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Consoleation: Irreconcilable differences

Peter Skerritt's picture

Beyond: Two Souls Screenshot

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:

For starters, 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, and we apparently need to start accepting that maturity is the next logical step for video games. We've heard similar gripes from luminaries like Jonathan Blow and Phil Fish within the last year, too.

For me, personally, I've learned that I need to get the heck away from modern gaming given this new direction. I don't want this at all, a homogenized and sanitized version of video games that rely more on how they make you feel or generating some sort of emotional response. To me, that's never been what video games have been about. They've been about getting away from growing up, from dealing with the pressures and stresses that life brings with it. They've been (and continue to be) an escape mechanism. Now these experiences that I've enjoyed are frowned upon, not acceptable, and considered immature or juvenile. I'm being told by the same people who I've relied on for this escapism that the party is over and that it's time to grow up in order to be taken seriously.

Luckily for me, I don't have to do that. Retro games don't adhere to this new line of thinking. If I want to mindlessly shoot aliens or beat up thugs with my favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, I can still have those experiences. I can be reminded of a time before this era of hyper-analysis and reading about how Game A is awful for us because it engages in Theme B or doesn't include enough of Theme C, which is just unfair and insensitive. Much of today's "new games journalism" works to go to depths that I've never really cared about—because they're games. Distractions. Methods of escape. Sure, I've written a fair amount of game reviews in my life, but they're primarily technical… talking about frame rates, sound quality, and whether I found the gameplay to be engaging and easy to learn. I've never been interested in finding out what makes this character tick or why the character wasn't a woman instead of a man, or why it's yet another shooting game because we should be embarrassed to see so many of them. With the retro experience, I'm able to go back to when "games journalism" was "enthusiast press," and how writers really were enthusiastic about what they covered.

It's not my place to say that this new, mature direction is right or wrong for the industry. If this is what they want, all power to them and I wish them the best of luck in their transition. I do, however, have the ability to divorce myself from this trend and go my own way because I refuse to conform to it. I'll stick with my NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, my Genesis, and even my PlayStation 2. I'll still talk about my own experiences, to anyone who wants to listen. I'll go my way, modern gaming will go its way, and an amicable split—much like we saw recently between SuperBot and Sony—will result.

I think I've learned this week that this is really the best possible outcome. I'm disappointed, but not angry. It's been a tremendous 30+ year relationship, but all good things come to an end. As I mentioned last year, it's a case of irreconcilable differences.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   Wii   PS3   3DS   Android   Vita   Wii U   Nintendo DS   PSP   PC   iPhone   iPad   Xbox   PS2   GameCube   Dreamcast   PlayStation   Nintendo 64   Game Boy Advance   Game Boy Color  
Key Creator(s): David Cage  
Articles: Editorials   Columns  

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Go mobile

I see what you're saying here, but have you considered that the "fun" games you're looking for might be in the mobile space?

Everyone poo-poos the Android and iOS games, but those are the simplified games that the console market seems to be running away from. Part of it is simply maturity, but let's face it, a lot of it is because these games are so expensive to make. Justify that $60-70 game with academy award-nominated actresses, deep storylines, heavy use of motion-capture and super HD graphics.

That leaves the likes of Nintendo and some stubborn third-party console developers to keep making games that are just bright, colorful and twitch-based. The source for these games is shrinking in the console space. The place to be, if you want new games and not keep replaying old games, may be mobile.

"Maturity" vs. "Fun": There's room for both...

I can understand the point: while I find myself increasingly drawn to art games like Journey and Braid and others (like the new island game Proteus, which looks amazing), I also want to be able to have more traditional gaming experiences that are less about art and more about fun.

But Peter. I think that out of a kind of fear, you might be misreading the point of the people you mention. I don't think they're arguing that the maturation of games means that ALL games must be like Journey; the reality is that games like Journey are still technically an extremely small minority, and many gamers are unaware of or simply do not play them. The vast majority of successful, attention-getting games are still games in the very conventional sense--and to those who seek artistry/narrative from games as opposed to only fun, that feels extremely limiting. And to those (in some cases older players) who equate fun games of that kind with immature Hollywood blockbusters and long to see more works in the medium that are analogous to the films they appreciate as mature adults, the expansion of the medium beyond that is important.

(See recent Gamespot interview with Jonathan Blow for a good discussion of this--it's now an issue more than in the past because gaming now more than ever needs to please multiple generations of gamers who in many ways have different wants and different experiences with games).

But I don't think their goal is to switch positions and create a video game environment in which art games dominate and there is virtually no space for traditional fun games--their goal is to create more room for art games and to allow games in general to develop more into a medium in which fun/entertainment is, instead of the only or main mode, one of many.

I think in many situations, when a dominant paradigm is being challenged to make room for other possibilities, the initial reaction of those who support the dominant paradigm is to react to the shift by imagining that they are now being pushed out or oppressed--but usually the reality is that they are simply losing total dominance as others (in this case other genres) begin to win some equality.

Glad to see you still

Glad to see you still putting up articles, Peter. I find it ironic that David Cage thinks the industry needs to grow up, when Heavy Rain is so full of plot holes and red herrings that it turns laughable by the end. Even though this generation will probably be my last, I still can find enough old school experiences on the current systems to keep me invested. For example, I've been playing the hell out of Resident Evil 6, and it reminds me of why I started playing games in the first place. It's a great time, and I think it was skewered by critics for all the wrong reasons. I'll even go as far as to say it's the most "fun" I've had with a game in the last year or so. Anyway, hope to see more articles from you in the future.

Most people saying games

Most people saying games need to grow up, actually grew up with games. That is they used to play mario on the snes etc, but as they have grown up, matured, settled and have jobs and families their tastes have changed, and what they deem 'fun' has changed. Natural part of growing up mate. Evidently, you still find jumping 8-bit pixellated characters on screen trying to beat nintendo-hard games still fun. That's your prerogative, but most if us have moved on somewhat, and I'm all for the more mature voices in the industry trying to push away from the formulaic mindless fps, angst and identity-crisis ridden, badass hero saves the world, and violence-for-its-own-sake games that dominate the industry these days. Journey and Walking Dead were magical experiences and I took away far more from those games than the normal teen oriented fare, or going 'retro' in your case. Long may these innovative types of game continue to be made.

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