The AMP Your Game National Gaming Tour rolled through the university campus on April 7, 8 and 9. It was a pretty good time -- lots of video game consoles to play, a Rock Band competition to watch and endless AMP energy drinks to consume. I was a little disappointed, though, in the staff that worked the event.
For a group of people there to promote two things, video games and AMP energy drinks, they were very restricted in what they were allowed to say to people. I asked three of the event staff working there if they would have liked to offer a comment for the Gauntlet and all of them shrugged me off, pointed me in another direction or declined outright. The gaming attraction seemed to be a mere veil to promote AMP: get a room full of people who have either great or marginal interest in games and feed them as much AMP as possible. Was it a gaming tour or a clever plot to shove a product down our throats? Call me an idealist, but the fact that games were used as a sideshow attraction to promote an energy drink was a bit disappointing.
Heather Chaplin is an author and game critic who had some inflammatory things to say about the current state of the video game world at the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco in March. Chaplin is the co-author of Smartbomb: The Quest for Art, Entertainment, and Big Bucks in the Videogame Revolution. Chaplin's comments about game developers and the state of the media form culminated in her claim that developers are "fucking adolescents."
I can't help but somewhat agree. Video gaming is seen as the domain of the isolated basement-dwelling teenager refusing to step into the world of maturity. This is in part due to the games that are created, but also the inability of those at the forefront of developing and encouraging the growth of video games to come to grips with the fact that video games need a next step into richer and deeper territory.
It seems there is a lot of infighting right now in the gaming world, based around a resistance to evolve games into something more thematically valuable. A lot of developers (and even players) might have been scandalized by Chaplin's comments at the Game Developer Conference, but there is a degree of truth to what she is saying. One only needs to look at Gears of War and Gears of War 2 to see the adolescence of video games: characters use an assault rifle with a chainsaw attachment to carve your enemies up into little bits. This is glorious if executed in the Scarface context, but nonsensical when that is the most satisfying part of a game. It is time to step out of the basement and take gaming to a whole new level.