Developers Creating Unhealthy Experiences?

There’s a piece on the Develop website, which covers a keynote speech by Jonathan Blow at the Montreal Game Summit. It’s a perfect example of how a person can be so right and so wrong at the same time.

While he’s right that there is a need for deeper, richer games, the way he puts it gives me the impression that he’s losing sight of the fact that we’re in this industry to make games, which are meant to be fun to play. So who cares if he thinks that collecting coins is a poor way of developing games if the player has fun doing just that?

I have still to play Bioshock (shame on me) but I thought his comments on the game were unnecessarily harsh. If players are looking to first person shooters for a meaningful commentary on the trials of modern life then I’d be very surprised. No matter how good Bioshock might or might not be, there will always be limitations on what you can do with an FPS without changing it altogether. If people bought that game and found it wasn’t a cool FPS then I think the players would feel rightly aggrieved.

There seems to be a fashion at the moment of people making speeches and slaggin off other peoples’ games, particularly games that are doing well. Is this some kind of resentment on their part? Some kind of professional jealousy? Is it the plan to be controversial for its own sake just for publicity? Perhaps I should give it a go? Except that I find I’m loving a lot of very different games and wish I had the time to play a lot more.

So, going back to where I think he’s right – it would be great if we could broaden the spectrum of games in lots of rich and rewarding ways. But the key word for me is “spectrum”. Blow talks as if all current gameplay styles should be done away with and replaced with something more rewarding, something on a higher plane. The way I see it, though, is that you don’t get rid of the current gameplay styles and genres but add to them and create a base which allows the discerning game player to choose exactly what suits his or her mood.

Half-Life 2 is a wonderful game. As is Super Mario Galaxy. And Zelda. And Psychonauts, Day of the Tentacle, Final Fantasy…