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March 3rd, 2007, 10:50
I don't agree that the sorts of mature themes Sawyer mentions would necessarily be ill-suited or ineffective in games. I think RPGs are ideally suited for this purpose and many of them already explore issues such as slavery, rebellion and the clash of cultures, but sadly they treat these topics in a highly superficial manner. There's no fundamental rule stating that most people only want action and simplistic cliched narratives. This view is constantly cultivated and reinforced by the games industry, but is it an accurate reflection of human nature, or merely an attitude that we've become conditioned to accept?
If you feed a dog nothing but bones and he gobbles them down happily, that alone is no reason to infer that he wouldn't like them even more if they had some meat on them.
Planescape:T is often held up as a game that provided a greater than average level of depth, but wasn't embraced by the general gaming market. But, PT is only one example. The Ultimas, on the other hand, were very successful. There are precious few examples of rpgs we can refer to that make a genuine attempt to tackle complex themes and engage the emotions and ethics of the player; not enough, in my view, to decisively conclude whether the addition of such features would be beneficial or detrimental to a game's commercial success.
That said, if a game like The Witcher manages to deliver state of the art visuals, a fun combat system, and rewarding gameplay, I can't imagine that the addition of mature narrative and complex moral choices would detract from the game experience.
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