Across the Oculus Rift

I’m predominantly a movie man, but I do have a permanent knot in my muscles and bones called video games. I’ve cooked up game ideas since I was a lad, when I was a child I would draw out entire diagrams for levels of my ultimate game, an early lesson in discovering that visualizing your “ultimate” anything is far harder than it would seem. A few years ago I combined my passions for filmmaking and videogames using LittleBigPlanet, creating two youtube series called Creator Closeup and Creator Rewind. This also led to my being hired at an ad agency to create the content for one of the trailers for LittleBigPlanet 2 before its launch.

While I follow industry news and keep an eye on industry movement and shakeage, I play through games that interest me, and I think a lot about game ideas and the future of the interactive form. Here’s what I know: Videogames are utterly schizophrenic right now and part of that is a very exciting spark. It’s an exciting time, even though most games at the moment are write-offs. We’re perched on a cliff, poised to jump, hoping the flying-squirrel suit deploys. My prognosis: It will, and it’ll be beautiful, and we’ll probably smash into a mountain anyway. Here’s my look at now-and-future video games, written with both the non-gamer and hardcore gamer in mind.

Rootin’ Tootin’ Rotten Shootin’

I say that the industry is schizophrenic. Here’s side one to the current gaming character, and something I very much want to get off my chest: Call of Duty needs to die. I write again: The Call of Duty franchise NEEDS to DIE. I suspect it won’t be too much longer, but as long as enough people buy to turn a big profit, we’re going to be dismally stuck in this quicksand trap that is the current long-running FPS trend. There’s only so many big-budget, top-tier game development studios that get the big bucks to do giant games, and as long as people keep buying homogenized first-person shooters, then that’s where the money is going to keep going. Call of Duty has come a long way. Black Ops 2 sported a script by David Goyer of Chris Nolan’s awesome Batman films, and it’s common practice now to cast Hollywood names to do voices for big videogames. None of this really matters, of course. It’s another Call of Duty game. You run forward, occasionally choosing this way or that way. Along the way you take cover from bullets and shoot enemy combatants with lots and lots of ammunition. Chaotic sequences are highly-scripted but spectacular. In cutscenes, characters scream and things go awry. Sometimes they switch it up and you shoot from a vehicle or a sniper perch. Here’s a jungle. There’s a ship at sea. Oh, check it out, world war has come to the U.S. and Los Angeles is under attack by drones! This was all fun for a while, aside from the fear-mongering that may be a byproduct when you stare at violent images of your own cities under attack, but Call of Duty really amounts to one game, one experience, which has gone on now for a decade. The latest installments don’t matter in the least and it’s time now to move on.

I’m picking on it of course because it’s the obvious choice, but my main beef is with gamers who keep eating every first person shooter dumped into their bowls, and particularly those who buy into a frightful sales machine that manages to convince them that what they’re playing is somehow “original.” Further, my beef is with the entire genre of the “first-person shooter.” Don’t get me wrong – There is absolutely a place for the FPS, and I know I’ve played far more than my fair share over the years. But we have gone tumbling over the top, and the guns have got heavy. Let me put it this way: When you look at genre sales of video games in America, there aren’t too many surprises. Sports games are neck-and-neck with action games at about 20 percent share each. They’re each hugely popular, which makes a great deal of sense – Sports games are not for video game fans, but for sports fans, who can be counted in astronomic numbers. That leaves room for only two more massive genres, with everything else being effectively grouped into “other.” One of these two is “Family Gaming.” The other is the “Shooter.”

So American gamers are playing, essentially, three types of games in large numbers – sports, family, and action. It’s just that shooters have become so incredibly popular that they can be pulled out of the “action” category and given their very own genre. You don’t see “First Person Football” as a hit genre. It doesn’t exist. You don’t see “First Person Photography” as a top genre. It for the most part doesn’t exist either, but these non-existent formats are no less specific than “first person shooter”. It’s the shooter that somehow has struck a nerve with so many people (especially Americans) and embedded itself so deeply into the game culture that the image of the gun in your vision’s lower-right corner is now entering our collective unconscious. School shootings are not as rare as they once were, though they still shock us and the media still plays the blame game, with the popularity of FPS games coming most often into the sights. Now, I wouldn’t dare do anything as naive as blame any school shooting on Call of Duty. But might there be SOME relation here? The kids that shot up their schools did play these games. So do many others that will never express violence in all their live-long days. This doesn’t mean we can blame games, and it doesn’t mean we can write them off. For God’s sake, with an eye for nuance, look at this dream:

It’s hour 8. Pizza has arrived and been rapidly consumed. Automatic rifle loaded and ready to fire. Hunting for enemy soldiers in these damned slums. No idea how many I’ve killed, it seems there are thousands of them, coming out of the woodworks. I’ve literally spent my entire day looking down the barrel of a gun, aiming it at realistic human beings, and pulling a little trigger in my hand that results in bloody carnage onscreen. I’ve been playing it so much that it’s gotten into my dreams: I’m running with my gun, I’m shooting “enemies”, and why? Because I’m supposed to. Because they have been labelled “enemies,” and what I have is a gun, and what I am able to do is run around and fire it. Life is simple. I conduct many hours of pretend violence and it excites me. And then my gun jams. That usually doesn’t happen in shooters. And then Gandhi appears, flying round with fairy wings, and he lands in front of me, and I expect him to save us all from ourselves. Instead he pulls out a gun and shoots me. Then he squats over my corpse three or four times and flies away. Gandhi goes on to be the star of his own action game and I’ve gone down as just another gun-wielding hench-goon. I hate this fucking dream.

Might it be, when we play violent games, especially of the fps persuasion for such long periods of time, that we get, perhaps, a wee bit desensitized to gun violence, or at least its visual aspect? A game can’t puncture a hole in the air the way a gunshot does, or kick like a horse against you when you squeeze the trigger of a firearm. But a game is peopled with sometimes-believable humanoid puppets who bleed and scream and beg for mercy nonetheless. Exit wounds, dismemberment, people burning alive, crawling and maimed, innocent bystanders tortured and murdered in massive numbers, again and again and again, all for our safely-entertaining consumption. And if you want to get that one tricky achievement or trophy, if you’re playing to master the level and beat your top time, you will have to go through these scenes repetitively – until the burning man’s screams no longer register, the crawling agonized bystanders grasping for salvation which won’t come is rendered mundane. The carnage loses its power and takes on the form of the medium: Animatronic polygonal puppets on a Disney ride from Hell.

What I’m asking people to do is this: Consider that these games, in such number, chronically played, MAY in some way, though not exlusively, BE BAD FOR YOU. They are bad for your brain, your sensitivity to violence, and your long-term compassion muscles. By all means, play the latest shooter, but not over and over and over, and don’t play EVERY latest shooter, and maybe skip the next Call of Duty and find something more interesting and original. I guarantee you these more original games are here, and more are coming. But it is my firm belief that the common American gamer is spending too much time gazing down the iron sights and in the process losing some small degree of healthy imagination and human sensitivity.

As a related aside, it’s also my belief that people should strongly limit the amount of TV news they consume. Almost zero is a good amount, but even this may be too much for some. Those people are quite probably healthy people.

Someone Wake Up Mister Levine!

A while back Bioshock Infinite was being trumpeted as the current “big thing” in game country. For my part I was very excited for it. The first Bioshock realized a vivid dreamlike city at the bottom of the sea, where things had gotten so bad as to become a surreal nightmare horrifying to behold and nerve-fraying to explore. There was a real dynamic in play around you: A living, crumbling undersea megapolis with three kinds of beings, none of them entirely “human” anymore, but intimately related to each other in a dying, insulated ecosystem. Creepy little girls wander the flooding streets to collect blood, monstrous diving-suit abominations protect them obsessively, and grotesque blood-junkies are out in force to hunt the little girls to get their fix. Witnessing and playing a neutral part in this triangular dynamic was incredible to me, and furthermore, it was beautifully-realized. I had not seen anything like this to date. Most of the game may have involved shooting guns, but at least it also had a kind of jedi-magic aspect as well which allowed for a modicum of creativity (you could feasibly beat the game without firing a gun), and the greatest part of the game was simply in exploring and seeing what the city of Rapture held amid its deterioration. Here was an amazing vision of Ayn Rand’s utopian fantasy gone all rotten apple, a science-fiction horror filled to the brim with food for the brain. But it was still a frenzy of violence by its end. Why not an RPG? Why not an adventure tale with dialogue trees and important decisions to be made? Because the shooter was making money, and Irrational Games wanted Bioshock to be a hit.

bioshock_rapture_1920x1080_71408

And so the highly-touted and anticipated sequel arrives and presents to us the new city of Columbia, an enormous city-state circa 1910 floating in the clouds and surely holding secrets and mysteries to match Rapture. Well, it turns out, no. No. Columbia is more like the facade-riddled town from The Truman Show. It’s a beautiful sight, but a bad trip. I kept expecting some major story shift to occur and reveal that nothing I saw was real but rather a computer simulation or an elaborate hoax peopled by actors playing vacant roles. I couldn’t wait for Ken Levine to pull the curtain back and reveal: “Ha! I’ve pulled a trick on you! HERE’S where the REAL game begins!” But heartbreakingly this never happens. The story didn’t matter to me, it was focused so much on arbitrary quantum mind-blowing that it really threw out any semblance of a tale to connect to my more humany feelies. It was attempted – You spend much of the game alongside a character Elizabeth (who tended to get on my nerves), your avatar is not entirely mute, and if you press a button near the guitar in a bar cellar, a cute scene unfolds which really doesn’t fit the flow of the game. I would say to Ken Levine: I don’t know what happened – Maybe it was pressure, maybe it was money, maybe the project was just too big to wrangle – but I suspect you may agree that Bioshock Infinite was a bit of a miss. What it offers is pretty pictures and an agonizing tease of a game that MIGHT have been in a neighboring universe. I thank you for the pretty playground. And many were quite taken with the quantum mind-bogglery, so for them there was some sci-fi narrative meat. The rest is a mess and a fairly standard shooter.

Columbia's propaganda is the envy of dystopias everywhere!

Columbia’s propaganda is the envy of all racist skybound dystopias!

I talk so much about Bioshock for good reason – It has potential to find itself on the other side of the industry’s coin. To be clear, IT DOESN’T; Bioshock is a first-person shooter and so it will stay until we decide to clean out the gun closet in our cluttered unconscious. But from that gun-toting vantage point you can almost see it – You can almost see the Bioshock that COULD have been. I wonder sometimes if Ken Levine didn’t write Infinite’s quantum parallel-universe story to call out a deeper message from a darker place. It just so happens that Bioshock the first was originally imagined as more of an adventure-RPG, far lighter on combat and heavier on story and exploration. But dollar signs popped up and the rest is history. In Infinite, you spend some time early in the game just walking around the city being treated to some highly-contrived if aesthetically-pleasant scenes of people amid a citywide festival just living their wondrous, colorful, simple, old-fashioned, hatefully racist lives. But it isn’t alive in the least. It’s a walk through a museum of animatronics as the game bides its time until the city is filled with enemy combatants. As interactive art, Infinite fails spectacularly. Here you see shocking images of a country in the clouds, seemingly a utopic heaven which deifies America’s founders and violently subjugates minorities and the poor. Sounds a feast! Doesn’t matter. Now look away, at these twisty quantum brain-blows! Have gun, shoot stuff, roll credits.

It isn’t universally so. There is another kind of FPS, the “choose your own style” subgenre which includes the likes of Deus Ex and Thief (BOTH are franchises which Ken Levine worked on before moving to Bioshock), and the more recent Dishonored, which deserves a very honorable mention. Here’s a game which arms you with a couple of weapons and an arsenal of jedi magic and tasks you with a series of assassination contracts in a very cool whale-oil-punk fantasy city. It is not only possible to play the entire game without killing a single person, but you are also rewarded for keeping the violence to a minimum. Nevertheless, pacifism here is a harder road to take, and most of the tricks up your sleeve involve killing – But at least it pushes creativity, and with the interactive freedom offered to the player throughout the game there’s a peek at another way of approaching first-person violence. Please Bethesda: Give us MORE nonviolent tricks and gadgets in the sequel and do something good for this woeful video game world.

And to Ken Levine: I love Bioshock. But this current trend is big trouble. Change is in the air and it’s really time for something new that delivers on the promise of culture that’s still sleeping beneath the form of the game. I understand this is a near-impossibility right now in an industry where the big bucks are concerned – Games are neck-and-neck with Hollywood when it comes to safe dice rolls and shitty content. It may involve slaying a colossus. I have some advice on that lower in the article. But I want you to be one of the good guys in this battle. Consider putting down the guns for a spell and approach the sheer imaginative potential waiting to be unhinged.

Storm’s a Comin!

Dishonored took some fairly well-established experiments and carried them further than we’ve seen in other big-budget action games. It deserves some respect here, but you can skip these Calls of Duty and Halo sequels and miss nothing of note regarding the part played by the Video Game on the culture stage. But there’s something really big coming down the pipeline, and I have some predictions, both hopeful and ominous, about what’s about to happen.

A more open and original kind of first-person interactive experience will become more common. In the indie field we’re seeing incredibly interesting games bubbling up, including first-person games which involve no shooting whatsoever. Amnesia: Dark Descent scared me into screaming “JEEZSHITFUCK” while slapping my headphones off my head in panicked spasms. This was a recurring event during my darkened late night play sessions, and I fear I upset the sleep of neighbors. Dear Esther let me relax while it dripped mood and I explored a beautiful but lonely dream island. Proteus literally creates a world alive with music, a unique island generated every time you play, so you can’t just memorize your way around. Everything in the natural world makes a sound, and you learn to see by hearing, and when the image is beautiful it makes music. Travel this generated world (nobody else will ever see quite the same island you do) through a whole year – meteor showers and rain and singing cherry blossoms in the spring, buzzing bees and beating sun and hovering dragonflies in the summer, a world dying beneath auroral nights and firework leaves and soaking in melancholy in the autumn, and finally the gentle twinkling ghostly death of frozen winter. The game is rendered in lo-fi pixel graphics, and I’ve discovered that getting high, taking my glasses off, and cranking my headphones makes this game one of the coolest things I’ve ever played. It was a more memorable, rewarding, and novel experience by far than anything I’ve seen in big budget games of late. Because it was new, and while it wasn’t much of a “game” as it was a sandbox, it hinted at grand things to come.

Elsewhere in gameland, thatgamecompany’s Journey will make you cry beauty tears, Minecraft continues to demonstrate how hugely popular a “communal creative” game experience can be, Media Molecule is working away on something far bigger than most people realize for the Playstation 4, and brand new immersive powerhouses are right around the bend. A new generation of consoles is hitting this fall. And a little something from Kickstarter is making buzz with developers everywhere.

Into the Rift

In The Lawnmower Man, virtual reality experiments bring out the evil within. In James Cameron’s Strange Days, experience can be recorded and “replayed” sensorily using a spidery headpiece. In ExistenZ you plug your videogames directly into your spinal column for maximum immersion. The military runs simulations in which a real humvee with turret mount is surrounded by massive projection screens and peppered with concussive blasts – Really the most amazing arcade game ever made. It’s been no secret in science fiction country that the directional thrust of the videogame is toward total immersion, the idea being to feel as though you are travelling INTO another realm. Movies and books play out a story in front of us, while games ask us to move around within a virtual space and make decisions that have some impact, though most games are admittedly on rails and so the storytelling becomes similar to film or literature, asking you to merely “move” your character into the right spot to trigger the next sequence. Nonetheless, it’s the player’s motion that matters in a game, not the cutscenes.

The promise of immersion in videogames right now is immense. This cannot be understated. I want to scream this as loud as I can.

With current technology, the cultural potential of the immersive game IS INCREDIBLE. 

Unfortunately we do not see many examples to demonstrate this, but nonetheless the potential is there. I think the best example I can reach for is the work of Fumito Ueda. He has only released two games to date, and they have been immeasurably influential upon the whole of the industry. Top-tier big-budget titles and entire franchises like the Uncharted series, Zelda, and even elements of Bioshock Infinite owe a debt to what Ueda did years ago during the Playstation 2 run. The games were Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. They were beautiful dreams that effectively invented new rules for how a game could play out. And even then they’re fairly constricted – Ueda has admitted that he’s only trying to create a hit game that lots of people will play, but it’s clear to anyone who actually plays them that he’s up to something a bit more with the melancholic desolation and deeply dreamlike feel of the worlds he’s fashioned with his team.

He’s been toiling on his latest title, The Last Guardian, for years, and by the few accounts of progress it has not been an easy run so far. Here he is doing something unrelated, a funny-looking activity which will become more and more familiar to the world as the next few years progress.

Fumito Ueda (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian) staring at the sun.

Fumito Ueda staring at the sun.

The future of gaming isn’t more RAM or a beefier GPU. It’s immersion. It’s in the way we see and feel and experience a game. The tech has been possible for some time now for a level of immersion never before seen. It’s been waiting behind a curtain which is just now beginning to unveil its treasures. People will stand or sit in their home with a very private face-mask on, travelling into strange territories only they can see while plugged in to the new Matrix. The device is called the Oculus Rift. You’ve probably heard of it by now – Facebook acquired it, you can expect it to deliver TV sports among other ideas. Sony has announced its own VR, Project Morpheus, to work with the Playstation platform.

But all that quickly-moving madness aside, I’m here to talk games and wonder. Ueda tweeted a message in Japanese upon trying the device out. Roughly translated: “Experienced the Oculus Rift. It was more amazing than I imagined.” This is nigh universal feedback from people who have gotten their hands on Oculus dev kits and report back. But do not underestimate what’s happening in the above photo and what Ueda’s comment may mean in the years to come.

Ancients Dreamed Our Games

With Shadow of the Colossus, Ueda created a game cosmic in dimension, created the kind of imagery and experience which may have excited Joseph Campbell to write a book on the new “interactive mythos” possible in games, if only he could have lived to see it in action. The ancient myths which defined our relationship to the world are not ours. They belonged to another people in another time. Our new mythic tales are globally shared, they come in the form of popular culture and such wispy notions as “the American Dream,” which promises that anyone can become abnormally successful and famous beyond their station. All they need is bootstraps, elbow grease, and FREEDOM (‘murica). But whereas the old myths were told by voice, played out in masks and ritual dances, delivered ’round fires, our new ones scream in electric light directly through our eyeballs, in movie theaters, TV, computer screens, smartphones. And with the video game, we are no longer being told the story, we are being asked to take part in the story, to shape it along our own preferred lines (within the programmers’ pre-set boundaries). The hero’s journey is something every person takes in metaphor. But strap on an Oculus Rift and see how you do when faced with the “real” thing. Let’s now imagine one of the greatest video game myths re-told for the Rift experience.

You play as a wanderer in an un-named ancient world. Your lover is dead and you have gone to exhausting lengths to acquire a sacred Sword and the directions to a forbidden land. It’s just you and your horse Agro, with the corpse of your lover draped over your lap as you ride along cliffs through a hidden way to a silent forest. In the ancient wood you find a gate, and on the other side you behold the secret country. Spread amongst the corners of this lonesome land, sealed across a great chasm by the sea, are giants which hold the key to resurrecting your dead lover. You carry a sword that can slay Gods. Which is a good thing, because that is exactly your mission.

Ah, that's the stuff.
Ah, that’s the stuff.

Imagine this if you will. The Oculus Rift is strapped on and you’ve spent some time wandering the land, content to merely look around you at this expansive fantasy world, devoid of human life but still rich in wildlife and peppered with colossal ruins of unimaginable antiquity. You can stand, run around, shoot fruits out of trees, watch the wildlife. Your own horse is wildlife, interacting with the world on its own and reacting to you. Your sword reflects and focuses the sun, like a lens-and-mirror, toward a point on the horizon – The resting place of an old god. You have made it to these grounds on your own, having parked your horse, and the first thing that happens is the deep rumble of something stirring, stomping, moving.

You emerge into the clearing and see it. The beast towers above you. Before now you have enjoyed the serenity, the beauty of feeling like a journeyer in a dream forged for you. But now things are different. There is a 100-foot tall goliath across the glade, and it can see you. Its glowing eyes are fixed, and there is no question as to its intention when it begins to lumber toward you with its club clutched. Look up at the sun. Look down at the ground. To your right a cliff face. To your left the ledge. But there is no way out and no point in running now. The realization that this is far more intense than any video game you’ve played settles in. Your job is to take down the monster, not to hide or flee.

You push forward on the analog stick.

Ten minutes later you find the fear gone as you dig into the nuts and bolts of toppling the towering thing, gripping the grassy limbs and scaling to the head to plunge deep your blade. It is work; It is thrilling and at times terrifying, but nonetheless an arduous task. And there is in this a valuable lesson. You just have to take those first steps, you have to best your fear and make the decision to do the seemingly-impossible, trusting the game amounts to an achievable struggle. And sure enough, you slay the demon, somehow you’ve done it, and there are now 15 left to hunt.

The original vision of the game was to be multiplayer – Together with a team of warriors and horses you work together to tackle the creatures, finding their weak points and exploiting them, strategizing and communicating to take it down. With the immersive potential of the Oculus Rift and the promise of the shared, communicative, interactive dream, even greater things are possible. And now the creators of Left 4 Dead are showing off their Evolution game – a 4-player co-op game in which four players utilize unique classes to take down goliath monsters – played by a fifth gamer. Rad shit. But still, unfortunately in my eyes, a first person shooter.

I seem to remember reading about an old idea of Shigeru Myamoto. Myamoto’s long-term gaming wish was to make a multiplayer game which different gamers control different body parts of a giant puppet-like creature. Did I not read this is an age-old interview? Imagine where major-budget games could bring us if we were really realizing the potential of game.

The Riftal Abyss

There are a number of risks of course with this level of virtual immersion. The Rift delivers a 3D image at a very wide field of view. You will not only see what’s directly in front of you, but even your peripheral vision above, below, and to the sides will be filled by the game world. The way it works: You will have a controller in your hands but can also move your head to look around you. The visor reads every movement and translates it instantly to camera control. When you look around, you will really be looking around.

So what happens when you spend all day in the Rift playing the latest first-person extravaganza? You have to pee, you take the mask off, you stand up, blink in the strange light and the higher-resolution graphics, and on the way to the toilet you begin to feel a little derealization. What kind of simulation is THIS? If there is even the tiniest noticeable different in latency between head movement and visual response, if there is even a miniscule degree of variance between the motion calibration of the visor and your actual head, you will find yourself having to shake off a strange feeling and having to take the time to adjust between sessions of gaming and sessions of actual activity. You no longer push forward on a thumbstick to walk. You have to push forward on some other invisible control mechanism which causes your legs to carry you onward. Your dreaming mind will begin to confuse its reality with the Rift, and in dreams you will sometimes walk, sometimes push forward on a stick. Chronic use of the Rift will affect neurological patterns and at this point we just can’t know what that will mean in the long term. There is just nothing yet to compare it to.

The old image of the Gamer zombie zoned out for hours on his couch staring into the TV with a controller in his hand will be replaced by the image of the VR mask, the player looking around the room donning a fat technological blindfold. But let’s assume the best. Let’s assume that most gamers will use the Rift in moderation and we won’t have to worry about Riftmares or neurological tomfoolery. The potential in this kind of immersive tech to create a new experience for people is phenomenal. It must be explored. It is an extraordinarily exciting time to be a game developer.

And this is where I want to call out a warning. Let’s imagine a future Pete, a young and extremely sensitive lad who loves videogames. He plays whatever’s popular on the VR, there’s no way he’s going to miss the latest AAA titles that the industry has to offer. Pete’s brain is filled with such violence that his sensitive mind begins to give him nightmares. He cries when he plays the likes of Flower, a game in which you control the wind within the melancholic dreams of city windowsill potted plants, and he flinches whenever a bullet tears through a humanoid figure in an FPS. Let’s imagine Pete has a psychic ability he’s unaware of – His dreams are seeds in the minds of all living dreamers. What Pete dreams, everyone else will dream some version of. For every dream of Journey or Flower, Pete dreams a hundredfold tearing-flesh-bullet-frenzies. Videogame industry, this is what I want to scream: For the love of Pete, can we put aside the FPS and the bloodlust and try to capitalize on this wild new world of gamedom?

Here’s an idea, inspired by many existing games:
An open-world city in which you play a photojournalist. For a while jobs are going well and the player is allowed to take in the detail of the world. Eventually a strange case comes around which reveals something hidden behind the veil. Another city; Another place, somehow behind-the-scenes of the “real” one. You must uncover portals into that other place that are developed through the camera’s film. It’s up to you to find the city’s magical “places,” and to take photos of them at just the right moment – when the wind picks up, when something curious unfolds there, and if you catch a magical moment in a magical place, the photo will reveal the portal and eventually you’ll be able to walk through and into the magical realm beyond. The game would utilize random events as a key part of the experience – weather, wind, and the activities of strangers and wildlife.  In the magical realm, these events could all be perfectly synchronized, whereas in the “real” world they are involving a larger mix of chaos. The core of the game would involve exploration and the excitement of “capturing” a special moment. As for violence, it could take its form through witnessing, of infiltrating, of stealth and capturing atrocities for the greater public to become aware of. It isn’t the player who perpetrates violence, it’s the player who tries to put a stop to it.

Bring Caution With You, Industry

So take care where you tread, and remember poor Pete and what he will wreak upon our dreamscapes if you don’t put down the guns. Remember that we’re ALL Pete. And let’s see Proteus as an inspirational springboard, and let’s all enjoy the remaster of Grim Fandango. If you must include violence, try giving the gamer the choice to avoid it where possible. There’s still room for the violent fantasy – Though you could argue whether or not Kevin Spacey’s character in House of Cards is any better or more cleansed for his nightly Killzone sessions. But I think if games have any chance of capitalizing on their potential as art, they should take violence more seriously, and stop tasking players with massive-scale slaughters for little more than giggles. With the Rift’s realism and what it will likely add to our dreaming arsenals, good stewardship of game culture is becoming more important than ever.

About thomstitt

A career filmmaker based in Vancouver with experience in direction, cinematography and editing.
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