All Horse Games Are Bad and Here’s Why You Should Care About That | A MAZE Hypertalk @ Ludicious 19
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All Horse Games Are Bad and Here’s Why You Should Care About That | A MAZE Hypertalk @ Ludicious 19

August 15, 2019

Alice, yes, please come on stage Our next speaker Alice Ruppert is a game designer, programmer and writer based here in Zurich she works as Lead Game Developer at N-Dream, creating games for the AirConsole platform which allows people to play local multiplayer games using smartphones as controllers. Her most recent project is The Mane Quest, a website dedicated to horses in video games and Horses in Video Games is what she will talk about tonight. Let’s give Alice a warm applause. [applause] Hi, I’m Alice and I’m here to tell you
some stuff about horse games and why you should care about them. (cause you probably don’t do that yet) So, what are horse games even? Generally, what I call “horse games” are
games whose primary mechanics are focused on riding, taking care of, and breeding horses. You can see some examples there. Many of them could also be classified as something
like “stable management simulators”. Single player horse games are often about
owning and training more and more horses and upgrading your stables, multiplayer versions
are about buying or breeding the prettiest horses to make everyone else jealous, and
probably winning some in-game money in some racing minigame or something. Dozens, if not hundreds of games in this genre have been produced on pc, consoles and mobile devices and although I have not quite played all of them yet (I’m
working on that), I’m fairly confident in saying that none of them have been genuinely
good. You may see this and think “well that looks
decent enough for some horse crazy kids”, but the reality is that games in this genre
never hold up to any sort of industry standard to what constitutes a “good game”, neither for adults or kids. And it’s more than just an issue of scope and budget. Like, it’s not just small games, it’s bad games. They are badly balanced and usually zigzag
between being frustratingly difficult due to bad and over-complex and nonsensical control schemes or childishly easy usually, like, within the same game. Instead of choosing an art style that makes
sense within their low budget, they go with pseudo-realistic graphics that usually look dated before they’re even released. By the way, in that top gif, the horse’s feet move wrong, that’s not how a horse walks, ever. It cannot do that. And also they have long feature lists, claim to offer a ton of features, but all their mechanics are shallow and simply not fun, with many tasks getting tedious and repetitive and the supposed “reward” of riding a horse feels clunky as hell and tedious and like more work than actually controlling a thousand
kilo animal with your legs does. I know, I’ve tried. And like, the games somehow makes that *more* work Now you may be wondering – justifiably – why an entire genre of games is just not good, and to be honest I’m still working on getting to the bottom
of that, but here’s some insight I’ve gained already: Many horse game dev teams do not want to be
making horse games, exceptions being few and in between. The development for this type of games is usually low budget contract work paid for by publishers of children’s media. But: Those publishers appear to be really out of touch with their potential audience They don’t actually playtest with actual kids who actually like horses And more importantly: They underestimate the potential target audience that they could reach if they actually made a game that held up to any sort of industry standard and like, that is somewhat interesting to play for people who play games But…. BUT: People who are passionate about horses exist, and they exist in the gamedev industry: I’m meeting more of them on, like, almost a daily basis It’s kind of self evident that nobody buys games that are bad, because nowadays you can inform yourself about that stuff And also: Games can get people interested in stuff they don’t usually care about, meaning the actual potential audience doesn’t have to be limited to horse crazy horse people. Not only “farming enthusiasts” play games like Stardew Valley. A good horse game could draw in a crowd of
people who like buildup, crafting, pet collecting, life sims, base-building and so much more. So, why is this relevant to you as a game
developer: First of all: While mainstream games are finally catching up to writing and designing complex female characters, games are still rather bad at
embracing femininity in general. Stereotypically “masculine” hobbies like
football or basketball or car racing get several big budget game releases every year,
while traditionally “feminine” interests (which includes horse riding, but also things
like fashion, baking or romance) are relegated to low effort web and mobile games. People who want good horse games are told
they should just play Red Dead Redemption or The Witcher, because hey, there’s a horse in it. But imagine nothing like Fifa and PES existed and we told guys who are really into
football that they should play Katamari Damacy because hey, there’s a… ball in it. So yeah, let’s embrace stereotypically female interests in video games As a game dev, you can profit from these audiences, like horse enthusiasts, if you take them seriously. Not just as “little girls who like horses
and will be happy with whatever breadcrumbs you throw their way”, but as adult gamers who
have been playing games all their lives and are constantly ignored in their desires for
good games about a subject matter they actually care for. Because those people exist, and ever since
I’ve started talking about this subject, I’m getting more and more and more messages
from people telling me they would absolutely love to play, pay for and support a decent
horse game and that they’re disappointed with what is available. So, if you want to read, talk more on the subject of
horses in video games, I invite you to visit, where I write reviews and news and analyses and like generally just lament the lack of good horse games Anything related to horses in games and stuff. Thanks! [applause] Do you ride horses? Yeah Do you have one? No. It’s expensive as hell. How do you think I have the time to make games, and write about games like, I couldn’t do that if I had a horse. Idon’t know about life in Switzerland, I thought maybe it was easier here. But yes, okay. [laughter] Thank you!

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  1. I was always a fan when I was younger of the "Horsez" games such as the (Secrets of the ranch) (The golden stirrup challenge) as they had some sort of story and it wasn't just hop on the horse and ride around, sure the graphics weren't great but I'd love to see more horse games like that with maybe better graphics.

  2. I haven't had a huge interest in horses since my horse phase as a little girl but honestly if a good horse game existed (one that looked like more than a cheap pony club knockoff) I might actually care.

    I love the horses in Breath of the Wild but I don't ever ride them anywhere because I don't want to leave them out in the wild when I inevitably want to paraglide off a cliff. Give me a game where I can properly care for the horses as more than just a mechanic to make traveling faster!

  3. Yassss!

    Coming from a position of privilege in this regard, I've never noticed the fact that the "hobby game genre" almost exclusively covers male hobbies like football or racing.

    Excellent presentation!

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