Manipulating my 10-year old self

A coworker linked to this post on the blog Above49. The author argues that videogames matter. It’s not so much about big ideas or pushing agendas, but the fact that as game developers, we generate emotional responses in our audience and that is a responsibility we shouldn’t take lightly. “It’s just a game” is a phrase I hope I’ll never use.

I don’t mean that games should be serious. I make car games. They’re about driving fast, crashing hard, winning the day. Most of the time we’re concerned with whether we think the player would have fun playing the game and how good it looks. We do worry about marketing issues quite a bit – are we offering something the competition isn’t? But more often than not, that’s just feature comparison. As a movie analogy, we aim to make summer blockbusters, not art. If I said I’m making art, quite a few of my crew at the studio would snicker at me. (I secretly think so, anyway.)

Still I feel it’s more worthwhile than what I’ve done before, which is marketing other people’s products and services and ideologies and selling consumer electronics. Part of that is just that games are a very big deal to me and I love to work on something I love. Anybody would. Yet on a very deep level I genuinely think what we’re doing matters. People are playing a lot of games these days and we shouldn’t take their commitment to us lightly. I’ve thought about this ever since I joined the industry three years ago. I have these quite lofty ideas of what games can be, but I’m making action entertainment, and that’s hard enough as it is, without adding any hippie ideas into the mix. What can I do?

I think back to my childhood. I’m 32 now and what I can recall up to high school is getting really patchy. It’s just small moments and images, now, I can recall very few specific words or gestures. But I do recall the games, I reckon all of them, if I put my mind to it. I have vivid memories of playing almost all of those games, what it was like, what I loved, what was frustrating. And through association, I can recall a lot more of my past, by replaying those gaming moments. How the C=64 power brick warmed my feet in that cold room, playing Airborne Ranger with my friend. How I feared Vendetta would end too soon – it did, on my first time playing it, before going to school on my birthday. How I dreamed up spells to Dungeon Master in the garden, playing with sticks and apples, because I didn’t have an Atari ST, but the reviews had fired up my imagination.

And while it was just entertainment, something about those games was so influential to me that now practically my whole life is about games. Making games, we should understand that they will likely be just that influential to a bunch of kids somewhere – even if for us they’re merely momentary diversions, now, or just another day at the office, if you’ve become really jaded. I think it’s irresponsible to not give any thought to the kinds of emotions we’re enticing and what we want the audience to think. I don’t much believe in trying to alter anyone’s behavior or thoughts through gaming, just that we should understand and respect the effect we’re going to have. If you’re going to make a lasting impression and asking someone to spend upwards of six hours with you, why not take a moment to think about it?






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