Phil Harrison, a former executive for both the PlayStation and Xbox brands, has suggested that more games should focus on social issues and storytelling.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz at the recent Gamelab conference, Harrison compared the last 40 years of video game evolution to the first 40 years of non-silent films and found the medium lacking. Where film companies were releasing Cool Hand Luke, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Dirty Dozen 40 years on from The Wedding Singer, and “telling rich, deep stories [to] old, young, male, [and] female,” video games are not “evolving at the same rate, in terms of our rich storytelling and our rich characters,” according to Harrison.
With the proliferation of gaming in recent years thanks to the explosion in mobile, Harrison believes that developers should be trying to leverage that reach to do more than tell bombastic stories. “Where are our equivalent of protest songs? That’s a fun topic to think about. Where are the games that really delve into social issues?” he asked.
Despite seeming discontent with the current state of the industry, Harrison prophesies a “golden age” of gaming thanks to the “democratisation of platforms, democratisation of technology to make content,” which will empower more creators and writers to generate thoughtful content and spread news idea within gaming, similar to the way that Netflix and YouTube have allowed the development of truly independent entertainment for television.
The full interview goes into detail about how mobile, casual gaming, and the Nintendo Switch pave the way for the perceived golden age, as well as the way that the industry has undergone fundamental structural shifts since the launch of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in the mid-2000s.