McGee, or Will Wright an adolescent. I do however, have this to say to Chaplin's words:

YES, MOST GAMES ARE ADOLESCENT IN NATURE WHEN IT COMES TO NARRATIVE. AND?

It's the game that matters. Not the characters or the stories or the voice acting or the social value: it's the game. Everything else is window dressing, a bonus. So please, and I address not exclusively to the author of this article, please stop expecting games to be movies. They. Are. Games.

The point I think you are missing is what the game is trying to achieve. That view is narrow-minded. A crappy story, crappy voice acting, crappy characters (where appropriate) make for a crappy game. You can harp all you want about the mechanics but it should be noted that video games have come further along than just that. Games as a medium are not necessarilly trying to immitate movies, necessarily, but has become its own beast. They are games, yes, but that doesn't mean they are only to be viewed as such, but that doesn't mean you should in good conscious try to reduce them for the sake of defending them against unintelligent attacks. In fact, doing so gives credit to their argument, a bit.

I don't mean to reduce games. In fact, I acknowledged the fact that they can be more and named several developers who have proven the potential that games can be more, and did a great job doing so.

But when I hear people talk about "games being more" and "games growing up" I can't help but think "Grow up to what?" If you make them too narrative-focused, they're not games anymore. If you humanize the characters too much, then the game becomes boring: who would really want to play a game that doesn't involve some kind of quest or conflict? How fun would a sandbox game be if the only thing to it were to walk around, meet people, create relationships, and buy property? Sounds a good deal like Second Life to me.

I think it's great when a game breaks the mold, but must a game break the mold? No, it doesn't. It seems that Chaplin wants every game to break the mold, and if it did, then what the blue hell happens to the mold?

Make better game play mechanics. Pull a Braid and make the story itself the game. But please: don't lose sight of what we love so much about this hobby just in the name of artistry or universal appeal.

Aries_Split:

level250geek:
Comics never escaped from the adolescent audience? Is that why comics are now studied on university campuses and why comics are being reviewed right alongside "real books" in magazines and journals? Is that why libraries are advocating for their inclusion in their collections and promoting them as legitimate literature? Yeah, I can see why you say comics never left the adolescent audience, and why you say Watchmen and Sandman came too late.

I've said it before, I'll say it until people stop trying to make video games become movies:

THE VALUE OF A GAME IS MEASURED BY ITS GAME MECHANICS, NOT BY ITS CHARACTERS OR STORY.

These are games that we are talking about people. Yes, they have potential to be great story-telling mediums. Yes, they have potential for emotional exploration. But they need to be great games first. That is why games that tell great stories AND are great games stand out: they've gone above and beyond.

I don't take offense to Chaplin's words, other than the fact that they are inaccurate. I wouldn't call Jonathan Blow, Gabe Newell, Peter Molyneaux, Jason Rohrer, America McGee, or Will Wright an adolescent. I do however, have this to say to Chaplin's words:

YES, MOST GAMES ARE ADOLESCENT IN NATURE WHEN IT COMES TO NARRATIVE. AND?

It's the game that matters. Not the characters or the stories or the voice acting or the social value: it's the game. Everything else is window dressing, a bonus. So please, and I address not exclusively to the author of this article, please stop expecting games to be movies. They. Are. Games.

But the problem is the games that have the stories that we want people to be exposed to AREN'T ACCESSIBLE!

Lost Odyssey is a JRPG with an absolutely outstanding narrative. But it is Turn Based, it is 40+ hours long. It's traditional, it's turn based. It's not accessible.

The same goes for say MGS3. Arguably the greatest video game narrative of all time yet requires at least decency at video games.

In order for us to make a great game with a great story, we have to give something up. And that's accessibility.

Sadly, when gamemakers make great games with accessibility, they often forsake the narrative or gameplay.

Maybe oneday we will get the perfect blend, but not soon.

Movies that challenge us intellectually and emotionally aren't "accessible." Books that tackle important social issues and examine complex moral arguments aren't "accessible." To truly appreciate those weighty narratives, one must have a total love for film or books, have a deep understanding how they work as a medium, and be willing to really stick with it: they've got to be willing to be challenged, to struggle, to really digest the material before them.

Why should game developers dumb down game mechanics just to make their story come across easier? Throw in difficulty options, and make the game fair, give the gamer enough tools to work with to get them thinking about their options--I do tire of sometimes shooters giving us the "stand here, shoot the dude, hope your shields last longer than his" scenario when they could have made game play more dynamic--but no: do not reduce your game to a "press button to watch cutscene."

Likewise, don't up the narrative at the expense of straying away from that which makes a game truly engaging and rewarding: complex, challenging, intense game play.

Christian Ward:
We are still content to play amongst ourselves. We make things that appeal to gamers like ourselves. Not only do we do nothing to expand the love and acceptance of our chosen medium, but we explicitly reject newcomers by branding them as "casuals" and writing off Wii and DS games as "shovelware".

The whole thing becomes a vicious circle, as whenever somebody tries to break the mold, it is rejected by those holding the purse strings because it won't sell to our market. And to see the reaction to Chaplin's comments in most sections of the internet - hell, they'd be right. As dev budgets get more and more expensive, all we can do is reduce risk and make stuff is guaranteed to sell. And guess what kids, that means more guns, more tits, more swearing. Right now, we don't deserve anything else.

Am I the only one who sees the huge, gaping hole of logic in between these two paragraphs?

Sure casuals don't want "more guns, more tits, more swearing." However, they ALSO don't want a 'mature' title to any greater degree than the 'hardcore' gamers.

They brought _Okami_ to the Wii--how well did that do? Seems like the kind of game Chapman is looking for, how well did it sell to the casuals?

People look down on the casuals because they are the LEAST likely group to flock to a 'mature' title. While 99% of the derision casuals get isn't called for, if we're talking about 'mature' games, it's the one case where they do.

There really are people out there who think like that, and these are the reasons you get those ridiculous slow-motion bullet-time sequences in cut-scenes, or female characters with breasts that have their own gravity fields, or tiresome industry figures who think the best way to impress the audience is to pepper their quotes with swear words. Isn't anyone tired of that? Isn't anyone sick of our medium having all the cultural impact and intelligence of Limp Bizkit?

...

Gears of War 2, the post-modern equivalent of Boy's Own.

I don't know much about _Boy's Own_, but was it stories about boys who can't save their fathers written by writers who learned the news of their father's unexpected death while they were teenagers reading a story?

Because that's the background of Cliffy B:

Bleszinski was born in Boston, in 1975, eleven years to the day after the birth of his oldest brother, Greg. His father, whom Bleszinski describes as a "very stressed-out guy," was an engineer for Polaroid. The Bleszinskis were a close family. His mother, Karyn, told me, "We always sat down at the dinner table together. That was always important to my husband and me." One of Bleszinski's earliest and strongest memories is the smell of popcorn spreading thickly throughout the house after he had gone to bed, which convinced him that his "parents were having a great time and throwing a party" without him. In truth, this was merely his father's pre-bedtime ritual: over this nightly bowl of popcorn he would often melt an entire stick of butter. In 1990, when Bleszinski was fifteen, his forty-seven-year-old father died when an aortic aneurysm ruptured while he was golfing. Bleszinski still remembers what game he was playing when he learned of his father's death: the Nintendo game Blaster Master. He never played it again.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/11/03/081103fa_fact_bissell?currentPage=all

I don't think it takes some kind of special genius to see the connection between a guy whose father died and got the news while playing a video game, and the fact that he later made a video game about a guy who tries to save his father and fails.

+++++

As for "female characters with breasts that have their own gravity fields" I don't remember any of them in Gears of War, and when we do encounter them, are they do different than, say, the Venus of Willendorf: are they not just an expression of Peak Shift?

http://www.pbs.org/howartmadetheworld/episodes/human/

The female characters I *do* remember from Gears of War, well, either in Dom's wishful thinking or in reality, they didn't look to unrealistic to me. And then when you consider what came next after we finally *did* find Maria...

+++++

If the loss of a boy's father, euthanasia, suicide, and wartime torture aren't 'mature' what exactly is Chapman looking for? Just because there's a 'big guns' element to _Gears of War_ doesn't mean there's not mature content in there, anymore then Shakespeare writing in jokes about analingus for the groundings makes his plays any less 'mature', does it?

level250geek:

I think it's great when a game breaks the mold, but must a game break the mold? No, it doesn't. It seems that Chaplin wants every game to break the mold, and if it did, then what the blue hell happens to the mold?

Make better game play mechanics. Pull a Braid and make the story itself the game. But please: don't lose sight of what we love so much about this hobby just in the name of artistry or universal appeal.

Exactly--like I've said in another thread, all of this reminds me of _Dead Poets Society_ and the 'introduction to poetry' by Prichard that Robin Williams has the students tear out of the textbook, the introduction that measures the 'greatness' of a poem by a function of it's perfection plotted against it's importance:

image

To hell with that. Of course it would be great if we had games about 'mature' topics--but do we have to put down the games that aren't in order to make that argument?

Nice article, well made points which I generally agree with.

I have long since stopped trying to convince myself that the gaming culture is anything other than a collection of adolescent fantasies supported by even more adolescent gamers. It's sad, but true. The only thing I look forward to these days are games that break this incredibly persistant mold that you mentioned, not many to come by.

In many ways I actually think that we as a medium have made some serious steps backward in terms of maturity over the past 20 years. I certainly no longer feel a connection to this industry.

Christian Ward:
But it could aspire to be so much more.

This is the key quote. The potential is there, everyone keeps talking about it. We have seen flashes of brilliance, but we can only hope they continue to re-appear in this industry.

Why do Christian and Chaplin use adolescent as a synonym for immature? Are they really so immature as to stereotype like that out of hand? While I agree with some of their points, I can't bring myself to respect them.

Doug:

RebornKusabi:

It is indeed a visious cycle, one with no apparent "good" end in sight. I strongly believe that regardless of how much media we have and how much more grandious video games become, we will never grow up as a medium. We will always be satistfied by violence and titties. It's stupid and slightly depressing but it is a very well-thought out and very realistic outcome or our constant shunning of other people.

Great article, I guess. Really makes you think.

Well... I think thats wrong...

Let me explain:

The Wii has outsold the other two primary gaming consoles put together. That kind of cash and success talks, especially in the current economy. The 'next gen', if/when it comes around, will have to shift to focus on the so called 'casual' gamers (although some way of registering how many hours the casual games/consoles are played for would be interesting).

Add to that, the next generation of console players will probably get exposed to the Wii first. And that will shape how the see gaming.

I'm not saying the cycle will be broken over night, but its not a stable system.

I remember seeing recent statistics that even though the Wii has sold more then any of the other next gen consoles. It is beaten by both other consoles in average play time, as well as total playtime. To make a profit on the wii you need to see at least 1 million copies. Only 16 games for the wii have sold a million copies. Most people who have a wii have it sitting around gathering dust. Nintendo has very low software sales for the wii compared to the other consoles as well. This basically shows that casual gamers can have a quick buck made off them, but they aren't the type of demographic who will help the gaming industry grow. People vote with their dollar, everyone I know with a wii who isn't casual only has the 6 or 7 good games on the wii. Everyone else I know has even less. They play Wii Sports and a minigame pack, Wii Play usually. Nintendo is lucky they are making money off hardware, because their software department currently sucks.

Gaming currently is going for the same style as old TV, the lowest common denominator. There is a limited number of gamers, to make money you need to appeal to a large amount of them. Currently the denominator is Space Marines and FPS for adolescence. As the demographic ages things will open back up hopefully.

Entertainment that tackles mature subjects competently is rare in all mediums. The only difference is film and TV produce mindless garbage, that has mass appeal. You can't really tell us to grow up without acknowledging that other mediums are just as bad. I don't even go to movie theaters any more because I feel like I learned all the movie plots anyone will ever use when I was 14. I am sick of getting lumped in with Halo and Gears of War addicts because I play games at all.

The_root_of_all_evil:
It's not that Heather Chaplin condemned some games as adolescent, which they blatantly are. It was she complained that ALL games are adolescent, which is exactly what the game industry has been trying to get away from. But if we're going to be told off as kids, why bother?

Exactly. There's room for both, and no one has implied that we don't WANT diverse, culturally relevant content. But let's face it, we also don't want everyone to be making Braid.

While Chaplin's argument has a sharp point and the problems with the nerd content cycle are real, her caustic language did little to make her message easier to accept. Furthermore, she also accused all developers of being immature man-children.

Calling developers (and by extension the people who play the games they make) frightened and incapable of intimacy does NOTHING to make the point heard, hence the vitriolic response from developers and gamers alike. Insult doesn't help make the injury easy to spot. Worse still, it invites blind resistance.

Perhaps that blind resistance is a sign of our immaturity? Perhaps. But sadly, making Braid and Passage doesn't pay the bills. I'm reasonably sure that making movies like Sideways and various Sundance darlings doesn't quite fatten the paycheck, either.

Furthermore, the assertion that whole "why don't we have our Citizen Kane" argument, it's different because GAMES are different. Films and music didn't grow up saddled with the impression that they're toys for children, a stigma that to this day is retarding the concept of games-as-art. So yes, this is NEW to us.

Games as a cultural force are young, and adolescence is not just tied to time, but to acceptance. So far, they haven't been to the extent that Chaplain and most of us would want.

I might be missing the point, since it was a RANT after all, but if you want games to be more artsy, evangelize artsy games to the market that will fuel them. Chaplain was preaching to the choir, and insulting them at the same time. Not helpful.

Sewblon:
Entertainment that tackles mature subjects competently is rare in all mediums. The only difference is film and TV produce mindless garbage, that has mass appeal. You can't really tell us to grow up without acknowledging that other mediums are just as bad. I don't even go to movie theaters any more because I feel like I learned all the movie plots anyone will ever use when I was 14. I am sick of getting lumped in with Halo and Gears of War addicts because I play games at all.

The thing is, other mediums aren't as bad. As much as Hollywood likes to produce mindless dreck, it also creates works of genius every once in a while. In the last year alone we got The Wrestler, Milk, Wall-E, The Dark Knight, Doubt, Waltz With Bashir, Benjamin Button, Che, Frost/Nixon, The Reader... not everyone may enjoy every film there, but few would argue that they all had an intelligence not found in your average blockbuster. Indeed, the last few years for cinema have been uncommonly good. How many games released last year were comparable to any of the above in terms of high-brow intelligence. A couple of indie titles maybe, but I wouldn't guess much more than that.

Gaming is stagnating. It needs to move out of the clices that are strangling it. Why is it acceptable for games today to have the same amount of depth as DOOM, a game released almost 20 years ago? Why does every other game have to feature an armoured space marine shooting aliens? We'd already worn that trope out last generation. All we're doing is parading our own idiocy. We could be doing so much better, yet we're content with simply blasting more aliens and zombies.

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