Let's Get Indie Games Away From the Idea of a Small Child in a Scary World

Yahtzee Croshaw

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Let's Get Indie Games Away From the Idea of a Small Child in a Scary World

There's a tendency for indie games to incorporate a central theme of small child in a scary world, and there's more that would be done.

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darkrage6

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Agreed, I think we need to see more games like Dex and Buck and less games like Inside. The vast majority of indie titles just do not appeal to me.
 

darkrage6

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Also Spec Ops was not saying that "military shooters are pointless", according to Walt Williams he wanted to people to question why they played them. I was asking myself a different question while playing that game-"why the hell am I playing this instead of the other military shooters"?
 

Igor-Rowan

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After playing Limbo and Earthbound, I haven't got into another Small Child, Scary World as much as I want to, I know Earthbound may not be one, but that's what I got from it. But I don't think it is as overused as "deers are a sign of innocence, the bad guy killed one, that means he's evil" in horror games, the thing is if you play enough of them, you'll see that some are subtle, but others feel like they beat you over the head with their symbolism. This also happens in cinema, with much less restrain, but since games are "play to believe", I can't help but give in curiosity.
 

Thanatos2k

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Here's a question for you then, does Super Metroid quality as one of these games? It pioneered the bleak world exploration genre.
 

SirSullymore

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Oh my god, thank you for reminding me of Heart of Darkness! I'd occasionally remember that game but had no idea what it was called.
 

darkrage6

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SirSullymore said:
Oh my god, thank you for reminding me of Heart of Darkness! I'd occasionally remember that game but had no idea what it was called.
I only know about that game because Caddicarus reviewed it, it looks pretty damn awful to be honest.
 

Darth_Payn

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I thought this column ended rather abruptly; the conclusion, where he listed a couple of big-budget games with unexpected themes, didn't sound very conclusive.
 

gyrobot_v1legacy

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Thanatos2k said:
Here's a question for you then, does Super Metroid quality as one of these games? It pioneered the bleak world exploration genre.
Not really. You got blow these beasts to kingdom come and you are inclined to speedrun through this so Samus can get oiut of her suit and spend some credits at a upper end nightclub at some seedy underbelly on the fringe of GalFed Civilization.

Also Yahtzee may not take kindly to my idea about a game where you play as a child war survivor escaping from not Daesh. Game is as SCSW as it comes.

SirSullymore said:
Oh my god, thank you for reminding me of Heart of Darkness! I'd occasionally remember that game but had no idea what it was called.
Fun fact. The guy who made the game actually went on to make Bastion.
 

CaitSeith

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Thanatos2k said:
Here's a question for you then, does Super Metroid quality as one of these games? It pioneered the bleak world exploration genre.
No, because you're bounty hunter with an armor and arm cannon; and scary world exploration had been already done long before with games like the original Shadow of the Beast games.
 

Kenjitsuka

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"Bastion is another marginal example and it's an isometric hack-and-slasher"
Eh, it's not a scary world at all, because you are quite powerfull and kick all the asses with ease.
Also, you are litterally rebuilding that shit, so that's also not quite bleak. :O
 

Neurotic Void Melody

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How about a game of a nasty, sadistic, powerful villain that starts off in an idyllic world, sidesrcoller action oriented. But on your quest to achieve whatever selfish desire that lies on the far right of this adventure leads you through various situations that won't let you proceed without you having to either kill people/creatures that are only doing their job, or sacrificing some of your power to them. Which in turn, affects the world around you differently as it gets slowly scarier and more oppressive towards you while you become weaker, smaller and more frightened. Perhaps even younger, like a Benjamin Button style curse. I dont want to think about this too much, for a mere offhanded comment, without committing to something that bears fruit. But the idea can work with enough creative effort and time I believe.
Also, this column is only bi-weekly? Aww!
 

90sgamer

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The only game referenced that I've played is Bastion, which isn't bleak at all, and Limbo, which was an enjoyable diversion. I was never under the impression it was attempting to be 'artsy.' It had a unique art style to be sure, and the art style played a direct role in setting the tone and setting; however, the art was not the main attraction, nor did I detect the familiar of odor of pompous self righteous superiority that typically accompanies hipsters attempting to deconstruct a visual theme. In light of this, I am wondering what Yahtzee means by 'artsy.'

I think the rash of kid-centric games is the result of the age of the game developers making those games. As a thirty-something year old myself, it wasn't until recently I transitioned from 'kids are disgusting, expensive little shit bags' to 'some of them are cute, I might want one.' In fact, my unpublished literature has explored this transition in my life, and I've found myself attracted to media exploring parental relationships with children, such as The Last of Us and The Walking Dead. I found myself even forcing this relationship into Dragon's Dogma, a game not originally intended to be played that way, by making a father/daughter character and main pawn combination.

In summary, I'm not sure the kid in a scary world trope is utilized to be artsy. I think it's just a product of maturing game developers, and their maturing customers.
 

Transdude1996

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90sgamer said:
I think the rash of kid-centric games is the result of the age of the game developers making those games. As a thirty-something year old myself, it wasn't until recently I transitioned from 'kids are disgusting, expensive little shit bags' to 'some of them are cute, I might want one.' In fact, my unpublished literature has explored this transition in my life, and I've found myself attracted to media exploring parental relationships with children, such as The Last of Us and The Walking Dead. I found myself even forcing this relationship into Dragon's Dogma, a game not originally intended to be played that way, by making a father/daughter character and main pawn combination.
I'd like to point out that there's also a problem with that trope too. To my knowledge, the parent/child relationships in games are always father/daughter relationships. Outside of perhaps Amy, and maybe the upcoming GoW (If the kid lives past the first act), I cannot think of a parent/child relationship in a game that breaks that formula.

Why is that? What does a father/daughter relationship do to a story as opposed to having the parental figure be a woman, and/or the child figure be a boy?
 

darkrage6

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90sgamer said:
The only game referenced that I've played is Bastion, which isn't bleak at all, and Limbo, which was an enjoyable diversion. I was never under the impression it was attempting to be 'artsy.' It had a unique art style to be sure, and the art style played a direct role in setting the tone and setting; however, the art was not the main attraction, nor did I detect the familiar of odor of pompous self righteous superiority that typically accompanies hipsters attempting to deconstruct a visual theme. In light of this, I am wondering what Yahtzee means by 'artsy.'

I think the rash of kid-centric games is the result of the age of the game developers making those games. As a thirty-something year old myself, it wasn't until recently I transitioned from 'kids are disgusting, expensive little shit bags' to 'some of them are cute, I might want one.' In fact, my unpublished literature has explored this transition in my life, and I've found myself attracted to media exploring parental relationships with children, such as The Last of Us and The Walking Dead. I found myself even forcing this relationship into Dragon's Dogma, a game not originally intended to be played that way, by making a father/daughter character and main pawn combination.

In summary, I'm not sure the kid in a scary world trope is utilized to be artsy. I think it's just a product of maturing game developers, and their maturing customers.
I personally have no desire to ever have kids myself, I don't think it would be a very good idea for me at all(mainly due to my Asperger's Syndrome, i'm still learning how to take of myself, no way am I capable of taking care of kids). So I can't really relate to these games myself.
 

Bedinsis

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The more I think about it the more Yahtzee's terminology of SCSW game seems to be baloney. At least based on the examples he uses.

Of the games he mentioned I've only played Bastion, Braid and Limbo. Limbo is the quintessential example, which I would accept the label for hands down.

In Braid, the main character Tim is clearly an adult, as described by the in game text. The very first message is that the princess was kidnapped because Tim made a mistake, so he's hardly innocent. Furthermore, the actual gameplay of the game encourages the player to see the inhabitants from a mechanical perspective, where death is just one step of the process to solving the mechanical puzzles, so I don't accept that the game world should be considered scary.

In Bastion the protagonist is not meant to inspire feelings of loneliness or lack of hope. He's frankly cool, with a narration that ensures that the player is relaxed and in always instilled with a sense of can-do. Compare with the narration from Darkest Dungeon. Also, the ability to choose gear and what buildings reappear at the home base(the titular bastion) removes the feeling of being an entity with little control. Based on your description he sounds closer to Kid Chameleon.

I should mention that I haven't finished playing Bastion, so it's possible it goes in directions I have yet to experience.

What I think is happening is:

1. The medium has had success in the past with design that no longer require AAA budgets.
2. As a consequence of these designs, it is the most convenient to make the protagonist smaller.
3. Smaller characters look more childlike.

That games nowadays allows for expressing bleakness is just a development of the medium as a whole.

I therefore think Yahtzee is doing the games a disservice by thinking of the characters as children. In particular because I believe that Silent Hill 2 could probably be given the SCSW label just by changing the proportions of the main character.

So yes, Yahtzee, let's get away from the idea of a small child in a scary world. It limits your ability in thinking about games since you try to think about games that do not fit your mental construct in that way.
 

Grumpy Ginger

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Transdude1996 said:
90sgamer said:
I think the rash of kid-centric games is the result of the age of the game developers making those games. As a thirty-something year old myself, it wasn't until recently I transitioned from 'kids are disgusting, expensive little shit bags' to 'some of them are cute, I might want one.' In fact, my unpublished literature has explored this transition in my life, and I've found myself attracted to media exploring parental relationships with children, such as The Last of Us and The Walking Dead. I found myself even forcing this relationship into Dragon's Dogma, a game not originally intended to be played that way, by making a father/daughter character and main pawn combination.
I'd like to point out that there's also a problem with that trope too. To my knowledge, the parent/child relationships in games are always father/daughter relationships. Outside of perhaps Amy, and maybe the upcoming GoW (If the kid lives past the first act), I cannot think of a parent/child relationship in a game that breaks that formula.

Why is that? What does a father/daughter relationship do to a story as opposed to having the parental figure be a woman, and/or the child figure be a boy?
Well outside of the binding of Isaac which is mother son. Part of the reason and I think somebody did a column about it was that it may be in part for writers being told that they have to have a male protagonist but want at least one fleshed out female character and don't want to do the whole love interest thing so the father daughter relationship seems to be an easy way to do it.
 

Igor-Rowan

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Transdude1996 said:
Why is that? What does a father/daughter relationship do to a story as opposed to having the parental figure be a woman, and/or the child figure be a boy?
I think Yahtzee answered that in his Earthbound review, "Mother is the center of everything for that little boy", something in those lines. And honestly, I don't think this is ever going to change, gender equality or not, the woman is still the only one who gives birth, making her the one that is connected the most to her kid or another child she comes across. Which means in a family if the father dies, it's always going to be less sad than if the mother did (only if she didn't have a connection to the family, but that's kind of pushing it).

And that brings me to GoW, I think the writer got themselves in a corner when they decided to keep the old Kratos (as in not rebooting him) and give him that kid:
* If the kid dies, and Kratos go back to his rage ways, then they achieved status quo and his son was nothing but a tool to get to it.
* If the kid lives, that's gonna be a major shift of the series we know and it's going to feel really disrespectful to those who legitimely teared up when they saw the live-action trailer for God of War 3 (if you didn't you should, because it's really good)
This is why many are seeing this new GoW as a lose-lose situation, I think they can pull it off, but this is going to be the most divisive one by far.
 

Kahani

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90sgamer said:
In summary, I'm not sure the kid in a scary world trope is utilized to be artsy. I think it's just a product of maturing game developers, and their maturing customers.
I disagree. Far from showing how anyone is maturing, it shows that they're exactly the same as they have always been - desperate to jump on any bandwagon and beat it into the ground. As Yahtzee said, there's nothing wrong with this as a trope at all, the reason he's complaining about it being so common is that, as with all things, the vast majority of games using it are shitty clones desperate to leech recognition by using the same themes and art styles as the good games. The trend for SCSW games is no different from the trend for unfinished survival games, or "retro-inspired" pixel art games, or superhero films, and so on. It's simply that a couple of decent games were made, so everyone who couldn't make a decent game tried to copy them. I think the main reason they get accused of trying to be artsy is because that's pretty much all most of them have - the majority are just mediocre puzzle/platformers that have "looking a bit pretty and hand-drawn" as their only selling point.