Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hmm....I dunno...

Ok...Kotaku turned me onto this flick, made my a prof. in Georgia. All about sex and video games...pretty neat, I suppose.


the problem I have with it is the same problem I have when academics, forum posters, and game makers- all folks whom it SEEMS (whom? who? whatever!)...but folks whom it seems have never actually been in a position to design a game- decide to go off on how games should be more artistic, emotional, and relevant; how games should deal with more serious subject matter than just power fantasy. They also assume that game designers/publishers are just pandering to the current fanboys instead of growing the medium, or that game makers are simply immature.

And yes, some of that is true.

But MOST of the reason games have not delved into more mature subject matter has to do- in my mind- with the fact that we don't know HOW to do it! Not because we're idiots. But because the medium itself has yet to show much in the way of a capability to examine more serious subject matter in a way that is compelling.

I remember being on a panel with the amazingly talented Harvey Smith a few years ago and he was talking about how he wanted to make a game about death. Now to me, my knee jerk was: sweet, it's an action game like Devil May Cry but you control a bad ass version of the grim reaper and you use his scythe in cool,violent, bloody ways! Love it!!! (by the way, no you can not rip off that idea...that baby is gold!)...

...but Harvey- being a very smart, deep thinker- was talking about DEATH as a force, as the thing that rips lives apart, that turns the circle of life,etc,etc,etc...you know, a deep, meaningful game.

And I loved it. Loved the promise of it.

But I asked him then- just like I would ask now- what is the actual GAMEPLAY!?!? What do you DO with the controller?!?!

And that- it seems- is where alot of us get stuck.

It is very, very, very easy to shoot the shit about our artistic ambitions. It makes us- and the medium- sound good and important and relevant to those who know very little about games. And it makes us- who know alot about games- feel- at times- like we are doing something more than just making electronic theme park rides. And this makes us feel more important and all arty farty.

I love those feelings. People should feel arty farty from time to time. It's nice.

But the reality is, the medium- so far- has shown a piss poor ability to actually deliver on these lofty promises.

And yes, the medium is KIND of young. But it's old enough to have given us SOMETHING along the lines that our critics say we should be making. And if you look at the medium of GAMES themselves, well, there's over 4000 years of road behind us at this point, and there's not alot- anything?- that I can point to in my board/card game collection that evokes deep philosophical discourse and/or deep, emotional release. Sure, you can claim chess is a metaphor for war, but that metaphor is not clear while playing the game unless someone tells you about the metaphor first. Playing the game of chess itself does not make one think of the sacrifices of soldiers or the tragedy of war. And if it does: you so crazy!

Now to me, all of that doesn't mean we should not try.

I played a bit of flOwer the other day, from That Game Company and I was like: hey, this makes me feel....well, it's not my place to spoil their game and tell you how it made me feel. But it DID make me feel. And there have been a few other games the last few years that seem to be doing SOMETHING that, in doing so, affects me on a fresh- for games- emotional level.

So it seems like it IS possible? But the question is:

is this just the start of deeper, more meaningful games now that people are able to start trying out these theories they've had about games for years but can only now- with the indie game scene- execute on those ideas? Or are we killing ourselves to be relevant and meaningful but even with all that work, we're only able to squeeze out a touch here and a touch there, and it's never going to go beyond that?

Ok, lots to do...gotta run! Later ya'll!