There is hope

Quote from a Letter To The Editor of Gamasutra on GameSetWatch:

I am so impressed by the excellence of your website and your enormous technical and creative skills, but am shocked by the underlying assumptions of your games. They revolve around win/lose, zero sum, might makes right thinking, and a tooth and claw view of nature, while there’s a whole new effort out there to raise consciousness on new paradigms for conceptualizing life.
I encourage you to use your considerable talents to change and evolve people’s views, to create games which engage people’s moral awareness, and connect with our highest aspirations, rather than repeat the ordinary win/lose thinking and pessimistic assumptions which can be seen everywhere.

Hope Benne, Professor of History at Salem State College.

While the author seems to be keen on replacing one fanatical doctrine with another, I do think she has a point. It is time that we start paying attention to the content of our games. Contemporary games have become so much more than just games. And we shouldn’t be surprised that non-gamers don’t even see or appreciate the game aspect of their design. They see stories and themes and ideas. It’s about time that we, designers, do so as well.

There will always be a place for games. And the odd Tamagotchi will probably affect society at large. But when it comes to learning about life and enjoying its depth and complexity, we need something else.

5 thoughts on “There is hope”

  1. Hopefully some people are still noticing the above post, even though the one above that is excellent (and really long). This quote, no matter how fanatical it may appear to some (in what way?), is pretty much thought for thought what I think about the state of industry driven gaming. And I believe the industry is feeling the change that people are beginning to embrace, as evident in the low sales figures of Cysis and UT3:

    Apparently, at peaks times, there are thousands of people torrenting UT3 simultaneously. So plently of people want to play the game, but very few think it’s worth paying for. This trend is evident across all forms of entertainment, and this is a conversation to be had in its own space (in which we dress how entertainment SHOULD be pirated because the proprietary domain over art is based purely on the reproduction/copying of that art and has little to do with the art itself), but I want to focus on how “worthless” games have become. Nothing has inherently changed about games, or the industry models. Unreal Tournament is the same formula today as it was 8 years ago when I and millions of other children and young adults enjoyed playing it. But this is indicative of the absolute failure of the games industry as a whole because they’ve failed to realize an absurdly obvoius fact: We’ve changed. Not just our technology, not just social trends, but our minds, feeling, conceptual capacities, abstract reasoning. And I’m not just talking about the generation of adults who grew up playing video games. The whole world is in a completely different place. The ignorant individuals today are light years ahead of the ignorant individuals of twenty years (1988 was 20 years ago?), so think how far the intelligent individuals have come. I would submit that any art form (and games are an art form whether they’re treated that way or not) that engages people on the level that entertainment generally engaged people in the 1990’s is essentially worthless. It has no place in our present and it has no place in our future, because what am I gonna do with a virtual grenade launcher when I can have virtual sex, and virtual relationships, and virtual knowledge, and virtual music jam sessions (which btw produce non-virtual music :). Why would I want to fight with you over the dominance of a battle field, when the battle field has nothing of interest to offer me? It’s pretty in the same way that a page out of playboy is pretty, when there’s an intellegent, sensual, loving and horny woman sitting next to me, inviting me to have a conversation.
    But what if these games WERE fulfilling? Should we stop torrenting once the emotional and spiritual qualities of entertainment begin to meet our requirements for exploration and fulfillment? Isn’t that a great question for someone else to answer?

  2. It’s funny to read this comment after watching an episode of Star Trek in which people from the 20th century or thawed out and brought back to life in the 24th… :)

    I’m not sure if humankind has progressed all that much in the last 20 years. And there may be several other reasons why Unreal Tournament and Crysis might have sold less than expected. But other, equally barbaric games have done very well.

    I don’t think the games industry as a whole is failing. In fact it seems to be opening up to new kinds of things. The problem is that the only motivation seems to be exclusively profit. And that’s where things fall apart. Games have indeed become an artform. But art creation comes with responsibility. And game developers do not seem to be inclined to take up that responsibility.

  3. Guess I was mostly speaking from the frustration of not finding work like yours in the kind of “high production value”, finished form that all that other shit is so readily available in. Yes, the industry has a grand adventure ahead of it, that it’s not quite ready to take. Profit is everyone’s motivation in America, “the land of the free”. I don’t think you’ll see alot of truly innovative experiences coming from this side of the water any time soon, so hurry up with The Path! :)

  4. It is a publisher’s job to run a business that makes money. It is nice if they have a kind of vision. But they can only work with the material that is being produced.

    I think it is ultimately the developer’s responsibility to care for the content of their work. That content does not need to be criminal or barbaric to sell. It’ll be a tough transition because publishers are used to trash. But once they realize that they’ve been dabbling in the games equivalent of the B-movie category for decades, they will quickly follow.

    I can sense a certain openness in the publishers at the moment. It is really a good time for developers to push for some changes. The question is: do they have what it takes?

  5. I think this kind of thinking is an important contributor to the sea of thoughts going towards creating interesting and wonderful games that go past the current standards and ideas.

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