I've learned a few things after reading about what's happened during the DICE Summit and Awards event that's taken place this past week. The industry seems to be crying out desperately for maturity. David Cage (Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls) says that games need to grow up. Warren Spector (Epic Mickey) says that games like Lollipop Chainsaw shouldn't be made. The industry wants more Journey and The Walking Dead experiences, as evidenced by these games winning 99.5% of the awards given out. The definition of "fun" is changing.
Just like Handel, the digital craftsman Hidetaka Suehiro seems equally excited, baffled, and reluctant to continue work on his most successful game yet, Deadly Premonition—a game that, dare I say it, could be a similarly-praised work hundreds of years from now. The game is being re-released this March as a PlayStation 3-exclusive entitled Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut. I was lucky enough to be able to sit down with the man and his producer, Tomio Kanazawa, last week to discuss the details. It was an event that was sometimes as intentionally mysterious as the goings-on in the game's fictional hamlet of Greenvale, but thrilling nonetheless.
Agents is a game by Recursive Frog (Patino) created for last month's Ludum Dare online game jam. The game is very simple on the surface, in that it's an audio-only adventure where players control two nefarious field agents solely via "voice calls" on their mobile phone. The task is to get them in to a guarded complex, then out, while helping them work together to stay alive.
There is a surprising downside to video game demos. With fewer and fewer options available for those that might want to try a game before buying it, demos are the default option. But demos have the adverse effect of underselling a good game or demonstrating how bad a bad game really is. Understandably, many developers and publishers aren't willing to take that chance. Where does that leave us? The guys at Extra Credits take a look.
Extra Credits comes with another interesting game design breakdown. It is, as they readily admit, a bit heavy in game theory, but being aware of this aspect of game creation can go a long way toward a gamer understanding how limiting our current genres actually are. We might also see how limited our game creators are and why some titles simply miss being that breakout hit.
The guys at Extra Credits ask if the video game industry can move beyond games that are simply "fun." Where are the tragic gaming experiences that don't provide a happy ending? Where are the deep, thoughtful experiences that can't be summed up in a catchy subtitle on the box or communicated clearly via box art? We've seen this question pop up frequently during the last few years and we've even seen the creation of a category of games called "serious games" come out of that discussion. As the name implies, it includes games that provide gamers with something other than entertainment. We've also seen the indie games industry pick up the mantle and releasing promising experimental games across the various platforms.
But efforts like that do not reach the mainstream and Extra Credits argues that it is well past time for the industry as a whole to head in that direction. Without true breadth of content, games will never escape the children's plaything or disposable diversion stigma. An entertainment medium seen as having little to no value cannot fight censorship attacks as we are now seeing in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre. The Obama Administration and Congress might not be so quick to act if there were anything more than grey military shooters and primary-colored wish fulfillment populating store shelves.
Extra Credits talks about hooking the player within the first five minutes. Honestly, this sounds like something all developers would understand to be necessary in capturing the attention of the average person. Television, movies, music, texting, the Internet and other games are all waiting to steal a consumer's attention (and dollars) should a game fail to immediately hook a gamer. But it's hard to argue that this isn't the case. Why else would we still hold up older games like God of War, BioShock and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare as examples of doing it right? Why else would so many great games languish on "To be Played Later" shelf and sit there long after the hardware they were made for has been discontinued?
A rare mailbag episode has appeared. This brief video has Extra Credits answering fan questions like what they think of Nintendo's Wii U, the Ouya, the Oculus Rift and Electronic Arts advertising guns to Medal of Honor players.
Coincidentally, I'm posting Extra Credits video the same week that it was leaked that Sony filed a patent for technology that would ban used or second hand games on its hardware. If true it is evidence of how tightly game companies are still holding onto the old ways of doing things oblivious to newer options. This Extra Credits presentation doesn't criticize such a practice, but it does talk about monetization of games and stress how the industry has moved beyond static price structures. Companies like a Sony (and by extension a Microsoft, a Nintendo and countless third party publishers) would best take notice and evolve with the times.
This is another interesting episode from the guys and gals at Extra Credits. This time they cover "limitation systems" or "energy systems," systems used to actually extend playtime or the life of a game. Things like this sadden me only because it makes me more aware of how games (and their creator's) these days are trying to manipulate you into spending more money without realizing it.
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