In a world where consumers are becoming more and more environmentally conscious, recycling has become a household occurrence. Now, I am all for saving the planet, but it seems that some other things have labeled themselves as recyclable as of late. That’s right, I’m pointing at you, video game concepts. When is the last time someone described a game to you without using the words, “It’s like this game, except (insert slight reimagining of a heavily used game trope here)?” It’s probably been a while, right?
In fact, this has been going on for years. Have we really run out of new ideas, or have we just come to define our games so clearly in terms of content that they must fit certain criteria in order to be acceptable? Additionally, have big-name developers just completely sold out, only willing create games that are palatable to broad audiences and have maximum earning potential? While I believe that all of these questions are valid to some extent, I’m inclined to believe the latter has the most truth to it.
Sadly, it seems that developers tend to make the same games over and over—reskinned versions of past successes, telling the same basic stories (if there is a story to be told), tailored specifically for mass consumption. To a degree, I am okay with this, as long as the game attempts to try some new things or at least tells a compelling story. Alas, most times, that is just not in the stars.
So let’s break out our chef hats and see if we can cook up something tasty; the ingredients are already available. Add one part Gears of War gameplay with one part Assassin’s Creed gameplay. Knead in a little Final Fantasy storytelling, set it in mid-1800s Europe, add a dash of alien invasion or zombie apocalypse (either is acceptable), cut to desired shape (FPS, TPS, RPG, etc.), and bake at 350 degrees for fourteen minutes. Viola! I literally just made this up, and it’s actually more compelling and inspired than most new games hitting the market these days.
Now, I do have to point out that game development just isn’t as easy as that. Getting new content worked into games can be quite a challenge, especially when it comes to long-established series. There are typically just enough additions to keep games moving forward, but not enough to make them feel radically different. It’s kind of like a security blanket for developers, I suppose. Divergence from the norm could be a disastrous money pit for a game development team, and I get that the bills must be paid by all these people.
I guess what I’m saying, if I’m saying anything at all, is that we gamers constantly crave fresh ideas and innovation. Haphazardly slapping together popular themes and game features from the past might sell video games, but it won’t progress gaming as the major entertainment medium it has become. I am sure we will all have to endure an endless onslaught of borrowed ideas for years to come, and I will be there through it all. But of one thing I am certain: The games that truly separate themselves by creating something original and new will be the games that I want to play most. Those are the sorts of games that make being a gamer worth all the time and money we spend on this hobby.
Date: February 5, 2013