In response to "Fresh Frontiers" from the Escapist Forum: That said, what exactly does this article bring to the table? Oh sweet game ideas. Guess what, I got plenty of those. All of us do. As a recent Extra Credits said, ideas are a dime a dozen. Hell, I got over a dozen, give me a dime. Turning those ideas into something workable is where all the work lies in.
Coming up with settings isn't as easy as you make it sound like. The thing with settings like the World War II, Magical Medieval Europe Except Not, Grim Future Dystopia and Brave Future Utopia is that they have something - let's call it 'traction'. As you said, they get people's attention because they already know what to expect. Releasing a single game with a new setting won't obliviate all the other ones. There wasn't a flurry of 10th century Middle Eastern conspiracy games after the first Assassin's Creed was released. Or of underwater metaphors for extreme liberal philosophies after Bioshock. These settings didn't stick, because they didn't have traction. They're good for a new experience but you don't want to keep coming back to them. That guy from DnD with Pornstars wrote an excellent article on it on his blog, (in fact I tried to use his term for it but couldn't remember what it was), trying to ask the question of why some DnD monsters have traction and why some don't - why people who have never played DnD are way more likely to know what a Beholder is than what a Xorn is. Why a Beholder has more traction than a Xorn. Middle Eastern fantasy is is a Xorn. It's cool the first time you meet one, but unless you live the game you don't keep bumping into them. (Plus it's not that rare - Magic: The Gathering was first released with a very loose Magical Medieval Europe Except Not setting, but their very first 'new set' of cards was in Magical Medieval Middle East And It Actually Has Characters From Arabian Nights What The Hell. Then again it went on to have settings as World Made Entirely Of Metal and World That Is A Single Medieval City Where Do They Grow Food You Ask The Answer Is Magic so it might not count.)
There's also the fact that setting jump in an out of flavour. I'm still in shock at that comment on one of the new Deus Ex game that people just didn't know what cyberpunk was any more. Apparently as its promises of a wi-fi connected world slowly become true the theme as fiction lost its appeal. And your suggestion for a 19th century London setting - well, come back in about ten years, after marketers and execs have had their way with the current steampunk craze, and you'll be begging them to stop with the fucking 19th century London setting already.
All in all, you didn't make a good case. I've seen amateur blog posts with more content. Sure, each of those settings has plenty of meat in it, but so many underused settings do, and so few stick. So few have that precious traction. Why sixteenth century Aztecs and not alternate history highly developed Mayans? Why Arab fantasy and not Nordic fantasy? Why near future emergent third world cities and not far future post-Earth-exodus now empty former first world metropoles? Why 19th century England and not 19th century British colonies in Africa?
Make the game, then we'll talk.
Something Indian would be awesome. The Sikhs have their own martial art and a whole ton of interesting, unique weapons. Something involving the colourful, diverse settings of India and its myths and legends would be cool.
Something North African would be awesome as well. You play as a free roaming Bedouin across the expansive deserts. It would be like Fallout. Depending on the time period, the tech could be fairly schizophrenic, what with old weapons like Jezzails and schimitars mixed with the new guns from foreign Imperialists/traders. That would allow for a diverse play style.
The worlds created in children's games are as rich as those in adult games, but adult players don't always see that richness.
I think the principal mistake they are making is calling these "games intended for children." The "E for Everyone" is an attempt to fix that, but they just can't seem to get past the notion of it being a "kid game."
In Western culture, anything that requires or speaks to imagination is for kids. Imagination itself is treated as a childish luxury. Adults have forgotten how to imagine, and thus have forgotten that it is not a luxury, but an essential life skill. It's like chopping off your fingers because they don't seem as useful as the thumb...
Take some random stranger as an example. Let's say this guy is successful at his job, he pays his bills on time, he loves his wife and kids and spends good quality time with them, and is a fine upstanding member of his community...
...and in the evenings, to relax, he plays with action figures. Oh, now he's a weirdo! There's something wrong with him! He's doing something that requires imagination (and is thus "for kids"), so we look at him slantwise.
Even I do it. Like right now, I feel a compelling need to qualify this statement by saying I do not play with action figures at 28 years old. Because I do not want people to be under the impression that I'm "that guy." I feel it, too, even though I can't pinpoint anything in particular that is wrong with "that guy." We shun imaginative people as childish, regardless of the evidence.
What makes a guy that goes to a sporting event wearing his favorite player's jersey and shoes, cheering the team and yelling, "WE won, WE won!" any different from the guy that goes to a Star Wars premiere dressed as a Wookiee? The usual answer--one is imitating a real person that makes real money, and the other is imitating an imaginary character. Okay, what makes sports so important? It's entertainment. A game. It serves no functional purpose in society, so it's just as frivolous as a movie. It's just that it doesn't require imagination (and you can bet money on it), so it's "grown up."
Imagination is a critical thinking skill. Without imagination, it's a lot harder to solve complex problems. How can you solve a word problem if you're not able to imagine the situation the word problem describes? How can you develop spatial reasoning skills for geometry-heavy jobs (like carpentry) without the ability to imagine complex three-dimensional figures and perform operations on them in your head. Yeah, it's possible, but it's a lot slower. Lacking imagination robs you of that mental flexibility.
How can you empathize with someone without being able to imagine yourself in the same situation and decide how you'd feel? How can you effectively communicate with someone if you're not able to do that? Wonder why so many people are so awful at communicating or arguing in any reasonable way? That's why--they are fundamentally incapable of imagining themselves on the other side, dealing with any abstraction.
This same logic applies to video games. For some reason, those that imitate real life in some way (and space marines are still imitations of real life, so most sci-fi games are in this boat) are considered more valid, more grown-up. Games that are more abstract and imaginative (look at Limbo for a quick example of an imaginative game clearly not meant for little kids) are written off as "kid games" or "casual games," or some other title that indicates they're just junk food without any real meat.
As we forget how to imagine (as a culture), we'll be less accepting of these imagination-based games. And as a result, the obedient market will make less of them, further leading us to forget. This downward spiral in an unfortunate product of a culture that forgets that the currency of the world isn't the dollar (or pound or Euro, to be fair)--it's the idea.
Teach kids how to manipulate money, and the world becomes the machine world of the Matrix without even having to make the machines. Teach kids how to work in ideas, and the world can improve. After all, how do you create a better world if you can't even imagine what that better world would look like?
Im going with the argument that innovative M rated games are innovative. There can even be innovative games that are M rated and DO involve killing zombies.
But I still get to kill zombies, right? It's hardly worth playing if I'm not killing zombies.
(Yeah, I'm a mindless hype-slave that follows every trend and can't see a bandwagon without jumping on it.)
In all fairness though, I agree with the idea that M-rated games don't have to be less innovative. My question, though, would be: is it true that all, or even most, "E"-rated games are shunned by adults / the "hardcore" gamer set? There are a lot of games that are obviously (and fairly exclusively) aimed at kids, true, but they tend to be for a couple of specific platforms (hello, Nintendo Wii / DS) and marketed in a certain way.
Case in point: the "Tycoon" games were suitable for "everyone". Would anybody call "Transport Tycoon" - a colourful game if ever there was one - something that's only marketed at the kids?
And come to think of it, isn't the so-called "hardcore gamer" a very specific minority in today's market? I play a lot of FPSs (although I haven't bothered to try any of the "Medal of Honor", "Call of Duty" or "Modern Warfare" series, I'm more of a Bioshock / Fallout kinda guy myself) but there's no way I would call myself "hardcore". And that's despite the fact that I probably average several hours a week playing videogames of some kind or another (I know, compared to the biggest WoW or FPS junkies that's a pittance, but I have a full-time job as well).
Yeah... I gotta go with the naysayers on this one. What the author seems to be arguing here is that a very specific subset of gamers - which is a VERY small percentage of the whole - who are into a certain kind of thing, are in some way deficient because they're ONLY into that certain kind of thing. Well, everyone has different tastes, I won't stop you from doing what you want if you don't stop me from doing what I want, etc, etc. I don't think it's a problem.