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Do Games Sugar-Coat Real Life?

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#1 King_Tetiro   Members   


Posted 29 August 2013 - 03:44 AM

As I hope you guys know, I am an RPG developer and I'm working on the Legena trilogy (the prototype got enough feedback to warrant a trilogy) And one of the things we're striving to do in the RPGs we develop is make them real. I don't mean in the sense of gorey bloody graphics. I mean in the sense of the issues the characters face.
Look at television less than 50 years, having a gay character on a tv show would have caused outrage and sparked a mass anger from the audience. But once one television show stuck its ground over time it became less controversial and accepted as part of real life.
However, the gaming industry has yet to reach that spark on some topics. That spark that acts as a domino in which eventually it becomes a normal factor.
If you look at all the following, you rarely see anything like this
  • LGBT characters
  • Slavery and the bravery the slaves had
  • Victims of racism and their story
  • Victims of violent attacks because of who they are or what they believe in
You see my point. Whilst we know these issues (or in the 1st example, characters) exist in real life. But why don't they?  Well I think it's down to developers wanting to play it safe. But as indie developers, we are already playing with fire by trying to be indie developers and so we can add more fire to the burn. But for mainstream, it seems they do not want to risk it.
Even when the community looks bright on such things, the developers play it safe. And in turn end up scorching people. In this case, gay gamers. (Though I don't know how this example is going to end as it's recent news)
Where's the risk that influenced great games and these great characters?
    Psycho Mantis from Metal Gear
    Giygas from Earthbound
    Flea from Chrono Trigger
These are 3 perfect examples where the developers went beyond the safe zone and produced fantastic characters. Well done to them! Heck me and my team are going ballsy with risk. Do you know that the only thing that I've seen in a decade get risky was the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who? And that's not even a game!
So what do you think? Does the gaming industry play it too safe these days regarding controversy? Are there any boundries where crossing them is too far? (like the Tomb Raider "rape") What would you want to see finally get covered?
And finally, would you like to see games that risked controversy to produce a story?
Let's hear your thoughts!
And just so you know, I am looking at the controversy from a developer's perspective, so please take no offense.

Edited by King_Tetiro, 29 August 2013 - 02:12 PM.

#2 Tom Sloper   Moderators   


Posted 01 September 2013 - 10:39 AM

Do Games Sugar-Coat Real Life?
you rarely see anything like this
LGBT characters
Slavery and the bravery the slaves had
Victims of racism and their story
Victims of violent attacks because of who they are or what they believe in

There are games that have zombies and deadly violence and beating up prostitutes. Those games are hardly "sugar-coated."
But I do get your point, that certain societal hot potatoes are rarely touched upon in mainstream games (especially console games). Some of that has to do with publishers' reluctance to negatively impact sales, and some of that has to do with platform holders' reluctance to approve publication of games with restricted content. For a while, Nintendo had strict rules prohibiting religion, tobacco, alcohol, and drugs in game stories. Publishers have long memories, and their primary goal is high sales (not raising social conscience). So a developer has to keep publishers and platform holders in mind when creating games.

So if you want to make games that elevate social awareness of racism, victimization, and religious tolerance, you are free to do that, but you may need to self-publish, and outside of the console market - or be prepared for a debate with your stakeholders.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#3 j-locke   Members   


Posted 01 September 2013 - 12:36 PM

As Tom pointed out, the primary goal of publishers in general is making a profit from the game. And it tends to be that the first things to push those new ideas fail miserably; and that's just the price to be paid with raising social awareness. It virtually never happens overnight.


If you believe in the cause strongly enough that you're willing to risk your money publishing the game, the sky is the limit (or more aptly, the law is the limit) for what causes you bring attention to. If you're not willing to take on that financial risk, then you're stuck where so many developers are... having to balance providing enough "standard fare" for the genre you're in while using some smaller portions of your game to create awareness.


As for sugar-coating, I think mainstream games sugar coat to a level similar to mainstream movies and mainstream tv. It's arguable if that's pushing the envelope far enough, but I think that it's pretty in-line with what you should expect. The investors put their money into the companies for a return on that investment. If they want to raise social consciousness, they donate money to a charity that pushes that cause.


As for playing a game that has controversy, I have no desires or complaints regarding it. I played that Call of Duty that had you play as a terrorist in an airport. I had already bought the game and was in the middle of the story before I heard that the mission existed. I don't think that controversial mission would have prompted me to buy the game if I hadn't already. And it didn't cause me to take the game back since I already had it. If your game was good, controversy aside, I think that's a good first step to getting people interested enough to play your game (and be influenced by your cause).

#4 AngleWyrm   Members   


Posted 01 September 2013 - 07:39 PM

I remember a video game scene in which there was a bunch of humans terrorising a Dwarf for the crime of being a dwarf. And another game where a bunch of humans were about to gang rape an Elf, mostly because she was just an elf. Also a frequently used mechanism in video games is "Those people don't count; you can murder them all day long, because they're just zombies/aliens/mutants/robots." Which is the very definition of racial prejudice.


On the issue of slavery, there's a lot of games where the player's role is slave to a higher authority. You do as I tellz ya; I'm da master, youz da slave. You mah bitch


And as far a homosexuality goes: Fallout-2, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Skyrim, The Sims, Street Fighter, League of Legends. It's quite common to see non-heterosexually aligned characters in video games.

Edited by AngleWyrm, 01 September 2013 - 08:31 PM.

--"I'm not at home right now, but" = lights on, but no ones home

#5 ray_intellect   Members   


Posted 09 September 2013 - 02:26 PM

That's why writing for games isn't very highly rated, I think you have got a point and the competition to provide 'shocking' content is getting sleazy and boring. A bit like seeing a shark sawn in half, seen one and you've seen em all. So yeah perhaps you could make your game have a friendly character from the opposite faction, (friendly orc, troll, ogre, dog, spider, goblin, zombie (Gollum is one, however he is a traitor), ring wraith, ghost.... etc). And you could use the story of that character to explore those issues. The trick is that you need to incorporate the themes into your design (was the film called green mile?, and Sintel the open movie actually goes into great thematic depth) and keep the normal look'n'feel, so perhaps you are considering an extreme art pipeline and a great orchestral music setup ... then I think most of what you want to do has been done before in various limited ways.

#6 AntiSocialPanda   Members   


Posted 11 October 2013 - 03:22 AM

Its funny you should mention this because I've been thinking the same thing as of late. And in my game I'm planning to address some of these. There will be rape, slavery, etc etc...

#7 Shane C   Members   


Posted 11 October 2013 - 03:32 AM

Games don't sugar-coat civilized real-life because civilized real-life has a lot less hardship. Sure there are taboo subjects that do occur, but not quite as much as in games and movies.

Controversy sells games though. When a game is controversial, and gets negative articles, people want to see what it's all about.

#8 mippy   Members   


Posted 12 October 2013 - 02:43 PM

Skipping what you consider sugarcoating a game does not necessarily make the game better, as the contents might be overshadowed by the "triggering stuff". When you write for a game or movie you cherry pick elements from reality or a story and enhance their features/aspects to make sure the message comes through. A part of this is to reduce the impressions from unimportant things - like a triggering sex scene or excessive brutality. 

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