Within the last 40 years, the world of gaming has evolved at such a rapid pace that those who aren’t regularly exposed to it can’t wrap their minds around how much effort goes into crafting games. Gaming is seen at best as an expensive hobby, and at worst, a complete waste of time.
Being told to “read a book” or “do something productive” is a common reaction for gamers to be faced with. Mainstream society thinks that books are intrinsically more valuable (from an intellectual viewpoint) than games, partially because they’re brimming with really big words and partially because they’ve been around longer. Think about the older generation in their 60s and above; most of them are still unwilling to learn how to use computers!
But change is inevitable. As the adage goes, “out with the old and in with the new.”
What non-gamers don’t seem to understand (or at least it’s taking them a while to catch on) is that gaming is a very powerful and efficient form of media, one that will overtake all other traditional forms of media.
Consider the last time you either sat behind a desk or listened to a lecture. What sort of information did you retain? Most people would say that only the most interesting tidbits sunk in and that everything else has long since evaporated.
But what made that stuff interesting? It helps if the topic is something that pertains to you, true, but if someone drones on about cowboy ninjas in a monotone, suddenly the exciting clash of archetypes feels very dry. So if the subject matter is only half of the equation, the other half must depend on the way the info gets passed onto you: The speaker must be engaging. So long as you’re engaged, even the most mundane of topics – like the weather – will spark your mind.
That’s where games come in. When you choose to play a game, you do so voluntarily. No one’s forcing you to sit still for the next three hours. As a result, you as the player are already engaged with the game. As its audience, you’re anticipating and looking forward to what the game has to offer. It has you by your seat, ready to absorb rules, button combinations, characters, lore, plot – an entire world.
Because let’s face it, the best games are the ones that make us stay up into the wee hours of the morning. They provide us with an experience, be that experience a sense of accomplishment, a form of social interaction, or an emotional response. And this experience can only be presented within the context of a game; it serves as a vehicle for the player to steer.
The goal is to get to the mountaintop, but the experience is discovering who you are, what this place is, and what is your purpose.
Journey, for example, is a game whose essence and core cannot be replicated in other forms of media.
You could write a novel detailing the beauty contained in each of the game’s locales, but you would not be able to convey the narrator’s incentive to cooperate with the nameless voyager who drops in and out of your game session in real-time.
You could make a cinematic reel that takes you through the landscapes, but you would be taking the social mechanic out of the audience’s hands again.
In order for Journey to express its message, you have to put the game in the player’s hands, teach them how to chirp and jump, and then allow them the chance to communicate with a complete stranger. Otherwise, the journey shared has no meaning.
Communication, even in its simplest form, is key.
With the audience already on its side from the get-go, the gaming platform will inevitably gain traction as a means of influencing the way we view our world. It’s like literature, but with an unlimited amount of additional factors that go towards saying something.
Images used are from Flower & Journey by thatgamecompany.