Let’s Talk Gaming – Super Serious Gaming

There’s a subject lingering around this blog that I’ve wanted to address for some time now. It always seems to find its way into every post I’ve made about gaming so far, and it’ll probably haunt this blog if I don’t just downright talk about it. So, after a short exchange in the comments of my previous post about retro gaming, I decided to tackle this thing head on.

Let’s talk about gaming. Or rather, let’s talk about the current console generation and what’s wrong with it.

Computer gamers, don’t worry, I’m not leaving you out on purpose. I don’t own a computer that’s ready to run games that require more resources than… well, let’s just say Spelunky and Civilization III. Yes, my computer is pathetic. I don’t care. I’m not using it as a gaming platform, I have consoles for this. See, I like controllers. Analog sticks, 4 buttons on the right, shoulder buttons, lack of installation times. That’s how I roll. Not that there’s anything wrong with the mouse and keyboard combination, its just not my preferred way to play.

This doesn’t mean there’s nothing wrong with your platform of choice either. Window’s, Mac. It doesn’t matter which one of these you’re stuck with, you’re screwed in one way or another. I can talk about Linux as well, but that’s more of a subject for the dark, seedy underbelly of the internet, quite possibly run on a private server in someone’s basement. I’d like to view this blog as being properly lit and ventilated, hosted in someone’s living room.

Let’s get back to the subject of the blog post before I start comparing other technical preferences and brands to forms of interior design.

Current generation gaming has a lot of common pitfalls. The only people unwilling to see them are either working in the industry, or are so deep inside one they can’t see what the industry has turned into. It’s become big. Bloated. There’s too much money involved. Gaming these days barely has anything to do with the actual games themselves, but with the egos of the people behind them and the profit for the people they work for.

Fine, this is what every industry out there is like, but it can get taken to far. You know something is wrong when the CEO of one of the larger companies makes statements like:

“We’ve heard that 60 per cent of [Microsoft’s] subscribers are principally on Live because of Call of Duty. We don’t really participate financially in that income stream. We would really like to be able to provide much more value to those millions of players playing on Live, but it’s not our network.”Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision

There’s too much money in the industry at the moment, and the only thing it attracts is people who want to see more of it. The gaming industry has done the worst thing it possibly can. It started to take itself seriously.

My solution to this isn’t the kind you keep hearing on most articles or blog entries on this subject either. If you go over to most gaming sites you’ll find hundreds or thousands of articles about how gaming is in its infancy and has to learn to grow. How it needs to become a proper form of media.

To those statements, all I can really say is fuck that. Gaming needs to learn it’s a form of entertainment. It needs to become just that. There’s nothing wrong with having fun and enjoying something. Not saying every single game out there needs to become a childish and colorful thing for kids, but even if it did that it’d be closer to its roots. Gaming is stuck in that awkward grimdark period, where everything needs to be edgy, dark and sinister in order to work. Current gaming is, simply put, retarded.

Somehow manly space marines fighting off generic evil space aliens or monsters is a viable and realistic setting. As is the notion that every person has an audio diary in which they just happened to have recorded their last 5 minutes before getting killed by whatever evil has befallen the place.

Call me crazy, but to me these games are just as absurd as a fat Italian plumber leaping from planet to planet in order to collect stars. Somehow, that’s childish and unoriginal. Despite there only being one platform franchise with this concept and a countless amount of space marine shooters on the market.

The biggest problem I have with the industry is how seriously it’s taking itself. It really shouldn’t. How hard is it to accept that manly space men shooting down everything that moves is as juvenile and silly as an ’80s slasher movie? How hard is it to accept that there really isn’t anything wrong with it being that?

If you stop trying to find reasons to justify your likes and dislikes and instead just spend time liking them, then maybe others will accept them and see what’s so interesting. Maybe, just maybe a few companies will grow out of their awkward angsty phase that they’ve been stuck in for the past three generations as well.

Again, this might sound really absurd to some gamers out there, I find that a lot of the actually mature games are often labeled as kiddy games. Nintendo for instance has a very good grasp on what their crowd wants. Their games reference the titles they released more than two decades ago to play into the nostalgia of those who have grown up with them. This doesn’t get in the way of the younger people who haven’t played these games. Not only that, a lot of their titles often poke fun at the industry, it’s clichés and customers. Especially Paper Mario and the Mario & Luigi series absolutely love playing with the crowd and their knowledge of video games.

Granted, Nintendo isn’t a perfect company and is home to many faults. The biggest one ironically comes from the biggest strengths of their own line-up. They have almost every genre covered, some with multiple franchises. If you release a game on a system of theirs, you’re going to be competing with that. The result is that most companies releasingthird-party titles end up putting the least amount of effort into it simply because it’s near impossible to compete with a company that has started most of the gameplay elements we now see as clichés. Keeping that in mind, it’s not surprising both the DS and Wii are almost the official home for shovelware.

The PS3 and 360 aren’t exactly doing too good in the image department either. The two most popular phrases associated with these consoles tend to be “PS3 has no games” and “Red Ring of Death”. Even if you look past the trolling, the amount of exclusive titles that really stand out are disappointing. I’m not talking about quality or quantity here. I’m talking diversity and lasting appeal. There’s not much to be found in either department, although that’s not the fault of the consoles. That’s the problem with the current budget that the games are built on. Risks are impossible with high budget titles like these. That’s why Live Arcade and PSN have much more interesting titles for sale than you’d find in stores. The problem with these titles however, is the lack of polish.

The middle road seems to be the handhelds. The DS and the PSP have some interesting games in their line-up. The games usually aren’t too expensive and still allow developers to take risks. The only problem we run into here is piracy. It’s rampant on these systems. There might be less money put into games on those systems, but it’s sure that there’s a lot less coming back to them. Unless of course your title is called Pokémon, then it really doesn’t matter what you’ve made, there’s profit in it. Not saying they’re not fun games, but they sell regardless of how many times the same formula is released.

So, the industry takes itself too seriously. Both the companies are doing it by injecting as much money into a game to turn it into a bloated Hollywood-like production, and the gamers do it by fighting to the best of their ability to justify their hobby.

The solution to this problem? I quite honestly don’t see one.

Games should be made on a lower budget, that’s for sure. This will decrease the graphical quality in games, and will bring down the amount of voice work. I personally don’t see much of a problem with this. If you really care about graphics so much it’s what makes you decide whether or not you’re enjoying yourself, you’re not playing the right games, or maybe should just stop playing and watch big summer blockbuster movies instead. Voice work has, for the most part, been one of my major complaints with games these days. I’d rather not have game characters voiced. I can’t connect with my character if a stranger is talking for me.

I think you know what the only possible way would be to have this happen… Another massive industry crash. I’m not joking when I say it would do the industry some good.

Gamers should stop trying to impress everyone with their hobby and just enjoy it for a change. Search for games they enjoy and play the fuck out of them. Stop discussing the meaning of geek, nerd, gamer. Stop looking for character depth in Gears of War or finding plot holes in Halo. Play the fucking games.

There’s much, much more I want to discuss on this subject, but I’m saving the rest of my arguments up for future posts.

2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Gaming – Super Serious Gaming

  1. It definitely feels like there’s a lack of innovation and adventure in a lot of games now days. It’s like if Hollywood just churned out nothing but Schwarzenegger/Stallone movies year round.

    It will be interesting to see what they do once everyone gets tired of the same old same old.

  2. Pingback: Let’s Talk Gaming – Screw Originality, I’ve Got Money! « Remy van Ruiten

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