There was a time when I looked forward to the next latest and greatest thing the video game industry had to offer. I remember being constantly awestruck by the new cutting edge graphics, dynamic gameplay and immersive digital worlds showcased by the imaginative developers that did what they did simply for the reason that they enjoyed their craft. Gradually however that excitement has diminished, as the game industry seems to have changed in a way that I feel has alienated me, becoming something I’m unable to comfortably identify with anymore. It can be a cruel mistress sometimes, which has become all the more true as it grows ever bigger, while also turning ever colder and tyrannical.
Gone is the motivation to create, instead replaced by the petty desire of greed. Developing new intellectual properties and innovative gameplay seems to have become an archaic enterprise in the mainstream video game industry, instead relying on recycled concepts and conventions through already established franchises. Sequels, prequels, interquels, the big name publishers roll them out on a timely, yearly basis, like an assembly line, and rarely is there any drastic difference in gameplay or even graphics. Some of the tweaks or added features are sometimes nice, sure, but does it really justify repackaging it and selling it full price as a completely new original product? Evidently so, as the devoted fan-base continuously flock to buy it, which is admirable, almost to a fault.
It comes to a point were everything seems to mesh together and become indistinguishable from one another. The settings, the gameplay, the characters (or lack of thereof), even the graphics, it all feels and looks all so familiar but it’s advertised as something new. The commercials attempt to make it appear spectacular and in-your-face, as if your life will be unfulfilled unless you experience what this new game has to offer, but once you do experience it or even merely witness its actual gameplay you know deep down it’s the same thing you have experienced countless times before. It seems ‘New’ has become synonymous with ‘derivative’.
Yet publishers and developers can’t help but be encouraged to put minimal effort into anything new or innovative, when the derivative remains to sell so effectively. Is it that this current generation has lost ambition and imagination? Or is it that we have submitted to the objectifying mentality of a corporate run industry that we are nothing but simpletons, who desire only the convenient, routine and the unchallenging to enrich our petty, unfulfilled lives.
Exclusivity is almost a thing of the past, with recent major releases being multi-platform, including the now technically outdated Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, as if everyone is afraid to bet on the wrong horse, instead preferring to stand on the sidelines. This lack of commitment seems to imply a lack of confidence, which is a baffling and unsettling thing to promote in an ‘apparent’ healthy competitive business. It almost feels like a cold war of attrition, with everyone incapable to make any brave decision from fear of its inherit risk – perhaps due partly to certain economic climates – but however still, can’t great risk also yield great reward?
Shigeru Miyamoto, one of the most recognizable figures of Nintendo, who brought you franchises such as Mario and Zelda even recently stated that even he is unimpressed by the lack of originality and the more business-driven approach of the game industry. He also pointed out that games are becoming too cinematic, focusing too much on story like a film, which consequently takes away interaction with the player; a concept which he feels defeats the purpose of experiencing a video game in the first place.
There is nothing wrong for a game being ambitious, but there does come a point sometimes when spectacle and scope tend to overshadow design. Gameplay is always the most integral part of a game, but strangely it seems that can somehow be forgotten. It perhaps partly explains why retro video gaming is growing exponentially popular these days.
So where are the brave and the bold? How long shall this stalemate of the uninspired and redundancy endure, or has it already become a definite change for the modern generation? Or maybe it’s all just paranoid delusions of an overly-nostalgic individual who has just lost touch with the times and has grown older than he likes to admit…