Oftentimes, the games industy it’s own worst enemy. Look what landed in my inbox today:
Now, imagine you are a parent. For many readers, this will not be a challenging imaginative step, as you are a parent, but still, imagine you are a parent. Moderately to severely unwilling, you have agreed to take your beloved child to Tobacco Dock for the game festival. Then, you get this email.
Comes to the games festival and play with knives! Stab your friends! It’s a knife! Did we mention its a real knife!?
For a parent already pretty anti- the whole idea of interactive games, this is probably going to be the last straw.
It takes three clicks through the EGX website in order to get to an external website – perhaps aptly mirroring paternal/maternal emotions at this point, named AIpanic.com – where there is the reassuring information that the knife can be replaced with a metal tube (but for the Tobacco Dock event is not going to be) and that the pain purpose of the game is to inflict pain.
There is no indication that the game will be restricted to the over-18s section.
At this point, I begin to quietly weep. Knife To Meet You puts me in a great quandary. As a lover of games and proponent of interactive media, I firmly believer that games creators should push the boundaries of what we can do. Games are expression, and are art, and their interactive nature makes them the most exciting frontier of human creativity on the world today. It’s the same ingenuity that drove on of Knife To Meet You’s creators to make LineWobbler, a brilliant little adventure game played on a strip of LED lights and one of those twangy things you put in a wall to stop the door slamming into it. I am all for Knife To Meet You. I want to play Knife To Meet You. If it’s anything as good as LineWobbler it will be fantastic.
And yet. GameHub was created to address needs and concerns of parents and I cannot forseeable many parents feeling great about this. For parents who are already deeply wary of the games industry and what it has to offer, I worry about the message that having this land in your inbox will engender. I worry more still about the rumour mill, the gossip at the playground gates – “did you know they are bringing out video-games with actual knives in the box now?!” – and, in this case, it’s true! Much of what GameHub does is work around gently correctly misbeliefs, the majority of which occur because the games industry is so hideously bad at explaining itself and suffered from an extreme immaturity crisis for many years, looking to what could be put in marketing and content rather than what would have been helpful for those outside an insular, almost cliquish group. I am greatly concerned about how news of this game is going to filter through to the “outside world” as it will likely be devoid of the specific context of the aims and setting of the artsy and experimental Leftfield Collection. I do not look forward to fielding questions on this one during the next GameHub open Q&A, equally as much as I do look forward to playing it at EGX.
What about you? How did you react to the news? How can we work together as an industry to promote experimental gameplay techniques, whilst still communicating to the public the message that games are a non-violent, mentally stimulating and often highly social activity? Should ther be greater division between art games and more traditional video-games? Is Knife To Meet You in fact technically a board game, and therefore beyond our expertise? Let us know your thoughts on this difficult PR problem.