Posted by: Tj'ièn | January 10, 2010

Raising questions

One of the many goals I would like to achieve as a game designer is to create a game that feels like a mature game, a game that speaks to its players in a mature manner. I think it is important to investigate this subject matter as I believe our audience is maturing as well. Kids growing up with video games are grown up and may demand their entertainment to grow with them. Children stories are replaced by novels and cartoons are replaced by movies and series. Games mostly do not seem to have this distinction yet, or at least not that obvious.

There are some examples of more mature games and for me the most notable are Fumito Ueda’s games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.

While thinking about the subject of maturing and what it is about I came to the conclusion that maturing is about responsibility, for ourselves and ultimately for others as well. And it seems that games tend to take more and more responsibility away from the player. Games guide the player through their interactive maze telling the player what to do and how to do it. This is the world, these are the rules and that is your goal, enjoy!

It is true that games leave some room for experimentation, trying different tactics and so on, but it is always clear of its purpose. In fact it is often criticized when a player is searching for objective, finding the purpose of it all. But isn’t this what makes a game more mature. Allowing the player more responsibility in creating its own experience?

This brings us back to Fumito Ueda’s games. What makes them stand out from the crowd is the fact that it doesn’t answer questions but raises them instead. What I experienced after slaying my first Colossus was that I was questioning myself, my reasons for killing this creature. It was helpless when I reached its weak-spot and it should die because of my selfish reasons. Why should I continue? What is the purpose of this all? Can’t I do something else instead of killing these magnificent beings?

The fact that the game doesn’t overly projects its objectives and complimenting me on how well I killed this nasty monster makes me start questioning my own reasons. For a game to become more mature it should treat its audience as being more mature. It shouldn’t matter that I do not get rewarded with tons of gold and other in-game valuables if I did something “the right way”. Taking me by the hand and saying, “hey, great job” doesn’t make me feel any more mature.

Can it be – that for a game to become more mature – it must get rid of all the things that supposedly are part of a good game? Are good games childish?

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