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Video: Are some subjects too complex for video games?

In a talk from GDC 2012 called "The Gamification of Death," Hide&Seek's Margaret Robertson takes a moment to consider whether there are certain subjects games can't capture.

September 18, 2013

3 Min Read

[This is a repost of a video from GDC 2012. To access chapter selection, click the fullscreen button or check out the video on the GDC Vault website] If you're reading this site, chances are you believe in the potential of video games – that they can evoke powerful emotions, and deeply affect the people who play them. Plenty of games have already proven that the medium is capable of dealing with complex issues, but are there subjects that video games just aren't equipped to handle? Margaret Robertson of the experimental game studio Hide&Seek explored this very question at GDC 2012, as she and her team ran into some real trouble when working on their interactive media experiment, Dreams of Your Life. The project was originally planned as a game that explored the death of Joyce Vincent, a woman who went unnoticed for three years after she perished in her London flat. Hide&Seek wanted to create a game that explored the complexities of death, and how someone like Vincent could slip through the cracks and become forgotten by society. The only problem was that making a game that captured those themes proved too great a feat. "We really tried, but we couldn't find a game that fit within the things that [the team] talked about," Robertson said. In the end, the team created an interactive online story that satisfied their goals, but the fact that a game never came together really concerned Robertson. She admits the fault could lie with the team itself, but what if there's a larger issue? What if games just aren't capable of dealing with certain complex themes? "The scary thing is: Maybe this just doesn't work. The reason I love making games is that I see them transform people in this really incredible way... but it feels so much to me that the reason games manage to accomplish that has a lot to do with the fact that the constraints the games set up are temporary and arbitrary," she said. "The minute you bolt those structures onto something [like death] that's real and enduring and ongoing, there is a tension." For more from Robertson's thoughtful – and surprisingly positive – GDC presentation, simply click the Play button on the above video, courtesy of the GDC Vault.

About the GDC Vault

In addition to all of this free content, the GDC Vault also offers more than 300 additional lecture videos and hundreds of slide collections from GDC 2012 for GDC Vault subscribers. GDC 2012 All Access pass holders already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription Beta via a GDC Vault inquiry form. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company. More information on this option is available via an online demonstration, and interested parties can send an email to Gillian Crowley. In addition, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault admins. Be sure to keep an eye on GDC Vault for even more free content, as GDC organizers will also archive videos, audio, and slides from upcoming 2012 events like GDC Europe, GDC Online, and GDC China. To stay abreast of all the latest updates to GDC Vault, be sure to check out the news feed on the official GDC website, or subscribe to updates via Twitter, Facebook, or RSS.

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