I’d been saying for literal years that the duelling Battlefield and Call of Duty franchises needed to get their boots muddy and their hands oily with clanking repeating rifles in dirty trenches, and that we were all pretty damn sick of heartbeat-sensors and drones and shooting bazookas on the moon.
But when they both delivered exactly that, finally, with Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: WW2, I found myself playing neither of those games. Or anything else, really.
This isn’t a phenomenon that the rest of the world has experienced, clearly. Sales were through the roof on both, as is customary, and many of those like me who were thrilled to see a different setting actually followed through on that excitement and bought one or both of the games
This has been a trend I’ve begun to notice in myself though. I feel excitement for an idea or a concept, but by the time the game is actually released I’ve lost interest. Clearly, this has something to do with me being a crotchety old man, shaking his craggy fist at mainstream titles and rehashed franchises.
I lived through what I consider to be the golden age of gaming. Classics like StarCraft and Age of Empires, which redefined the RTS genre. Games like Doom, which invented the most popular genre of games that exists today. Half-Life, which made smoothly integrated narrative a reality, and Call of Duty 4, which forever changed for me what a “cinematic” game experience could feel like. The original DotA, which has since spawned a genre of its own – and the biggest esports titles in the world along with it.
Games today are arguably best-in-show of all these genres (debatable, but I’ll allow it). The formulas have been refined, the graphics improved, the essence of what gets the target demographic excited and coming back for more distilled and injected into every title.
I’m not sure I’m the target demographic anymore, though. I now find myself in the toxic wasteland that is my 30s, and the only thing that still excites me is originality. I don’t want something I’ve seen 1,000 times, distilled and perfected to its best self.
Essentially, I’d rather be drinking bathtub absinthe than a fine, 18-year old scotch.
The game I’ve played the most in the last year is PUBG, a game which began its life as a janky, unpolished mess in Early Access. Hell, it’s still kind of janky now. But it’s something new. Granted, there have been Battle Royale games before, but I’d never given them a shot and looking at them now, I’m kind of glad I didn’t. PUBG took the formula and made it the best it can be – in terms of gameplay anyway.
Battalion 1944 excited me, and I’ll admit that one wasn’t particularly original. It did, however, tap into my nostalgia for the Call of Duty 2 days, and I’m a slave to nostalgia. In the current generation of games it even feels fresh – it’s a stripped-down experience without killstreaks and custom loadouts and unlockable bazookas. I can get on board with that.
It’s around this, the twelfth paragraph, that you may begin to wonder what the hell the point of any of this is. I should probably be up front and say I’m not sure there is one. I suppose I’m looking for kindred spirits, wondering if anyone else out there is somewhat dissatisfied, bored, fatigued with the current state of gaming. Maybe you have some recommendations for me. Some kind words of support. Some cutting insults. Some suggestions I go sodomise myself. I will take all these under consideration.