Posted by Philip Jong.
First posted on 22 October 1997. Last updated on 24 February 2010.
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This hideout is where you will spy on the Hawke family.
Voyeurism is the name of the game!
Can sex, lies, and videotape make a good game?
A crime is unfolding in front of your eyes!
Girls just want to have fun!

For better or worst, the developer and publisher of Voeyur have raised the question of what constitutes appropriate content in family entertainment with the release of this title. Originally released for CD-I in 1994, the game has generated much controversy with its adult subject matters which no doubt has boosted its sale. Not surprisingly, Interplay Productions attempts to cash in on its popularity by porting it to the PC.

Reed Hawke, president of Hawke Industries, has decided to run for the presidency of the United States. He has gathered his family together for the weekend to announce his political intention. However, not all members of his family are content to see his rise in political power, and someone is willing to expose a sinister family secret which can jeopardize Hawke's career. With your video and audio camera and a telescope, you begin to spy into the lives of the Hawke family from the vantage point of your apartment. You soon learn that Hawke will do whatever it takes, including murder, to ensure his family's silence. With each moment, you learn that secrets are held by every member of the family, whether they involve blackmail, money, power, sex, or betrayal. By collecting key evidence, you can either prove to the police that Hawke has committed murder or help to save the family member in jeopardy by mailing the key videotape scenes documenting Hawke's evil scheme to the intended victim. Then again, you may just watch like a true voyeur!

Voyeur has set itself apart from other game titles by not only bringing adult oriented contents into mainstreaming gaming but also using flashy movies to convey its story. The latter becomes possible with the large storage capacity of the CD. Over 60 minutes of blue screen videos are shot with a Hollywood cast. These clips are then combined with computer rendered backdrops to create an illusion of filming with a real set. Both video and audio clips are compressed with proprietary software developed in-house. The principal casts consist of 9 characters, including Hollywood stars Robert Culp and Grace Zabriskie. Originally released only for CD-I by Philips Interactive Media, DOS conversion is done by Entertainment Software Partners and released as an enhanced CD-ROM version for the PC.

The object of the game is to selectively record key video and audio sequences to convict Hawke. The game plays over a single weekend of game time. The time of day is shown at the top of the camera screen. Time is subtracted off for viewing any video or audio sequence. Multiple clips are played throughout the manor simultaneously, requiring the player to choose which character to spy on. A battery gauge on screen simulates as a timer. The story is changed slightly with each restart of the game to portray a different but limited choice of victim.

Voyeur feeds on the desire of gamers who find the idea of voyeurism intriguing. The story is riddled with mature adult subject matters, including lesbianism. For those who are looking for mature contents, all erotic scenes are suggestive only with no frontal nudity. The resolution of the video clips is quite low and the choppy playback makes for terrible lip synchronization. A password feature allows for paternal lockout of sensitive contents, as if the developer and publisher sincerely believe that this game is also intended for minors. Regardless of the morality the game carries, this title clearly sets a trend in the mainstream gaming industry to develop titles for adults involving mature subject matters.

This game fundamentally violates an important principle in game design. The game suffers horribly from the "resurrection" fallacy—the need for the player to fail in the game in order to gain information that is subsequently needed during the replay to complete it. The short duration of this game necessitates the player to replay it many times over in order to discover which film clips are vital in solving the case. It requires the knowledge that certain scenes are unnecessary for the capture of the murderer—a knowledge that can only be gained by previous failures to complete the game. It may be argued that this style of gameplay is inherited in the design of such a title, but this argument just further demonstrates that such design should never be used in computer adventure games in the first place. Moreover, there is an absence of a central puzzle that ties the entire game together. Perhaps the designer regards that the main puzzle of this game lies in the decision of which film clips to videotape. It is appalling for the designer to call this title interactive if the only control of this game is to turn on the video camera and push the record button to spy at a distance. There is no save feature, so the game must be played in its entirety in a single sitting.

As an adventure game, Voyeur fails miserably. Despite the media hype, peeping Tom simply has no role in gaming with this poorly executed title.

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