176: Global Games, Local Perspectives

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I just find it hilarious that despite the populations of many of these other countries being much larger than that of Ireland, there have been a considerable of Irish-American characters in games recently. There's Frank Fontaine from BioShock and the protagonist's father from Fallout 3. Even at the height of the population of the country, there were about eight million people, so the Irish seem to have influenced the populations of America far more than their puny population would suggest.

I'd like to see some geographic variety in computer game characters as well, along with settings, but let's face it - unless you have the development team in the country that you wish to portray, you're not going to get the historical accuracy you desire. Given that some Americans can't even point out other countries on a map, what hope would we have of them portraying a battle like Gallipoli, for example, without some gross historical inaccuracies?

Solipsis:
Until there are more cultures involved in video game production, we won't see more cultural viewpoints represented. I mean, sure, we'll keep seeing Lara Croft go to Peru (or maybe next time she goes to Suriname, who knows?). But what American, British, Japanese or Canadian developer is going to tackle the problem of how to make a game from a specific cultural viewpoint when they're not from that culture themselves?

I'm sure not going to try to construct a story from the POV of a Chinese, Chilean, or Icelandic hero without someone from that country showing me what that view really looks like. When you write about a fantasy world, there's nobody who can tell you "no, that isn't how it is" there aren't any cultural sensitivities to trip over, and there aren't any right or wrong approaches to the subject. Real cultures are a little more delicate. What we're seeing isn't an unwillingness to explore other people's realities, it's just classic "write what you know" when all the content creators know approximately the same realities.

This is true. Everyone's running around saying "this is how it should be", or "why don't people make games like this", when the answer is simply that people tend to make games from the viewpoint of their own culture, and when they do portray another culture's viewpoint, they usually only do so at a superficial level and in an often flawed manner.

The trouble is, game designers rarely bother to visit any other countries to get to know it's culture and recreate it very half-assed. That's the main problem IMHO.

Novan Leon:

This is true. Everyone's running around saying "this is how it should be", or "why don't people make games like this", when the answer is simply that people tend to make games from the viewpoint of their own culture, and when they do portray another culture's viewpoint, they usually only do so at a superficial level and in an often flawed manner.

But basically, you're just trying to make up an excuse for laziness.

If writers from every other field can write outside of their own perspective, why can't videogame writers?

Obviously, it's easier to write about your own culture. But since when is doing something that's easy worthy of respect? Just because something is hard doesn't mean nobody should bother doing it.

bcjinky:

Novan Leon:

This is true. Everyone's running around saying "this is how it should be", or "why don't people make games like this", when the answer is simply that people tend to make games from the viewpoint of their own culture, and when they do portray another culture's viewpoint, they usually only do so at a superficial level and in an often flawed manner.

But basically, you're just trying to make up an excuse for laziness.

If writers from every other field can write outside of their own perspective, why can't videogame writers?

Obviously, it's easier to write about your own culture. But since when is doing something that's easy worthy of respect? Just because something is hard doesn't mean nobody should bother doing it.

That's exactly my point. Why bother going through all the trouble when you personally don't care and your target audience buys your games either way? The difference between literature and journalistic writers and videogame writers is simply a matter of priorities. Writing in videogames is a side item while the gameplay is the main entree.

Novan Leon:
Writing in videogames is a side item while the gameplay is the main entree.

Better writing would make better games. So basically you're arguing *against* making games better.

Videogames' target audience isn't always going to be 13-year-old boys or those with the minds of 13-year-old boys.

bcjinky:

Novan Leon:
Writing in videogames is a side item while the gameplay is the main entree.

Better writing would make better games. So basically you're arguing *against* making games better.

Videogames' target audience isn't always going to be 13-year-old boys or those with the minds of 13-year-old boys.

You're making the mistake of thinking that I'm arguing against anything, I'm not. I'm just explaining why things are the way they are. I'm all for better writing in videogames. I'm all for better everything in videogames, but businesses will prioritize according to what their goals are.

Novan Leon:

You're making the mistake of thinking that I'm arguing against anything, I'm not. I'm just explaining why things are the way they are. I'm all for better writing in videogames. I'm all for better everything in videogames, but businesses will prioritize according to what their goals are.

I guess I just don't understand why you're posting, then. Everyone knows that businesses want to make money. That's a pretty obvious point to make.

I'm just frustrated that so many people on these forums want to make excuses for game companies not giving us better product. It seems like publishers are reluctant to take any kind of risks, which is understandable, but then they have these legions of forum-posters who jump to their defense for not taking risks, which I don't understand at all.

bcjinky:

Novan Leon:

You're making the mistake of thinking that I'm arguing against anything, I'm not. I'm just explaining why things are the way they are. I'm all for better writing in videogames. I'm all for better everything in videogames, but businesses will prioritize according to what their goals are.

I guess I just don't understand why you're posting, then. Everyone knows that businesses want to make money. That's a pretty obvious point to make.

I'm just frustrated that so many people on these forums want to make excuses for game companies not giving us better product. It seems like publishers are reluctant to take any kind of risks, which is understandable, but then they have these legions of forum-posters who jump to their defense for not taking risks, which I don't understand at all.

I sympathize with your position, but you have to understand that game development is a hard and time consuming process. The time and effort that goes into finding a good writer and building a compelling in-game mechanism for communicating this story is a challenge. It takes talent as well. If you compare American videogames with other American media like movies and TV shows, you'll see that they're all in the same boat when it comes to writing (that is, they're all struggling and usually hit below the mark). Most of the best movies draw inspiration from existing literary material. Perhaps videogames should take the same route and try to draw inspiration from literary sources (like Bioshock so successfully did, for example).

It's in-style to bash companies for being selfish and profit oriented. I just don't want people to assume this is the reason some aspects of game development are lacking. It's not that companies don't want to deliver a great product all the time, it's just that they are forced to make a judgment call on what to focus on given the available resources and time constraints.

Novan Leon:

It's in-style to bash companies for being selfish and profit oriented. I just don't want people to assume this is the reason some aspects of game development are lacking. It's not that companies don't want to deliver a great product all the time, it's just that they are forced to make a judgment call on what to focus on given the available resources and time constraints.

That may be true of some smaller, independent developers, but if you read anything from the mouths of the businesspeople who run the publishers that control game content, you'll see that it's not a judgment call for them at all. It's a predetermined position in line with what they want from the industry. Activision's head said it best. He wants to "exploit" the products his company puts out. They don't talk about creating the best product. They talk about creating the most profitable product, built on standard, measurable components.

It absolutely is the reason that game development is lacking. I've talked to developers and they have hundreds of ideas for games that would blow us all away, but they lack the support of the people with the money.

If you look at movies, there's a viable alternative to mainstream crap. If you look at music, the same exists. TV has gotten an infusion of alternative content with HBO and the new cable channels. Videogames are still growing their alternative to mainstream, big-publisher-controlled crap. We should support them, instead of making excuses for the big publisher CEOs and executives who wish they could stick to Halo sequels and movie-tie-ins.

If you support making games better, then stop sticking up for the people who are holding gaming back. Support the talented people who want to take up the challenge of making better games instead of the people who want to make a quick buck off of 50 versions of a Shrek game.

bcjinky:

Novan Leon:

It's in-style to bash companies for being selfish and profit oriented. I just don't want people to assume this is the reason some aspects of game development are lacking. It's not that companies don't want to deliver a great product all the time, it's just that they are forced to make a judgment call on what to focus on given the available resources and time constraints.

That may be true of some smaller, independent developers, but if you read anything from the mouths of the businesspeople who run the publishers that control game content, you'll see that it's not a judgment call for them at all. It's a predetermined position in line with what they want from the industry. Activision's head said it best. He wants to "exploit" the products his company puts out. They don't talk about creating the best product. They talk about creating the most profitable product, built on standard, measurable components.

It absolutely is the reason that game development is lacking. I've talked to developers and they have hundreds of ideas for games that would blow us all away, but they lack the support of the people with the money.

If you look at movies, there's a viable alternative to mainstream crap. If you look at music, the same exists. TV has gotten an infusion of alternative content with HBO and the new cable channels. Videogames are still growing their alternative to mainstream, big-publisher-controlled crap. We should support them, instead of making excuses for the big publisher CEOs and executives who wish they could stick to Halo sequels and movie-tie-ins.

If you support making games better, then stop sticking up for the people who are holding gaming back. Support the talented people who want to take up the challenge of making better games instead of the people who want to make a quick buck off of 50 versions of a Shrek game.

You're asking the "big money" to de-prioritize profits in order to take risks on unproven concepts? Why should they, when the status quot is so profitable? Use your movie, music and TV examples for instance. Indy movie projects, fringe music groups and new cable channels are hardly profitable when compared to mainstream productions, even though their quality is debatably magnitudes better in some cases. Every once in a while there is an exception and a movie/group/show becomes a huge hit, but in general the money is in the mainstream (sadly). I don't see this changing, no matter how much I want it to. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for corporations to prioritize the desires of the few over the wallets of the many, and to be honest, there's nothing wrong with this.

I would rather put my efforts, not into changing the mentality of some of the corporate giants, but rather into supporting those who share your ideals. For me this would be Nintendo (WiiWare), Valve (pioneers in creativity and embracing the mod community), some of the smaller development groups such as 2K Boston/2K Australia (Bioshock), the thousands of independent modding groups out there, and the other companies that act as true pioneers in modern gaming. Only once the pioneers scout out the new territory will the mainstream settlers follow.

Novan Leon:

I would rather put my efforts, not into changing the mentality of some of the corporate giants, but rather into supporting those who share your ideals. For me this would be Nintendo (WiiWare), Valve (pioneers in creativity and embracing the mod community), some of the smaller development groups such as 2K Boston/2K Australia (Bioshock), the thousands of independent modding groups out there, and the other companies that act as true pioneers in modern gaming. Only once the pioneers scout out the new territory will the mainstream settlers follow.

I agree. You're right. That's exactly what I mean.

I don't expect the "big money" to de-prioritize profits. But I do expect videogame fans to stop shamelessly defending EA, Activision, THQ and the like for putting out mostly mediocre product.

Plus, you're wrong about indie projects not being profitable. Yes, when they make profits, they're not in the same league. But you have to remember that they're operating on much different scales. A $15 million dollar game has to sell a lot to make its money back, whereas a $50,000 game obviously doesn't have to sell as much. Similarly, a company with thousands of employees needs high revenue to pay everyone (plus investors). A company with 10 employees needs only enough to pay 10 people.

Smaller projects means smaller risks. Plus, you get the un-priceable, intangible benefit of working on something you love rather than updating textures for the latest Madden title.

bcjinky:

Novan Leon:

I would rather put my efforts, not into changing the mentality of some of the corporate giants, but rather into supporting those who share your ideals. For me this would be Nintendo (WiiWare), Valve (pioneers in creativity and embracing the mod community), some of the smaller development groups such as 2K Boston/2K Australia (Bioshock), the thousands of independent modding groups out there, and the other companies that act as true pioneers in modern gaming. Only once the pioneers scout out the new territory will the mainstream settlers follow.

A $15 million dollar game has to sell a lot to make its money back, whereas a $50,000 game obviously doesn't have to sell as much. Similarly, a company with thousands of employees needs high revenue to pay everyone (plus investors). A company with 10 employees needs only enough to pay 10 people.

Good point.

bcjinky:
Smaller projects means smaller risks. Plus, you get the un-priceable, intangible benefit of working on something you love rather than updating textures for the latest Madden title.

Well, that's certainly true. :)

Probably been said...

Take it from a Canadian who has recently emerged from public schools, we don't need to be taught about our nation's history outside of school. We get Canadian history and native studies (which I honestly believe are an attempt to make us feel sorry for what the "white man" did to them) shoved down our throats from Kindergarten all the way to Jr. high.

You don't even learn about other countries until Jr. high.

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