Literature – Theatre – Film – Television – Videogames. It could be argued that each one of these mediums took a shorter and shorter amount of time to mature…. except for that last one. It’s been more than 40 years since the birth of videogames and we haven’t made all that much of a progress since then. Sure, now we have amazing technology that let’s us render incredibly realistic and pretty things. Sure, only recently we can make games based on physics. Sure, we now have characters that are able to express human emotion. But nobody can deny that our medium isn’t exactly “mature”. Why is that? It’s taking us a hell of a lot more than it should, if the pattern is correct.
Again, why? The person that did this observation (I can’t remember who it was, but it was some months ago, or maybe even more) basically laid all the fault on the big companies, their risk-averse ways and game designers that didn’t grow up when they should have. At the time I didn’t give much thought to this idea, but it sure did sound a little off to me. I mean, that’s how it works in every other industry: there’s the man-childs that put out mindless work only ment for brain-dead entertainment, but that doesn’t mean there’s nobody else to make something more sophisticated.
But looking at the pattern more closely, one starts to wonder: Does each medium have to mature faster than the previous one? I’d argue, that for videogames, the pattern does not hold water:
Up until now, each “new” medium extracted knowledge from all the previous ones, because in some way or another, they all shared some characteristics in common. They were all passive media, their storytelling techniques never differed much between each other. Sure, each one has it’s stengths and weaknesses, each one has a different format, but their core remains the same.
Videogames are different. Just the fact that we are still struggling with the concept of interactivity and player agency 40 years down the road says a whole lot about the medium. So, yes, I don’t see why videogames should mature faster than the TV. Although that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t hurry. I mean, I would very much like to see videogames flourish as a medium within my own lifetime, thank you very much.
But as I see it, there’s a very bright light at the end of the tunnel.
As the years go by, we are seeing an increasingly larger volume of discussions around videogames, discussions that go beyond simple comparissions and nable gazing. Discussions that look deep into the message of each videogame and extrapolate meaning out of them.
From my perspective, part of the audience has stopped looking for “fun” games and started to search for “interesting” games, which is, I think, a milestone worth celebrating. We are starting to crave for videogames that try to communicate ideas. That audience might have been there all along, but only in the last few years has it become apparent that it exist and it’s size is nothing to scoff at.
Sadly, the indies are the only ones carrying the torch of progress at this moment, and that doesn’t exactly spell out “cultural legitimacy” for us. Nevertheless, it is still progress and wether or not we remain in the ghetto, we’ll keep on pushing.