Jump to content

Video Games: Mature Themes

Sign in to follow this  
J.E. Sawyer

8,654 views

Even video games with good writing are usually banal and puerile in their content. The exploration of themes in games is typically shallow and any didactic purpose the writers attempt to achieve is usually aimed very low. When an eleven year-old already inherently comprehends and accepts the lesson you are trying to impart, you know you're not dropping the bucket too deep into the well. A converse problem is that the themes being explored are so far outside of a player's daily concerns that they simply do not care.

 

A lot of game developers are really concerned about games not being taken "seriously". It's always been my opinion that if you have to ask for someone to take you seriously, you are not worthy of serious attention. If people find your content to be meritous, merit will be given. My concern about the lack of mature themes in games is personal. I think most games have uninteresting stories that explore irrelevant or trite subjects and they are really boring as a result. I don't care about pitting technology against nature; it's a trite theme. If it hadn't been explored in dozens of games already, it might be interesting. I don't care about focusing on high-level concepts like the "nature" of good and evil; it's far removed from anything I deal with on a daily basis and it is usually discussed in an explicit, heavily didactic manner.

 

Why doesn't anyone make a game about poverty? Why doesn't anyone make a game about capitalism and the rights of laborers under it? Why doesn't anyone make a game about racism? It's frustrating, because these are issues that are of direct, daily importance to a huge number of people. These subjects are either never broached or are explored through proxies that defuse the seriousness of what is being discussed. E.g. elves and dwarves might express shallow "fantasy" racism against each other, but you're probably never going to see two humans with different skin colors express racism toward each other in a serious exchange.

 

In rare cases, you might see the exploration of a subject like corporations vs. laborers or the religious vs. the non-religious, but the opposition is usually segregated into a "right" side and a "wrong" side. E.g. the religious turn out to be the bag guys, the laborers turn out to be the good guys. It's not an exploration of a theme as much as it is an exposition of the author's biases through various stand-'em-up-and-knock-'em-down characters. Exploration isn't really exploration when you're being led by the nose to a preselected destination.

 

I understand why game developers don't try to delve any deeper, though. Games are still considered escapist entertainment. While many media manage to have a wide spectrum of titles with varying themes and treatments, games are still very focused on pumping the player up and giving him or her a sense of tension followed by relief, accomplishment, and satisfaction. Things work out, the bad people get killed, and though one or two decent people might have been thrown into the grinder, it was all for a good cause -- and you know what that cause is.

 

People don't want to talk about things like poverty or racism or the pros and cons of a capitalist society -- because they suck. If these subjects had issues that were easy to solve, they wouldn't even be issues. They are problems that provoke dread, anxiety, confusion, anger, and a lot of other negative feelings. People don't want to escape to these things because then it's not an escape at all.

 

But they are real issues, and they are relevant. That's why they are serious, why they are topics of merit. I don't know if there are a enough people who are interested in playing games about such things to justify creating products to fill such a need. I have a low opinion of my fellow citizens of the world, so probably not.

 

But I really wish there were.

  • Like 1
Sign in to follow this  


16 Comments


Recommended Comments

Would something like this Peacemaker be a along those lines, it allows you to play both sides of the Palestine Israel conflict with the goal being peace. Ernest Adams has an article about it in Gamasutra.

 

Other than that I agree wholly with what you say I've found myself less interested in games as their topics are so empty. All that concerns me is the story and my effect on it so the latest in graphics or the next level of character customisation holds little interest for me.

Share this comment


Link to comment

I think Arcanum did a pretty good job of placing serious issues within its game story. More prominent if you did side-quest and read the various books lying around the game. Granted not on the scale your talking about, but I felt there were enough in the game to warrant it a rather profound stance on serious issues.

 

I think a real problem with making a game that deals with such issues is what do you do in the game? At what point do you break the barrier between playing a game, and watching a discourse on morality and ethics, and just end up getting depressed? :p

 

Can the main character change the story? If so how? Does the main character become some Superman-esqe hero running around fixing things? Or do you play some twisted corrupt guy making things worse? Playing the guy in the middle would probably mean you wouldn't have much impact on the story. When returns to my first point, how does gaming in such a situation not turn into a discourse on morality/ethics.

 

I certainly enjoy more interesting themes in video games. I loved it in Arcanum, but it was something in the background, and you don't really deal with it much in the main plot. Some side-quest dealt with them, sure.

 

A whole 'nother issue is what genre of game would you do this with? an RPG? Would too much combat detract from the seriousness of the game? etc.

 

I'm not trying to dog on ya, but just food for thought. I really dig what you're saying.

Share this comment


Link to comment

Josh - I think that you've hit the proverbial nail on the head with this post. We need more deep games with real moral choices. Isn't Obsidian the perfect developer to do that though, since you have so many of the Black Isle employees who made Planescape and the Fallouts? I read the original script to KOTOR II, and that ending gave me Planescape flashbacks. . .

Share this comment


Link to comment

I disagree, I don't find Mr. Sawyer's comments particularly insightful. Firstly, a topic's having been overdone does not necessarily make it less interesting, at least for me. Of course certain ideas like good v. evil and nature v. technology are overdone - they had value for the particular medium of fantasy RPGs in the first place, and are strong motifs of the work of Tolkien, from which much of the DnD/etc. world is gleaned.

 

All that is beside the point. I'm afraid that if you want to be an instrument of social change and decry racism etc., Mr. Sawyer, you've chosen the wrong field. You should have been a civil rights lawyer, or a journalist, or even a pure fiction writer. Games are ... well, games. It's easy to be swept up in the world of those who are obsessed with them, who take them so seriously as to actually try to extract lasting moral lessons from them, and perhaps think they have long-term value in that sense.

 

I'm afraid I'll have to argue that they don't. They are, as you said, escapism, but you say that as though that is a bad thing that will eventually change. Unfortunately, to be a "serious" gamer in the usual sense of the word requires a kind of time commitment most people can't afford. Movies or even popular TV shows are much more accessible, require less exclusive attention, and are more efficient in delivering a message.

 

As a side note, I don't particularly think the topics you mentioned (corps v. labor, racism, religion) are any more fresh than the ones you describe as trite. Maybe in the gaming world they are, but for many of us (I'm a law student, for example) that stuff gets beaten into our heads through academia and journalistic media.

 

I do think you might have a point about "exploring" themes rather than dictating that one side is the good guy. Movies that do that, for example, tend to be more interesting. Perhaps one way to do this, more easily executed in games, is to make a surprise switch about who the "good guy" is, or even make it so there IS no good guy. I'm not a big-time gamer like most people who post on these forums, but I don't think I've encountered a game where the "technology" side is actually the sympathetic one (BGII "Trademeet" comes to mind, but that was a temporary "twisting" of the nature side, which in the long term was of course the better), or where the laborers are actually greedy sloths and the corporate exec is fair in his policies.

 

In other words, I think what's really boring you is the cliched nature of game narrative. Again, though, you're catering to an audience that often doesn't want much more. I sympathize, but this is the field you've chosen, and I don't think you'll see change - games simply aren't the forum for the kind of debates you're discussing. I know I wouldn't want to play the kind of game you describe.

Share this comment


Link to comment
In other words, I think what's really boring you is the cliched nature of game narrative. Again, though, you're catering to an audience that often doesn't want much more. I sympathize, but this is the field you've chosen, and I don't think you'll see change - games simply aren't the forum for the kind of debates you're discussing. I know I wouldn't want to play the kind of game you describe.

I think your reply is well-put, but a cop out. Media like plays were once just about pure entertainment and held up lofty events and people that were far beyond the walk of their viewers' lives. There is a certain amount of profundity in Shakespeare's tragedies and histories, but they do not compare to something like Ibsen's A Doll's House, which was extremely radical in its time. Never before had there been a significant production that attempted to portray an environment realistically, with ordinary middle-class characters, and events that were directly relevant to the audience. And A Doll's House did make people extremely uncomfortable, so much that it created a scandal. But many other "realistic" plays followed, and today's plays and films are not all morality lessons or tragedies or histories. There are plenty of plays and films about ordinary, contemporary people caught in circumstances that speak directly to the audiences' experiences.

 

If the main argument against serious themes in games is that it isn't currently done, that's not much of an argument at all. The entry was written because serious themes are not currently visited in games. However, I do think there are many issues that could be seriously addressed in a contemporary setting: drug use and drug crime, terrorism, immigration, the military industrial complex, genocide, etc. All of these things could be examined in the context of a militaristic game with high action, but they usually aren't. Games in the Rainbow Six, Splinter Cell vein certainly could (there's plenty of exposition), but they usually don't. Mercenaries 2: World In Flames looks like it might be a good example of a title that attempts to deal with some serious issues more directly. Hell, they already created enough of a fracas to get the government of Venezuela to complain about it. That seems like a step in the right direction to me.

 

As a side note, I don't particularly think the topics you mentioned (corps v. labor, racism, religion) are any more fresh than the ones you describe as trite. Maybe in the gaming world they are, but for many of us (I'm a law student, for example) that stuff gets beaten into our heads through academia and journalistic media.

I was a student of hagiography and witch-hunting, but I wouldn't consider the exploration of sanctity and diabolism in the Early Modern World to be tired for the average person. I am willing to accept that students of law and political science might be tired of subjects dealing with law and political science, but most people simply don't see much of that with any regularity or depth.

Share this comment


Link to comment

Points well taken. And let me say that in retrospect, "not insightful" was a poor choice of words to express "I disagree," so I hope you weren't offended. I know I get sick of reading that kind of haughtiness on game forums, and I can only imagine that feeling is magnified for you.

 

Obviously "not now" is not the same as "not ever," but I'm not sure the drama/games analogy holds up. Plays have always been a form of mass entertainment, and even the most crude of, say, Plautus' works were considered "low comedy" but were enjoyed by a "high" audience. My point is to say that because of the nature of the medium, I'm not sure games will evolve the same way.

 

I may have misunderstood your original post, or maybe I just have NWN2 on the brain, but I understood your argument to be about fantasy RPGs. FPS games in general and military-style games in particular have a much broader audience - you're no longer talking about us nerds. Maybe you can make that work, and make it sell, but it's a fine line to walk. What I meant by saying I wouldn't play that sort of game, is that I come to play, not to be preached at. To go back to your parallel, plays were never (go all the way back to Aristophanes) NOT about moral lessons, and their descendent movies carry the same weight. With games, you're not just talking about complicating the same general themes, you're talking about a complete revolution in what's acceptable content for the medium. I'm not sure A Doll's House falls into that category - I would say it's a moral lesson adapted for an apathetic postmodern society, but no less of a moral lesson. Creating a "scandal" is no indicator - Aristophanes' "The Clouds" may have gotten Socrates whacked. Portraying a "realistic" environment maybe to a greater depth, but I'm not convinced that makes a story revolutionary. The scandal from Ibsen's work came from the position it took on the theme issue, not the general theme it picked.

 

As for topics being "tired," I think sanctity and diabolism in the Early Modern World would be slightly more obscure than a blanket statement about evil corporations. Forget law students, anyone who reads the newspaper is buffeted with stories on poverty and corporate greed. To make myself clear, I in no way specialize in those areas, and I would have said the same things about them before law school.

 

Still, your point may stand that "most people" don't see that. Most people don't read the newspaper or Time magazine, or care to. I would guess, and you'd know better than I, that fantasy RPG players on average are more educated than the general public on average. FPS players, or however you classify Splinter Cell type games, probably not.

 

I'm not familiar with the specific games you mention, so I can't really speak to that except in very general terms. I still believe that, games being games, tackling a political issue in any kind of depth will be either boring, or missed/ignored in passing, save perhaps a few very specific issues (but really, what can you say about terrorism or genocide in a FPS type game without being a cliche?). Games are, I suppose, becoming more mainstream, but (speaking only from personal experience) most people have no interest in them. If that changes, maybe the content can change.

 

I'm not so confident it can work the other way (i.e. can't see non-gamers playing games because of the strong themes) because unfortunately, to serious people who place value on that kind of debate, there is often a stigma attached to the PC/console game media. Take law students - a class of 120 people (myself excluded) laughed at one poor guy who, in passing, admitted to playing Age of Empires in high school. That stigma may change, but I doubt it.

Share this comment


Link to comment
I'm not so confident it can work the other way (i.e. can't see non-gamers playing games because of the strong themes) because unfortunately, to serious people who place value on that kind of debate, there is often a stigma attached to the PC/console game media. Take law students - a class of 120 people (myself excluded) laughed at one poor guy who, in passing, admitted to playing Age of Empires in high school. That stigma may change, but I doubt it.

 

Out of curiosity, what year are you, and what school do you go to? I understand if you don't want to "out" your school online. I'm a 2L at a top 4 law school, and a large number of students play video games here. In fact, many students even play them in class (and I'm not just talking about flash games, they play Super Mario World). You're greatly overstating the videogame stigma in my opinion. No offense, but I think that you've fallen into the trap of thinking that the rest of the population is like law students in anyway (a trap I also fell into as a 1L). I'm currently taking a class on managing public relations with a professor from Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy, and the main point he wants us to understand is that the vast majority of the population knows NOTHING about politics, let alone the law. These are fresh issues to most people, and most likely fresh issues to most gamers. It wasn't too long ago that games with some more serious issues in them (Fallout and Planescape Torment) actually sold very well, and I don't see any reason why similar games couldn't sell well today, if someone would just make them.

Share this comment


Link to comment

I'm a 1L, also at a top 4. You may be right about the stigma ... and I certainly agree, as I posted above, that most people probably don't follow politics/law/etc. But I also suggested that RPG fans are not really a representative sample.

 

I see plenty of people playing games, but it's mostly things like Mario. That's a whole different category of "gamer," and not one comparable to what we're talking about.

Share this comment


Link to comment

Its rather the point though that if the games industry is as important an medium as the commentators like to make out it should have something for everyone.

 

Not everyone likes challenging films most people don't read challenging books but that doesn't mean they don't advance the entire field or that they aren't worth the time, effort and money that went into them. If the games industry is ever to claim to be the equal of the movie industry it has to show a greater breadth, depth and maturity of content than it currently has.

 

As another example of more serious issues Narcissu is a Japanese graphic novel about terminal illness. I wouldn't call this a game, a graphic novel done on a computer, but I think as a computer program it still exists in a nearby space to that which games inhabit in terms of the user perception (though in being unfamiliar with the context of use in Japan I could be wrong). After all gaming for me is about filling the space left by game books like Fabled lands and Lone wolf though of course I demand much more from a computer game.

Share this comment


Link to comment
In rare cases, you might see the exploration of a subject like corporations vs. laborers or the religious vs. the non-religious, but the opposition is usually segregated into a "right" side and a "wrong" side. E.g. the religious turn out to be the bag guys, the laborers turn out to be the good guys. It's not an exploration of a theme as much as it is an exposition of the author's biases through various stand-'em-up-and-knock-'em-down characters. Exploration isn't really exploration when you're being led by the nose to a preselected destination.

 

And thats really what it comes down to and the reason people don't like them or won't play them. First of all they are dead ends, and there is no solution because there's no right ansswer. On top of that... half the time when you play those, there's too many people trying to shovel their own **** on you when you know damn well its not like that.

 

Examples:

Laborers are often just as greedy as the corporations they claim to fight against (Think labor unions helping to put car companies out of business when they can't compete with overseas companies, thus cutting their own throats over the same greed and losing everything).

 

Non-religious atheists are often the same zealots as those they hate the most. (communist/socialist revolutions in various parts of the world stamping out various religions with the same ruthlessness as the inquisitions of the middle ages)

 

Environmentalists out "saving the planet" often carelessly disregard and kill off entire rural communities and their living and hurt the common guy with their own zealousness and disregard. At the very least when corporations come in and put small business owners out, they provide an alternative means to earn a living.

 

Many times you will find more outright hate filled racism in minority communities than you will in the majority communities that they claim to be oppressed by.

 

Visit the poor communities, or better yet the Rez and you will see a lot of people with all kinds of opportunities to stand on their own two feet and pull themselves out, but instead, they'd rather drink themselves to death or get so high they kill themselves and blame everyone else for it. And even some of those that make it out and make their way, end up right back there sooner or later. They are locked in a cycle of poverty, but just as often it is their own doing, not because they don't have a way out.

 

Curiously... these seem to be the least explored directions... in any storyline. Why is that?

 

I suspect mostly don't want to see that they aren't really the "good guys" they think they are nor do they represent the "common person" the way they think they do. They're often just more of the same thing they are pointing fingers at.... just a different flavor.

 

Either way, the real answer is that there isn't any solution to those things, and never really was. Because no one can truly save you from yourself except you.

 

The only thing people can really do is provide the path or the alternative and encourage it... no one can walk that but you.

Share this comment


Link to comment

What a great post; I could not agree more. I think that many people do not want to face many of these heavy and relevant issues in their own lives let alone in something that they consider entertainment. Perhaps the gaming industry should be a medium for relevant, important issues such as these, but it would probably fall prey to the same thing that happens in real life: it will get ignored. What Josh mentioned would essentially be changing an entire culture, not just the nature of video game entertainment.

 

Personally, I would love to see games on the market that tackle issues such as capitalism, class-conflict, genocide, racism, sexism, and heterosexism. However, I take an active role in advocating understanding and acceptance in my daily life already. Much to my disappointment, many other people do not feel the same way. Most games have clear moral and ethic boundaries and are not concerned with the advocation of critical thinking; in fact, we as a society are not either. I think this is why you see the prevalence of mindless "good" and "evil" media such as basically any fantasy computer role playing game (such as the Lord of the Rings) or any World War II game (where the Nazis are the clear and imminent "evil" and the Allies are the "good guys").

 

I think there are ways to perhaps ease people into these issues though. Implementing these issues into small bits and disguising them might be enough. Or, maybe I am being entirely too pessimistic. Perhaps people are ready for these types of games and video games can be seen as more than just mere entertainment. Either way, I am glad to see that a top class designer is bringing these issues to the table and opening dialogue about them.

 

Phoenixus_01: I could not disagree more, though this is not the time or the place for that discussion :)

Share this comment


Link to comment

I'd love to play a game that was more realistic in terms of things not always being clearcut into "right" and "wrong". I agree that games tend to feed us a preselected notion of these things.

 

Using more realistic views of topics such as racism and capitalism would make things far more intellectually stimulating, and who knows, maybe even broaden the horizons of people who had narrower views.

 

I'm all for it, Josh!

Share this comment


Link to comment
Even video games with good writing are usually banal and puerile in their content. The exploration of themes in games is typically shallow and any didactic purpose the writers attempt to achieve is usually aimed very low. When an eleven year-old already inherently comprehends and accepts the lesson you are trying to impart, you know you're not dropping the bucket too deep into the well. A converse problem is that the themes being explored are so far outside of a player's daily concerns that they simply do not care.

 

A lot of game developers are really concerned about games not being taken "seriously". It's always been my opinion that if you have to ask for someone to take you seriously, you are not worthy of serious attention. If people find your content to be meritous, merit will be given. My concern about the lack of mature themes in games is personal. I think most games have uninteresting stories that explore irrelevant or trite subjects and they are really boring as a result. I don't care about pitting technology against nature; it's a trite theme. If it hadn't been explored in dozens of games already, it might be interesting. I don't care about focusing on high-level concepts like the "nature" of good and evil; it's far removed from anything I deal with on a daily basis and it is usually discussed in an explicit, heavily didactic manner.

 

Why doesn't anyone make a game about poverty? Why doesn't anyone make a game about capitalism and the rights of laborers under it? Why doesn't anyone make a game about racism? It's frustrating, because these are issues that are of direct, daily importance to a huge number of people. These subjects are either never broached or are explored through proxies that defuse the seriousness of what is being discussed. E.g. elves and dwarves might express shallow "fantasy" racism against each other, but you're probably never going to see two humans with different skin colors express racism toward each other in a serious exchange.

 

In rare cases, you might see the exploration of a subject like corporations vs. laborers or the religious vs. the non-religious, but the opposition is usually segregated into a "right" side and a "wrong" side. E.g. the religious turn out to be the bag guys, the laborers turn out to be the good guys. It's not an exploration of a theme as much as it is an exposition of the author's biases through various stand-'em-up-and-knock-'em-down characters. Exploration isn't really exploration when you're being led by the nose to a preselected destination.

 

I understand why game developers don't try to delve any deeper, though. Games are still considered escapist entertainment. While many media manage to have a wide spectrum of titles with varying themes and treatments, games are still very focused on pumping the player up and giving him or her a sense of tension followed by relief, accomplishment, and satisfaction. Things work out, the bad people get killed, and though one or two decent people might have been thrown into the grinder, it was all for a good cause -- and you know what that cause is.

 

People don't want to talk about things like poverty or racism or the pros and cons of a capitalist society -- because they suck. If these subjects had issues that were easy to solve, they wouldn't even be issues. They are problems that provoke dread, anxiety, confusion, anger, and a lot of other negative feelings. People don't want to escape to these things because then it's not an escape at all.

 

But they are real issues, and they are relevant. That's why they are serious, why they are topics of merit. I don't know if there are a enough people who are interested in playing games about such things to justify creating products to fill such a need. I have a low opinion of my fellow citizens of the world, so probably not.

 

But I really wish there were.

 

You've read my mind. For very long I have been an advocate of using what you consider 'mature themes' to make people political and globally aware, especially young people who so often have no clue on these things and usually follow what their parents say.

 

A good example was Jade Empire. When I was playing it and I asked Smiling Mountain on the philosophy of 'The way of the Open Palm' and 'The way of the Closed Fist', I saw an incredibly simplistic view of human behavior and life in general. For example, the Way of the Open Palm was meant to be a Confucius-like philosophy but with 'good' aspects to it. This meant that you accepted your role in society and in nature, that is, if you were a peasant, then you had to stay a peasant, otherwise it would be considered being out of your station, belonging to the Way of the Closed Fist. But then again, the peasant is being exploited of his fruits of labor by the landlord... which is supposedly 'evil' or belonging to the Way of the Closed Fist. So we see a contradiction of ideas. I suppose Bioware attempted to unite Chinese philosophy with Western values, but the result is a mess and conflict of ideas which make no sense. Imagine how this affects teenagers who are starting to discover the values and ideologies which make up the society he/she lives in. There is also the scene where Master Li or Emperor Li says that 'he will correct the violence inherent in man', basically saying that by nature we are violent. One cannot claim such thing, as human nature is very debatable and, in my view, does not even exist. It's these kind of childish ideas which are thrown by game developers in order to 'entertain'. But games also have moral themes in order for us to learn something. So if there is anything to learn, I'd rather it was a proper and insightful message than 'all humans are evil and greedy RAAR!'.

 

In rare cases, you might see the exploration of a subject like corporations vs. laborers or the religious vs. the non-religious, but the opposition is usually segregated into a "right" side and a "wrong" side. E.g. the religious turn out to be the bag guys, the laborers turn out to be the good guys. It's not an exploration of a theme as much as it is an exposition of the author's biases through various stand-'em-up-and-knock-'em-down characters. Exploration isn't really exploration when you're being led by the nose to a preselected destination.

 

He's not arguing that laborers should be right and corporations wrong. He's saying that they should explore both sides so as to gain an insight on what these people go through.

 

And thats really what it comes down to and the reason people don't like them or won't play them. First of all they are dead ends, and there is no solution because there's no right ansswer. On top of that... half the time when you play those, there's too many people trying to shovel their own **** on you when you know damn well its not like that.

 

So you are in favor of committing an injustice to a majority of the population, which happens to be the working class? Even those who love capitalism advocate it because it's a fairer and more just system. There is an answer, and it's not dictated by right or wrong. It's dictated by the present material conditions and the ruling class which is in power.

 

Examples:

Laborers are often just as greedy as the corporations they claim to fight against (Think labor unions helping to put car companies out of business when they can't compete with overseas companies, thus cutting their own throats over the same greed and losing everything).

 

After hundreds of years of exploitation to peasants and workers, you'd think that they're the ones whom you're going to side with. Making claims like this without sources is not a good idea.

 

Non-religious atheists are often the same zealots as those they hate the most. (communist/socialist revolutions in various parts of the world stamping out various religions with the same ruthlessness as the inquisitions of the middle ages)

 

Tread carefully. Religion has been enforced for much longer than your so called 'communism' has and countless people have suffered for it. Even now it continues to destroy lives in the Middle East.

 

Environmentalists out "saving the planet" often carelessly disregard and kill off entire rural communities and their living and hurt the common guy with their own zealousness and disregard. At the very least when corporations come in and put small business owners out, they provide an alternative means to earn a living.

 

Again, provide sources. I could make the claim that the Christian church is right now slaughtering hundreds of Muslims in an underground lair, but it is not necessarily so unless I show sources.

 

Many times you will find more outright hate filled racism in minority communities than you will in the majority communities that they claim to be oppressed by.

 

This used to be true a long time ago, not anymore though. With the free access to information and the easier it is to access it, this problem barely happens anymore.

 

Visit the poor communities, or better yet the Rez and you will see a lot of people with all kinds of opportunities to stand on their own two feet and pull themselves out, but instead, they'd rather drink themselves to death or get so high they kill themselves and blame everyone else for it. And even some of those that make it out and make their way, end up right back there sooner or later. They are locked in a cycle of poverty, but just as often it is their own doing, not because they don't have a way out.

 

Long before those people were born, they ancestors were beaten and exploited for the service of a landlord or a capitalist. The 'poor communities' do try to get out of that situation, but can you honestly say that all of them will be able to get out? Only a few might, but the majority will continue to suffer. Besides, it was originally the ruling classes who traded drugs and products like it, especially when the great slave trade of the 15th and 16th century. They are 'locked in a cycle of poverty' because they are unable to get out by any means, even if they work as hard as they can.

 

Either way, the real answer is that there isn't any solution to those things, and never really was. Because no one can truly save you from yourself except you.

 

The only thing people can really do is provide the path or the alternative and encourage it... no one can walk that but you.

 

Exactly what liberals have said for the last 200 years. You should have understood by now that individualism is overrated.

Share this comment


Link to comment

I love that post, Josh! I hadn't really known your thoughts on game design issues of this sort before, but now that I do I am certainly pleased (for whatever that's worth).

 

Might I suggest, though, that you focus less on the sole overarching theme of a game? Isn't it entirely possible to explore multiple issues at once? On the one hand you have a main theme which is accessible to the general audience (and I'm not saying it needs to be generic or shallow, but it could be if you wanted), and on top of that you layer a strong secondary theme about some deep/serious issue which is rarely touched upon, and which the player can largely ignore if they really chose, but is nonetheless pervasive and obvious enough to make the game unique and distinct.

 

E.g. a game about a dystopia (as the main theme, done to death I know) with strong undercurrents of racial or class identity is entirely plausible - you actually see this pair fairly commonly in written literature. In fact, I feel that it is the games which do not have such deep secondary undercurrents that give off the greatest impression of being shallow or 'trite', as you put it.

 

Still, I would like to see games whose main theme was more adventurous. Maybe an inversion of the above: a game which primarily focused on racial identity in a setting with minor dystopian undercurrents. It removes the focus from surviving in a dystopia, or reforming a dystopia, to instead however you wanted to play out the racial identity theme. Now that would be interesting, IMHO. I do believe it would be successful because you still have the core background elements there (in this case the dystopian setting) to strengthen your appeal. Not to mention that a game about racial identity is nothing to shirk away from. I'm not saying it'd appeal to everybody as your average game does, but it's entirely possible that for every customer who was put off by the idea, you'd gain one was intrigued by its freshness. Something that the media coverage as a sort of 'first of its kind' in this fledgling media would only magnify.

 

Note: when I say racial identity, I don't necessarily mean a preachy game. Simply a game which genuinely explores the issue. In fact, probably one of the most compelling reasons for covering such issues in a computer game is the unique degree of interactivity and freedom you can afford the responder in their exploration of the issue if you so choose, compared to print and film media.

 

This became somewhat of a verbose rant.

Share this comment


Link to comment

Do not underrate your customers :p, I think most of us would like to see more mature games. On the other hand, first priority should be to make the game good, do not yourself force into things which you call serious issues. I can imagine myself playing game for example about (at least partially) poverty (I'll take poverty as an example, but all other themes you suggested could be probably substitued in next text), but still, it has to be done well. Also, do not overrate seriousness of issues you were talking about. While game about poverty surely has a great potential (this is important, although poverty is surely mature theme, it may be hard to explore this theme adequately deeply) to be more mature than game about rescuing a kidnapped princess, theme itself is not extraordinary deep . What I want to say is that you do not necessary have to use theme like poverty to make your game deep, mature. In fact it is not such a success just to pick up mature and deep theme (since not so small portion of human population is quite aware of "deep problems of human nature" [sry, my english is bad, but I think it's understandable what I wanted to say] and/or absurdity of human existence), it is a great success to actually "explore" this theme well (both in terms of artistic and "philosophical" value).

 

But considering a fact, that Obsidian (or BI) games are some of those most mature I encountered so far, you are in great position to push level of seriousness in games forward. So good luck with that :) .

Share this comment


Link to comment
Guest
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...