It is undeniable that ten years ago, videogames were not as popular as they are today. With the arrival of web, console and mobile gaming, the medium quickly expanded to the point where the term “gamer” almost lost its meaning. Today, even with games being more accessible than ever, there are more people buying movie tickets each year than people playing video games (In America, 68% against 59%). Looking at the numbers, I believe all developers should ask themselves the following question:
What do films bring to people that games don’t?
While it’s certainly subject to debate, my theory is that in the film industry, it is really common to perceive the filmmakers’ culture through their work. It results in films being more convincing and diversified. For example, watching La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) really feels like being transported in a foreign country, somewhere far away from home. The music, actors, filming location and language are so carefully blended together that the whole thing almost feel real. This attention to detail allows people to immerse themselves in another universe for a couple of hours.
However, when it comes to realistic narrative-driven games, many developers simply adhere to what I call “the global game culture”. They often do everything in popular locations such as New York and Los Angeles, promote free violence, write everything in English and encourage misogyny because “other games are doing it”.
Games are so often crafted for the stereotype gamer that they repel all the others from being attracted to the medium. In my opinion, one way to fight against this trend is to create more games featuring scenarios built to feel genuine and natural.
My small studio is currently creating a game that takes place in the 1970’s Northern Quebec (Canada). It is our third attempt at pushing a game to the market and the first one to be set somewhere relatively nears us. It turns out that finding actors, musicians and writers to help with the game’s development is way more convenient than with the other two projects. Since all texts and voices are made in French, we can easily convince people to help us and quickly pinpoint all aspects of the game that don’t feel right. On top of that, for the first time ever, our friends, families and acquaintances genuinely look and sound interested in seeing how the game will turn out. That is significant.
If your mother tongue is not English, there is nothing wrong in creating a game in your language. Once you game is done, you can push all the texts and voices to professional translator firms. These people are most likely better at writing in English than you will ever be. There is also nothing wrong in partnering with local artists to create your next big thing. In the end, the result will look and sound more real to you and more exotic to others around the world. A good example of developers infusing parts of their culture in a game is the latest Infamous iteration, which takes place in Seattle, near Sucker Punch offices. I think the industry should applaud their initiative of creating a game closer to them and encourage other developers to follow the same route.
I’ve been in the business for six years now and over the course of my career, I realized how un-personal most game development practices are. Most companies create games for the mass market following strict market studies guidelines. While there will always be place for these blockbuster games, I hope to see more smaller titles that share parts of their developers' culture. While I think creating local games is part of solution, there are certainly other ways to make video games more attractive to the next 41%.
What do you think is the next step in the industry? Would you like to see more local games too?