There was a marvellous article in The Guardian last week featuring Heavy Rain creator David Cage, discussing the potential for very different, challenging stories in the game space. It’s about how age brings with it different desires, and what effect that has on video gaming – something often seen as a young person’s pursuit.
As Cage says:
“look, I’m 40, I’m fed up of writing games where you shoot at everyone”
The fact that this is even an issue is interesting. Gaming, perhaps uniquely amongst entertainment media, really has grown up. An entire generation has stuck with the pastime beyond the childhood period. No other toy has this sort of power. As adults we don’t indulge in the marvellous imagination games inherent in (for example) toy soldiers. I don’t even think (to stick with toy soldiers) that one form of play transforms into its video game counterpart. So whilst we drop one form of play, that doesn’t mean we are “moving on” to video games.
Video game are, in other words, unique. They are a separate form of entertainment which was born as one thing and has now evolved.
As a result it’s not surprising that developers themselves can be heard questioning the relevance of another “space marine” game*. His words may well unite other developers as they begin to pass into middle age and beyond. What they ought to do, however, is prompt publishers to look at potential audiences of this demographic and carry out research into how strong a “grey gaming” strategy could be. I’m sure it won’t be made of up people all wanting games based on thoughtful introspection and arthouse philosophy exercises but it may reveal that a different approach is needed – whether that be in the storylines or in the marketing as we begin to question whether one size really does fit all.
*I disagree that games developers should avoid writing about situations for which they have no experience though. The imagination, rather than personal experience, is still the most vital tool in a writer’s arsenal.