Since the early years of gaming (NES, ATARI, SEGA MASTER SYSTEM) one thing has remained as a prime objective: Fun! Whether it’s the aim of getting a high score, saving a princess, or going crazy in a lawless open world city fun has always been the gamer’s goal. In the past few years’ game producers have made promises and those promises have been either hit or miss. What’s worse is that some hard ware systems have limited gaming’s advance while other systems promised to advance gaming while merely just giving the audience a catchy gimmick for a year or so. With the new system out the question now beckons ARE GAMES REALLY CHANGING? In the process of asking that the more important question is: Will it be a fun change? In order to best address these questions this article will be broken down, as would a game review so try and follow along.
Overview: Most games at their heart haven’t really changed thus far. Some one is kidnapped, a gangster wants you to do favors for him, a black operation is a foot and its up to you to stop it with an array of guns. With that in mind, these things may not be getting old so long as game developers keep fresh takes on these genres. The idea here is to improve on where gaming can go.
With the new and powerful systems hopefully game companies will be able to operate outside of the old norms. Disc size, hardware limits, and imagination can enable this upcoming generation of systems to truly change gaming, but for now it’s all speculation. With the upcoming systems public interaction seems to be at the forefront of company’s minds. They seem to think sharing content and online gaming is the true future of gaming. This may very well be true, but will it sacrifice the fun?
Graphics: This seems to be the one mainstream area that continues to improve from generation to generation. With this being true there comes a time when looking real just isn’t enough. The PS3, 360, and PC all are strong enough in this area to make you believe in the game your playing. Sports titles now appear to be sports broadcast games. Action games have a plethora of realistic weaponry and don’t skimp on the gore. Even adventure games have the appearance of a cartoon of the highest quality. The pitfall of advancing graphics sometimes leads developers to try and confuse gamers into thinking better graphics also equals better games over all. Can graphics really get much better? Do we need them to BE better? Will the over all fun be sacrificed to make room for just looks? It’s a sure bet that 40% of new games will fall into this moniker.
Story: Where story based games are concerned a lot of games in recent years have been very great. Games like Bioshock, Far cry, Elder scrolls, Metal Gear, and plenty of others broke new grounds where story was concerned. A more positive is that most of these games made excellent use of new hardware in order to make the overall experience of the gamer so much more pleasurable. Story based games have caused gamers to plow through some of their favorite titles in record time. On the other hand some stories are tired and stale by now and could use some adjustment or a plain new over haul. With the new systems this is totally possible. Where story is concerned the advancement of gaming is looking beautiful. It’s a sure bet that 85-90% of new games will be just fine in this area.
Control and gameplay: This is the biggest area of disappointment in recent years. Some systems (which shall be unnamed) claimed to be changing the face of gaming with their innovative motion controls. The truth is gaming is at its best and will continue to be at its best with a controller in the players hand. While cute and clever motion gaming of any kind has been a mere gimmick at best. Controls and gameplay should be relegated to expanding on new angles for the gaming community. No more rushed games, quick time action gameplay, or crazy angles. It’s just a sad attempt to appear different, but end up being different just for difference sake. Developers need to focus on taking their time and increasing the depth of the core game. With sports titles it could be as simple as imputing viable things like pre-game shows, better post game (playoff) shows/ambience, and commentary that’s relevant. Bottom line this area has the greatest potential, and should be of the highest focus in the future. On a side note spare the gaming community the obvious DLC that’s been planned about as long as the game has been in development. DLC was partly derived because of disc space and hard drive limitations there should be no need for all that in the future. It’s a half behind bet that this area will be a 50-50% of being top priority in the future.
Sound: This has been the driving force in gaming since gaming has been gaming (are you lost?). Most old school games used their sound to drive the focus and evoke top-notch emotions from their players. Think about it…remember when you slide down your first and last pole in Mario Bros.? How did it sound when Pac-man was ousted by a ghost? When you faced off against a boss in MGS 1,2,3 or 4 did your heart race as you hummed the music being played? How did you feel when you gained a perk in Fallout 3? Lastly what would a Final Fantasy be without the music playing when you won a battle? Voice acting has come quite a long way also. From reading a screen to being able to hear the emotion in a characters voice was great. The point here is that sound has played and most likely will continue to be the driving force in gaming. Its one of the only areas gamers rarely have to worry about in AAA titles. It’s a safe bet to make that 99.9% of quality games will continue to make benefit of this area.
Re-play factor: Another area that has been dwindling as of late. With all the DLC, online passes, and other money making crap why make a nice, long, multi tiered game? The answer: Money! That’s right, what use to be about passion and love quickly turned into a “How can we milk these sheep for their hard earned money?” Where things use to be about the love and dedication or being made from players turned developers todays gaming market is mostly about deadlines and dollars. When this is the top priority who has time to make sure a game is FUN? Better yet who has time to make sure its bug free (looking at you EA mostly)? This area at its very core had been the driving force in gaming. Think about it. Why did you keep playing any Super Mario game? Why play the Legend of Zelda? Even Pac-Man warranted you to obtain a higher score than your last score. These games were simple in nature, but made sure to take the time and be entertaining and having players coming back for more. It’s a fearful bet that 80% of titles will suffer from this horrible affliction.
Multi-player: Ever since online gaming for consoles started this has been a priority from not only gaming developers, but also hardware companies. While trying valiantly to bring lazy gamers to each other without having to drive across town, take a bus, or simply walk down the street the industry slowly destroyed what gaming use to be. It use to be about fun with friends then progressed to multiplayer split screen on the same system to “WOW I DON’T HAVE TO LEAVE THIS CHAIR TO GAME WITH OTHERS!” While not meant to be this way online gaming slowly turned into a hit or miss affair. You might log on and have a blast with friends. Riding a horse around in Red Dead Redemption with your friends shooting up a barn having a good old time. Then one day you decide to pop in Call of Duty and you get an earful of racial slurs or an all time favorite of a high pitched 12 year old whose mom wont get him chocolate milk. Sure consoles like Xbox 360 made lofty promises about match making, but that’s been as failed as the system itself (red ring of death anyone?). With the introduction of the aforementioned online passes, DLC, and payable online service itself you as a gamer has to once again ask where’d the fun go? Why am I paying beyond the purchase of my beloved game itself? Looming on the horizon is the lofty promise of making online more expansive. Also content sharing will be a bigger attraction, but in the end will that goal benefit you the gamer? Where’s the fun in all this? You can make a sure bet that 100% of the focus is going to this area where consoles are concerned.
Closing: If you’ve read this far, things probably have been painted as a little bleak. Although a lot of the points made are negative there is much to be happy about. Rejoice in the fact that quality Developers such as 2K, Blizzard, Treyarch, Naughty Dog, Rockstar, Rocksteady, and bunch of others have always had the best interest of its supporters in mind. In most cases these companies focus on making quality titles, because they know quality equals loyalty. To be fair to the current consoles have advancement in mind, but will that advancement accidently block out the fun?
On the other hand you can definitely expect to pay more in a lot of areas. Whether it is some DLC that could have been put into the original game, or some add on content that could have been released for free (al la Tekken Tag Tournament) or the more gimmicky season passes. It could be the proposed full on paid PSN service. It surely will be the future incarnation of XBL. Rest assured it wont be a question of if things will cost more. It’ll be how much fun would I get for my dollar? Will I have fun at all? Things will boil down to the title of this article-- Are games changing or are things destined to be the same with a clever disguise rapped around them? These are questions, which only the future can answer. In any case enjoy what you have now because as an old saying goes, “Its better to deal with the devil you KNOW than the devil you DON’T!” PEACE!