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Old 07-20-2011, 07:49 AM   #1
JackVanian
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Germany
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Default The lack of mature adventure games

Hello everyone!
The following post was originally published as a column on Adventure-Treff in German language today. However, since I wanted to reach as many people as possible, I decided to translate it into English, so that I could share it with Adventure Gamers and Gameboomers and hopefully provoce an interesting discussion about the lack of mature games out there.

I am sorry if the German version is better formulated (I'm not an English native speaker), but I think that you will be able to get my point(s)!

Here it is:
“I try not to limit my thinking about the powerful nature of the story because it´s a computer game. I think that we can make computer games that are just as good as any other form of entertainment.” It was the year 1993 when today’s adventure icon Jane Jensen spoke these words during the creation of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the fathers – a year that would change my life. Growing up with Larry, Monkey Island and similar games I nearly couldn’t believe what was going on on my screen.

While I used to think that adventure games were only meant as a humorous way of spending your time, in Sins of the Fathers I experienced something entirely different for the first time.
A mature game with extremely well fleshed out characters, a brilliantly written plot and the type of atmosphere that soaks you in like a great book that you just can’t put out of your hands - a game that didn’t have to hide from what was going on in Hollywood at the time.

Perhaps I was too young to describe my experience with adequate words at the time, but even then it seemed to me like Jane Jensen had opened the door to a new world. Like a promise of an exciting new era her words seemed to me - an era in which talented authors would lead us to the maturity of the adventure game genre with mature storylines, psychologically fleshed out characters and the provocation of true emotions.

Well, in the meantime 18 years have passed, I’m 29 now and Jane’s words still ring in my head. Unfortunately, though, the excitement of these times has turned into disappointment and disillusion. In retropect, I can say that real autor games have stayed the exception since the release of Sins of the Fathers while especially the German publishers release one wanna-be-funny game after the other. And even the allegedly more serious titles, that are out there as well, seem so incredibly empty to me with their shallow characters and stories that I feel nothing but fooled as a mature player.

Of course, you’ve got your great exceptions like Overclocked here and there, but until this day that type of game has remained the exception. Instead we’re seeing plenty of games that are being written by not too talented authors, if they were even written by classical authors at all, that – with their often rather childish type of graphics – seem to be adressed to an audience that I don’t belong to. Of course I don’t want to disallow anyone to look forward to games like Haunted, Deponia or Die Viehchroniken. Generally it is not my intention to damn the sub-genre of humorous comic adventures, just because they don’t struck my personal nerve. But what is lacking is a serious counterweight of real author games, that are aiming for a mature audience and don’t give me the feeling of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

To get to the point: I’m seeking for true emotions, deep psychological conflicts, characters that feel like real human beings – characters that don’t give me the feeling the totally empty and shallow main protagonist only exists because there’s gotta be some you control while you’re solving tons of more or less creative puzzles. Well, I’m not looking for occupational therapy, I am looking for interactive experiences that make me forget the world around me like a good book. The fact that nearly no one out there satisfies my needs impressively shows that the adventure game genre, which likes to call itself story-driven, not only can’t compete with other mediums of storytelling like films, but in fact is lightyears behind these other mediums.

In the last year Heavy Rain has proven how different things can be. Now one could argue that Heavy Rain had a budget that “normal” adventure developers can only dream of, but this is a statement that couldn’t be more wrong. Because in the end Heavy Rain had to offer some basic virtues that can be regarded completely seperately of the budget. That the provocation of emotions and the usage of complex characters is not a question of money is for example proven by Dave Gilbert and his Blackwell series – even if it uses comic graphics.
We are talking about virtues here that players in fact should demand as self-evident. Virtues, that nearly no publisher or developer seems to even care about.

We can find a key role for all of this in the not existing relevance of real authors. And only if publishers and developers finally understand how much power to create interactive experiences with depth that take the mature audience by the hand and that have the potential to appeal to a new audience they would have in their hands with good authors, we can change something. I’m sure that there are enough good authors out there – as proven by Daedalic with Kevin Mentz in A New Beginning. However, there simply is a lack of sensibility when it comes to the people in charge and for me that is nothing but an infamy 18 years after Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers.

In this sense, dear adventure genre: I have grown up since my first encounter with Sins of the Fathers. Unfortunately, you missed to through the same process at the same time. Over 20 years I spent with you, but the time has come to get rid of your puerile clothes. For the time being, I still stick with you, aside of all my disappointment and frustration, but there might come a day when I will turn away from you in bitterness if you don’t finally realize that the time has come for a radical change. Some people might see me as whistle-blower for my words, but all that I want is to witness the day when the words of Jane Jensen are the rule and not a seldom exception!

Ingmar Böke
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Favorite games: Gabriel Knight series, Heavy Rain, Tex Murphy series, The Last Express, King's Quest 6 Phantasmagoria 1 and 2, The Lost Crown, Tender Loving Care, Blade Runner, Quest for Glory 4, Overclocked, The Dig, Dreamfall...
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