6 November, 2006
I was at a "think tank" called Project Horseshoe over the weekend. (That's why this WDC is a bit late.) The goal of the get-together was to spend time thinking about the difficult problems in game design. I submitted an issue that became the focus of a small group of very smart game designers:
Games As Legitimate Medium
This the single most important question facing our industry, in my opinion.
I hesitate to use the word "art" here, but that's usually how this is described. A less loaded way is to ask: What will it take to have games considered a legitimate medium? Right now most people consider games as something for kids, and this is why we get slammed for things you see in nighttime TV.
To paraphrase Scott McCloud in Reinventing Comics: "As long as the broader community assumes that comics [or, in our case, games], by their nature, are without social value and, by their nature, are suitable only for kids -- then charges of obscenity will always hit their mark." So, what do we have to do to be considered a serious medium like movies, books, and TV?
Related to this, how can we make "mature" games without resorting to sexual titillation or hyperviolence?
So, now is your chance to prove that you could have participated with top of the field (and me ;): what is your thoughts about this issue? Read on for a bit of insight into what we discussed.
A full report is being worked on, but here's a summary of our main thoughts:
- Legitimacy will likely happen sooner or later: our efforts focused on trying to make this sooner rather than later.
- Legitimacy has some problems. Once you get legit, you sometimes loose your edge.
- There are three areas of legitimacy: commercial, moral, artistic.
- Games have probably already gained commercial legitimacy. Unfortunately, we've seen mostly negative aspects because of this: fear of risk, etc.
- Some media have one event that defines it: consider the movie The Birth of a Nation, which is consider the pivotal work that made movies become respectable.
- Other media slowly become accepted over time. Rock 'n' Roll music does not have a singular event, and was demonized until very recently when "Urban Music" (Rap, Hip-Hop, etc) took over as the new musical demon.
One thing we didn't really get to talk about is how to make "mature" games without resorting to sex and violence. Bonus points for anyone that discusses this in depth on here.
So, what are your thoughts on this topic? Is this one of the most important topics facing the game industry? Were we right in our thinking?