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Old 12-06-2006, 07:15 AM   #23
Not like them!
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I'd like to see as many adventures as possible which attempt to deal with serious issues, not because I think they'd be thought-provoking but because it would be tremendous for the adventure game's image.

Imagine we've got a whole bunch of adventure games with serious subject matter. They wouldn't really be successful at dealing with that material (and I'll explain why in a moment), but they would get lots of press from journalists surprised to find "meaningful" videogames. The game's writers would get interviewed over and over about how they wanted to deal with this or that issue and about their feelings on society and indignation over the perception of videogames ("Games don't have to be just mindless entertainment! I make art!") etc. etc. Then, whenever an argument gets started about how videogames have just been publicly called a lesser form of entertainment/kiddie stuff/escapist fantasy/substitute for masturbation, someone will pipe up, "But hey! There are adventure games which are serious!". Whether or not they actually are serious is almost beside the point in this context- The point is, adventure games could start to be seen as the "respectable" branch of videogames. And I certainly can't see any harm coming from that.

But let's back up a little bit. What makes me think that this scenario is at all likely? Well, the adventure game market isn't getting any bigger, and yet there are still a bunch of developers who love the medium and want to continue to write for it. Sooner or later, one of those developers is going to realize he doesn't want to be selling to a tiny niche and he's going to look for an easy opportunity to get attention (and sales) from the mainstream. Maybe not -maybe they're all so risk-averse that the thought won't even occur to any of them- but this is my hope, and I think it's a reasonable one. I expect that it's more likely to happen with adventures than with other better-selling types of games because they've already got the sales by just sticking to formula. They don't want to muck around when their huge profits are on the line.

Now here's why it won't work. The concept that everything should serve the telling of the story is still not understood. Even adventure designers whose sole intent is to tell a good story hold on to the old formulas even when they interfere with their ability to tell that story. When making their "serious" games, they'd surely continue to do as they always have, throwing in puzzles and exploration which don't specifically service the story. If the puzzles made the player make ethical choices, that would obviously be great, but who here believes that such puzzles would outnumber the generic inventory puzzles? Having people around with valuable insight on the issue would of course be great, but who here believes such people wouldn't be outnumbered by the number of people just thrown in to make the game world seem more lively and real, without anything meaningful to contribute? They'd still be designed as adventure games first and topical storytelling second -a distant second. In the bottom line, these games would be at best only half-way dealing with these serious subjects, and at worst only superficially. And when that's the case, an adventure game can't possibly be expected to be as meaningful a way of dealing with an issue as other mediums.

So we're left with only the image enhancement, which I think is a good first step. Once adventure games are already seen as dealing with this stuff, it'll be easier to get a game approved which really is.
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