Journalist Tells Industry To Grow Up

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Journalist Tells Industry To Grow Up

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During a journalist rant session at GDC last week, Heather Chaplin, a writer who covers the games industry for grown-up outlets like NPR, railed against what she sees as a business dominated by "stunted adolescents."

"You aren't men," Chaplin told developers. "You are stunted adolescents."

Chaplin, the author of Smartbomb and a reporter for National Public Radio, says she's frequently put in the position of a "translator" who has to explain to people why exactly games matter and shouldn't be derided as anything more than manboy power fantasies. It's understandably hard to do that when games are frequently about killing hordes of aliens or barely-dressed babes or killing hordes of aliens while playing as barely-dressed babes.

So Chaplin's tired of it. No more excuses. You can't say games are only like this because it's a young medium, she argued. Back when they were around the same age, film was on the eve of Citizen Kane, and rock n' roll already had The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Well, I'd argue that 60's Dylan was as much of a stunted adolescent as Cliff Bleszinski, but that's an argument for another day.

Chaplin's point is that it's not the medium that's the problem, it's the people who are shaping it. "It is you guys as game designers who are deeply mired in 'guy culture,'" she said. Guy culture, you know, big dudes with big guns and thin chicks with big boobs, instead of things like responsibility, introspection and intellectual growth.

"When you're talking about culture-makers, this is a problem," Chaplin remarked.

So, what do you guys think? Do games need to grow up, have they already grown up, will they never grow up, or is this all just a bunch of nonsense? I sympathize with Chaplin's position and admire her vehemence, but I'm inclined to not agree entirely. I mean, did you play Gears of War 2? Dom looking for his wife? That was some seriously mature stuff. I cried. Guess some people didn't.

[Via GamePolitics, MTV Multiplayer, Pixel Vixen 707]

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There just doesn't seem to be time for introspection when the hordes are trying to kill you so they can demonstrate just how well the game can render blood splatters.

The industry does seem to take a black/white approach to morality, however.

Am I sexist for thinking: "she's female, she probably doesn't 'get' the gaming industry?". I don't think thats my genuine attitude, but that was my knee-jerk response to seeing her name.

Chaplin needs to play some better games, There are plenty of games out there with mature themes. You may need to wade through some crap to get to them but it's the same with every other medium.

It's an excessively limited picture not only of the industry ('guy culture' isn't much evident in Planescape: Torment, SotC, etc.) but also of the varied ways in which any given person can choose to relax. I'm a doctoral student in philosophy; I don't suddenly forefeit my intellectual capacities if I deactivate my higher brain functions once in a while.

As long as people keep buying Gears of War and other steroid-pack breast-hinting blood-covered games, the developers will keep making them. You could argue that the switch from those genres has started with casual games, but the crossover isn't that major and the more mainstream games are still dominated by the "guy games."

That being said, these sorts of games are probably some of the games best suited to the current hardware. You point and push the button, bad-guy explodes, cut-scene with bubbly blondes ensue. The difference with movie and songs is that they don't have the open-endedness of games; they always follow the pattern that the director/writer dictates. With games, the easiest way to give a player the feeling of control is allowing him to pick which person to kill first.

This isn't to say we've only got the "guy games" at the moment, they're are tons of non gory boob-fests filled games out there, but these are the ones that sell the most and bring about the most controversy, so they're the games everyone hears about.

(Man, I had fun with those adjectives)

TheGreenManalishi:
Am I sexist for thinking: "she's female, she probably doesn't 'get' the gaming industry?". I don't think thats my genuine attitude, but that was my knee-jerk response to seeing her name.

Am sharing the same feelings about her. But the problem I see here, is that she is talking about the industry as a whole, now not all producers are creating the typical bimbo type women lead these days (See Alyx (god I despise her), the prince's sidekicks etc ... etc ...)).

But then again, we are completely ignoring developers who are creating characters like Marcus Phoenix or the new Chris Redfield models. It's over the top, and there is nothing really wrong with it.

Welcome to escapism!

I very much agree with her. I do love games and gaming, don't get me wrong, but the gaming industry is kind of stagnating. Every game is becoming more of the same, while gaming is one of the best platforms for trying out new things. The gaming industry should stop worrying about booby physics and how realistic their blood spatters look. A game should be about the message in the game and a good storyline.

I, too, agree with her to an extent. But she's only addressing certain companies. There are plenty of successful franchises that don't rely on guns+boobs=$$$. Civilization, just to name one. However, companies like Rockstar need to open an ear to a rant like that.

See one-See all logic. It makes me want to beat people up. Like this person.

I think she should shut up and not play games with scantily clad women and alien killing if she doesn't like them

Musicfreak:
Chaplin needs to play some better games, There are plenty of games out there with mature themes. You may need to wade through some crap to get to them but it's the same with every other medium.

Agreed, but I think she is more concerned with the fact that there is a bigger stream of "stunted adolescent" games than games with actual meaning and culture.
I agree with her and disagree but she needs to not focus all on the negative (not saying she is).

This was never restricted to video games or "guy culture", 90% of all entertainment in all mediums is mindless filth(See the works of Anna Rice), that is Sturgeon's law. You occasionally get something that deals with mature subject matter competently, like The Longest Journey, Splinter Cell or Bioshock, but they either inspire legions of haphazard imitations or recede into their own niche.

Wait a minute!
So she's saying music and movies are deep and intellectual, but games aren't?

What movies is she watching? What modern music is she listening to?
I'd say all three markets are all equally plagued with crap and 'man culture'.

Modern games like Mass Effect, Bioshock, and even Fallout 3 offer violence to be sure, but not in a 'space marine with huge muscles with a busty barely dressed broad by my side' sort of way. Especially Mass Effect, which offers some of the best character interactions I've ever seen.
Even 'old' games like Baldur's Gate, Fallout 1 and 2, System shock (Seeing a pattern here?), and, heck, even Splinter Cell offer far better stories, emotions, suspense, and thrills than 90% of the modern cinema!

And don't even get me started on a lot of modern music!

I won't deny that much of the industry is certainly in this rut, but every media industry is! It isn't unique to games, and if she's thinking it is then she really needs to take the rosey glasses off when she buys her next movie ticket or CD.

EDIT: DANG it Sewblon! Ninja'd!

In fairness, most films these days are pretty dumb (ie. Michal Bay films), but there are a lot of better games and films with more, well mature's not quite the right word but they're certainly in a better class.

The only problem is that they are buried under the adolescent power fantasies.

I play games to escape and not have to be mature 25/8 so she can shut it

That is why they are called "GAMES" anything else is either called a "Lecture" or "Life"

So what if games have 500lb men who can take bullets to the face like I eat shreddies? So what if women are sometimes portrayed as prancing nymphetes?

That is the purpose of games, to live out fantasies or just to indulge in teabagging noobs and formost for ENJOYMENT -_-

Lios:
See one-See all logic. It makes me want to beat people up. Like this person.

Couldn't agree more.

"Man culture"? "Guy culture"? So what would the video games industry be like if it was mired in "woman culture" or "gal culture"? Soap operas and dating sims? Is that any better?

Her remarks are completely invalid. Games are no less sexist or juvenile than movies, music and television, and if she wants to throw out Citizen Kane and the Beatles, I'll counter with Psychonauts and Super Mario Bros. Cherry-picking the gems isn't somehow more valid or relevant based on the sea of shit from which you pluck them.

It sounds to me like the real problem here isn't games but her obvious issues with "guy culture." I wonder how she feels about "chick culture."

I do wonder what games people are playing when they come to these conclusions sometimes? Especially when you include RPG's like FF and Point and Click adventure games like Syberia and The Longest journey etc. Other then that you can't really expect males to be more interested in female stroke sims like games when their, well, male. And hasn't the wii filled that gap somewhat judging by core gamers reaction to it's content?

I think more women need to step up and come into the industry or start studios like the males do and fill the believed inbalance their finding and stop asking guys to get in touch with a feminine side that takes practice and rarely exists. That's what the writer of Overlord did who I believe was a game journalist prior and was tired of similar things (although jade empire was far too story / text heavy for me, if that's the result of such a suggestion).

I do agree with Heather, that it is a shame that some titles seem to have better storytelling and merit as art over other games pumped out for gratuitous and exploitative money. But my advice for her - get over it.

Sure, some of the developers may get their jollies from abnormal titty bouncing, but the fact remains that those games sell to a demographic that buys 'em. And buy them they do. In the millions! It may be a tough pill to swallow some times, but it's all part of the marvelous world of freedom of speech. That old American chestnut allows them to make "Gun-ga-Saurus Max and the Legend of the Hidden Sweater Puppies III: That's One Ripe Tomato, OF DEATH!!!" and her to speak her mind about a male dominated industry.

If Gun-ga-Saurus Max (and his all nude female Kung-Fu fighters) didn't make money, they would stop making them.

She seems like a woman who has been given the job of telling the world how delicious McDonald's food is. It is delicious, but after you spend every day being yelled at for how unhealthy the food is for 12 years straight - you might also find yourself wanting to yell back at McDonald's for making unhealthy food.

She needs to take a breath and step back. Realize that there will always be negative games on the market. For every Rape Lay, a Twilight Princess. For every Gears of War, a Psychonauts. There's always another side of the coin, and by being consumed by only one side of any issue will only make you look like a ranting jackass.

Also she needs a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Them's delicious.

People often forget that games. Unlike films and music, are for FUN not to put a point across. Now i am no sexist. And I like games with a deep, and intellectual approach to things, but most of the time, when playing games, i want to grab my lancer and shoot some Locust. I don't want it to be a philosophy fest. SOME games should be. Others should just stay to what they are at heart. Mindless fun.

I was going to say "take the stick out of your hole" but in a way she's got a point.

Games are shaped from who play them though. If the target audience remains the same then I don't think games are going to change. But really, pointing at onechambera is hitting below the belt.

I wonder if in the 1940s there was a huge bunch of not so good movies that burried the name of Citizen Kane under them. Only for their popularity to die and wither away, uncovering the now legendary movie.

Developers and publishers are too scared to create a big budget game that won't appeal to young kids. It's like adult developers would rather be praised by young teenagers than potentially criticized by their peers. Most games with serious moments are still juvenile at best.

Games don't need to grow up, developers and publishers do.

She needs to suck it up and get off her post feminist, man hating soapbox.

There is a wide veriety of games out there, Civilization, Fable, guitar hero, pikmin, Mass Effect, Planescape Torment, Littlebigplanet, Sims, etc, etc.

There are thousands of games. Some are the big guns/big tits/big muscles type. ITs no different than any other form of media.

For Every Citizen Kane there a 10 road trip/american pie/commandos. There are heart felt songs with meaning, but then there are just as many about "shorty getting low". Brothers in arms (TV series) was epic story telling but then there are also things like baywatch and hollyoaks.

Shes in the wrong job if she cant see the big picture.

Littaly:
I was going to say "take the stick out of your hole" but in a way she's got a point.

Games are shaped from who play them though. If the target audience remains the same then I don't think games are going to change. But really, pointing at onechambera is hitting below the belt.

She didn't say anything about Oneechanbara, though she probably would. I just used the image because it's fitting, and because Oneechanbara is awesome.

Lvl 64 Klutz:
I, too, agree with her to an extent. But she's only addressing certain companies. There are plenty of successful franchises that don't rely on guns+boobs=$$$. Civilization, just to name one. However, companies like Rockstar need to open an ear to a rant like that.

You haven't played Civilization Revolution, have you? Take a look at the character models for the female leaders and get back to me on whether or not boobs play a role in the game. Or just compare the real-life Catherine the Great ( http://www.flatrock.org.nz/topics/history/assets/catherine_the_great.jpg ) to the Nastasia Kinski CivRev version ( http://www.civilizationrevolution.com/community/katherine_render.jpg ). The only male leader to even come close would be Alexander, and that would only be if he were to lose his breastplate and be oiled up like a Chippendale's dancer.

In any case, she has a point, and she doesn't. People can mention plenty of non-sexist games, but other than sports titles, they don't sell well, or don't incorporate people as part of the game mechanic, e.g., Popcap games, kid games, action titles like Halo or Metroid (where you're mostly blasting aliens nonstop and your character is basically sexless under all the armor). There's definitely a huge chunk of developers that make embarrassingly juvenile T&A fests, but we're slowly moving out of that zone. Mirror's Edge didn't seem very cheesecakey to me, and there will be others once someone makes a good game that shows it can be done.

I don't see why we have to grow up. She should calm the fuck down.

Games are an entertainment medium. There are just as many movies about overblown machismo and barely dressed babes as there are games. Sex and violence sells. Just because we are selling it very successfully doesn't mean there is anything wrong with the industry. We play games for fun, I don't want my game giving me moral lessons or trying to make a statement about a real world problem. That's not what I bought the game for. I bought the game to enjoy myself and no have to think about the real world for a bit.

Tell her to get her butt to the kitchen and play some Cooking Mama.

Very unfair what she is saying. Even in the movie industry you have things that are just about women(any direct to home video American Pie like movie) or destruction(most action films) with little to no story behind them. Also, like with the movies, there are games that have some substance to their storytelling although not many have recently.
If it makes her feel any better, BMX XXX did not sell well. Also, most scantily clad women in games are in games from Japan and fighting games.

I interpreted it as if she's against the fact that most games features a good dose of violence which i find odd. Even Bioshock had loads of violence and it's still a good game. As a matter of fact i would argue that Bioshock IS the gaming equivilent to Citizen Kane but she refuses to acknowledge it because the player still murders people on a regular basis.

The problem is that if you cut that out you also cut out the gameplay and leaves nothing but a player walking from cutscene to cutscene. Maybe if there was some other stuff to do in between the cutscenes that are fun it could be a fun game. The whole shooting people may have been overdone but there isn't much to replace it with.

I haven't played the Longest Journey but i assume that you mostly go from to place solve puzzles and talk to people and that's fun for a while but it get's boring in the long run. For me games are a mix of a good plot and a fun sport and arguing that you should cut out the sport element because it's immature is to me like arguing that it's more mature to get into our pro-athletes personal life than see them running or jumping.

I can't say that i've found loads of games that features tits for the sake of tits either but that could be i'm not actively searching for it. If you see those types of games as the modern cinema eqiuvilent of an actionflick i'd say that the videogames industry is far more mature.

The demand of modern graphics on a game often give little room for story or idea development. In the era of early movies, action and violence were harder to do, and people wanted good directing, good acting, and a well-written plot, so we got good movies like Citizen Kane. It's the audience that needs to grow up, which is hard, because younger and immature gamers are constantly being added into the community. Games that are tit & gore fests will sell better than games that have more of a mature aspiration for storyline or artistic design, like some Final Fantasy games. Of course they can still have juvenile moments, but that really doesn't mean the whole game is juvenile.
I can't help but sympathise with this journalists point of view, but it is not the industry, but the players; the industry is just greedy, milking the juvenile players for money. However, games can have a juvenile concept, but a mature execution, such as Castlevania SoTN, which is a game about going around Dracula's castle and killing vampires, but is maturely presented, with creative backgrounds, enemies, characters, and brilliant music and depth.
There are also games that are mature alkl around, such as FF Tactics, which has not only a complicated and sophisticated combat system, but a story about the evils of organised religion, the nature of a Hero, and the futility of war. Even a sophisticated gamer can play an immature game once in a while. For example, I have Bioshock sitting next to Ninja Gaiden 2 and UT3 on my shelf, and playing the latter two because of their old-school gameplay and difficulty for Ninja Gaiden, and the competitive, skill-based shooting for UT3, not for the violence and sexual themes.

I agree with her on certain points, and I would say what has already been said in this thread; if it weren't for people/kids buying certain types of games, those types of games wouldn't be so prevalent.

There is a market for thought-provoking games; there is a market for story-rich games; there is simply a bigger market of people who want to flex their e-peens, though.

The industry isn't going to stop making something that's guaranteed to sell. The problem we've been experiencing the past several years is whether it's from publisher pressure, or the devs wanting to go for guaranteed sales, games more often than not are rehashes of other games. The companies are using formulas that have sold in the past, and most aren't willing to take a risk of doing "new stuff" whatever you want that to mean.

The industry won't grow until more companies take more chances; no one wants to fail, but without taking a chance how will we know what might work?

Look, I'm like a lot of you, I enjoy games to escape from reality a lot of the time. But even when I'm escaping I still enjoy thought stimulation, so I like a little more than just meat and potatoes if you will. I loved Duke Nukem back in the 90's, but I hate Gears of War.

I don't know if it's me getting older, but forking out 50 bucks for a game that is a near-exact copy of a game I played 10 years ago is getting old. (With fancy new graphics added in). Actually, a lot of games from 10 years ago had more story than current games because to the lack of tech polish available...

Sorry for the rant :)
-Cym

Limos:
I don't see why we have to grow up. She should calm the fuck down.

She's telling the developers and publishers to grow up, not the customers. Unless you are someone in the industry?

Limos:
Sex and violence sells. Just because we are selling it very successfully doesn't mean there is anything wrong with the industry. We play games for fun, I don't want my game giving me moral lessons or trying to make a statement about a real world problem. That's not what I bought the game for. I bought the game to enjoy myself and no have to think about the real world for a bit.

I'd like to see more intellectual games. It's sad that you can practically count on your fingers the number of games that attempted and achieved anything of serious nature.

There will always be room for fun games, but there's a weird fear of creating adult games. I don't mean games with adult content, but games that really wouldn't appeal at all to kids. I think this is where she is coming from and I have to agree with her.

I'm happy for you that you are enjoying what is being offered at the moment, but it represents the majority of what's out there. Either you enjoy adolescent fun or you're on the fringes of gaming consumption.

Either video games are just for kids or something is wrong here... so which is it?

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