By Kevin Kelly
David Cage is the writer/director/CEO (that’s a lot of responsibility on one head) at Quantic Dreams, which gave the world “Heavy Rain,” and he also has the upcoming “Beyond: Two Souls” as well. But David has always been very vocal about the video game industry needing to change, evolve, and grow up, which was the focus of his panel at D.I.C.E.
He pointed out that the market is highly polarized: 21 out of the top 30 best-selling games of all time were released by Nintendo. Based on those numbers, the industry is based on games for younger, casual audiences. And he noted that there have been very few changes in 40 years, comparing Wolfenstein from 1992 to Call of Duty in 2012: the graphics have changed greatly, but the concepts behind the games are the same – kill the other guy before he kills you.
According to Cage, the games also all have the same paradigms, noting that Grand Theft Auto I and Grand Theft Auto 4 are the same when you boil them down to their basics. He also claims that games live in a “Wonderland,” there things never seem to change,
Pointing out the reasons for this, Cage said that games are under extreme pressure. The landscape changes quickly, new platforms are introduced “nearly every week,” and that digital distribution is become a big part of the industry. Time is also a factor, as so many different devices and creators compete for entertainment games. As a result, gaming time is getting pushed out. Plus, he pointed a finger at the industry itself, saying “We make she same games over and over.”
His point is that the game industry needs to find ways to reach a wider audience. He outlined nine things that the industry needs in order to grow up:
• Make Games For All Ages: Can we make games that grandparents play? That parents play? For the adult audience that doesn’t play games? He thinks that the industry can adapt and do this.
• Change Out Paradigms: Violence and platforms are not the only way. “We’re in an industry now where is the main character doesn’t hold a gun, the designers don’t know what do to.” He wants us to make games where you don’t use a gun. He also wants games that are not based on systems, “I’m not interested in competing about me 10-year old neighbor, because he’s going to kick my ass.”
• The Importance of Meaning: What do we have to say? Let authors come in. He wants our games to be meaningful experiences that say something. Themes that we use in the real world should be used in our games as well. Anything we see in a film or television show, stories that talk about stories, that talk about politics, homosexuality, and feelings … games should be in this world and should be a part of this discussion. The game should leave an imprint on you.
• Become Accessible: Focus on minds, not on thumbs. Games have become complicated over times, which you’ve probably experienced if you’ve ever shown a gamer from the golden age of Atari a modern controller. They spaz out over the number of buttons and sticks, and it is instantly too complicated for them.
• Bring Other Talents Aboard: He wants developers to use real Hollywood actors and talent in their games, remarking that he worked with David Bowie in Omikron, and Ellen Page plays a major role in Beyond: Two Souls.
• Establish New Relationships With Hollywood: time for constructive, balanced and new partnerships. Invent a new form of entertainment together: Hollywood has storytelling, and games have interactivity. Let’s combine the two.
• Changing Our Relationship With Censorship: the video game industry has the same constraints in regards to ratings that film had in the 1950s, and he wants that to change. But on the flipside, he noticed at last year’s E3 that games seem top strive to be more bloody and violent, and that they sometimes go too far. He wants developers to be more responsible to society, and to show that they are not a bunch of teenagers.
• The Role of Press: according to Cage, press plays a dual role in the game world. One half of them provide thoughtful, critical thinking about video games, but on the other side, there exists games press who just produces scores for games. “Oh, you got the camera wrong, so you get a 6.” He thinks that this is not helpful to the video game space.
• The Importance of Gamers: gamers should keep in mind that they vote by what games they purchase, and this helps steer the industry where they want it to go.
What he’s picturing is a new form of entertainment. It should be accessible to all, should be open to all themes and genres, should be based on the journey and not the challenge, and should be completely cross-platform. Only by doing this, according to Cage, will games finally become mass market. Is he right? That’s a grand proposal, and would require a massive shift in the video game environment, where titles like Call of Duty continue to break sales records, and it doesn’t seem like a paradigm shift is on the horizon, with another console cycle about to begin.