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Games that make us think

What is the common point between Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, Spielberg’s ET and Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables? They are all seen as masterpieces in their respective genre, but why?

Pascal Luban, Blogger

September 4, 2018

3 Min Read

What is the common point between Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, Spielberg’s ET and Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables? They are all seen as masterpieces in their respective genre, but why?

Is it because they offer spectacular action or spellbinding stories?  Because they are humorous ?

No. They are masterpieces because they talk to us. They speak of our search for happiness, our thirst for a peaceful and harmonious world, they talk about our inner desire for a better world.

Their authors are telling us one thing: Such a world is possible. Their objective is to make us aware that good decisions and proper actions, even at the individual level, can steer the world in the right direction.

Masterpieces are not limiting themselves to storytelling; they are written to meet one objective: To make us think. Great authors want to change our behaviors, erase our ignorance and correct our prejudices.

I state that there is no reason such masterpieces will not emerge in our industry. I also believe that giving depth and meaning to games will simply make them better.

Such games are beginning to appear. This War Of Mine is a good example. Developed and published by Polish studio 11 Bit, This game is about the survival of a group of civilians in a modern city under siege. Sounds familiar? It does. Recent history has been stained by such gruesome events. The game offers a strong gameplay, mixing management and stealth. 

What is this game telling us? First, it is showing us the horrors that civilians have to endure during a war.  In an industry where many of our products tend to make common place of war, if not to glorify it, this is already a strong statement; but the game goes further.

A movie or a documentary could show us the same things but a game offers a different perspective, both new and powerful: It turns us into actors of the drama and put us in situations where we have to make decisions …. dramatic decisions. For instance, if one member in your party falls sick, what decision will you take when you find pharmaceuticals in a house occupied by an elderly couple? Will you rob them? will you kill them? Or will you simply turn away?

It is because you have to take this type of decision, because you are facing dramatic situations that you develop empathy toward civilians trapped in that hell.

And when you feel empathy toward characters in a video game, it offers a better experience because it generates stronger emotions.

Therefore, I believe that games that will create such emotional shocks are one of the future paths for game development.

We will see an increasing number of games written and designed to generate strong emotions, games where we will come across protagonists we can believe in, games built around situations we can relate to, games where players will feel empathy toward characters or causes.

I believe this trend is inevitable for several reasons:

First, the relative weight of « older players », i.e. over 35 years old, will grow. They will enjoy games with depth and content.

Second, publishers and studios will realize that quality storytelling improves the game experience and, therefore, improves the commercial potential of what they publish.

Last, authors that understand how to use the game media will emerge and pass on their messages.

Our industry will, like all other art forms, develop masterpieces that will find their place in our world heritage and will contribute to a better world.

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About the Author(s)

Pascal Luban


Pascal Luban is a freelance creative director and game designer based in France. He has been working in the game industry as a game or level designer since 1995 and has been commissioned by major studios and publishers including Activision, SCEE, Ubisoft and DICE. In particular, he was Lead Level Designer on the 'versus' multiplayer versions of both Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory, he designed CTF-Tornado, a UT3 mod multiplayer map built to showcase the applications of physics to gameplay, he was creative Director on Wanted – Weapons of Fate and lead game designer on Fighters Uncaged, the first combat game for Kinect. His first game for mobile platforms, The One Hope, was published in 2007 by the Irish publishers Gmedia and has received the Best In Gaming award at the 2009 Digital Media Awards of Dublin. Leveraging his design experience on console and PC titles, Pascal is also working on social and Free-to-Play games. He contributed to the game design of Kartoon, a Facebook game currently under development at Kadank, he did a design mission on Treasure Madness, zSlide's successful Free-to-Play game and completed several design missions for French and American clients. Pascal is content director for the video game program at CIFACOM, a French school focusing on the new media industry.

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