252: Our Turn to Decide

Brendan Main

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Our Turn to Decide

Games are not "in their infancy" nor will they be "coming of age" anytime soon. If an age metaphor is necessary, gaming is already an adult and Brendan Main says that it's up to us to decide what that means.

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Brendan Main

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I don't particularly think gaming will ever mature past the level it is now.

Good.

Gaming, at it's most basic, allows us to live out our fantasies. And, unless you're the most boring person on the planet/never had a childhood, you can bet that most peoples fantasies will either involve sex, violence, improbable feats or some combination of the three. Gaming can be very mature when it wants to be, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but is there really any problem with killing lots of people in the most violent way possible? Assuming you're old enough to play it. No, there isn't. It's fun, and that's all there is to it. Sure, people will say it's immature and morally reprehensible, but who really cares? The games still get made, and they're still fun. You're making a bunch of pixels fall over. And it's fun.

Movies, although touted as more 'mature', are almost the same. I challenge you, look through your DVD collection for films that involve no sex, blood, violence of any kind or swearing. There will be a few, but I bet they'll be massively overwhelmed by the amount of titles that involve one or all of the above. Hell, back in the 'good old days', films, books and theatre were just as violent. The only thing stopping them from being really violent were the same kind of puritans that today hark back to them as some sort of golden age.

Gaming is for entertainment. It doesn't need to be any more mature, especially if we go by the definition of mature that non-gamers want it to be, that is, boring! That doesn't mean games can't be art, but as far as I see it, games are fine as they are.

Nice article.
 

Shockolate

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I have to say, I REALLY like that Picture of Marcus shooting Dom with a nerf gun.

It's so delightfully amusing and out of character I just can't help but smile.
 

Nightfalke

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Furburt said:
I don't particularly think gaming will ever mature past the level it is now.

Good.
And that, I think, is the problem. People don't want the medium to mature more.

But if we ever want videogames to become, I don't want to use the term 'accepted', but less looked down upon, then the gamers need to step up and make it so. We need to become more than just the CoD dickholes screaming obscenties into XBox Live. We need to become more than just socially inept man-children in our basements playing WoW for 30 hours a week (or more) while ignoring the outside world.

Until society takes gamers seriously, they will not take gaming seriously. And gaming will always be viewed as a child's toy, and will never be an adult.

I like how the article puts it, though. Once gaming stops being looked down upon as a child's thing, gaming can then decide what it wants to be.

I'm not saying that gaming needs to stop being violent, or sexy, or whatever. I am saying that gaming (and gamers) needs to improve its image so that it can be violent or sexy or whatever without causing an uproar. I mean, if there was a movie with the same plot and action as GTA IV, it probably would have done very well at the box office and noone would have cared. But since it was a videogame...well, you know the rest.
 

Brendan Main

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Nightfalke said:
Until society takes gamers seriously, they will not take gaming seriously. And gaming will always be viewed as a child's toy, and will never be an adult.
True, but what I'm saying is, why do we need outside approval? It's all part of gamings innate inferiority complex. I think that we are pretty mature as we are. Not as mature as we could be, but any more mature, and we might end up sacrificing our core values. I mean, film and books don't need gamers to say whether they are artistic or not, so why should we constantly defer to them? Because they've been around longer? So what?
I'm not saying that gaming needs to stop being violent, or sexy, or whatever. I am saying that gaming (and gamers) needs to improve its image so that it can be violent or sexy or whatever without causing an uproar. I mean, if there was a movie with the same plot and action as GTA IV, it probably would have done very well at the box office and noone would have cared. But since it was a videogame...well, you know the rest.
Well, the way I see it, that's the non-gaming medias problem. Films had the same problem, but what a lot of people don't realise is that it wasn't that those who lambasted films in the early days came to accept them, but that they simply died out and were replaced by people who did accept them. And you can see that happening now.
Charlie Brooker is a good example. 25 years ago, shows that dealt gaming at some point were either barely watched or totally condescending to the medium, whereas nowadays, an avid gamer like Charlie Brooker can present well watched shows on the matter on the national broadcaster. Soon, the old farts like Ebert will just die off, and be replaced by those who understand or are at least not opposed to videogaming. It's the only way it's going to happen. Gaming will evolve naturally, if we rush it by trying to force maturity on it, it's just going to end up making games unplayable.
 

Jesus Phish

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Furburt said:
I don't particularly think gaming will ever mature past the level it is now.

Good.

Gaming, at it's most basic, allows us to live out our fantasies. And, unless you're the most boring person on the planet/never had a childhood, you can bet that most peoples fantasies will either involve sex, violence, improbable feats or some combination of the three. Gaming can be very mature when it wants to be, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but is there really any problem with killing lots of people in the most violent way possible? Assuming you're old enough to play it. No, there isn't. It's fun, and that's all there is to it. Sure, people will say it's immature and morally reprehensible, but who really cares? The games still get made, and they're still fun. You're making a bunch of pixels fall over. And it's fun.

Movies, although touted as more 'mature', are almost the same. I challenge you, look through your DVD collection for films that involve no sex, blood, violence of any kind or swearing. There will be a few, but I bet they'll be massively overwhelmed by the amount of titles that involve one or all of the above. Hell, back in the 'good old days', films, books and theatre were just as violent. The only thing stopping them from being really violent were the same kind of puritans that today hark back to them as some sort of golden age.

Gaming is for entertainment. It doesn't need to be any more mature, especially if we go by the definition of mature that non-gamers want it to be, that is, boring! That doesn't mean games can't be art, but as far as I see it, games are fine as they are.

nice article.
Agreed with pretty much everything you've said.

What is mature then? What makes something televison, a book, a movie (these things that people seem to be trying to make games more like) mature?

I've seen more sex scenes in movies, more violence in movies, than in any games. I've seen movies that have darker stories than any game. And any time a game does try to go that route, it gets panned by the media.

I don't think it's a case of, gamers need to grow up and let games become adult. I think it's a case of we need to be allowed grow up. People need to realize that if something has a Mature sticker on it, it's mature.

Let's look as Mass Effect. First game, brief sex scenes, rated 12, looking at the box now it says "moderate violence and sex scene". It causes uproar. Next game comes out. Now its an 18s game, increased swearing, another sex scene, this time fully clothed. Games arent allowed being allowed to grow up and it's now our fault.

And while I do agree that gamers could be a bit more mature (look at XBL), look at sports fans. Look at the guys going to football games cursing and swearing at the other team. Are they more mature?
 

Nightfalke

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Furburt said:
Nightfalke said:
Until society takes gamers seriously, they will not take gaming seriously. And gaming will always be viewed as a child's toy, and will never be an adult.
True, but what I'm saying is, why do we need outside approval? It's all part of gamings innate inferiority complex. I think that we are pretty mature as we are. Not as mature as we could be, but any more mature, and we might end up sacrificing our core values. I mean, film and books don't need gamers to say whether they are artistic or not, so why should we constantly defer to them? Because they've been around longer? So what?
I am not looking for approval. I am looking to be taken seriously. I want to be able to buy a game that has adult themes without people going apeshit on how it will torment our children. I don't care if they like gaming, I just want them to treat gaming the same way as other forms of media.

Also, this 'core values' idea... What are gaming's core values? To entertain? How is becoming more mature of a medium going to stop that? I am still very entertained by books and movies, even serious ones. So why does gaming have to not be serious?

Gaming will evolve naturally, if we rush it by trying to force maturity on it, it's just going to end up making games unplayable.
AHA! Now we get to the crux of the argument. Why does mature have to equal boring or unplayable?
 

Brendan Main

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Nightfalke said:
Gaming will evolve naturally, if we rush it by trying to force maturity on it, it's just going to end up making games unplayable.
AHA! Now we get to the crux of the argument. Why does mature have to equal boring or unplayable?
It doesn't, but maturity is a very vague term. If we allow gaming to evolve naturally, then it will come into its own, given time. However, I get the suspicion that if we rush it, and allow those who slam videogaming to define what mature is, we're going to end up getting their definition of the maturity that videogames need, which is almost certainly going to be the eradication of all sex and violence from the medium. That's not maturity, that's mundane.

Let videogaming be as violent and stupid as it likes, and soon, it will grow out of it naturally. Film did, so did television. If we relentlessly push on towards this fabled mature status, then we're letting people who don't understand the medium shape it.
 

Nightfalke

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Jesus Phish said:
I've seen more sex scenes in movies, more violence in movies, than in any games. I've seen movies that have darker stories than any game. And any time a game does try to go that route, it gets panned by the media.

I don't think it's a case of, gamers need to grow up and let games become adult. I think it's a case of we need to be allowed grow up. People need to realize that if something has a Mature sticker on it, it's mature.
My point exactly! Until the media and society at large comes to accept gaming as a mature medium, every time a game with darker content or more adult content comes out, it will get massive backlash.

And while I do agree that gamers could be a bit more mature (look at XBL), look at sports fans. Look at the guys going to football games cursing and swearing at the other team. Are they more mature?
Of course not, and what is even worse is when they are doing all this in front of a 7 year old kid with his family 2 rows away. But when it's that 7 year old kid playing MW2 screaming racial slurs into his microphone?
 

Nightfalke

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Furburt said:
Let videogaming be as violent and stupid as it likes, and soon, it will grow out of it naturally. Film did, so did television. If we relentlessly push on towards this fabled mature status, then we're letting people who don't understand the medium shape it.
I know of many many recent movies that are violent and stupid, so one could say that movies haven't grown out of their immaturity?

Of course you wouldn't say that. You may say that those particular films are immature, but not the medium as a whole...

And that is what must happen to gaming. The ability to be able to make a violent and stupid game by one studio, and the ability to make a serious and dark game by another studio, and everyone picks which ones they like. And noone flips their lids when the violent and dark game with boobies comes out because we need to THINK OF THE CHILDREN OMG!!!
 

Brendan Main

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Nightfalke said:
And that is what must happen to gaming. The ability to be able to make a violent and stupid game by one studio, and the ability to make a serious and dark game by another studio, and everyone picks which ones they like. And noone flips their lids when the violent and dark game with boobies comes out because we need to THINK OF THE CHILDREN OMG!!!
Well, that's pretty much what I'm saying, but what I'm saying is that while achieving this, we simply can't afford to rush it. That's basically it. If we do rush it, then gaming as a whole has a serious chance of being totally shaped by other mediums who don't respect it. If, in our drive for maturity, we end up looking totally towards films or books for inspiration, then gaming's going to end up losing its soul. We've been around long enough that we shouldn't have to look at books and films, just make the games that people want, and soon enough, people will want more substantial things. We as gamers should be the only ones shaping our future, not anyone else.
 

Nightfalke

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Furburt said:
Well, that's pretty much what I'm saying, but what I'm saying is that while achieving this, we simply can't afford to rush it. That's basically it. If we do rush it, then gaming as a whole has a serious chance of being totally shaped by other mediums who don't respect it. If, in our drive for maturity, we end up looking totally towards films or books for inspiration, then gaming's going to end up losing its soul. We've been around long enough that we shouldn't have to look at books and films, just make the games that people want, and soon enough, people will want more substantial things. We as gamers should be the only ones shaping our future, not anyone else.
I have to wonder... How long did it take the motion picture industry to shake off the idea of it being a meaningless diversion and become a 'mature' artform? I wonder if it was because of one movie in particular, or was it the death of the old guard in media, or was it something completely different? When did people start wanting more out of movies? Again, was it consumer driven or was it studio/director driven?

I only make the comparisons to movies because that was the most recent 'juvenile diversion' to make it mainstream. I think looking to film is a good comparison to videogames, if only to judge how these things evolve.

Also, I think a comparison can be drawn between the major movie studios of the 50s and the major videogame studios of today. There are very few of them creating a majority of the games out there. They have very strict control over the people who make them, close to the point of slave labor.

So then what happened after that? Small studios speang up creating new and exciting movies with deeper plots, darker themes, more sex and violence. Huh. I wonder if they had these same discussions about movies then hat we are having about gaming today.
 

Brendan Main

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Nightfalke said:
I have to wonder... How long did it take the motion picture industry to shake off the idea of it being a meaningless diversion and become a 'mature' artform? I wonder if it was because of one movie in particular, or was it the death of the old guard in media, or was it something completely different? When did people start wanting more out of movies? Again, was it consumer driven or was it studio/director driven?
I'd say around the late 1940's, with the decline of the studio system and the advent of independent film studios did film come into it's own as a truly artistic medium. About 45 years from its inception.

In many ways, it's the same process videogaming has, except we're currently in the 1930's. First started by hobbyists, embraced by some. Then, once its potential as a business was established, in the 1930's, it began to be run by corporations and studios, who'd hire the same directors, with the same themes, time and time again. That's the point we're at now.
However, soon the studio system collapsed, and films began to be made by independent filmmakers more, and the creative emphasis began to be placed on the director and screenwriter, not the producer. This point, from around 1955 onwards, reaching its peak in the late 60's and 70's, is what I think is the best point for film so far, bringing us films like Badlands, Taxi Driver, El Topo and The Exorcist that could never be made under a studio system.

You can also see a somewhat similar parallel in the development of painting from the 14th century onwards, through the Renaissance, from the highly controlled, strictly religious iconography of the medieval era, to the much more artistically controlled realism of the Renaissance.

What I'm getting at is that it looks as though it's a natural evolution in all mediums. First hobbyism, then corporatism, then true artistic freedom. I can definitely see it happening to gaming, as soon as the traditional large gaming company monopoly is broken.
 

Drakmeire

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Gaming will always have two basic styles the "simple fun brain-dead live out you fantasy game" I.E. Mario, Katamari, GTA, Halo. and the "can be considered a great work of art and study of the human condition" I.E. Psychonaughts, Shadow of the Colossus, That one survival-horror game that was an allegory for puberty (what was that called again?) and eternal darkness. there is room for both much like in movies, maybe one day gaming will progress to something beyond a fun pass-time but it's highly unlikely. they are called "GAMES" for a reason.
 

mjc0961

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Not only do I agree with the article about all it's saying, but I was also a bit giddy to see the image quote of "Because we're grownups now, and it's our turn to decide what that means." and instantly wondered if there was a reference to xkcd coming up or it was just a coincidence that the same words were used. And then it was a reference after all, awesome. :)
 

SamElliot'sMustache

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I understand that this age-game serves a purpose, often working as a well-meaning promise of untold potential, but as a metaphor, it's entirely disingenuous. Worse, it's nothing that hasn't already been used with that other pop culture fixture, the lowly comic book. During the "growing up" of comics of the 80s and 90s, which saw a talented roster of ambitious artists and writers challenging the fundamentals of their medium, we were treated to a slew of writing trying to align this mature tack against the chrome tackiness of earlier fare. The result was two generations-worth of headlines reading "Bang! Zoom! Comics Aren't For Kids Anymore!" which really is actually an odd way to announce something as adult, if you think about it. You don't see a lot of "Wham! Smash! Remember to Fill Out Your Census Form! Kaplowie!" The lengths that articles of this stripe go to differentiate the bad old stuff from the good new stuff is staggering. I'll always remember one zealous article in a student newspaper that put Captain America's classic "Hitler-Punching" cover side by side with a vision of concentration camp horror from Art Spiegelman's Maus, as if to imply "See? In our comics, the Nazis win!"
I'm glad someone has pointed to this, especially as the comics industry is the actual representative of what video games are going through. Just like in the '80's and '90's (I also want to include the '70's, at least for the amazing Steve Gerber), a handful of ambitious, visionary, and, most importantly, good artists and writers were breaking new ground, and paving the way for comic books to go mainstream. The industry followed suit by simply flooding the market with more of the same superhero books, only louder, dumber, and with more blood and guts, and thus missing the whole 'maturity' thing.

Also, I'd like to point out that older comics (specifically Silver Age books from Lee-Kirby-Ditko-Romita) were far more sophisticated than most academics would give them credit for, either out of willful ignorance or just plain prejudice (I highly recommend reading the work of industry historian Peter Sanderson, or his old column "Comics in Context"). This again fits the games industry, as we're right now in a period where the contributions of older works, both successful (the Final Fantasy series, Grim Fandango, Max Payne, and others) and not-so-much (Okami, Psychonauts), are being overlooked as mere 'child's play' while everyone sits around staring at their navel for the 'X! Y! Games Have All Grown Up!" moment.
 

DanDeFool

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I think a lot of the "Gaming is adolescent/young/in utero" talk is bounced around simply because games haven't been around as long as film (which has been around at least a century), and literature (which has been around since paper got cheaper than gold, several centuries at least).

But what this argument doesn't consider is that the art form evolves with the medium, and games live on the fastest-evolving medium that has ever existed: electronics. Given the breakneck pace with which computer technology has developed over the last twenty years, it's no surprise to me that gaming has gone from child to adult in a fraction of the time it took other media to get there.
 

Feste

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I had to comment to say that I loved this article. Obviously it was an interesting topic, and I completely agree with the author's points, but I just found it to be a really fun read.

"... and Mountain Dew is a vast improvement from regular dew."

This also made me literally lol at work.
 

GonzoGamer

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I think it's hard to discern what age games are at (figuratively) if we don't know how much more they're going to progress.

If we're going to give these art forms ages, books should be dead of old age, they certainly seemed to be getting senile when the Beats came around with Kerouac rambling on and on without stop and Burroughs mixing up the words to the point where even he didn't know what his book's about. So, what are they in now? The afterlife? What killed them? Abbie Hoffman? Or maybe they've been reincarnated as the people I find reading more now are kids and even the grownup books (like Dan Brown's work) have become more sophomoric.

My point is that I don't think games have gone far enough that we can figure out what it's matured into. Sure it's matured but if we're going to review it now, the game industry seems to have matured into a money grubbing yuppie d-bag. Once it figures out how to make self renewing income (getting it's money to work for it), the industry as a whole will be a little less conniving.
 

bakonslayer

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Feste said:
I had to comment to say that I loved this article. Obviously it was an interesting topic, and I completely agree with the author's points, but I just found it to be a really fun read.

"... and Mountain Dew is a vast improvement from regular dew."

This also made me literally lol at work.
I also REALLY enjoyed the article. It feels really nice to get a little vindication, it makes me feel good about being where I am as a gamer. Also, this line nearly made me spit-take my yogurt.