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A Brief Reflection: 2002 – 2012
The Illusive Man being a term that involves Mass Effect’s mysterious antagonist (or did you allow him to be a protagonist?) who provides information to players from “reliable sources” where gamers must then make the decision to either trust or distrust the aged spectre.
Characters in video games have taken on stronger roles as gamers have grown up over the years. For example, Commander Shepard from the Mass Effect series has been faced with universe-altering decisions (which players must make, of course) that cater to topics such as morality and rationalism alike. This has, of course, contributed to the further development of personable individuals in games that are in positions of great authority – enabling them to have free reign over the fate of worlds and people.
Furthermore, corporations spend an impressive amount of capital cultivating a level of brand recognition for their products that they have, in turn, given a distinct voice to their customers: a voice that belongs to the happy and unhappy alike; to the loved and under appreciated; to those who seek to have their voices heard. This voice has even become encouraged in the titles we see on store shelves. We as consumers are given the ability to make our favorite worlds, characters and even music through the tools given to us by developers. This practice has cultivated a growing consumer interest in characterization and customization that has given gamers the power to become their favorite protagonists and antagonists.
For example, was it simply a cool idea for Bioware to allow players to transfer their saves from one game to the next within the Mass Effect series? Well, duh! However, the burst of inspiration that fathered the brief moment of creativity responsible for this idea is housed deeply within the fact that consumers purchase games as a form of escape. For brief moments in time, they may wish to take on the role of a space-faring commander or a hot-headed hero – if only for a moment. The knowledge of this fact is what has made developers cater to players for all these years because they know and we know this convenient truth (shout out to Al Gore!).
Is this simply a fad or how the industry itself has grown? I believe that it is the latter. A great change has occurred in the industry within the last 10 years that favors my opinion. For one, as mentioned prior, there is a greater emphasis for character-driven story lines that have effectual morality ques essentially rendering the interactive experience as being on par with that of a ‘moving’ film. Moving in the sense that it is not a linear, scripted experience but, rather, an experience that can be scripted. The enigma that was Commander Shepard in the first installment in the series is the enigma that we made him today.
However, the fact that this trend has grown to the apex that it has in recent past can not all be attributed to the work that a select few developers orchestrated. It is a culmination of many elements that have contributed to what we know and love today.
For instance, Valve has pioneered the current gaming market and they did so almost 10 years ago. It is astounding to wrap one’s noggin around the fact that this company had such an immense degree of foresight. A foresight that has made them stand today as one of the premier development houses in the industry. The idea of having content on an online service that caters to video game audiences is not new in any respect. It had been done for years by independent developers and, in fact, that is how Steam itself began. However, Valve saw this opportunity and the gamble which they made has come to bless them many fold. Other companies have joined their ranks including the big three (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) who have collectively contributed to the impressive reach that video games have made in the past decade.
It is the combination of both the audience that video games have reached and the fact that they have developed to their current level that has allowed for we, as consumers, to experience the level of content that we do today.