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A gaming maverick

March 13th, 2007 @ 12:25 pm
by Vince Twelve

Costikian182_embed.jpgIf 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.

9 Responses to “A gaming maverick”

  1. gnome Says:

    A brilliant post really. Comrade Costikyan’s too…

    Then again, I’m not particularly optimistic. You see, video games got real mainstream real quick and just didn’t have the time to mature, and haven’t yet found a way to exist without huge corporation backing…

  2. Vince Twelve Says:

    As a result of their quick maturation, however, I think we’re going to see something that we didn’t see for movies or novels: As the kids who grew up on Nintendo and gaming grow older and mature, there’s going to be a slow increase in demand for games that meet their needs intellectually. Eventually, I think there will be a market for mature games where “mature” means something completely different from what it means to games today.

    At least I hope…

  3. SSH Says:

    Happy Birthday, Vince!

  4. Vince Twelve Says:

    Where’d that Scottsman come from?

    Thanks Andrew! But you misspelled “pi day.”

  5. Eric Says:

    Happy Birthday!

    In the place of your birth, it’ll still be your birthday for another 14 hours, so you can keep celebrating. I guess you can keep celebrating pi day too, but that would be irrational.

  6. gnome Says:

    Oh, nice, happy days!

    Happy Birthday!

  7. Vince Twelve Says:

    “you can keep celebrating pi day too, but that would be irrational.”

    Heh heh

  8. Storygamer Says:

    Now you’ve got me intrigued about this next game, Vince :). I don’t know yet if I’ll agree with whatever point of view you present on whatever controversy you depict…but the point is that it sounds like your game will focus on something that it’s possible to have a serious opinion about in the first place, that I can actually either agree or disagree with instead of just shooting things–and for that, I am already applauding. :)

  9. Vince Twelve Says:

    Thanks! Whether you agree or disagree with the point of view shown, if the game causes any sort of critical thinking on the subject then at least that part of the game is a success.

    But the sensitive topics that I’ll be examining only add a backdrop to the game’s story, influencing the characters and their actions. The main focus is still to create a fun game with an engaging storyline.