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Opinion: Do We Have Merchant Ivory Already?

The <a href="http://gamasutra.com/features/20060807/adams_01.shtml">recent 'Designer's Notebook' column</a> by Ernest Adams named 'Where's Our Merchant Ivory?' has alread...

Simon Carless, Blogger

August 8, 2006

2 Min Read

The recent 'Designer's Notebook' column by Ernest Adams named 'Where's Our Merchant Ivory?' has already attracted significant feedback from Gamasutra readers, with game professionals querying the fact that "we don’t have any highbrow games". In particular, Ian Schreiber comments of yesterday's article: "Ernest Adams spends a fair amount of time convincing us of the need for a "highbrow" game, apparently anticipating that the major objection people would have to his argument is that it isn't necessary. How about the objection that we already have highbrow games? The first one I can remember is Ultima IV, which came dangerously close to being a religious text. This followed by Ultima V, a dire warning that legally mandated virtue, no matter how pure the intent, leads to nothing better than a totalitarian police state -- somehow Ultima V is "just for kids" but 1984 is literature? How? What about Final Fantasy VII, with its literary theme of Nature vs Technology, and its gorgeously-painted backdrops and wonderful music? Sure, you have to look past the horrendous blockiness of the main character, but that's due to technical limitations -- if we can overlook great black-and-white films for not having color, can't we overlook this? If not, would it be sufficient to do a remake with modern graphics? If you're allowed to call the History Channel "highbrow", then what about Battlefield 1942? What part of playing out the actual battles of WWII is not as educational as a "Normandy" documentary?" On the other hand, David Lannan writes in to agree wholeheartedly with the opinion piece, commenting: "I found this article to be a truly excellent read. It covers such an innocuous subject but is so plainly missing in the game industry it left me quite puzzled, and looking for high-culture games - and not finding any." Finally, Tony Dormanesh presents somewhere close to the middle ground, suggesting: "I believe Ernest is right in some ways. I'm sure if there was a game Jack Thompson liked to play, he would quit trying to be famous by attacking the games industry. (Hopefully it'd be multiplayer so he could play with Hillary Clinton.) On the other hand, (this may sound harsh) when all the old people die and every law maker in the country was born in the age of technology, will we still have this problem? Won't they all know the benefits of gaming and that gaming doesn't create murderers? (I'm sure there will be exceptions...) And still on other hand... I've been wanting make the games that would give us the honor and respect Ernest talked about in his article. But I'm stuck in the corporate game world, and it's close to impossible." Responses can be read in Gamasutra's Letter To The Editor section - we welcome more commentary on the issue via our letter submission screen.

About the Author(s)

Simon Carless


Simon Carless is the founder of the GameDiscoverCo agency and creator of the popular GameDiscoverCo game discoverability newsletter. He consults with a number of PC/console publishers and developers, and was previously most known for his role helping to shape the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Conference for many years.

He is also an investor and advisor to UK indie game publisher No More Robots (Descenders, Hypnospace Outlaw), a previous publisher and editor-in-chief at both Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine, and sits on the board of the Video Game History Foundation.

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