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The Game Effect Editorial

Video Games Won't Grow Up Until Fans Demand It

David Cage is right, but nobody cares

By Daniel Jones on 2/8/2013
There's a bit of deja vu in writing this: David Cage speaks and the internet listens... then immediately yells back in angry tweets and expletives. The outspoken designer of Heavy Rain and the upcoming Beyond: Two Souls recently put his flame hat on by taking the stage at the DICE summit to tell the industry that it needs to grow up. His point being summed up in a single quote: "We have spent decades coming up with the most remarkable entertainment medium ever conceived - and it is still used primarily to let you shoot or stab people." A point that makes total sense, except for the fact that the audience -- you know, that little sector of people that actually spend their money on these games -- still prefer stabbing and shooting to the alternative: talking and thinking.

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Despite the opinion of people like Cage, video games are not movies. In general, video games still fit very neatly within the definition of a "game". Participants are called players because they have control over the outcome of the experience, and oftentimes, "winning" is the end-goal. In fact, games are probably more "gamey" than they've ever been. iOS games are simple pocket passtimes that aren't overly demanding of one's attention nor do they require much critical thought. See Angry Birds or even the more "hardcore"Super Hexagon.

And in other arenas, as Cage explains (not-inaccurately so), video games have adopted increasingly complex narratives and presentations, while still generally leaning on the gameplay tropes of handing the player weapons and enemies to shoot them with. Take Dead Space 3 for example; instead of simply focusing on the tension and atmosphere, Visceral Games implemented a complex gun-crafting system that brings the series closer to Diablo and further from Amnesia.

The problem with Cage's argument is that games like Dead Space 3 are still selling, and still generally receiving positive reviews. Gamers -- both casual and hardcore -- in general, do not play games for their stories or social commentaries. The developers of last year's two most thematically challenging titles, Spec Ops: The Line and Far Cry 3 both knew this. The games needed to be enjoyed as shooters on their own merit for the large portion of the fans who have no interest in all that violence commentary mumbo jumbo. Games have their purpose, and the general opinion of the hundreds of millions of game players is that games are games, not movies and not books. We play them to unwind, escape and forget the outside world.

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That's not to say that gamers aren't becoming more and more accepting of "grown up" games. Just look at the success of The Walking Dead and Journey to see how, at least, the core audience of gamers has a taste for the kind of games Cage wants to become ubiquitous in the industry. And historically, the core audience has been a fairly accurate barometer for the future of the industry.

However, until a game like Heavy Rain or The Walking Dead becomes the next Call of Duty, the art form will continue to be used primarily to shoot and stab people. Until the audience -- and the money that follows it -- demands more grown up games, we should expect to see David Cage speak at many more DICE summits.
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nickrmorin on February 13, 2013
I think of my self as a story line gamer.  Meaning that I need a good story line for me to actualy play and engoy a game.  Mindless shoting and stabing isn't what video games are for me, although it is an added plus.  I guess you could say that I like game that are more like movies, that is to say they are more centered on the story rather than the game play.  But I would still want to feel like I eared the short break that a cutscene gives me so I do still want good game play.
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indiejones on February 13, 2013
I understand that. I kinda feel the same way.
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Fenriff on February 10, 2013
I would have to disagree. There will always be a place for games like Cage's works and The Walking Dead, but no one should be able to claim that every game should be like that. No one has the right to say what all games should be like and what they should or shouldn't have. Not everyone wants to run around shooting people, but not everyone wants to play a game that has a qte to shave your face. Taking away violence leaves you with an incredibly restricted industry, you're left with puzzle and adventure games and Cage's interactive movies. Amnesia was an excellently crafted horror game without a single weapon, but there should never be restrictions on an industry as wide as video games.  I do agree that many games are trying to put TOO much shooting in their games to pull in wider audiences, like with Dead Space 3, which while fun could do with more tension and atmosphere and less crazy gun combos.
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indiejones on February 10, 2013
Thanks for the comment! I never meant to imply that there should no longer be any one type of game. I simply would like to see more games like TWD and Heavy Rain that actually appeal to a wider audience. I think Heavy Rain had a LOT of things wrong with it, but it's a step in the right direction. I don't think games should ever get rid of all violence (and really, TWD and HR are both pretty darn violent), but I would like to see more games that give actual context to the violence and action. This wasn't really only about games with violence. It's not the violence that I see as the problem. It's the complex controls that intimidate and scare off wider audiences who are then just left with simple mindless fare like Angry Birds. It's that audience that I believe we should try to give more options too. Not all casual games need to be silly simple throwaways.... but until the audience latches onto something more sophisticated, that's just how it's going to be. That was the point of my editorial. Which I should've expressed a bit better.
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