I’ve been having a lot of fun with an emulator (OpenEmu), a bunch of ROMs, and a USB SNES controller.
The simplicity of the games makes them a lot more fun to me, I like not having to care about being online or not, and there are “deeper” games available if I want a story to follow.
I’ve also found that a lot of people that never touch video games are up for a round of “old school” games—Bomberman is a favorite of my guests.
I’m annoyed that the author never actually explained what their friend wanted in her idea of a video game, concretely. A bunch of platitudes of “we need games that celebrate life” and “we need games that show how other people live” are all this article seems to offer.
Did the author show their friend Papers, please? Did the author show their friend Gone home? This War of Mine? Myst? Starship Titanic? The Witness?
The fact that their friend was turned off from Journey because of a snake seems more like a suggestion that their friend is looking for a slightly-interactive version of media they already consume–books and movies–than a game. Games have rules, games have opposition, and perhaps most importantly, games have failure conditions. Seeking to eliminate those or avoiding those as a consumer means that one doesn’t actually want a game.
And that’s fine, but it’s not a problem with the industry.
I’m annoyed that the author never actually explained what their friend wanted in her idea of a video game, concretely.
It’s fine to be annoyed, but for someone new to a genre/medium, a common way of filtering based on one’s initial opinion is on what they don’t like.
If I have never read books before, and you show me Animal Farm and I don’t like it, there isn’t a whole lot I can offer in terms of formulating what I do want in a book. Since I don’t know about the complete sphere of what’s available, I can only offer some seemingly superficial annoyances, like “I didn’t like the pigs.”
Is the <thing> I don’t like about the book because I don’t like <thing>, or I don’t like how <thing> was presented in this book? Would I like <thing> if it’s presented in a different scenario? Maybe I would like pigs if they weren’t the anthropomorphized kind, but the cute cuddly pet kind. I don’t know, because I haven’t seen the pig in any other context in a book yet!
perhaps most importantly, games have failure conditions. Seeking to eliminate those or avoiding those as a consumer means that one doesn’t actually want a game.
This is obviously not true from first principles. The fact there is such a thing as “failure mode” in most games isn’t a fundamental fact of video games themselves.
A game I’m sure we’ve all played without a failure mode would be Sim City. Or if we’re looking for a more modern video game that likely checks all of the author’s friend’s box: Beyond Two Souls. There is literally no “game over” state. It’s a multi-pathed mono-directional experience. Actually, you even mentioned a game without a failure mode: Myst. Getting “stuck” and being unable to progress is not a failure mode within the world of the game, the same way a reader does not “fail a book” if they decide a book is too dense and decide to stop reading.
Games have failure conditions.
Interactive fiction is my favorite game genre, and this is not true for the genre. There are many possible choices here, and interactive fiction genre actually has detailed terminology for choices, called cruelty scale.
“Game” is inherently a fuzzy term, but the extent to which IF is “gamey” is arguable. It certainly seems less game-like (and more novel-like) than more typical game genres.
It’s due to the nature of this fuzziness that we have the classifications of orthogame and ideogame (thanks Richard Garfield!). Wherein, albeit loosely explained, the former is a competition between two or more players using an agreed-upon set of rules and a method of ranking and the latter is a game presenting a series of interesting player decisions that produce a personal outcome.
Along with pseudogames, where user input is not reflected in the game, and roleplaying games wherein conflict is resolved with collaborative storytelling, we arrive at a group of classifications granular enough to describe most games adequately.
Starship Titanic! Hi angersock, my new best friend!
And it’s even on Steam now!
Excellent, I’m definitely going to play through it again.
After thinking about this essay, some, I agree and disagree.
I agree in that I believe a lot of AAA games are pretty boring. They tend to be male power fantasies shooting up bad guys under the guise of justice , and not a whole lot else. Actual gameplay mechanics innovate very slowly; I should note that they do progress, but mostly because publishers saturate the market to the point where they have to innovate even on established franchises. Visiting rehashed/watered down mechanics gives a distinct deja vu feeling that sets in quickly. In games like this, you hope the set pieces carry you through rather than the actual gameplay.
Video games are similar to movies in that the script is often the weakest part, rather than the execution. Give me a game with slightly dated graphics and a great story, and I’m all over it. Games like this usually end up on my very short list of “games I’d actually replay.”
That said, video games are a big space. From hidden object games (a genre most ‘real’ gamers have no idea exists) to interactive stories to mobile games, I really feel like there’s something for everyone. You need to do some digging, however.
Only an idealogue would look at Hollywood’s success with a broad demographic and say that what videogames are missing is better portrayal of women, or that we’re focusing too much on action and violence. Or even that the problem is everything being set up by white men. The reality is that these issues are as big or bigger for cinema.
And if you want true diversity of thought, talking to a bunch of twentysomething designers and artists in Vancouver is not going to get you that, however many races and genders you engage with. You’re still taking to middle-class people and getting middle-class people, and the global middle class are more similar than different. In fact I’d dare say a group of exclusively white male gamers might well have more variety, in perhaps less visible ways.
Which is fine! I think one of the things that will ultimately lead to more interesting games is an acceptance that it’s ok to write games for a particular culture or demographic, that not every game has to work for everyone. As the article says, it’s about knowing your audience. And as a sort-of-middle-class person who enjoyed Child of Light, I look forward to this designer’s work. But the most progressive, socially beneficial games will be those that engage with the lower class, even - perhaps especially - the white male lower class.
(I also think the middle class is generally less honest about what we like - we’ll write articles about our love of French art cinema and then go home and watch a superhero movie - but that’s a separate issue)
I don’t think being white and male is that restrictive. There are rural whites who are poorer than suburban whites who are poorer than urban whites (obviously generalizing). There are plenty of non-violent, non-action-oriented games that exist as it is. There is still a lot of room for background differences and likes/dislikes. The amount of different genres of games that some of my more hardcore gamer friends have is pretty crazy to me.
That said, I understand that not every interest is covered (nor will it ever be), and I’m fine with people creating new games for different perspectives. I don’t think it’s some sort of huge deficiency, though. Not everyone has to be a gamer. My wife likes simple games like Animal Crossing, but can’t stand games like Forza Horizon where you don’t really have to do anything in particular, but you can. She also doesn’t like anything with fighting in it. Casual games are more her thing. I don’t force games on her or push them on her. She has other interests and that’s fine.
This article is much longer than it needs to be when it boils down to “white men in gaming is why it’s bad”. Meanwhile making games has never been easier. A small team can make a great game as has been proven many times. If you think women are not being served, then get a bunch of your go-girls together and make a game that serves them. Clearly if what you are saying is true this is an untapped market with billion bucks potential. Somehow I am not holding my breath.
when it boils down to “white men in gaming is why it’s bad”
That’s not at all what it boils down to, and I figure you probably didn’t read the article very carefully.
If you think women are not being served, then get a bunch of your go-girls together and make a game that serves them.
“Brie Code and her company Tru Luv Media make video games …” Funnily enough, she does! And so do heaps of others, and they seem to do pretty well.
0/10 for effort.