Games are powerful mediums that allow designers and players opportunities to explore interesting and meaningful experiences. Serious games do this by raising awareness of serious issues and representing ideas and experiences of minority groups. Art Games is a label used to describe games that offer representations of ideas and experiences but use these to generate introspective responses from players.
Designers can tackle ideas like love, sexuality and grief through innovation, emotion, cultural associations and challenging player perceptions. These games allow designers to experiment with elements like mechanics, narrative, aesthetics and themes to explore and expand games as a medium.
Experimentation and exploration with games as a medium is about discovering new storytelling methods, challenging our thoughts about immersion, becoming comfortable with presenting strange concepts and ideas, fostering creative environments, exploring different perspectives and cultures and engaging with the human experience.
Striving to encourage creativity and innovation won’t destroy existing games – instead it can offer designers and players different experiences to enjoy and value. Games are unique as players choose their own actions and can have different experiences with the same game. Creating diversity results in a wider range of better games and design choices.
There are a multitude of under-represented roles and narratives that could be utilised. It has been proven that the gaming community is not what the public perception believes it to be so the games we produce should reflect and engage this evolving population.
is it time? asks “is life worth living if you have nothing left to live for”? Players control and decide the fate of an elderly woman who is mourning the death of her husband. The game is designed to generate emotion and thought from the player about life issues. Home also looks at the lives of the elderly but by forcing players to confront the issue of managed care.
The Stanley Parable, Dear Esther and A House In California are interesting games that experiment with narrative and gameplay to engage players. These games may also challenge players’ views on what a game is.
Increased development and interaction with unique and interesting games encourages the industry and players to give these games a chance and challenge the common conception of games as strictly entertainment objects. If designers and players can challenge and change this perception, games can be taken as a serious medium for delivering powerful messages, engaging experiences and encouraging thought, discussion and action about serious issues.
Making a stand will encourage the industry to improve development of games by looking for alternative audiences and uses for games, increasing chances of experimentation and handling games and content with innovation, creativity and care. It’s important for the industry and players to help games grow as a medium which allows them to learn and understand what games can do.
Interested in learning, discussing and developing games as a serious medium? Extra Credits is an excellent source for players and designers. To learn more about the problems of serious game design and production, look to Matt Ditton’s talk on his experience with Alternator, serious games and the games industry.