Gamers: Expand Your Horizons

Gamers: Expand Your Horizons
An Editorial by Figboy
A thought occured to me while I was reading an article about Heavy Rain on fanboy central website N4G.com. A lot of fuss is raised over a percieved lack of innovation in todays gaming, but in my mind, I don’t think the majority of the gaming populace are ready for innovation, when they can’t even break out of their small, rigid thinking about what a game is.
It’s a generalization, but no less true: the shooter genre is the top dog in the industry at the moment. It’s kind of funny to me, having been gaming for nearly 30 years now, but I remember when the FPS, just like the RPG, were small, niche genres that a very, very small minority of gamers indulged. Not any longer. Both genres are quite large now, but the FPS genre is bordering on colossal.
Gamers eat it up. Single player, mostly multi-player, deathmatch, team deathmatch, they can’t get enough. And yet, like a contradiction, they spout off about the lack of originality and innovation in games while trying to frag their way to the next unlockable Achievement and Trophy in nearly every FPS that comes their way.
When a game like Heavy Rain comes along, it is met with crickets and tumbleweeds from the audience. Before I continue, I’ll briefly address what Heavy Rain is to those that are unaware. Heavy Rain is a single player “crime drama/thriller” video game that revolves around four playable characters and their connection to a mysterious serial killer dubbed “The Origami Killer,” because he leaves an ornate origami at the crime scene. Outside of this, not much is known about the story, because the developer, Quantic Dream, would like to keep it under wraps. The plot, however, sounds like it’s a perfect fit for the latest episode of CSI or Law and Order. And that’s precisely the point.
Gameplay wise, the game is a third person “adventure” game, where players control the character and investigate areas, talk to witnesses, and gather clues. If anyone has played Quantic Dream’s last title, Indigo Prophecy, they’d have a great idea of what to expect from Heavy Rain, although it is more grounded in reality, and features stunning visuals that help establish the characters and setting as something that should be taken seriously by the mature gamer.
Like a movie or TV show, there are action set pieces (like a crime investigator attempting to escape the clutches of a mechanic trying to kill him), tension filled moments (like the player trying to talk down a man robbing a store at gunpoint), and even some sexuality (like an undercover reporter forced to strip for the sleezeball she is trying to investigate). These scenes are played out in a unique way, using a combination of player controls and context sensitive button presses that affect the way the scene plays out. Depending on the choices the player makes, not all four of the playable characters may see the ending of the game, and each scenario has multiple branching paths that organically spawn from those choices. I saw the store robbery scene play out at least 3 different times, sometimes with the robber giving up, sometimes with the robber shooting your character, and so on. This level of gameplay complexity has very rarely, if ever been seen in gaming before, and when it is, it is largely shunned by the community at large.
As a culture, gaming has barely been around for 30 years. It’s still young when compared to even the film industry, let alone ancient forms of media like literature, music, and even art. Being the young culture we are, we cling to what we know, what is familiar to us, and we are afraid to move onto the next stage of our growth. This isn’t just the gamers fault, though we are a part of it, but the developers themselves.
Developers are afraid to take chances on risky gameplay like Heavy Rain, because they know that their target audience will not be very receptive enough to it, and the group that will be receptive, are too small to make a dent in the costs it took to produce the game.
Gamers can be very closeminded when it comes to new gameplay elements. Gamers are also very presumptous. They see a two minute trailer of a game, and they think they’ve figured out exactly how the game will play and feel. They see the button prompts fly up on screen during the first trailer of Heavy Rain, and they immediately think it’s nothing different from God of War, or Resident Evil 4, or any other game that has used buttons to help convey a sense of epic scope in the game that the game’s natural gameplay mechanics wouldn’t be able to do (for example, Kratos from God of War battling the gigantic Colossus of Rhodes).
Even more troubling than a gamer’s presumptous attitude is their indifferent attitude to anything that is not the status quo. They see a trailer for Heavy Rain, or Flower, or The Last Guardian, and they shrug dismissively and ask “What’s the big deal? It’s just some lame people talking about love, or a bunch of flower petals flying across the landscape, or a stupid little kid and his weird giant bird/cat/dog creature running around. Why should I care? It looks boring.”
That’s the attitude that is the most damaging to the gaming industry’s growth as a creative medium. If the first look at a game isn’t pulse-poundingly catchy, filled with explosions, tits, and ass, they dismiss it as “boring,” “lame,” or “I don’t get what’s so special about that,” or “that game has button prompts, so it’s not a game.” This attitude needs to change, or we will be swimming in the muck of uninspired, heartless video games and never be able to grow beyond our teenage years, so to speak. Considering how long mediums like film, theatre, art, and music have been around, the gaming industry still has acne and cracking vocal chords. And each time the gamers at large dismiss a game like Heavy Rain, or The Last Guardian, the more and more game developers will shy away from creating such creative works of art, and the more the masses at large will dismiss the gaming media as anything more than mindless fodder for kids and teenagers, despite the average age of gamers these days being 25-30.
Yet all the while, gamers get up on their soapboxes (yours truly included), and complain about a lack of fresh ideas and innovation in the industry. We won’t see any innovation if we can’t even accept varying interpretations of our medium. Games like The Path, Lucidity, Heavy Rain, Indigo Prophecy, etc, are few and far between, and they don’t need to be if we, as a culture, grew up and expanded our view on what a “game” is. A video game is not just pointing a gun at an enemy and pulling the trigger, or using a sword to disembowel a ninja, or shaking your controller vigorously to get a female characters tits to bounce. Those are certainly aspects to gaming, but they are not the only aspects to gaming. Like the various entertainment mediums that have come before gaming, it, and it’s fanbase have grown to accept a broad spectrum of content and interpretations of what the medium is.
We need to do the same to gaming, or it will never grow. I embrace games like Heavy Rain, The Path, Lucidity, etc, in the same way I embrace a game like Mass Effect, Uncharted 2, and Metal Gear Solid. We need to be more open to game ideas and concepts that may be foreign to us, and stop being so jaded, cynical, and presumptous when that new idea shows it’s face.
Once we can accept that gaming is not just one thing, we will begin to see more innovation and creativity, because we will have shown the powers that be that we are mature and able enough to handle different interpretations of our medium, and respect them for what they are, and they will strive to produce more. Not everybody has to like the same things, of course, but we certainly need to open up and at least consider that there are more ways to enjoy a video game than what we have been used to for 30+ years.

An Editorial by Figboy

heavy_rain-765837

A thought occured to me while I was reading an article about Heavy Rain on fanboy central website N4G.com. A lot of fuss is raised over a percieved lack of innovation in todays gaming, but in my mind, I don’t think the majority of the gaming populace are ready for innovation, when they can’t even break out of their small, rigid thinking about what a game is.

It’s a generalization, but no less true: the shooter genre is the top dog in the industry at the moment. It’s kind of funny to me, having been gaming for nearly 30 years now, but I remember when the FPS, just like the RPG, were small, niche genres that a very, very small minority of gamers indulged. Not any longer. Both genres are quite large now, but the FPS genre is bordering on colossal.

Gamers eat it up. Single player, mostly multi-player, deathmatch, team deathmatch, they can’t get enough. And yet, like a contradiction, they spout off about the lack of originality and innovation in games while trying to frag their way to the next unlockable Achievement and Trophy in nearly every FPS that comes their way.

When a game like Heavy Rain comes along, it is met with crickets and tumbleweeds from the audience. Before I continue, I’ll briefly address what Heavy Rain is to those that are unaware. Heavy Rain is a single player “crime drama/thriller” video game that revolves around four playable characters and their connection to a mysterious serial killer dubbed “The Origami Killer,” because he leaves an ornate origami at the crime scene. Outside of this, not much is known about the story, because the developer, Quantic Dream, would like to keep it under wraps. The plot, however, sounds like it’s a perfect fit for the latest episode of CSI or Law and Order. And that’s precisely the point.

heavy-rain-20090528051028919

Gameplay wise, the game is a third person “adventure” game, where players control the character and investigate areas, talk to witnesses, and gather clues. If anyone has played Quantic Dream’s last title, Indigo Prophecy, they’d have a great idea of what to expect from Heavy Rain, although it is more grounded in reality, and features stunning visuals that help establish the characters and setting as something that should be taken seriously by the mature gamer.

Like a movie or TV show, there are action set pieces (like a crime investigator attempting to escape the clutches of a mechanic trying to kill him), tension filled moments (like the player trying to talk down a man robbing a store at gunpoint), and even some sexuality (like an undercover reporter forced to strip for the sleezeball she is trying to investigate). These scenes are played out in a unique way, using a combination of player controls and context sensitive button presses that affect the way the scene plays out. Depending on the choices the player makes, not all four of the playable characters may see the ending of the game, and each scenario has multiple branching paths that organically spawn from those choices. I saw the store robbery scene play out at least 3 different times, sometimes with the robber giving up, sometimes with the robber shooting your character, and so on. This level of gameplay complexity has very rarely, if ever been seen in gaming before, and when it is, it is largely shunned by the community at large.

heavy_rain_normal

As a culture, gaming has barely been around for 30 years. It’s still young when compared to even the film industry, let alone ancient forms of media like literature, music, and even art. Being the young culture we are, we cling to what we know, what is familiar to us, and we are afraid to move onto the next stage of our growth. This isn’t just the gamers fault, though we are a part of it, but the developers themselves.

Developers are afraid to take chances on risky gameplay like Heavy Rain, because they know that their target audience will not be very receptive enough to it, and the group that will be receptive, are too small to make a dent in the costs it took to produce the game.

Gamers can be very closeminded when it comes to new gameplay elements. Gamers are also very presumptous. They see a two minute trailer of a game, and they think they’ve figured out exactly how the game will play and feel. They see the button prompts fly up on screen during the first trailer of Heavy Rain, and they immediately think it’s nothing different from God of War, or Resident Evil 4, or any other game that has used buttons to help convey a sense of epic scope in the game that the game’s natural gameplay mechanics wouldn’t be able to do (for example, Kratos from God of War battling the gigantic Colossus of Rhodes).

Heavy-Rain-3

Even more troubling than a gamer’s presumptous attitude is their indifferent attitude to anything that is not the status quo. They see a trailer for Heavy Rain, or Flower, or The Last Guardian, and they shrug dismissively and ask “What’s the big deal? It’s just some lame people talking about love, or a bunch of flower petals flying across the landscape, or a stupid little kid and his weird giant bird/cat/dog creature running around. Why should I care? It looks boring.”

That’s the attitude that is the most damaging to the gaming industry’s growth as a creative medium. If the first look at a game isn’t pulse-poundingly catchy, filled with explosions, tits, and ass, they dismiss it as “boring,” “lame,” or “I don’t get what’s so special about that,” or “that game has button prompts, so it’s not a game.” This attitude needs to change, or we will be swimming in the muck of uninspired, heartless video games and never be able to grow beyond our teenage years, so to speak. Considering how long mediums like film, theatre, art, and music have been around, the gaming industry still has acne and cracking vocal chords. And each time the gamers at large dismiss a game like Heavy Rain, or The Last Guardian, the more and more game developers will shy away from creating such creative works of art, and the more the masses at large will dismiss the gaming media as anything more than mindless fodder for kids and teenagers, despite the average age of gamers these days being 25-30.

Yet all the while, gamers get up on their soapboxes (yours truly included), and complain about a lack of fresh ideas and innovation in the industry. We won’t see any innovation if we can’t even accept varying interpretations of our medium. Games like The Path, Lucidity, Heavy Rain, Indigo Prophecy, etc, are few and far between, and they don’t need to be if we, as a culture, grew up and expanded our view on what a “game” is. A video game is not just pointing a gun at an enemy and pulling the trigger, or using a sword to disembowel a ninja, or shaking your controller vigorously to get a female characters tits to bounce. Those are certainly aspects to gaming, but they are not the only aspects to gaming. Like the various entertainment mediums that have come before gaming, it, and it’s fanbase have grown to accept a broad spectrum of content and interpretations of what the medium is.

heavy-rain-screens_08-18-09

We need to do the same to gaming, or it will never grow. I embrace games like Heavy Rain, The Path, Lucidity, etc, in the same way I embrace a game like Mass Effect, Uncharted 2, and Metal Gear Solid. We need to be more open to game ideas and concepts that may be foreign to us, and stop being so jaded, cynical, and presumptous when that new idea shows it’s face.

Once we can accept that gaming is not just one thing, we will begin to see more innovation and creativity, because we will have shown the powers that be that we are mature and able enough to handle different interpretations of our medium, and respect them for what they are, and they will strive to produce more. Not everybody has to like the same things, of course, but we certainly need to open up and at least consider that there are more ways to enjoy a video game than what we have been used to for 30+ years.

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One Response to “Gamers: Expand Your Horizons”

  1. Personally I’m getting sick of “innovation” altogether. I’d like to see something fun for a change. Not something painfully tense or requiring an awful lot of skill. I want mindless, brainless, silly fun and to be honest, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a game like that.

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