When you look at the world of entertainment outside of gaming, there are many genres, but the most popular in film, television and literature always seems to just be basic, run-of-the-mill drama. Of course, it makes perfect sense when you figure that drama is easier for wide audiences to connect to. Day-to-day trials and tribulations are relatable, as are relationship and financial woes, this is stuff that everyone can relate to. There are a lot of movies about blowing stuff up, firing guns, girls in bikinis and zombies, but as a whole, gaming is overrun with stuff that would fall into the broad “genre fiction” category.
Gaming is the big, great escape from the outside world, and thusly, it remains on the fringe of society and is much-maligned by those who don’t understand it. We as gamers and people involved in the industry talk a lot about the whole concept of games as art, elevating the medium and having it taken more seriously, yet the plots and themes present in games have still yet to really mature beyond the summer action blockbuster or the creepy horror title. This is really not in line with other media, which is very clear when you consider that right now in Hollywood it is awards season and most of the films nominated for and winning awards fall within the category of being drama-based.
That doesn’t mean no action, no sci-fi or no horror, but instead working those elements in with a strong, dramatic narrative. Even gaming’s best offerings for narrative-driven games tend to fall very short of the mark. Consider if Mass Effect was made into a film (I know, I know) and it actually translated pretty well into the medium, could you ever see it up for Oscar contention? Sure, films like Avatar have been in the best film category in the past, but it was admittedly a ploy to get more casual filmgoers to tune in to watch the awards, not because anyone thought it was the best picture of the year or anything close to that.
Sure, drama doesn’t make for great gaming right off the bat, stuff with more action tends to lend itself to the medium of videogames in a big way. Yet, stop and think about games like Shenmue, Heavy Rain, or even at times Grand Theft Auto. Those games (GTA to a smaller extent) focus on a tight narrative and show some of the more mundane parts of life, leading you through a living, breathing world where everything isn’t always action-driven, but sometimes character- and plot-driven. A game like Telltale’s The Walking Dead features a lot of action, but there are also a lot of downtimes where you are just going from character-to-character and having conversations with them, you know, basic human interaction stuff.
Games still have a long way to go when you compare them to other forms of entertainment and until there is some more evolution it will probably carry the same stigmas and audiences that it always has had, but there is hope for change.