E3 Recap: Desperate Housewives

One of the things that caught my attention at E3 was the Desperate Housewives video game, by Buena Vista Games and Liquid Entertainment. It’s a “sims-style” game that seeks to recreate the intrigue of the TV show. Players can customize their player, their home furniture, etc, when they aren’t indulging in morally questionable behavior.

When I first heard about this game, I thought it sounded like a promising attempt to reach outside the “core” gamer market, but was worried that the gameplay would prove stale. Fortunately, the demo I witnessed at E3 dispelled those concerns. The experience seemed quite rich; for example, I watched a player antagonize a character from the TV show, after which they broke into the character’s house (to “dig up dirt” that might help protect them from that newly-antagonized character). The player was caught sneaking around (they knocked over a vase), but then lied their way out of the situation (as tracked by a “composure meter.”) Not bad. Let’s hope that the rest of the game isn’t an endless repetition of that scenario with minor variations.

The game progresses in episode format, though I never found out if it will actually be distributed “episodically”, or if you’ll get everything in one package.

Scott Tobis, one of the TV series’ writers, wrote the script for the game, and reported that “[he wants] players to feel like they’ve found a bonus episode of the show.” I would have taken it a step further, if possible: players should feel like they’ve experienced an important part of the show. They should feel like they’d be missing something if they didn’t play the game (though people who don’t play the game should still be able to enjoy the TV series.)

Thinking bigger: what if the game were to be distributed episodically (in time with the TV show) and each game episode clarified aspects of the TV show? What if players were informed that their behavior, in aggregate, could somehow impact an upcoming episode (for example, if a majority of them performed an action, the results of that action would be reflected in the show?) What if the aggregate behavior of the group dictated the actions of a special guest on the show? Just a random idea. Tough to justify in the beginning, I know, but if the game is distributed episodically and proves very successful, something like this could be implemented.

PS. One thing I found amusing — as I was watching the demo, some guy walked up, listened for a few minutes, then asked the booth person: “You must have done something pretty terrible for them to put you on this project as punishment.” And he meant it. This industry is going to be pulled kicking and screaming into wider demographics…

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