by Daniel Bullard-Bates
The Wii has started an interesting phenomenon: while almost singlehandedly turning video games into a more widely-accepted form of entertainment, it has simultaneously lowered the bar for video game narrative and maturity. The most successful games on the Wii are those with little to no character development, narrative thread or control complexity. There are piles of mini-game collections, cutesy children’s games, and sports titles that sell extraordinarily well to the casual gaming crowd. Hardcore gamers, however, feel left for dead. One of the major complaints voiced by hardcore gamers is that so few games for the Wii are rated M (for mature).
A few developers have listened: No More Heroes, Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, Madworld and House of the Dead: Overkill have all attempted to win over the hardcore Wii audience. From the sales numbers on these and other M-rated games on the Wii, however, it seems that Mature-rated content is not in high demand on the most family-friendly console on the market. So if hardcore gamers keep demanding these more mature game experiences, why aren’t they selling?
While I can’t address why others aren’t buying these games, it’s easy for me to explain my own reservations. I, too, crave more mature games on the Wii, but I haven’t bought any of the games listed above. Before I’m blamed for keeping the Wii bereft of mature titles, allow me to explain why Mature-rated titles are often just as immature as their E (for everyone) compatriots.
Sure, MadWorld and House of the Dead: Overkill are not games for children. They are brutal, bloody, and filled with explicit language, but they don’t look like games for adults either. While there may, in theory, be some commentary about society’s fascination with violence present in these games, this does not counteract the problem that they are still games built entirely out of that same savagery. What plot is present is undecipherable amongst the missing limbs, splatter effects and profanity. In fact, the games bear passing similarity to mini-game collections: players shake their remotes to rip off heads instead of chopping trees, and aim carefully at an enemy’s groin instead of at a pretty pink balloon.
Maturity in games goes far beyond simply making the content unacceptable for children. Games like BioShock, Half-Life 2 and Fallout 3 resonate with mature gamers because they have more than brutality and gore on display. There are social themes, philosophies, and profound ideas present. There is choice and consequence. To make a truly mature game on the Wii means more than adding buckets of gore and a few hundred f-words, though that will earn it an M rating. It means adding depth. It means adding thought.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
by Daniel Bullard-Bates