A moment ago I’d been enthralled by this place, fascinated by how different and fresh it was, hanging on every word of these people’s everyday lives. When I realized my next task was to ram a piece of metal into eight different people until they were all dead, part of me thought, sadly, “Oh yeah. Videogames.” Tom Francis
said this of Bioshock Infinite
in the cover story of the February issue of PC Gamer UK. It's reassuring then, that when he asked Ken Levine about it, he said that it's "something that they attempt to confront at some point". Join me as I ponder the current state of game mechanics in the mainstream and wonder about the evolution of new types of games in the future.
Tom shared the sentiment that despite Bioshock Infinite
being super interesting thematically with ideas of racism and capitalism and whatnot, the game’s gameplay
is still killing people using different weapons and vigors in creative ways, which was a similar feeling that people had when Bioshock
was released - the game that people pointed to as ‘sophisticated’ and ‘artistic’ had gameplay that was primarily about killing people in inventive ways with all these awesome powers.
In my mind, there are two genres of mainstream games where the main mechanic isn't killing people: puzzle games and adventure games. Although Super Mario Bros.
, for example, isn’t violent, it’s still a game that has pretty much the same gameplay tones - there are enemies and you defeat them in some way or another. Even if it is a game like Dishonored
, where they encourage stealth and even no-kill runs, the gameplay is thematically similar.
Since Anthony Burch famously said “fun isn’t enough”
, we’ve had lots of games that are emotive and moving without having similar gameplay themes, such as The Walking Dead
, recently. But still, if we compare it to another medium, we don’t really get many romantic games or games that are not action/adventure, ignoring indie games. Although there will always be indie games that move videogames in different ways (for example, Amnesia: The Dark Descent
is a vulnerability fantasy rather than the common power fantasy), there really aren’t too many mainstream games with differing gameplay themes.
It's tough to think about gameplay that is different to the norm and yet not a puzzle/adventure game (sure, exploration exists, but that's just walking around in a space rather than a gameplay mechanic which intrinsically offers something new). I guess games just aren’t at the point where gameplay can be something different emotionally, at least from the mainstream.
said in the Minecraft: The Story of Mojang
(2 Player Productions) documentary that games are still really young, and that if you ask a developer to make a game about falling in love, they wouldn't know how to do that, because games aren’t at that point yet (also referring to how in the early 20th Century filmmakers learned to edit movies or move the camera when filming, which slowly resulted in all those cinematic techniques and shots, such as 'deep focus' and 'long shots').
The Great Train Robbery (1903), one of the first multiple-scene, multiple-minute films
Although The Walking Dead
is violent and does include killing people, that’s part of the story, and the main gameplay, if it can be called that, are choices that you make through interactive dialogue. The effect of feeling close to Clementine is accomplished through the interactive dialogue gameplay, and not through traditional gameplay. So I wonder if those feelings can be evoked through traditional gameplay (not interactive dialogue) - gameplay mechanics which at its core expresses itself onto players in new and different ways. It boggles my mind to try to just think about how really new gameplay mechanics would work because it is, to me, like thinking of a new alphabet - it’s impossible, as it would just be made up of previous sounds that we know of and not a new sound.
One might argue that new ideas just evolve from previous ideas, but every now and then we get truly new ideas - such as making a game from the First-person point of view, or, as previously mentioned, editing a movie rather than just showing it in the order that it was filmed. I feel like Journey
is the closest something has come to emotionally moving people through its gameplay - something that is exclusive to videogames - and not its cutscenes or dialogue.
The thought of being 16 years old and living for the majority of the 21st century excites me to no end, after it has been repeatedly declared that videogames are the artform of the 21st century. I can only wait to see how they will further reach their potential and evolve as the decades go by.