Can the games industry strike gold? WORDS: Robert Leftwich
n order to talk seriously about the state of the video games industry we need to look back at where gaming has been, where it is now, and where it could go in the future with the right support. For nearly all of gaming’s history it has been considered a medium for children and nerds. In the past this has limited what games can achieve and has stopped a lot of potentially great games from being released, or has at least forced them to censor themselves (Medal of Honour). Video games are still perceived by the press and by the world at large as a medium for children despite the ‘15’ and ‘18’ labels on most new releases. This results in games being condemned as inappropriate whenever they want to cover something sensitive or controversial, such as sexuality or genocide. However, film, books and other art forms address these issues all the time. This problem is made worse by companies who market violent games at children (I’m looking at EA and the adverts for Dead Space 2 here), as well as ignorant parents who buy 15 and 18-rated games for their tenyear-olds. So, what needs to happen for the games industry to move out of this ‘kid’s toy’ perception and be accepted as a mainstream form of artistic and entertainment media? The answer is
two-fold: 1. Games need to appeal to a wider audience. This started to happen with the PS2 and its dance mat, Buzz, and other early casual games. It was then followed by the Nintendo Wii and DS which both brought gaming to people who had never tried it before. Regardless of my views on such games and, in particular on their content, they have certainly helped to move the medium forwards towards acceptability. If this trend continues into the next generations of consoles then it will throw open the door for the second thing that needs to happen. 2. Games need to be as ambitious as film and literature in terms of their scope and depth in order to be truly deep and innovative. Games like Bioshock, Assassin’s Creed, Pokemon Black/White, LA Noire, Portal and the Fallout series are all great examples of games that have moved in this direction. They are all either technologically innovative or have deep story lines that explore moral, political and
philosophical issues, or do both. But it’s not just the game creators who can move the industry forward. You the consumer need to reward developers for innovation. None of these games will continue to be made if no-one buys them, but if innovative games start selling as well as the Call of Duty series then the medium is set to improve. What the improvement of innovative gaming doesn’t mean is that all games are going to become ‘arty’ and no fun to play. Silliness, cartoon-style graphics and copious violence are all parts of the gaming heritage, as much as points, levels and achievements and they won’t be going anywhere fast. Innovative games need to become a larger part of the release schedule and they need to sell themselves to a wider audience. With more money in the industry, we’ll see new technology developed and new genres and playtypes emerge. That will be good for gamers and game-makers alike and I think it’s what we all want to see.
Published on Oct 3, 2011
Published on Oct 3, 2011
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