In the ‘Future of PlayStation’ we got our very first glimpse at the next-generation of consoles. The video games looked stunning, and a lot of work was put behind the social aspects of gaming. However, there was one thing that irked me the wrong way looking back at the presentation.
It came from David Cage.
David Cage is the game director behind Heavy Rain, Indigo Prophecy, and the upcoming Beyond: Two Souls. He has campaigned about video games, saying how they need to grow up which I agree with it however he fumbles his message by pointing at the wrong things.
In the recent tech demo, at the Future of PlayStation conference, David Cage showed his company’s brand new game engine. It showed a highly detailed face of an old man with long white hair. However before he got to it, he gave a little speech about how, “getting the player emotionally involved is the holy grail of all game creators” and how, “with the PlayStation 4, games have now finally reached that stage.” Getting a player emotionally invested in a game is very important for games that require it but does it really have anything to do with the graphics of the game?
I don’t think so, and three games last year proved that. Journey, an independent game was considered one of the more emotional video games last year and it didn’t rely on dialogue or character detail to do so. In fact, all the emotional undertones from that game came from the game play and how that related to the player. On the other end, you have Telltale’s The Walking Dead, another tear jerker of a game. That video game was stylized to look like a comic book, it didn’t have a huge budget, the characters weren’t super detailed but they had something else other than polygons to make them feel real.
They had heart. They were well written because you could feel their pain through the superb voice acting. However, evoking sad emotions in a video games isn’t something new, Cage also speaks about how developers, “can [now] make you feel emotions you have never felt in real life without wondering about the horsepower” due to new consoles. However, that’s not true as well, Spec Ops: The Line was a gut wrenching experience for most people who had played the game, the game challenged the morals of video gamers and made you feel like a terrible person. I had never felt anything like that before, and it didn’t take the next-generation of consoles to do so.
Did David Cage simply not play these games or has his obsession with film clouded his judgment? It’s ironic, the man who considers himself to be maturing the video game medium, is obsessed with graphics.
Games do need to become more mature however having better graphics does not equate towards that equation. Fact of the matter is that a game that looks like a comic book can make people cry and a game that runs on a dated engine can truly make people feel emotions they have never felt. Even movies have pulled this off. Pixar’s Up, relied on highly stylized characters to pull off an emotional charged story and it did so with the characters not saying a word, and the characters in WALL-E didn’t even look like humans and it also managed that.
Emotions in video games aren’t carried out by great graphics, they can certainly help but that is never the driving force behind them. It’s the writing, the story telling, the musical score, the game play and the player’s investment to the game. Video games have already reached the level to offer gamers emotional stories and the extra power is the cherry on top.