Heavy Rain designer David Cage says video games need to grow up

The video game industry suffers from a "Peter Pan syndrome" and a lack of innovation that is holding it back from maturing and reaching a wider audience, Heavy Rain designer and Quantic Dream founder David Cage said in a talk at the 2013 DICE Summit yesterday.

According to Cage, a majority of video games are either for children, casual titles or violent action games. He says the industry needs to stop creating games with the same pattern-mastering objectives and build titles that are not as disconnected with the real world.

"[Games] have not changed much," he said, comparing the 1992 Wolfenstein shooter to last year's Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. "You still have this objective. You still have a gun. You still have to run and shoot and kill people before they kill you."

Cage shared nine ideas for how the industry can "evolve" to shake off these issues:

  • Make games for all: "How do we make content that will talk to your mother or grandmother?" said Cage. "How do we make them play? Can we make content, interactive experiences, for an adult?"
  • Change our paradigms: "We cannot hope to keep doing the same things the same way and expand our market overnight," he explained. Cage shared a story on pitching a game to a publisher, only to have them call it "not a game" because the protagonist did not use weapons or drive cars. "We need to decide that violence and platforms are not the only way. Now, if the character doesn't hold a gun, designers don't even know what to do."
  • The importance of meaning: Cage said that many games are designed to trigger adrenaline and "have absolutely nothing to say." He argues that games should be put at the center of our society and tackle real-world themes like politics and homosexuality.
  • Become accessible: Games should focus on the journey, not the challenge, and present a meaningful experience. "How fast they move their thumbs... who cares? Let's focus on what the player feels, not how they do it."
  • Bring other talent on board: Cage said it has been a rewarding experience working with Ellen Page and David Bowie on upcoming release Beyond: Two Souls, and that he learned from his time with them.
  • Relationships with Hollywood: "We still have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but we should respect each other," he said. "I think the time has come for a really balanced, more respectful partnership, and together we can build a new form of entertainment."
  • Changing our relationship with censorship: Cage said the industry's self-censorship is "grossly unfair" and that because the medium is interactive doesn't mean it's not okay to tackle important issues. Conversely, he noted the excessive use of violence and bloodshed at E3 last year, saying sometimes the industry acts "like stupid teenagers ourselves, and we should stop doing this... We should show that we're not a bunch of teenagers, that we're responsible and that we respect our mediums."
  • The role of press: Cage says game journalists should be more active in shaping the industry's future and move emphasis away from just handing out review scores.
  • The importance of gamers: "I think that buying or not buying a game is almost like a political vote," he said. "You decide if you want the industry to go in this direction. Buy crap, and you will get more crap. Buy exciting, ambitious, risky games, and you will get more of them. So buying a game is also a responsibility. So if you buy games, you vote where you want the industry to go."

Cage said our medium should no longer be called a "game." He hopes for the rise of "digital entertainment" that is accessible, "open to all themes and genres" and presents societal and real-world problems in a meaningful way.

"I think it's an amazing medium unlike anything else, and what we have here is absolutely different and unique, but I think we need to accept this idea of growing up and finally become adults," he concluded.

Check out the video below to watch Cage's full talk at DICE.

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