Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Intelligence and games: a poor pairing?
Today I read an article about the top games of 2007 in the UK. The chart itself was very different from the popular titles of the United States, but that's to be expected. The biggest difference, as noted by the author of the article, was that 2K's award winning shooter was nowhere to be seen on the UK list. This caused a great deal of discussion among readers of the article. In one disturbing reply, one reader commented in regards to BioShock: "It was a FANTASTIC title, but I'm sure all of this talk about noir, Art Deco, and objectivist undertones must have turned a few of the people off who regard games as day-end relief and not an exercise in artistry. "
While the statement is a factual one, I found myself revisiting it over and over in my thoughts, having discovered a sticking point about it that truly bothered me. I felt true indignation at the idea of being "turned off" by BioShock. The title was the very definition of an intellectual gaming experience - a rich storyline meshed with highly addictable gameplay mechanics. It made an unforgettable impact on me last year, and this article and comment provided a shocking contrast to that, shaking me outside of my own thoughts and into those of others for a few moments.
While it's perfectly understandable that a gamer may not always want a rich, thoughtful gaming experience and sometimes craves something simpler, it's unthinkable for me that a game like BioShock is not a welcome addition to our industry as a whole. More disturbing is the underlying concept, which suggests that "intelligent" games are looked down upon as a nuisance by some people.
I have days where I want to settle down and play a game where all I do is kill shit as much as the next guy. In the case of titles like Diablo, these can be addicting experiences than I go back to again and again. However, twenty of years of playing games puts me in a place where I do crave newness from the hobby I love, and bigger and better versions of what have come before don't always hit the nail on the head. Dynamic storytelling, however, can make all the difference.
If gamers look down on this, and all they want is more of the same, they crush some part of the very craft that creates the things that we cherish. I beg you - if you play games, and they have made a difference in your life, want more for their future than this. In order to continue, games have to be allowed to evolve, and supported by the people who love what they are. You don't have to personally play games like BioShock, but for the love of fucking Christ, use your eyes and see how they have helped break boundaries and push games to be more. They deserve your respect.