Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is gaming relevant to adults?

Gamesindustry.biz just posted a great interview with Jenova Chen (flOw, Flower).

It hit on a lot of points that I've mentioned about the industry in this blog, and it was interesting to see a known industry developer discussing some of the same points I've been thinking about of late in relation to 'adult' gaming.

When talking about games for adults we're not talking about Gears of War (why does a 'M' rating and 'Adult' content make people think a game is for grown-ups?), we're talking about games that 'old' people might like to play, and the issue of making games more relevant to males over 40. Some quotes:

I don't play a lot of new games because I feel that games have to be - for adults like me - more relevant to my life. When you go out to an art gallery or go to see a movie, you're expecting the film [or art] to either inform you on an intellectual level about certain aspects of life or entertain you on a deep emotional level.

I think a lot of games fail to educate you on an intellectual level, and the emotions they evoke are relatively primal. They are too shallow. Games are very good at making you feel excited, feel thrilled, and feel addicted, but these are the feelings that are very primal - that younger kids or teenagers will respond very well to. As adults we expect to feel something more complex and more sophisticated.

Wonderfully stated and I liked the usage of the word 'primal.' It's a word I think I'll have to adapt to, and use more. The danger in such a statement is that by trying to bring awareness to a problem all games tend to get lumped together, and there is the occasional 'core' game that accomplishes what Jenova is talking about, but I'd love to see more ;).

Another quote:

I'm not against the traditional type of feeling that gaming evokes. Empowerment is a great experience. Even Hollywood has the equivalent in those super hero movies. But what I feel [games] are lacking is the complexity of feeling and the other hues of feeling. If nobody tries to evoke these other types of feelings, then the game market will be very limited.

My goal is to make a game that is this complex flavour. It's like cooking. The best food is not just with one flavour, you have a lot of secret ingredients that, when mixed together, create something very unique that you cannot forget. For me, if you play Flower from beginning to end, it is not all just peaceful. It has peace, it has wonder, it has twists, it has despair, and it has a catharsis.

What of course makes Jenova Chen different is that he is actively working to make his vision a reality. Perhaps much like anyone else, he is trying to create the type of game that he wants to play, but unlike much of the industry, I think he's got a much more 'adult' centered focus.

At a minimum, he's increasing the diversity of gaming, and as I mentioned in my last post, I'd love to see more planets of the gaming universe.

I've often pondered why the game industry is over 25 years old, but there are very few 40 year olds in it. I believe with more developers taking the angle of Jenova, there would be more 40 year olds both making and playing games (and that takes nothing away from the younger teen and early 20-something audience, in fact I'd say they are probably much easier to please, which if nothing else ensures games will be made for them until the end of time ;).


Ryan said...

I agree that games still need to grow up. I think we're inching there slowly, with evidence being new topics and ideas being explored even in mainstream games.

For example I'm playing Far Cry 2right now, which I was initially really impressed by because of the setting and hints of a deeper plot. As the game progresses it starts to become apparent that most of the setting is merely window dressing for one firefight after another, and I'm slowly becoming frustrated with the game.

I was thrilled at the idea of exploring Africa as a mercenary, meeting people, solving their problems, or just learning how life works in rural Africa. But instead of being able to bet on chickens and making money in a cockpit, I find that no matter where I go somebody wants to shoot me dead.

Evil Dan said...

Nice post! This is one of biggest issues with the current state of the industry.

For some reason there is an asumption that a game made for adults has to be ultra-violent or horror or some other extreme content.

I actually wrote a small blurb on the lack of relevance of games with our lives that you may find interesting on my website:


Again I wanted to say thank you for the article.