Friday, September 17, 2010

Journalistic Assumptions

I'm really tired of journalists writing pieces about what they feel is lacking in games- be it deeper artistic sensibilities, deeper stories, meaningful mature views of the world, or more realistic portrayals of women- and framing the opinion as if it's a foregone conclusion that what they are asking for simply needs to happen and it's our lack of maturity as developers or our lack of ability or our fear of a lack of sales that are the things that prevent their desires from coming true.

It's like they never stop to consider that perhaps many of us game developers don't want what THEY want.

Maybe some of us LIKE games that don't want to be art.
Maybe some of us would rather be the Jerry Bruckheimer of games than gaming's Orson Wells.
Maybe some of us LIKE portraying women in a more comic booky way (the same way- by the way- that the vast majority of male game characters are portrayed).
Maybe some of us don't want to load our games down with political and philosophical discourse.

The point is not whether games can or should push at these boundaries. For some developers and gamers they absolutely should try to do so (and some games do try and at times somewhat succeed). For other gamers and developers, not so much.

But just because YOU- dear journalist- may want games to be a certain way (and you have every right and in some ways even an obligation to shout from the rooftops about what you don't like and what you want to see changed about the medium that you cover) don't assume that we all have the same desires that you do. And more importantly don't assume that the reason things are not the way you want them is because game makers are just not trying hard enough or we're all stunted or we're all too scared of not moving units.

And if you really want to write about this topic in a fresh, meaningful way- and since some of you are so clear on the fact that if we were just more grown up as developers we could be making video game versions of Citizen Kane (don't fucking get me started),  how about an article explaining exactly what you mean? Be specific. Explain first off what it is about Citizen Kane you want to see done interactively. Explain the psychology that drives a player to chase after feelings and emotions in a videogame that they can already get in other mediums. Talk about the collapse of the suspension of disbelief in the fiction- that is required to immerse someone in a film or book (and thus allows those mediums to be powerfully emotional and moving)- that occurs the moment you pick up a controller and are given a task to complete. Discuss the challenge - and is it even possible- to create emotion while a player is also- at the same time- busy dealing with a task. Instead of just being accusatory ('developers are stunted' 'developers are scared of real women and/or don't understand women'), and instead of being presumptuous ('games should be ABOUT something! They should tackle the tough subjects like marriage and death and politics and these game makers are just so worried about blockbusters that they avoid making the medium great!) actually dig into whether this thing you say you want is even possible in this medium, how it works, the brain science and psychology behind interactivity and how there may (or may not) be ways to merge play and emotion.


ps. before anyone comments about how games can be art and such, I get it. I want games that have deeper meaning and deal with tougher issues as well. I'm not opposed to that. And as much as I'd like some games I work on to allow me to proudly wear the 'Jerry Bruckheimer' label, there are times- and games I want to make- that would let me drape myself in the cloak of Sidney Pollack or Spielberg or Nolan. So I'm not hating on the idea of games being 'more' than just action/adventure and explosions and T&A. I'm bitching about some journalists that assume that the reason most games are not 'more' than this has everything to do with lazy, untalented, and/or scared developers.