I’m in my senior year, studying graphic design and doing my final year project, which will be due in January 2009. I’m a big gamer; played videogames since I was little and got my NES (which I still keep,) and have kept going at it since then, more or less uninterrupted. So I guess it’s no surprise that I decided to make, for my project, a game; the first videogame I’ve ever made. Nevertheless, this post is not about my project, but, rather, about my opinion on videogames, which I hope will serve to justify my choice. Though I consider myself a critical individual, I’ve cut videogames a lot of slack in the past; I’ve become a lot more critical of the medium lately, though, and done a lot of reading on the subject because of my project. Thus, a collection of some posts I’ve made elsewhere, on the subject of videogames:
I’m completely aware that videogames are mostly useless. Games do need to get smarter, like movies have over the decades; they need to make the player think, much like a good novel would. Videogames just pale if compared with most other entertainment media, because they are all designed to move as many units in as short a time span as possible; we know that best sellers are not the smartest, best examples in other media, and videogames seem to be comprised of only this subset.
there are games in which we act in predetermined ways, and are judged binarily, and those in which we actually make things, while acting creatively. The second group, in comparison with the first, is barely even represented; I had trouble thinking of even a few that would fit the criteria. Make a list yourself, so you can see my point; shelves are populated with games that demand little or no creative input from the player. Sure, there’s nothing wrong in some game that will exercise our fine motor skills, our concentration abilities, our memory, etcetera. But why are there so few games that will help us exercise our creativity?
Bah, creativity, ‘big deal.’ It is a big deal, but that’s not even the point: this is just an example that illustrates the state of the industry as a whole. The big majority in it is pushing in the exact same direction, and this is evident when examining the variety of their output, which mostly caters to a massive audience’s cravings for meaningless reward and pleasure, and everything that is not instinctively accepted by their members is instantly disregarded as unmarketable. Even the indie scene largely follows the same paradigms. Every entertainment industry (cinema, literature) has big blockbusters/best-sellers beside more subtle, culturally-relevant pieces that highlight the medium’s worth as more than just wasting one’s time; why does the videogame industry insist in giving us junk food for every meal?
The [videogames industry] was kick-started only about 35 years ago, and even though it is today shifting a lot of money, it’s clearly immature and in its crawling age. Shouldn’t more people attempt to tear through the smoke screen of vain success that is our current paradigm, to allow the medium to get off the floor?
[I do not believe] that games should strive to be fun as their main, mandatory goal. Satisfying the senses should not be the main concern, else we’re talking about porn for the mind. The main concern should be what is gained; having fun should not be the goal of the game, but a by-product. Today, games at large offer but empty, content-less instinctual gratification, much like the lower forms of other expressive media. (…) Good literature is intellectually stimulating; can games get away with ‘exercising reflexes’?
The fact is that the medium has a huge potential. How often have we learned something of value for life from a game? We learn things all the time from more linear media, as those tell stories with which we could relate to and learn from vicariously. But in games we are in control, we experience things ourselves; we could be faced with difficult conundrums, philosophical questions that put our beliefs in doubt, and which we have to confront on our own… But to this day we mostly have to use our reflexes, or simply identify patterns, in order to beat the game.
There are a few games out there that transcend this fate, but (…) the medium is largely irrelevant, and at times even nocive, in its current form.