The Philosophy, Art, and Social Influence of games
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BogusMeatFactory
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David Cage and Games Growing Up

by BogusMeatFactory Wed Feb 06, 2013 4:23 pm

So David Cage, developer of games like Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophecy, talked at DICE today and was talking about the constant debate about games growing up and I found it very interesting what he had to say. One of the major focuses was what is considered successful and what types of formulas game developers follow to reach that success.

Here were the points he brought up:

1. Make games for all audiences. How can we make your mother or grandmother play games? It's time to invent interactive entertainment for adults, he said.

2. We must change our paradigms. Violence and platforms are not the only way. We're in an industry where game designers don't know what to do if the character isn't holding a gun, he lamented. You can define interactivity in many different ways. Can we make games that are not based on systems? When you get older, you don't necessarily want to compete in a game with others. You don't want your ass kicked by a 10-year-old. So can we as an industry make games with no gun?

3. The importance of meaning. Many games have absolutely nothing to say. They are empty, he said. So can we create games that have something to say, that carry an idea, that tell you something that resonates with you? Let authors come in! Most games are written by designers or graphic artists or others, he noted. All real world themes should be used - any theme you know in real life could be used in a game. Can we create games that talk about relationships, feelings, politics, homosexuality? Games should be a mirror for what you are, Cage remarked. The game will leave an imprint on you. You will keep thinking. This is what any creative medium should achieve, he asserted.

4. Become Accessible. Focus on minds, not thumbs! He said games should just be about going on a journey, not just about challenging you - like the aptly named Journey, he said.

5. Bring other talents on board (he cited those he's worked with like David Bowie, Ellen Page).

6. Need to establish new relationships with Hollywood. For a long time they saw games like licensed products, but games can be more than that and should be a respected medium, he said. It's time for constructive, balanced partnerships. Cage said game makers and Hollywood can invent a new form of entertainment together.

7. Changing our relationship with censorship. This is a big issue for Cage, which he said he could probably spend 4 hours talking about alone. He noted that while he sees himself as a writer, and he sometimes uses violence or sex, he doesn't like that he has someone looking over his shoulder saying he can't do this or that. It's okay in a movie or TV series, so why isn't it okay in a game? The answer has always been it's because games are interactive. But the truth is it's no different and games are protected by First Amendment now, Cage commented. We shouldn't have different constraints than film, and it's crazy that we should feel constrained like film was in '60s," he said. Cage was also shocked by some games he saw at E3. Some games are just more violent and gruesome and are gratuitous; "we behave like stupid teenagers ourselves, and we need to stop this," he said. "If we don't want to be accused each time something terrible happens, we should show that we are serious, responsible and respect our medium and customers."

8. The role of press. Press is very important, Cage said. He stressed that press are generally very clever, they analyze the business, they evangelize it and try to educate. But he also blasted another segment of the press: the game critics. He claimed that they "aren't press". Being a critic is a serious job but not everybody has the skill for it, he said. He complained that there's no analysis from critics.

9. The importance of gamers. Buying or not buying a game is almost like a political vote, Cage explained. "Buy crap and you will get more crap. Buy risky, ambitious games and you will get more of them. So buying games is also a responsibility," he said.


I really wanted to hear peoples thoughts on this topic in relationship to what Cage brings up. For me I agree wholeheartedly that things do need to branch out and reach diversity.

A lot of the industry focuses on game mechanics with a limited number of tools, being, weapons. The developers present the player with a problem, usually, "How to get from point A to point B with the tools I have," without thinking of the why. Why is the character doing this? Why is he doing it this way? Why is the player continuing to play?

This isn't a call to destroy all action games, far from it, but when we look at the game industry and make these outcries of displeasure towards the next call of duty game, we fail to see every other game just like it that isn't tied to the franchise, it is tied to the genre. Our game series are not stagnant, it is our genres.
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Re: David Cage and Games Growing Up

by Retrodude Wed Feb 06, 2013 4:42 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with point number 2. While I do enjoy games like GTA, most of the time, I'd rather play something like New Super Mario Bros, Sonic Adventure, Jak and Daxter, Pac-Man World or Rayman. I think that's one major area where gaming as a whole has failed the last few years: moving away from character based games in favor of bland, uninspired, you've-seen-one-you've-seen-them-all shooters. Where's the fun? Where's the humor? Where's the clever level design? We need that back if games are going to survive as a medium.
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Re: David Cage and Games Growing Up

by Erik_Twice Wed Feb 06, 2013 4:43 pm

Can't agree more with the points made.
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Re: David Cage and Games Growing Up

by Menegrothx Thu Feb 07, 2013 6:41 pm

I agree with points 2, 3 (PS:T and SH2 ftw) and 9 but these are just wrong
1. Make games for all audiences. How can we make your mother or grandmother play games? It's time to invent interactive entertainment for adults, he said.

Last time some one tried that we got a bunch of Wii sports games.
4. Become Accessible. Focus on minds, not thumbs! He said games should just be about going on a journey, not just about challenging you - like the aptly named Journey, he said.

Yay for more dumbing down(*), lack of challenge and linear roller coster cutscene fests that are more like movies than video games! Why wont the book industry cater to people who don't want to read? I bet if there was pictures and moving image and sound and commercials in books, more people who don't read would start buying books!
(*): Yes it does say focus on minds and not thumbs, but thus far every time mainstream games have been trying to appeal to to the casual/non gamer crowd, they've not only removed challenge from the games but also dumbed them down. Making games require more intellect and making the player's success less dependant on memorization and reflexes isn't a bad idea (depending on the genre ofc). It's just very unlikely that a game that tries to have a huge mass appeal will do that, because the more a game requires from the player intellectually, the less likely it is to become a huge success .

Note: I've got nothing against games like Journey and I think experimentation like that is great
6. Need to establish new relationships with Hollywood. For a long time they saw games like licensed products, but games can be more than that and should be a respected medium, he said. It's time for constructive, balanced partnerships. Cage said game makers and Hollywood can invent a new form of entertainment together.

A horrible, horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE idea. Good God, no.
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Re: David Cage and Games Growing Up

by Ack Thu Feb 07, 2013 11:03 pm

1. We already do. The ESA's statistics show that the majority of people playing games are adults, not children. Interactive entertainment media for adults has already been done. Perhaps the bigger problem is creating games that appeal to females.

2. So titles like Tetris, Zork, Wii Sports, Minecraft, Mario Kart, Wii Fit, Pokemon, LittleBigPlanet don't exist? I'm trying to think of the last time I played a sports game that involved a gun.

3. Sure, though this has been done occasionally for the last twenty years. Martian Gothic: Unification, Starship Titanic, etc.

4. But many games are already about going on journeys. Heck, the entire RPG genre tends to contain some kind of journey.

5. Wait, you mean video game designers have never worked with actors and singers before? Because I could have sworn I'd seen KISS make a game before...

6. But I thought you wanted quality writing. Do I really want Michael Bay making video games if I'm supposed to be creating something without guns and violence?

7. Granted, sure. But that's a fight to take to the general public through good PR, not for the devs to have while making their games. And also, based on his games, not being like a stupid teenager involves terrible plots, forced emotional states, awkward sex and shower scenes, and the sight of his avatar grinding against the female lead in Indigo Prophecy/Farenheit.

8. There is, actually. You just have to know what to look for. No, we tend to blast the ratings game, but could one argue that the game critics at places like HG101 are really not doing their jobs?

9. Wait, I thought this was about devs. And...that's kinda iffy. I suppose the biggest thing about this point is that, yes, gamers' money ultimately decides if a game is successful, but if a game fails or succeeds, a dev can still take the wrong lesson away from it. But I see this more as a plea to buy Cage's games. And his games involve quick time events, so...no thanks, Cage. I'll take my vote and oppose your quick time events by not buying your games.

Also, why focus so much on film and not allow our medium to continue evolving in its own way? Why focus so heavily on bringing in everything else as opposed to letting us flourish on our own?
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Re: David Cage and Games Growing Up

by BogusMeatFactory Thu Feb 07, 2013 11:57 pm

Ack wrote:1. We already do. The ESA's statistics show that the majority of people playing games are adults, not children. Interactive entertainment media for adults has already been done. Perhaps the bigger problem is creating games that appeal to females.

2. So titles like Tetris, Zork, Wii Sports, Minecraft, Mario Kart, Wii Fit, Pokemon, LittleBigPlanet don't exist? I'm trying to think of the last time I played a sports game that involved a gun.

3. Sure, though this has been done occasionally for the last twenty years. Martian Gothic: Unification, Starship Titanic, etc.

4. But many games are already about going on journeys. Heck, the entire RPG genre tends to contain some kind of journey.

5. Wait, you mean video game designers have never worked with actors and singers before? Because I could have sworn I'd seen KISS make a game before...

6. But I thought you wanted quality writing. Do I really want Michael Bay making video games if I'm supposed to be creating something without guns and violence?

7. Granted, sure. But that's a fight to take to the general public through good PR, not for the devs to have while making their games. And also, based on his games, not being like a stupid teenager involves terrible plots, forced emotional states, awkward sex and shower scenes, and the sight of his avatar grinding against the female lead in Indigo Prophecy/Farenheit.

8. There is, actually. You just have to know what to look for. No, we tend to blast the ratings game, but could one argue that the game critics at places like HG101 are really not doing their jobs?

9. Wait, I thought this was about devs. And...that's kinda iffy. I suppose the biggest thing about this point is that, yes, gamers' money ultimately decides if a game is successful, but if a game fails or succeeds, a dev can still take the wrong lesson away from it. But I see this more as a plea to buy Cage's games. And his games involve quick time events, so...no thanks, Cage. I'll take my vote and oppose your quick time events by not buying your games.

Also, why focus so much on film and not allow our medium to continue evolving in its own way? Why focus so heavily on bringing in everything else as opposed to letting us flourish on our own?


I feel like you are defending with extremes against the statements made. Cage is not, by any means saying remove all action games and that there are ZERO games attempting to broaden their audience and appeal to the player's experience. Your defense feels like it is based solely on your dislike of this person's games.

Let me take this moment to talk about the points with you.

1. Cage isn't saying that adults are not playing games, but that the videogame genre is stuck in a rut with the same formulas being rehashed in the same genres and there should be a place for interactive fiction.

2. Those games do exist and there is no arguing that, but at no point was that point in contest. Early in his speech, he talks about what were the top sellers for 2012 and how they almost only applied to shooting/weapon-wielding and platforming. The mainstream videogame industry has been formulaic in their genres and how a player interacts with a game. That is not to say that ALL games of EVERY genre that has come out in the past years follow the formula, but there should be a drive to change things up.

3. I can't really argue with you there, but I would love to see more games with something to say.

4. The idea of going on a journey doesn't necessarily mean have a story told to you like with Japanese RPGs. Although they can be great ways to tell a story and a good story at that, many do not challenge your mind. They do not invoke emotion, give you decisions to make where you do not really know whether that is the right choice or not. I feel like games are starting to get the hang of this idea, but I would like to see more.

5. Actors and musicians can be a great asset to a game to enhance it. I do feel that, with the developing technologies like in the game L.A. Noir, a talented actor's skills would be truly invaluable to bringing about broadening the audience to a game and opening up more ways to tell a story effectively.

6. He isn't saying get Michael Bay to write every game ever....he isn't even saying get Michael Bay involved. this is another push to bringing interactive fiction to the forefront of videogames and making it a viable genre. To get talented writers and directors with something to say involved in this medium would be interesting to see what they come up with. He says, "Constructive, balanced partnerships." This is important.

7. Your argument is based on your bias to towards Cage's games, pointing out some of the faults that do not make up the entire portrait of his works. There is a need to fight for the equality in censorship of videogames. They seem perfectly comfortable with leaving extreme violence in games, but sexual content is completely out of the question, even if that content was presented in an artistic and mature content.

8. There are game critics who aren't good at what they do. There are a lot of them that are like this. Not everyone, mind you, but the game industry has a huge issue with this. Knowing where to look should not be a necessity to finding a good game critic. There should be enough good critics where you could go to any site and find one, but you can't and that is a problem.

9. There is nothing wrong with putting a message out to the consumers saying, "support those ambitious titles." This speech does go out to the public, clearly since we are talking about it, so it is important.
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Re: David Cage and Games Growing Up

by Erik_Twice Fri Feb 08, 2013 7:16 am

I think we have very different readings on what he said. And you guys know I'm not exactly one who likes his games.

Ack wrote:3. Sure, though this has been done occasionally for the last twenty years. Martian Gothic: Unification, Starship Titanic, etc.

But they are incredibly rare. Beyond rare. Most videogames are a collection of mechanics and level design, not a fully coherent experience like Katamari Damacy or OutRun.

Having something to say should be the norm, not the exception!

6. But I thought you wanted quality writing. Do I really want Michael Bay making video games if I'm supposed to be creating something without guns and violence?

No, no, I don't think that's where he's getting at. Basically the relationship games have with other media can be summed up in two phrases:

1) Product Placement
2) Geeky Pac-man noises

That's it. He wants a healthier relationship, which I don't see as bad.

8. There is, actually. You just have to know what to look for. No, we tend to blast the ratings game, but could one argue that the game critics at places like HG101 are really not doing their jobs?

They are not doing their jobs because it's not their job. They are fans, with limited time and writing skills and a very limited audience. I can count the sites I trust for game criticism with one hand:

Racketboy (Forum)
HG101 (Forum-like writing and community)
Select Button Podcast (Forum-like podcast)
Fortress: Ameritrash (Boardgames)

That's it. And all together aren't a blip in the radar compared to IGN, Kotaku, 1UP, practically every magazine still alove around and all those terrible shitty sites full of horrid writing and journalism. Game criticism is bad, very, very bad, there's so much shit than the two sites that are decent look beyond awesome in comparison.

And as much as I love HG101 they aren't too good. They love games, they know about games but their writing is generally mediocre and editing non-existent.
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Re: David Cage and Games Growing Up

by ApolloBoy Sat Feb 09, 2013 10:04 pm

What an awful article, I figured it come from the guy who made Heavy Rain.
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Re: David Cage and Games Growing Up

by BoneSnapDeez Sun Feb 10, 2013 4:41 pm

ApolloBoy wrote:What an awful article, I figured it come from the guy who made Heavy Rain.


Pretty much. I can't believe people are taking this seriously.
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Re: David Cage and Games Growing Up

by J T Tue Feb 12, 2013 3:19 pm

I think the notions of games being more accessible and games being a serious artistic medium are generally at odds with each other.

That being said, I do think there are some wonderful art games that require no gaming skill, such as Dear Esther or To The Moon. These games challenge the idea that a Video Game even needs to be a "game." It's possible to have mild interactivity that still enhances the experience. It might be useful to make a distinciton between video games and interactive audio/visual media.

I also think you can craft non-competitive/non-goal-oriented interactive environments that use different controls to translate perceptual experiences that are better captured in an interactive medium than film or theatre. The experience of "exploration" is something games do very well. This was central to Dear Esther, which was simply about roaming an island and pondering on the thoughts of the main character. Another example is The Graveyard, wherein the player's only goal is to walk through a graveyard, have some memories, and perhaps die gracefully. That game provided an interesting slowed-down mechanic that made you feel old, frail, and thoughtful, and the montage that occurs when you reach your destination felt more meaningful as a result of having made the slow walk through the graveyard. Thirty Flights of Loving also provides some interesting interactive techniques, such as a walking up to interact with a friend, only to be greeted with a fast-paced montage of memories about your character's relationship to that person. Or the sense of frenetic action and confusion that came from the quick-cut scenes in the airport chase sequence.

Any of these games could be played by a gaming novice, but will only be understood by those that appreciate the artistry of videogames.
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