Support Andy, click to buy via us...
Once the ferver of the casual player has grown thin, perhaps we will again look to more substantial experiences to carry video gaming forward. Uncompromising shows like The Wire show how differently stories can be told, and perhaps show hard core gaming how to regain its stones.
The Wire is perhaps the most compelling example of a program that caters to a serious audience. Although often sidelined and misunderstood by casual viewers who think it's just another cop show, it has developed a strong and deeply engaged group of more serious viewers.
When challenged on this issue of not helping casual viewers recently on the Culture Show, director David Simon response was along the lines of, 'f*&$ the casual viewer, who wants a casual viewer. You wouldn't want a casual reader of a novel so why should we pander to them in our series.' It's a strong point and compelling sentiment for those who are after something a little deeper and challenging than Lost, 24 or Battlestar Galactica.
You have to get the detail right or it just becomes TV.
Perhaps this is a sentiment that could help reinvigorate hard core gaming. At a time when the trend is to pander to an ever widening audience and experiences are diluted and blurred beyond recognition, wouldn't it be exciting to play a game uncompromising to its premise. Maybe the demographic wouldn't be as wide as it might, but it would certainly be a lot deeper.
Doing this right is no easy task though. There are no short cuts, as Simon says in The Wire series four commentary, 'You have to get the detail right or it just becomes TV'. Here he explodes the sense that viewers will swallow any approximation to what happens in real life. TV for Simon provides a string of cookie cutter Police, Murder, Drug and Political moments rather than doing the leg work of depicting what actually would happen in detail in these settings.
Many so called hard core games fall foul of this as well. How many cut scenes have really engaged, moved or interested you? The small number is often a result of a small screen rough rendering of reality, rather than taking time and effort to create something realistic at an atomistic level. When it is done right though, you can tell immediately. The characters in Uncharted Drakes Fortune for example, instantly connect because the detail of their relationships are attended to with impressive accuracy. Full motion capture and filmic blue screen work make Nate, Elena and Sully relationships viable from the ground up. The simple result is that we can care about them.
Perhaps soon we will hear again about uncompromising writing, grave endeavours, identifiable characters and challenging themes.
Fable 2 is another great example of getting the detail right. The world of Albion can unfold at its own detailed pace. This not only provides space for incidental moments, but also creates detailed relationships between the player and the game world. This works best when they encounter the detailed set pieces, whether the initial staging of the story, marriage, quests or difficult decisions about canine friends. These events feel lavish and unrushed in a way that is simply filmic, and not at all like TV.
These experiences may fail to engage passers by or casual players. But those they do connect with are drawn in for the whole deep experience. Like The Wire, they succeed in telling interesting stories in enough detail and nuance for them to start to matter to the audience. They succeed in crossing a chasm - from their world to that of the audience/player.
With this generation's big move to casual gaming with the Wii, perhaps the next will signify a turn towards deeper game play. Whereas now we hear about blue seas, accessibility and family gaming, perhaps soon we will hear again about uncompromising writing, grave endeavours, identifiable characters and challenging themes.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: