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Videogame life as I see it

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LONG BLOG

Nobody enjoys a game based on someone elses pain... or do we?

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The New York Times has an interesting article about the game Raw Danger, and how it just doesn't feel like the game that it could be thanks to its meager budget. The overall theme is certainly interesting enough: players are thrust into the aftermath of a tsunami, and must relive the entire scenario through the eyes of several different characters.

In realistic fashion, you'll find that what you do as one character greatly affects another. For instance, if you happen to meet someone else in distress and refuse to lend a helping hand, you just might find yourself playing as that helpless character later on in the game. With real life consequences such as this strewn throughout the game, what exactly is holding it back from greatness?

Well if you ask the author, all signs point to budget woes. It doesn't take a degree in nuclear physics to come to the conclusion that gamers are constantly expecting each new game to raise the bar on production values, graphics, and most importantly gameplay. Much like Disaster Report before it, Raw Danger just doesn't ooze the snazzy graphics of say, God of War, or the open-endedness of the Grand Theft Auto games.
However, if you ask me, something else may be at work here.

You see, most game makers are careful to shy away from controversial games or subject matter that might be considered a bit too sensitive for some. Now, I'm not referring to Rockstar, or some of those home-brew individuals who see a tragic event on CNN, and decide to design a flash game around it. I'm talking about the mainstream developers who usually manage to semi-keep their wares under the radar of folks like Jack Thompson. So what am I getting at? Read on.

It just might be that the average person who plays videogames has no desire to take part in an interactive movie -- a.k.a videogame -- where they take part in moral choices that you are likely to see on the morning news. I could be wrong, but maybe it feels a bit uncomfortable to many. Playing survivor in Raw Deal, and thinking back during that fateful day in 2004 when several hundred thousand people lost their lives during such an event.

Much like the prospect of a 9/11-type game where you are fleeing skyscrapers in horror as terrorists strike on our native soil, people just aren't ready for this type of thing. If truth be told, they may never be -- and I can't say I blame them.

On the opposite side of the coin, we find ourselves playing war themed games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor without giving them a second thought. After all, these games also reflect real-life historical events that ended with massive amounts of lost lives. Just what exactly is the difference? It's almost as if we place higher value on one tragedy over another, when each is horrific in its own right.

Have we been conditioned to see war as something worth revisiting via videogames, yet cannot find reason enough to take interest in natural disaster simulators? After all, we can avoid wars -- but natural disasters are forever beyond our control.

In closing, it's still unclear what the real reason there aren't more games like Raw Danger, or why such games don't have better backing from developers. Perhaps these things are either too painful to revisit, or maybe they just aren't as exciting as overtaking enemy positions with weapons that were from a time when we didn't have access to laser guided munitions, or had to look down the barrel of an M1 Garand rifle.

Whatever the reasoning, the few games we have like this appear to be uninspiring. With the proper backing and attention to good taste, these games could very well be the next great gaming frontier, which has yet to be tapped.

[via New York Times
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About SRVSLPSone of us since 11:37 PM on 02.27.2007

While never a popular one, you knew me way back when. Life has moved on, but I'll always hold a special place in my heart for the community of Dtoid.

-Alan
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PSN ID:SRVSLPS


 

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