The Demand that all Video Games be Intelligent

After reading the article Most Popular Video Games Are Dumb. Can We Stop Apologizing for Them Now?, I came to formulate my own opinion on the matter that games need to be more thought provoking and emotional then what the big-budget games are. I feel the article strictly the demands that all games do this, and while I'm one who definitely prefers the brilliance of Braid or Fez over almost anything else, I feel this isn't realistic in anyway. I also think that I can enjoy a game like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which while isn't nearly as thought provoking as Limbo, I still enjoyed. Clearly, there are two types of games now in this post-Braid world, games that are just fun toys, and those that are intelligent pieces of art. I think there is room for both in this world, not one or the other. Which is what probably is the biggest beef behind this article, though it never got around to quite saying it, or maybe Taylor Clark never realized it.

Let's take a look at what medium gaming is commonly compared to, movies, and draw an analogy. You see, a movie like The Artistis a very intelligently created, thought provoking movie, and won the Oscar for best picture. Now, while it's a great movie, it was seen be a very small group of people, and only grossed $44 million , while a less intelligent movie like The Expendables appealed to a much wider audience, and grossed $266 million. There's two points I want to draw in this comparison.

The first is that the greatest assumption made in the Clark's article is that vast majority of humans are smart. That they like putting effort into interpreting stories and enjoy the emotional and thought provoking parts. My brother, who has played Braid all the way through, didn't give a shit about the ending, which he wouldn't even made it to without my help, and indeed, if I can make heuristic assumption, the vast majority people wouldn't. Yet, when it comes to Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, my brother just loves how "cool" the executions are in the game, and how "cool" the armor looks. He throughly enjoyed the game, and so did I, but for me, looking "cool" isn't a huge part of a game, but for everyone else, the vast majority of everyone else, it is. I commonly tell people that gaming hasn't grown up. That we're stuck in this "kill and bleed" adolescent part of the maturity of the gaming industry, but the point is that humanity really doesn't grow up beyond this either. It makes business sense for the industry to make games the appeal to this branch of people, but they also appeal to anyone. They are good. They will always be around, and they will always make big money and be popular.

But the problem I have, and what we don't mirror from the movie industry at all (at least until Journey), is that the intelligent, thought provoking games don't get funded by big studios. The Artist had a budget of 15 million dollars, which I don't think it got out of pocket. Meanwhile, Braid was funded with $200,000 that Johnathan Blow had to struggle to get together to even make his game. This is the big difference and the problem I feel that a lot of people have with the gaming industry. The Artist can get funding from major studios to make a thought provoking film, but Braid, Fez, Limbo, and the like couldn't get funding from let's say EA or Activision to make a thought provoking game. Thought provoking games need a place in the industry. They need a piece of the financial pie, even though they are being made without it, and I think that's the point and plea behind Clark's article, and I agree.

And maybe that day will come, but we still have a lot of growing up to do as an industry, and it's still a relativity young one. Given time, I think we'll mature into what the movie industry is (though hopefully not COMPLETELY what the movie industry is), and we'll have a place for thought provoking, intelligent, and artistic games. I think right now though, we're still transitioning to that.

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