Sunday, March 6, 2011

Games: Serious Business

Here's something I was linked from my regular favourite viewing Extra Credits - it's from a series called Rev Rants, and entitled Fun Isn't Enough.

This video talks about how gaming can represent more than merely entertainment, how they can be more than simply fun.  Now, while I'm all for pushing the advancement of gaming as an art form, Anthony Burch seems to be under the false impression that fun is mutually exclusive to serious content. For all the comparisons to films and all of its different genres, he's seemingly ignoring all those films that manage to not only make an enjoyable ride, but also give us serious food for though. Action films that give us pause to think like The Matrix or Inception fit this bill, The Dark Knight is effectively a character piece about the potential for noble heroes to fall, and even Terminator 2 has a message to deliver about humanity's hubris and capability for self-destruction.

Certainly, it's possible to ignore the deeper messages present in these films (or any film for that matter) but simply providing entertainment does not preclude them from having greater meaning and giving us a deeper insight into our own character and the world around us. Why is it perceived that any game that involves killing your opponents offers little more than a juvenile distraction? A shallow layer of entertainment and special effects doesn't destroy any underlying meaning inherent in a particular piece.

Sorry Miranda, your gun and cup size mean you can't be "serious"

Merely by making this post, it's possible that some people would interpret me as having exactly the knee jerk reaction that he's complaining about, the people "who want games to not be fun" are "cowards" or are happy to let games be "squandered on one thing." I don't insist that games must be fun, but I do insist that they must have some appeal as an entertainment or artistic medium.

People wouldn't necessarily classify watching a horror film or drama movie as fun, but they'd certainly find it entertaining or engaging. Are there are people who are convinced there are no games that currently fit this bill? Do we seriously believe that there are no games around that can pull at our heartstrings or make us really consider a point of view, or even cause us to question the basis of own judgement or morality? Given the potent power of storytelling in games and its increased prevalence in modern titles over the past few years, the industry has made huge strides in addressing this issue. Even games over a decade old have posed some very interesting questions for those who paid attention...

What can change the nature of a man?

Certainly there is much more that can be done so that games can be taken more seriously. But dismissing anything that provides fun as lacking the potential to provide some "deep insights into the human condition" or ignoring that any medium needs to give a mechanism to be engaging for its consumers is as equally shortsighted as demanding that "all games must be fun."

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