Under the Knife: Where is Gaming Going?
Hello to all on N4G and welcome to my new blog: Under the Knife. The premise of this blog series is to address certain things in the video game community. Now whether it's a major issue plaguing gamers or a popular topic at hand, I hope to be both informative and humorous while I tackle these subjects. As such, there is a topic that I do want to look at: the future of gaming.
This has been a topic I have been wanting to write about for some time now. It wasn't until recently when I needed a good boost to start off such an article when I was hanging out with a buddy of mine. He went on to tell me that one day a 10-year-old boy (friend of his little cousin) was looking at his video game collection and asked him, "Why do you have nothing but girl games?" Puzzled, my friend asked, while grinding his teeth, "What do you mean by girl games?" Keep in mind he was resisting the urge to tear this kid apart for what he just asked (verbally mind you). The kid answered, "You don't have any Call of Duty games."
That right there is one of the pillars of where gaming is going. This 10-year-old boy honestly thought that the games my friend has are "girl games". Among the games my friend has includes Ninja Gaiden, Metal Gear Solid 4, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, No More Heroes, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, Xenoblade, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and Metroid: Other M. Now I can see how a kid can say that about Metroid: Other M due to the box cover, but the other games not so much. So how could a kid say that about a few M-rated games, a beat 'em up party game, and a couple of RPGs? This boils down to looking at gaming trends in the United States.
First off, what is truly popular over here in the United States? If you were to take a poll of say a few hundred gamers of all ages, I can guarantee you that Call of Duty, Battlefield, Halo, and any sports game out there will make the list over other games. Sure Mass Effect, Grand Theft Auto, Street Fighter, Super Mario, and World of Warcraft will be there as well, but ultimately the popularity of games reflect on their genre.
First person shooters and sports games are very popular here. Every time I go to Gamestop or Best Buy, I always hear kids, high schoolers, and some young adults always asking questions in regards to Call of Duty, Battlefield, Halo, Madden, NBA, or NHL. I know what some of you might be thinking, "That's the Microsoft crowd". Seems to be a lot of them then. Well, now that Microsoft comes into the light that brings me to looking at their influence.
When Microsoft first debuted the Xbox in late 2001, no one could foresee the impact this company would have on the video game industry. I certainly didn't. I had a Playstation 2 during that time. I didn't care for Microsoft's attempt at making a console, but it would seem quite a lot of Americans did. Ever since Halo: Combat Evolved arrived, everyone was going nuts over it. This is when Microsoft gained their cash cow.
Microsoft capitalized on this and has since garnered high favor in the video game community as the preferred console for first person shooters, sports games, and all things multiplayer. When the 360 emerged, sales were very high (despite the problems with the Red Rings). But why is that? Well, the Wii came out a year after and the PS3 was too expensive. The next option for people wanting a next gen system who didn't have an Xbox? Xbox 360.
The 360 was what was happening in the United States. People were salivating over it. As a result, however, the future of gaming trends in the United States has changed drastically. Where single player games were rife and original with developers taking chances and doing new things, now everyone is obsessed with multiplayer and it is now a tacked on feature to once great single player games. Where fun was the basis for video games, now it is all about intense violence with rockets. Where there was freedom to do what you will as a developer, now there are rights that cause restrictions. Where there was fantasy to do as you will with unique stories and worlds, now there is realism with military shooters and sports games.
From that last paragraph, I mentioned the three F's and three R's that Nathan Paine of the import shop Pink Godzilla who mentions these in a segment from Gametrailers called the Bonus Round. Feel free to look up the episode yourself. In it, Nathan Paine explains what he believes are the differences between games made in Japan and games made in the West.
Paine has the three F's of Japanese gaming: fun, fantasy, and freedom. Fun reflects on the gamer wanting to play the game over and over, and not toss the controller aside after completing it. Fantasy is based on creating a world of fiction. He used Shigeru Miyamoto as a prime example for his success with Mario and Legend of Zelda and Keiji Inafune for his work with Mega Man. Freedom is his idea that the publishers allow developers to create strange, wacky, and quirky games (i.e. Pikmin and Katamari). He notes that EA would never let a game like that be made, but that Nintendo has allowed creativity and that they don't release the same game every year (i.e. Madden).
Paine has the three R's of Western gaming: rockets, realism, and rights. Rockets is basically the idea that Western games focus too much on death and senseless violence. Realism is, of course, reflected on real-looking characters and environments (particularly war battlefields, although it can work if done right with physics). Rights involves copyrights and licensing, or in other words publishers have licensed games like THQ with kid-like games with Spongebob. I agree with him on what he believes are the main key points when it comes to games these days.
So, ultimately, where does that put gaming toward the future? To paraphrase what Nathan Paine said in the episode: Americans are contempt with violence, while Japanese gamers want to know why things are happening. In other words, some gamers don't want senseless violence and want to know more about why things are happening instead of just seeing explosions.
The current trends seem to hamper the skills, abilities, and creativity of the developer. Of course, when the big wigs want the next action game or for a game to have a sequel that they know will sell, then the developer has no choice. What with the sorry state of originally single player based games having multiplayer as a tacked on feature and fantasy being replaced by realism, gaming looks like it isn't making any progression.
Now I can fully understand if a franchise is intended from the get go; however, people will lose interest over time if they don't get hooked or that they find the sequels are boring. Current gaming trends in the United States suggest that Americans (particularly those with the 360) are perfectly contempt with FPS and sports games being their medium. Any other type of game or franchise will simply bore them because it's different.
Then there are gamers who do give different games a shot and are tired of the FPS craze and the sports fanatics. These are the gamers who value innovation, narrative, and creativity. For us games like Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed, Infamous, Uncharted, Skyrim, Mortal Kombat, Arkham City, Vanquish, Lollipop Chainsaw, Portal, The Witcher, StarCraft, Tales of, Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Mega Man show how different and creative games can be.
What can be done? Well, gamers need to grow up. I mean, the kid called Metal Gear Solid 4 a "girl game". I bet he's never played a single Metal Gear Solid game...ever. Instead of jumping to conclusions about games, gamers need to explore their options and broaden their horizons. Likewise, game developers need to get out of this repetitive funk that the industry has been in. They also need to let go of certain practices that are hurting the industry (i.e. on disc DLC). Only then will gaming progress rather regress.
Then again, it could be about personal taste and you might be sitting there thinking I'm full of it. Either way, where is it that you stand? Are you one of those gamers who says, "FPS and sports all the way"? Or are you one of those gamers who says, "Yeah, I'll give any game shot"? Comment down below and add your ten cents. I'm eager to see what you think about current gaming trends and the future of gaming.