@BrainBoxLTD: I agree that most of the depth that I enjoy from a game is from the game play. But I don't see why, with even last gen tech, we don't see more mature and realistic content. I understand it's hard to make truly realistic and fun experiences because you need an excuse to kill enemy after enemy. But where are the attempts at realistic gameplay with out senseless mass-murder of zombie insect nazi robots?
Because, something realistic and mature, would very likely require a emotional and time investment for a return of something that could be provoking, disturbing, possibly even painful, depressing, or infuriating. In short, it wouldn't be fun. Like watching Schindler's List. That is a extreme, but it illustrates my point. Something like that would be very hard to sell to the current Demographic of gamers. Hard to sell in general, as a key difference between movies and game, is interaction. The most trying film still only requires the viewer to sit, watch and listen. A game requires you listen, watch, and interact. It's asking a lot of someone to sit, watch, and actually play through themselves of something that isn't going to be fun, even if it is entirely thought provoking.
I'll give you an example. Let's say I'm going to try and make a game that's realistic, and deal with mature themes. The game's purpose will be to help the player understand the incredible pain and grief, of a convicted prisoner who is actually innocent.
In my game, you play a character who starts with an average life and average job. You, playing as this character must perform mundane tasks of their work. If you mess up, it causes annoyance and spurs more mundane and uninteresting work to rectify your mistakes. This continues until a day you are arrested for a crime you did not commit. (A detail you're made completely aware of) At this point in the game your character is stuck between going to jail and court. Over, over, over and over again, in a slow trial of which you have almost no influence over. The player will have to continually sit through the trial, and desperately work with his appointed lawyer in attempt to prove his innocence. A section of the game I would in vision would be spread out over several hours. This would prove ultimately feudal and your character is convicted and sent to prison.
In prison, you’re subjected to many things. Vicious assaults you are unable to adequately defend yourself from, little understanding of where you are, the threat of rape. Ultimately most of the time your subjected to routine, work, and monotony. As a prisoner you have no freedom, and must go and act as told or suffer the consequences. In the game fatigue from being injured, tired, and such will cause the controls to suffer as well. If your character becomes fatigue, you will have trouble controlling him/her, and this will lead to possible failings and mistakes in your duties, that lead to further fatigue. This cycle of tiring repetition and painful punishment you have little defense against will continue for many many hours.
Your character eventually has the opportunity to attempt to purchase and use drugs, however there are very difficult to acquire, and require much time and even more effort than needed to simply continue. Use of drugs create for an extremely short section of possible pleasure. Portrayed by subtle changes in art style, and a temporary removal of game play elements intended to cause pain. These highs would be very short to the relative length of the game, but are designed to be pleasurable and provide relief. They will end extremely quickly, and you will have to attempt again to get more. These highs will eventually last less and be more dulled, but still provide a sharp contrast to game’s intentional repetitive suffering.
This all would continue for twenty cumulative hours of game play until suddenly your character is informed that new evidence as since proved his innocence. Your character is required to leave the prison, now a free man, and the game ends after stepping outside the prison walls.
This game is intended to allow players to suffer the horror of losing your life to a routine of abuse, pain, and largely monotony, despite entirely knowing that your indeed not suppose to suffer this punishment. You’re never given an opportunity to commit a crime outside before your imprisonment, and much of the game would be designed to instill boredom, coupled with anger, frustration to convey this message.
Okay, first of all that is just an example. I’m not making statements with it, just giving a possible scenario of someone earnestly trying to make a mature realistic game intended to emulate a disturbing situation that does happen. Can you imagine how hard a sale this would be, to anyone? To try and convince a publisher to front money for this, or a gamer to buy it, or even try it for free? The game is specifically trying to recreate a terribly unpleasant situation, and unlike a movie, you must also participate to gain the benefit of this experience. It’s a lot to ask of someone.
This is an extreme example, but I did it to highlight all the reasons why we don’t see many games with realistic settings and addressing specific issues. Like Bod said, they’re often Fantasy or Sci-Fi, not just because geeks like them, but it also immediately detaches it from reality. Even WWII shooters intentionally ignore the horrors of the actual War entirely to favor the gloried action-move-esque aspects. A WWII shooter where you visit a concentration camp would likely upset the player, and remind them of horrendous loss of actual human life, and could possibly discourage from continuing to play.
Even when games do attempt to address more difficult topics, it’s still often done abstractly, or deliberately distanced from reality to an extent to avoid of things becoming too real, and game play of course will be fun to keep the player happy and playing.
Games are still entertainment. A game may have an upsetting story, but unless it's also fun it will likely go
unsold. And this in itself is a conflict since you may wish to express something painful but must make accomdations to include a signifcant protion of it to be fun as well so that the market will support it. If the gaming market expands to enough people, and becomes affordable enough to enter we may eventually see games designed to be something other than fun, at which point we'll stop calling them video games. But I feel that's a long way off.