Are gamers ready for a mature, emotional, sexually-charged story-telling experience?
The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E. L. James is one of the hottest properties right now, both in terms of sales and content. Among female readers it is a runaway success, topping just about every chart and breaking almost every sales record since the books were released earlier this year. It has reshaped modern book popularity, bringing raunchy romance to the forefront much like the Twilight Saga did with teen vampires.
It is talked about in Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. The books are shared within circles of friends. It dominates conversations at restaurants during lunch, and in jokes on late-night television. “Cultural phenom” is almost putting it lightly.
It’s akin to what the Call of Duty series does each year, at least popularity and sales-wise. COD’s name alone is enough to sell copies, and succeeds in bringing in new purchasers outside of traditional gamers. It relies on blockbuster action and smart multiplayer to hook its buyers, but its plot and delivery aren’t going to get players hot and bothered.
There have been attempts in the past to create a narrative-focused experience geared towards adults. Heavy Rain successfully meshed adult crime drama with modern adventure game mechanics, though it never registered a blip outside of the games industry — it’s never been featured on Entertainment Tonight like Fifty Shades has.
Can narrative games ever reach that level of popularity? Is it a case of video games still being considered a hobby for teens and kids, in the eyes of the general public and media? Is it the delivery of the medium, or the target market? Or is it that authors are usually individuals working on a piece of art that won’t necessarily bankrupt them if it is never completed, whereas games are usually developed by larger teams?
Part of the issue is the accessibility of written narrative when compared to games. The books are available in infinite ways, without the need for an expensive console or handheld. They’re inexpensive compared to triple-A game titles. There is no set up, no need to take time away from others using the television, and the ability to read any where at any time.
There are a lot of factors, but there isn’t a solid answer to the questions. There’s a need for this kind of gaming experience to happen to help push the medium’s delivery and acceptance forward, and to help alleviate the ebb and flow of the effect of console cycles, sales droughts, and a hurting economy.
Narrative still has a ways to go in video games, even if that does include raunchy adult concepts and traditional “non-art” delivery.