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.


Tyler said...

I completely agree.
I heart you, and Bioshock.

Azereki said...

Unfortunately, it appears that gaming is coming to a crossroads. On the one hand, you have all of these people who grew up playing games. You have the hardcore and intelligent gamers, those who are looking for something new and exciting. Games that challenge them or leave them in awe. IMO, some of the more recent games like BioShock and Mass Effect have come a long way from their genre roots to show us something we may not have seen before and for that we laud them with praise.

On the other hand, you have the growing casual population and those who just started playing. It looks like they are soon to be the majority as well. People who only play Halo, Madden, Grand Theft Auto or any one of the numerous other rehashed franchises that we see coming out every few months. Not to say that any of these franchises don't have good titles, they have to start somewhere.

It's the point where developers and probably more guilty, the publishers, see that even if they stop innovating the game will still sell. As long as it looks pretty and delivers a similar gameplay experience to its predecessor, the dollars signs are the only thing that seem to matter.

Unfortunately, the group that has the largest buying power is also going to be the group that games continue to be made for. I fear the day that gaming goes the way of the music industry, when hardcore gamers no longer have a voice. It will be the day when the only innovative games are being developed and published independently without the obvious benefits of huge financial backing.

kadosho said...

An item like this, its kinda a tough one to crack with mainstream. Lately if it isn't "Halo" or (insert title here), its going to get glanced over. But that seems like weak sauce. Sometimes I kinda wonder if media has more influence, than we really take for granted.

Even though I divulged into BioShock once, it was worth the dive. I really do wish there was more titles like this out there. To be honest, it feels like Metroid Prime. Taking a chance, and seeing whats next above the surface.

Goes to show, taking chances might be an opportunity that the industry doesn't see anymore. But ones it hits mainstream, things might give to more obstacles. Trying to push for more quantity over quality, and even more.

If there is a chance for another entry in the BioShock saga. Let it unfold in a proper way, and it will be engaging no matter what platform.