I’ve spoken at length about how games tend to fit into particular molds. The wartime FPS, the high fantasy RPG, the third-person post-apocalyptic nightmare, etc. But today, I’ve come up with a few other molds – the outliers, the ones we don’t see all that often, but that I wish we could see more of.
Have a look at mine, and as always, tell me what you’d add to the list.
The actual original
I use the word “actual” because a lot of the so-called new IP we’ve seen in the last decade or so hasn’t really been all that original.
This doesn’t mean the games are bad, necessarily. Take The Last Of Us – excellent game, but not particularly original.
I’ve spoken before about how sick I am of zombie games, but apparently I’m alone in not wanting a horde of enemies so infuriatingly stupid I can kill them with a spade, or that whole dystopian future vibe which is just soooo 2003 right now.
Alright, let me not go off-topic here. The point I’m trying to make is that TLOU was undoubtedly a great game, but a little girl and a gruff, muscle-bound action hero type with perfect hair does not exactly scream originality. Even more so when seventeen other zombie titles came out the same year.
I think the reason I’m so turned on to Evolve is simply it’s originality – it may not be reinventing the wheel, but at least it’s not a shameless retread of whatever the last developer to make a ton of cash was doing.
Destiny’s story was terrible. Regardless of how you felt about the game, I think we can all agree on that point. It was vapid and superficial, the dialogue was stilted and the characters’ personalities were emptier than Gandhi’s lunchbox.
I’m picking on Destiny in particular because it’s the most expensive game ever made. They spent literally billions of rand to develop it, market it and put Peter Dinklage in a highchair long enough to rattle off some awful dialogue, but at no point did they think to bring in a talented writer to put together a decent script.
Diablo 3 suffered the same problem. Until Half-Life 3 emerges (shut up Delano, its coming), D3 will probably be my most anticipated game of all time. It also may be my biggest disappointment.
That disappointment is in no small part to the utterly awful story, which seems to introduce a bunch of superficial characters just to surprise you with what I imagine is supposed to be a mind-blowing twist at the end. Except you don’t care about any of the characters anyway; a hallmark of a poorly told story.
Stories last. Graphics only last as long as the next big breakthrough, marketing and hype last about as long as three days after release, but stories stick with us.
If I was to simply write the line, “Stay awhile and listen,” every gamer reading this who’s older than 20 will no doubt think of Deckard Cain, the poor bastard who just wanted a friend. Unfortunately for Cain, all we wanted was our items identified. Sucker!
The rural special
I touched on this point in a recent column on how the internet has ruined gaming, but it’s probably what has stuck with me the most, like a splinter in the brain. Or Hepatitis C. Whatever metaphor you can relate to.
I think it hits home for me because I’ve become that gamer that only really plays games with multiplayer components.
I’d like to believe, however, that that’s not my fault. Most major titles now are designed specifically with multiplayer in mind – single-player campaigns are almost always tacked on, but the real longevity in a game comes from the multiplayer. That’s what has people logging in consistently day after day.
I’m not just talking about Battlefield or Call of Duty either – most loot-based games are only really fun because you get to show off or compete with your friends. Finding an extremely rare weapon loses a lot of its excitement if you don’t have anyone to tell about it. Anyone who actually cares, that is.
Games like Borderlands or Destiny or Diablo are fine enough played solo, but really they’re made to be played with friends.
Portal is a good example of the reverse. The game was designed and built primarily as a standalone package, an immersive and enjoyable solo experience. However, fanatic puzzlers could get involved in the online component, which provided near-infinite problems to solve.
These games aren’t non-existent – we still have the likes of Bioshock and Dragon Age popping up and doing well, but even something like Bioshock Infinite is a three-legged Chihuahua next to the majestic Great Dane that is Call of Duty and Battlefield.
More and more we’re now seeing games integrate their so-called “single-player” components into the multiplayer experience, which to me is more depressing than Justin Bieber’s net worth.
The more we make multiplayer and other online integration a priority, the more I feel like we lose the pure gaming experience that we got when the single-player experience was all we had.
I know I sound like crazed old man, roaming the garden in his underwear because he can’t find his house, but I think by now we’ve established that that’s exactly what I am.
The old school cool
I’ve spoken a lot about what games need more of, but there’s a lot of games that could simply use less.
There’s nothing wrong with smoked salmon parfait with blackened saffron and truffle jus (well, there might be, I just made that all up and it sounds gross); but sometimes you really just want a bacon sandwich.
It’s fine to have a massive-budget title with a seven-platform release, enormous marketing budget and 100-man development team, but some of the greatest games ever made did a lot with much, much less.
Nowadays if we want a linear FPS or simple puzzle platformer, we have to delve into the dubious world of indies. Trust me, for every Limbo or Super Meat Boy, there’s a whole lot of steaming turds just waiting for you on Steam (ha, STEAMing turds!).
What I really want are games that have the talent and resources of the big studios, with the simplicity that worked so well for the likes of Doom and Super Mario.
We’ve seen a bit of this in the past – Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon and Child of Light come to mind, and both were exceptionally well received.
Other than some kind of developer wee-wee-measuring contest, I can’t imagine what the hell is holding everybody back from doing this more.
P.S. If you came here looking for Hatoful Boyfriend, shame on you. You should know me better than that.