How deep should a game be?

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Morality is always a tricky topic, as are religion, politics, sexuality, etc.  All of these are things we’re not supposed to discuss at dinner parties – makes for awkward conversations.  But do they make for better games?

It’s almost a gaming cliche to fight against some sort of evil empire.  The only group we’re still okay killing with reckless abandon is the Nazis.  Everyone else varies through time periods – sometimes the Russians are the bad guys, or maybe a random Arab nation, and sometimes it’s just an evil corporation.  It seems that we can accept any of these as “the enemy”.  Is this a sign of our general political leanings, or just the times that we live in?  I suppose we all want to be “the good guys”, fighting for good, but sometimes the political undertones can be a bit questionable.

Games are coming under fire lately for including, or excluding, homosexuality.  Bioware has plenty of options in this regard, which I always like seeing in a game.  However, there are still companies that get flak over these features.  Right wing and religious groups see this as an attempt to influence young people’s minds on a controversial topic (although I doubt it will be seen as controversial in 50 year’s time… I wonder what new controversies will be around then).

I suppose I’m thinking about this because of The Last of Us.  Not to give anything away (and please don’t give spoilers in the comments), but the game and particularly the ending gave me a lot of think about regarding humanity and morality.  What is the right thing to do?

Gaming lets us play out a variety of hypothetical situations.  What would happen in the event of a zombie apocalypse?  Or interstellar war? If you could play god, what kind of world would you create?  If you ruled countries or civilizations, how would you interact with other nations? All of these things make us realize more about ourselves.  For example, despite my occasional aggressive tendencies in some games, I generally tend to be a pacifist.  I want a world filled with cooperation and diplomacy, as long as I win, of course.

Having an impressive statement about a controversial or complicated topic doesn’t necessarily mean that your game will be a success – just look at Nier, or even Remember Me.  However, most of the games that have been universally loved had some intensity in these areas.  If done well, it can leave the player thinking about concepts long after the game is over – but if it’s done poorly it just feels heavy handed and inane.

There will always be games that are just for fun, that involve mindless killing or pwnage, and they can also be fantastic.  But what do you look for?  Are you interested in playing a game that makes you think, or do you just want to get on with your life?  Which controversies should be tackled in games, and which ones make you cringe?

Last Updated: July 1, 2013

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. You can read more of my words over at www.borngeek.co.za, or just follow me on all the social networks to get the true range of my sarcasm and wit.

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