Yes I know that this particular Rev Rant
occurred a few days ago, but I have a few comments on it that I'd like to address. Keep in mind that I don't completely disagree with it. In addition to bringing forth disagreements, I'd like to expand on the parts I agree with. You'll probably want to watch the rant before you read this.
The main objection that I have heard to his rant is that fun and "naval gazing" are not mutually exclusive. That is, something can say deep meaningful things about the human condition and be fun, not in addition to, but because
of the deep meaningful things it says. I'm inclined to agree. I probably wouldn't have listened to the rant or wrote this blog if I didn't think it was fun, and I'll tell ya why:
When I was in high school I read a book called Sophie's World
. It is basically (Western) Philosophy 101 set to a story. A mysterious dude teaches your average girl all about the great Western Philosophers. At the end it gets weird and Matrix-like, but that's beside the point. The point is I had fun reading this book (even though it made my head hurt [sooo good!]). And guess what? If you took out all of the "naval-gazing" philosophy, it would probably be drop dead boring. It was fun because
it had all this philosophy. The deepness made
it fun! I think treating deep thoughts and fun as two separate things is a mistake.
Needless to say, I respect Anthony's definition of the word "fun" as shallow entertainment. I'm not going to act like his definition makes him wrong and I don't want this to turn into a definition-o-thon. But he needs to realize that if he defines "fun" in this way, many are going to disagree.
I agree with his idea that games aren't really "supposed" to be any one particular thing. I would say that the thing that any given game is supposed to be is what its creator(s) wishes it to be. This purpose could be to convey an emotion, give a feeling of satisfaction, or to educate. But I would say that the main reason that most people create games for is for them to be played (for lack of a better word). How true it is that this does not necessarily imply shallow fun.
He is also dead on when he calls the notion that deep games will replace shallow ones "illogical and silly." A similar "sky-is-falling" mentality manifested when the Wii came out and casual games came to the forefront. "What will happen to our precious 'hardcore' games?!" the uninformed gamer asked. They'll still make them by the boatload, buddy. Just because there is a new market for casual (or deep) games does not mean that the market for hardcore (or shallow) games will go away! This sort of zero-sum game mentality reinforces my view that many people don't know a dang thing about economics or the market (and this is coming from someone who doesn't know much about that himself!).
Before this turns into a debate about supply and demand, let's move on the the next subject. I wish that Anthony would quit calling the more shallow games "juvenile," "pointless," and for "12-year-olds." If you don't want to look pretentious, mocking these games with such strong language in that tone isn't going to help. And I don't think that calling people who play God of War
mentally on par with a child is helpful, especially if they also enjoy deeper experiences as well and would readily rally to your cause if not for that particular comment (not saying that all children are dumb here!).
Another error of omission I see is that Anthony seems to focus on only the violent games as the sole example of a shallow game. Obviously, most Mario games are just as shallow, but not as violent. Maybe I'm nit-picking here, and I'm almost certain that Anthony isn't trying to imply that only violent games are shallow. but I think this is still an important point. Shallow and violent aren't the same thing. Pretty much all "casual" games are shallow, but only a small fraction are violent. Anthony seems to act like the majority of games are violent, but I believe what he means is that the majority of games are shallow. The same can be said of movies, though.
But a more important point is that a game can make you think without being emotional at all! Philosophy is mostly logic puzzles, but it's mad deep, yo. There is nothing really emotional about ontology, the study of what exists. Spock is a deeper character than Captain Kirk and he doesn't even have emotions! In the comments of Anthony's post, barndawgie mentions Portal. Now, this is tricky because Portal has many an emotional moment. But a lot of the enjoyment (and deepness) comes out of stuff that is not
emotional. That wacky Portal logic turns your world upside down as you try to think of where to put the portals. That particular part of the game isn't emotional or about the human condition per se, but it is still incredibly deep. I don't know if it was Anthony's intention to relate deepness to emotion, but it seemed to me like he did. Give the left brain some props, too, will ya!
Finally, I specifically reject the idea that Bioshock
(or any game that has you killing people) is only about killing people. I already commented that it is like saying that The Matrix
is only about Kung-Fu and gun fighting (with the occasional 'real-life' battle with the machines). Koholint responded that Anthony isn't saying that it is "only" about killing people, but most of the game that is what you're doing. I think my point still stands. In The Matrix
most of it involves the battle to take out the machines and agents. An awful lot of killing goes on here, but that certainly does not make it shallow by any means because of all the metaphors and philosophy beyond the killing. It seems kind of odd to criticize people for being narrow minded for suggesting that games should only be fun, and then turn around and ignore the deep meaningful messages and only see the killing on the surface. I know that Anthony can see the hidden messages behind the killing in Bioshock
and may just be looking from a critical point of view, but the same argument can be used against a critic of video games. Perhaps he is saying that developers could use to implement deep things into actual gameplay instead of just story and cut scenes. That I can agree with.
But wait! There's more! Influential game designer David Jaffe responded
to the Rev Rant. I agree with Anthony that his original rant had nothing to do with calling game makers fat cats who have no interest in games as art. I think that Jaffe thought of this because Anthony said that people need to make deep games profitable and marketable or else only indy guys are gonna make them. Nor did Anthony suggest that mainstream devs have never tried to make deeper games. The rant seemed to be more directed at gamers than devs. But although Jaffe seems to miss the mark, he makes the excellent point that making a mainstream game which is deep and still worth playing for "more than five fuckin' minutes" and worth the 50 or 60 bucks is really, really hard. And I think it is a very good idea to encourage people to brainstorm ideas, although I don't think they should necessarily shut the fuck up if they don't have any. Especially if they are calling for more interest in these sorts of games and not really attacking devs.
If you've got any ideas for a game like this, blog about it! And if Anthony reads this, I hope it is enough paragraphs (it's probably too many). No pictures, though. Took me long enough without them! And not to impose, but I think it would be a good idea to make a Monthly Musing about how to make a deep game or how to bring such a game to the mainstream (if you haven't already). Think about it, guys!
Peace, y'all! read