Last Wednesday, I went to the hairdressers’. Since May of this year, when a mad-man disguised as a professional hairdresser hacked my head into an approximation of a toilet-brush three hours before I was due to appear on television, trips to the hairdressers’ have been a common occurrence, as a series of talented and patient stylists try to gradually snip my hair back into something vaguely resembling A Style every couple of weeks.
Salon of the to-remain-nameless-madman aside, I have always had a sneaking respect for hairdressers, as they basically do The Hardest Job In The World. Hairdressing, in video-game terms, is 3D modelling, only the model moves, and talks, and makes incomprehensible requests like “can you just juzgh it up a bit so it’s got a bit more oomph?” And of course, if it isn’t working out the way you planned, you can’t just have a tantrum, delete the file and start over again from scratch. Or get distracted and start making a dragon. It’s hair, it’s attached to people’s heads. Hairdressing, in my eyes, is essentially magic, and it both fascinates and terrifies me in equal measure. And, being me, when I’m nervous, I talk. A lot.
As I sat in the chair, babbling away and keeping an eye firmly fixed on the pointy scissors, we got chatting about stuff – life, work, kids, the perils of bad hairdressing, sports and so on. As I am a boring person with one primary obsession in life, we eventually got round to talking about video-games.
We got talking about a game she had found her kids playing, and was not at all pleased with the content they were accessing. There seemed to be some kind of sexual event going on the screen, and, appalled, she had switched the game off and taken the controllers away. As she skilfully sculpted my cranial hedge back into something more pleasing, she commented thus: “I don’t understand why they [the game’s creators] would put stuff like that in there. You just don’t expect it in a game! Games are for kids!”
I’ve (rather unfairly) picked on my lovely hairdresser for this particular example, but it is a comment I hear a lot. It’s easy to understand why this misunderstanding arises, but it’s a really important one to address.
Video-games are not just for children. Video-games, like books, films, and TV programs, are created for a range of audiences. In The Night Garden and Luther are both television programs. Inside Out and Saw are both movies. Where’s Wally? and Interview With A Vampire are both books. And, in a similar vein, Solitaire and Strip Poker are both card games, though you would only consider playing one of them with your child or your Gran.
Just because it says game on the box does not mean the content is going to necessarily be suitable for kids. Cars, or Up! or Finding Nemo are all still films, even though they are primary enjoyed by children. In games, BioShock Infinite, or Amnesia, or Grand Theft Auto V are all still games, even though they contain content unlikely to be suitable for anyone under the age of eighteen. We will talk about why a developer would choose to create a game with mature “not fun” content in subsequent posts, because the reasons are varied and interesting. For now however, keep in mind – not all video-games are for children.