After seeing videos and reports of some of the talks at this year’s Independent Games Festival, I’m saddened. Sure, all those indie game developers are having the time of their lives out there, and the scene seems to be growing and doing very well for itself. The problem is, it’s just all a bit empty. There’s a lot of whizbang, but very little substance. Most of these game developers make games for the sake of making games, which is a good thing to do for themselves, but ultimately doesn’t result in a product that will be relevant for the end user, and to society as a whole. So many game developers, from the mainstream industry and the indies, repeat that they want to make fun games, and ‘fun’ is that end goal that every game needs to accomplish. And if you look around, you will see that most games are indeed catering to our senses, because what else is fun if not pleasure? I mean, addictiveness is a desireable quality in a game, according to most game reviewers out there—but do gamers really wanna be playing packs of cigarettes all the time? Don’t they wanna get something positive out of the experience, be stimulated every now and then? Don’t their minds (as opposed to their brains) wanna be challenged, or nurtured?
I, at least, want more communicative games, games with ideals, games that have some new things for me to think about. I want more utilitarian games that explain a process to me, or ease me into a concept, or teach me something. There’s nothing wrong with the videogames being made nowadays; there’s just not enough of them that go beyond being fun. I’m not the only one who thinks like this, either; here are a few individuals and teams who also have things to say on this matter: Chris Crawford, Raph Koster, Jason Rohrer, Values at Play, Serious Games Initiative.
The good news is that there are such games out there—they’re just not exactly the norm. Since I got involved in the indie game making scene, I’ve seen some of them; just a tiny portion of the spectrum, but they still remain largely outnumbered by all of the just fun games. I’m talking about subtle communicative experiments like Coil. About attempts at creating interactive storytelling, like Storyteller. Strong aesthetic games like flOw. Ideological games like The free culture game. Also, a couple of the games that won awards at the IGF went deeper than the standard indeed, like Blueberry garden, and Between. The games that I just linked are brief, and free to play directly from your web browser, so give them a try if you haven’t.
I want more of these games, and games that go beyond. I want games that have a good reason to exist. I hope to make such games!