In response to “Better Than Film” from The Escapist Forum: The obsession with making games like film is actually going to be more poisonous to the industry than most would think. For the last decade, the comics industry, for example, has tried to borrow heavily from film, and while that resulted in a select few series being good (DMZ and Ultimate Spider-Man, for example), most of what we got from that industry was long, drawn out, pretentious fluff, often consisting of one or two people talking for 22 pages, then a “To Be Continued” caption gets tacked on the end (for example, the entire body of work of Daniel Way…).

Likewise, “cinematic” gaming has only produced a handful of gems (with probably the best one being Metal Gear Solid, the first one, more than a decade ago! And Kojima took all the wrong lessons from his success in that game), and the rest being primarily mediocre imitations of film (the vastly-overrated Heavy Rain).

I’m not saying games shouldn’t borrow ideas or techniques from other industries, what I’m saying is developers shouldn’t be looking to copy wholesale in an effort to make their games ‘Art’ with a capital A, because that’s not what artists do (that’s the realm of hacks). Instead, developers, just like anyone in any creative field, should ask themselves “What lessons can we learn from other works, even in other fields?”, “How can and can’t we apply them here?” and, most importantly, “What can I add to the mix by making this?” If developers ask themselves those questions, and some already have, then the industry can and will “grow up,” so to speak.

SamElliot’sMustache

Comparing Heavy Rain to Citizen Kane is really pushing it, I’m afraid. And saying that Heavy Rain was a milestone in gaming? Uh, no! Don’t get me wrong, I liked the game, but there was as much wrong with it as there was right.

This might be beating a dead horse, but if you want innovation in games look at Shadow of The Colossus: Riding your horse actually felt like riding a horse instead of, say, driving a car as it does in other games with horse riding gameplay. Interacting with skyscraper-tall beings that were beautifully animated, but most of all, it told a story through gameplay instead of cutscenes. Sure, there were cutscenes, but only at the beginning and the end of the game and their only purpose was to set up the game and to conclude the game. The actual emotion of bonding with your horse and coming to the grim realization of your actions, was achieved through gameplay. And that is something I have yet to see in another game, except maybe Ico.

I really liked the big blockbuster games of the last few years like Gears of War 2, Uncharted 2 and Mass Effect 2, but they seem to feel more like movie experiences rather then videogames. In the end, I want the bulk of my games to feel like videogames and not like movies.

Casual Shinji

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In response to “Our Turn to Decide” from The Escapist Forum: I don’t particularly think gaming will ever mature past the level it is now.

Good.

Gaming, at it’s most basic, allows us to live out our fantasies. And, unless you’re the most boring person on the planet/never had a childhood, you can bet that most peoples fantasies will either involve sex, violence, improbable feats or some combination of the three. Gaming can be very mature when it wants to be, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but is there really any problem with killing lots of people in the most violent way possible? Assuming you’re old enough to play it. No, there isn’t. It’s fun, and that’s all there is to it. Sure, people will say it’s immature and morally reprehensible, but who really cares? The games still get made, and they’re still fun. You’re making a bunch of pixels fall over. And it’s fun.

Movies, although touted as more ‘mature’, are almost the same. I challenge you, look through your DVD collection for films that involve no sex, blood, violence of any kind or swearing. There will be a few, but I bet they’ll be massively overwhelmed by the amount of titles that involve one or all of the above. Hell, back in the ‘good old days’, films, books and theatre were just as violent. The only thing stopping them from being really violent were the same kind of puritans that today hark back to them as some sort of golden age.

Gaming is for entertainment. It doesn’t need to be any more mature, especially if we go by the definition of mature that non-gamers want it to be, that is, boring! That doesn’t mean games can’t be art, but as far as I see it, games are fine as they are.

Nice article.

Furburt

Furburt:
I don’t particularly think gaming will ever mature past the level it is now.

Good.

And that, I think, is the problem. People don’t want the medium to mature more.

But if we ever want videogames to become, I don’t want to use the term ‘accepted’, but less looked down upon, then the gamers need to step up and make it so. We need to become more than just the CoD dickholes screaming obscenities into XBox Live. We need to become more than just socially inept man-children in our basements playing WoW for 30 hours a week (or more) while ignoring the outside world.

Until society takes gamers seriously, they will not take gaming seriously. And gaming will always be viewed as a child’s toy, and will never be an adult.

I like how the article puts it, though. Once gaming stops being looked down upon as a child’s thing, gaming can then decide what it wants to be.

I’m not saying that gaming needs to stop being violent, or sexy, or whatever. I am saying that gaming (and gamers) needs to improve its image so that it can be violent or sexy or whatever without causing an uproar. I mean, if there was a movie with the same plot and action as GTA IV, it probably would have done very well at the box office and noone would have cared. But since it was a videogame…well, you know the rest.

Nightfalke

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In response to “Playing For Our Future” from The Escapist Forum: I can’t imagine anybody wants their appendix out by a guy who equates the operation to fighting imaginary aliens or yanking the evil “god-thing” from a possessed person. The notion that technology allows for time-eating distractions to become more and more accessible during the other, more mundane aspects of life is not a notion, it is granted. But I doubt anybody will ever need cereal box animatics to convince a kid to eat his sugar blasts.

Likewise, it is human nature to categorize, file, label, and marginalize. That most people will one day play games will not stop them from categorizing those they view as less savory amongst their number into groups apart from them. Remember, the term “gamer” actually comes from the tabletop RPG and wargaming community, pre-dating its use for video game players by many, many years. And though those sorts of games have gained much acceptance through references from high profile celebrities and mentions in movies and TV shows, it is still a niche and somewhat marginalized hobby, and to some people always will be. Just as with video games, you will always have a disparity between those who make games their lives, those who do so but whom the others don’t like for whatever reason, and those who think all of it is idiotic.

The technology behind video games is important – again, a no-brainer – but that technology’s proliferation into every aspect of our lives need not be in the form of games, and certainly it would be a bad idea if it became so (see the first sentence of my post). Games, by definition, are for fun, not for serious business, and as stupid and unwise a species as we are, I have a strong suspicion we are not so stupid as to let idleness and silliness into our attempts at passing the bar exam.

Acceptance is the key issue here. What makes somebody feel like an outcast? Often it is the bad timing of a single word. In this case “gamer.” But a new word will be found and marginalization will take place somehow, and a gamer by any other name… well.

Video games are one aspect of a gigantic technological revolution. They are handy in many ways. But again, they are only one aspect of that revolution. They are not humanity’s answer to the Big Questions. And heaven forbid they should become so. If they are allowed to, we deserve whatever mess is ahead of us.

bruunwald

Hey, this article tricked me! It looked like it was going to be about video game design, but it’s about plain game design! LIAR LIAR.

Well, of course everyone loves games, although not everyone may admit that with those exact words, but I’m not sure if gaming becoming somehow ubiquitous is a good or desirable outcome. I acquire some minimal enjoyment out of unlocking an achievement on my 360, (mostly because the achievement is usually a lame pun and I love lame puns), but I might become bothered if my social network gave me a “Just Friends” achievement if none of my female friends assigned me as a crush or whatever is the most generic equivalent.

Re: gamer as a label, I read somewhere a long time ago what is essentially a paraphrase of the first paragraph, that ‘gamers’ are bound to disappear just as TV fans aren’t ‘watchers’ or music fans aren’t ‘listeners’. To that I say: bullshit. Look at me in the eyes and tell me ‘punk’ isn’t a relevant subculture. Now tell me that, regardless of everything in behavior and appearance it implies, ‘punk’ isn’t primarily about music. See? Music fans don’t call themselves ‘noteheads’, but people who enjoy a certain kind of music create a subculture about it. Just as there are cons for fans of sci-fi TV shows and how fans of indie music gather to smoke clover cigarettes and wear berets. ‘Gamer’ may become an obsolete, incorrect label as more people play games, so it may end up referring only to those who identify with gaming at a higher level, as it kind of already does, but will not, in the foreseeable future, disappear.

The Random One

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In response to “Jane McGonigal Lives the Game” from The Escapist Forum: I saw her talk at TED a while ago. While I liked what she had to say, most often, when her talk has come up, on the occasions on which it has come up, most of what I hear from others is pretty derisive. Or she is simply outright mocked. I’m not bashing your article, but Jane Mcgonigal does herself a disservice when presenting her ideas. Her nerdy presentation has alienated the people (at least the group I’ve met so far) she wants to “employ”. Of course it was TED, so probably the idea of some sort of translator went out the window. But she needs some help getting her ideas across in a way that seems hip to the people that create those huge number of man hours she wants to use.

I had a similar idea about the use of the time spent playing video games by a lot of people, and when I saw her talk, I thought it sounded really interesting, I went to Superstruct.org and never actually signed up, the description was enough to turn me away.

What she doesn’t do (or seemed like she didn’t do there) is provide a visceral experience for the “player” (more of a participant really). Games are predicated on fun, what she seems to create is contrived version of fun to me. A shallow metaphor that’s not a good enough deceit to get the kind of effort she wants for these projects.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m all for utilizing the man-hours put into gaming for a good cause, that concept is one that has real merit. But the more I see of her, the more I see her as not particularly able to create something that’s genuinely engaging to the largest number of players. And this is not based solely on my impression, this is based on a fair number of people’s impressions of her game. They had no real interest, I suspect that is partially because of her very nerdy presentation of her ideas, but also, for a very real and large part, because it doesn’t offer escape! There’s no metaphor masking the reality behind it, or close to none. I’m glad people are funding her efforts however, it doesn’t matter to me who is doing it, just that it doesn’t become an effort to endorse something else.

the_carrot

I don’t know, I just can’t get behind games as saving the world. Sure, they might influence some people. They might inspire others to do good. But at their heart, they’re escapist. You don’t usually play a game to realize the harshness of the world, but to get away from whatever boring or unfair situation that exists in your own life.

While a video game might keep people from doing bad things, it wont replace the need to actually do good things for others.

And that’s why they shouldn’t get a Nobel Peace prize.

notthatbright

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In response to “Old School vs. New Wave” from The Escapist Forum: I agree with some of what the interviewees said, but I have a couple arguments against it.

I agree that chasing tech-inspired awe is starting to get old. Graphics are so good that it’s hard to get any better. What’s more real than photorealism? True 3D? We are starting to hit the limits of what we, as humans, can perceive (which is awesome!). At the same time, each leap is getting smaller: never again will we have a leap like moving from the 2.5D graphics of the SNES to the 3D graphics of the N64.

With the “wow” factor of tech innovations tapering off, customers are more interested in other things. The Wii wasn’t a hit because of its graphics, but because it had an entirely new way to interact with the system. Maybe it became a gimmick, or maybe it didn’t reach its real potential, but I was interested in it as a customer because it was something that hadn’t been done before: it was the next big thing.

New game ideas are also a big thing. I jumped all over Braid when it first came out and I loved it. Guitar Hero took off when the franchise first started and Harmonix continued to gain customers when they introduced Rock Band.

Customers aren’t necessarily looking for new, fancier graphics, they are just looking for something new. They want the biggest, the best, and the newest. They want something different than they had yesterday. If you can do that with better graphics, great, but you can also do it with new ideas of all kinds: stories, characters, gameplay, mechanics, you name it.

Along the same lines, I think the interest in old games has arisen because new games are starting to lose their innovative edge. Every now and then we get a fun new adventure, like Rock Band, Braid, or Fallout 3, but most of the time we get rehashes of the same game again and again: how many more Halo-like shooters do we need? How many soccer, golf, and hockey games? As each company attempts to perfect their IP and their recipe for success, the “wow” factor disappears because each game becomes that much more like the other.

But why does this make old games interesting? Because what’s old is new again. Modern games are nothing like the old classics, and in comparison, the old ones seem new, interesting, and different. When you look at the complex graphics, video, and special effects that go into a modern game, it’s hard to imagine that an old 8-bit game with sprites and square waves could be as engaging and gratifying as it was, but they are, proving that a game is more than just the technology that goes into it. The minimalist, often absurdist style that went into those old games stands in stark contrast to the realism of modern games, and this makes them appealing.

It can be hard to see past the bias of nostalgia, but it can also be hard to remember that these classic games are classics because they really were good games. They had interesting stories, characters, and gameplay, and these are elements that don’t degrade over time. In fact, their primitive stylings make them attractive because they have become a reflection of a bygone era, the same way that watching an old black-and-white movie brings back some romanticism for a simpler time.

In all of this, I think we have lost something from that era. When technology was limited, developers had to make their games compelling in other ways. The stories, characters, and mechanics all had to be innovative in order to stand out from the rest. Sure, there were lots of games that were yet-another-platformer, but there were also a lot of games that were completely unlike anything before: Dig Dug, Lolo, Bomberman, Donkey Kong, Tetris, Qix, Pipe Dreams, Fire and Ice — the list is long and the games are varied. In their refinement, modern games have started to converge on specific formulas that work, such as first-person shooters, real-time strategies, and role-playing games, and no longer branch out into entirely different genres (rhythm games being one of the major exceptions). Perhaps we have just discovered all of the genres and mechanics that are possible, but I think we have just stopped trying to find new ones because the current ones have been so successful from a business perspective. After all, the indie guys continue to come up with entirely new ideas.

Overall, there is nothing particularly wrong with new games: they are converging towards perfection in the genres and technologies that they have target for the last decade or more. But at the same time, this perfection has lead to a lack of differentiation between product lines, leaving customers wanting something new and different. And in comparison, old games sure look different, making what was old new again.

ReverseEngineered

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