Thursday, February 02, 2006

Things are People Too!

The video game entertainment medium has many flaws. Focus is one of the most prominent, as many game designers try to designs games to sell instead of games to play. I have often touched on this point in past articles, but this time I want to consider another flaw of video games: the unbearable and inhuman focus on things instead of people.

What do you do in games? You shoot things, collect things, upgrade things, run over things, drive things and kick things. Things things things! Where's the people?

You might argue that games do include people; Mario is one of the most recognized game characters in the world. But this argument has a problem as well: these people don't act like people, they act like things. Sure, people an jump, punch, and kick (and shoot!), but that isn't what's missing. What's missing is human nature.

People have feelings; things don't. This is where the two categories separate. In all other aspects they coincide; people move, things move, people shoot, things shoot. But things can't feel; things can't have emotions. They can't get upset, can't have opinions, friends, or favorites. In short, things can't be, well, people.

Often game designers overlook this bit of common sense. "If it sells," they rationalize, "do it!" They figure (and unfortunately, are often right) that if one game succeeds, another just like it will as well. Just look at the amazing success of Microsoft's Halo series. Nothing is original, no ideas in the series are new or innovative. But all the ideas and concepts are better implemented than the original games they first starred in.

What the designers don't realize is that the reason innovative and mold-breaking games don't make big bucks isn't because they aren't wanted; it's because they aren't made. Most innovative games would be big hits if the designs could just get past marketing departments. To add insult to injury, another problem is that the more bloody gory shootups the gaming industry makes, the farther and farther away they drive the vast majority of Americans. Most of the civilized world isn't interested in slitting throats or blasting zombies; when the duplicated games fail designers ask, "what's missing?"

What's missing is people. Here is a list of games that could be huge hits if they were only produced. All these designs reflect true aspects of real human character (by publishing these ideas, I hereby declare them public domain):
Gossip: People gossip about each other, creating social circles that compete for superiority. The player has to try to be liked by everybody.
Popularity Contest: The player must become friends with popular people in order to enter social circles. People who like others you are friends with will be influenced to like you as well. More popular people are harder to win over and are less influenced by others, but have lots of influence and so are good investments of your time. You must try to gain as much influence in the social arena as possible.
Happiness: You must try to become friends with someone by giving them gifts, going to movies and other events, etc. The problem is you don't know what they like, and you must try to find the best attitude to approach them with in order to make them happy and want to be your friend. This isn't as easy as you might think; the persons likes and dislikes are constantly changing, and what you do for them has an influence on these changes.

These are all excellent ideas that could be well developed and marketed if someone would give them a chance. They all portray human character, instinct, and nature in ways that are tangible and fun.

Now it's your turn. Can you think of any more ideas for games that accurately depict human traits in a way that is fun to interact with and you believe would be successful in the marketplace? Click the "comments so far" link below and let us (and the world) know!


Blogger Mr. Levingston said...

actually, i think your quite wrong, its not the character you play as thats the person, its you. you are the person with the feelings, you are the person with the favorites, you are the person. YOU take control of the character, and YOU choose what you want to do.

If the character you were trying to play as had true feelings and human nature (other than things like "oh, i miss my grandma" (windwaker)) then it would be completely what the character wants to do.

You want to kill that enemy, but the character doesnt want to.

you want to use your hookshot to cross the gap. the character wants to try and jump it.

the characters having true human characteristics would probably take most of the fun out of the videogames...

Friday, February 03, 2006 2:31:00 PM PST  
Blogger BusterBot858 said...

First of all, I never denied that the player is a person. I simply said the things you control, the things you interact with, they are all things. None of the objects within the game have feelings or emotions.

Secondly, how can we know if the games would be fun? They've never been tried.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 11:00:00 AM PST  
Blogger Mr. Levingston said...

note, i did say probably :P

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 2:48:00 PM PST  

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