What would be the reception of a really thoughtful and deep game?

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I was talking with some gamer friends of mine last night over a couple of beers. What tends to happen whenever we are in this situation is they begin to complain about the unsophisticated level of games out on the market and in particular the big buck mainstream games. This night however I got to thinking about it seriously as opposed to just waving it off like I usually do(not because of any points they raised, they're all mongoloid troglodytes :P much love). Not about the actual content of the games themselves but what the reception would be like from some of these gamers who consider themselves experts on the medium and truly appreciative of it as an art form. A lot of the time it seems to me that many of the people who blow the horn for a more sophisticated standard of gaming would have real trouble actually enjoying and interpreting the games that they so desire.

Take for example Bioshock. I really liked it and it was very subtle in a gaming universe of blunt objects. The reality of the game was that it wasn't very deep. Before you pull my teeth out or start lighting torches think about it. Great literature can be enjoyed on the first read through without any form of analysis and that's fine but it takes multiple readings and in depth analysis of every single detail to fully appreciate the author's vision and the technical execution of that vision. Gamers generally do not pore over every facet of the game looking for clues to the sublime genius that was the game developers. Instead they hunt for easter eggs, secrets and glitches.

Just from my observation of most of the gamers I know and the ones I associate with through the internet most of them would not like to turn games into the great art they claim they want. What they want is some silk to go along with the steel they are usually given but they still want to be able to see and understand the silk (seamless integration of a metaphor ;D). It's a sad fact that some of the books praised and lauded by academics ostracise a lot of people which isn't what games were made for. Maybe in time there will be a fan base for games of a higher caliber but it's not now.

My rant aside I would like to know what others in the Escapist community think about how it would be recieved?

I open the floor

p.s. This is my opinion and you are free to disagree with me but I'd rather people not get too vehement about it because these opinions have been formed based on the observation of people I know, that you don't know, so they might just be a unfavourable cross section to the rest of the gaming community.

There was a lot going on in Killer 7 and that sold quite well if that is the sort of thing you are looking for. On the other hand some games can be quite expensive to make compared to novels. I wouldn't expect ActiBlizzard to invest 100 million dollars making a game that can outdo the novels of James Joyce.

Strategy games are quite good for depth and thoughtfulness. Have you thought about playing one of those?

Well, look at the Graveyard. Its not really an epic, but the creators themselves describe it as more of an interactive painting than a game. It kinda bridges a different two mediums.

I personally would relish a game that provoked thought and meaning through stories, characters and plot. Gaming needs more multiple storylines as it adds to the replayability and longevity that would otherwise go amiss. With many action/adventure games that clock in at 8 hours for a story that doesn't really want the gamer to think, just to act on a certain objective to fulfill what is needed to push a story along, this type of game, if done correctly would rake awards from the gaming press and establish a cult following. But the majority of gamers do not want to think, they want to act. Mindless deconstruction rather than pro-creation seems to be the main agenda on players minds, 'KILLEVERYTHINGROFLCOPTER' is what they want. A game that is shallow and requires little thinking will probably always win over something painstakingly crafted for the sake of dismissal in sales, as much as I love 'SWITCH OFF BRAIN. DESTROY' I wouldn't mind a game that will provoke me to search for intricate details in a plot arc just to find out what happened to X and why he/she did whatever to Y.

One word: Okami.

Buy this game, people!

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey.
I hope that answers your question.

This is really a core question for game developers. If the genre is going to progress at all, we need to start steering away from games that center around mindless entertainment. The obsession with graphical splendor and fun comes all too often at the price of robbing the game of emotional and intellectual depth. Why oh why was Killzone 2 such a highly anticipated product when it was just a retread of every fps since Wolfenstein 3D?

There's a handful of games out there that offer ideas and good stories - Syberia, Braid, Bioshock, and Psychonauts all come to mind. They're all fun to boot. But I wonder if some genius collective of game developers will one day take the plunge and offer us an interactive story, a "game" that removes all the contrivances of the medium. Imagine if Bioshock progressed through conversation instead of violence, or if you could explore the world and story of Syberia without the puzzles. What would it be like? Certainly less entertaining and "fun" in the sense that games are traditionally meant to be, but isn't it time we moved beyond that? Isn't it time this medium grew up?

I'd probably become one of those "critic's darlings"; when a game gets amazing reviews, but no one buys it.

Arrers:
I'd probably become one of those "critic's darlings"; when a game gets amazing reviews, but no one buys it.

Or it'd just be all "THES GAEM HAZ NO TITZ DO NOT BUI"
...God I hate people.
The reception would probably be warm amongst the thinking crowds, but amongst the "nurr cant find mah buttonz oh kontrolar iz upsiad down" crowd (most reviewers and people,) it'd be less than warm.

Also that is a huge wall of text. Try spacing it out, please.

Clashero:
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey.
I hope that answers your question.

This.
Also I would like it if OP could paragraph a little bit please :)

It can easily work, if you borrow a leaf from Shakespeare.

Back in Willie's day, plays weren't considered high art; they were more like sitcoms or soap operas to Elizabethan sensibilities. They were cheap, tawdry entertainments that needed to draw a lot of bumpkins-in-seats to pay the rent... so in went the racy (for the day; remember that the theatre back then didn't even allow women on stage) dialog, fart jokes, and big action scenes. But Shakespeare managed to make his plays endure by layering them with different levels of meaning. Take the play at face value and get a rip-roaring tale that can fill in the cheap seats; listen to the lyrical nature of the play and you draw the middle class of the day; watch for the political overtones that bring the upper-crust types; and then there's the literary/metaphorical layer that sucks in the brainiacs.

BioShock nibbled on the edges of this leaf and largely succeeded as a FPS/RPG and a moody thrill-ride and a commentary on the nature of mankind. I'd like to see developers take this even further if they could.

-- Steve

Yeah I'm always really bad with my paragraphing >.>

if you target idiots, your sure to make money, LOTS of money. not just because idiots are easily swayed by advertisements, but because they throw their money away like nothing. also, smart writers probably charge more.

theres also the quantity issue, smaller audience with the smart crowd.

Depends on the genre of the game, if it was a real thoughtful, thorough and deep;

> FPS it would probably get trashed for the story being over bearing on the game play.

> RPG the story would be overlooked and other, all other aspects of the game picked to pieces for not matching up to the story.

> RTS/TBS bad review score but would be a generally good game, although probably won't reach top 10 sales, unless it was from the civilisation, total war or age series.

Games that are genuinely thoughtful and deep only really appeal to people who are also genuinely thoughtful and deep.

Unfortunately, the ratio of these wonderful people to the kind of brainless twat that is incapable of walking and talking on the phone at the same time (meaning they stop in crowded shopping streets oblivious to the poor, innocent shoppers collectively carrying 97 or so tonnes of bags, the WANKERS) isn't exactly favourable.

The majority of the gaming population generally goes for any combination of blood, bullets and boobs regardless of whether or not the game actually plays like a game and not fourteen hours of putting your thumbs at risk of repetitive strain injury while various alien nasties riddle your anonymous PC's body with shrapnel. Which is a shame because that's what game developers will provide just so they can make easy money.

Most of my friends have the attention span of a drunk goldfish (not sure where that comparison came from, but I'll go with it) and I am not a lot better.
I generally try to replay games I buy twice (having a mortgage killed my ability to buy a new game every week) but the number of times I have asked one of my friends if they still played a game they said they liked and the responses were something like "Nah, I got bored with it." Or, "Nah, I finished it" leads me to believe that in "the gamer somewhere between casual and hardcore" portion of the market, replayability is not a big concern.
Kinda like that part of the market is "Conquer and move on."

Generally sophisticated work is always appreciated by the people that look, but the masses tend to ignore it...well it's always like this.

There's quite a few games that I hold to be more 'sophisticated' than most games, namely:
Grim Fandango
Ico
SotC
Portal
Psychonauts

But I doubt any of these games have or will ever have the commercial success of a Halo or Wii Sports.

There is a pretty cool thing that Tim Schaefer said along the lines of:
Many people complain that games are still not seen as an art-from, but instead of complaining we should just start making more games that challenge those preconceptions.

Same in music:
Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan, a motherfucking masterpiece, sold less than 2 million.
Every Pussycat Dolls or Britney Spears album gets more sales than it today...

What happens to the good games is that they get ignored at first because they are wierd for not being FPS. I have heard for some time that Grim Fandango was a good game, but I myself haven't had the pleasure. Its always been a title that I'd heard of.

I'm playing Fallout 3 now, and it reminds me a lot of Bioshock. Mostly because I liked the music in Bioshock and I wish that Galaxy News Radio in Fallout 3 would play more than the same 5 songs! While I have to agree that Bioshock was a relatively shallow experience, that was a dissapointment because (I think) it came so close to being better. There is a really good story in there about a Utopian society being perverted by the greed of its creator as well as the greed of outsiders. I wanted to see more of Rapture. Hell, I wanted to meet someone in Rapture that I did NOT have to kill!

Certainly there is still something of an adventure, but its like playing Counter-Strike in a 'Book' from the Myst series: you might as well kill everyone because the culture has already died. With the single exception of you preventing Rapture from self-destruction, nothing that you do changes anything. Its still a dead city full of scavengers. [To be honest, I really can't think of a good reason why Jack bothered, except of course he was obeying orders - and that whole part left me uneasy anyway, so lets not go there].

I think that 2K reached a point (and maybe did not realise it themselves) when they could have made Bioshock an FPS or adventure game. I suppose that ultimately its both, but I feel like a homicidal archaeologist: I want to see the rest of it (and kill whoever lives there). Bioshock as a game is a lot like some of the graphical features inside the game: there are holes in the facade that you can see into, and sometimes pull something out from there, but it was unsatisfying that I could not go in there and poke around more.

Anything here is more art than game.

A lot of it can be alienating, and that is why most gamers don't like artistic games. They want to know what to do, how to do it quickly, and what rewards they'll get for doing it.

Personally I'm as anti-competition as they get (I pray to Darwin, but still...), so I love games that sort of just drop you in to an artful world and expect you to have fun figuring it all out. More of these, please.

But this company is Belgian (I think), so fat chance of that. I guess America and the UK are too big and expensive to explore aesthetics over Halo 4.

I felt that Bioshock was very advanced, it had enjoyable characters (such as the legendary A.Ryan), but other than that... it had no inventory system, no real moral choices, no RPG stat/skill/level up like I'd have liked.

Brotherofwill:
Exactly.

You either have to layer it in per Anton P. Nym's Shakespeare example or cut your losses and go the high art route for the 'in crowd'. Lately the latter is starting to flourish with stuff like Fl0wer, Noby Noby Boy (for which people are still looking for the context) and Braid, which coupled simple gameplay to absurd or complex concepts and thrust them out the door at a lower price point.

Those types of games have always been out there and will always be out there. Just don't expect them to become the norm or be big hits and make sure to keep your eyes and ears sharp to catch them when they come out.

KarlMonster:
What happens to the good games is that they get ignored at first because they are wierd for not being FPS. I have heard for some time that Grim Fandango was a good game, but I myself haven't had the pleasure. Its always been a title that I'd heard of.

I'm playing Fallout 3 now, and it reminds me a lot of Bioshock. Mostly because I liked the music in Bioshock and I wish that Galaxy News Radio in Fallout 3 would play more than the same 5 songs! While I have to agree that Bioshock was a relatively shallow experience, that was a dissapointment because (I think) it came so close to being better. There is a really good story in there about a Utopian society being perverted by the greed of its creator as well as the greed of outsiders. I wanted to see more of Rapture. Hell, I wanted to meet someone in Rapture that I did NOT have to kill!

Certainly there is still something of an adventure, but its like playing Counter-Strike in a 'Book' from the Myst series: you might as well kill everyone because the culture has already died. With the single exception of you preventing Rapture from self-destruction, nothing that you do changes anything. Its still a dead city full of scavengers. [To be honest, I really can't think of a good reason why Jack bothered, except of course he was obeying orders - and that whole part left me uneasy anyway, so lets not go there].

I think that 2K reached a point (and maybe did not realise it themselves) when they could have made Bioshock an FPS or adventure game. I suppose that ultimately its both, but I feel like a homicidal archaeologist: I want to see the rest of it (and kill whoever lives there). Bioshock as a game is a lot like some of the graphical features inside the game: there are holes in the facade that you can see into, and sometimes pull something out from there, but it was unsatisfying that I could not go in there and poke around more.

This is your first post? You sir, are awesome.
There are a lot of these "you stuipid lawl" kind of first posts around...

I'd definetly recommend you to play Grim Fandango, an excellent game in my opinion.
There is a scene that pretty much blew my mind at the time I was playing it, definetly the most artistically challenging scene I've ever encountered in a game

Bioshock was really an acheivement regardless of it's drawbacks, it's simple to set a shooter in space or something and let the creative juices flowing. But when you have to set it in an underwater utopia with Andrew Ryan philosophy etc it sound a lot harder.

Portal also acheived something quite magical: making a solid physics game yet having a well carved unforgettable storyline.

I also can't end this post without mentioning Half Life 2 and it's ability to make you feel and believe in the dystopian world./

I don't think a game with a lot of depth - in a way Anton P. Nym so accurately described the works of Shakespeare, where one can enjoy the the superficial, as well the deeper parts of a story - will be especially well received in the public. In order for the deeper lines of the story to emerge, they have to be an integral part of the storyline and gameplay of the game. This would mean that in order to 'solve' the story or win the game, the player would need to take time and think about what they are doing. I think we all agree that the average player does not have the patience and will to fulfil such a feat.

Perhaps a good example for me is the expansion 'The Mask of the Betrayer' for Neverwinter Nights 2. This game is very story driven, and also has a lot of morality decisions to consider, and parts of the story aren't given away, and are for the player to figure out.

The first time I played through this game, I just wanted to be an epic wizard, to storm through the game and beat the it. I didn't pay attention to the story and afterwards I was quite confused and also a bit intrigued in what I had achieved.

The next play through, I payed more attention to the story, and discovered some very nice elements. I won't imply that this is a literary masterpiece, in fact, the story seems a bit unfinished, but there was more that met my eye at first sight.

Now, the Neverwinter Nights franchise isn't particularly popular with the average player. That may correspond with the difficulty in gameplay, starting from the design of the character where the new player is presented with a lot of options. So this is perhaps not a good example in general, to see if a thoughtful and deep game can be successful.

I like to think that such a game is viable, and would be interesting to all kinds of players. Perhaps this could be achieved in (non-MMO) RPG's or FPS's, where the main storyline is playable without too much thought from the player. Yet if one takes his time and pays attention, the story will be highly enriched, and much more interesting to the more thoughtful gamer. Unfortunately I don't see too many game developers taking such efforts to please this relatively small crowd of gamers, even though it could draw in non gamers searching for something more then just 'a game'.

I'd welcome it.

As far as I'm concerned Diablo III has potential.

Brotherofwill:
Generally sophisticated work is always appreciated by the people that look, but the masses tend to ignore it...well it's always like this.

There's quite a few games that I hold to be more 'sophisticated' than most games, namely:
Grim Fandango Definatly
Ico Wish I'd played it
SotC Same as Ico
Portal
Psychonauts Didn't like this game so much - controls were lame even when i got a ps2 controller for my PC, all in all it just didn't appeal to me. My bad :(

I'd add:
Metroid Prime I
Age of Empires II
Football Manager series
Impressions City Builder Series - this series and that of the Football Manager games have really high standards, a great, proven and largely left-alone gameplay. I respect that. It's a good thing that the FM 3D match engine didn't ruin the game with gimmicks.

Many other games on that list but I'm just writing this post to fill in the time while waiting for my movie to end/let me go to sleep

But I doubt any of these games have or will ever have the commercial success of a Halo or Wii Sports. To be fair i thought halo I rocked - one of the best shooters ever - but your point stands anyway - I'd have said 'gears of war'

There is a pretty cool thing that Tim Schaefer said along the lines of:
Many people complain that games are still not seen as an art-from, but instead of complaining we should just start making more games that challenge those preconceptions. Quotes are fucking awesome

Same in music:
Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan, a motherfucking masterpiece, sold less than 2 million. Easy on the French there :P Yeah I agree dude, but eh the way of the world is thus: To find chunks of gold, you need to sift through metric tons of crap.

Oh, by the way, to end my evening, a great quote from the movie Goodmorning Vietnam, a hilarious Robin Williams comedy with a great director who managed to shove in enough symbolism so as to make that film rival a Kubrick masterpeice:

At the end of the movie, a simple character mumbles some advice to the protagonist (not totally audible, and said in a manner that has been framed as funny throughout the movie and is meant to disguise that the director is trying to get a message across), more or less: "When you look some like Goliath, ... then you be careful for some small-David"

i think that great dialouge can make or destroy a game..also i think that you have to in a way feel for the character. like i know when i played mgs4 i felt really bad for Snake because he had gotten so much older and he couldnt do as much and seeing him die slowly was saddening.

urprobablyright:
I'd welcome it.

As far as I'm concerned Diablo III has potential.

Diablo III has potential to be deep and thoughtful? I disagree completely, and in a very violent manner. A deep and thoughtful game, something that can truly be considered an artform, in my opinion, would be something like The Longest Journey, Dreamfall, Okami, Monkey Island, a Silent Hill game that got everything right (2 came pretty close)
All D3 looks to be is another Third Person Looter. Go out, kill monsters, teleport back to town, sell, repair, go back out, kill monsters, teleport back...

The reception of a really thoughtful and deep game.... as much as I would really enjoy (at least I think I would... because you could make this game in so many genres really) such a game.... it doesn't fit with the majority, stereotype, target audience, gamer. It would risk being left on the shelf as being too complex (the same mindset that's dumbing down alot of RPGs).

I've heard (I think it was in Game Informer) that they are making a game based on Dante's Inferno. Now if they do it right, it could be very deep and sophisticated. If they make the game true to the authors original intent, find a way to add context and cater more to those who have read the book and understand it...we could have something special.

However, I have a strong feeling it will be dumbed down, stripped of the novel's soul and made to be like Ninja Gaiden with a cool backdrop. That would be such a shame and a waste.

Nah, there aren't enough people smart enough to understand/purchase the game, and it would be shunned by the idiot masses for being too story-based.
Not that I wouldn't buy it, though.

A game can't be only thoughtful and deep.

And that's the main problem with this. There are loads of games people list when this comes up. Some of those games are excellent. Others are awful, despite being just as thoughtful and deep. Syberia, for example, is considered thoughtful and deep. It's also completely awful, and it relies almost entirely on it's graphics. Without graphics that game is nothing.

That however is also double-edged. A game like Halo relies just as much on it's graphics. A game like Halo will grow old and outdated, while Syberia won't. It's not the technical graphics, it's not the graphics in themselves either, it's what they're meant to represent, and how they're used.

At the other side we have Portal, that's also thrown out in the same list. Portal is a great game. It has some nice subtle and deep qualities about it, but it also has very well thought out gameplay.

The difference is that while Syberia is an amazing experience, it is a pretty bad one at the same time, since the game itself works against that experience, Portal is a really nice experience enhanced by the gameplay.

The point I'm trying to make is that a game has to be a game first. It has to have story, it has to have gameplay, it has to have everyhing, and THEN it can possibly be thoughtful and deep as well. It can't just be that. If it is everything else too, then it could be recieved well, or it couldn't, depending on how well-made it is.

There are so many factors to consider. Hell, even what thoughtful and deep is, I know my definition is different from yours. I don't think you need to analyze and re-read works to fully appreciate them. I think a thoughtful, a good, a deep book, movie or game is something that remains in your thoughts even when you've put it aside and moved on. Something you keep thinking about, something you keep coming back to, something that leaves an impact. Something that changes you, and how you percieve things. Not something you have to analyze, but rather something you'll want to explore. Not something you need to read again to understand, something that makes you imagine every possibility, every action, every step, and everything it didn't take up.

itsmeyouidiot:
One word: Okami.

Buy this game, people!

Exactly

"What would be the reception of a really thoughtful and deep game?"
You mean like STALKER?

Clashero:

urprobablyright:
I'd welcome it.

As far as I'm concerned Diablo III has potential.

Diablo III has potential to be deep and thoughtful? I disagree completely, and in a very violent manner. A deep and thoughtful game, something that can truly be considered an artform, in my opinion, would be something like The Longest Journey, Dreamfall, Okami, Monkey Island, a Silent Hill game that got everything right (2 came pretty close)
All D3 looks to be is another Third Person Looter. Go out, kill monsters, teleport back to town, sell, repair, go back out, kill monsters, teleport back...

By popular opinion, you might be right. Diablo II was considered by most people to be a multiplayer clickfest with next to no storyline, but to me (I didn't play it with anyone outside of LAN) diablo II had a great storyline, great execution, extreme polish, beautiful level and character design, and much more besides.

I reckon diablo III might not get it, but i doubt people who smack their head against their computer screens and multiplay the game down to a pulp will have much chance of experiencing what I get out of these games.

And for the record they're bringing in things to mean u don't need to rely on potions to much/don't have to teleport so much

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