When I see the phrase "grow up" in two different articles about gaming in one day, I know something's up. When something's up, that's time to talk about it. So today, I'm going to look at the idea of games and game
matter growing up, and why it's a terrible idea to think that way.
First, a bit of background. I caught a bit of a screed over at Venture Beat
's gaming section, in which the author, Arnulfo Hermes, insisted that game boxes needed to "grow up", as they were heavily featuring guys, explosions, and attractive women relegated to secondary roles as, essentially, eye candy. Hermes also provided a set of covers that were doing the job "right", including the new "Tomb Raider", in which a young Lara Croft of realistic proportions was clutching weapons as though she knew how to use them, along with an unbandaged wound. Hermes then noted the winner of a contest that won the "Bioshock: Infinite
" cover design contest, and how little it looked like a more controversial earlier version.
Then, over at Wired's GameLife, there was a Q&A segment with David Cage, who recently brought out the assertion that games in general also needed to "grow up", calling for more mature content and a move away from platforms and shooting to provide a richer, fuller experience.
It's hard to deny that particular idea--I've become downright enamored with Bethesda's games of late because they give me that experience, at least for me. Big world with plenty to explore, plenty of stories going on, the ability to carry on beyond the defined ending to see everything and look in ever nook and cranny. I'd love to see more games like that, and frankly, I'm not. Oddly, "Fallout" and "The Elder Scrolls" were the first first person shooter games I'd played in a long time that didn't leave me nauseous at the end. Maybe it's because of the wider worlds or the slightly slower pace, but I wasn't running around a series of tubes, blasting away at whatever showed up. And on that end, I agree with Cage. But I don't think games need to "grow up" at all.
See, acknowledging that something needs to "grow up" is to say that it needs to mature. And that's all right. But maturation implies something else, something much more sinister overall: death. For games to "grow up" means they age.
Some may call this semantics. Indeed, a maturation of games wouldn't be bad at all; some wider experiences. More room to roam. The older RPGs did this pretty well indeed; my favorite "Final Fantasy" installment was the eighth one, for example. Strange, I know--most favored seven--but eight for me felt like a broader experience. That and I got to fly a high school. But anyway.
The thing about it is, games don't really need to grow up. They don't need to be necessary about mature things. They can get more mature, sure, if it's done properly. I don't need a game about filing my taxes. I get enough of that filing my actual taxes. I don't need a lawn mowing simulator. Come late spring on in to late fall, I'll get my fill of that and then some. I need a game that provides wonder. I need to be an interstellar miner or brigand. I need to be a warrior selling his sword to the highest bidder. I need to be an assassin somewhere, some when, some way. Games need to be about the things we'd never do--we never could do--in real life.
Games don't need to grow up. Games need to get better, to develop, to improve. Maybe even games need to mature, becoming more than the stand-behind-the-gun-how-fast-can-you-shoot-everybody contests they are now.
But games don't need to grow up. What games need is to grow out.