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Video Games: Rated M for “Mature”

“industry just recently reached a value of 46.5 billion in 2009.”

I’m currently sitting in a talk where John Davison, Executive Vice President of Content at GamePro Magazine is speaking about the current state and future direction of video games.

Now video games, as an industry, is changing and growing so rapidly, that developers struggle to not ruin the successful franchises that keep them going.  Gamasutra reports: “24 percent of U.S. households spend a minimum of one dollar a month on video games” ,and “5 percent Of U.S. consumer entertainment spending goes to video games.”  Joystick projects: “game industry to 65 billion by 2013″ , in light of how the “industry just recently reached a value of 46.5 billion in 2009.”  According to Davison, Zynga, makers of Farmville and MafiaWars, make about 1 million a day in our declining economy. This is one good reason why you should care about video games; otherwise, unless you understand what’s happening, you’ll just be some uneducated consumer or, worse, miss out on how interactive technology is about to transform America.

A current problem is that the big, AAA-title games are expensive to make.  A lot of the cost comes from giving consumers a “glorified roller coaster ride” experience, as Chris Hecker once put it.  More than anything, these games seem to be driven by their branding and marketing more than the less observable aspects of content.  Modern Warfare 2, for instance, sold 4.7 million units within the first 24 hours of release.  Not all titles are that lucky, and the risks are far more devastating for failed products than in most other industries.  So, here’s what’s happening…

There is no way that independent developers can compete with the resources of the big game publishers.  As a result, an emergent community around more casual and smaller games is growing.  As people become more comfortable with technology and programming, there will be an increased diversity of interactive media as products of expression just like books and movies have become.  In games, we currently have this amazing canvas for: music, art, interaction, and story.

Change, however, is apparent in all areas of video games, even the big titles.  Davison mentions that making games for “kids” is not something to brag about anymore; rather, complex emotions, dramatic content, and compelling, immersive experiences, are in the works of being integrated while walking the balance of still giving people what they want or expect and so much more (that they didn’t know they could have).   The truth is, Davison explains, game developers are getting older, they have families now, and they’re trying to produce things that matter to them.  Those 25 year old male developers are now 45 years old.

So, with your rated M title, you will find gore, violence, strong language, and 5 seconds of that topless girl, but as Davison describes it, “rated M games are a lot less on violence and a lot more on emotion,” giving insight on what to expect from video games to come.  I suggest that we embrace this inevitably magnificent technology, learn as much as we can about it, so we can use it appropriately.

  1. Geoffrey Hom says:

    I look forward to when game-making is as accessible as art-making and story-writing. A six-year-old can draw something in crayon or write a short story for her parents, and it be crude but at the same time beautiful.

  2. Sherol Chen says:

    @Geofffff,

    Yea, and I feel that the sooner people care about what’s going in games, the sooner we will see the benefits. I don’t think video games is something that we are able to shut out and condemn– that’s just counter productive.

    So, if anyone finds them self asking, why games are doing such terrible things. I’d ask them what they are willing to do about it.

  3. Daniel says:

    Interesting article. Its good to be aware of this stuff. I liked the extensive use of quotes.

  4. Sherol Chen says:

    @Daniel, Thanks for the propz. I’m glad you like it… I mean, for me, this is my life, so it’s important. But also, I think people aren’t aware of how we are able to do amazing things with technology. I really want them to know, so we can, ahem, “reclaim” it together.

  5. Matt C says:

    Hey Sherol, interesting read. I can definitely see how small game developers would have a tougher time these days bringing out new games. Games just have to be revolutionary today to get noticed, and it looks like more mature content is what gets them noticed! Its one of those areas that has gone mostly untouched for some time.

    Its also neat to see how these facebook games are popping up. I currently play Castle Age on facebook. I was reading the forums for this game and someone mentioned having an “alt” account just for facebook games! imagine that.

  6. Sherol Chen says:

    Matt,

    Not just more mature content, but the graphics and sound (which take a lot of manpower to crank out). My research group works on making it easier to develop these assets (tools for authors, more or less).

    I’m a restaurant city person, myself :)

    New platforms should encourage new forms of play!

  7. Richelle Schlicher says:

    Hey, nice post, really well written. You should write more about this.

  8. Carol Bittman says:

    Hey, nice post, really well written. You should write more about this.

  9. Ovel Inad says:

    Great tips to follow. Being professional and showing them there’s more to come I think are the most important. You need to give them a great article, that makes them want to come back. And then make sure you don’t disappoint.

  10. Margaretta Birenbaum says:

    Nice post. I like your blog.