In the quest for the AAA title, it seems our beloved game industry sometimes forgets what it's about: entertaining. While photorealistic graphics can enhance a gameplay experience, do they really add to entertainment? Or perhaps making a game longer, like some of the 100+ hour RPGs on the market - is that more entertaining than one that's, say, 40 hours?
I'm not saying that games can't have a deeper purpose than entertaining, but they are likely to get their point across a little better if they are. This is the same with educational books, television or movies; those that entertain are often more engaging, and therefore, fulfill their purpose a bit better.
So, if the purpose is to entertain, no matter the subject, why do games continuously get bigger and better and brighter and faster? Why are new features/graphics/hours and hours of gameplay added at questionable entertainment value? To push the limits. To utilize new technology. To challenge seasoned players. To please the hardcore.
Developers are beginning to realize that this might be faulty logic. With more games being made every year, and each of those games, on average, costing more to make, pleasing first and foremost a rather small segment of the population that most people don't have time to be a part of (no matter how much they might like to), is less than fiscally responsible.
But alienating them is no good either. Traditional "casual games" (I put in quotes because I've ... ahhh ... seen other people ... ahem ... obsess over things like Tetris and Sudoku.) often do not hold hardcore gamers' attention the way an RPG does. What is a game developer to do?
Perhaps the mark is somewhere in the middle? There's certainly a trend in that direction. As we see in Drake's article, long time casual game experts, Popcap, are moving a little more toward a fully fleshed out RPG with their new title, Bookworm Adventures Deluxe. In Pitts' article, renowned game designer Warren Spector talks about moving toward more digestible, less complex games. And Aihoshi talks about the barriers to entry in the current crop of massively multiplayer online games, and how these must fall for the genre to grow. It seems as though there's a movement afoot! To read these articles, and more about casual games, check out this week's issue of The Escapist.