As a 19 year old gamer, a question crossed my mind today; “What exactly constitutes a mature game?” I am not talking about an arbitrary rating system, I ponder what actually makes a person look, at a game, and think “this is a game that’s meant for adults”.
Game developers love to try to make their game with demographics in mind. Whenever they target older gamers they seem to usually fall into a pitfall. They focus on trying to make the games too “adult” when they should focus more on making the game “mature”. There’s a huge difference between the two for me. Some games I see as just adult because they just don’t seem very mature in some way or another.
Let us take a look at some games that do it correctly, two of the more obvious games that come to mind are Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit to some) and Heavy Rain. These are two games that focused on story, character development, and the interpersonal connection between the characters. Sure the games both have violence, blood, sex, and the other things expect when they hear “mature” game, but they do it in such a way that it isn’t obscene or ridiculous. Believability in the world and characters the developers created is what allows these games to seem mature. The same goes for games like LA. Noire, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and Mass Effect. Sure they all have violence, sexual themes and such, but they are done in a way that’s tasteful and just feels mature, and not just adult.
On the other side though there are games like Gears of War and GTA, these games I often feel are just more adult than mature. In these games, it feels as though the story is just a sub-plot to the violence and decadence. While the game as still fun, (I love Gears and GTA games, don’t get me wrong) they just aren’t very mature. They both usually have very shallow stories, archetypical character personalities, and enough unnecessary blood gore to make Moses look down in shame at his pitiful river. The worst case of this would be, Bulletstorm and the Postal games, if there’s ever been games that are all adult with no maturity these are it. If you don’t know why, just check out the game’s demo. Sure, it may be fun, but it makes me feel dumber just having played it, or admitting to have chuckled at one of the games’ jokes.
Furthermore, a game doesn’t have to even be aimed at adults at all to have a mature feel to it. Look at the Wii; The system that is often ridiculed as the most childish of the consoles. It has quite a few games that feel mature without being adult. Look at some of the Zelda games, these games often accompany a sort of bildungsroman feel, usually starting as a carefree youth before something happens in the story, usually some dark entity trying to do something wicked to the game’s setting, which sets the player out on an adventure. While it’s a pretty common set-up, the Zelda games typically do it in a way that feels…right. Take Twilight Princess as an example, the game dealt with quite a few motifs that you wouldn’t expect to be explored in a children’s game; Love, death, nature, responsibility, and more. Even the music and the atmosphere of this game fit perfectly into the story and theme the developers wanted to attain. They created believable worlds and characters, this time in a game that didn’t actually involve any of the things people associate with mature games.
Meh, rant over. Leave in the comments what a mature game to you is. I want to see how others perceive maturity in games.