Ruminating on the recently-concluded E3 trade show, developer and academic Ian Bogost evaluates familiarity and the unplumbed depths of design in his latest Persuasive Games feature column
Looking at some of the new hardware announcements further showcased at the show, he suggests: "Whether it's a motion controller or a multicore GPU or a 3D display, the industry assumes that new technology embraces unfamiliar familiarity. Kinect, like the Wii before it, is supposed to show us how easy and intuitive play can be, and how mistaken we were ever to think otherwise.
"Sony and Nintendo's 3D displays are meant to immerse us in experiences that will leave us wondering how we ever tolerated the flat plainness of two dimensions -- just as 3D games of the N64/PlayStation era did fifteen years ago.
"The problem is this: while the experiences promised by technical shifts always produce excitement, that excitement is usually short-lived and rarely deeply meaningful.
"New tech succeeds in buoying the business of games for another few years, but only until players realize that the unfamiliar wild west of technology really amounts to yet another take on the familiar ordinariness of incessant gadgeteering."
Besides being hamstrung by technology, many developers mistake driving forward with new explorations of existing territory for innovation when they're just delivering another example of what we've seen before, Bogost argues -- comparing games to the television industry:
"On the one hand, there's nothing wrong with this. Just as there's a place for another episode of Everybody Loves Raymond or CSI, so there's a place for another take on fantasy swashbuckling or platforming. But on the other hand, mistaking those examples of the familiar unfamiliar for truly deep and novel explorations of even the very themes they offer reveals a missed opportunity."
Bogost's latest analysis, 'Persuasive Games: Plumbing the Depths'
, explores these creative and technological tensions in greater depth, and is live today on Gamasutra.