The more I play non-violent games with no combat system, the more abhorrent I find games with combat systems. Don't get me wrong, both as a player and a designer, I love combat systems.
But the insane proportion of gameplay tied to violence, conflict and exploitation, and the fact it's seen as normal or even desirable in video games culture, make me feel increasingly bad. Is capitalism fun?
What about complex systems to explore empathy, ecological awareness, philosophy, utopia?
@ice interesting topic :)
what combat (and guns) give the player is a powerful way to interact with the environment. The challenge with the concepts you list (empathy etc) is that it's hard to tie them to a direct interaction that the player can enjoy.
I play less combat based game than before, instead I play movement based games (racing, skating, etc).
About ecological awareness: "In Other Waters" might fit the bill!
About empathy: Animal Crossing
@ice I believe it's possible to make a combat based game that wouldn't be based on conflict and exploitation. The same way there's martial arts in real life, and they often have a system of values that encourage to be mindful and respect others.
@electret Yes, definitely, there's a lot to explore. I remember Bushido Blade on PlayStation, which was a bit unique in this regard. But for the most part, fighting games take martial arts for their aesthetics and there's little to no system of value.
On the other hand, I'm probably biased against the general competitive mindset. I don't like rankings, and I tend to see rankings everywhere, haha.
@electret In Other Waters went below my radar, it definitely looks like something I might enjoy! And yes, Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, Littlewood... There are many examples, but it still feels rather niche to me, even if they met commercial success. I guess I'm also just venting because I'm frustrated by what I perceive of mainstream "gamer culture".
I think I probably dream of powerful ways to interact with social/mental/emotional environments more than simulated physical environments.
@ice I think "gamer culture" is unlikely to change. Notably because a healthy game culture should be part of a more general culture and not outside of it.
Not a video game, but an interesting concept anyway: https://www.werenotreallystrangers.com/products/not-really-strangers-card-deck
Another path is physical environment as a playground to explore psychological problems (see Celeste). It would actually mirror real life (sport not just to improve physically, but also mentally).
@electret This card game looks interesting indeed, and something I could use. Thanks, I've ordered a copy :) I still have to play Celeste, I have it somewhere in one of my libraries but couldn't find the energy to tackle a platformer yet.
@cancel @electret PUBG now seems to lead by quite a few millions (which I find terrifying.) And I guess Fortnite would be the first of this list if it wasn't free to play. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_PC_games
I see your point though, non-violent games definitely have an important place in the cultural landscape. Even if The Sims is a god awful celebration of consumerism, both in its mechanisms and in the business model of its latest iterations.
@cancel @electret True, the market has expanded a lot, and maybe how many copies a game has sold isn't the sole indicator of its cultural impact. Myst was unique in several ways, and its legacy is still very much alive.
Regarding PUBG and other battle royale games: in my opinion they embody all the opposites values that we need as a society to survive. Games convey messages, moral and political values, even if it wasn't the developer's intent, even if they're just games.
@electret @ice @cancel Like, I agree that on the local community level this needs to be addressed in a similar manner to other forms of exclusion, but informing kids about them playing into the hands of a multi-million dollar corporation's marketing plan can definitely be a part of tackling the problem.
@ice I feel you there.
Yet apparently (i've seen this several times), there are "too many cute/happy/wholesome games that all look the same". Considered the state of gaming in (at least) the past 25 years, that's such a weird take to me.
@yhancik Really weird indeed. I think video games should learn from the writing trend I've seen emerging lately, people saying science-fiction now needs more utopia and less dystopia.
@ice beside systems (and i LOVE systems), I think also a lot of complex topics can be explored through the good old conversations. Think how great KRZ and Disco Elysium are with dialogues.
@yhancik Yes, writing is still a fantastic mean of providing nuance and depth. I really loved Disco Elysium. Though in a way, it's extremely brutal despite the lack of combat... which makes the only combat an unforgettable moment. And thanks for reminding me that KRZ has been sleeping in my library for ages, I really need to play it!
@firstname.lastname@example.org for me there are several sides to this:
there's the issue of ethics, why are so many games about hurting others? is there something inherently attractive about being given a space where harm is acceptable? is this a deep problem, or is it okay if understood, the same way most stories feature ethically or socially objectionable characters and events?
there's also conflict baked in, which doesn't have to be violent or unethical, but is a baseline in games and sports. i do feel there's a need to be critical of this, but competition and adversity is at the foundation of games, from go to rally, with tennis and tictactoe along the way.
and then there's physicality and challenge. even without violence and conflict, games are really good at simulating action-based challenges, so while the act of jumping or dodging isn't violent, action verbs quickly lead to combat verbs
@gaeel This is a great summary of a complex topic. I agree conflict is at the heart of many games (not to mention other media.)
Personally, I understand the cathartic and self-affirming aspect of conflict, but I'd like to see more works that explore empathy, cooperation and kindness. Games are easily dismissed as "just games" but they can convey powerful messages, good or bad, and I think the popular violent or competitive games, no matter how fun, just offer a terrible worldview.
@ice I’ve always liked games where you build or make something. There can be elements of tedious grinding away at a task, just like grinding away in a dungeons before you do the boss battle in a combat game. But at the end of it all, there’s a thing you made, not just an XP number.
@emmadavidson So do I. I've played my fair share of city building and sandbox games, and find building much more satisfying than fighting. I still like games involving combat when it's against the computer, or better, with friends against the computer, but I'm repelled by competitive games.
@ice in the last decade I’ve really enjoyed games that require me to get out of the house and move. Mobile games that are location or movement based. Probably because it gets me doing something I wouldn’t have done unprompted, and once I start I am reminded of how good it feels.
@emmadavidson Personally I've never really tried this kind of game (unless you count gesture/fitness-based games like the one available on the Wii and more recent Nintendo machines) even if I can see their appeal. I agree going outside is good, and that video games are usually really bad at motivating you to go outside, haha.
@ice I loved Ingress, Pokémon Go is OK but I never played Pokémon when I was younger so it just feels like Ingress for kids. Zombies Run! is sheer brilliance. Am on the lookout for something new and fun in this space.
@emmadavidson Yes, it’s even based on Ingress locations database. I’m not really into Pokémon either, and while the possibilities of this kind of game are really appealing, I’m a bit put off by the data gathered on players (not to mention Niantic is a Google startup, and I try to avoid Google products when possible.)
I didn’t know Zombies Run! but the concept looks great, gamifying running with a zombie theme is a pretty smart idea, and the story part seems to really enhance the experience.
@ice can you link to some gameplay systems for empathy,philosophy, utopia ?
genuinely like to read up and see different types of gameplay concepts :)
@fleeky I don't have any actual example of empathy-based gameplay, except maybe Kind Words, which is entirely multiplayer-based and has very little "gameplay'.
I'm having these thoughts after playing this, and Littlewood, which I think does an excellent job at offering a peaceful experience geared toward others.
Otherwise, games like Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing, and in a twisted way, Disco Elysium, also come to my mind.
@ice would minecraft count? i mean at the very least there are non violent gameplay systems, the exploration and crafting and soothing ambient music triggers are nice ..
thanks for the suggestions, i think there is a whole other world of interesting interactions out there, empathy systems sound like a particularly interesting gameplay possibility .. do you have any ideas how you would want to implement an empathy system ?
@fleeky I've played a lot of Minecraft, usually in survival mode but with a strong emphasis on cooperation, so yes, I'd say, depending on your play style, that it can be mostly non-violent, even if it's not really possible to avoid combat if you want to "beat" the game.
@ice i guess for an empathy gameplay system the first question is how do we even have empathy , how do we have less or more..
an emotion sub system would have to be in there so you could detect the feelings of other characters/npcs to even be able to show you have empathy for them.. hmmm
@fleeky Regarding how I'd implement an empathy system, I honestly have no idea at this point, but this is something I want to work on in the future.
My first approach would be, for once, to avoid thinking as a game designer, but to try to feel the mood and emotions I'd want to convey, to imagine it as vividly as possible, and to describe it without any attempt at systematization. Then try to identify patterns and work from here to shape the gameplay. Building empathy is an emotional process.
@RussSharek @fleeky LA Noire did this, to an extend, you could read the facial features of a suspect during an interrogation and decide if they were saying the truth or not: https://store.steampowered.com/app/110800/LA_Noire/
The game itself is good, though I never finished it, and since I'm not especially gifted at reading other people's emotions I can't tell if it really worked or not, haha.
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