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Innovation... Or Not

Xof|2903d ago |Blog Post|4|

Something's been bothering me for the past few years: innovation. Specifically, the word "innovation" and how carelessly it's been tossed around by gaming "journalists." (Yes, the quotations marks are there to indicate a lack of authenticity and/or legitimacy.

More often than not, "innovative" seems to be a nonsense word--a cluster of letters with no real meaning, only a vaguely positive connotation. As often as not, it is applied almost solely to western games--whereas Japanese games are typically given equally meaningless labels, more often than not with negative connotations.

Halo 3, God of War 3, Killzone 2, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Red Dead Redemption and Uncharted: Drakes Fortune are all examples of recent games that you and I have both heard called "innovative" over and over and over again.

Well, they're not. Not at all. They're all great games, yes, but to innovate, something new has to occur. Halo 3 and God of War 3 were both, respectfully, carbon-copies (gameplay-wise) of their previous titles--as perfect an example of "last-gen gameplay" I cannot imagine. But when was the last time you heard a game blasted for having "last-gen gameplay" that wasn't Japanese? Hoo, boy, a lot of those Yakuza 3 reviews really pissed me off. And what of Dragon Age? An inferior 3D version of the same game that's been executed so much better by, say, every single Infinity Engine title... ever. Mass Effect? That dialog wheel? That's pure GUI. Nothing new in the game, not at all. Uncharted? That was just a third-person shooter. What did it bring to the table that was new? How did it "innovate?" It didn't.

These are good games--excellent games, mostly--and almost all very-well crafted, but not a one of them is innovative.

So what is innovative, and why?

Mass Effect 2 is innovative because of its dialog system--namely, the interrupt system, which allows players to have an immediate and visceral effect on how the narrative unfolds. That's never been done before--hence the innovation.

Tales of Destiny was innovative because it managed to merge roleplaying games with fighting games into a single cohesive units. "Fighting" no longer became a genre, but was relegated to a mere aspect of gameplay.

Valkyria Chronicles was innovative because it melded third-person real-time combat with grand turn-based strategy, packaged in an exquisitely beautiful product.

Halo was innovative because not only brought FPS games out of narrow, dark halways into the light of day in large, open environments--but also because it offered vehicular mechanics.

Shogun: Total War was innovative because, well, hot damn--have you played any Total War game like it? It created its very own genre, an RTS antithetical to the whole Command and Conquer/Warcraft style games that have dominated the genre for decades.

Do you get the point? It's a simple one, one I've likely overarticulated... but, as I said, it's been bugging me lately. I'm sick of seeing the word "innovative" used to hype up bland products. I'm sick of seeing the word "innovative" used to validate some twisted sense of racial or cultural self-superiority.

I'm sick of people not saying what they mean, and not meaning what they say. Are you?

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Anon73492902d ago (Edited 2902d ago )

Very much so, I also noticed how western games get called "innovative" for doing nothing, at least gameplay wise(What I want in GAMES).

Anyways, that was a very well written and interesting article you wrote although I have to mention that Halo wasn't the first FPS with vehicles... several FPS games have had vehicles before Halo like Tribes 2.

I wonder, would you consider games like Blazblue, innovative? Since it is the first fighting game with an actual story.

One genre is currently getting a HUGE boost of innovation to the point that it's almost reinventing the genre and the way it restricts itself and that genre would be MMOs.

With games like Guild Wars 2, Blade & Soul, Tera Online, Guild Wars 2, DC Universe, FF14, Aion, Guild wars 2 and a few others including Guild Wars 2 the genre is going from a stale repetitive genre where games just clone each other(What the FPS/TPS genre is becoming) to something revolutionary and interesting.

booni32902d ago

great article xof, let me break it down to you. Its isnt as though fresh, new, innovative, Avant garde ideas are non existent, They simply cant be banked upon. The reason the best selling game on HD consoles is a shooter with absolutely nothing innovative about it is because people like shooting games and Activision knows that they can bank on generic, bland and even dated gameplay since people will rush to the store and buy it.
another problem xof is that people readily buy and enjoy these not innovative titles, sending the message to the publishers that its perfectly ok to keep selling us the same games because we will buy them.
Consider how few and between we see games like heavy rain, or ICO. Ambitious in there presentation, these games were met with sweeping critical praise but there publishers were taking huge risks making the games possible.
I totally agree with you on the lack of fresh titles. I hope that you, like myself, choose to study gaming in college so that we can bring exciting new ideas and concepts to the industry. Game publishers would much, much rather make money than do anything to drive the industry forward, and this is why we see the shortage of creative games that we do. Here's to soaking up all the enjoyment we can from the few avant garde titles mainstream at current. Until i graduate that is....

crapgamer2902d ago

It brought console FPS games to the front and center and showed they can work online. Nothing quite like that had been done before. It's hard to call many others innovative though, so I enjoyed and sort of agreed with the article.

Canary2902d ago

Doing something on consoles that has been done on PCs for decades isn't innovative... because it's not new. It may be new to consoles, but not to the industry. If you're going to take that route, it's only a bit further to limit things by specific platform--so Ratchet and Clank Future, though essentially a carbon-copy gameplay-wise of about 50 other platformers, was innovative because it was the first game of that type on the PS3. It's an absurd argument. Halo 3 wasn't innovative because it brought nothing new to the table.