With thanks to John Thynne for his recent mail:
“It strikes me that games like Insurgency and America’s Army are still shoot-em-ups even if their story line has a current affairs theme.”
It’s true – the most successful games out there are shoot-em-ups, serious game or not. Half-Life and the Halo series spring to mind. Amerca’s Army too, of course. With over 40 million copies distributed, it’s probably the most popular serious video game ever released. Many games are popular precisely because they capitalize on their players’ tribal-primate urge to kill and win (like football, but let’s stick to the video game point here).
In my mind, this doesn’t impinge on the ability of video games to convey journalism. I happen to like Halo and Half-Life 2. Fortunately for all of us, though, there are many hundreds of games out there that aren’t shoot-em-ups – including many successful ones.
Let’s look at movies. No one doubts the ability of film to convey sophisticated journalism. But there are plenty of vapid movies out there, too. The most successful movies ever made are various iterations of the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean and Titanic. It doesn’t mean that all movies should be about swahbuckling wizards romancing posh ladies on sinking ships. And it doesn’t mean that movies like The Fog of War and Darwin’s Nightmare don’t get made. Thank God for that.
Games can be made in all sorts of ways, not just shooters. The links column to the right of this post has a few good examples.
Documentary film and television still gets made, even though most of the stuff we see on screen involves superstars fighting and falling in love. And documentary games have a place in the market in exactly the same way.