Where have all the good games gone, and where are all the great stories? Where's the streetwise protagonist who fights against rising odds? Isn't there a white knight character who battles upon a fiery steed? Late at night I toss, and turn, and dream of what I really need. I need a hero! I'm holding out for a video game development hero, larger than life, that can give me what I need.
All right, enough Bonnie Tyler. What I'm trying to say is that video games these days have begun to feel fairly one and done. Like a piece of gum you spit out as soon as it loses its flavor, video games are becoming less and less memorable. You're not thinking about that piece stuck to the bottom of the trash can a week later or that game you finished last month. Something has happened, leaving our memories a blank slate waiting to be filled. The characters have gone from being inspirational to the point of being life changing, to stale and overused. Once exciting titles have become a hurdle to surpass rather than a lasting entry in the diary of our gaming lives.
What happened? Could it be that the video game industry has just lost is spark? Is there no hope for future video game generations to receive characters, settings, plots, as memorable as those from our past?
I'm sure you're thinking, “Gee, April, way to start us off on a cheery note.” My sincere apologies for that, but the thought process still persists. I can recall a number of games that I played in my youth that have continued to inspire me today. Some franchises I've even stuck with through hiatuses that lasted around a decade. The only reason I could ever wait that long was because the story was worth it. The people and locales contained within those games were worth the wait, because they were memorable and inspiring. It occurred to me recently that I hadn't felt that kind of brand loyalty for pretty much any of the more recent titles I'd played.
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey sparked the start of a lengthy love affair for me. Much like a grief-stricken wife would wait for her husband to return from a long marriage with the sea, I grew up waiting for the day that my love would return. Eventually it did, in the form of Dreamfall Chapters. It was on that day that I was finally able to consummate my patient desires, and all was right with the world. The husband had returned, and the fairy tale ending could begin. But of course, reality continued on, and I held on to my fond memories of the franchise while looking towards new horizons.
I trudged and trudged, but nothing really felt like it filled the hole so much as my favorite stories of old. Surprisingly I felt that youthful spark again when playing Far Cry 5. In learned about the main antagonist, The Father Joseph Seed, I felt my heart flutter, and the synapses in my brain started firing rapidly, rushing to save the experience safe in the recesses of my brain. Here was a story that I would remember. Here was a story that would inspire me for perhaps another decade or more. It made me think; what took so long?
All of this might make me seem a very captious old fart. I don't genuinely believe that there are no good and memorable stories in the video game industry. Take a look at Horizon Zero Dawn, or Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, or even something like Super Mario Odyssey for some people. The industry is rife with fantastic stories that will inspire people for generations to come. It's just been a personal struggle to cope with an ever growing backlog. So much so that it seems I sometimes manage to lose the magic of the medium. Have you ever experienced a lull like this? When you start to wonder if you'll ever find a story you loved as much as “X” back in the day? I'd love to share our sob stories together in the comments below.
Image Credit: DAV-19