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Outgrowing Video Games

Posted by A Tobias 2 years ago
∞ Here's an article ∞ that's deeply relevant to what I'm trying to do at the moment, and where I am psychologically when it comes to video games. It talks about how we outgrow games because as a medium of expression they're usually puerile... and how games that tackle more meaningful topics tend to be unprofitable and ridiculed for existing. Hmm.

A couple of paragraph in particular caught my eye:

Thanks to the internet and how it brings extreme minorities together, the "wrong" kinds of people into the "wrong" kinds of games can find themselves receiving death and rape threats just because they're curious about Firewatch or Undertale, neither of which are pornos or even euphemisms. Other sure ways to get ostracized including being someone who is enthused about video games that explore relatable topics like depression or social anxiety, or someone who just isn't "good enough" skill-wise at the "right" games. If none of that makes sense to you, pat yourself on the back, because you still have a soul.

And somewhere around 8 p.m. on a weekday night in the dark on a couch, when you are playing a video game that has you drag a giant sword behind you who talks to you in a robot voice, you will have this epiphany: "This isn't helping me look at my life any differently." Not that this alone is inherently bad. Both adults and video games fail to recognize that play and turning off your brain is a valuable, even necessary part of life. But it's also kind of like eating cheeseburgers. You reach a point where you realize that maybe you want to try sushi or vegetables. And by the time you've read some profound books or heard some great albums or read some amazing graphic novels or seen some solid movies, you can reasonably conclude: "I could have been getting laid instead of beating Kingdom Hearts. I've wasted my life." That most video games that do try do something different rarely make money and get ridiculed for even existing only makes all this worse.

I'm one of the ones trying to do something differently. Chances are it won't end well. Should I keep trying anyway? I'm not sure at all.

I mean, I'd like to think that it'd be worth the effort just to contribute something positive to the world to say that I have done so, to perhaps influence the few who might enjoy it in a meaningful way... Perhaps then I could feel that my years spent in this field weren't wasted. But if it's only going to attract vitriol, could I endure that?

For now, I'm going to keep working on Soulmate... But I really do fear that I'm making an ice sculpture that I'll only end up throwing into Hell.
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on 10 Roots


20 United States INFP PhlegmaticCholeric
Hey Tobias, what are your thoughts on Sonny 3? Some screenshots were just released on Krin's twitter! I know you're a fan of the game, due to the "easter egg" in MARDEK Chapter 3.
43 United States
Cracked is good for starting conversations, but their articles aren't as deep or well researched as they appear.

So I'm going to give you my random, barely-researched opinions.

Let's start with that chart. First of all, according to the chart the only activity anyone ages out of is toy blocks. WTF?? Personally, as I grow older I'm finding myself reading fewer books than I used to, and ironically playing more video games. Much of this is because there are far more free video games available now than 30 years ago. And sometime during college I lost ability to enjoy watching movies or TV.

What largely has not changed are the types of games which major companies put onto store shelves.

What has changed is how few games are actually sold from store shelves in the first place (∞ 8% by dollars spent ∞).

According to these sites, 2 of the top 10 most profitable video games ever are non-violent:
∞ LINK ∞
∞ LINK ∞
(Personally, I'm surprised at the lack of social media or mobile games on those lists. Anyone have profit numbers for Candy Crush?).

The comment about getting laid is stupid and harmful. The belief that you need to get laid, or worse, that men are entitled to sex, has caused far more violence in the real world than violent games ever will.

And puzzle games can be violent. One of all time favorite games (one of the few I've actually spent money on) is called ∞ Deadly Rooms of Death ∞. It's turn-based, nothing is random, and I've probably killed 100 times as many monsters in each installment than in 180 hours of MARDEK. In other words, it's the exact opposite of what you are trying to make.

And you're going to get vitriol no matter what you do. (In fact, I'm surprised you are no longer getting any for not making MARDEK 4.) So all you can do is make things you're proud of. And maybe now that you're no longer making violent games, perhaps people who like violence won't come here any more.
25 Germany ISTJ 5w6 SxSp PhlegmaticCholeric
Fenix Shakura
Heh, your mention of violent puzzle games reminds me of an excerpt from the book "A Theory of Fun for Game Design":
43 United States
That's a really contrived example. Better to just point out that Chess and Go are explicitly war simulations.

And game mechanics are very important. One huge point the article missed when comparing types of entertainment and the concept of "aging out of" things is the fact that many people don't play games not because of the content but because they can't handle the game mechanics.

I just tried the demo of Undertale again, and despite being totally non-violent and encouraging, I still died the moment I faced multiple enemies. If MARDEK's reaction system was a little faster, I wouldn't be here today because I'd never have finished chapter 1.
25 Germany ISTJ 5w6 SxSp PhlegmaticCholeric
Fenix Shakura
Probably so, but the connection from Chess and Go is more obvious and therefore doesn't have as much impact. Aye, the debate about violence in games is really a stupid one. Which reminds me of just another exerpt from the same book:

Also, intrestingly enough, it's true that I don't stand with games where I can't handle the machanics for very long. But if I decide to give it another go after some years and get better at it, it feels really good, actually.
24 United States
The Jop
Yeah, the fact that the author says "you can reasonably conclude: 'I could have been getting laid instead of beating Kingdom Hearts. I've wasted my life.'" means I can't really take him seriously. It's been proven time and time again that video games are an art form that can often deliver more messages than simply art or music because they utilize both elements and more. Often the games that try something radically different are the ones that are praised the most because they make us see the world in a different way and bring something new to the video game industry. Best of luck, Toby; there will always be people who hate things they see as different but if you're trying to create a unique video game I don't think you have much to worry about.
27 United States INTJ 5w4 SpSx RcOEi MelancholicPhlegmatic
What gets me about that line is that it assumes getting laid is somehow inherently better than playing a video game. Neither are particularly productive activities, but at least the latter has you experience a story that might enrich or inspire you. Getting laid isn't some requirement to having a fulfilled life. Do what makes you happy, regardless of which activities society says are or aren't worth pursuing. If video games truly don't make you happy, or make you feel like you'd rather be doing something else, then that's certainly a cause to reflect on your choices. But don't go second-guessing yourself just because some close-minded strangers don't approve.
24 United States
The funny thing is that on the Game Theorist Channel they basically posted a video that basically countered everything that the article talked about: ∞ YouTube ∞

When I read the article, It feels more like a person who is an outside observer who is making judgement where the loudest people are making a fuss. I would take the article more to heart but the writer just writes as though he/she tried to play games, but is not the right demographic for it. I liken it to how some people don't see how games can reach people because they just see it as one person doing the same thing over and over again. Those people miss out on what makes a game fun because they don't see the point of it. Much like how people with depression are constantly told to just get over themselves when there is more to just the soul crushing pain they feel. Those who don't see others suffer from it or have it themselves don't understand the pain.

In the video, the narrator shows examples of people wanting to have games that have the option of being a pacifist(which I totally think Taming Dreams should have been there as an example). And he shows that games have the power to affect the way how people can start a dialogue and change the world.

For your recent games they have lead me to see the world in a different light about psychology and life.

29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
The author of that article said he was an entertainment journalist, and I think it's obvious from that drawing full of gaming jargon (and previous articles I've seen from him) that he knows his stuff.

I think though that we have different perspectives based on where we're looking from. 'Gamers', the 'consumers', are likely to see games very differently to a journalist like this or a developer like myself. Both of those positions seem to put some distance between oneself and the 'crowd', so it does feel like you're observing 'them' rather than being one of them. The same goes for film critics; it's why there's usually a discrepancy between what audiences thought of a film and what critics thought in reviews.

Perhaps age is a big factor, too. I get the impression that person might be in his thirties... so what to a teenager or twenty-something might seem profound or involving might very well lose its impact to someone that age. Or perhaps it's just a case of getting jaded with the world in general? I wonder.

I do hope that my games can encourage people to see things differently though, so I'm glad that they might already have been having that effect!
19 United States INFP LII SoSp RLUAI AIE PhlegmaticSanguine
I'm fairly sure I'm not alone in saying I don't play a lot of 'games with guns' 'action hero mcgoo and his robots' and 'murder for murder sake' games.

In fact, I really only think of one that I play anymore. And I play Binding of Isaac because I'm more focused on the psychological aspects of the atrocity Isaac faces...

I don't need to grow from a game to like it, yes, but I do from even those that don't intend to promote growth because of how I - and I imagine many others - interpret the gameplay. I look for double meanings and concurrent themes. It's what makes games interesting to me, that self-promoted 'digging into it'.

I don't know, I'd write more if I wasn't sick right now...
22 Canada
Really, I don't know which I dislike more in the article: the idea that games as a medium are "beneath" the mediums of film, music, and literature, or the idea that gamers are all childish, no-life sociopaths.

This article seems to disregard the vast majority of genres found in games, and groups them all together in the FPS category. This is like saying ALL films are Michael Bay blockbusters, or ALL books are Twilight ripoffs. The truth is, all media seems stagnant in certain ways, if you only look at one side of it.

The article also seems to imply that the gaming community is full of hate and seclusion, but again, that's like saying everyone who goes to a movie in a theatre is going to be a loud, obnoxious asshole and throw popcorn everywhere while kicking the seat in front of them. Yes, some moviegoers are like that. And yes, some gamers are like that as well. But again, this article fails to recognize the many friendly, inclusive gaming communities out there (such as this one!).

All and all, this article does bring up some relevant points, but it unfairly demonizes the gaming industry in so many ways as to make it entirely inaccurate. Don't let something seemingly written by an angry, bitter person get you down. Keep doing what you're doing and creating meaningful work!
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
I suppose much of it just resonated with me because I've been tired and bitter about a lot of things related to 'gaming' for a long time myself, and have had many of the thoughts it expressed, so I'm probably just as guilty of focusing on the worst, painful parts and ignoring the nicer things that come out of it!

But you're right. The same sorts of things could be said about any medium. It's easy to focus on the obnoxious minority, but to be put off by it would be missing out. I'll keep doing what I'm doing.
30 United States rCoxI MelancholicSanguine
I'd like to offer two perspectives on this article, which seems to have appealed to you:

1. There are many, many games out there that were created for purposes beyond simple entertainment, even if they also strove to be entertaining. Most games in this category are called "Serious games." (∞ LINK ∞ There's a long and illustrious list of such games, and many of them are even free to try! (∞ LINK ∞ )

It's great that you're trying to do more than entertain with your games, because it gives the game purpose and meaning for you, and a clear, consistent message for the audience. Many games which explore deeper ideas and topics (Undertale, Firewatch, The Witness, Braid, and many RPGs with "mature" plots) are critically acclaimed, and some are spectacularly commercially successful! Their success often comes because of the added depth and meaning, not in spite of it, so it's great to try to make more of a game than a mere "Pavlovian box."

2. A lot of tremendously successful, nonviolent games exist and are fun without having meaning or bloodshed! Not everyone appreciates playing Tetris, or Bejeweled, or any of the rhythm games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band, but they are (with the exception of the last genre, which was killed by Activision oversaturating the market) rather sustainable markets with devoted fans. It's not obvious to me that the Cracked article really takes into account the incredible diversity and value of games that don't change the way you look at life (not all literature or movies do this, especially the popular ones, as Cyanblue has pointed out).

So, in conclusion, despair not! Your game aims to become a critical darling, with depth and meaning, that also achieves commercial success. It's a harder path, but it's been done, and it's worth doing.
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
Hmm, I'd never really looked into these 'serious games' before... I can't help but worry that they're off-putting to people in the way that PSAs are, though... Still, it's something I should look into more.

I suppose they're things that start with the serious message and try to add entertainment to that, whereas it's the ones that start off trying to entertain but have an underlying message that are more popular and appreciated? I'm not sure which one I'm trying to do myself!

While puzzle games etc aren't violent, they aren't nonviolent either because there's no expectation that violence should be included. Games like mine probably feel more like a direct attack on the concept of violence, though, by purposefully eschewing it where it might be normally found, and as such they seem more likely to inflame those who don't agree with the message.

I'll keep going anyway. While I'm eager to get out of the gaming world since it's brought me lots of suffering and little money, I should at least try to finish what I can...
29 Chile MelancholicPhlegmatic
I'm stopping my endless lurking of this site to comment on this because it's something I care deeply about, and I think my opinion is somewhat relevant.

It seems obvious that a huge portion of gaming is composed of the good, old fashioned, go out and kill lots of people, monsters, and anything else you can think of. Why it's this way is something that I'm not certain of, but my best guess is it's related to how easily it is to abstract and simulate these systems in an interactive way, in a way that offers gameplay.

I also look for gaming experiences that offer something more than mindless killing and grinding, I've made this point clear in the past, if you still remember.

But there's a trend I've noticed in articles like this lately, it seems the people writing the articles think that there being games about shooting and killing and all that somehow detracts from gaming as a whole, as if it's necessary to get rid of the 'big' games that entertain a huge number of people to create games that are different.

If you look at the first 'chart' in the article, it's easy to see that it's an unfair comparison, it looks at literature, film and music as a medium, but it compares video games to a toy, basically by assuming that games as a whole are represented by the most popular games.
But you could make the same comparison if you picked the most popular movies to represent movies as a whole, and the same could be said with music, and even literature, though the last is often associated with more positive influences.

While I would agree that gaming as a whole has a lot to grow and mature, it seems dishonest to make that comparison, and the whole article seems to be based on such assumptions.

It seems clear to me that games can be anything their makers want them to be, just as with any other medium, but making a good game that strays away from the popular game themes will definitely be harder than making a 'normal' game, many try and fail to grab the attention and praise of gamers, and some people take this as evidence that gaming, as it stands, can't be 'better'.

It's true that making a different game will probably get you criticism from people that don't like it, but you know better than most that doing basically anything on the internet can get you criticism from people, and it should surprise none that people saying popular games are bad and you shouldn't play them, or make them, will attract a portion of the people who like them back against you. Of course it would be much better if people could behave properly and respect each other, but we're still far from that as a society, specially on the internet.

Overall I would say that's what the article reflects, the position of someone that seems obsessed with criticizing 'big' games, telling people they're childish for playing them and that a 'grown up' shouldn't like them, and unsurprisingly people will feel attacked and attack this person, or people that act similarly, in return. It's all really a depressing situation, a big lose-lose kind of relationship.

And yet that seems to be the whole point of the article, for all its talk about how it would love better games, it barely even talks about them. There are games that aren't about violence, there are entire genres, though they aren't the 'big' games. There's puzzle games, hidden object games, card games (though those generally involve some kind of abstract fighting, but I think it's abstract enough to not really be violent), visual novels, and probably more that I can't think of, or games that aren't really part of any specific genre.

There's even some of the innovative, non-violent games that do get big, that get attention, the person who wrote the article even mentions Firewatch and Undertale, and to say that anyone will get threats over a conversation about those games is a huge exaggeration, though they obviously do get criticism from people that don't like them, they get even more praise from people that do like them, which is a phenomenon that I've seen repeated with any popular game, not just this kind of 'innovative' games, whatever that means.

So, it's up to you to decide if you're ready to face criticism and people disliking what you put your heart into, but it's no worse than what it has always been, in fact the indie game scene is probably bigger and more diverse than it's ever been, so it's up to your game to speak for itself, which is the hardest part, I would say.

If you haven't played Undertale yet I'd recommend you try it, as I'm sure many people have done before, if anything just to see what makes it work. Though from your blogs I would say what you're aiming for is very different, but it's still a game and for people to get your message they have to enjoy, or at least be intrigued, by it.
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
While that article definitely does go on about violence in games a bit, the bit that resonated more with me was the idea of games being surrogates for things you don't have in the real world, be that a desire to fight things or a sort of companionship with fictional characters or whatever else. I suppose it struck a nerve emotionally with me because I often feel I wasted my life on games rather than living in the real world. I've been depressed about that for a long time.

I did think a while after posting this about how the same thing could be said of any media. People read fiction to immerse themselves in other worlds, to get things they might not have in person. Blockbuster films appeal to exactly the same feelings as most games. Why is an FPS somehow 'worse' than some muscleheaded action movie?

I suppose I also remembered how badly criticism affected me in the past, and that was from working on fairly standard games. I just wonder whether I'd have the psychological endurance to go through a more intense version of that.

I feel that video games have so much potential as a medium, as they involve the player directly in a way that books, films, music etc don't. I want to be one of the people who tries to utilise that potential to make a small difference, but I just have to get used to the fact that it'll be a hard road.

I've never heard of Firewatch, but I've been meaning to play Undertale for a while. The only reason I haven't yet is envy; I know it's successful, and I fear that I'll play it, feel I can't do anything as good myself, and then give up. This is a common attitude amongst creative types, and not one easily overcome... but I'm trying to get there.
25 Germany ISTJ 5w6 SxSp PhlegmaticCholeric
Fenix Shakura
Pah! It may be looking a little stale in the industrious VG world, because the thing that developers care about most are how many million polygons they can draw per second. At least that's how western developers appear to me that way. The VR-trend isn't going to get my hopes up, either. Even though rumors go about that the zeitgeist is shifting towards narrative-based experience. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places.

I've long set my sights eastward, and there I do like some of the things I see. Nintendo still knows how to make (or at least publish) good games.
Many "good" games will probably not earn as much as the so-called "Triple-A-titles". But most of those companies still live on, so it can't be that bad, can it?
I say, keep doing things differently. There's nothing sadder than a medium becoming the same old mishmash, when it has so much potential to offer.
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
I do think an interactive medium like games can offer so much more over others, since you can make stories your own, and they become more important to you that way, maybe... It's why I was hoping that by doing something a bit different, I might be able to make a positive impact, no matter how small. I suppose I'm just worried that while I'll have some supporters, I'll be shot down by the far less sympathetic horde for even trying.
25 Germany ISTJ 5w6 SxSp PhlegmaticCholeric
Fenix Shakura
I can only say this is one thing you will have to get used to. To quote the only one ∞ cracked article ∞ that spoke to me (and since you currently like to rove around that place):
[W]hatever you try to build or create [...] you will find yourself immediately surrounded by non-creators who trash it. [...] Your drunk friends do not want you to get sober. Your fat friends do not want you to start a fitness regimen. Your jobless friends do not want to see you embark on a career.

Still, great people to great things, because it's a great thing to do, and not to crave the appreciation of others. Once you take that to heart, facing the world will be a much easier task.
23 Netherlands rloax SanguineMelancholic
That article honestly reads like a satire of a stuffy old man talking down on the hip new medium that kids will surely one day grow out of wrote it.

Even before it goes in on any points where it tells "you" in the most clickbaity "4 ways you are X" way it already seems to assume that anyone who plays games only plays FPSes which is obviously not true.

Most of what I'm reading seems to just be cherry picking from the worst parts of gaming, painting the whole industry as nothing but FPSes and Mario games and every fan being some kind of awful basement dweller stuck in infancy.

The part about the new Doom also makes no sense since all I have heard about the new Doom is that everyone seems to like it? I don't even know where this guy gets it from. He seems to know a lot of things about many things related to video games and 'you' which don't seem to be true at all.

I have to wonder if you read a lot of Cracked articles? I used to read it sometimes in the past but these days the site as a whole just seems horrible to me the few times I click links that go to the site. At least clickbait sites don't pretend to be giving me actual life advice or proving a point so much as just wanting my attention to make money. I think you'd be better off staying away from it, really.
29 Chile MelancholicPhlegmatic
About the Doom thing, this article is probably from before the game came out, but after the online beta test or whatever it was called came out, which was heavily criticized. I agree with all the other points, though ;P
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
I'v been reading Cracked for a while now, but it was the opposite for me; I used to hate and dismiss it, but as I grew more used to the article authors and came to understand why they write what they do, it grew on me, and I've learned some interesting things from it. I don't care for the writing style, but it seems a lot of the writers are around a similar age to me and have been through not-entirely-dissimilar experiences to me. While they definitely do use clickbait titles and a numbered-point writing style, I've also read about why they do that, and as a whole the site seems more... genuine, perhaps, than things like, say, Buzzfeed, which is far shallower and less substantial.

It's not as if this article alone put an idea into my head, though. It's more like it supported ideas and doubts I've already been having for a long time; sort of like putting a lot of my own thoughts into words or something. I mean, I don't even play games myself much at all anymore, and could relate to a lot of the reasons why that it described.

It was written a few months ago, I think, though I just ignored that bit about Doom since I don't know about that or have any interest in it.