Photojournalism: The Game
I just started playing Beyond Good & Evil, Ubisoft's cult favorite from 2003. So far, I have to say I'm impressed. It's a great example of how games can start to focus on mechanics that don't center around combat. Sure, BG&E has fighting (simple stick-beating-type fighting), but most missions seem to revolve around taking pictures. In a lot of ways, the photography interface is like a first person shooter; you point and shoot. On the other hand, the power of the mental shift from firing a gun to snapping a photo is such that it feels like a totally new and fresh mechanic.
One ongoing way of earning money in the game is to take pictures of local flora and fauna for a scientific archive. I've found that even as I approach a battle, I try to take pictures of the creatures I'm about to fight, some small part of me hoping that I can preserve them even as I destroy them. That's a pretty impressive achievement in terms of complex emotional reaction to the game. I find it extremely hopeful for games in general that such a simple re-imagnining of a standard game mechanic can make such a huge difference in the emotional impact of the game.
BG&E doesn't just stop there, either. With a (sometimes heavy-handed) story centered around government corruption, issues like freedom of the press and the importance of free information are tackled as the main themes of the game. This is a game that is about revolution through photojournalism, and even though it's set in a science fiction world, this theme seems far more culturally relevant to today's world than most shooters, even those set in historical periods. In a world where a government tries to keep photos of dead soldiers or snapshots of prison abuses under wraps, a game about exposing the truth through pictures hits close to home.
And in addition, we get a new kind of action hero, the journalist.