Trees And Other Elements Communicated By Games

An article at the Guardian debates the depth games have to offer these days. The article states that they should be treated as cultural rather than commercial products. The author also brings up some points on the role of the press as well as messages that could be communicated. Now that's a huge topic which I may or may not elaborate on some time later as there are lots of questions to be dealt with. Yes, games which go beyond your average plot experience are appreciated, however, they can also limit the audience a developer tries to access. Also, it clearly doesn't work for every genre. Or player. You can see there is enough potential for a nice discussion. For now let's take a look at one remarkable statement in the text.

We are used to seeing hidden (and not-so-hidden) messages about the state of our society and its future in other entertainment mediums. The dangers of unrestrained technology, scientific tinkering and Machiavellian politics are given regular treatment in our films and TV programs. But you won't see the subjects covered in games.
The author obviously never has played an RPG. Especially one of those made in Japan. I'm tempted to say that there's statistical evidence that 9 out of 10 floating cities will crash some time during a game. 9 out of 10 hightech nations are usually doomed for a reason they're also likely to be responsible for. Destined to end in a spectacular manner because the Atlantis metaphor apparently cannot be (ab)used often enough. In addition to that they're somehow corrupted. And while we're at corruption, same goes for every dominant religion in a J-RPG. Usually incidentally resembling the Catholic church. And often these elements are somehow mixed with Machiavellian motivations.

All these aspects can be found in games. In fact, they're often so present it hurts. Subtle as a sledgehammer. So bland and predictable one can see them miles ahead. Like driving a car while knowing there's a tree you'll hit somewhere down the road. But sometimes the fun you'll have while driving around outweighs the 'tree consequences'. Still, there are too many trees. And they're growing at places where the author claims they aren't. And travelling to places without them can be enjoyable as well. Of course a little more diversity among the tree types definitely wouldn't hurt. And why am I talking about trees? And who are you? Oh, the doctor's coming back, gotta quit.


She makes a good point, sort of. I mean, having critics actually praise or deride the plot of games might alter the way games are perceived and purchased. But that would just spoil it for those of us who actually play for the plot. Plus, it's a lot harder to finish a 40hr game than to sit through a 2hr movie.

On the other hand, it seems to me that games have come in at about the same cultural level as Hollywood movies: mindless violence for some, cutesy stuff for others and thought-provoking for the rest, with the big-budget stuff getting most of the hype. (Okay, I'm over-simplifying, but you get the idea.) I don't know that introducing an extra level of critique would really help anything... it doesn't seem to cut into most action movies' box office take.

PS: No more talk of trees! They're all still on the ground here in Halifax

You dont even have to look to J-RPGs.  All the author has to do is play Fallout 1 & 2.  Mood, plot, mans struggle with his environment, mankinds tendancy to dissolve into lawlessness without a strong central structure, its all there.  There are also plenty of examples of powerful people with good intentions that have a fatal personality flaw that makes them evil or the main villain.

You dont even have to look to J-RPGs.

No, of course not. I've simply used them as an example because the 'message' and the way it's designed is a lot clearer, straighter and more obvious than in Western RPGs. You don't have to look for it and interpret it, it's basically slammed right into your face. So much that it can become annoying again. (Just think about Xenogears, Grandia II, FFVII etc.)