If you pay attention to gaming news, you know that the Game Developers Conference took place last week. I went to the GDC four years ago in 2003 and had a blast. I learned a lot, I met some awesome game industry peeps, and listened to some talks from game dev celebs. Oh, and I got to play some cool games long before they came out, too.
One of the highlights of the whole experience for me was attending the Game Developer Choice award ceremony. It’s like the Oscars for games. Even though I had to sit way in the back, it was still cool to listen to acceptance speeches from the people behind some of my favorite games.
I made it a point this year to watch the ceremony over at Gamespot, who are kindly hosting a video of the whole shebang.
This year’s Maverick award (awarded to the person who does the most mavericking) went to Greg Costikyan of Manifesto Games whose opinions I love to hear. I always keep an eye on his blog for his rousing rants about the state of the game industry.
This was the first time that I’ve actually listened to him speak though, and at one point in his speech my ears really perked up. He was talking about something that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. He said:
I want you to imagine a 21st century in which games are the predominant artform of the age, as film was of the 20th, and the novel of the 19th; in which the best games are correctly lauded as sublime products of the human soul. [...] I want you to imagine a world in which games dare to tackle the most knotty, controversial, and difficult issues our society faces–and are not condemned but praised for doing so.
Even though I was sitting at work watching him via streaming video, I started nodding. This is something that I have been trying to accomplish as I’ve been writing my next game. No, not making games lauded as sublime products of the human soul… that’s a little out of my reach… In the game that I’ve been writing for the last two months, I am trying to take on some of the controversial issues that games blush at and shy away from.
In games today, mature subject matter refers to large geyser-like dances of blood and gore and occasionally mild displays of nudity or obfuscated sex.
But movies and novels often explore a number of subjects other than boobies and blood that are mature, not because they aren’t suitable for younger eyes, but because the younger audience wouldn’t have developed the emotional maturity to properly process the issues.
The quick example that comes to mind is Brokeback Mountain. It has little in the way of explicit content, but how many teenagers are really mature enough to appreciate the film and not just sit in the back and say “Eww, fags!”?
There’s more to maturity than “Oh god! My virgin eyes and/or ears!” but games don’t seem to have noticed. I think it’s one of the things that’s stopping games from becoming an accepted cultural art-form like novel writing or movie making.
In conclusion, (man, I talked about this way longer than I had intended…) I’m hoping that my next game can approach some of those difficult issues in a mature manner. And there you have it. Your first tidbit of info about my next game! Ooooo!
Anyways, I highly recommend giving the rest of Costikyan’s speech a read. It’s posted on his blog.