I fall firmly in the camp that thinks video games have serious creative potential. The medium is young, yet I think that games have the ability to connect with individuals on a far more immersive and emotional level than almost any other medium out there. Perhaps it's because gamers play such an important role in the narrative of a game--when you play a game, you are actively participating in the story, rather than passively watching events unfold.
When I see most of the big-budget games, though, they largely feel like cheap thrills and violence. Violence definitely has its place in story-telling, don't get me wrong...But too many larger games use violence as the only way to tell their (often simplistic) story.
Indie studios are the ones pushing all the boundaries. And does that really surprise anyone? They're small enough that they don't need massive sales to cover employees' time and energy. They're free to take risks that big publishers can't afford.
When I see most of the big-budget games, though, they largely feel like cheap thrills and violence.You can see this sort of thing mirrored in the film industry, the music industry, etc. Many of the most interesting movies these days are made, not by giant production companies, but by indie studios or small subsidiaries of the bigger companies. Some of the most talented musicians are signed to small record labels or just release their products independently.
The internet has made it possible to stir up buzz for lower-budget products, effectively stealing thunder from big publishers. Now, I don't think that the CoD franchise is going anywhere any time soon, for the same reasons as why people will go out and buy a ticket for Titanic 3D. There's definitely still demand out there for the familiar, the comfortable, the "safe" thrills.
I personally want to see more innovative games, though, and I want to see them discussed for their storyteling or for their substance, rather than simply for their graphics. There are several games that I feel are moving in the right direction, and certainly work to fill interesting niches...
First of all, I can't have a post about artistic, emotional video games without mentioning Journey. For those of you who haven't heard about it/seen in, here's the trailer:
This game gets storytelling...completely without words. Seriously, there isn't a single word in the game. All of the narrative is told through actions, song, and through your interactions with a random other player on the PSN. This game handled multiplayer in a way I've never seen done before. Players are anonymous (until you've beaten the game, then you're given the names of those with whom you journeyed), and they don't speak amongst each other, except in song. I found that, even with such limited communication, I was able to tell that each different player had a distinct personality and playing style. It was quite interesting to make a friend--or to clearly not get along--with someone with whom you've never spoken.
Another game I really admire for its inventiveness is Amnesia (and Penumbra...really, whatever Frictional Games comes up with). I can't imagine any of you are unaware of Amnesia...but, just for good measure:
These games are highly immersive, and Frictional certainly knows how to set atmosphere... Unlike in most video games, your character is not some all-powerful, gun-weilding god. You play a vulnerable, essentially helpless character. Also, the way they implemented physics and interaction with objects in the world is pretty awesome. You have much more control over, say, opening a door than you'd normally have in a game.
The Path is another interesting one:
It's not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination, and there are some weird glitches and quirks to it, but it is undeniably atmospheric and raises all kinds of unsettling questions about femininity, coming of age, and morality. Its implementation is interesting, in that you essentially piece together the narrative by interacting with the world. There's no real "win condition", and the only rule of the game (don't stray from the path) has to be broken in order for anything to happen.
There are certainly other games worth mentioning, but I admittedly have not played a ton of games lately (school, you know...plus, I'm still learning the tools to make my own...). I encourage you to post with some games which made you think more than just "Boom! Headshot".