The Cold Hotspot: Part 4
Written by Beiddie Rafól
The changes are not happening across the board, but there are individual designers who are re-examining not so much the genre per se, but its essence - the idea of a story and world to experience through interactivity, through a character's eyes, through exploration, obstacles that challenge the mind, and emotions that make the heart race, all combined with the most severe focus on quality, consistency, and integrity. These are the true essences of what makes an adventure, what makes a GOOD adventure, regardless of whether it uploads tradition or breaks from it. It must never be about the arbitrarily imposed prisons of flat 2D graphics, embarrassingly unskilled 3D graphics, point-&-click interface, and tired slider puzzles. Those are fossilizing details, and though they can be done beautifully, they are NOT what an adventure game should necessarily be.
Two of the most fruitful markets are seriously largely untapped - the console and the portables. With the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS enjoying a great following, and next generation systems like Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on the horizon - with developers of other kinds of games already hard at work to turn out titles for these systems - it's frustrating watching adventure games at large slip further and further behind. Though games like Syberia, Still Life, and the CSI series are enjoying a very modest success as console ports, they are mostly the exceptions. Even with upcoming titles like Dreamfall and Indigo Prophecy slated for multiplatform release, there still needs to be a major reconsideration for multiplatform adventures. Let's hope these won't be isolated cases and instead indicate a persistent phenomenon.
Perhaps the biggest puzzle of all for us gamers, for the developers, and for publishers, is to get over our biases. Considering the trend of promising new games out there, some of us are already 'solving' that puzzle through a shifting of attitude, design, and communication. And yet there are still other truly important challenges. For one thing, we need to push more and more diversity and quality throughout every nook and cranny of story driven, intellectually stimulating, and emotionally affecting games. There needs to be a far more pervasive outreach towards potential new markets such as women and sophisticated baby boomers, more aggressive and creative marketing in general, a bold undertaking by publishers to support more progressive and original games, and a positioning of these kinds of games as an alternative to gratuitously violent and sexually explicit video games. And there needs to be an effort to let everyone beyond the tight adventure gaming crowd know that these kinds of games exist, that you don't necessarily need to virtually blow someone's brains out to have a good time.
"The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Winston Churchill
This is an amazing time to be a gamer. We are now moving in a steady cultural and technological revolution in how we experience 'the story', 'the challenge', and the idea of 'playing'. Possibly more than any other kind of game genre, the adventure game offers the most common denominator to this kind of experience. Who doesn't like a good story, an interesting character, or a challenge? Let's not limit the possibilities by putting up unscrupulous, stupidly ridiculous walls at every turn, because that is the worst thing we can do. The very definition of 'adventure' speaks of undertakings involving danger and unknown risks. And with those undertakings come the priceless reward of experience, the enjoyment of the journey itself. You are not a true adventure gamer if all you do is complain about mere trivialities like a spoiled child, not while there are so many possibilities to go where you've never been, see things you never saw before, and embrace whatever challenges are thrown your way. And really, isn't that exactly what the adventure game is ultimately about?